Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Beginnings

I love the week between Christmas and New Year's. I mean, absolutely, positively, LOVE it. It's a week I usually spend cleaning (yeah, I love cleaning, it's weird, you can say it), getting a last few things done, and of course spending time with my family and friends. It's a time of dreaming, planning new goals for the year ahead, and just taking time to realize how far I've come over the past twelve months.

Basically, I love the new start. All the times I failed over the past year are about to be shoved behind me as a brand new year breaks forth. A new year to go places, meet new people, to set new goals and reach them, a chance to try again on the goals I missed the year before.

A new year to grow in my relationship with Jesus Christ. To become more like Him. To know Him better, to learn to trust Him more as He works in my life to bring me to where He wants me to be.

You may have heard about a book in the Bible called Lamentations. It's not preached from a lot, and I haven't heard many devotionals about it. Basically, the prophet Jeremiah wrote it during one of the toughest times in Israel's history. Babylon was decimating the kingdom, Jerusalem was top on the hit list, and the people were in misery.

But even then, they were able to make a comeback. Jeremiah writes: "Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 'The Lord is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I hope in Him!'" (Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV). 

We don't have to wait for a brand new year to make a fresh start. God's mercy and grace towards us are new every morning. No matter what you may be going through, what choices you've made, God can bring you back from it. God can help you start anew, any day, any time. 



Father, thank You for always giving us another chance. Help us in 2015 to grow closer to You and to serve You better. Mold us after Your image. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Gifts

Today found me very not in the Christmas spirit.

Usually, I'm a last minute shopper. There's two reasons for this. First, I usually forget I have shopping to do until a few days before (don't ask me how, I don't know why I can remember random stuff like how many tablespoons equal a cup* but I forget all about getting presents for Christmas). Second, I spend a long time actually picking out what to give someone.

Needless to say, this combination means I'm usually grabbing gifts two days before Christmas.

This year, though, I finished my shopping a week ago Monday. I went to the mall yesterday, but it was just to hang out with a friend (and there was one more thing I was thinking about getting for my mom). All I had to do was wait for the rest of the presents to arrive in the mail...

Until today.

All of my gifts came by Monday except one. I wasn't too worried, because that one said it'd be delivered by today. Sure, it'd be a bit of an inconvienience, seeing as I'd have to rush wrap it tonight, but not a big deal...

Except for it didn't come.

Puzzled, I went to track it online, and see what happened...

Due to being damaged, it won't be delivered.

I have to reorder it.

And it was found to be damaged yesterday around 2 pm, and yet I hadn't received a single email about it.

Needless to say, I wasn't happy.

For a few minutes, I was in downright Grinch mode. How dare they not deliver my parcel? How dare they not email me so I could try to run out and get it while I still had time? They ruined Christmas!!!

Then I realized...why am I so upset? So what if it gets here in January instead? Because Christmas isn't about this...

 
It's about this...






We get so stressed this time of year, so worked up over whether our presents arrive, all the traffic we have to battle, that "idiot" who messed up our macchiato when we're already running late because we overslept after the Christmas party... But really, none of that stuff is what Christmas is truly about.

It's about a Baby.

It's about God taking on a mantle of flesh so He could lift us up out of our miry pools of sin.

It's about a King giving up a throne in order to invite us into His Kingdom.

It's about an all-powerful Master wrapping Himself in the weak body of a servant so He could break our chains.

These little gifts we pass around to each other are nice, but are nothing in light of that. They'll fade away some day.

But this Gift is Eternal. He is the Beginning and the End.

I'll be reordering the present, and it won't be coming in time for Christmas. I'll be giving it another day.

But God's Precious Gift is always available. Jesus offers salvation, peace, and joy any time. There's no need to wait for it.


*16, if you were wondering.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Liar

"Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines. For it is good that the heart be established by grace, not with foods which have not profited those who have been occupied with them." 
~ Hebrews 13:7-9 NKJV



 
I recently watched a documentary about three people who escaped from cults.

Yeah, I can be a nerd, but that's another story.

These people, a young man and two women, had horrible things done to them, all in the name of "truth."

They were abused, raped, convinced to mistreat their family members, persuaded to abandon their families...

All because of a horrible lie.



Today, we’re too quick to trust.

You’ve probably seen and heard the liars on T.V., those men and women who convince people that Jesus is some sort of magic genie ready to grant wishes, that the way of the cross is like skipping through a field loaded with daisies and buttercups. That there's no such need for repentance, but merely for you to turn from your "self-reliance." That whatever sinful urgings you have are to be embraced, because God "made" you the way you are. I think these people forgot that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9, NKJV).

(Rabbit trail, but if you want to know why it annoys me to no end when someone says, "Oh, I know so-and-so's heart, they mean well," read that verse again).

We’ve only to read Acts to see what wolves those people are. I could be wrong, but I don't think Peter, Paul, and Silas felt like this whole Christianity thing was a buttercup stroll.

But we fall for it, time and time again. We fall for the lies, the deception, because instead of checking to make sure it can stand up with what God’s infallible Word says, we grasp at them like the pretty little baubles they are.

But Satan rarely comes at us obviously.

Instead he likes to package his deceptions in bright paper and glitter. He knows we fall easier for pretty little lies than blatant ones.

I could be wrong, but I think one of the reasons God tells us through the author of Hebrews that Jesus is the same always is to warn us against these liars.

If you hear someone talking about something, and it doesn't line up with what the Bible says about God, then you know they're lying.

If you hear someone saying that there is another authority greater than God and His Word, you know they are the messenger of Satan.

Run far away from these people.

Don't let them deceive you with their lies.

Don't listen to them.

Their pretty little baubles will be their destruction.

Instead, look for the people in your life who follow God's Word.

Look for the people who look to what the Bible says, and follow the instructions.

Let these people be your guides. But, as I mentioned before, make sure you check them against the authority of the Scripture as well. Even Christians whose hearts are set to do God's Will make mistakes (i.e. King David, he made some huge ones).

In short, the Only One you should ever trust completely is God. You can be confident He'll never lie to you.


Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Empty

Sometimes, you feel as if you've got nothing more to give.

I stared at the screen for a good ten minutes, trying to figure out something, anything to write about.

Sometimes it's easy to write something. Sometimes I get an idea that practically writes itself.

And sometimes I have to drag the idea out, inch by painful inch.

All-in-all, it's not easy a good chunk of the time.

A lot of things aren't easy.

Being a Christian isn't easy. Taking a stand for what God has taught you, taking a stand against what you know in your heart and from God's Holy Word is wrong, is not easy. Serving God with your all by completing your assignments or grading papers when you rather go eat chocolate chip cookies and watch reruns of Once Upon a Time is not easy.

And sometimes (at least I do), we feel completely drained from it.

Like we can't go on.

Like we have no idea what comes next.

What step we should take...what project needs to be finished...how to finish that project...how to care for our kids, fur babies or otherwise.

We have a lot of demands swarming around us, seeking our attention, demanding an answer.

And we don't have one.

I think that's the time we need to let it all go.

Forget it all for fifteen minutes, or however long you need, and delve into God's Word.

Pray.

Seek His Face.

Seek His guidance.

We get lost, confused, empty, when we don't regularly make sure we're filled with Him.

And He never told us we had to do this whole thing called life alone.

In fact, He wants us to seek Him.

I may struggle, I may feel drained, I may not have the answers, but I do know the One Who does.

And I know my soul is replenished when it's His strength I'm trusting.

If you feel empty, don't wait. Fill up in His Word. Proverbs, Philippians, and 2 Timothy are all great places to start.


Monday, December 1, 2014

My way!

So last week, you may have noticed that I posted on Tuesday instead of my usual Monday. I didn't forget, but I had what I feel was a reasonable excuse.

I was sick.

Like about to throw up sick.

I woke up in the morning feeling absolutely terrible. I didn't call out of work, because usually when I feel sick in the morning it disappears within an hour or so.

But this time it didn't.

It actually got to the point where I had to step out a minute at work to try to avoid losing the few crackers I'd eaten that day.

So when I finally got home, nauseated and my brain trying to get out of my skull, I pretty much just went to bed.

Monday definitely didn't go my way. And considering I suffered residual symptoms a lot of last week, it wasn't a week of awesomeness for me.

It stunk. I had so many plans...

Sometimes, though, God lets our plans get spoiled because He has better ones. He allows things to happen so He can turn it around for His glory, so no one can say without looking totally deranged that He didn't have control of the situation.

The problem is, though, we can't see that ahead of time. He doesn't exactly send us a text saying; "Hey, saw you had this week booked. Guess what, I got something else in mind. Better clear it."

And because we don't know what's going on, it's a lot easier for us just to run around like crazy little kids making a fuss over things.

Because we don't trust God to work it out, we riot, destroying property and hurting people because things don't go our way.* We steal, choosing rather to make God look like a joke to unbelievers rather than trust Him to provide for us. We do all kinds of horrible and unspeakable things, just because we didn't get the results we wanted.

Doesn't God know our plans are spoiled? Doesn't God know when injustices occur? Isn't He able to judge and repay to those who deserve it? To take care of us at all times?

And yet we see people who claim to be saved by God's grace acting as abominably as those who deny Him altogether.

Galatians 6:7-8 tell us, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (NKJV).

We are going to pay for our foolish behavior. Granted, it will not be the hellfire that the unsaved will receive. But what if our foolishness causes a loved one to think Christianity's a joke? What if our childish behavior causes people to think God can't possibly be real if those who claim Him behave in such a manner?

Instead of throwing hissy fits and acting like spoiled children, let's see instead if we can  learn from it when things don't go the way we wanted them to, or even the way we think they morally should have. Like I learned at least two lessons from feeling so ill last week:

1. All the things I wanted to get done weren't as important as just spending time with my family and taking care of myself.

2. Never eat Chinese food without making sure it has no MSG in it.

*If you live in the U.S.A., you probably have a pretty good idea of what situation I'm thinking about right now. I chose not to name it though because I don't want this to become political. Instead I want this to be about what's really important: trusting God no matter what the situation, no matter whether we've judged justice has been served or not. After all, "...'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19b, NKJV).