Thursday, December 31, 2015

God fills the craving heart...

Will the Lord cast off forever?

Will He be favorable no more?

Has His mercy ceased forever?

Has His promise failed forevermore?

Has God forgotten to be gracious?

Has He in anger shut up
His tender mercies?

Psalm 77: 7-9

There has been so much disaster.  2015 is going out with a bang, and 2016 doesn't look better. Maybe we would be tempted to think God has forgotten us. I feel terrible to hear about all the people in our country affected by the awful tornadoes, the flooding, the earthquakes, the methane leak in California, and on and on. I pray for God to comfort and help them.

Where is God when disaster strikes? Maybe God is trying to wake us all up.  Maybe I should look no further than myself, even. Though disaster has not struck me in the physical realm, financial concerns have been unrelenting. In spite of that, I use food to comfort me. My weight has crept up insidiously and I face the fact that my clothes don't fit. Why? Like the Psalmist, somehow I did not believe that God was enough, that I must satisfy my cravings for comfort from food.

The last couple of days, I decided enough was enough. I began tracking my calories and exercising, and limiting myself to a certain number of calories. The first night, the urge to quit was so bad I nearly gave in. I treated myself to a cup of Hershey's cocoa with skim milk and stevia and somehow there were no hunger pangs when I went to bed that night.

The next morning, I woke up from a dream that I have had repeatedly in my life. The dream is that I am back in college, However, this time, I was going to a different college, the one my sister attended, instead of the one I actually attended and frequently dreamed about. I thought to myself in the dream, "Why did I ever like my old campus, this one is so much more beautiful?" I told my husband the next morning that maybe I had a break through somehow in my dream, by not giving into my appetite's screams for attention the night before. Seems crazy, I know.

But I am heartened when I have woken up the past couple of mornings, I have had more energy and felt more refreshed. Even though I haven;t lost any pounds yet. My knees are not aching as bad. My terrible heartburn is going away. God is enough to fill the cravings of my soul.

Last night, I drifted off to sleep with a slight growl in my stomach and I thought about all the people in the world who know constant hunger. I think about those who are running from terrorists, from persecutions. This world grows darker, yet One day the true Light of this world will satisfy all the souls who long for Him, who ache for Him.

"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they may grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us."  Acts 17: 26-28  (emphasis mine)

Maranatha, may our Lord come quickly and fill our hungry hearts with Himself. May He satisfy every longing soul who craves for Him in the New Year 2016.

Friday, December 25, 2015

On Christmas Night

to my
in peace;
then the
shall be
my God.
Genesis 28:21

The above verse is not too "Christmas-y" but it describes my quiet Christmas day of peace. Somehow, it has taken me a long time to realize the best Christmases are not when I get everything I want, but to be a blessing to others.

Now that the kids are long gone, we did not want my Mom and Dad to sit alone in their house while we sat alone in ours, so we surprised them with a visit and a meal. Just sitting and sharing together about the Lord and being able to serve them a delicious meal made my day. Especially after when I am tempted to think of the things I don't have, it is far better to think of all the blessings I do have.

I have a warm caring husband who treated my parents with gentleness and a servant's heart. I have two beautiful grandsons and another little one on the way. I have a roof over my head and clothes to wear. I have caring sons and daughter in laws. Yes, I am blessed.

Even if I never got another present in this life, I have the gift of His eternal Presence. The great I Am, the Creator of the universe, has seen fit somehow to include me as a part of His very own family. He tells me I have not just some, but every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places with Him. (Ephesians 1:3) I have His unfailing love and a fresh start every day. No matter how bad the mistakes I made yesterday, I can start over with a conscience that has been purged from guilt. (Hebrews 9:14) Not because I did anything to clean that conscience, but that Another saw fit to take in His body my every mistake: my bad thoughts, words and deeds and pay the penalty in full for them.

Tell me, is that gift not worth more than a thousand Mercedes-Benz's? Isn't having a secure destiny and His constant love worth more than having all the money of a Donald Trump or Warren Buffet?

Holidays can be difficult because we want them to be perfect. But how can they when we all are imperfect people? This holiday, how about giving ourselves the gift of peace? It comes when we thank God for all our many undeserved presents underneath the Eternal tree of Calvary, and His enduring Presence in our lives for time and eternity. Now that is the gift that really keeps on giving.

I wish you His peace this Christmas night.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

No Reputation

"But made Himself
of no reputation
and took upon
Him the form
of a servant, and
was made in
the likeness of men.
And being found in
fashion as a man,
He humbled Himself,
and became obedient
unto death, even the death
 of a cross." Phil. 2:7-9

I heard a message on the cost of Christmas to Christ today. And it made me think of how Christ made Himself of no reputation. Looking up the Greek word for "no reputation," I found it was the word is transliterated kenoĊ. 
The word means, in relationship to Christ, that He laid aside equality with or the form of God, according to the Greek lexicon #2758.

This was unprecedented. To consider that God the Son realized that He must one day be separated from God His Father and leave the place He had dwelt in for all of eternity past, this is what it meant to have emptied Himself. To give up all the prerogatives He had to use His own deity, and limit Himself to becoming one like us, feeling hunger and cold and poverty. Hi suffering as a man for the sins of all people is what the Kenosis of Christ is all about.

No one ever limited themselves in the way He did so that He could reconcile us to Himself. The One who put the universe together was not welcomed by mankind. He had to be born in a stable and placed in an animals feeding trough.
Has it changed so much today? Christ still is not welcomed by most of the people on this planet. Even those of us who claim to know Him can be like Peter and deny Him in the face of opposition.
Even saying His name is becoming more and more dangerous. Why? Because He is the Son of God, and the enemy of the god of this world.

Two thousand years since He made His first appearance, and for the most part, Christ is not welcomed by the very people He came to die for. If that happened to me, if I were to make a sacrifice of my life for others and found that they did not even appreciate it, I would probably say, "Well, forget them!"
But not Christ. He thought little of the shame He would endure as He hung naked on the cross for the sins of all mankind. He instead was thinking of all the ones He would be able to call brethren after He completed His perfect sacrifice.

"looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

It wasn't because He found something attractive in us that He condescended in such a way. It was rather, because His very nature was to love even those that would nail Him to the cross.
So it is today. There are many who still call His name as a curse word, many who hate Him and all that He stands for. Do you think He wants to smash them? No, He gives us a chance to believe in Him every single day of our entire life.
Even if you previously hated Him, it is not too late for you, or anyone, to  change your mind today. Believe on Jesus Christ as the Son of God who took away the sins of the world. That is what the real celebration is all about. That is why the enemy tries to distract from reflecting on what the First Advent of Chist is and make it into a marketing frenzy, and have children occupied with Santa, not Christ.

But there is coming a day when...
"... at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven or on earth or under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Phil. 2: 10-11

 Every eye will see Him for who He really is, no longer a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes but the Son of Man coming back with His angels to reclaim the planet that mankind lost. In that day, the One who made Himself of no reputation will be exalted to His rightful place: the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

Monday, December 14, 2015

A Recipe for Christmas Peace

Song of Solomon 2:4

He brought me

to the

banqueting house,

And his banner

over me

was love.

What if we had recipes for the things our hearts most desired this Christmas? Things like peace and joy and love for one another?
Maybe there would really be "peace on earth." For there will never be any peace on earth without peace reigning in the hearts of God's children first.

But how do we find that peace? Every time it seems that I turn on the TV now I can feel my despair as I watch this world grasp for answers to problems that are beyond our ability to solve. It saddens my heart to hear empty promises and watch shows where I hear canned laughter. It reminds me of the Proverbs 14:13 which says:

"Even in laughter the heart may sorrow,
And the end of mirth may be grief."

Have you noticed that this world is running out of solutions for the overwhelming problems that face us? That the situation grows dimmer by the day? Where can we find answers, hope to even face the year 2016?

The answers are beyond ourselves. But God promises us in Psalm 119:130: "The entrance of Your words gives light; It gives understanding to the simple."

Gaining understanding means first admitting that we have run out of ideas in trying to solve our problems in our own way. God has a better idea for all the problems we face.

5 ​​Get wisdom! Get understanding!
​​Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
6 ​​Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
​​Love her, and she will keep you.
7 ​​Wisdom is the principal thing;
​​Therefore get wisdom.
​​And in all your getting, get understanding.
8 ​​Exalt her, and she will promote you;
​​She will bring you honor, when you embrace her.
9 ​​She will place on your head an ornament of grace;
​​A crown of glory she will deliver to you.” Proverbs 4: 5-7

I found myself in a stressful situation for the past week or so, and found that I was attempting to let people fill a need that only God could fill. Why do we expect anyone on earth to meet our needs, when there is no one here that can do that? Not even the ones closest to us can meet all of our deepest needs. But we know there is One who can.

I was out of my regular routine, and this morning I was able to return to my habit of reading the Word with my morning coffee. Such peace washed over my soul when I opened up my Bible. It was not always like this, though. I have found that the more I read the Bible, the more I love the Bible. Especially when something pops out at me that I have never seen before. We cannot just read something one time and expect to know it. With the Word of God, it takes a lifetime, and even then we have only barely scratched the surface of learning God's message to us.

If I could write a "recipe" for my own Christmas peace it might read something like this:

Heaping cups of Bible reading and learning God's gift to us wrapped up in the Person of Jesus

with equal amount of cups of praising God for His goodness and daily benefits of knowing Him

folded into an attitude of thanksgiving for all things

Add solid grace teaching, not law, which will strengthen the heart

Beat in gently

An attitude of grateful prayer

Humility and lowliness of mind, thinking of others higher than myself

And a dash of suffering by which my Christian growth expands

Put all into my innermost soul being and bake gently day by day

To yield  a rich supply of peace, love and joy, and faith, plus a rich inheritance in glory.

What would your recipe for Christmas peace be? I would love to hear it.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Christmas Like No Other

I Thess. 4:13-17 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.fn
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.

This is going to be a different Christmas from all others in my life. Last week, my Mom fell and received an excruciating pelvic fracture that only can heal through rest and time. I was with her when she fell and saw her go down. I ran to her but did not get there in time. Now her life, and indeed all of our lives, have been rearranged.

Mom always loved Christmas. When I was a little girl, she tried so hard to make it special for me and my two sisters. I will always treasure a special memory of the note she wrote me when she gave me my last baby doll. I was growing up, and she gently told me it would be my last one, though I was reluctant to leave childhood behind.

I was just starting to get into the spirit of things last week when I accompanied Mom and Dad on a trip to my sister's house, and it was on our way there she fell. At first I thought she was very fortunate, for she was able to walk when we helped her get to her feet, but it seemed that her pain only got worse and worse. It was not until we returned home that she got the XRay that confirmed she had a small fracture.

Now, Mom needs my help. It will mean travelling to her home and staying there and helping my Dad, at least until she begins to improve. The last two nights have been difficult when she wakes up in excruciating pain. Somehow, my zest to write Christmas cards and do more shopping has gone by the wayside.

But I have comfort, even in knowing that my parents are aging, and that one day they will leave us to carry on without them. Mom and Dad know the Lord, and I will see them when I get to heaven. Every morning, they have devotions together. They read from the Word and pray together. They didn't do that when we girls were little, but now it is their daily habit. They went from going to a ritualistic type of church to an evangelical one, and that didn't happen until we girls were grown and gone too. In fact, all of my family attends evangelical churches where the Word of God is taught. I am so thankful.

And so, I sit here and try to process what the near future holds for me. Mom's advice is "one day at a time," and I have to admit she's right. Jesus said to take no thought for tomorrow. My joy now is to see my own grandchildren and enjoy their delight in new life and adventures. The train of time stops for no one. One day, I will be in Mom's shoes, if the Lord tarries.

My comfort in all of this is in Christ, and that my family, whether awake in the Lord or asleep in death, will hear that trumpet call one day. Christ is the one thing that makes life worth living. Whatever hope do we have without Him. Current events, which seem to spiral downward in a vortex, faster and faster every day, make our lives uncertain, but Christ is our stronghold and our hope.

Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times,
And the strength of salvation;
The fear of the LORD is His treasure. Isaiah 33:6

A friend of mine who lost her mother recently encouraged all her friends to spend Thanksgiving in gratitude with our parents, if we still had them. I never realized how timely her words would be. One day, it will be too late to show my gratitude to my parents. The time to love and help them is now.

Proverbs 23:22
Listen to your father who begot you,
And do not despise your mother when she is old.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Charlie Brown Christmas House

A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Proverbs 15:13

All the days of the afflicted are evil,
But he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15

A merry heart does good, like medicine,
But a broken spirit dries the bones.
Proverbs 17:22

It is about the fifth day in a row of gloomy rainy skies and today, being the great decorator that I am (not), decide to try to make the house festive for the holidays. It only ends up reminding me of a Charlie Brown house, bringing back memories of other holidays that were not so cheerful.

Ahh, Christmas. The time for baking, shopping, and celebrating. Except how do you do that when the world has lost its mind? Christmas, in spite of the lights and goodies, can be a down time for many people. False expectations of a "perfect" holiday can push those who struggle nearly off the edge. Every year, it seems to me that Christmas seems a desperate time, with people trying to buy happiness somehow through the "perfect" gift.
But somehow, there is always a letdown.

I am already sounding very Charlie Brownish.

I have a video recording of the Charlie Brown Christmas and tonight might be the perfect night to watch it. You see, I can relate to old Charlie.
I never got things naturally, and was the last one picked for the team in gym class so many years ago. I know what it feels like to be bullied and made fun of. I realize that other people have the fancy homes and beautiful decorating schemes, but that will never be my destiny.

Christmas has a sore way of reminding me that there are loved ones who are missed in my life, that there are some loops that never seem to close. I cannot help but be reminded of these things as I make my way to the attic to pull out the dusty Christmas decorations yet again.

But in spite of all this, the fact that my house is not ready for Better Homes and Gardens, that there are people who I would love to hear from but won't, that the messiness of life will not magically disappear over the holiday, still today I can rejoice.

Just like Linus told Charlie, the good news of these darkest days of the year is that a Savior came down to be a part of the mess that is this world. He took all the messes people made of their lives and bore the agony for them on the wood of the tree at Calvary. In doing so, He redeemed us from a hopeless eternity and gave us heaven to look forward to. He laid aside His Deity and put on humanity so that He could call someone like me His friend.

And so, I say, in spite of my Charlie Brown house here on this earth, I can anticipate a heavenly mansion with Him in eternity. One of these days, it will really be.

What Christmas is Really All About

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife,fn who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn,
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 ​​“Glory to God in the highest,
​​And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Even we who feel like Charlie Brown can rejoice about that!