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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The REAL Reason for this season!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (Luke 2:1 ESV)

Yesterday while scrolling my Facebook page, I saw a lot of posts dripping with anger, resentment and sarcasm delivered by depression. I remember feeling sad for those who don't care to celebrate such a time as the birth of Christ. Granted, no His birth was not in the dead of winter, nor was it how most movies depict it. And I get why some choose not to celebrate because it is also a time of Winter Solstice celebration formally named Jól which is a pagan celebration in which a Yule (tide) feast is given to honor a certain god. I can see that this time of year is racked by greedy retailers who while trying to make the most money by having the best "deals" have simultaneously attempted to take Christ out of the equation or by consumers and retailers alike have begun the process of rushing a time of thanksgiving in November to get to the buying and gift getting instead of giving. I will most likely get a lot of flack about this post, then again I have been surprised before. Here is my outtake and why as Christ followers we cannot ignore this season for a certain Reason.

In school, I remember having certain friends who hated the fact that their birthdays were in the summer because they did not have good "turnouts" for their parties. My daughter has a few friends who are like that. But now the new trend, a smart one I say, is to hold a party after school is back in session. Even my youngest daughters birthday falls at an awkward time now that she is in high school. Friends who are in spring sports don't have that much time attend parties as soccer, baseball/ softball and track are in full session. So we improvise and move the time of any celebration to before her birthday. I will even be celebrating my birthday beforehand as I prepare to go in a mission trip to Jamaica this next year (prayerfully). I say all that to point out it's not the date that's as important, it's the event. My children's birth dates will always be important to me but as they get older, we celebrate when time and funds permit. My two oldest are 2 years and a month apart and so for big celebrations, like this next one, we will celebrate in the middle of both for both. The date of Christ's being born is so significant to us as it was in biblical times because his birth came at a time of greedy rulers, despair, taxes that should have been illegal and a great outcry to God for the coming Savior that was foretold. But we seem to always have those things with us. Depression, poverty, sickness, greed, and a great outcry happen everyday. I believe there is a reason we do not know the exact day that Christ was born. Yes I know scholars have done extensive research with dates, seasons and even looking at the region and when the events normally happened. But if God wanted us to focus on an actual date, it would be in the Bible as many dates are. Don't you think Jesus' birth was that significant to Him that if He wanted us to know it, He would have told us? While many Christians are biting down on this "not celebrating the birth of Jesus" fad, I believe the enemy of our souls is able to step in and bring confusion to the table with him. We as children of the Most High argue with each other, non believers and those who aren't sure what they believe yet about whether to celebrate a day, whatever the actual date may be, when God was brought low in the form of man to exonerate man of sin by his ultimate sacrifice on a tree, which we also argue whether to celebrate His death and subsequent being raised from the dead (Easter). Am I saying promote the fantasy of Santa and the Easter Bunny in lieu of Christ's birth and sacrifice for us? No, not at all. When my children were a little younger, Easter baskets ad egg hunts were done on another day, usually the Saturday before, and even though I had not even had a personal relationship with Christ, His birth and sacrifice days were set aside for myself and my kids. As they got older, we moved gift exchange to New Years Day and well, there are no more Easter baskets.

Here's what I am ultimately saying, because I can be long winded. Luke is where the Disciple who took the time to explain some background about what was going on around Christ's birth. He tells of Caesar Agustus' newly required registry which would lead Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem. In a deeper look into those times, we find out that Herod, a fanatical Jewish wannabe, heard of the Messiah's coming and ordered the death of many male children. We find out about the famine, the wailing, etc. All of that is just as important as the actual birth to know God's perfect planning and timing for our lives. How can we then react as Pharisees would have with the Law and focus on a date instead of the importance? In two different places we are told in God's Word that everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial (1 Corinthians 6:12, 10:23). The second time it is said has to do with giving God glory. So lets ask ourselves, if we celebrate this holiday, is there no way God can get the glory? Is there no way we can use this time to draw those to Christ, to be a light to this dark world? This, along with any disaster or tragedy, appears to be the only time most will be "kind" and support each other, even attend church. Shouldn't we take advantage of this opportunity as we are told in Colossians 3:23? My children and I have made changes to the way we celebrate CHRISTmas and I can see God positioning us to give, worship, to bless others, to give ourselves away, not because of the negative foundation of this holiday but because even what the world means for evil, God will use for good.... that is if we let Him use us. So with that, I say Merry CHRISTmas and pray you say the same!

ABBA, thank You for giving the ultimate Gift of Your only Son for us. Forgive us for making this about a date and falling into the pharisaical trap of the enemy while others are rapidly removing from Him this celebration. Help us not to be so careful of dotting "i's" and crossing "t's" that we forget that, Jesus YOU are the Reason for this season no matter how it came about. Wake us up and set us right, Lord. And if for some reason it is not Your will for us to use this time to celebrate you and give to others unprecedentedly and with great avidity while teaching our children of the greatest Gift ever, then forgive me for my ignorance and You teach me! In Jesus name. Amen!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Transparent Arrival

But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. (Mark 13:32, 33 ESV)

Well, its December 22, 2012 and the works is still here, along with everyone else that opened their eyes today. There is a song that I used to love when I was younger! I never knew the meaning of the band Queen making this song and I didn't know all the lyrics but I loved the song, Another One Bites the Dust! That's how I feel about this latest prediction of the world ending in December 21, 2012!

Since 1970, a very significant year for me, there have been 41 predictions concerning the end of the world. Obviously, all attempts have failed, however I bring this up because in plain sight and in black and white it is said that "no man" knows (KJV) the day or the hour. The word for "hour" in the Greek text is hora (pronounced hōrä) and can mean a time or season. My question if it is written in black and white, why are so many who claim to be of faith and "know God" still trying hard to produce a date? Seriously, do we really want to know and will that bring about change or just laziness and selfishness until the time is near? Perhaps we don't know because if we did, this is precisely what would happen. Which brings me to verse 32. While Jesus answered the Disciples question of when the signs he talked about would be done, his answer of no man knows, he also gave them a command that is prevalent yet forgotten today. He told them to be on guard and keep awake because no one knows the time.

I can remember CHRISTmas season as a child before my parents divorce. I can remember always thinking how silly my parents were to try and hide my presents from me. I would search every year from the age if about 7 to 12, the CHRISTmas after they separated, and would always find my presents! I would incorporate my brother in this feat as well, after knowing he wouldn't go run his mouth telling on me of course! One important factor is to know that we are military brats. So we moved quite a bit. A few of these times, my junior detective work would be in a new house, but I always solved the mystery! When done, I would carefully lift off the tape, glad tape is much stronger these days, and open the presents, just a bit, to see what I was getting.... okay and to tease my brother about knowing what he was getting in those years before his preschool detective work. I was always excited to know what my presents were and that upped my anticipation for CHRISTmas morning when I could tear into those carefully wrapped bags and boxes only to leave the living room in a huge wrapping paper debacle. But on that day, even though I woke up excited, would stare at the presents like a hungry lion does while laying in wait for that exact moment it's prey is oblivious to its presence, and mind you, I was up by 4:30-5am! Even though that anticipation boiled over like an old school percolator filled with coffee, when my parents, in what seemed to be DECADES later, came to the living room as a signal to start tearing into the flesh, I mean wrapping paper, I was never as excited as I was when I first knew what I was getting. I said all that to say, that's how us knowing when the end would be.

In such a sin soaked world, where the Burger King motto has become our new National Anthem, would we really use the time we knew the end date to wisely? Many terminally sick people spend their time with family and friends, doing things THEY never got to do and buying things THEY never had as if they could take it with them. When in fact, vs 15 says do not go back for anything. There are even those who have been diagnosed and go on a revenge spree hoping that they will have the time to "get right with God" before they die. Rarely has anyone been told, "you have this many days, months or years," and they sacrificed even more, spent more time in their Word, growing and hearing from God, dedicating even their last breath to live out His will for them, sharing His Gospel. Don't get me wrong, it is done. But those are people we don't hear about. They seem to die quiet deaths and only the hearts they touch cry out for them. The ones we do hear about are those who had no idea when they were going to die and spent their lives as His Light, radically changed for Him! This too is good. My point is, if we all knew when our "expiration date" was, would we continue the way we are? Why do we need a date to tell us we should surrender our lives to Jesus when we can do it now and live out our days filled with love, joy and peace as the adopted sons and daughters of the one true King and reap all the blessings He has for us?

The rumors of wars may or may not have begun, depends on who you ask. The Rapture may or may not be, and may or may not have happened already. Nations may be rising against each other, but they have been doing that for centuries. The world may be in labor pains to make way for Jesus or we could still be in the beginning, who knows! Birth is a complicated thing. But what I do know is He WILL be coming in a cloud, the same way He left in his ascension, and He will be coming to collect His elect. We have but one life, and how we live it, Who or what we serve will testify as to where we will be. He IS coming back and we do NOT know when that will be. Once you grasp hold of that, how will that alter how you live?

Heavenly Father, You reign on high! Yet You are so personable to be right here with us in the midst of all we go through. Help us to focus on You and not when You will come. Forgive us for being selfish people who sit and wait like at a bus stop, never interacting or speaking to anyone because we are only focused in our destination. Help us to be secure that You are coming back for us, like You promised, so that we can go about our lives in such a way that we bring people to that "bus stop" with us to ride to our destination Home with You. And for those who do not know You, who are wounded and as a result have chosen not to know You, help them to see the loving, faithful, just Father You are and because of You their lives would be forever changed! Start a WildFire in us and help us to be bold in proclaiming Your Gospel in all nations (Mark 13:10). Help us to endure these birthing pains and to be on guard and awake. Thank You that the days are growing shorter so that the time will grow nearer! Call us to repentance, Lord, and others to salvation! In Jesus name. Amen!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Transparent Tragedy

 “….In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
December 14 is a day that will be burned forever in our hearts and will be a question mark in our minds until such a time that we can God face to face. I am sure the day started for most like any other, but I am just as certain there was one or two led to pray for that day. As the world watched helplessly to find out just what had happened, how many were injured or dead and why someone would do such a thing in a seemingly innocent place, I am certain there were prayer warriors and intercessors all over crying out for the families, staff, responders and even the nation. Even as I read and became angered by the thoughts and words of careless people on social media sites and news reports online, the two messages that came across clear was for us as believers, not to be discouraged but to encourage others and that in this world, it is very certain that we will see and feel pain, have trials and death but we need to take heart because He has already overcome this wicked world! I saw one cry from many and that was how could God let this happen? Dear hearts, God did not “let” this happen, we did. We have become so complacent in our pews and drama free lives that we walked away from our First Love and allowed Him to be “taken out of the schools” because we didn’t want to ruffle feathers. As few of us as there seem to be, our voice, our cries are loud when in unison with the angels and the voice of God Himself crying out for His children to wake up! When will we take a stand? We will not change the outcome of the sentence for this wicked world. We will not stop violence or vile things that are being done, but we can surely bring more to salvation and help them turn from their wicked ways if we would only hear God’s cry for us to turn from ours.
Two years ago, December 4th, my world was rocked again when on the news I heard of the disappearance of a beautiful young lady who was a former youth at my old church. I loved this young lady, her mom and her younger brother like my own family. I had been out of touch with her mom for quite some time as I went through a valley or two of my own but she was one of the first to encourage my writing. I tried furiously to find her information so that I could be there for her but God led me to just pray. She was never found and I am back in contact with her mom but still wonder where she is, if she is okay, is she held against her will, was she one of the youth that were taken for a teen human trafficking ring where kids were abducted and forced into prostitution. I even find myself looking for her when driving or in a store from time to time. (Tyler Thomas is her name and she is 22 now) But as scary an ordeal that is and unfathomable for a parent to not know where their child is, Jesus has already overcome.
It’s a hard concept to accept at times, I will be the first to admit, but at the same time it is so comforting to know that we win no matter how much hurt, pain, trials, brokenness, sickness and death we witness or go through, we win. It’s a very sobering thought when you are in the midst of trials. I am recently coming to that realization and settling my thoughts on this and every time I have a valley to walk through, I remember that Jesus has already been there and for me, won.
Meditate on this promise today. Learn the meaning of the words in Greek and what Jesus meant by them. Continue to pray for all families, the community and those first responders who had to pull out the little bodies from that school on Friday. Pray that this will awaken them to a God, who hurts when we hurt, catches every tear when we cry and longs for us to be in relationship with Him so that when this world is gone, we can be with Him with “no more crying” forever.
Dear Lord, thank You for being a sovereign God, a God in control and firmly planted on Your Throne. Would You breathe down on those who are affected by this past week’s tragedies a breath of comfort and peace? Would You ignite in Your people a hunger not for the world’s justice but Yours? Lord would You use this to call those to salvation and repentance so that we can go out into this harvest which is ready and bring them to You? Cover us, Lord and be our Comforter when the time comes. Put urgency in our hearts and a desire that comes from You as well as boldness and courage! In Jesus name. Amen! 

Transparent Unity

 “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.” Acts 2:1-2

 There is a saying, based off of Scripture, that says “A house divided will fall, a house united will stand,” or something like that. I really love the concept because we sometimes have no idea how true that is. I dare anyone to prove that a person on their own can do more and be more efficient than a group of people working together. Ah, but there is the kicker. The group or family has to be working together, towards the same goals. One thing I have found true in my home is if there is division, if there is not a unified front, we fail and cannot move forward.
I was in church at our 4:30 prayer service on morning when God made this plainly and painfully clear to me. Upon reading this particular verse, I was flooded with the knowledge that we as Christ followers are looking to generally at this verse. It is NOT about us being on one accord in our thinking or “man’s will” which was prayed against that very morning but also that the “in one place” this verse is speaking of is NOT a building. It’s a state of mind, a state of being. The Greek word for one place is autos, meaning himself, herself, themselves; the same. When I looked this up further, the word “one” came up and the Greek word for it is hos and the meaning is “to the same” which literally means “for the same purpose.” I was instantly flooded with sadness because God was saying the reason we have not been able to move effectively in the fields and bring the hurt, broken, sick, lost, and wandering to Him is because we are not on “one accord in one place.” We have adapted the will of man which helps us to bring in the most people instead of bringing in those who are hungry for something new. With those masses we bring in hoping they will get a glimpse of who God is to us and adapt that desire, we then begin to water down His message to fit them and not offend them. We have become complacent in our walk and He is not pleased. We have become…. as the world is. They have become our light instead of us being the Light of the world. We have taken the lie that we are small or one person and cannot make a difference to heart and made it our own.
This message does not come lightly. I cried out for a good hour and a half, even for those who were inside the building crying out for our city. They could not see that, as the very song I am listening to right now says, “The change I want to see, must first begin in me. I surrender,” (Song of Intercession, William McDowell). We need to remember that WE are that City on a hill and they are watching us. Would we, not knowing how to parent at first, take our cues and instruction from our newborn? We may adapt to a schedule that suits them for a while but the next thing we do is to put THEM on a schedule that is conducive to us. We don’t parent the rest of our lives by how they react do we? The world is watching us, to see not only what we do in situations but also to see what they are able to get away with; what we will not stand on His holy ground for. What will your response be?
Sovereign Lord, Abba, we are crying out to You today! We are in desperate need of Your guidance, clarity and wisdom. We want to hear from You, Lord so that we know which way to go. Forgive us for our following man’s will and help us to get back to You and Your desires. Unify us, Lord any way necessary. In Jesus name. Amen!