Sunday, December 27, 2015

Hope in the End

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  (NIV) Romans 15:13

It is so hard to believe that another year is behind us.  I'm not sure about all of you, but I think the oler I get, the quicker time passes!  Reflection at the end of the year can help us to see what went well, what didn't go so well, and what we want to change.  When we think about such things, we can better understand what choices we made that were good choices, and which choices were not necessarily God-centered.  I certainly had opportunities to make better choices throughout the year in many circumstances.

Typically, while we do this type of reflection, we also realize that we have had prayers that may not have been answered yet - something we are hoping for in our hearts.  Yes, we may "like" to win the lottery, we may "want" to have a new car, but HOPE is something completely different.  Hope - which can be hard to define, is to want something with the understanding that it will come to fruition.  Hope is what we have when we take our heart to God.  Hope is what God gives to us when we absolutely trust that He will act in our behalf - our BEST behalf.  We may want things that aren't necessarily what we need to have.  Hope is when we take those heartfelt desires to God and trust that he will deliver to us what we need.

Yes, I have things that I am hoping for that haven't been revealed to me this year.  As we hope, and wait, we can become discouraged.  We can get frustrated and think many thoughts:

                       God isn't listening to me.
                       I'm a bad person - it will never happen.
                       I'm being punished.
                       Maybe what I am hoping for will NEVER be answered.
                       Maybe what I am hoping for is too big for God.

Yes, sometimes our discouragement and frustration can lead us to doubt God and His lack of love for us.  Our verse for today clearly states that our hope resides FULLY with God.  As He truly is our God of hope, we are filled with love and joy, peace and trust, and most importantly, the Holy Spirit!  God gave us the Holy Spirit to reside IN us when peace, love, joy, and hope seem far away.  Because we are blessed with the Holy Spirit, we need not doubt - don't doubt that God can hear you; don't doubt that you are forgiven; don't doubt that God is the great I AM - and has power over everything and everyone; Don't Doubt.  Stand strong in the hope that God has given you in the Holy Spirit.

Do you need to find a story of great hope?  Read about Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Now that is HOPE!  They hoped to have a child and were blessed not only with a beautiful child, but the child who came before Jesus - John the Baptist!  This blessing was not given to them when they were young, it was provided to them when they started running out of hope.  Yet, it was all part of God's diving plan.  We all have hopes like Elizabeth and Zechariah.  Maybe it is hope for a child, maybe it is hope for love, maybe it is hope for relationship restoration, maybe it is hope for . . . .

Believe this - God KNOWS your hopes.  God is aware of your needs.  God will deliver to you exactly what you need.  Your hope resides in God.  As this year ends and the new year begins, may you find peace in the fact that God loves you so very much, and knows your hopes and desires - and He will deliver.  May you all enjoy a wonderful New Year in Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the Holy Spirit who resides in my soul.  May I realize that the hopes of my heart are revealed to you - and that you will bring to me exactly what I need, when I need it.  May I fully trust you, God, and may the peace that only you can bring into my life, reside in my heart forever."

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Greatest Gift of All

"Today in the town of David, a SAVIOR has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.  (NIV)  Luke 2:11

I thought about who should round out our Advent series of those who were there at our Dear Lord's birth.  We have talked about the innkeeper, the shepherds, and Joseph.  We have seen through the innkeeper to keep our focus on Jesus.  We have learned through the shepherds to be humble before God and tell His great story.  We have learned through Joseph to be obedient to God and His plan for us.  Today we focus on the one that this entire evening was about - our dear Jesus.  What a miraculous night that must have been. 

He was just a baby that night, yet, as a baby, the impact He brought into our world that evening changed history.  There was so much that Jesus' birth meant.  His birth filled the prophesy that had been preached.  His birth brought confirmation of the angels that visited Mary and Joseph.  His birth brought hope, knowing that the Messiah would carry our sins.  Yet, the greatest gift that Jesus' birth brought, in my humble opinion, is perfect love.  Through Jesus' birth, life, and death, we see the incredible picture of perfect love.

No matter how much we love our spouse, our children, our parents, our friends, we are still sinful.  We can think bad thoughts, say bad words, do bad deeds - although we love these people dearly.  We sin, even to those that we love the most.  Yet, Jesus was perfect in His love for all.  Perfect in His love for his parents.  Perfect in His love for a paralytic.  Perfect in His love for a sinful woman.  Perfect in His love for a thief on a cross.  Most importantly for all of us, he is perfect in His love for you and me.

So many times I have had conversations about finding true love.  When will the right person be brought into our lives?  When do I know if the person I am with is the right person for me?  Why can't I be loved for who I am?  There is one answer for all of those questions - JESUS.  Jesus is the right person for our lives; He loves us for who we are - for He CREATED us.  He created us with all of our flaws and all of our gifts.  He loves us despite what we have done - the sins that we have committed.  He loves us enough to take all of our sins away from us.  He loves us enough to prepare a place for us when we depart this earthly life.  He loves us - you and me! Through His perfect love of us, he teaches us how to love others.  In every word Jesus spoke, in every miracle Jesus performed, in every moment He taught us how we should love those around us - far and near, family or stranger, easy or difficult.  

There is no greater gift than Jesus' love for us.  So as we prepare for Christmas on Friday, may we take some time to reflect on our Advent season together.  May we live our lives EVERY day how we might have focused them during Advent.  May we focus on our Jesus with a humble and obedient heart; telling others of the good news; and showing His love through us.

As Christmas approaches, my Christmas wish for each and every reader is to be blessed with the miracle of our Lord.  May His birth bring to you all that He wanted it to bring - hope and love in our true Savior.  I pray that your Christmas is filled with joy and happiness.  Blessings and love to you all!!

"Dearest Jesus - during this Advent season, you have shown us so much through those that were present at your birth.  May we take those learnings and apply them to our lives - not just during Christmas, but every day.  Help us to take the greatest gift of all - your unconditional love, and share it with others.  In your gracious and wonderful name we pray, AMEN!"


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Obedience Like Joseph

"When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."  (NIV) Matthew 1:24

I wonder why God didn't provide us more information about Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.  He seems obscure after the birth of Jesus.  There are a few mentions of Joseph following the birth, but nothing by which we can detemine the type of person he is.  As always, I am sure there is a reason for this.  Yet, there is much we can learn from Joseph that can help us in this life on earth.

Joseph, above all else, was a person who was obedient to God.  The love and admiration Joseph must have had to do all that he did to ensure Jesus was born, was safe, and had an earthly father.  Joseph obeyed God on so many different occasions.  Let us explore just a few of them.

Joseph finds out that the person he was engaged to, Mary, is pregnant.  He was not with her, so I am sure he had some incredible throughts running through his head.  God knew those thoughts and ensured that he touched Joseph's heart to complete what the prophets had shared.  Still, even after the dream, Joseph could have walked away.  I am sure he still had doubt about where this journey with Mary would take them.  Yet, he didn't walk away, he followed the path God provided.

Joseph safely takes Mary to Bethlehem.  He obeys the laws that were laid out before him, although the trip was not going to be easy with a pregnant woman.  Yet, Joseph does this - he takes care of Mary and the tough journey to Bethlehem brings Jesus.

As they settle into Bethlehem, God once again speaks to Joseph, telling him to leave Bethlehem immediately.  Joseph once again, doesn't hesitate, but leaves as God had instructed.  Joseph's faith in God and his love for his Lord are evident in so many situations.  His obedience to God and to the laws of the land are a wonderful example for us.

How often is God speaking to us and are we obeying his instructions?  How often does He tell us to do one thing, and we do "our" thing instead?  We know the laws of God, the ten commandments, yet, how often are we obedient to them?  Joseph's obedience is a wonderful picture of what happens when we follow and are obdient to God.  In doing so, every step of the way, God provided for Joseph when Joseph obeyed God.  What happens when we obey God?  Do we find ourselves happier, more at peace?  I know that when I stray from God's direction and where He wants to send me, it never turns out well.  When I follow His instructions, my life takes a more blessed path.

Take time this week to get to know what God wants from you.  Once you know it, don't turn away an do your own thing, but be obedient unto God.  For our obedience will yield much goodness.

"Dearest God, how man times we have not obeyed what you have asked from us.  They are too numerou to count.  Please let me be still, God, and focus on what you want me to do.  Let me follow that path instead of walking away from it.  May I closely follow your instruction and enjoy all the blessings you have for me.  In your nam I pray, AMEN." 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Getting the News FIrst

"When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them."  (NIV)  Luke 2: 17-18

Getting great news first is a pretty special thing.  The first to learn of a couple's engagement, the first to learn of a new job, the first to learn of a special accomplishment, the first to learn of a newborn's birth. Being the first to find out information makes us feel as if we are a part of the news and that the person who is receiving the joy wants us to know first.

Today, our people of focus in the Christms birth are the shepherds.  The evening of Jesus' birth, the first to be told of this miracle were the shepherds.  Lowly, humble shepherds were the first to receive the news of Jesus' birth.  Angels came down from heaven to share this incredible information.  The shepherds headed off to the manger scene to find exactly what the angels had told them.  Talk about feeling special!!  Angels and Jesus all in one night!

Be certain, God could have chosen the angels to go to anyone.  He could have had the angels go to kings and authorities of the day.  He could have had the angels go to wealthy people of the day.  He chose humble shepherds to begin telling the story of Jesus' birth to others.  God chose people who were honest and hard working, taking care of the creatures he created.  It is such a wonderful foretelling of Christ.  His birth is told to shepherds as Jesus would become a shepherd to men around the world.  

There have been times in my life, even recently, when I question if I am knowledgeable enough to tell others about Jesus.  Do I know enough about my Bible?  Do I have the right words?  Do I understand the word of God the way He intended?  Do I . . . . ?  Then I read the story of Jesus' birth and realize that he CHOSE the humbleness of the shepherds to begin sharing the greatest news of all!  What do we, I, need to do? Humble ourselves before our Lord.  Ask Him to use us as HE sees fit.  Ask Him to give us the words that we need.  Ask Him for guidance to explore His word and gain all the truth we need.  Ask Him - He will always deliver.

Yet, as the shepherds, it's not just getting the information that is important.  We need to tell others.  The shepherds did this long ago, and we are instructed to do this today.  Tell people how important Jesus is in our lives.  Tell people that you will pray for them.  Tell people how much Jesus loves them that He gave His own life for them.  We, like the shepherds, need to tell others of the glory of Jesus, the King of Kings who came for us, for you, for me.  May our joy be shared with everyone we meet - along with the reason for our joy - JESUS!!

"Dearest Jesus, help us to tell the good news of your coming to our world, just as you helped the shepherds tell the good news so long ago.  May our love and joy for you in our lives easily be told to those around us.  If we ever feel we are not the right person for the job, may we come to you for the blessed assurance that we are your children and have been given this good news to share with others."

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Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope we can share how God's grace has been life changing and that SIMPLE FAITH, getting back to a life that is rooted in the basics, can truly set us free to achieve so much in our lives.