Thursday, November 29, 2012

Will you enjoy or endure?

The Christmas season has a nostalgic enjoyment for many reasons. There are the "family recipes" that remind us of happy gatherings around the table in years past. There are the traditions associated with Christmas celebrations at home, at different family members' homes, & at church. There are the songs of the season, & certain songs that touch our hearts with sweetness as they remind us of those we have loved and lost, or those who are far away. There are also the ornaments and other decorations, some of which have been passed down from one generation to the next. This is part of the wonder of Christmas...enjoying the memories & continuing the traditions!

There can also be sights, sounds, and scents that cause sadness or regret. We may have lost those who are dear to us and the season brings sorrow and loneliness. We may be dealing with relatives who are ill and wish we could return to a happier time before illness or age took their toll. We may have bitter memories of family gatherings where there was anger, disappointment, and even violence. For some, the holidays are a time to "put on a happy face" & endure, or hide away in purposed isolation.

The story of Jesus birth was a wonder and a miracle in so many ways, and yet as the years passed, I am quite sure Mary had both joys and sorrows to ponder in her heart. She must have cherished the adoration of shepherd and wise men, while anguishing over the ridicule she faced as a pregnant girl whose fiancĂ© threatened to "put her away". The beauty of the star was accompanied by the smells of the stable. The fulfillment of the Bethlehem prophecy bore the cost of a wearisome trip. The midnight escape with her child was a miracle, but the slaughter of so many young children must have stung her heart. The prophetic words of others rang in her heart - the joy-filled ones lifting her spirit while she felt the fear of the Messianic sacrificial ones.

All of life has its ups & down, its highs & lows. We love the celebrations but endure the cleanup. We enjoy the gifts but dread the shopping. We decorate with joy and just a short time later have to pack it all away again. We are energized by visiting & fellowship, but stress and exhaustion mount as the season continues. While some of it is just the price we pay for what we're doing, the expectations of others can overwhelm us to the point of resentment & ingratitude often dampens our "giving" spirit.
"Well," you say, "it's just part of what we put up with to get through the season". But it doesn't have to be that way!

This Christmas season is sure to have its busyness and stress but your outlook & spiritual frame of mind can go a long way towards helping you enjoy rather than endure. Be sure you concentrate your efforts on making memories, incorporating traditions or making new ones, enjoying the spiritual  celebrations, & spending quality time with the people you love & who love you in return. Determine to be a blessing to others, whether or not you have money to spend. Get enough rest, even if everything doesn't get done. (Don't stress the small stuff because no one will probably notice anyway!) Remember, the bottom line to the season is Love - Jesus came in love, so that we can receive His love, return His love, & spread His love to others whether they know Him or not! If that is your focus, the whole season will be a success, no matter what else may happen! And your memories will end up being sweet, rather than leaving a bitter feeling in your heart!


Monday, November 12, 2012

God’s 12 step plan for conquering our enemies!

There is a great passage in 2 Chronicles 20 about Jehosephat's victory over 3 armies that arisen to fight against him. As I read it, I saw God's 12 step plan for achieving victory over the enemies in our lives. As you read the passage, look at these principles...
1. Recognize that you have enemies, & sometimes they seem impossibly strong. 1 Peter 5:8
2.Be honest with God about your feelings toward your circumstances. He knows anyway!
Psalm 62:8
3. Gather with others to stand with you! Ecclesiastes 4:12
4.Fast and pray, & refuse to allow negatives or worry to derail your faith. Praise, recall, admit, yield!
5. Wait on the Lord for His answer. Don't move out til you get it! Psalm 37:34
6.Listen to the answer & then Worship - He is in control and will not let you down.  Psalm 89: 13-20
7.Obey what He says, even if it doesn't make sense to you! Isaiah 55:8-9
8. Praise and encourage each other as you move forward. Col. 3:16
9. Watch God work on your behalf. Ephesians 3:20
10. Thank the Lord for the Victory. Be truly grateful. Romans 8:37
11.Tell everyone about it, especially your critics. Psalm 138:1-5
12.Rest in the victory and revive your spirit. The next battle will come along soon enough!  John 16:33
If we apply these principles to our daily struggles, we will be living as God requires of us & He will be able to intervene in our situations.