Keeping CHRIST in CHRISTMAS

christmasYesterday was Thanksgiving. Call me old fashion, but I refuse to decorate for Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. It is a tradition ingrained in me from my mom. Growing up we would enjoy our big turkey dinner on Thursday and then spend the entire next day decorating the house from top to bottom for Christmas.

My mom loves to decorate. Every kitchen knob had a bright red bow on it, lights hung throughout the house and the best time of all was to sit with all the lights on at night. Watching Christmas movies of course.

All week, my kids have been begging to decorate for Christmas, but I have refused.

Somehow, the rush of Christmas has taken over full stream.

And many have forgotten to be Thankful. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, I love the lights,I love to decorate, I love the songs. I even love the movies.

But if we aren’t careful it is entirely too easy to forget why we celebrate to begin with.

This year we are living in a country far from home. A country where most will not celebrate Christmas. There will be no lights to drive around to look at. There will be no nativity scene in town,and few will wish us a Merry Christmas.

Yet, even still, there will and is that pull to go all out. Which isn’t a bad thing, but if I do it for the wrong reasons, it becomes bad quick.

So how do we keep Christ in Christmas. Admist the hustle and bustle.

I’m finding I have to be intentional. I have to set the stage at home.

Daily as a family we need to be reminded of  the why of the season.

This can be done by reading through an advent devotional with the family.  Singing Christmas carols together.

Baking cookies, and preparing gifts for the neighbors and those in need.

Yet once again, if we aren’t careful, the “to do” list becomes overwhelming

And suddenly, weariness sets in, and we find ourselves counting down the days until Christmas is over.

I know for a fact that the Lord never intended for us to be “crazy” at Christmas.

He never meant for us to grow tired and weary going and doing.

I’ve been asking myself why we do our traditional Christmas things?

Is it just because it is what we have always done. Or does it point us towards Christ?

It seems in the past I have been quick to tell my kids Christmas is all about Jesus.  Yet, our Christmas has  seemed to be more about us.

This year, I want to be intentional.

I want to take every opportunity to use every tradition, to point my kids and my own heart to Jesus.

Jesus didn’t come born into a palace with all the fanfare.

He came humbly born in a manger.

Christ came and lived the life of a servant.

Setting us an example to follow.

May this be my heart, may this be my goal. May my kids and all those around me, see that Christmas truly is all about Jesus!

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Giving Thanks Even When Your just not Feeling it………

thankfulProbably one of the hardest things about being on the mission field, is the holidays.

Oh there are a number of struggles, but for some reason on, and near the “special” family days. This is when it gets tough.

Especially when you live in a place where “Thanksgiving” is not a holiday and “Christmas” is not celebrated by the majority of people.
To be honest, I have had a tendency of pushing the “holidays” off, but suddenly they are upon me. Added to that, I have three kids who are counting down the days to Thanksgiving and to Christmas. Who can’t wait to celebrate, to cook, to bake, and to decorate.

So how does one give thanks even when they don’t quite feel thankful?

The Scriptures tell us to give thanks to the Lord, enter into His presence with thanksgiving, always to give thanks….

I’m learning that it is a choice, I must diligently make.

I’m learning that it is a matter of perspective.

My natural, flesh wants to grumble, to complain, to have a pity party.

But each day, each moment I have a choice, I can see the good and give thanks.

Or I can see the negative and complain.

One pleases God, but the other does not.

It’s a choice… I must choose joy!! As I do I will have a thankful, grateful heart.

As I take a look around me, I gain perspective as well.

For all around, I am surrounded by those who do not know true peace, true joy.

All around me are those who have been blinded by the enemy. Who do not know the One True God.

When I think on this and the fact that I was born into a Christian home.

When I think that the Lord opened my eyes. I stand amazed at His goodness.

And gratitude wells up within my heart.

Then I am left wondering, how could I not be thankful.

When I see children who have been abandoned, children living in slums with little food, and women who have been forced into the streets.

My heart is broken for them, but it is also filled with thankfulness.

For how the Lord not only has opened my eyes to Him, but for how He has always provided for me.

When you get right down to it.

When you truly stop to count your blessings.

If you are like me, you are left with a heart overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord.

And all you can do is say, Thank You!

I don’t know where this Thanksgiving finds you.

You may be far away from your loved ones, like I am.

You may not have all the things you “want.”

But I guarantee if you just ponder the goodness of the Lord for a moment.

If you begin to list out your blessings instead of your complaints.

You will find yourself ready to give thanks, despite everything else.

No longer will you not feel thankful, you will be thankful!

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name, make known among the 

nations what He has done!” I Chron. 16:8

 

 

 

The Many Names of God

names of godRecently I began a Bible study on the Patriarchs of the Old Testament.

In this study, I have had the chance to look into the many names of God.

Such as El Elyon, (God Most High), El Roi (the God who see’s), El Olam (the Eternal God), and El Shaddai (God Almighty).

All of these names teach us great theological truths about our great God.

But the one that speaks to my heart the most is El Roi, the God who see’s.

We all know the story, Abram and Sarai have been promised a child, but so far it just hasn’t happened. So Sarai takes matters into her own hands, and gives Hagar to Abram. Believing she will have her child through Hagar.

But as with us women, she didn’t think how this would all eventually make her feel. Later once Hagar is with child, she wants her gone. So she treats her badly and Hagar flees.

It is here that we are introduced to the God who see’s. For though an Egyptian, though a nobody of that day, the angel of the Lord comes to her and says, “Return to your mistress and submit to her authority.” (No doubt the last thing she wants to hear). But He goes on to say, “You are with child, and you will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.” Gen. 16:9; 11

And the Bible says, Hagar called upon the name of the Lord and said, “You are a God who see’s.”

Hagar returns to Abram and Sarai and stays with them through both the birth of Ishmael and eventually the birth of Issac.

Then when Issac is a young boy, the older Ishmael begins to taunt and make fun of Issac. By now, Sarah has had it and she insist that Abraham send them away.

Abraham is heartbroken, but the Lord speaks to him and says, not to fear, that He will care for him and make him into a great nation.

Hagar and Ishmael leave, while on their journey, they run out of water. And Hagar is heartbroken. She can not bear to watch her beloved son die. So she goes and sits away from him and cries out to the Lord.

Weeping, the angel of the Lord appears once more and says, “What is the matter with you Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the lad crying from where he is. Arise, lift up the land, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him. (Gen. 21:17)”

“Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. (Gen. 21:19).”

Hagar’s first encounter with God show’s her that He is the God who see’s.

Now She finds that He is also the God who hears and the One who opens her eyes as well.

The lessons we can learn from this passage are numerous.

But one that sticks out to me is this.

Hagar could see nothing but the problem. She had forgotten that God see’s and knows. She had given into fear, and given up. Believing a lie that she and Ishmael had no hope.

In the midst of trials and hardship, our vision becomes clouded. If not careful, we too loose hope and forget the God we serve, the God who see’s and hears. The God who knows and is all-powerful!

After Hagar cried out to the Lord, the Lord spoke to her and opened her eyes to see the truth.

Like Hagar, when trials come, we must lift up our eyes to the Lord, to the maker of Heave and Earth. We must cry out to Him, asking Him to open our eyes to the Truth, and then stand upon this.

When God opened her eyes, only then did she see the well.

Though it had been there all along.

What trials are you in the midst of? What difficulties loom about you? Is your vision clouded? Can you see only the problems?

If so, I encourage you to lift your eyes up to the Lord.

Cry out to Him. And as you do, the things of this world will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

He will show you the way, He will provide. Yet, we must look solely to Him.

 

Grace and Works

grace and worksI’m definitely a grace girl. I fall back upon and depend heavily upon the Lord’s amazing grace. Knowing that apart from such grace, I am nothing!

So thankful that the Lord Jesus is everything I am not, yet I am because of His blood!

Yet, I’m learning that one can lean too far to the grace side, easily forgetting the good works.

I am a definite believer in the truth that,It is by grace I have been said and that not of myself (Eph.2:8).

But I am also a firm believer in the fact that my “fruit” will reflect this grace upon my life.

As I was reading through the book of James in my quiet time, I came across verse after verse that insinuated that I was to be about “doing!”

James 4:7-10 says, “Submit yourselves then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded. Grieve, mourn, and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.”

So often in my own life I am somewhat complacent. Expecting and wanting God to bring about great reform and change in my life, in the lives of others around me, in this country we are living in.

But as I read this today, I was struck by the fact that God doesn’t want us to just sit back and pray. He truly expects us to do something.

Do I really want to grow in my walk with the Lord, then I must submit to the Lord, resist the devil, come near to God and deal with sin. Throwing myself humbly at the feet of the Savior.

Do I want God to move and work in the lives of my family and friends, then they must see the hand of God vividly at work in my own life, as I model  good works, good attitudes, good behavior.

Do I really want to see the Lord change this country for His glory. Then I must daily be on my knees praying for Him to open the eyes of the people here. I must daily be about sharing Jesus and allowing the lost to see Christ living in me.

The Christian life is not a complacent one. It is not a pray a prayer thing and your done.

It is a day-to-day walk.

A day-to-day work for the Lord.

A daily surrender to His ways, and a death to one’s own ways.

James says, that “True religion is to look after the widows and the orphans.” 

He says, “friendship with the world is hatred toward God.”

James even says that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action is dead!”

Pretty strong words.

Yet, we do all of this not because we have to and not to somehow earn the favor of God.

We are to do this and more merely because we have the favor of God, through Christ.

I don’t know where you are, but my prayer is that God will somehow wake up His people (myself included) to be about more than head knowledge. And instead to allow our feet, our hands, our minds, our actions to do the talking.

But even deeper than this is one’s own personal walk with the Lord. Far too often we expect God to just change us, to grow us, to make us more like Him. We say a quick prayer for these things and we are done.

Then we become frustrated when we don’t see the evidence of this in our lives, growing frustrated with the Lord and even blaming Him when we fall.

When in reality God is waiting for us to get off our knees and do what He has said.

To become more like Christ, takes diligence, it takes action, it takes work.

The Lord will not just zap us. He is waiting to see if this is “really” what we desire.

“Let us then not merely be hearers of the Word….but doers of the Word.” James 2:22

Do others see Jesus in you?

love“Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13

This verse always strikes a chord in my heart and I am left wondering if people recognize Jesus in my life.

The Bible tells us that, “they will know we are His disciples by our love.” John 13:35

Growing up, I can vividly remember sitting around the campfire at youth camp, singing “and they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love!”

The older I get, the more I realize just how true this is.

In I Cor. 13, we are told that if we speak with the tongues of angels, but have not love… we are nothing. If we have the gift of prophecy and know all the ministries and have all the knowledge of faith, but lack love. We are nothing. Even having the greatest faith possible, if it lacks love, we are nothing. Paul even goes to the extreme of saying that even if we lay down our lives for the Gospel, yet lack the love of God…WE ARE NOTHING!

This is pretty amazing when you think about it. For doing great things from God matters little without love. Knowing all the Scriptures and having great faith, mean nothing apart from love. Even dying a martyr matters little to God if it is done apart from love.

Yesterday as I sat in a Bible study, the lady leading spoke from I Cor. and as I read in the ESV version of the Bible, I was struck by the verses describing love. “It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful”I Cor 13:5

And to be honest my heart broke a little. For the Lord convicted me of the fact that so often my love for my children and even my husband comes across as irritable, and more than often wants its own way.

God spoke to my heart and said, “This is not my love.”

I’m learning that the true mark of a believer is not their head knowledge, not even their faith…it is their love.

It is shown when we love the hard to love. It is displayed when we pour out mercy on the undeserving.

The love of God is evident in our very lives when we are patient, kind, and humble. When we rejoice with the truth.

The unbelievers in Acts could see that Peter and John had been with Jesus. Sure, they saw their faith, they saw the miraculous signs, but I’m convinced they also saw their love.

In our day there is it seems an extreme. Some who are all about love, but lack truth. Or vice versa, they are all about truth but lack love.

Neither is good, neither is right. The two must go hand in hand.

We must stand on the truth of God, but we must do it in love.

The lost are just that, lost. They are spiritually blinded. We can beat them over the head with rules and laws. We can try in ourselves to convince them, but this will not lead them to Jesus.

We must live our daily lives as living examples of the love of Christ.

Our actions speak much louder than our words do.

Let us then show them the love of Jesus, while we teach them the truth.

 

A Need for Water

living waterIt seems we go through a lot of water. You probably do too.

The thing is where we live, this can be an issue.

See every day we need to pump water into the well and then when the electric is on, we need to pump this water to the top of the roof. To fill our water tanks which then supply our house with water.

Thankfully, my hubby handles all of this,but we are realizing it is a big issue.

See, if you run out of water in the well, you then will have to buy water. So far this hasn’t been the case, but we aren’t sure if we will make it through the dry season.

But as my husband sat on the roof this morning, waiting for the tank to fill, he was reminded of how dependent we are for water. And how often we take it for granted.

In your home and mine, we need water to drink, to wash dishes, to wash clothes, to flush toilets, to take baths and showers. It is essential!

Many around the world still have to take bucket and cisterns to the well in order to get the water they need for the day. (How thankful I am that this is not where we live).

But water is important. It can’t be taken for granted.

Yet, how much more is the LIVING WATER more important to our daily lives.

And how often do we just take Him for granted.

Just as we need water to run our homes, to do our daily chores and to just live.

We need Jesus, the Living Water way more.

When we are dry and weary. When we have lost hope and are discouraged.

When life is good and filled with joy.

No matter the situation, it is the Living Water that we need.

How easy it is to push-off this need. How easy to think we can do it on our own.

Yet, in the end we will be left parched, wilted, tired, and worn.

We must have Jesus.

In the morning when I rise, In the morning when I rise, In the morning when I rise…. GIVE ME JESUS!”

He is our source, He is our strength, He is our peace, our hope.

Jesus is everything we aren’t. Yet, all that we need!

 Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

John 4:13-14

Up on the Mountain

villageI think I left indents in the car where my fingers dug into the seat today as we wound round and round, up a mountain to get to the village church.

You have to understand the roads here are small and as we wound our way up, I was sitting on the outer side of the car, closest to the drop off. If it were possible I think I might have climbed in my husbands lap.

I tried closing my eyes, I tried praying, but nothing seemed to help. With my eyes closed, I felt like I was on a roller coaster and you must know I hate roller coasters

But, finally we made it. We reached the church and made our way inside. I was so glad to be out of the car.

As the Pastor opened his Bible, he turned to Isaiah 6. One of my most favorite passages.

And as he shared, I looked around the room, and I felt much like Isaiah must have felt when he saw himself in the presence of the Lord.

I felt undone. I felt unworthy. I felt like a fraud.

Here, I’m suppose to be the brave young missionary girl.

Yet, I had fought against fear all the way to church. And sadly to say, fear had won.

As I listened to these people who have so little lift their voices in praise and worship. All I could do was bow my head and pray.

Praying and asking the Lord to forgive my fear, my doubt and my lack of trust in Him.

In God’s presence we will always be made aware of sin, and we will always feel undone!

I love the fact that Isaiah was a prophet/preacher.

Yet, even as a preacher/prophet, when alone in the presence of God, all he was, was undone!

I take comfort in this.  For though I have surrendered to missions. Though I have moved with my family to literally the other side of the world.I still struggle each and every day.

I still sin and deal with fear, pride, anger, frustration….. and the list goes on.

The Lord is well aware of the fact that we are merely dust.

And though we are righteous in His eyes, the work He is doing in our very lives, will keep on keeping on until we get to glory.

For He who began a good work in us, will be faithful to complete it!!! 

The view from the top of the mountain was spectacular.

The service was a blessing.

Yet, it took going up the mountain in order to experience it.

Had we stayed in the valley, I would have been able to avoid the fight with fear.

But I would have missed out on the glory of the Lord

God is not pleased with complacent.

He isn’t moved by our apathy.

The Lord longs and desires for us to see ourselves through His eyes.

To come into His presence, so that we will walk away changed. With a heart full of worship and a longing to obey Him no matter what.

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Isaiah 6:8