There must have been so little hope, sometimes I wonder where I’d be if no one had sent that gift to me. But wrapped in mercy grace and love a gift was sent from up above…..the gift by Paul brandt
I may not have the lyrics exact but this song is so true to the reason for Christmas. Hope. Jesus.
Imagine being the star. You have been given the job, the blessing of showing people Jesus. You burn brightly and enduringly for 2 whole years as you guide people to the savior. (There have been many ideas on what the star really was and where it went but no one really knows. Not everything God does is explainable.)I feel we are very much like the star as Christians. Without Jesus there is no hope. If God had decided we weren’t worth the sacrifice we would have been left in a world of darkness, longing to have hope but never achieving it. Jesus is the light of the world, the HOPE of nations for a reason, He knew we needed Him so He came and the star drew in His first few followers. We all have gifts God has given us we can use to draw people into the light of Jesus we just have to have the courage to use them. At this time of giving as we open presents and spend time celebrating let’s think on the gifts we have been given. The gift of public speaking, teaching, art, auto repair, parenting, and so many more. Gifts that we can use to bless the giver. Jesus. May we be the star that draws people to Jesus this upcoming year and every to come, and to be thrilled with our God given gifts as we see them bless this world!
God is not like smaug, the great dragon from the Hobbit, where when we come into His lair trembling and say “I had heard stories about you but I did not believe them,” he stands back from us flexing the scales across his chest and blowing a snort of smoke out of his nose he proplaclaims, “and do you now?”
In contrast when we come up to Jesus trembling saying, ” I had heard stories of you my Lord, but I did not believe them.” He looks at us with love and responds, “I know, I have been waiting for you to come and see me for yourself.” Then He hugs us and all our fears and sins and scars melt away and not only do we believe the stories we now know the man they are about and we know He loves us. His gentle embrace following us everywhere we go until we get to live with Him in His kingdom. There is no dragon pride, just the gentle/powerful/all knowing/unending love of a king.
(Credit to owner for the cover image)
When I was in high school I took basic karate. One of the main things drilled into the class was the fact that karate means open handed combat, which means that our combat is self defense it is not meant as a form of attack. If we apply this technique to life we get a person entering their day open minded to the people around them and empty handed of judgments. When we go out into this world we are stepping onto the mat and as Christians the way we respond to daily jabs and kicks need to be censored according to our teachings. In martial arts your fight technique reflects that of your teacher, in the same way our daily response to life needs to reflect Jesus. We enter the arena holding nothing against the people we will face, we come in open minded to their situation. Picture this. Bright blinding lights, a roaring crowd and a tall battle scarred warrior faces you down as your toe touches the mat, there’s no turning back now. You see that angry face, the deep creases of old battles lost and you gain your opinion of the warrior. They step closer and you step up to them, you don’t yet know what will happen next all you know is this person has been hurt too many times and it is your turn now to decide, do you attack or do you help? Do you reign judgement and add to their scars or do you give compassion and help the scars heal? Your mind open and clear so you can hear from the Holy Spirit and see this person’s needs and you realize all they need is a comforting hand. As the vision fades away; the crowds and the lights dim, you see the warrior in a new way, the way Jesus sees them. We shouldn’t enter the arena to fight we should enter to help; but sometimes in this daily life we Christians forget that we are not here to judge and attack the people around us, we are here to help them and in doing so show them Jesus. That’s the point to open handed combat, coming without prejudices and without judgements so you can help heal this world just as Jesus came without a sword or armor as a gentle baby in a manger.
How often have we felt like the world has delivered a spin kick in the stomach to us and then laughed as we grimaced in pain? Too often I’m sure. We have all been there. Down and almost out, wishing we could crawl from the fight ring of life and curl up in the comforting shadow of the stands where nobody can see us. We close our eyes and try to wish away what we have been dealt, but when we open them the hurt is still there. We blame everything. The world, people, ourselves, even God, but when it comes down to it there’s only one to blame for all misery and that’s the devil. He is knocking at the door to our hearts and our minds waiting for us to open up even just a little, and because we aren’t letting him in he brings a battering ram with him. Victory in such times comes from response. If we let Jesus take over and respond as He would want us to then we win. The devil won’t stay long if it’s Jesus who answers the door. Whenever the hit comes, where ever you are, however it presents it’s self Jesus is right there ready to defend you; He is a loving and jealous God and He is very protective of His people. I know that it’s hard to understand why the pain happens at all but the trying of our Faith produces endurance; sometimes suffering is required of us and it is impossible to understand why a living God would hurt His people, but He isn’t the one hurting us, yes He is allowing it, but He isnt causing it. I once heard a pastor say, “don’t pray away your blessings.” What he meant was if we never suffer than we never get to see God save us. Miracles don’t happen for people who don’t need them. We must put all of what we go through in God’s hands and respond as Jesus would no matter how hard it is because that is how we reach a break through. Whenever the devil comes to the door step back and let Jesus answer He has defeated the devil before.
We have all heard the great expectations sermon; it’s a really great sermon, but do we come truly come with great expectations? Today I had a miracle that actually shocked me. After having the vet out to diagnose my horse’s unexplainable lump as just that an unexplainable lump I started to get serious about my praying for him. To be honest before I found out that the vet had no idea what it was I just figured if God healed him that was fine but if he didn’t the vet would just treat it and it would still be fine, but unlike God the vet doesn’t know all. Today I checked my horse’s lump and it was GONE! There wasn’t even a trace it had been there! If you want to shout a Hallelujah go right ahead because I am still amazed! Oh and did I mention the lump had been there for nearly 4 months? It wasn’t something that was just going to go away. In this life we have so much that we can take care of ourselves because of modern medicine, modern technology, modern this, modern that that we sometimes don’t even bother to seriously pray about things, because if God doesn’t fix them that’s fine we know someone who can. That is the wrong way to think. I can say this because I go there too. I like to think that I seek God first and just go with Him on things but I (as many people do) fall into the solving it myself rut. God can do EVERYTHING! We just need to give Him the chance to take care of things for us, and to truly believe that He can. We don’t want to leave off asking for help until we reach something we truly can not do ourselves, because if we see God taking care of the little things we will most likely have more faith when we need to give Him the bigger things. Another thing I love about God is that I didn’t have to do anything to make this or any other miracle happen. All I did was pray and believe and I saw the unbelievable. I fail constantly and hurt God probably daily, as hard as I try not to my human nature gets in the way of my Christianity at times. I am also a major failure when it comes to being a public witness, my words stick in my throat and I end up saying nothing. Yet despite all these negative qualities of just being me God steps in and holds me when I cry. He still listens when I pray and blesses me with amazing miracles. It is so nice to know that no matter how bad we screw up, No matter how constantly we sin and fail Jesus still loves us. He wants us to do better that’s true and He will help us do better, but He’s still loving us everyday no matter who we are or what we’ve done. Isn’t that the most amazing miracle of all? because it’s that constant, undying, faithful love and ridiculous grace that led our Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, and to rise again three days later. What a miracle!
God I come with great expectations for this and everyday! Thank you for being our constant friend and greatest miracle. Amen.
Rapture will not stay lest mortals become divine and laws change too much- CS Lewis.
It’s something we don’t really think about ‘rapture will not stay.’ When the rapture comes it will be seconds in time, possibly even less. If we are not ready, then it will pass us by; there is no second chance, no third times the charm, it will be gone. If you are like me that thought will terrify you. Many people I have talked to say, ‘ya, I’m a good person I know I’m going to Heaven,’ but that is not enough. You have to follow God’s laws to the best of your ability and fall on God’s grace for those you seem to keep failing at. Don’t think that God is going to look at you and see that you gave money to a homeless man once and say ‘ok fine your in.’ God wants all of you, all to him, good deeds alone are not enough. Good deeds are necessary to show love but you must believe in Jesus and you must at least try to follow the age old saying, “what would Jesus do?” Remember Rapture will not stay. I am not trying to be offensive; remembering to serve is hard for everyone including me. Even the disciples failed to show love once in awhile, and I am sure that they broke God’s laws every so often, but they always repented and didn’t fall back on their good deeds. Okay yes some disciples did do the ‘look at all I’ve done for you Lord,’ thing, but they came around and saw their fault and repented. You must believe in Jesus to go to Heaven, but you also need to behave like a Christian, do your absolute best, that’s what God expects of us. The first step to truly being a Christian is to realize that Jesus loves you and me and the second is to show that love to others.
The two thieves on the crosses are perfect examples of Christian and non-Christian people. Both were thieves, both were sinners but one chose to follow Jesus in the end. Like the two thieves we are all sinners and we all fall so short of the kingdom of God it’s hard for many to believe that they can go to Heaven. Jesus died as a criminal without committing any crime so that even the theif hanging next to Him could join Him in Heaven. Just the same, we all have a place with Jesus in Heaven if we choose to accept it by accepting Him. All people are people, there is no biological difference that separates those who are Christians and those who aren’t. The difference is Jesus. The difference is the Holy Spirit moving in us making us act…. Christian, we are just two sides of the same coin. All non-Christians can come to Christ there is absolutely nothing making it so that they can’t; not only that but Jesus welcomes them, us, everyone! Jesus wants the whole world to see Him and to not feel they are unwelcome in His home and at His table. Listen and you will hear His gentle voice calling you home. Today I want to end by saying this; anyone who feels cast out from the church because they are struggling to find their place in God’s kingdom, don’t feel like you’re alone, remember that the church cast Jesus out too. There are many churches out there and in truth sometimes you have to look a little before you can find a pastor and a congregation that suits you, but when you do you’ll feel like you’re home. Jesus wants YOU even if you don’t feel wanted and HE Loves you no matter how unlovable you feel. So choose Jesus because He has already chosen you.
Pray with me please
Jesus I know I am a sinner, I know I fall short of your glory but I also know you love me and you want me; please come into my life and fill me with you. Please forgive my sins and draw me to you and closer to you. Help me find you and to not feel discouraged. In your name I pray. Amen.
Trusting in God shouldn’t be a hard thing to do, but it can be. It’s not easy to say, ‘okay I’ve prayed about this, now I will trust you completely.’ If you’re like me you’ll be more likely to say, ‘okay I’ve prayed about this, now I’m going to pray about it like 60 more times and then maybe, maybe, I’ll be okay.’ It’s not because God has ever failed us that it is sometimes hard to trust him; it’s our own fear that makes it difficult. Trust not in your own understandings. Good because my own understanding freaks me out, my peace comes from knowing that God is still good all the time, that never changed.God knows, He isn’t blind to our fears, He holds our tears in His hands, and when the tears become too great to hold, He holds us in His hands.
I know that fear is the big Joy killer in our lives, but it’s also the great thief of our hope, the destroyer of our Faith and even though we know better we all allow fear to grab us by the throat every so often and we find our trust spiraling away like water down a drain. God still knows best. He gets that we struggle with trust and that fear can be a hard thorn to pull out. If only we could make ourselves breathe and relax then we could leave it in God’s hands. Trust gives peace, so trust fully in God because He is the only one in this whole world who will never let you down.
Today I was looking out over the lake in front of my grandfather’s cabin, and watching the gentle, grey waves roll in as multi coloured leaves escaped from their branches and settled on the stirring water. My mind flitted back to the ocean. The ocean is so much like God in many ways (and maybe God intended that) but today I thought of how the ocean is the world’s great contradiction. The sea is wild and untamed and sometimes quite harsh, yet it’s also gentle and nurturing. If you are out on the waves during a winter storm it’s a miracle if you make it back to shore! The wind howling, the water in turmoil, ice pellets driving into you like shrapnel; suddenly you realize this is not a place meant to be tamed or conquered and you are very much out of your depths thinking you could control such an controllable force! What you don’t see from the surface of those wild, teasing waves putting you back in your place is the security and comfort of the lives down below. When a big, cold winter storm attacks the animals under the surface swim deeper under the water until they are not affected by the storm. The ocean holds an array of extremely beautiful and delicate creatures who are unafraid and unharmed by the raging storm above. Where they are is quiet and safe and they know they are protected by the water. The ocean is so much like God in this way. To those who do not know God this world can be wild and harsh and untameable. They are like a little boat bobbing around in a wild winter storm, out on a great ocean and if they come out unscathed it’s a blessing. For those who know God and have accepted Jesus, it is like being a sea creature. We are safe in Jesus and comforted by His presence. When the storms of life hit we swim deeper into Him until we are enveloped by Him and are safe. Jesus does sometimes make us ride out some tough storms, but He always gets us through. Even if we don’t see Him protecting us right now He is there and He is keeping us safe. The ocean that crushes rock walls into sand is the same ocean that gently hydrates and feeds the ever so delicate anemone. The same God that conquers armies and parts the seas is the same God that gives dew to the flower and sends honey bees to scatter it’s pollen. What a perfect and powerful, loving and gentle God we serve and love; we are so very blessed to be called His children.
Ladies, I bet you could name at least one movie where your heart was momentarily stolen by the suave and handsome thief. Whether he was the main character, a secondary character or even a minor character I bet you could think of at least one. He steals for a good reason maybe, kind of like Robin Hood, or maybe he really is a scoundrel but there’s just something about him. I know a robber who steals for a good reason, a good guy who many don’t see as a thief. But there’s the catch, what He is taking already belongs to Him. Jesus is the grave robber. He comes like a thief in the night and steals us away, isn’t that fabulous! When we die we don’t just lie in our graves with nothing to do; Jesus comes for us and only our bodies go to the grave, our souls, our personalities, us… we go to Heaven. Jesus isn’t trying to be alluring to falsely take from us, He steals our hearts with His love and His truth and His sacrifice because He adores us, and once He has our hearts we belong to Him and Him to us and we no longer are of this world. If we give Him our hearts while we are still alive then we can have no fear in death because Jesus is our grave robber. He snatches us away so we are not captives of the grave but are captives of the one true King. I don’t know about you, but Jesus is my favorite robber, a robber who steals us away because He loves us. He is not a thief in truth because He owned us even before we knew what life was and now death is life and this new life is the greatest adventure because it’s an adventure where we can see and touch Jesus, the thief who stole us from death and suffering.