First of all, make people your priority! It’s a cliché yet say it over and over again – people, not programs! Resist the pressures to rush, to be hurried, to ‘get the program’ completed. Truly take time to enjoy the opportunity to be with friends and family. Focus less on perfect decoration and more on the state of your heart. A dinner cooked to perfection, a home full of beautiful holiday decor will be soon forgotten, but an evening of meaningful conversation and interaction creates a lasting memory that renews us again and again.
Second, include worship! Most Americans will spend far more time in the mall than in worship and reflection during the next seven days! This imbalance in the use of our time and money reveals the identity of our true god. Keeping Christ in Christmas isn’t about putting up a crèche on the lawn at City Hall. It’s about building an altar in our heart and honoring the One whose life is the cause for the celebration. If you will set aside 30 minutes a day for meditation, prayer, and to read the stories of Jesus’ nativity from Matthew and Luke from now to Christmas Day; it will make a difference. “O come, let us adore Him… Christ, the Lord!”
Third, give yourself away! In Acts 20:35 (The Message) we read, “I have demonstrated to you how necessary it is to work on behalf of the weak and not exploit them. You’ll not likely go wrong here if you keep remembering that our Master said, ‘You’re far happier giving than getting.’ ” It’s not just stuff that is given at Christmas. Give forgiveness. Give love. Give time. Give away your expectations.
Lastly, recover wonder! Read the Christmas story and instead of asking, “How could this be?” let story speak to you about the depth of God’s love. Instead of complaining about that same music on the radio, just enjoy it. Instead of grousing about all the stuff you have to do, thank God for what you get to do. Let the pseudo-sophisticates pretend to be bored by the holiday. Choose to be child-like (not childish!) in your wonder.
With these choices, you will come to New Year’s Day, with a renewed heart! You may be tired in body, but you will have received Christ Jesus anew, and He brings life. Here’s a word from the Word to take with you as you begin this Christmas week- “The Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. …We have all benefited from the rich blessings he brought to us—one gracious blessing after another.” (John 1:14, 16, NLT)
“We were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved.
And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
|Yesterday, I was looking over some notes I had made some 14 months ago about dreams I had for the ministries of the church which I serve a pastor. As I prayed for guidance and the direction of the Spirit back then, I made note of some of my impressions. Reading through them last night was faith-building. Much of what was on that list has come into being at the church, not because I forced them into being, but because we walked in daily obedience. God used that moment to remind me that He knows the future. We walk in faith.
I remember a time years ago, when I was ‘certain’ that I belonged on the staff of a church in a state far away. They were interested in me and offered a position I really felt I could fill. As we started to take steps to relocate, uneasiness grew in me. I even became physically sick! Finally, I gave up my dream and said, “yes,” to obedience. About six months later, that church fell into a terrible time as a result of leadership failure. The Lord spared me from being drawn into that mess.
I do not believe in fate, but I am assured that when I keep step with the Spirit, He always leads ‘in paths of righteousness.’ The Word tells us that “If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.” (Psalm 37:23-24, NIV) Beware of trusting your own instincts and wisdom.
Peter loved Jesus and when he heard Him talking about going to the Cross, he “took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (Mark 8:32, NIV) Peter’s ‘wisdom’ could not accept that Jesus would die the death on a Roman cross, suffering in agony, and still be in the will of God! What purpose could such a thing serve? But the Cross was the plan of God! Peter’s good intentions earned him a strong correction. “Turning and seeing his disciples wavering, wondering what to believe, Jesus confronted Peter. “Peter, get out of my way! Satan, get lost! You have no idea how God works.” (Mark 8:33, The Message) I hope never to hear that from my Lord.
Disciples need a heart that obeys without argument. We need not be paralyzed by a fear of walking out of the will of God! He’s a big God who is perfectly capable of guiding and keeping us. However, stubbornness or a failure to listen carefully will cause us to wander from the path He has planned. Our word from the Word is taken out of Psalm 37.
“Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.”
Father, I thank you for the promise that You will always guide us.
Open my eyes to the possibilities that exist in Your purpose,
And keep me from seeing only the ‘obvious.’
My greatest joy is to do what You want me to do, to be where You desire me to be.
Make the way plain, Lord, and gently, yet firmly, keep me in the center of Your plan where there is
great joy, wonderful peace, and blessings for this life and eternity.
In Jesus’ Name, I ask this today.
Do you think He wants you to bribe Him, or do you believe He cares for you and receives your gifts with delight?
“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
It’s so much easier to throw our money at a need than it is to give our time or invest our lives. By way of example, think of this. Christians give $millions to pro-life causes here in America each year. They pay for centers that counsel those who find themselves considering abortion. That’s all good, but would we consider opening our homes to a young woman whose pregnancy has alienated her from family or boyfriend? Yes, I know how disrupting that can be! Bev and I have extended hospitality to many people over the years. It’s not easy to do. Having someone in your home is much more costly that giving a monthly donation to a ministry!