Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year’s Resolutions

How will you begin this new year? How does 2016 need to be different from last year? What is on your list of new year’s resolutions? If you reflect your countrymen, your resolutions might be one of these. Lose weight, get organized, spend less and save more, enjoy life to the fullest, stay fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others with their dreams, fall in love, or spend more time with family.

All noble and attainable goals. Each focuses on an important area of our lives. With these areas in balance and on the right track, the rest of the world can be handled. According to statistics seventh-five percent of people maintain their resolutions through the first week. That number drops to sixty-four percent when you get past a month. And only forty-six percent of new year’s resolutions are still intact and on target after six months.

I start this new year with the words of Proverbs 3 on my heart. It is my new year’s resolution. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” As you write and follow your new years resolutions, keep these words on your heart. Put God first, trust Him, and He will guide your paths.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

To Be Blessed

Surrounded by Christmas carols and songs of the new born king, my mind turns to Mary’s song. You can find it in Luke chapter 1, starting in verse 46. “And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him from generation to generation.”

Out of Mary’s mouth pours praises and thanks to God. She says, “All generations will call me blessed.” We do call her blessed! We think of the joy of a newborn baby. We think of a young boy sitting at her knee and learning scripture. We think of Mary tucking in Jesus and kissing his forehead good night. And we label her blessed.

Take another look. Pause for a moment and see the predicament that surround Mary when she utters these words. She is unmarried. A baby on the way. She knows this is a special baby, but her community did hear the angel’s voice. Blessed? Is she blessed?

Society doesn’t put much value on a young woman in her situation. God does! She is blessed! D.L. Bock describes it this way, “Mary understands the difference and recognizes the honor given her to have God actively involved in her life. The sense of privilege, lacking any hint of merit, spills over into a waterfall of praise and gratitude—praise that is refreshing for its passion and sense of wonder.”

The blessing is God’s presence. Her song betrays her knowledge of the scriptures as illusions flood her speech. References to Psalm 103, repeating the words of another mother and her prayed for child in 1Samuel and Genesis 30. She knows God’s presence. Mary spent time with God through Bible study, and it shows in her words and her character. Yes, she is blessed by God’s presence.

At this Christmas season we remember the good, the right, the beautiful. Still sometimes there is the messy, the stressful, and the disappointment. But we can sing Mary’s song with her. We know who God is, and it is His presence that blesses us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Wonder

Sparkling and twinkling lights. Bright princesses and tall giraffes next to tunnels of rainbow lights. The exclamations of joys and wonders slipped from my daughter’s lips, and my son’s eyes were bright with wonder. Where I saw the frame that held them up, all my children could see was the lights. Lights making elegant swans, birthday cakes and even waddling penguins. Reliving the adventure of holiday lights through their eyes made me appreciate the experience in a new way.

Right now we are in the middle of the Christmas season. We tell the same stories, sing the same songs, and remember the same savior. And yet it can all be new again. It can be new again when we see it through children’s eyes.

Read again the story of a Savior come to earth as a baby. Run with the shepherds to the manger to see a child who is Christ the Lord. Wander the desert, following the star. Kneel with these kings and present your gifts to the God that became man.

Let it be new again. Use a child’s eyes and see again the miracle that is God with us. The miracle of love that motivated Him to step from his throne to be incarnated as a humble baby. Think again what it means for a Savior to live in order to die. As you marvel and your eyes sparkle, recommit your life to the king who is the babe in the manger.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pray Your Heart

Do you ever approach prayer with so many whirling thoughts you don’t know where to begin praying? Romans 8 invites us to pray even in those moments, knowing that the Holy Spirit himself will interceded, will lift our prayers to God even when we merely pray with our joy, or sorrow, or hope. In those moments God will come near and meet us where we are.

There is a spiritual practice where you begin your prayer time by praying your emotions. There doesn’t need to be clear thought, only the clear intention to meet God. It begins with a jumble, and ends with clarity. Being in God’s presence, lifting up the cares of the day, the stresses and necessities of life. It is choosing to unravel the tangled threads of your life in God’s presence and allowing His light to bring clarity.

In this exercise remind yourself of God’s promise to come near. This knowledge is the foundation for communication with God. A promise that will help you remember is Jeremiah 29:12 and 13, “Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” Repeat the promise, then lay before your God the deepest desires of your heart. Present to Him the worries that seem to plague you, the plans you have for the future… Whatever is in your heart put it before God so His presence is a part of your desires, your worries and your plans.

Through lifting your emotions to God you may be moved to draw, to paint, to write in a prayer journal. All of these are ways of lifting your heart to God. You may want to create an expression of your emotions during your time with God. In this time the dialogue in your head, and planning, turns to prayers as you communicate with God what you are feeling. Here you can express anything and know that God is listening.

End with a move to hope. It is time to repeat a promise text. Perhaps you have a Bible promise book that you can open, or you might want to google scriptures of hope. You might even turn to that much underlined scripture in the Bible that always brings you comfort. Begin to read the words of comfort God placed in His Bible. These texts will remind you of the hope and the future God desires for all His children. That God wants you to be whole, and well, and strong. And that until you get to that place, He will never leave you or forsake you.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A Christian’s Song

One observer said, “Christianity is a singing faith.” Do you agree? Are there times that your heart seems to sing for joy at God’s goodness? Are there times when your heart is so broken all that comes out are plaintive notes to God?

In our Bible is a collection of songs to God, we know them as the Psalms. Some are joyful and ecstatic, repeating the blessings of God. Others are heart rending and painful to read because of the raw emotion and disappointment. These are a reminder that no matter our feelings, it is appropriate to share them with God.

Is life going well? Are there more blessings in your life than you can even begin to count? Then praise the God who authored those blessings. Is life difficult? Are there more sorrows in your life than you can even begin to bear? Then cry to God who can carry you through.
God will be there to hear. He issues this invitation in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together." This invitation is an assurance that God wants to hear your song, whatever its theme.