Thursday, December 24, 2015

Worship, the Heart of Christmas

The writing life can be a rollercoaster life. One day words are streaming from your brain to your paper and the exhilaration is a free flowing release of emotion. The next day, nothing. I journal my thoughts and prayers almost every day, but there is a difference in the words I write for publication.

However, the release of my words has an enemy. He would like to silence my words and me altogether. Since I've been writing publicly my life circumstances have been even harder than before. I have to believe these two things are directly related.

I was reminded of this as I read this in a devotion:

"If we learn to worship God in the trying circumstances, He will alter them in two seconds when He chooses."
Oswald Chambers

I just finished a study on the book of Daniel in the Bible. Daniel was such a man as this. He was taken captive into Babylon (present day Turkey), as a teenager and no matter what they did to him, he never forsook God. They tried every means possible to provoke him into denying the one true God of heaven and earth. God saw his humility and faithful heart and used him to prophecy the rise and fall of world empires and the final kingdom of Jesus Christ. Daniel was highly favored and it began because he loved God more than he loved himself. He trusted God and was faithful to Him no matter what. Oh, to be a Daniel. That is my heart's desire.

So, back to my original point. The enemy doesn't want me to write. I don't say this because I'm better than, or less than another writer. He just knows how to attack me. He knows how to steal my joy and this is my personal demon. We all have them if we claim Christ. This is one of the ways I've found to share my faith openly, words of hope to a world who needs to know a Savior who loves them.

My prayer for you this Christmas is for you to be a Daniel in the coming year.

May you find joy that causes you to worship from a heart of love, as Daniel did. He was stripped of everything he knew, his people, his culture, even his identity, and yet, he never forgot His God.

People will come and go. They will disappoint and fail us. It is human nature. But God will never fail. It's not in His nature. He cannot. He is faithful and will never leave us.

Christmas is a time of nostalgia for many. As adults, we try to emulate our childhood Christmases and give our children the best of everything. We have images of snow covered villages and sleigh bells ringing, sweet families going together to cut trees, hot cocoa by a roaring fire. But, it may not be like this for everyone. Christmas can also be time of sadness if we get lost in the trappings of the world's version of Christmas. Jesus is Christmas and He is the only reason I celebrate.

Our present will never be able to compete with our past so let it go. Let the memories stay enshrined where they are. Pay tribute to them, share them during family celebrations so they will not be forgotten, but don't worship them.

We have a Savior who came for the purpose of redemption. He's waiting, not under a tree, or in a manger...not even on a cross. He's risen, and waiting for a glance from His father. Let's worship Him this Christmas and sing from a heart of gratitude. Your joy for Christmas, and all things hoped for will be found in Him!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Five Ways to Have Your Best Christmas Ever

Most of us struggle through the month of December longing for a Christmas in our memory, whether real or imagined. We compare and contrast and nothing ever measures up to the Hallmark version in our own four walls we call home.

This is a holy time of year for me, but it's also another day in an ordinary life and stuff happens. People die, my mom did, and yours have too. It hurts and the painful reminders of loss and deep wounds are reopened. Be tender to the heartache of others as you celebrate the most blessed time of year.

I propose my list of Christmas do's to help you in this last week before the big day. They're not earth shattering, but they help me, and maybe they'll help you if you are one of those people who've had a visit from Uncle Scrooge.

1. Get thee into the kitchen and whip up something delicious, not for yourself, but to give away. You will bring delight to the recipient and the flip side is they will love seeing you all year long.

2. Find a church musical program to attend. Music makes the heart happy. Worship is a direct line to our source of true happiness, and will make your Christmas jollier than Santa ever could.

3. Get out to your local mall, not for shopping, but for people watching. Enjoy the sights and sounds of children and mall music. Get a coffee and sit near Santa. It's sure to bring smiles and may even conjure a memory or two.

4. Spend time with people you love. It's not about presents friends, it's about people. Jesus wasn't born for presents, He was born for flesh and blood. Invite people into your home. It doesn't have to be fancy and your home doesn't have to be spotless. One of my dearest friends is having a small gathering tonight after our choir program. She'll provide light snacks and lively conversation and I know it will be a sweet time for those who attend.

5. My last suggestion is put away social media, after you read this of course. Shut it down. Limit your  social media time in the very least. Stop comparing your Christmas experience with everything you read on Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest. Did I say that? Yes, we all do it. We think he or she has it all together, when the truth is, we all try to put the best we have out there. Everyone has "stuff," so don't think you are alone in yours. Just get off social media for a time and enjoy the Christmas God has blessed you with.

The best Christmas we could ever have is the one we honor and adore the Savior of the world. We have a holy God who came to earth as a baby and was given the name above every name...Jesus.

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God
something to be grasped, 
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
 being made in human likeness.
and being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled Himself and became obedient to death
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted Him to the Highest place
and gave Him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
 every knee should bow, 
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
 to the glory of God the Father.
Phil. 2:6-11

P.S. If you live in the Anderson, SC area and are looking for a place to worship, please join us tonight, Dec. 20th at 6:30 p.m. and Dec. 21st at 7 p.m.  for our annual Carols by Candlelight. It's a beautiful time of worship with choir, praise team, orchestra and handbells. Yours truly will be ringing. Please join us!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

What the Red Cup Will Never Take Away

I've been told I live in the past, but that's all I know. That's my story, my past and my present. The future is not ours to know. God alone is the keeper of that secret. Man can try as hard as he may, to no avail.

I'm studying the book of Daniel in the Bible on Friday mornings, with the "Mooreites," as we call ourselves. We use the Beth Moore series as our study material. It's a fascinating book, if you've never read it. God revealed glimpses of His plan for the future to Daniel through visions. Can you imagine him writing out his dreams upon waking, and thinking how crazy it must sound? But he was faithful to his God and knew Him to be faithful to do what He says, EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Much of biblical prophecy has already been fulfilled. We'll celebrate the birth of the Christ child in a few weeks, one of the greatest prophecies ever foretold, the other of course, would be the death, burial, and resurrection of that same child, a thirty-three year old man.

History not yet in the books, yours, mine and the eyes of all those gone before us, will one day witness the ultimate prophecy fulfilled...the events of the Second Coming of Christ. Are you prepared? Your past does not have to define your future.

The Christ child that we'll celebrate came for a purpose. There is no power on earth that could stop His coming, His going, or His coming again.

In the same vein, there is no power on earth that can stop us from worshiping Him this Christmas or any other time...not even a red cup, as powerful as that cup has become. Worship comes from the heart and goes directly to the throne of God almighty.

Don't let the world take away what is not theirs to take.

Jesus came to give life and give it abundantly. Share that wherever you go and with whomever you meet.

Jesus said, "I am the light of the world, 
whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,
but will have the light of life."
John 8:12 NIV

O Come Let Us Adore Him