8 TIPS TO DECEMBER JOY

With Thanksgiving behind us, Christmas is just around the corner. The months, weeks and days are quickly slipping by and soon we will be into another new year. It is a busy time for most people. Out of the busyness comes stress and fatigue to the point that we forget the purpose of this season and lose our joy.

Recently on a ladies’ day out, my friend Michelle reminded us to keep our joy, but also to give it away. She used small gift-wrapped packages to illustrate her point of the gift inside and not allowing anyone (and I add anything) to steal your joy. It is a gift given to you. In like way, do not steal anyone else’s joy by attitudes that are negative or critical. In fact, give the gift of joy to them.

What is this joy?

            And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field,

            Keeping watch over their flock by night.

            And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,

            And the glory of the Lord shone around them,

            And they were filled with fear.

            And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold,

            I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

            For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,

            Who is Christ the Lord.

            Luke 2:8-11 (ESV)

 

The angels were announcing to the shepherds that Christ, meaning Messiah, had come in the form of a newborn baby. This was cause for great joy!

In looking at the New Testament Greek word for joy, you find several definitions. The word is ‘chara’ meaning a calm delight, gladness, it is used of persons who are one’s joy, to rejoice and exultation. Joy is used in scripture as associated with life, the redemptive work of God and an announcement of an occasion of exceeding joy.

Within the last three years, four precious babies have been born into our family. I can relate to the definition of ‘calm delight’. The first time I held each one of those newborn babies, I was filled with such delight that my heart overflowed with love and awe of new life. But it was a calm delight in not wanting to disturb the sleeping little ones. And yes, these little ones are truly my joy.

And so, as we look at the angel’s announcement of great joy, I believe what they are saying to the shepherds is that the redemptive word of God has come to earth bringing new life for all people. That is what Christmas is all about. The joy of new life in Christ Jesus as we commit our lives to Him. He is our joy and our life. He is our calm delight. He is the gift to be shared with others.

As you rush through December, here are some helpful tips for maintaining holiday joy:

  1. Begin each day with Jesus. He is the source of your joy.
  2. Make lists to avoid stress.
  3. Do not try to do everything for the holidays all in one day. Plan in a way that preparations don’t pile up.
  4. When exhaustion weighs your down, stop. Rest. Get a good night’s sleep.
  5. Give thanks to God for the ability to accomplish His purpose in all things.
  6. Purpose in your mind to enjoy family and friends through the holidays free from conflict and pray for your family and friends.
  7. Be joyful that others may see Christ in you.
  8. Be at peace. If it doesn’t get done, it probably didn’t need to be done.

Tent Living

 

Have you ever been camping? Things seem so peaceful when you are out in the sunshine in the woods or by a lake. But all that can change in a moment when the storms come. Life is like that. When things are running smoothly, there is peace. Yet, heavy burdens can weigh us down and we struggle for peace.

But when life seems to be a burden, be encouraged knowing your body is like a tent set up on a camping trip. The campground is only a temporary place you go on weekends or vacations. But eventually you will take down the tent and go home. The tent is your place of refuge while at a place of unknowns. However, while in the tent, storms may come. They may batter and blow the tent and hail may beat holes in the fabric until the tent collapses. That is when you will pack up and go home to a place that is safe.

Our bodies are like that. The Bible tells us we have a house not made with hands; one that is eternal in the heavens. Our earthly body is like the tent that wears out. But as believers in our Lord Jesus, we are guaranteed a permanent home with God for eternity.

In the meantime, we are to live courageously on earth enduring every storm. We are to live by faith knowing we cannot see the future, but believing what God has promised to us through our Savior Jesus. Therefore, we strive to please the Lord in all we say and do as we await our permanent home in heaven.

We find the truth of this illustration in God’s Word:

1For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed,

we have a building from God,

a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

5Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God,

who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

So we are always confident, knowing that while

we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord.

7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.

8We are confident, yes, well pleased

rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

9Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent,

to be well pleasing to Him.

2 Corinthians 5:1, 5, 7-9 (NKJV)

Empowered

Throughout the history of this nation, women have fought for their rights of equality. Many good things have been accomplished over the years by women in leadership. But I believe we have reached a point in time where the motive has become skewed, venturing away from the original purpose of equality. Now we are seeing women’s rights becoming about control.

Don’t get me wrong. I am all for equality and unity. But when the desire for power and control outweighs the purpose of equality and unity, then something has gone awry. It is time to take a step back and look at what God has to say about these things, and how He empowered women in Biblical days without slighting their role as women.

Empowering women to speak the truth of God’s word in love and to stand up for Jesus is a purpose with godly motivation. The Holy Spirit of God empowers women to assess situations with wisdom, act in truth and love to accomplish God’s purpose for their lives. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Is it nothing to be silent about. Women of God, it is time to speak up for our rights as Christians and not allow those with ungodly public platforms to lead us astray or speak for us.

  • If you are a wife, dare to be a woman who enjoys marriage.
  • If you are a mother, dare to be a woman who teaches her children about Jesus.
  • If you are a career woman, dare to stand firm in your faith in your work environment.
  • If you are a school teacher, dare to make a difference in the lives of children.
  • If you are a widow, or single woman, dare to be content with your circumstances.

As a woman of God, you have the ability to assess a situation and act upon the need of the moment in order to accomplish God’s purpose. There are women just like you whose stories are told in the Bible.  These are women who assessed situations, acted upon them and accomplished God’s purpose through their lives. We can learn a lot from their stories as well as how to pattern our lives in a way that follows their examples of courage in the face of difficult, and in some cases, dangerous circumstances. (These stories are the focus of the Bible Study I have written titled, Embracing Faith. The book will be available in July.)

But just as the human nature of Eve took matters into her own hands in an act of daring and disobedience to God, there are examples of ungodly daring in the Bible as well as in the lives of women today. The important thing is to know the difference between godly daring to serve His purpose and ungodly daring to serve human desire. As people, we do not know better than God. His thoughts and way are so much higher than our ways. So, look for God’s intentions in the lives of women of the Bible and you will find His intentions for you as well.

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all, put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14 (ESV)

Communication Gone Haywire (out of control, derailed)

We had just returned from a weekend trip and were gone only three days. Upon return, it was frustrating to open my email and discover I had over 600 in my inbox. As I scrolled through them, the average was only one out of 50 for me personally. The other 49 were solicitations. It seems advertising has taken over our electronic means of communication. These advancements in technology have changed our methods of communication to the point that we are bombarded with more information than we want or need. As a result, we can easily overlook those messages that are important to us personally.

Communication has been vital in building relationships since the beginning of time.  I consider myself a little tech savvy and enjoy the benefits of technology, but one on one relationships have taken a toll from this form of communication. Things seem to be derailed from the original intention of communication for relationship building on a personal level.

I can remember as a young newlywed the excitement of receiving a handwritten letter from my mother. My name was on the envelope and when I opened the letter, I didn’t have to sort through 49 unsolicited ads to get to her message. I also remember my first job in a bank. If you needed to send a message to someone in a different department, you used inter-office memos. There is no doubt that email has made communication easier in an office setting, but for many, even that is antiquated today. Now we have a faster form of communication with texting, or messaging. But all of these modern methods of communication have taken away the personal touch of one on one relationship building.

In looking up the definition for communication, you find the business definition and the relational definition. It is the relational definition that is the purpose of this blog:

In simple terms, interpersonal communication is the communication between one person and another. It is often referred to as face-to-face communication between two, or more, people. Both verbal and nonverbal communication, or body language, play a part in how one person understands another. The Latin meaning is ‘to share’. (From Wikipedia)

If we lose sight of the relationship building aspect of communicating, we can become antisocial and isolated. We can come across in our messages as harsh and uncaring. Following a corporate career, I can remember my first position in a ministry where I was ‘called on the carpet’ for the tone of my emails. I was still communicating in the business style as opposed to the relational style required in ministry. Ministry is about relationship. I had to learn to add ‘hearts and flowers’ to my communication style to prevent the messages from coming across as harsh.

Jesus was all about building relationships. There are many ‘one another’ admonitions in the Bible, such as ‘love one another’. We need to take those commands to heart and apply them to everyday living if we intend to succeed in the journey of life with others. It is important to reach out to one another with a personal touch expressing the love of friendship in a way that we can look into one another’s eyes.

The following are a few steps for making that possible:

  1. Make a call to meet for fellowship, either one on one or in small groups.
  2. Turn off all electronic devices while visiting face to face.
  3. Listen to one another without distractions.
  4. Maintain eye contact.
  5. Think about what the other person is saying without interrupting or thinking about what you want to say next.
  6. Share experiences and interests always with truth at the forefront.
  7. Think relational rather than electronically.
  8. Don’t be derailed by gossip. Stick to the truth.
  9. Most important, share the love of Jesus and God’s word – what God is doing or has done in your life. Allow the love of Jesus to be prevalent in your conversation and actions.

 

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly (sisterly) affection.” Romans 12:9-10 (ESV)

Summertime

Summertime – my favorite time of year. It is a time for a break from the everyday routine. For many, it is a time for vacation, fun, relaxation and family gatherings.

But it is also a time of church mission trips. Packing for a mission trip can be a challenge as there are normally limits on how much luggage you can take. How to squeeze a change of clothes for each day into one small bag is an interesting experience. And don’t forget about all the incidentals plus mission gifts.

Yet when Jesus sent His twelve disciples out on mission, His instruction for their travel was very different. He told them to “take nothing for the journey”, not even a change of clothing! They were not to take a suitcase, food or money. Can you even imagine leaving on a mission trip with only the clothes you are wearing? No purse full of stuff ladies. No briefcase of work to do as you travel, or technology. No snacks. No cellphone. Nothing.

Perhaps the journey was a short one and they would not need provision. However, the words of Jesus dispute that claim by showing their need for housing. Therefore, I believe the message Jesus is teaching them is to trust God as Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord who provides. A change of clothes for everyday is not to be the focus of the mission. Worrying about food and housing was not to be the focus of the mission. Their mission was to preach the kingdom of God for salvation to all who would hear, to heal and to cast out demons. Jesus would be their provision inspiring others to house and feed them.

Jesus, who knows all things sent them out knowing that provisions would be made for them as they obeyed what was asked of them. He had given them the power to do so. When Jesus empowers and we respond, He provides. That is a trust building truth you can count on.

When it seems the provisions in your life journey are not what you wanted or hoped they would be, Jesus provides what is needed. He tells us in Matthew 6:31-33 not to worry about what we will eat or what we will wear. Just take care of today for tomorrow will worry about its own things.

He applied this same message to sending the disciples on mission, and it applies to our everyday lives as well. Focus on the moment. Do what you are sent to do. Trust God to provide.

Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power

and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases. He sent them

to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. And He said to

them, ‘take nothing for your journey, neither staffs nor bag nor

bread nor money, and do not have two tunics apiece. Whatever

house you enter, stay there, and from there depart’. [Emphasis added]

Luke 9:1-4 (NKJV)

Who is Trustworthy?

In a world of political upheaval, violence and sexual assault, the question becomes – who is trustworthy? In the newly released book, Rock Solid Trust, the answer is given for where to turn when trust is shattered beyond human repair. It leads you to the One who was, is and always will be trustworthy, and that is God Himself.

To some, it may seem to be a trite answer, yet I know these things to be true:
• When you suffer, He gives comfort.
• When you feel betrayed, He gives confidence.
• When you are exhausted, He gives strength.
• When you feel lost, He leads the way.
• When you feel threatened, He gives courage and peace.

In all these things, He is everywhere present and always present in your life as you turn to Him. And because He is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble, we can turn to Him with any need or condition. He will always be there for us though we may feel abandoned by others. “The Lord will not forsake His people or abandon His heritage.” Psalm 94:14 (HSCB)

You can read about this and more. To order the book, us this link.

Hope is Confident

If you are constantly disappointed in the results of your expectations, try to think about the difference between unmet expectations and confident expectations. Unmet expectations are disappointing and frustrating, and can lead to long-term pain and anger unless you are able to identify the source and reverse your thinking. Confident expectation is the definition of HOPE. It is the confident expectation of something good to come. Romans 5:5 tells us that hope does not disappoint. Therefore, confident expectation is hope and the opposite of unmet expectations.

Look at the definitions for the words “disappoint” and “disappointment” as stated in Webster’s:

  • Disappoint – To fail to fulfill the hopes of a person
  • Disappointment – The frustration of one’s hopes, annoyance due to failure.

Both definitions include the word “hopes”. And so, if you are not going to be disappointed, two things must occur.

  1. Your expectations are to be according to the will of God. Is what you are expecting in keeping with His word and mission for your life?
  2. Your expectations are to be about your Living Hope who is Christ Jesus and not in people or things. People will disappoint, but hope in God does not.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (I Peter 1:3)

Are your expectations confident that God’s power is shielding you from disappointment? If you have any question about that, look at Ephesians 6:6 to discover the significance of the shield. What is the shield but faith in Him? Lift it up, keep your eyes on Jesus, praising God for the result of what you expect, no matter what the end result may be and you will not be disappointed but rather empowered to press on.

Have this attitude in yourself, that even though Jesus was in very nature God, He humbled Himself to obedience in the will of God. And so, we must ask ourselves the question, what is the will of God in any given situation that comes our way. Are we willing to yield to His will? His expectation of us is to live out the hope that is within us, The Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

In 1965 Bob Dylan wrote a song called Knocking on Heavens Door. It was later recorded by a group called Guns and Roses. I can’t say I was ever a Guns and Roses fan, but a strange thing happened this morning.  When I woke up, the chorus of that song was going through my mind. What it says repeatedly is ‘knock, knock, knockin’, on Heaven’s door.’  So when I got out of bed, I looked up the lyrics and found them to be rather dark. The song is apparently about someone in law enforcement who is dying and feels he is knocking on Heaven’s door. Yet, he talks about ‘that cold dark cloud coming down’.

When I opened my Bible study for the morning, I was amazed that my lesson for the day was about the Kingdom of Heaven. What I read in Colossians 1:13 is that God has “rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the son he loves.” Did you see that? God has rescued us from darkness. There is no darkness when we knock on Heaven’s door and enter in.

In heaven there will only be light – there will be no darkness. We are told in Revelation 3:20 that Jesus stands at the door and knocks. The verse says, “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and have dinner with him and he with me”. Then John, who wrote the Revelation, said this: “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in Heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (Revelation 4:1)

From this we learn that Jesus knocks on the door of our heart, and we knock on the door of Heaven. When Jesus knocks, we are to answer with faith, believing in who He is and invite Him into our lives. Then, when the time comes for us to knock on Heaven’s door before passing into eternity, there will be no darkness, and the doors will be thrown wide open for us to enter in. When we knock, Jesus opens the door.

For the Christian, the message of ‘knock, knock, knockin’, on Heaven’s door’ is not a message of death, but rather of life eternal!

Once we have opened the door of our heart when Jesus knocks, not only are we assured of eternity with Him as we knock on Heaven’s door, but we are promised an open door of response from Him on earth. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks find, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

In this passage, Jesus was teaching His disciples to be persistent in prayer for daily needs, confident that their Father in Heaven would provide whatever was best for them according to His gracious will. The same is true for believers today. After we invite Jesus in as personal Savior, He throws open doors for us that have been closed. The door opens to spiritual wisdom, opportunity, power to accomplish what He asks of us and so much more. Ask, seek, knock that we may find, receive, and know all that is needed for life and godliness.

Jesus is the Light of the World. In Him, there is no darkness at all. As believers, we have a call to action. We are to let His light shine through us to the world around us. The shield of His light dispels the darkness.

“The night is far gone, the day is at hand.

So then let us cast off the works of darkness

and put on the armor of light.”

Romans 13:12 ESV

Something New

For brides preparing what they will wear for their wedding, there is an old saying used to be sure everything is in place for their special day: “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.” This tradition first appeared in print in 1883 and included ‘a silver sixpence in her shoe’ which has since been dropped from the saying.

But I love it because it reminds me of one of my favorite verses of scripture from Isaiah 43:19.

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

In this verse, the word ‘new’ means something fresh or unheard of. What God said He would do was unheard of, but it was going to be fresh. When I think of something fresh, I think of something good and wonderful. Like fresh pastries straight out of the oven with a fragrant aroma you simply cannot resist. Or like fresh flowers from the garden sweetening the air with their fragrance.

The roadway of this verse is referring to a course of life or a mode of action. The river flows through the dry places and seasons of life. God is promising a new way of life. The Prophet Isaiah was proclaiming God’s promise to do something new in the barren hearts of people. That something new is life in Christ.

You could even use the bride’s saying to identify what Isaiah is talking about because we, as believers, are the bride of Christ.

  • Something Old – The old nature that was buried with Christ. – Romans 6:4
  • Something New – The new nature raised to walk in newness of life – Ephesians 4:24
  • Something Borrowed – The word of God through the Holy Bible used to teach us about Him and how to live. It is not our word, it is His word written for us to know Him. It is not just for one, but for all. – Acts 12:24
  • Something Blue – Blue was used in the tabernacle and in making the priestly garments. It was a reminder to the people of God’s covenant with Israel. It was used on the fringes of their robes and on tassels. It is a royal color representing the majesty of God. Blue is still used today as the color identifying Israel on their flag. Therefore, something blue for the bride of Christ is to be a reminder of our relationship with Him. – Genesis 17:2

As the bride of Christ, we are to adorn ourselves in preparation for Jesus our bridegroom and the day when we will meet Him face to face. For to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. I don’t about you, but I don’t want to meet Him with dirt on my face, but rather washed clean through a relationship with Him and the power of the blood He shed for me on the cross.

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV