Assurance

I’m sure about this: the one who started a good work in you will stay with you to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus. I have good reason to think this way about all of you because I keep you in my heart. You are all my partners in God’s grace, both during my time in prison and in the defense and support of the gospel. God is my witness that I feel affection for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus.

This is my prayer: that your love might become even more and more rich with knowledge and all kinds of insight. I pray this so that you will be able to decide what really matters and so you will be sincere and blameless on the day of Christ. I pray that you will then be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes from Jesus Christ, in order to give glory and praise to God. ~Phil 1:6-11 (CEB)

God is in the business of saving hearts. It may come in bits and pieces here and there but it doesn’t come over night. It takes time and it is a process. God changes our hearts through grace. It rewires us. In his book You Gotta Keep Dancin’ Tim Hansel says that we are rewired from insecure to God secure. From regret-riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid-to-die to ready-to-fly.

As I enter into this second week of the New Year I am starting to question some of my New Year’s resolutions. When I was making them there were sound arguments for the changes that I wanted to make and with the New Year it seems like a good place for fresh starts. But change comes slowly.

The same Voice that calls for me to change will give me the strength to make the changes that are needed. I just need to hold onto God’s promise, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you.” (Ezk 36:26) But where does this “new heart” come from? Paul said in Gal 2:20 “It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.” When I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior he moved into my heart, transplanting my heart for his. I may not be perfect but Jesus is and through the grace that God has bestowed on me I am being changed every day, shaped every day, strengthened every day, emboldened every day… softened every day by that grace.

I may not always see the changes in me, but scripture tells me “… the one who started a good work in you will stay with [me] to complete the job by the day of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:6)

So I have the assurance that maybe not in my time but in God’s timing I will one day be who I need to be.

Day by day, Lord, strengthen me, shape me, change me, embolden me and soften me so that I am always moving on towards that perfection that is promised me for the day of Christ Jesus. Amen.

For the New Year

So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.

If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.

So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!

All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation.

So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, Be reconciled to God! ” God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:11-21(CEB)

“What is our task in this world as children of God and brothers and sisters of Jesus?  Our task is reconciliation.  Wherever we go we see divisions among people – in families, communities, cities, countries, and continents.  All these divisions are tragic reflections of our separation from God.  The truth that all people belong together as members of one family under God is seldom visible.  Our sacred task is to reveal that truth in the reality of everyday life.

Why is that our task?  Because God sent Christ to reconcile us with God and to give us the task of reconciling people with one another.   As people reconcile with God through Christ we have been given the ministry of reconciliation” (see: 2 Corinthians 5:18).  So whatever we do the main question is, Does it lead to reconciliation among people?” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

Merry Christmas!

Lord, in the words of St. Francis, “make me an instrument of Thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love; for it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.”

 

What’s there to hold on to

So what are we going to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He didn’t spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. Won’t he also freely give us all things with him? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect people? It is God who acquits them. Who is going to convict them? It is Christ Jesus who died, even more, who was raised, and who also is at God’s right side. It is Christ Jesus who also pleads our case for us. Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “We are being put to death all day long for your sake. We are treated like sheep for slaughter.”

But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. I’m convinced that nothing can separate us from God’s love in Christ Jesus our Lord: not death or life, not angels or rulers, not present things or future things, not powers or height or depth, or any other thing that is created. ~Romans 8:31-39 (CEB)

 

“Life is unpredictable.  We can be happy one day and sad the next, healthy one day and sick the next, rich one day and poor the next, alive one day and dead the next.  So who is there to hold on to?  Who is there to feel secure with?  Who is there to trust at all times?

Only Jesus, the Christ.  He is our Lord, our shepherd, our rock, our stronghold, our refuge, our brother, our guide, and our friend.  He came from God to be with us.  He died for us, he was raised from the dead to open for us the way to God, and he is seated at God’s right hand to welcome us home.   With Paul, we must be certain that “neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord”  (Romans 8:38-39).” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J.M. Nouwen

A New Year looms ahead. The possibilities are endless. Sadness and happiness are mixed at the close of an old year; anxiety and excitement greet the New Year. What will it hold? For most there is the underlying hope that the New Year will be better. I may not know what tomorrow and the New Year will bring but I do know that Jesus came down from God to hold my hand through whatever I face, both the good times and the bad.

Merry Christmas!

I ask you Heavenly Father to walk with me into this New Year. I welcome Your Presence in my life. I thank You for the gift of Your Son to guide and direct my steps as I enter the New Year with a clean slate of possibilities. May I ever hold close the belief that You will use all things for my good. Amen.

The Key

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the one who is first over all creation, Because all things were created by him: both in the heavens and on the earth, the things that are visible and the things that are invisible. Whether they are thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities, all things were created through him and for him. He existed before all things, and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the one who is firstborn from among the dead so that he might occupy the first place in everything. Because all the fullness of God was pleased to live in him, and he reconciled all things to himself through him— whether things on earth or in the heavens. He brought peace through the blood of his cross. ~Col. 1:15-20 (CEB)

Christmas holds the key to unlocking the deepest mysteries of my life: Who am I, where did I come from, is there meaning to my life, and where am I going?

In Christmas rests the revelation of God’s self to humankind. Through Jesus’ birth I can now understand God in human terms. Because of Jesus I can make sense of my life and understand more fully who I am and where I am going.

If we were left with just the creation story and the sacred texts we might feel that God is distant, uncaring and unapproachable. But when Jesus appeared as the revealer of a divine God, God becomes nearer, more loving and approachable. Now we know that God understands us and that we can begin to understand God. The birth of Jesus allows an experience of God with us and within us.

The great mystery of God unfolds in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Now I know who I am- God’s beloved child; to whom I belong- my faithful redeemer; and where I am going in my journey of life- to a place prepared for me.

The wait is over… The nights are getting shorter…  Merry Christmas!

What a humbling thought O Lord, to think that You, the Creator of more than my limited vision can see, loves me and calls me His beloved child. Today I thank You for sending Jesus into the world to reveal to me Who You are. Without his example of Your love for me I might not be able to grasp how far, how wide, how high and how deep Your love for me really is. Thank You for the story of Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection. May I remain secure in my knowledge of Your love as go out into a hurting world. May I be a reflection of Your mighty love to everyone that I meet this day. Amen.

Let it be as You have said

Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. ~Luke 1:38 (CEB)

“We know we are entirely dependent upon God, yet we forget and try to make our own provision for tomorrow or waste our energy in anxiety and fear that we will be forsaken when tomorrow comes. Mary was able to trust her life fully to the everlasting arms, sure that she would be upheld no matter what the future brought. ‘I am yours’. Help me to remember you provided for me as a helpless baby: you provide for me now and will provide for me through eternal ages. Help me to live as one life totally given to you.” ~From A guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, I know deep in my heart that You will provide all my needs, especially as I try to walk in obedience to your will. Guide my steps, strengthen my will, hold my hand as I try to walk this day for You, I am Yours. Amen.

Wash me of preconception

 

 

From ancient times, no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any god but you who acts on behalf of those who wait for him!  ~Isaiah 64:4 (CEB)

The contemplation of God is not effected by sight and hearing, nor is it comprehended by any of the customary perceptions of the mind. For no eye has seen and no ear has heard, nor does it belong to those things which usually enter into the heart. One who would approach the knowledge of things sublime must first purify one’s manner of life from all sensual and irrational emotion. That person must wash from his or her understanding every opinion derived from some preconception and withdraw from customary intercourse with companions, that is, with sense perceptions, which are, as it were, wedded to our nature as its companion. When so purified, then one assaults the mountain.

The knowledge of God is a mountain steep indeed and difficult to climb- the majority of people scarcely reach its base. If one were a Moses, he would ascend higher and hear the sound of trumpets which, as the text of the history says, becomes louder as one advances. For the preaching of the divine nature is truly a trumpet blast, which strikes the hearing, being already loud at the beginning but becoming yet louder at the end. ~From Gregory of Nyssa

Help me O Lord, to climb the mountain. I want to hear the trumpet blasts this Advent season. May all my preconceptions be washed away so that I can truly experience You in my life. Amen.

One long night…

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger. ” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us. ” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told. ~Luke 2:8-20 (CEB)

Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. Isn’t it? TV shows and commercials illustrate Christmas time as the … “most wonderful time of the year…” So if Christmas makes you blue… (now I have Evis singing in my head) or even flat out depressed it can be isolating in the sea of celebrations. It can leave some people gloomy finding the holidays anything but jolly, while still others will have experiences that make it difficult to be merry and bright.

When I think of the Advent story it seems to me to start out in the dark and cold, even in the midst of hopelessness. But it is also part of a bigger story of God’s grace waiting our discovery. It is a story of hope.

Sometimes the hype and clichés of the season distract us. The clever marketing ploys succeed in making us desire tangible things we can hold in our hands. Marketing gives us false illusions of how we can find happiness. However all the marketing efforts, hype and catchy logos cannot answer the deep questions of the heart, or address the pain that might reside there, explain the mystery of God’s presence, or even comprehend the meaning of our existence. It also does not help us to understand why bad things happen.

Advent can give us hope though in the midst of our isolation and false illusions because it tells us a story of how God humbled himself, intimately and personally through the birth of Jesus. Sometimes we blow off Advent as just another blip on the church calendar but it is meant to be something more. It is meant to lay a new path of faith for the new year ahead.

In the remembering and retelling of the magical story we are reminded that God loved us so much he allowed Jesus to come down here in the form of a fragile infant to be born in the lowliest of places. The retelling of the story is to remind me why Jesus came into the world in the first place, so that I might have life and live in the light.  I am reminded with the Advent story that God is a hands-on God willing to become vulnerable just so that I might catch a glimpse of how much He loves me. This story tells me that Jesus loved me so much that he came down to earth to be in the darkness with me and to walk with me as I search for the light.

Advent is meant to confront me once again with God’s unparalleled effort to communicate the message that I am embraced and held by a God of love. The Advent season is the time that I can shake off the failures, the victories and the sorrows of the past. I am given a new clean page. Again and again we see in the Bible that God is a God of second chances and the healer of broken hearts. Jesus Christ has come, is present with us, and will come again in final victory when all darkness, pain and evil will be no more.

Heavenly Father, it gives me great comfort to know that You are big enough to handle all my sorrow, all my questions and all my fear. I am thankful that You are a God who is willing to come down to earth and be with me where I am, even if the place You find me is darkness. Even in the darkness I am not hidden from You. I may be worried that I will put others off during this “happy season” with the questions and fears that are hidden in my heart, but I know that You will never turn from my sorrow. You will never brush off my questions. You will never be upset with me if I have the “wrong feelings” for the season. You simply tell me that feelings just are.  Dear Lord, I thank You for sitting with me here right now, waiting with me through this long night, reminding me that there is always a dawn. Amen.

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