Monthly Archives: December 2015

Finding peace when prayers aren’t answered

We often think of being a peacemaker (if we consider it at all) as being a reconciler between two people or two groups. It may be a disagreement among friends or fighting children, or conflict within a business or ministry team. I remember working as a prison guard at a maximum security prison. I received a message over my walkie talkie to go to the exercise area in the yard and break up a fight in “the yard.” There I encountered two huge guys who looked like they could bench press my Honda Civic. I distinctly remember my voice cracking as I confronted these giants saying, “Excuse me men, but you’re going to have to accompany me to the captain’s office to resolve this matter.” Guards carried no weapons, but recognizing the authority in my trembling voice and 150 pound frame, they came along peacefully. ūüôā

 

Maybe you have considerable angst over conflicting ideas, tactics or personalities. It might  involve you and someone you love dearly. Then again, it might involve that certain person who constantly rubs you raw.

 

What does the bible say about this? Live at peace, love one another, consider the interests of others. Paul found¬†¬†common ground in being all things to all people. Hostage negotiators and international peace negotiators know the value of finding common ground that is in keeping with essential core values. It’s no less important for you and me. Do you ever find yourself getting in a heated argument that could be easily solved to the satisfaction of both? So it was in the classic story of two girls, each wanting the last orange. One wanted the orange pulp for juice while the other wanted the rind for marmalade. It’s not uncommon for two people to ultimately desire the same outcome (satisfaction for example) without realizing the answer is found in discovering each other’s interests.

 

Even if we can’t seem to discover any common ground, we can acknowledge our disagreement without acting in disagreeable ways. ¬†My step dad (who was always “dad” to me) advised me to never let the sun go down on my anger. Whether the conflict was between me and God, my loving spouse, a¬†friend, or myself, sometimes the solution was to acknowledge the discomfort while also affirming my respect, love, and commitment to the other. It might sound something like this: “I recognize we have not come to a satisfactory solution yet, but I love you and I am committed to understanding your position more clearly ; I’m not going away. I’ll be here when we’re ready to resolve this important matter more calmly.” If you pray before leaving the issue for the day, be sure to ask for God’s guidance and wisdom, NOT for him to make the other person see YOUR way of thinking!

 

This seems to me to be a good approach for unanswered prayers! Time after time, we may have come before God pleading him to “see things our way” and bless “our plans. ” We ¬†may come with seemingly unbearable sorrow, disappointment or even anger to share. Don’t you think he already knows and understands? He’s a big God. Believe me, if the psalmist and later King David, who God called a man after his own heart, prayed this way, so can you. Just end with, “But Lord, I don’t want to remain feeling this way; I want to be closer. Draw me close to you in love and peace.

 

Becoming a peacemaker is not accomplished in a single blog post, or series of blogs or books. It is a lifetime quest. Jesus clearly demonstrated his desire to bring peace to common people like you and me, but not to those who persisted in rejecting his truth.¬†He told his disciples there are times to persevere and times to “shake the dust from your sandals” and move on. Let the Holy Spirit guide you.

 

Like Joni Tada Erickson, sometimes the source of our conflict never changes… in this life. But we needn’t let that paralyze¬†our desire and Spirit-led ability to remain faithful peacemakers with ourselves, with others, and God.

 

When good desires become demands and idols

 

What was on your mind when¬†you woke up this morning? When you laid your head on the pillow last night? Was it something you strongly desire or something you dread? Or perhaps an endless list of to-do items? Do your desires have to do with your expectation of others? It’s not unreasonable to have desires for good things, harmony and productivity between employers and workers, pastors and staff and church members, individuals and their friends, children and their parents and visa versa.

 

But problems beset us when desires become demands, and demands become idols in our lives. Idols? Yes , idols can rise up from good desires just as they can from ungodly ones. In placing demands on others that they change to our liking, it becomes an easy misstep to becoming our ¬†brother’s judge. We can become so absorbed by doing good we fail to see if those deeds are actually ordained by God.

 

And so it might have been with our call to move to the Bolivian mission field, at least in our sense of timing. We still feel the call to support the CMA mission in Bolivia. But there are many ways to fulfill that call. After all, it’s his mission, not mine! I was reminded recently:

Sometimes God changes our plans, but never his purpose for us.

 

So, we had to surrender this to God. We put it on “Abraham’s Altar” realizing that God might accept our sacrifice or, like with Isaac, present an alternate sacrifice…serving him by living in Bolivia or by spending 2-3 months each each year or by some other God-directed means. Perhaps you have dreams and aspirations that seem God ordained. Offer them to God and be satisfied with whatever¬†he brings about. His plans are always best. Act like you believe it!

 

How are you to know if your desires and ambitions are God designed or a product of your own desires for recognition or comfort? It always starts with honestly asking the Spirit to reveal the motives of your heart and mind:

What preoccupies my attention?

Ask yourself what I need to have to make me happy, satisfied and fulfilled?

What brings me the most frustration, regret, anger, or disappointment?

 

The Apostle Paul suffered some affliction, “a thorn in his side.” Three times he asked God to remove it. After that he resigned to accept the condition as part of God’s design for him. ¬†Joni Tada Erickson¬†sought a number of “faith healers” before coming to the same conclusion. Does God continue to reveal miracles today? I believe so. It might be an inexplainable healing like the removal of the last bit of cancer from my body. ¬†Or it might be an irritating delay on a trip that kept you from being involved in a tragic accident had you not been delayed.

 

We can all imagine a great number of things that would bring us satisfaction. But consider this:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us… Ephesians 3:20

 

Whatever your desire, our God is able to bless you even more than you ask or imagine. I’m asking for relief from ongoing pain for me and others I care for. I want¬†to walk again. God might grant that. But even if he doesn’t, I will yet trust him – because he has something unimaginably better in mind, either in this life or the next.

 

Ask God for your heart’s desire in accordance to his generous and loving nature, but also trust him completely for his protection¬†and provision for you. Ask him to reveal, even good desires that might become an idol in your life, and thus keep you from his very best.

 

 

 

Piece of mind or peace of mind – revisited

 

Revisiting a personal reflection from March 2013 –

 

“I’m gonna give that person a piece of my mind!”

 

How often have you heard (or said) that? The problem of course is that we all have just so many pieces, and after awhile we are sure to run out of them. And then, there we are, mindless with no peace.

 

I shudder to think of how many times my life used to express that sentiment. I used to be an angry guy with such high expectations for everyone, including myself. There was not much joy in that piece-meal life. Finally, I came to the end of my rope. I realized that I was becoming someone I didn’t want to be. And furthermore, I had no real hope of changing myself by my own power. I already knew who Jesus was and proclaimed to follow Him. My mouth said, “Jesus is Lord” but my actions said, “I am Lord of my life. I am in charge.” Yes, in charge of my hopeless anger.

 

The solution was to give it up, to stop being in charge. Now, surrender doesn’t come easy to any of us. But in such battles such as this, real victory only comes through surrender. You can either be a slave to selfish ways or you can surrender to God’s leadership in your life. You can either insist on remaining the same, or you can be transformed. Over thirty years ago, I gave up a life of anger and bitterness. I gave up giving people a piece of my mind and chose instead to pursue peace of mind.

 

How about you? Maybe your lack of peace isn’t the result of anger or bitterness or resentment. Maybe what threatens your peace is the idea you can control your destiny. But it’s tiring being general manager of the world, isn’t it? Or maybe it’s battles of self confidence that erode your sense of personal peace and satisfaction. Memories from the past continue to play out in your head and steal your hope for peace today. Or maybe, you are one of millions who are trying so hard to always do the right thing. You’re the good deed doer everyone admires but you find no restorative peace because you’re carrying the weight yourself instead of cooperating with the Holy Spirit. Good deeds are an expression and overflow of our peace with God, NOT the route to it. For God so loved the world he sent his Son, not you or me. And his Son sent his very Spirit, not your skills or mine so that we might know his peace.

 

We are called to be peacemakers. Is there anything that stands in the way of living at peace with others in your life? God has the answer and the power to change that. Give it up to Him and find peace. Bring it all before his Spirit, and let him bring you peace and show you how to live at peace with God who then teaches you to live at peace with others.

 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Romans 12:18

 

A new year – things to do…someone to become

 

The past three years have been the most challenging of my life. It’s been a time of testing and brokenness, followed by restoration and renewal, a sequence repeated over and over. This season has been marked both with tears and shouts of joy.

 

Joy? Yes, because at the same time, these years have been filled with blessings. People have been generous with practical supports and prayers, even from strangers across the nation (friends of friends who keep on praying). Having been on the giving end for many years, it’s humbling to be on the receiving end of the blessing exchange; humbling also to be so limited physically, mentally, and emotionally.

 

I’ve had to also fully embrace what I knew was true and to really take God at his Word. Knowing the bible is true is one thing. Surrendering our response to life’s curve balls and daily frustrations with the truth and power of God’s Word is quite another. But that is the epicenter of transformational change. Surrender never sounds appealing to our old way of thinking. But there are terms of surrender ¬†that are appealing if we can bring ourselves to accept them:¬†Surrender pain for promise, anxiety for assurance, fretting for faith, bitterness for better relationships, and sorrow for simple joys. I’ve become accomplished at the first set of harmful behaviors and now am ready to completely trust God for the ones that heal and fulfill.

 

As I reflect on resolutions of New Years Past, most were to-do or wish lists, filled with ambitious fervor, hopes and dreams and plans for achievement….what I would DO. As I look to 2016, year four of this unexpected journey, I realize that our best resolution always comes down to BEING true to ourself and God, one day – one moment – at a time, not just trying to DO more. Do you agree?

 

One day at a time. All that remains within our sphere of control is the decisions We make about what thoughts we focus on and what actions we take. Will it be business as usual or will I determine to become all I was meant to be, a person of purpose and passion living moment by moment, firmly secured to the faith to which I cling?

 

One specific thing I am resolving to BE, by the power of God’s Spirit, is a person of peace and reconciliation. I am not going to turn away or disparage a friend who thinks differently than me, one whose political believes differ from mine, one whose financial setting is in contrast of mine, nor one whose faith isn’t the same as mine. I will not mock, ridicule, demean others or be quick to jump to conclusions based simply on what others say. Peacemakers hold firmly to faith but realize their role is one of loving influence, not one of control. Peacemakers open doors to reconciliation (with each other and with God). But ultimately each individual makes their own Choice of whether or not to go in.

 

In as far as it is possible, I want to live at peace with all, not compromising my core values and beliefs, but not alienating others in the world who are different. (The bible has something more to say about unity and division within the church.) What value is it to view one as a “conversion target” unless I first care for them?

 

Peacemakers remain committed to the Prince of Peace who empowers them to be a vessel of truth and peace, and only to the degree they are filled with his very essence – God’s own Spirit. From this, all else flows. It impacts our influence, our vision, our perspective and our ability to endure.

 

There is a real war fought with deadly force against those who would rob us of our freedoms and kill us. But there is another real war raging within use, threatening the harmonious relationships between us and others; us and God. Victory demands resolution not only of what we do, but also the person we become.

 

Here’s to resolutions based more on being all who God intends us to be!

 

It’s not too late to be a blessing!

Dear readers,

Three years and 975 blog posts later, we hope you are growing ever closer to the one true God who sees you where you are and loves you. These blogs are mostly memos to challenge ourselves, a journal of God’s goodness to us through these three difficult years through cancer and life threatening blood infections.

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Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.

image imageThese same three years mark the birth and growth of the Go Light Our World (GLOW) nonprofit ministry. Originally focused on bringing practical expressions of God’s love to the most poor and outcast Quechuan people in Bolivia and the unreached Romani people in¬†Bulgaria, we now also support vital gospel ministries in Corinth and Athens, Greece; in the poorest neighborhoods of urban Scotland; an outreach to the Digo people group in Kenya, and a number of missions in the USA¬†to the homeless, people in prison, college students (USA and Puerto Rico) and those in New Orleans who don’t yet know Jesus and others beginning their faith journey with him.

Some of you already support GLOW in yearly or monthly donations. Thank you! You know your gifts go directly to the mission field, not to salaries, insurance plans, buildings or other admin costs. Your gifts have provided native language bibles to 100 people who were so excited to have a bible they can read!

You gave a little boy his first pair of leather shoes, medicine for a teenager who helps in the Josias program we support. You have literally clothed the naked and fed the hungry with nutritious meals and the hope Jesus offers. You have taught them to read and write – one has gone on to nursing school. You’ve visited “the least of these” in prison.

We continue to offer the free daily devotional blog to all. And we invite you, (no obligation), to consider supporting the GLOW ministries in 2016. A monthly recurring gift of just  25 cents per post ($6/month) provides a nutritious meal for 5 hungry children each month. 50 cents per blog  ($12/mimageonth) provides 144 meals over a yeaimager. One dollar per post ($24 per month) provides needed educational supplies and basic medicines where access to clean water is difficult.

 

We invite you to partner with us in 2016 in following Jesus when he said:

 

“In as much as you do this to the least of these you do it unto me.” – Matthew 25:40

Tax deductible gifts may be made online through PayPal or credit card: Go to www.GoLightOurWorld.org/giving OR¬†by check to:¬†‚ÄúGo Light Our World‚ÄĚ 1020 N 5th Ave W, Newton, IA 50208

 

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Rejoice! Always rejoice in the Lord!

And there are three other ways to partner with GLOW that don’t cost a penny:

1.  Join us in regular prayer for GLOW and its recipients. Email us if you want to receive regular mission updates: thayers@GoLightOurWorld.org

2: Simply press “Forward to a friend” or “Friend on Facebook” (bottom of this post) to others you think might be blessed by our daily message. Spread the light among your friends and build the GLOW community.

 

3.  Reimagead and write your own review of Go Light Our World at Great NonProfits: http://greatnonprofits.org/org/go-light-our-world.

 

We are blessed in order to bless others, to live simply so others can simply live.

Marcia and Bryan Thayer for Go Light Our World

Marcia and Bryan Thayer for Go Light Our World (at Mercy Hospital)

Thank you for prayerful consideration of partnering with GLOW.

It’s not too late for a one-time or recurring gift that begins in 2015 and continues bringing the light of Jesus to a dark¬†and needy world in the new year! ¬†Be blessed in your daily reading and in growing closer to God.

 

 

How do the children in your life see God?

 

It’s interesting to know what goes on in the minds of kids. I remember watching the original Art Linkletter show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” One of my more memorable episodes was when Art asked how many brothers and sisters they had. One boy replied, “There are six of us.” Art followed up, “And what are their ages?” The boy answered: “Well, I’m 7 and the others are 6, 5, 4, 2, and 1”. “What happened to 3?” Art asked. The boy quickly retorted, “Oh, that’s the year we got the new color TV!”¬†Yes, kids do say the darnedest things. And it seems they have an opinion about everything, including God.

 

How do the kids in your your life see God?

 

Jounalist Kelly Wallace asked her children this question. Her youngest daughter sees God as the moral of stories. Her older daughter sees God as having control over everything. She turned to author Monica Parker who wrote a book on the subject. Even in houses with no particular spiritual connection, kids have thoughts about God. Here are some of her findings:

Her 7 year old son said, “I know who’s seen God…doctors, when they cut people open.”

God doesn’t have a house. He doesn’t need one except on Sundays when he needs to rest. – Ethan 8

“I wish God could make me famous SOON!” – Kayla 8 1/2

“I call God when I need help with things but not my homework, because my mom says I have to do that by myself.” – Jackson, 7.

“My father never believed you were real but my mom did, but then she got sick and now he prays to you but my mom doesn’t anymore.” – Max 8

“My mom talks to God when we need more money.” – Manny 6

Emerson, age 12, asks whether really is a God. Uma 12, says “God lives wherever you imagine.”

 

Do you talk with the children in your life about God? There are many questions to be asked to open the conversation. Who is God? What do you see when you think about God? Where does God live? And so many more. You’ll likely find that sometimes we tell kids about God, but other times, the child becomes our teacher, reminding us of truths we’ve forgotten. Sometimes, the questions lead to more questions, allowing for relationship building.

 

Reading the bible together in a version they will understand, you might learn more by asking, “How was the child David able to beat the giant warrior Goliath?” “Why do you think Jesus so enjoyed spending time with children?” ¬†“What does it means when it says, God so loved the world?” “Why do you think Jesus asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

 

We would also do well to ask ourselves what our words and actions tell children about God. Do they hear you pray? Do they see you applying his Word to your everyday life? What language and temperment¬†are they picking up? ¬†What people see when we’re angry or hurt tells a lot about what we think about God. There’s much to gained and given in mutually beneficial relationships with children. It offers you to be both the teacher and the student. Oh, and that story about Jesus and the children? It wasn’t only to show us how valuable they are, but to also demonstrate our need to slow down and enjoy these young treasures while sharing our God given wisdom with them. If we don’t talk to the kids in our life about God someone else will. And what do you think they might teach them?

 

 

How important is prayer?

 

We received a wonderful Skype video call yesterday from dear friends in Australia. They took us under their wing when we lived in a little cottage across the road from them in Burradoo, New South Wales decades ago.  Over the years and over nearly ten thousand miles our friendship has always grown closer. Each time we get together, we seem to pick up right where we left off, like when they hosted us at their lovely home in 2009 and when they visited us just last summer. How thankful we are they came when my health was still reasonably good! True friends like that are rare.

 

As they shared the testimonies they saw coming from our journey through cancer we asked them about their own testimonies. Colin shared ¬†about a time decades ago when he traveled internationally for his company. His business called him to Vietnam, which at that time didn’t allow bringing bibles into the country. Of course he brought his and, often being forgetful, left it at the guest house where he was staying. ¬†(Accidents happen, you know.) Anyway, twenty years after leaving the bible, the house host contacted him to say she found something he left but wasn’t going to give back to him. She not only read the bible but joined a bible study group and became a Christian. Twenty years is a long time to wait for the answer to prayer. But it’s worth it!

 

Then they recalled an incident just a month or so ago when he found his wife Carol on the floor with an extremely high heart rate. Once at the ER, the doctors were able to lower it, but not nearly low enough to be out of the danger zone. Colin said, “I think we need to pray about this.” In less than a minute from beginning his prayer, they heard tones from the machine indicating that her pulse was at normal rate. The nurse who was witness to this called the doctor to come into the room. The doctor came into the room at once and asked what had happened. Colin said he prayed over the situation and immediately she was healed. They asked what they should do if this ever happened again and the stunned doctor said, “I think you should pray!”

 

It remains a mystery why God answers some prayers instantly according to our exact request and why sometime he tarries for twenty years or more. And even why we sometime feel our prayers go seemingly unanswered. It’s a mystery to us because we see dimly but not to God who sees us with perfectly clear vision, who hears our cries and never ever leaves our side.

 

Our job isn’t to figure things out but to remain faithful, to keep hope and trust in the Lord. David asked himself: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him For the help of his countenance.” Psalm 42:5 ASV

 

Whatever ails or perplexes you, whatever sets you on edge and casts you into despair, you can bring your honest prayer to Almighty God and end with, “for I will yet praise you, my Lord, my God in whom I trust.”

 

Your prayer, when given with thanksgiving, may be the most powerful force on earth as it draws you closer to your creator and brings you unspeakable peace. It all begins with, “And yet…”

 

The battle for authority

 

Who has authority in your life? Are you in charge? Or does God have real authority over your problems and struggles? Or maybe someone else pulls the strings that make you feel like a marionette puppet.

 

Maybe you’ve asked for the Holy Spirit to fill your life. You’ve asked him¬†to give you the eyes of Jesus so you can really notice the people around you and around the world. That sensitivity both empowers us through the Holy Spirit and sometimes can overwhelm us if we step away from the Spirit and try to do things on our own. ¬†I think it is a daily battle for the best and strongest of us. Maybe it’s harder for the strongest of faith, because we start to believe that if we have strong faith it should be strong enough for every trial. But it occurs to me that while faith expressing itself through love IS the only thing that counts (Galatians 5:6) it is not just the faith, but the source and OBJECT of our faith that wins the battle. Scripture reminds us that God himself fights at our side. He has our back and he fights within us too if we let the Spirit do his part.

 

As for me, it’s often a daily battle because I so easily slip into the mode that says, “I’ve got this; I can do this on my own.” Or I see all the needs around me and begin thinking it’s my job to fix them all. Not so. Ask the Spirit, “what, if anything do you want me to do? The Spirit doesn’t call us to fix every need. Not every conversation is meant to be a gospel presentation. The Spirit also shows us how to be happy in the Lord, how to relax, how to “Let go and let God.” CS Lewis explains: “We must give our lives for others, but even while we’re doing it, I think we’re meant to enjoy our Lord and, in him, our friends, our food, our sleep, our jokes, the birds’ song and the frosty sunrise.” (CS Lewise, The Collected Letters)

 

I ask that Jesus remind you to let the joy of the Spirit wash over your mind (and mine) with the truth of how very much he loves you, how perfectly worthy and pleasing you are in his sight, because he sees the glory of God in your redeemed spirit. Jesus said, “ALL authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” And BECAUSE that same authority lives in your heart through the person of the Holy Spirit, THAT is precisely the authority that reigns over fear, anxiety, despair, loneliness, guilt, and everything else the enemy throws in our face every day. It is our faith in THAT authority that makes us more than overcomers when we FEEL overwhelmed. It is THAT authority that allows us to be hard pressed but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but NOT destroyed. It’s his authority that overcomes the so called authorities of this world.
Be blessed under and in the authority of Jesus Christ in your every battle and every joy.

 

 

Does it really matter what we believe?

 

Some say that, from the womb to the tomb, all religions are basically the same. To support that premise, people will reflect how most world religions focus on doing good, alleviating the burdens of others living for something greater than ourselves, and reaching a point of freedom from bondage to material things and hurtful habits and thoughts. According to prominent polls, many professing Christians agree with this “works-based” theology.¬†Their motto might be, “As far as I can, do my best. Let God have mercy on all the rest.” The emphasis is on doing “enough” good works and striving in all our own power to reach a higher, more noble level of living or attaining God’s acceptance. What do you think?

 

Two thoughts come to my mind about this matter:

1. Even IF this were true, what about on the other ends of this spectrum? Were you cast into this world at birth by some random chance or was there a heavenly design imprinted upon your soul? And at the other end of the spectrum, what happens after you die? Some of my friends believe they will be reincarnated, hopefully to a higher level. Others think they will become fodder for the worms, energy for what eventually grows from that spot. IF this were true, are we disadvantaged living the Christian life with no hope of resurrection? One Christian said “I’d rather live my life as if there’s God, and die to find out there isn’t, than to live my life as if there isn’t and die to find out there is.”

Though this popular statement appeals to me at some level, Paul takes it further and disagrees:

“If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. – 1 Corinthians 15:13-19

Some live in faith there is no life ever after. We maintain there is, through the power of the resurrection of Jesus. Paul says that if our faith is misplaced it is futile and we are to be pitied. However we stand firm in our faith which brings power after death . . . AND right now as we live.

 

2. Is life really the same from the womb to the tomb for all religions? First, let’s consider that true Christianity is not a religion but a personal relationship with a personal God. This relationship is based on a living God, Jesus, who not only died for our sins but was raised from the dead, giving power to raise us from the dead and live with him forever. But there’s more. He gave us his very Spirit so we could have his authority and power in THIS life. Like many Christians, I lived much of my life more in defeat than victory because I was trying to overcome my troubles in my own power. It’s not until we cooperate with the Holy Spirit who lives in us that we find contentment and peace in place of peril, assurance in time of doubt, victory in the face of failure, and hope in the face of despair. Isn’t that what you want?!

 

The power of the Holy Spirit is what makes true Christianity different in this present life AND in the life ever after. It really does matter what you believe, when you act on that belief.

 

Application: Am I living in victory because of the Spirit? If nor, what do I need to do today to claim that victorious life style?

 

 

Are you ready for Christmas?

This advent devotional by Sharon Jaynes (made available through BibleGateway.com) so touched and challenged my heart. I hope Sharon’s writing speaks to your heart too.

Ready for Christmas
by Sharon Jaynes

Today’s Truth

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” (Matthew 3:2 NIV)

Friend to Friend

It seems like everywhere you go during the month of December people ask the same question. At the grocery checkout counter–“Are you ready for Christmas?” At the bank drive through window–“Are you ready for Christmas?” At the doctor’s office–“Are you ready for Christmas?”

I think the answer to that question depends on how you define “ready.” Let me ask you this question: “Are you ready for Jesus?” Now that puts the idea of being ready in a whole different Christmas light, doesn’t it?

John the Baptist was sent by God to get the people ready to meet Jesus. Here’s what Matthew had to say about him:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

“A voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for him.'”…

“People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” (Matthew 3:1-3, 5-6).

We don’t like the words “repent” or “repentance” very much. They mean “to make a radical change in one’s life, to turn and go in the opposite direction from sin (another word we’re not too fond of today) to God.” Repentance involves an element of grief over the way we have lived apart from God and a decision to run toward the Father. That was God’s idea of the way to prepare for Christ’s arrival in the book of Matthew, and it is still God’s idea of preparing to worship Him today.

Let’s reflect for a moment on the words to this poem and then answer the question, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

“Ready for Christmas,” she said with a sigh
As she gave a last touch to the gifts piled high…
Then wearily sat for a moment AND READ
Til soon, very soon, she was nodding her head.
Then quietly spoke a voice in her dream,
“Ready for Christmas, what do you mean?”
She woke with a start and a cry of despair.
“There’s so little time and I’ve still to prepare.
Oh, Father! Forgive me, I see what You mean!
Yes, more than the giving of gifts and a tree.
It’s the heart swept clean that He wanted to see,
A heart that is free from bitterness and sin.
So be ready for Christmas – and ready for Him.

Let’s Pray

Dear Lord, I want to be ready for Jesus today and everyday. I come to You now in repentance for my sins: my sin of selfishness, stubbornness, and rebellion. I turn from my self-centeredness today and commit to keep my focus on You. God, I cannot do this on my own. I am not able. So I ask that you fill me with the power of Your Holy Spirit Who empowers me to obey. Thank You that You have given me every thing I need for a life of godliness and truth. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Now It’s Your Turn

What do you think it means to be “ready for Christmas?”

What do you think it means to be ready for Jesus?

Go back and read the parable of the ten virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. Notice the difference between the five who were ready and the five who were not. Which group more resembles your readiness for Christ?