Silence & Song (Advent Week 3)

Christmas Day is quickly coming!  We’ve spent the last two weeks focusing our thoughts on welcoming the events and people in our lives as direct gifts from God–for that is what they are.

This week, let’s concentrate on choosing only silence or song as the sound of our days.

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Instead of chatter, meaningless words or grumbling, let’s choose to sing songs of praise.  Instead of frantic rushing about with noises in our ears and in our minds, let’s choose quietness–that we will hear and celebrate our God more fully.

We live in a noisy world….quiet is a rare commodity, seldom experienced, appreciated or even sought.  God uses it often and well!  He calls us to quiet and promises us strength.

“…Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength.”  Isaiah 30

When our world is not noisy, the sounds that fill our world are not songs but the buzzing of schedules and negativity.  Every day is a day the Lord has made; praise ushers us into His presence.  As Christmas Day draws closer, be intentionally about quieting listening for God or loudly praising Him!

Throughout the week, pause each day to refocus on the blessed truths of the One who is coming…and how we can receive Him and share Him with others every day!

Mon.          Luke 1:67-79       Heart Focus:  Use your words only for the praise of God

Tues.          Job 37:14              Heart Focus:  In silence consider that one day every knee                                                             will bow before Jesus Christ!

Wed.          Hebrews 2:6-8     Heart Focus:  Rightly praising God requires ALL eternity!

Thurs.        Isaiah 9:6               Heart Focus:   True fulfillment & joy is found only in Jesus.

Friday       Psalm 81:1-3           Heart Focus:  What song (or story) is in your heart that                                                                needs to be told?

Saturday     Luke 2:8-9             Heart Focus:  Divine encounters are His desire…seek Him!

As we celebrate this season, may we keep in the front of our minds that Jesus is coming again!  He will not be coming as a vulnerable baby–but as the conquering King.  Let us do all we can to encourage others to prepare Him room.  See you next Sunday!

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Strong & Flexible

Have you ever been disappointed?  You expected to do something or get something that you never got?  You gave your best but things didn’t turn out as you hoped?

Of course, you have.  Everyone knows the dismay of disappointment.  That’s why this Christian Character Trait matters so much.  It is a trait we need to bear the weights and blows of life:  FLEXIBILITY.

Things often do not go as we expect or hope…but we don’t need to let those things break us or even bend us out of shape.  We need the strength to be flexible and this verse is the key to spiritual flexibility:

Set your mind on things above not on earthly things.  Colossians 3:2

What we choose to think about determines our strength and flexibility!  If our eyes are not focused on eternal truths of God, we will be rigid and unbending.  We’ll be hurt and we’ll hurt others.  We want to have the trait of flexibility so we can stand up in the weighty times of life!

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In our physical bodies, muscle flexibility is a desirable companion to muscle strength.  All muscles work in pairs – biceps & triceps, quadriceps and hamstrings and so on.  When one of the pair is used more than the others two different types of weakness happens.  The unused muscle is flabby weak and fails to stabilize its partner muscle.  Joint damage is a common outcome.  The other weakness will be in the ‘strong’ muscle.  That muscle will be tight and vulnerable to tears and injuries.  A lack of flexibility creates discomfort and damage.  Spiritually the same truth can be seen.

Rigid, unbending faith that puts God in a box is a weak faith.  It is a demanding faith that places great strain on self and others.  Faith is the substance of things NOT seen.  Faith without flexibility is not faith it all—it rests on what has been experienced, what one can do, what is known as ‘fact’ — there is no room for a supernatural God.  God never violates His character as revealed in the Bible but He is bigger than any of us.  The Word reminds us no one knows a matter fully.  There is always more to discover about God; He doesn’t fit in any box we can create!  Growing the muscle of faith requires balance between discipline and discipleship.  We must do all we know to do and seek to know God more!

Do you remember when Jesus confronted the Pharisees?  They were religious people who had gone from believing God to believing that good work was the way to God.  The Pharisees even bullied others to be like them but Jesus said they had missed more important things than what they were doing:  justice, mercy and faithfulness.  The Pharisees were strong in small things but their ‘faith muscle’ was tight and weak.  They were trusting in themselves and not God!

Hebrews reminds us that the only way to please God is FAITH!  Faith is a muscle that becomes weak and tense when it is not used.  We use our faith muscle when we trust God for greater things than we can do in our strength.  Real faith takes us beyond our ‘boxes’ and our comfort zones.  Strong faith in God is the road to an abundant life that changes the world!  Faith makes us flexible enough to take the hits of life and keep running toward the glory of God!

Where is God helping you grow your faith muscle?

Hallelujah!! Captive to Jesus

Do you ever have those verses that just stump you?  They tease you with an awareness that there is more than you can grasp.  Treasure those verses.  I promise you, that in the fullness of time, God will give you beautiful revelations with them.  I want to share one of those that tugged at me for years.  Paul quotes the Psalmist:

That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.”  Ephesians 4:8

Psalm 68:18 When you ascended to the heights, you led a crowd of captives. You received gifts from the people, even from those who rebelled against you. Now the LORD God will live among us there.

I have chewed on this verse for years…drawn pictures, diagrammed the sentence (yes, I am odd) and chased the root words in Hebrew and Greek.  But it was the sweet work of the Holy Spirit that finally showed me what that looked like in me.

It takes a confession to explain.  I have never denied being stubborn.  I wore it as a banner, in fact.  Confessing is not repenting.  I saw that the stubborn-ness had benefited me sometimes.  I saw that being stubborn helped me walk in obedience.

Now, God also showed me those terribly convicting verses that equated stubborn-ness with witchcraft and rebellion.  But they just didn’t fit–or so I thought.

A casual remark that a more mature Christian held me accountable for opened the door to the Light.

“I hate rules,” I said.

“God loves rules.  He is a God of order.  Where do you think that came from?” my mentor challenged.

In my natural mind, the answer was honest:  “I don’t know.”  But the Spirit knows and when I asked, He immediately revealed that pivotal point in time when I choose rebellion.  The details of the scene are something I’ll share with those who ask but they don’t matter to this piece.

I was a child–perhaps 12.  It was a decision that changed my future but not one that confounded God.  He knew and He mapped my life to utilize that offensive choice.  I chose captivity to rebellion.  It cost me a lot.  It injured many.  But God kept wooing me, and I surrendered to Him to the limits I understood.

I didn’t know to surrender the stubborn-ness. I suspect I didn’t trust Him Freedbyloveto guide me without it.  I had used it for so long.  I couldn’t see it for its deadly yuck.

Now, look back to those verses that had called to me.

In His loving patience, He had taken that sin captive.  I was not using it for good…God had it all along!  He accepted ‘gifts’ from this rebel simply because I believed in Him. He worked greater things than I understood…He let me take credit for His work.  He let me even give credit to sin.   That’s the heart of the loving Father, the heart of the humble Savior!

Do you see the mercy, power and glory of God in that?  

He is not daunted by our dirt, but He doesn’t leave us in it!  His transformation plan includes taking the yuck into captivity until such time as we can surrender it to Him.

Our journey through life is about allowing the Spirit increasing room in our lives.   Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil.  He came to provide abundant life.  The Spirit leads us into that life when we walk with Him in faith!  Will you let Him do what He desires?  When God created the world, he said “Let there be…”  We have the same creative option!  Will you let Him?