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Now What?



Luke 2:17-20 (NLT)
After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.  The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they  had heard and seen.

Christmas Day is behind us, but I keep thinking about Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.  They had some pretty big stories to tell, didn’t they?  Do you think Mary told anyone of her miraculous conception?  How many times did the shepherds recount the angelic extravaganza?  Did Mary and Joseph tell people step by step the way God had made this all come true? 

All were astonished.  Other translations say they wondered at, marveled about or were impressed by the story.  But do you think they believed?

Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Yet Mary, Joseph and the shepherds had personally experienced the miraculous and knew it was true.  How did their lives change?  The shepherds continued to tend sheep.  Mary and Joseph changed cloth diapers and suffered from new parent exhaustion.  Yet they knew.  How did it change their lives?

Christmas Day is behind us.  Does that mean it’s all over?  How did you experience God’s love this year?  Have you allowed His gift to change your life?  Now what?

It’s TRUE!

Isaiah 9:6-7
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:  and the
government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful,
Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government
and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his
kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from
henceforth even forever.  The zeal of the
Lord of hosts will perform this.
Every year we hear this
familiar scripture in the retelling of the Christmas story.  And every year I have to remind myself that
it comes from the book of Isaiah, written 700
years before Jesus’ birth.
  It always
catches my attention and affirms the Truth of God’s entire story.
When I explain my
absolute certainty in the existence
of a loving God, His Son Jesus who gave his life on our behalf, and the Holy
Spirit who constantly works in my life, part of my answer includes this
prediction and its fulfillment.  My
personal relationship with God started in my 30’s when I studied the whole Bible
(beginning to end). I began to ‘connect the dots’ between Old and New
Testaments and saw how all the books of the Bible comprise one story of God’s
love for us and His desire to give us the best possible life.  As I learned more, I increasingly gained
confidence in its Truth and that
opened my eyes to see that God is still active in my life.
This Scripture from
Isaiah reminds me that God’s plan for the world is True.  It’s not just a story.  This is real.  God loved us (and still loves us) so much
that He became human for the purpose of wiping away our brokenness so we can be
in His presence forever.  Jesus is God’s
incredible gift of Love given to the world as a whole and to each one of us
individually.
I pray with all my heart
that you accept this gift.  God loves you
with a love beyond our capacity to describe it. 
It is True.  Perfect Love came
down from heaven and was born in a stable.

Like a Baby

Three different times [Paul] begged the Lord to take [the thorn in his flesh] away.  Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”  So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.  That’s why I take pleasure
in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NLT)
 
Yesterday we read that we are sent to the world just as Jesus was sent – on a mission.  Let’s also look at how Jesus was sent.  He arrived as a human infant, perhaps the most vulnerable position.  Weak. Dependent.  Powerless.  Vulnerable. As an adult, Jesus tells us He was only able to perform miracles and speak truth as the Father enabled.
 
Paul tells us over and over that God uses us best when we are weak and incapable. God loves showing His power and glory through us.  Our lives most effectively point to
God when it is obvious that the credit can only be His.
 
My life this Fall is an example.  I took on an impossible schedule.  I felt called to all of it and God has been evident in almost every aspect of my Bible studies and writing.  He has used it all for my growth and to benefit others.  I could not have maintained my calm, let alone my sanity, without God’s constant hand.
 
Are you trying to accomplish your mission through your own power? 
Do you keep it safe, controlled, and predictable? 
Is this how God sent Jesus into the world?

On a Mission

From John 17 – Jesus prays
for the disciples (and us)
I brought glory to you here
on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.  I am glorified in those you have given to me.  They do not belong to the world, just as I do
not belong to the world.  Just as you
sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.  I am praying not only for these disciples but
also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.
Why would I be writing about
Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane at Christmas time?
 
Just before Jesus leaves
this world, He talks about why He
came and we are, of course, celebrating His coming.  Why did Jesus take on human form?  God loved us so much and saw that we were
making a mess of things.  He sent Jesus
to rescue us, to show us who God is and to embody His love.  Jesus came on a mission and brought glory to God
by fulfilling His purpose – even in death.
But notice this prayer
in Gethsemane.  Jesus prays for his
disciples and all who will believe in the
future.
  He sends us into the world
in the same way God sent Jesus.  We do
not belong here.  We belong with God and
are here for a short time with the purpose of showing others who God is, displaying
His love and bringing God glory.
In your brief blip in
God’s epic story, how can you best bring Him glory?  Does your life reveal God to others?

Not a Red Bull

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)  
But those who trust in the Lord
will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run
and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
This verse dropped in
my lap this morning.  In June, I saved it
in new messages and today, as I searched through mail for something else, it
rose to the top.  Is it a coincidence
that yesterday I wrote about flying on wings of eagles?  I think not. 
God must want us to spend more time on this lesson.
Those who trust in the
Lord will find new strength.  Pulling out
my new Bible (hee! hee!), I find trust means to wait for, hope, depend, look
for, or expect.  It means to prioritize
your daily activities around the certainty of a future event.  It means trusting God is working even when it
doesn’t look like it or we don’t understand. 
Expect God to fulfill His promises. 
Believe it.  Know it.
 
God isn’t an energy
drink you chug when you’re tired.  Trusting
God is a way of life.  This deep
connection with God energizes us to soar like eagles.

I think there’s a song we could be humming about eagles’ wings…..

Humming Again

Luke 1:38 (NLT)  
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.
Here I am humming again
– one of my favorites. 
Here I am, Lord.  It is I,
Lord.  I have heard you calling in the night.  I will go, Lord, if you lead me.  I will hold your people in my heart.
 
On my most connected
days, these words form the prayer of my heart. 
I want to be used by God.  Nothing
is more exciting!  I want to see the
world through His eyes and use my time and energy for His purposes.  I want to know the sound of His voice and be
flexible and courageous enough to follow. 
It’s ironic that when God is part of my day, I am filled with
unexplained energy and often fly through ordinary tasks on wings of eagles.
Other days though, I am focused
on my to-do list and forget to include God in my activities.  On these days I feel panicked and stressed
about all that needs doing.  I am
impatient and tired.  I may get
everything done, but my mood is much different.
How about you?  Does your day play out differently when you
make room for God?

Plus signs

Matthew 1:23 (NIV)
The virgin will conceive and give birth to
a son, and they will call him “Immanuel” (which means God with us).
I gave myself two early
Christmas gifts.  Is that allowed?  One is prayers for Advent so of course I
couldn’t wait.  The other is a key word
Bible!  I know you’re thinking I have
enough Bibles, but this one explains the original Hebrew and Greek meanings of
key words.  I keep saying I want to learn
Greek because I love the nuances discovered through study of the original words.  This Bible may save me from having to learn Greek
and Hebrew.
My first foray: God with
us.  My new advent book asks if ‘with us’
means someone next to me or holding me. 
Does it mean with me like the blood in my veins or like the beat of my
heart?  No, nearer than that.
‘With us’ means among +
around + aside + before + between + here + inside + middle.  I love all those plus signs!  God is in the midst of us, in every sense.
God is with us.  God is with you.  Absorb that thought a bit.  I’d love to hear how it affects your day.

A Bright Spot

John 8:12 (NLT)
Jesus spoke to the people once more and
said,
“I am
the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness,
because you will have the light that leads to life.”
It’s beginning to look a
lot like Christmas.  The next several
weeks will be the darkest of the year, affecting both my energy and mood.  When the sun sets at 4:30 and I am still
driving to and fro, the Christmas lights are a bright spot.  In the darkness, the lights are particularly
beautiful.
Our world can be a
pretty dark place of injustice, corruption and disease.  But Jesus is the light of the world.  Find your way out of the darkness by
following Him.  Be grateful for what you
have rather than focusing on what you lack. 
Choose to see the positive in people. 
Show love and kindness.  Turn
toward the light and away from the negative.
As parking becomes a
competitive sport, as car horns announce displeasure, as stressed-out shoppers
bump and push, as tired children whine….. shine Jesus’ light into the world.

Faith Snowballs

John 2:5 (NKJV)
Whatever He says to you, do it.
In her book Discerning the Voice of God, Priscilla
Shirer says hearing from God all comes down to obedience.  There’s that word we love so much!  Obedience.
Yes, God desires an
intimate relationship with us but within that relationship He wants our
obedience.  He knows and is telling us
what’s best for our life, but in order to experience our best we must obey.
How often do you ask for
God’s opinion when you know ahead of time how you plan to proceed?  Do you ever disregard God’s guidance as
illogical and talk yourself out of His plan? 
Why would God continue to speak to you when you don’t obey?
It’s a snowball
effect.  God knows your heart when you
ask for guidance.  He knows if you plan
to obey.  He starts small with baby faith
steps.  When you take the action He
directs, He reveals more and more, taking you on the most fulfilling ride of
your life.  Come to Him with a pure
heart.  Risk following His Voice.  Experience God.  It’s exciting!
Matthew 5:8 – Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Plugged In and Energized

John 15:5 (NLT)
Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches.
Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from
me you can do nothing.
We cannot ignore our
relationship with God, especially at this time of year.  In addition to crafting the perfect Christmas
for our family and friends, we buy gifts for less fortunate children, bake cookies
for food cupboards, donate warm coats to the homeless, and sing carols at the
nursing home.   However, when we strike
out on our own in service to Him we get worn out.  We sometimes miss the joy as we tick through
our to-do list.  Without love, it is all nothing
(1 Corinthians 13). 
I find that when I
simply plow through my list of duties, I become stressed and weary.  But seeing each task through God’s eyes gives
me a special kind of energy.  I am simply
a branch extending God’s love to the needy.  When my relationship with God is healthy,
His Spirit flows through me.  His joy
illuminates my smile.  His concern for
every precious child overwhelms my heart. 
His gift of love is shared with each holiday greeting.
I struggle in this busy
season to make time for God.  But in God’s
upside down way of working, the more room I make for Him, the less busy I feel.

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Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts.  If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.
Each post is a brief scriptural thought that will grow as you let it take root in your thoughts. If you have time, dig into one area of interest and plant a whole garden.

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