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Archive for the tag “Joy in the Trials”

Anno Domini

Good riddance A.D. 2018. It’s been a tough year; well, at least since September. I was reminded last night, September was the beginning of the Hebrew year 5779. The teacher described this year as one of weariness. My Dad died soon after the Hebrew year started and it just seems to be more weariness heaped on than I can ever remember.

The teacher referenced Jeremy 12:5 “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” As I contemplated this passage, it reminded me of Jesus’ words of comfort from Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” And also Paul’s encouraging word found in Galatians 6:9 “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

If this is the year where the enemy will try to wear us out, we have to find strength in our Lord Jesus Christ so that we do not give up in the fight. This is about a spiritual battle being fought over us. It plays out in the flesh, but we are truly in a battle for the spiritual health of our families, our communities, our nation and our world. We will be bombarded with everything the enemy can muster against us because time is growing short. If 2019 is just a continuing deluge of weariness, then we have to muster our strength and our courage from our leader – Jesus. We can’t handle it on our own. We need greater resources from our Lord in order to hold this ground.

My pastor’s Christmas message was to choose joy. Even if the world continues to spin out of control, choose joy. Even if the enemy hits us where it hurts most, choose joy. How can this be? Because of our Lord Jesus Christ. He has given us everything we need. Paul encouraged us in Ephesians 6 to put on the full armor of God. My Pastor also reminded us that anything that comes to us has to go through our Father’s hands first. He has designed it or allowed it to happen for our good and His glory.

But how can the bad things in life become good? It’s one of His promises found in Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I don’t know how bad things are worked to the good; however, I will believe His word is true. I have seen some bad things in my life turn to good, so I know His word is still relevant for this day.

I heard a message a couple of weeks ago from Passion City about loving enemies. I first thought I didn’t have any enemies, but Pastor Ben Stewart mentioned a few personal grievances that could be seen as our enemies. There was a name that came to mind as he listed the grievances against us. He also mentioned how we are to love those who are against us. First and foremost – pray for them. Pray for their welfare and ask God to help them in whatever area that is problematic for them.

Second, for our part, we are to mend any barrier that is our own fault in the matter. We are to live at peace with one another. If someone has offended us, we need to bring it before the Lord. If we are at fault, then the Lord will correct us and help us mend the situation. If it’s the other person’s fault, we take the first step to open the lines of communication. If they do not respond, that’s not our responsibility. We do what we’re called to do and let God do the rest.

We are told to remember His word and to encourage those on this path. This is the time to do it with greater fervor. Some of us have been on the path longer and we need to encourage those behind us. We are to stay true to His Word during this next year. We are to be His church – His people and to love well.

Choose joy. Choose to do good. Choose to love even if the situation is difficult. I know it’s going to be hard, but it’s who we are. We are still in the year of the Lord’s favor (until His return). Let God bless it according to His will and direct our steps to the most fruitful year yet. Happy New Year 2019 Anno Domini (Latin for in the year of the Lord)!

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19

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The Waiting Game

It’s almost here – Christmas! It’s my favorite time of the year. It’s not only the gift giving and receiving that makes it such a joy, but the family gathering around. My Mom is no longer with us, but I remember all the times we gathered together as a family with her in our midst and the joy that we experienced together. She was a giver and the presents abounded. We rushed through the opening to discover our “wants” had been granted. It was always such a joyful time. Now, I watch the little children in the family experience that same joy in discovery that “Santa” knew just what they wanted.

As I contemplate Christmas this year, I am reminded of the truth of the Christmas story. It’s not about the presents under the tree, but the presence on that tree. Christmas and Easter tied together through the story of Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection. We celebrate Jesus’ birth in a place that was arranged many years before that event.

It’s amazing to me how God creates events long before they occur. Take Bethlehem as an example. God already had Bethlehem in mind long before Jesus’ birth. He set up that city as a place of importance. It’s the birthplace of King David, Jesus’ ancestor. But it was also known for the place where sacrificial lambs were raised for the temple. This was the place where lambs were raised without blemish for the perfect Passover sacrifice that occurred every year.

As the lambs were born, they were wrapped in swaddling clothes to keep them from blemish. The shepherds in the field on the night of Jesus’ birth were the ones who were watching over these perfect lambs. They would recognize the significance of Jesus when the angel told them that Jesus had been born and was placed in a manager wrapped in swaddling clothes. He came in like a lamb to be the lamb of sacrifice for our sins on that last Passover of His death.

Passover was also a set up for the future fulfillment through Jesus. The sacrificial lambs were to represent the cleansing of each person’s sins – a lamb had to be sacrificed to take away the sins. This first Passover found in Exodus kept the house of Jacob safe from the angel of death. Each family had to sacrifice the perfect lamb and place the blood of the lamb on the door frame – top and sides. The Law of Moses was a set up for Jesus to fulfill them. Sacrifice – yes, that’s Jesus. Cleansing – yes, that’s Jesus. Sabbath – yes, that’s Jesus.

Every prophetic event takes years of preparation. It’s just a waiting game. But in the waiting, so much is happening behind the scenes. So what does this all have to do with my Christmas ramblings? God is the promise keeper. God sets up the events in our lives in anticipation of what is to come. We might not see it right now, but God is working behind the scenes to fulfill His promise and His plan. We’re a part of it.

I hate to wait on anything, do you? But right now, as we anticipate Christmas, it’s part of the plan to wait on the timing of God’s plan. Not just for the prophetic cycle of events, but also the events in our lives that we are waiting to be fulfilled.

God’s timing is perfect. So if you are waiting on something to occur, don’t rush ahead of what God is preparing for you. It’s going to happen in God’s time, just wait. But in the waiting, we also need to be in preparation for it. As advent is for Christmas – the preparation for the coming of Jesus, we also need to prepare for the next thing in our lives as well. God is all about shaping our character. This is His ultimate goal for each of us.

How do we prepare for what we don’t know? Pray. Let God’s will be done on earth as it’s done in heaven. Surrender to the plan. When it happens, be obedient in it. And praise Him before, during and after – it’s the only way to prepare for what’s to come.

Every event in our lives is a step forward in our transformational plan. It might not feel like it at the time, especially if it feels like a step back. But God has a purpose in the events in our lives to shape us for the future. This is our dress rehearsal for the real deal in the eternal Kingdom. This earthly experience shapes us for the eternal experience to come. That’s why we can count all our experiences as joy – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. That’s why Jesus counted the cross as joy. He saw the eternal purpose. We can too.

Just consider Christmas as the taste of what’s to come. He will bring it all together for good – He promised. Believe it because of the Lamb of God and Bethlehem, and all that was foretold long ago. What He promises will come to pass. He is at work preparing the events for what is ahead of us. Wait for it. The plan is good. He promised.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14-17 (ESV)

Six Years and Counting

What a difference six years can make. Today is the anniversary of my Mom’s move into her heavenly home. It was extremely heartbreaking to see her depart from this earthly existence. I was by her side as she took her last breath. I remember the moment all too well. I don’t know if that feeling will ever go away. The feeling of loss created a hole in my heart. The hole that I experienced on that day seems to have closed a bit more this year. The heartache is not as acute. I still miss her presence. I still miss her touch. But the pain has lessened with each passing year.

Years ago, I asked for eyes to see. I wanted spiritual insight. I believe God has opened my eyes in certain areas. But in some things I am still blind. Each year that passes though, I believe I am growing. The last four years have been significant in my growth. God put me in a place where I learned more about Him. I am still learning to trust Him in different areas of my life. He has made circumstances to see greater growth. I want to see change happening. I want to be different than I was the last year. Mom once told me I lacked compassion. It was hard to hear, but true nonetheless. God allows certain trials for our growth. I was reading in my “Streams in the Desert” devotional last night which said about trials: “The grandest character is grown in hardship.” Also written in the devotional was this: “Stand up in the place where the dear Lord has put you, and there do your best.”

Pastor James MacDonald spoke this past weekend about problems we face. We have two options concerning our problems. Rationalization or reflection. Rationalization offers excuses. Reflection offers growth. Reflection gives us insight to our problem. Is the problem sin related? What’s my responsibility for the problem? Repent of any actions that have led to the problem. And handle any restitution for wrongdoing. In my past, I could say I easily offer rationalization for any problems I faced. It wasn’t my fault. But upon reflection of my past, I can easily say, most of my problems were my own fault based on my own weaknesses which led to wrong decisions.

Beth Moore’s teaching on “The God who sees” tells us from the story of Hagar found in Genesis 16 how God poses questions in order to reveal our hearts. God asked Hagar “Where did you come from and where are you going?” (Found in verse 8.) Beth says we are caught in the middle of those two questions in the right now moment. God has a strategy in the right now. He has revelation in the right now. But it takes reflection to come to the right understanding of what God is doing in the trial. Hagar was sent back to the place where she once was. But she didn’t go back the same. She had a new revelation of God as the God who sees.

Elijah had a moment when God questioned him after he ran away from the evil Queen Jezebel. Two times God asked Elijah “What are you doing here?” (1 Kings 19:9,13) Elijah offered a rationalization for staying in a cave. But God had a better option. Elijah had a task to do to move the Kingdom forward. We’re all called to tasks to move the Kingdom forward. It’s a matter of reflection of where we are right now. What is God showing us in this right now? It takes time to reflect and be aware of what God is up to in each of our lives. We can’t live in the past. We can’t live in the future. We can plan based on what we know right now. But we always have to defer to God’s plan and His future. It’s God’s story and we’re called to be a part of it. Loss comes, but there is always a brighter hope and a brighter future. Stand up in the right now and see God work through those tough times. He’s into building character!

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 (NLT)

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