Am I Ready for Christmas?

In My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers wrote, “Jesus Christ was born into this world, not from it. He did not emerge out of history; He came into history from the outside…Just as our Lord came into human history from outside it, He must also come into me from outside. Have I allowed my personal human life to become a ‘Bethlehem’ for the Son of God?”

His question hit me and caused me to ponder a few other questions:

Have I allowed my will to become like Mary’s and Joseph’s, yielding to God and obeying Him without completely understanding?

Have I allowed my heart to become like the stable, welcoming Jesus to come in? If you want know how to buy kratom through amazon , in KRATOMMASTERS.COM you can find all the info that you need.

Have I allowed my voice to become like the angels’, announcing the good news of Christ?

Have I allowed my feet to become like the shepherds’, running to seek the Savior and to proclaim Him to others?

Have I allowed my knees to become like the Wise Men’s, kneeling before the King of Kings and worshipping Him through giving?

Father, help me spiritually prepare for Christmas: Help me desire Your will before my own. Fill my heart with Your Spirit. Inhabit the praises of my voice. Make my feet swift to share the good news of Your salvation. And grant me bendable knees all the days of my life that I might worship You forever. Amen.

 

God Pursues Us!

A few weeks ago, my study group finished Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God study. What a blessing – an even greater blessing (and conviction) than the first time I took it 25 years ago!  Both then and now I’m struck by how God continuously pursues a love relationship with me and how poorly I respond to it.

Let me share a few of my favorite gems from Blackaby’s chapter on this love relationship:

  • NEVER look at any situation except against the backdrop of the cross. NEVER allow God's love to peopleyour heart to question God’s love.
  • EVERYTHING in your Christian life depends upon the quality of your love relationship with God.
  • When you are in a love relationship with God, you have [not just everything you need; you have] everything there is!
  • If you struggle to spend time with God, you don’t have a time problem; you have a love problem!
  • God is a Person pouring His life into yours.
  • CHRISTIANITY is a personal, practical, progressive relationship with Almighty God.

Meditate on this list describing God’s love for you.

Then assess the quality of your love for and devotion to God.

Need to run and talk to Him?  Good.  He’s waiting with open arms!

I Didn’t Speak Up

My father-in-law sold his house once he moved into an assisted living facility (although he tells everyone WE sold the house, WE sold his car, and now HE’s stuck! Got’ta love him!). As we were cleaning out the house, I took home quite a few books, including a rather small 1991 book by James W. Moore: Yes, Lord, I Have Sinned, But I Have Several Excellent Excuses.  Unfortunately, I could relate.

Turns out, it’s quite a convicting little thing — this morning more than ever.  He wrote that in the old West, stagecoaches had 3 kinds of tickets: first-class, second-class, and third-class.  Who knew?

  • First-class meant you could sit down no matter what.  If trouble arose, you could sit while everyone else took care of it.
  • Second-class meant that you could sit down until there was a problem; then you had to get off and watch until the problem was solved.
  • Third-class meant that you could sit until there was a problem; then you had to get off and help fix it!

Far too many Christians have the first-class mindset or even the second-class mindset. But Jesus?  Because of His first-class love, He chose the third-class ticket! And we should follow His example. “When trouble comes, when difficulties arise, when problems emerge, we must roll up our sleeves and go to work if we want to live in the Spirit of Christ.”

Pastor Moore included a quote by Martin Niemoeller, an anti-Nazi German Lutheran who was imprisoned in concentration camps from 1937-1945.  He is most famous for his poetic prose “First They Came.”  Niemoeller created various versions of his poem. Here is the version that is enshrined in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

With today’s attack against Christians worldwide and against millennia-old Biblical beliefs, Niemoeller’s quote struck a particular chord with me.  We can no longer sit in first-class, my friends.  We must choose the third-class mindset and stand up for Christians everywhere, while at the same time having a first-class love for all people, even those — especially those — who are the attackers. Love them, but stand up against what they are doing; be grace seasoned with salt.

If we do not get out of the coach and help fix the problem, then when they come for you, when they come for me, will there be anyone left to help?

The Heartbeat of Life

A doctor once stopped me after church; she needed to talk.  So many waves had hit her and she didn’t understand.  “I’m doing the best I can to live my life for the glory of God, but bad things keep happening and I keep getting discouraged.  I’m up; I’m down; I’m up; I’m down.”

I stopped her.  “Shirley,* don’t you understand?  What is this?”  I asked, as I motioned my hand up and down in rapid repetition.  She stared at me blankly.  “Come on,” I pressed. “You’re a doctor.  What is this?”

heartbeat

She tilted her head and replied questioningly, “A heartbeat?”

“Yes!  And it’s a sign of life.  What’s a flat line?”

“Death,” she replied, still not understanding.

“Right!  And what’s true with the heartbeat is true with life.  A flat line – whether high or low – means you’re dead.  But highs and lows are signs of life. How would we recognize a low time if we’d never known a high time?  And how would we know to rejoice in a high time if we’d never struggled through a low time?  It’s life, my friend!”

Well, 2014 was a heartbeat for me: so many highs accompanied by lows.  For example, I gained two precious daughters-in-law, but I lost my father.  I rejoiced over the birth of a beautiful new granddaughter, but I mourned over my grandson moving away with his mother.  I had the opportunity to go to the United Kingdom to facilitate leadership training but, while touring Winchester, I learned that our company had been acquired by another and my future is uncertain.  Ups-and-downs: it’s called  life.

In John 10:10 Jesus said, “I have come that [my sheep] may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Did He mean that when we accept Him as our Savior, then everything will be up and wonderful, that we’ll have no more downs?  By no means!  What He meant was that no matter what happens, He is with us to guide us through.  No matter how high we go, He is still above us, raining down upon us those showers of blessings.  And no matter how low we go, He is still beneath us, reigning over it all as He carries us through to its end.  And all along the way, He’s teaching us.

You see…

I didn’t really lose my father; he just went home.  I’ll see him again when I go home.  And I had the awesome opportunity to show my new daughters-in-law that, for the Christian, death is only the doorway to true life.

My grandson didn’t move far from me until God had allowed me to be sure that my little one understood who Jesus is.  I remind him whenever he comes to visit and we go to bed with his “Jesus book.”  And God blessed me with another child to nurture in the ways of God.

My future may be uncertain as far as this company is concerned, but I know Who holds my future and how everything will work for my good because I love God (Romans 8:28).  It will be great to stay; it will be exciting to leave. And I have some great pictures of London to boot!

So what’s the secret to life?  As I told my friend those many ears ago:

We know that life is not all bliss,

But the secret to life is simply this:

May each mountain you climb be higher than the last,

And each valley you cross not as low as the past.

*Not her real name

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot!

I am currently enjoying Lisa Harper’s latest Bible study, Malachi: A Love that Never Lets Go.  Each week she includes out-of-the-box exercises to help us implement what we are learning.  This week’s assignment was to learn the origin of the old spiritual Swing Low, Sweet Chariot and then to rewrite it in our own “dialect” and from our own heart.  What a great exercise this was!

First, the origin: The spiritual was written by a man commonly known as Uncle Wallace, Wallis Willis, a Choctaw freedman.  He wrote it around 1840 and was inspired to do so by his home close to Oklahoma City and by the Red River, which reminded him of the Jordan River.  The prophet Elijah is closely associated with the Jordan River, the location where a chariot and horses of fire appeared between him and his successor Elisha, and Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind.  (Numerous non-scholarly sources believe the song contained hidden lyrics that pertain to the Underground Railroad that served as an escape route to freedom for slaves.)

Tradition has it that a Choctaw boarding school minister, Alexander Reid, overheard Willis singing the song and had him transcribe the words and music.  He then sent the song to the Fisk Jubilee Singers in Nashville, who popularized the song as they toured throughout the U.S. and Europe in the early 1900’s.  The rest, as they say, is history.  The Recording Industry Association of America added Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to its list of “Songs of the [20th]Century.”

Second, my rewrite:  It’s hard to rewrite the words to a song that is so beloved and so historic.  But it’s words bring a picture to my mind’s eye of a man struggling in this oft difficult world, longing for his Savior to bring down a chariot and whisk him away to the paradise of heaven.  I, too, sometimes get weary with the daily struggles of this life and even get a little impatient at times while waiting on the Lord’s return.

But, my friend, He is coming!  And He, Jesus Christ, is the only ticket for that sweet chariot ride to heaven!  No one else or no-thing else in this world will get you there.  Jesus came the first time to bring salvation; He’ll come the next time to bring judgment.  But before His judgment falls, He’ll take His children for the ride of their lives!

Do you have your Ticket?  If not, let’s talk.

 

 

Praise You Sweet Jesus Lord

Friday

STUDENT (small)

So, the first 6 months of 2013 have been a blur.  And these are only a tasting of my life these days!  But you know what I’ve learned?

God remembers!  Yes, my father may be forgetting a lot of his earthly existence, but (PTL) he’s not forgotten God.  More importantly, God has not forgotten him!  What a memory our great God has!  He remembers we are dust (Psalm 103:14) — imperfect and helpless.  But He is patient with us, sweeping us up again and again in His hand, but never throwing us in the garbage can! He remembers all of us; He remembers each of us.  How can He not?  For the name of each believer is engraved on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16).

Jesus is Life!  Yes, my mother-in-law lost the battle with cancer, but won the battle of  life!  Jesus is her life and she lives — truly lives! — forevermore with Him.  Actually, she never died (John 11:25).  She simply shed the robe of flesh she wore for this thing called “time.”  In Jesus is life (John 1:4) and “everyone who believes in him [has] eternal life…[and] shall not perish” (John 3:15-16).

We are God’s children!  Though husband and I have not been perfect parents and our children have not been perfect children, God is the perfect Father and Jesus the perfect Son!  Regardless of mistakes I’ve made in the past, regardless of mistakes my children have made, I must follow God’s example.  God loves purely, sacrificially — and He disciplines perfectly, lovingly.  The Father loves us without measure and allowed His Son to pay the price for our adoption.  “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God — born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God…” (John 1:12-13).  We are His children and He will bless and discipline because He is the perfect Parent.  “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).

My job is to let God do His job!  I must submit to whatever that means for both my personal and professional life.  Actually, there should be no separation;  my entire life is sacred because it is set apart for the glory of God.  I must let go of fears and let God have His way.  (I still must submit and wait for the husband to come on board, but I can surely be ready for when he does!)

 

He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever…
The LORD remembers us and will bless us…
he will bless those who fear the LORD —
small and great alike.

(Psalm 111:5 and 115:12-13)

 

Thursday

Finally, my professional job as a talent development consultant. The Lord continues to impress upon me that it’s time to move on, to pursue His call and write/teach on a more full-time basis, to trust Him alone for our needs. Even though I want to do just that, several fears have kept me from it.

“Lord, we have this small bit of debt over here.  Let me work long enough to pay that off and then I’ll be able to quit.”  Well, my mother-in-law left us a little money; it’s paid off.

“Lord, I’m committed to facilitate these four Leadership Projects in 2013.  Let me get through these and then I’ll be able to quit.”  After the second, the other two were cancelled.

“Lord,  You know how summer is.  Let me get through this hectic season and then I’ll be able to quit.”  I opened my calendar and you could almost hear the crickets singing.

“Lord, give me one more confirmation that this is really what You want and not just what I want. Ten confirmations just aren’t enough.”  The sermon topic the following Sunday?  Having the courage to do what God is calling you to do!  (The preacher even made the comment, “Maybe God is calling you to leave a job…”!)

So, now I’m hiding behind the old submission card.  You know, I can’t move forward until my husband gives the the go-ahead.  He’s not there yet!

So I wait…

So God waits…

(I pray He outlasts me!)

Wednesday

My son’s court date went well and we continue to see our grandson often.  How it makes my heart burst with joy to see my almost-2-year-old prince come through the door and run into my arms!  And my son has recently become engaged to a sweet young lady who loves both him and his son.

Though my eldest is still not where he should be spiritually, I rest in the Psalmist’s promise that children will return to the truth they’ve been taught. So I await with an expectant heart for that day — and I pray my little bundle of joy will come to know the Lord at an early age.

What a glorious day that will be!

 

Tuesday

Unlike my father, my mother-in-law has gone  home to be with the Lord.

“Maws,” as my kids and I called her, was a strong-willed, strong-personality woman, loved and revered by many.  We butted heads on a few occasions, mostly about my children and our church.  But I will miss her dearly (but for only a short time, PTL!).  How wonderful to witness that strong will and personality fight so valiantly against cancer and what a privilege to help her in any way I could.  Her faith was actually stronger in death than it was in life!

She was a proud woman and often talked about how she did not want a lot of people standing around gawking at her either as she was dying or after she was gone.  She made me swear that, after the immediate family said their goodbyes, the casket would be closed tight — no last opinions on how she looked were to be tolerated from anyone!  And God showed her such grace: She died at home a little after 6:00 a.m. with only her husband of 57 years on one side (who still believed her to be most beautiful woman he ever knew) and her Savior of 70 years on the other (who made her beautiful).

What a sweet departure!