LAVISH LOVE: 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! (I John 3:1 NIV)

Making Plans

This week, many of us are thinking of ways we can live more exemplary lives in 2014. As we all resolve to do better, we need to Imageremember we can’t do it in our own strength. One of our pastors recently quoted a church member who has cancer. The man said, “Pray that God will protect me from me, from thinking I can handle this on my own.”

The apostle Paul was also afflicted with a “tormenting” malady. He begged God to remove the affliction, but the Lord said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul’s response? “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).”

Looking ahead, I like to think about all the good things that might occur in 2014 and all the great projects I hope to undertake and complete. Sure, I want Christ’s power to “rest on me,” but I don’t envision hardships and difficulties—or myself delighting in those challenges. Yet, distress and heartache will come. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33).”

The good news is that he added, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus the OMNIPOTENT OVERCOMER is our strength. Along with Paul and the cancer-struck gentleman, we can say, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”

Another church member caught in the midst of the same struggle said, “My cancer has caused the background noise to fade away.” What is the background noise in my life? In your life? I’m reminded of the chorus in an old hymn titled Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus as well as several Old Testament scriptures.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

 “In quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30:15).”

“Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46:10).”

“The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).”

I don’t think those verses suggest we spend our lives in solitude and meditation. Our Creator knows that the daily requirements of maintaining our existence and relationships on Planet Earth keep us hopping. But amidst the busyness, we can admit our weakness, rest in his love, trust him, quiet our spirits, focus on him rather than background noise—and find strength.

Intentional living is a good thing. I admire and appreciate each person who resolves to live a useful, productive, God-honoring life. With the psalmist, I say, “May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:4).” Yet, we can’t forget who controls the outcome. “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).”

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Christmas Midnight

Last two stanzas of “Christmas Midnight,” a poem by Donna Fletcher Crow in her book, Seasons of Prayer: Rediscovering Classic Prayers Through the Christian CalendarImage

 

Raise high the incensed prayers for God’s delight,

Praise Him who comes, our King, our Counselor,

Bringing joy, this silent night. This holy night.

 

Emmanuel is born anew. Blest rite,

The vigil keep on sacred calendar.

Entranced, in wonder kneel by flickering light,

Replete with Joy this silent, holy night.

 

 

~ JOY ~

From Donna Fletcher Crow’s Seasons of Prayer: Rediscovering Classic Prayers through the Christian Calendar

“The thing to Imageremember about joy is that it’s a quiet emotion. It is an almost solemn ecstasy that starts deep within one, filling with a radiance that finally works itself into shining eyes and an irrepressible smile. Joy is easily drowned in noise and rush. We lose the joy of the season in busyness. Fun is not joy. Or, as William Stringfellow says in The Services of the Christian Year, “For all the greeting-card and sermonic rhetoric, much rejoicing does not seem to happen around Christmastime, least of all about the coming of the Lord. There is a lot of holiday frolicking, but that is not the same as rejoicing.”

REJOICE! REJOICE!

EMMANUEL

SHALL COME TO THEE

O ISRAEL!

Bitterness

More from “Bait of Satan” by John Bevere, who has much to say about taking offense and holding grudges.Image

“But ground will produce only what is planted in it. If we plant seeds of debt, unforgiveness and offense, another root will spring up in place of the love of God. It is called the root of bitterness.

“Francis Frangipane gave an excellent definition of bitterness: ‘Bitterness is unfulfilled revenge.’ It is produced when revenge is not satisfied to the degree we desire.”

Blindsided

“Many people have experienced hurts and disappointments that are less extreme and some that are more. Many become offended with the Lord. They believe He should take into consideration all they have done for Him.

“They are serving Him for the wrong reasons. We should not serve the Lord for what He can do but rather for who He is and what He Image has already done for us. Those who become offended do not fully realize how great a debt He has already paid for them to be free. They have forgotten from what manner of death they were delivered. They see through natural eyes rather than eternal.”

(Bait of Satan by John Bevere)

“Faith is about evidence. If our primary evidence that God is at work is based on our circumstances, then our faith is strained when we are blindsided by circumstance that fail to meet our expectations. God’s picture of redemption is not always the one we’ve imagined.”

(Redemption by Mike Wilkerson)

Self-Confidence

Image“Some think Peter was a big talker and cowardly. But in the garden, when the temple guard came to arrest Jesus, Peter unsheathed his sword and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear (John 18:10). Not many cowards attack when they are outnumbered by enemy soldiers. So he was strong, but his strength was in his own personality, not in God’s humility.”

“We are rooted and grounded when we…trust in God. No storm, no matter how intense, can ever move us. This does not come by strong will or personality. It is a gift of grace to all who place their confidence in God, throwing away the confidence of self. But to give yourself in total abandonment you must know the One who holds your life.”

“We can do nothing of eternal value in our own ability.”

(The Bait of Satan by John Bevere)

 

 

Stay the Course

At our daughter’s recent wedding reception, I sat with a sweet couple who’d been married 51 years. When asked their secret and their advice for the newlyweds, they said, “Stay the course.” Since then, I’ve been thinking what simple yet profound marriage counsel that is for all couples as well as encouragement to not give up when life becomes difficult.Image

“Stay the course” is a colloquialism my parents (or was it my grandparents?) used when I was a child, but it’s not used often today. Today, we say “hang in there,” “hold on,” “keep on keeping on.” But those expressions, which merely encourage the hearer to survive life’s trials, don’t embody the discipline, mastery and triumph of “stay the course.” Here are a couple definitions.

–        Thefreedictionary.com and dictionary.reference.com indicate “stay the course” means “to hold out or persevere to the end of a race or challenge.”

–        Wikipedia (source of all knowledge!) suggests the phrase may have “originated as a nautical metaphor on maintaining a constant, unaltering course while navigating” and that it is “used in the context of a war or battle, meaning to pursue a goal regardless of any obstacles or criticism.”

I’m reminded of Hebrews 12:1, where we’re told to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” According to notes penned in the margin of my Bible, a speaker once said the words “race marked out for you” mean “run in your own lane.” Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly.” Believers can’t just hang in there and hope for the best. We run in the lane of God’s plan for our lives, always moving forward and pressing toward a goal (Philippians 3:13-14), and we act according to God’s good purposes (Philippians 2:13), devoting ourselves to lives of service and productivity (Titus 3).

We must focus on Jesus, the One who will greet us at the end of the race. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:2-3) Fix your eyes on Jesus. Run with perseverance. Don’t grow weary. Don’t lose heart. Stay the course.

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

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