Archive for December, 2015

To resolve or not to resolve, that is the question

December 31st, 2015 by Maureen

I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life. John 5:24

It’s okay to use New Year’s as a starting point for needed change, but our most consistent disciplines and most effective behavioral changes do nothing to transform the stuff of our being, only our doing. Our transformation from death to life was accomplished at Calvary. God isn’t depending on us to transform ourselves to be acceptable to Him.  Sure there are probably things we want to change but it is from the image of being His beloved children that whatever resolving we do needs to originate. He loves us right now just as we are and His love doesn’t change one bit whether we keep or break whatever resolutions we decide to make.

Lord, You know..

Being human in God’s image

December 30th, 2015 by Maureen

God created us in His own likeness and image. Gen. 1:26

I’ve heard the relationship between God and man compared to a human and an ant. None of these descriptions of what it means to be human sounds very ant-like:

He set eternity in our hearts. Ecc. 3:11

He has given us, as His disciples, all authority in heaven and earth. Matt. 28:18

Whoever believes in Jesus will do the works He did and even greater things…Jn. 14:12

His Holy Spirit to teach us all things.  Jn. 14:26  and guide us into all truth. Jn. 16:12

We can have the mind of Christ in us. Phil. 2:5

The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead dwells in us. Rom. 8:11

Jesus has given us the glory the Father gave to Him that we might all be one with the Trinity together. Jn. 17:22

We are partakers in His divine nature. 2 Pet. 1:4

The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear but we know this much, when Jesus appears we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is. 1 Jn. 3:2

Certainly none of us will ever be God, nor should we aspire to be, but perhaps what He wants us to experience and to become is more profound and transcendent than ants have the capacity to envision but are within the realm of what a child can envision for him- or herself when imagining what it is to be a grown-up. Embrace all it means to be a human child of God.

Lord, I want for myself everything You want for me. I open myself to all the possibilities You offer.

God actually can fix stupid

December 28th, 2015 by Maureen

If any of you lacks wisdom, ask God who gives to everyone generously, without reproach, and God will give it. James 1:5

10 examples of stupidity (there are millions)

1. jump into projects without enough research

2. overestimate our own knowledge

3. fail to listen

4. don’t ask for help

5. react out of fear

6. respond with only our hearts, only our heads, or only some other organ…

7. make assumptions

8. judge

9. feed our impulses

10.compartmentalize

Trying to manage our own stupidity is like pushing ourselves around in a revolving door. Didn’t do it that time… whoops, did it this time… barely missed stupid that time… and on and on. Getting wisdom isn’t about managing ourselves or the stupidity that surrounds us. Succeeding in not doing something is hardly a constructive or transcendent experience. God has forgiven and transformed us so that we are not identified by some brand of stupid. Instead He has made us partakers in His nature so that our identities are in Him (not that’s transcendent!). As we focus and engage with Him we become more attuned to His voice and His perspective.

Lord, give me your wisdom, especially when stupid looks like a good idea.

You can’t pollute the sea of forgetfulness

December 27th, 2015 by Maureen

[Love]  is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. I Cor. 13:5b

Christmas is a memory. 2015 is about to be a memory. Many of us use these final days of the year to reflect. Past offenses seem to surface so that we can justify prolonged and escalated irritation with someone. Past failures and incomplete projects almost seem to taunt us. Our default setting seems to be to hold grudges and carry around our old wounds, past conflicts, and we consider our past failures. One aspect of the transforming power of Jesus’ reconciling love is that we can learn to toss all this garbage into His sea of forgetfulness. His love and grace dissolves it.

Lord, thank you for the freedom that comes with renewal.

Christmas cheer all year

December 26th, 2015 by Maureen

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Prov. 17:22

Much of the energy and goodwill of this time of year happens because we tend to be more cheerful and respond to the cheerfulness of others. People wish each other a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and take treats and cards to neighbors they barely know. Habitual cheerfulness can be extremely annoying if it’s rote, fake, or forced, but when it’s sincere, cheerfulness has an amazing effect on the emotional environment of everyone around it.

Lord, help me be good medicine to the hearts I encounter all year long.

Unwrapping gifts from Jesus

December 25th, 2015 by Maureen

Jesus gives us gifts, some of which we use on a daily basis, some we take out of the box once in awhile, some we look at, say “thanks” but have no idea what to do with them, and some we never even unwrap.

abundant life Jn. 10:10

supernatural love Jn 13:1

complete joy Jn. 15:11

overcoming peace Jn. 16:33

truth and freedom Jn. 8:32, 36

healing for broken hearts Luke 4:18

and bodies Matt. 10:8

significance Luke 12:7

empowerment Acts 1:8

fearless belief Mark 5:36

every possibility Mark 9:23

His own glory Jn. 17:22

Thank you, Lord, for giving me these gifts.  Show me how to fully realize them in my life.

 

 

8 “what if’s” that suck the light out of giving

December 24th, 2015 by Maureen

Every good and perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights. James 1:17

Sometimes gift-giving is full of stressful “what if’s?”.

  1. What if he or she thinks a gift card means lack of effort and equates lack of effort with lack of caring?
  2. What if your loved one doesn’t like the gift you picked out?
  3. What if you waited too long and it turns out the store is sold out of the one thing you know he or she wants?
  4. What if you opt for a donation in his or her name but your loved one buys you a nice gift?
  5. What if you all draw names, communicate price-limits, desired items, donations, etc. but there is that one person who is going to buy everybody something no matter what?
  6. What if somebody gives you a gift and you didn’t get them one so you have have to grab one of the unmarked obviously generic gifts you wrapped up just in case, and it’s obvious?
  7. What if you didn’t think to buy generic gifts?
  8. What if by the time it’s time to open the gifts all the joy and light seems to have been sucked from the experience?

Any one of these “what if’s” might result in somebody feeling bad. Or mad. Maybe we all need to just take a breath and remember that we are loved and we give gifts for our beloved family and friends because we love them. God loved us and gave us His perfect gift and doesn’t actually care what we items give each other as expressions of love and celebration. Lighten up.

Lord let whatever I give and whatever I receive be done in the light of your love.

 

Assumption-free worship

December 23rd, 2015 by Maureen

Angel: Though you are a virgin you will have a Son…He will be great, the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne and… His kingdom will never end. Luke 1:32-33

Mary: Let it happen to me just as you have said. Luke 1:38

When the angel told Mary Her son would sit a throne, she was confused but responded with openness to whatever God was doing. She could ponder without reaching false conclusions. When the Magi came with their gifts to this new king, these very wise men didn’t know what kind of king Jesus would be. It didn’t matter. They were responding to the evidence of the star. On the other hand, Herod felt threatened by his false assumptions. Later, when Jesus’ disciples recognized Him as Messiah they did so with assumptions about his kingdom that didn’t pan out. We don’t have to explain everything or make assumptions in order to connect all the dots.

Lord, I surrender my assumptions. Let Your kingdom exist in me as it is in heaven.

 

Singing with the angels

December 22nd, 2015 by Maureen

Where were you when I laid the foundation of earth…when the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:1.7

Angels saw the world made and saw it fall. No human can fully relate to the amazement and delight of angels; and it seems unlikely that angels, having never been human, could fully grasp Jesus’ humanity; or that angels, who are continuously exposed to His glory and love, could fully grasp human separation from Him. No wonder they sang. They were witnessing the beginning of the restoration of the world that they had rejoiced at when it began. They were witnessing the God they had always worshiped become human in the very creation they’d watched Him make.

Lord, I add my voice to the voice of angels.

 

Jesus disturbs the universe

December 20th, 2015 by Maureen

I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations [what is desired; the One who is desired] shall come and I will fill this house with glory. Haggai 2:6b-7

Sometimes, for our deepest longings to be fulfilled, our universes have to be disturbed. Sometimes for our universes to be effectively disturbed we have to be open to change. Jesus’ coming shook up the whole world yet He failed to shake it as expected in how he entered this world and what He did while He was here. The Kingdom He spoke of did not address the expected topics of politics, wealth, conquest, or law enforcement. For those willing to have their worlds shaken, Jesus reframed what they thought they knew about God and what He wanted from them; and He reinterpreted the very meaning of life itself.

Jesus, I like the way you disturb my universe even though I sometimes resist change.

Christmas gifting

December 19th, 2015 by Maureen

Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love for us—I want you to excel also in this grace of  giving. 2 Cor. 8:7

Giving,  faith, speech, knowledge, joy, zeal, or love are gifts from God that grow in our hearts and minds because Christ Himself is this way. Our responses to these Spirit inspired graces are reflections of reconciliation and relationship with Him. We honor the Giver when giving is a response to His gift of grace rather than something we do out of obligation or pressure.

Let each gift I give this Christmas be an act of grace.

Wonder No. 9 Fear not!

December 18th, 2015 by Maureen

Fear not, I bring you good news of great joy that will be to all people…Luke 2:10

An angel spoke these words to a group of shepherds who were witnessing the unknown and supernatural in the middle of a normal work schedule. They had no idea what they had to fear but fear was their knee-jerk reaction to such an encounter. They had no idea of the ramifications of the good news they were being told or how that idea would impact the whole world. They had no idea what role they might possibly play in God’s plan. They had no idea what great joy would feel like should they accept the angel’s invitation to go to the manger. Our joyful, loving, amazing God Himself delivers the good new to us Himself: there is no fear in love and He is love.

May Christmas be a time of good news of great joy for all of you!

Light in the shadows

December 17th, 2015 by Maureen

Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace. Luke 1:78

Though dark times are part of our human experiences, the light of Christ has broken, taking substance from darkness so that all that is left of darkness is mist and shadow. He makes His presence evident when the shadow of death falls, for even death is now only shadow. He guides, protects, illuminates, warms, and ignites us with His light. Even in dark moments we have His peace.

Lord, for all of us with broken hearts and broken lives, living in shadowy places in this broken world,  let Your light break upon us. This Christmas season, help us experience Your breathtaking light – emotionally, physically, circumstantially, and spiritually.

Eat up

December 16th, 2015 by Maureen

She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. Luke 2:7

When He was born Jesus,  the Bread of life,  was laid in an empty feed trough. I don’t know whether this was symbolic or just the a convenient makeshift bed, but He came to nourish our starving souls and fill our empty hearts. He came to be broken for us, symbolized by the bread we break at the Communion table.

Lord, You seat me at Your table and lay a feast before me every day. I want to clean my plate.

Stardom for Bethlehem

December 15th, 2015 by Maureen

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Micah 5:2 (ESV)

“Bethlehem? That’s random,” might have been the response to God’s choice for the Messiah’s birthplace. Those who seem too little, foolish, weak, and random often have unexpected roles in God’s redemption story. When God includes us in the story He’s been telling “from ancient days,” there are no small roles.

Lord, thank you for giving me a part in Your amazing story.

Stars and other directional phenomena

December 14th, 2015 by Maureen

starAnd the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. Matt. 2:9

By the time the Magi got there, Jesus, Mary and Joseph had moved out of the stable. Jesus might have been over a year old. God wanted the Magi to find Jesus. The star was a classier version of a giant flashing neon arrow leading straight to the house where Jesus was. Sort of like the Holy Spirit, the church, and individual followers of Christ are lights in the world guiding, illuminating, and pointing the way to relationship with Jesus.

Lord, thank you for sending all sorts of stars and directional phenomena to point me ever closer to You.

Somebody did make this stuff up. It was God.

December 13th, 2015 by Maureen

nativity-siloutte080

He is the light that reveals your message to the other nations and He is the shining glory of your covenant people. Luke 2:32 (Voice)

Jesus came to tell a story with his life that would be relevant to human beings of every culture yet speak to the unique story God had been telling the Hebrews. It is a story in which a Hero with supernatural powers, motivated by love and goodness, sacrificially rescues and restores His beloved, defeats the evil foe, and establishes a joyful, eternal Kingdom. His story speaks to basic needs of individual humans and to cultural ideals of benevolent nations: safety, love, belonging, esteem, satisfaction, beauty, freedom, and transcendence. The stories we tell often follow this pattern, not because we humans made this one up, but because before the foundation of the world God wrote the archetypical story of Jesus and put eternity in the hearts of humans so that we would love it and embrace it.

Lord, I need everything You offer. I can’t invent a better story for myself than the one You’ve already told.

 

Be a player or get benched

December 12th, 2015 by Maureen

In the Christmas story angels appear to two different guys, Joseph and Zechariah, telling them not to be afraid and explaining that their wives’ pregnancies are results of miraculous circumstances.” Joseph’s story is told in Matt 1:18-22 and  Zechariah’s in Luke 1. Elizabeth and Mary were already players having received angelic visits of their own. Zechariah got a face-to-face angelic appearance while Joseph got an angel in a dream. Zechariah was asked to believe that his wife Elizabeth would get pregnant in old age while Joseph was asked to believe that his fiancee Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Zechariah’s immediate response was to question and object. Before the angel ever showed up in the dream Joseph’s attitude was already to show mercy to the woman who may have cheated on him. Seems like Joseph had way more of a stretch but he chose to be a player in this amazing story and his response was to accept a reality that seemed impossible. Zechariah got benched for awhile for attitude.

Lord, I want to respond like Joseph when things seem illogical, incredible and impossible. An angel would help though, just saying.

 

Happy endings

December 11th, 2015 by Maureen

When the right time arrived, God sent His Son into this world (born of a woman, subject to the law)  to free those who, just like Him, were subject to the law. Ultimately He wanted us all to be adopted as sons and daughters. Gal. 4:4-5

Christmas celebrates the happy beginning of Jesus’ life on earth.  Film maker Orson Welles said “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course on where you stop your story.” If we stopped His story at crucifixion it wouldn’t be a happy ending. We need the resurrection. We experience moments in our lives that feel like closure, a happy ending, like the time when we embraced His gift of salvation or got married or graduated. What happens before and after each of these events include all sorts of plot twists and complications that would make for a sad story if we stopped telling the story then.  And not every endeavor seems to end well. But we are part of a bigger story, the ultimate end of that story is  Christ’s eternal Kingship, freedom and adoption as children of that Kingdom, and His defeat of evil. This isn’t just Jesus’ happy ending, its the ending He wrote with His own blood for each of us.

Lord, thank you for the happy ending to all my beginnings, middles, and endings.

PSA: Take time for wonder

December 9th, 2015 by Maureen

He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kings, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. Col. 1:15-16 In Him we live and move and have our being. Acts 17:28

The very idea of Emmanuel-God-with-us is jaw-dropping, inexplicable, amazing, mysterious, and thrilling. “In our world, too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” – C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle, Chronicles of Narnia series. And then consider the miracle and wonder that is Christ  in us and us in Him. All this didn’t happen so we can try to explain or analyze it. Embrace the mystery. Enjoy living inside the wonder and enjoy the wonder living inside of you!

Lord, You really are wonderful.