Wow. It’s so amazing that an entire year has passed and it’s Christmas Eve once again. Many of us may still be shopping for last minute gifts, wrapping presents or getting ready to attend a church service tonight. If you have young children you may be prepping for a long night of assembling doll houses or bicycles. Many may be curious as to what gifts await them under the Christmas tree. Will I really get what I asked or hoped for this year?
Unfortunately many may be disappointed as they go to the tree on Christmas morning and not find what they were expecting. Or if they do the impact and excitement over receiving something dissipates by noon. Has this ever happened to you? Well fortunately this wasn’t the case for the shepherds who heard of the impending birth of Jesus and set out on a journey to find him.
What had the shepherds been told? Luke 2: 9-12 says ” An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Luke 2: 16-18; 20 says“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 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…. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
What has the shepherds been told? They were told by an angel that the greatest gift to this world…a Savior for us all was being born and they should go, see and then tell others of this gift. Fortunately for them and the rest of us this gift was there as promised and this gift continues to give to us to this day. This is one gift that you don’t have to worry about being able to afford or that it will run-out. This gift is available to anyone who admits to the Lord that they have sinned and they want to accept Christ as their Savior; therefore being granted eternal life as opposed to death.
As recipients of this great gift we as beneficiaries should see it as a duty to do as the shepherds did and tell others of what we have been given. Sharing the Good News is the a priceless act that ensures that all of the world can learn of the goodness of our Christ Jesus.
So, as this Christmas comes and passes, don’t forget about the gift of Jesus like we may other presents we receive. Keep him with you always, live your life in a manner that reflects his virtues and tell others whenever you can. This may not always feel comfortable but a few seconds of discomfort on our part could spare someone an eternity of being separated from Christ in Heaven.
Waiting can be difficult. It seems that everyday we have to wait whether it’s in slow traffic, in line at the grocery store or for our name to be called at our favorite coffee place. While it may seem eternal it isn’t. If we stop and think about it we know it really isn’t that long at all.
But what about when we are waiting to hear from God. When you have been praying for years about your health, an unsaved loved one or a mate and nothing has changed. You’ve been told that all things will happen in God’s time. But when is that? How do you continue to move forward in life, maintain a good attitude and hold on to hope?
Psalm 37:34 says “Wait for the Lord and keep His way and he will exalt you to inherit the land. When the wicked cut you off you will see it.” But how long?
Micah 7:7 says “But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me.” But how long?
Isaiah 40:31 “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength. They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary.” But how long?
While bringing comfort the above scriptures and others written in the Bible urge us to remain strong and courageous during our trials and lean into the Lord. We should continue to pray and have faith that we will receive the answers we want and all of this is definitely true. I am just being real at this moment and saying it’s not always easy. I know that I have grown weary many times. I also know we may not get an answer in this life whether it be what we want or not.
Just a few of my prayers include when will I obtain a job that doesn’t cause the level of stress my current one does? How about the depression and anxiety that engulfs me, my children and other family members? When will this darkness be defeated? Will my son get his life on track and come back to the Lord? I try not to worry about him but I’m his mother. There will always be some level of worry when something involves my children.
So, what should we do? I strongly urge you to continue to stay in God’s word through daily Bible reading and meditation. Keep a gratitude journal to identify what you are thankful for every day. Engage in a small group and develop relationships through being open and honest about your struggles with your faith. Talk to God. Tell him how you are feeling although he already knows. God wants to hear us. Don’t be afraid to be respectfully but openly forthcoming.
Have you ever had a person or people in your life whose love seemed conditional? Are they happy with you as long as you are meeting their expectations but upset when you don’t? If this is or has occurred what should or did you do? I asked myself this question just last week. You see I experience depression and at times it becomes so severe I don’t want to get out of bed. I’ve had to miss work off and on and my husband doesn’t seem to understand. Even though he works in the mental health field (we both do); when it comes to me he can’t seem to give me the support that I need when needed. He shuts down and isolates himself from me and becomes overall irritated with everyone at home. When I get better he’s better.
As I stated above this happened again last week. I thought long and hard about what to do about it. I just am tired at this point of not getting what I need when I need it from him. After all when he’s down and out I continue to be a cheerleader. I don’t become resentful because he isn’t fulfilling his typical duties. Shouldn’t I expect the same in return?
The answer to that question is “No”. We can’t expect anything from other people because we have all fallen short and can’t one hundred percent provide unconditional love. Some of us certainly provide more then others but never one hundred percent. As I was completing my devotional this morning I came upon Isaiah 54:5. This verse says “For Your Maker is your husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”
Well there it is. My answer. God is the only one we can depend upon for truly unconditional love, encouragement and guidance. He has promised to never forsake us and to be a rock and cover for us in times of trouble. We can cast our cares on him and know that the things of this world are temporary. Heaven is our permanent home. So although we will continue to be disappointed by those close and not so close to us personally, we have hope in knowing that our Maker and Redeemer will never leave us. Amen to that.
Yesterday was election day in Virginia and in other parts of the country. There were hotly contested elections on both the state and local level in many of these areas. While monitoring the results last night it was evident that many voters in my state were overjoyed with the final outcome. On the state level the Democratic Party regained control of the General Assembly (the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia). This has created a trifecta because they are now leading all three branches including the governor’s office. From what I understand this hasn’t happened in some decades. Locally in Fairfax County, VA the Board of Supervisors and School Board have become majority Democratic also.
Many whose candidate(s) weren’t elected may be fretting this morning. What will this mean? Will a progressive agenda now come to fruition in Virginia? I don’t know the answers but I do know one thing. Don’t spend your time worrying about it. God is in control and still on the throne. Pray for our leaders regularly and show them respect. Ask God to turn everyone of their hearts and minds to him and to follow his ways.
Also avoid social media and opinion cable network news or other type broadcasts whose main purpose is to sow division. Follow what God’s word says in Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
Have you ever had dreams, bad dreams, about things that have caused you great distress or even worse trauma? I’ve heard it said that dreams are the window to our soul. What we don’t understand or want to process during the waking hours manifest while we sleep. Every so often I dream about being in one or both of my childhood homes. These “visits” very rarely feel happy but rather frightful, chaotic, angry and lonely. A pretty good reflection of my life during that time. I always had to be on egg shells wondering when my father was going to explode. Would it be someone dropping a pan or the telephone ringing or simply asking him a question? What mistake would I make to be called names or made fun of? Or if it was my mother when would she give me the silent treatment for disobeying or tell me that no one would want to marry me because I was damaged goods? So much negativity which I absorbed like a sponge and has continued to impact my life up until a few days ago when I decided I’d had enough and didn’t want to be controlled by pass memories.
But what could I do to move forward? How or who could help me to not be afraid of being in those places that caused so much pain while growing up? I thought about God and then forgiveness. Forgiving can set us free from our pain. It won’t erase what happened but forgiveness will allow us to move away from it and start anew. Knowing that God forgives and he has forgiven me made this easier to do. None of us are perfect and we need to remember that when others hurt us. People who hurt, hurt others. Being a forgiving person can take away the power of the devil’s lies that tell us we are who or what people say we are instead of God says. Colossians 3:13 says “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
This post comes on the heels of yet two more mass shootings over the past weekend as well as countless other single shooting deaths that may or may not have made the news all over the country. When tragedy occurs we all may feel shocked at first and ask the inevitable “Why?”. I know the answer to this question and it’s because we live in a fallen world and until Jesus returns there will continue to be great sin and depravity amongst men.
This is the same answer to the question I have posed for this blog “When will we finally stop splitting hairs when it comes to God’s commands?”. The focus of the shootings and subsequent level of outrage shouldn’t be based on the “Why” of why people were killed i.e. race, religion, ethnicity, political views, ect.. but that these actions go against God’s command of “Thou shall not kill”. That’s what needs to be driven home.
So what can we do as Christians while we wait for Jesus to return? Spread the Gospel as much as you can whenever you can. Show God’s love to others and that there is a better path that we can follow in this life. Whatever is happening now is only temporary and this isn’t our eternal home. Heaven is our eternal home. 1st Peter 1:25 says: “But the word of the Lord remains forever. And that word is the Good News that was preached to you.”
The other day I sitting at a traffic light and over on the other side of the road I saw a woman jogging. She started slowing down and came to a stop and I thought she must be tired. However she wasn’t tired. She was having a seizure. She started shaking and then collapsed face first onto a normally busy roadway. My first thought was I have to help her but at the same time I felt afraid and nervous. I have a history of having panic attacks and worried I would have one then and not be able to provide her assistance.
But I didn’t have a panic attack before or after and it was due to God. Through regular study of the Bible, devotional readings and prayer I have learned that God will help us and give us the strength and courage we need when we need it. I prayed silently and simultaneously while I maneuvered to the other side of the road, dialed 911 and responded to the 911 operator’s questions and directives and relayed those to the other people who had also come to help.
I was able to remain calm and clear headed. I was able to give the address and try to comfort the woman. The EMTs arrived and we were told that we could leave. I went on to my appointment and thanked God that He had helped not only me but prevented the woman from possibly being hit by a car. I prayed that she would be okay. When my mind tried to go to the “What if’s” I told myself the what if didn’t happen and the Lord made it that way.
Scripture says “we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us”. One of many promises that God has kept and will continue to keep.
This morning I woke up anxious and worried about my older son. He’s completing an internship this summer in another state. I had no specific reason for these thoughts. They started to grow so much that I believed I was going to have a panic attack. I called my husband and told him what was happening and asked that he talk to me and help me calm down. This helped but I also did something I don’t typically do which was fall to my knees beside my bed in prayer. I asked God to keep him and my other children safe but also told Him that I believed this was just an attack by Satan on me.
I prayed using Philippians 4:8 (NIV) 8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I gave thanks to the Lord for being a protector, a shield and a rock to stand upon.
Afterward the anxiety that I was feeling was gone. I felt a calmness come both over and around me. I was at peace. God did this for me. However this incident was also a reminder of why we must “..guard our hearts because everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23). This is significant for me because I started watching too much television again and the barrage of bad news, people arguing and scary shows negatively influenced my mood which led to a weakness which led to Satan being able to launch a sneak attack. I know that I have to be more diligent about this because we reap what we sow.
Spending your time focusing on what is pure and good and true and Godly will result in pure and good and true and Godly outflow in our lives.
As I was driving into work this morning I started thinking why is it so hard to be grateful. In the midst of turmoil do you continue to praise God and be thankful or do you become angry and turn away? I have been working hard to engage in the former but sometimes it is so difficult. What if you have been praying for a long time to be released from whatever stronghold or storm is active in your life but there’s been no change. Or someone you care about deeply receives a dire medical diagnosis and you ask “Why God?” How about if you live in poverty, don’t have health care and can’t feed your children?
This struggle is real. I am getting better but still continue to push myself to stay connected with God always and even in times of sadness or anger reach out to him by reading and studying his Word daily, praying and just talking to Him throughout the day, listening to praise and worship music and attending church to come together with other like minded people corporately. Also talking one to one with other Godly people who have my best interest at heart. Don’t isolate yourself from God because this is when we have a greater risk of falling away.
Also remembering on a daily basis to think of one or two things you are grateful for, saying them out loud and giving praise to God serves as a reminder of what he has done for us in the past and help us remember His promise to continue to do it in the future.