That’s what they say about this time of year from Thanksgiving to January 1st.Although I’d like to share with you that just because it titled “The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year “ it doesn’t mean it is. Actually for more people than we will know it is the most depressing time of the year. Life doesn’t stop with bad news, tragedy or loss of any kind when the calendar turns to this time of the year. Quite the contrary, the bad news comes, tragedy hits and loss happens. For some loss has already happened and this time of the year makes it harder to bear. For those in mourning it doesn’t turn into laughter and joy just because the song is being sung. The loss of a loved one is a very real and traumatic thing that happens to us all. Whether it’s expected or unexpected it’s all trauma and it hurts. So what does one do during such a time as this when there is no joy? First of all it’s OK to cry. There is healing in tears and second don’t deny the pain and heartache you feel, for in denial one tends to withdraw within themselves. When this happens it’s much harder for one to reach out for the comfort that is so desperately needed. Lets reflect on a story in the scriptures that is a very good example. In John 11:17-45. This is the story of Martha and Mary when their brother Lazarus died. They both were very troubled and mourning his death when Jesus came back into town. In the story Jesus called forth Lazarus from the dead but that is not the part I want to talk about. It’s that place that yes they questioned where Jesus was and why he wasn’t there when their brother was dying but it’s also the part of the scripture that tells us how they in their loss and heartache allowed Jesus into that place to comfort them and help them. It’s that place that we so often close off to God and to others when we are hurting so bad that we can only see the darkness. Mourning the loss of a loved one is inevitable, we are humans living in a fallen world. It’s a part of being human, not the best part but most definitely a part. Before Jesus ascended to the Father he told us he would send us a comforter. Jesus himself said I will give you peace that passes all understanding. Jesus himself is peace. Jesus came to give us life and life more abundantly. How then does the trauma of loss and bad news bring us such despair and rob us of life and peace, and keep us form being comforted?
Another example I would like to point out is when Jesus was on the cross and at that moment the he bore all of our sins on himself and the Father looked away because in him there is no sin. Jesus cried out in agony to the Father saying “My God My God why have you forsaken me?” It was the sin that separated Jesus from the Father and that brought the most agonizing reality to our savior because the presence of the Father wasn’t with him. Jesus died to reconcile us to the Father and nothing will stand in the way of that relationship unless we let it. We are loved with a perfect love and we are given the keys to the kingdom. We shouldn’t be moved away from that gift, that reality and that relationship by what happens here. Yes it hurts beyond words and yes it feels like the life has been sucked out of us. But it hasn’t if we don’t let it. Just like Mary and Martha, they took their sorrow, heartache and loss to Jesus. They still had questions but they allowed him into that place in their hearts. For me the holidays have brought great sorrow. My brother had big plans to join us on Thanksgiving after being away for several years in the service, and as the day grew closer and the excitement was mounting we lost him to a drunk driver in another state. During the holidays that was the most festive time for my mother. Her body could not fight the cancer and the battle was lost on new years day, and for my youngest sister of forty who was a widow and the mother of four young children, her battle to cancer was lost on January 29th. The lights still shine and the music still plays “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” and it doesn’t stop the loss and the heartache. But with my heart open to the one who is peace and the comforter whom Jesus sent to me. I’m one with the Father and yes it still hurts and yes I miss my family but my joy is complete and my life is full. I’ve been given the keys to the kingdom and lights are bright and the songs are being sung, because I’ve chosen life. Life here in the now and life eternal. For those who are mourning loss of any kind, its ok to cry, it’s ok to mourn and it’s ok to ask a question but take all of that to the one who came to give us life more abundant here and eternally. Be honest with yourself and with God so in that confession there is no denial and your heart opens up to the life giver. No matter what time of the year it is, it can be the most wonderful time if we allow ourselves life to overcome the loss. Blessings to you in whatever time of the year you are in and may you allow the giver of life into your life.
Just what does allegiance mean? It means “loyalty or commitment to a superior or to a group or cause.” When I say I pledge my allegiance I am making even more than a statement I am making a proclamation of declaring my total support to someone, something or a cause. As a born again Christian and believer in Jesus Christ and a believer in the one true God my first allegiance is to the one true God of this universe, my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. With that, he has birthed me in a great nation that proclaims its allegiance to be a nation under God. I have stood many times for the pledge of allegiance. many times as my sons have stood before playing in a game or at a college or pro game. I stand proudly and with god bumps up and down my body. I am proud to pledge my loyalty to first my God and second my nation flying the flag of freedom. Just as my savior shed his blood for my salvation and freedom, the blood of great men and women who have shed their blood for my freedom flies the flag. Declaring by not standing for our freedom both spiritually and in this nation sets a precedence of display for a totally different cause. Racial injustice is a cause that begins with each one of us individually. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and examine our hearts personally to see if we are part of this social racial injustice. Just as we have to look at ourselves in the mirror and search our hearts for sin that we may repent and receive our savior. When this happens with each one of us individually we then take measures to stop the injustice we are causing. Oh people wake up and look at yourselves in the mirror and take out the log in your own eyes before you so visibly make a declaration against an innocent flag, people and nation. None of us are without sin, but to declare one cause against our flag and nation that negates the meaning and purpose of respect for the freedom it represents brings a division that destroys not helps or heals. Oh the visual message that this is giving our young people is so opposite of what Christ did for us as well as for what the men and women who fought for us did. By taking a knee is rebellion to every one of us who loves this nation. But rest assured every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. So whether those who bow their knee here on earth for whatever cause or before the one who sits on the throne I encourage everyone to search their soul as to why you are bowing your knee and for what and to whom.
As a believer who has a burden for the lost, God blessed me with a sister in Christ who is also a prayer warrior with me. We spend much time in prayer for our families, friends and even our foes. We have a huge outreach at our church for the nations and praying for all those listed is endless. Nonetheless God has our hearts in this and we are relentless warriors on the behalf of many. I’d like to say that every family member near and far are truly Gods own and I’m sure those of you reading this can say the same thing but truth be told the answer is no. I wish, trusting God and God is faithful, and Jesus is the Savior are but a few phrases we use as we wait for salvation for those we are praying for. A couple weeks ago we were praying over one of our children again, and the scripture came to me in Galatians 4:19 My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you. I decided to read the whole chapter to get a better perspective as to what Paul was saying. Paul begins the chapter reflecting on the law in the Old Testament. Then moves into the fullness of time when Christ was sent as the Messiah to bear our sins and bring us eternal life with God in heaven. Throughout Paul talks about the bondage we were in without Christ and the freedom we have in Christ. He share his own body scars from being tortured and imprisoned and his thankfulness for the love of the body who had not judged him but embraced him to the point of wanting to give all they had for him. Paul is writing to a body that he is not physically close to him and he has learned that they are falling back under the law, not believing and living under Gods grace. In verse 19 he is in agony for them as he says “ I am again in travail for you until Christ be formed in you.” It seems there are some in our prayer time that we truly travail for in agony until Christ be formed in them. Those who know the truth and the way of salvation, but don’t seem to have that revelation that gives them the power to stay the course. In scripture I can always find where God has set the course before us and a brother or sister in Christ has had the same heartache as I am experiencing. Paul said it well “ I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you”. I will stay the course and stay in travail until Christ be formed in those God has given me to pray for. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings conviction and draws people unto Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit who brings us into all truth, teaches us and brings revelation to us. So together with the Holy Spirit I will travail, believe and trust for Christ to be formed in them to stay the course to eternity.
For the past several weeks I have thought much about identity and names. This has me thinking about how important our name is and how much it’s linked to our identity. Proverbs 22:1 says that “ A good name is to be more desired that great riches.” Or in some translations “ a good name is greater than gold.” There are different scenarios in life concerning the name that seems to lead to the same equation of who you are and your identity. One scenario is a blessing for our family but at the same time sadness for another family. One of my sons married a wonderful woman many years ago. In this marriage she brought with her two beautiful young children. We immediately embraced them as our own and now they are grown adults. When our grandson was about to be married he came to my son and asked him to adopt him. This totally took us all by surprise because there is a bio father alive. Without hesitation my son began the process of adoption. It was not difficult because of our grandson being an adult. The adoption went through right before the wedding and we now have a grandson and granddaughter with our name. Soon another adoption went through and it was for our great-grandson who was our grand daughters son when they married. I have often thought about how traumatic of a choice that was for our grandson to relinquish his biological name to bear the name of his step father. All seem to be very happy and thriving in their new identity. Another scenario is a young adult who went through great trauma as a very young child and continued on through their early teens. The two people who gave them their name at birth left this earth when they were still a preschooler and then ended up in a very abusive home until their early teens. I have watched this person struggle in ways that tell they are holding on to the things that they think gives them their identity and security but at the same time they are so insecure and unhappy. These wounds were put on them by others in their young life and now as a young adult they bears the scars. My prayer for them is that they will cry out to the one who can give them true identity and security and that is Jesus. Another is a young teenager who has again been abandoned and neglected all through their formative years. They have an opportunity to be adopted but they aren’t sure about changing their name. They seem to be holding on to the only identity they know. My grandsons decision to change his name was a willful and thought through choice. He isn’t struggling with an identity crisis. The wonderful thing about him is he knows who loves him. The others however are struggling with who they are and they are needing to know they are loved. They don’t’ know what love feels like, looks like and seem to be holding on to a false love. Philippians 2:9 tells us that the name of Jesus is above all names. In him we will have first eternal salvation but peace and security. We will be one with him. In Jesus we will have a name, and know who we are, he tells us we are His. I pray for the walls that have been built up around these hearts, to keep true love out, will begin to crumble. So that they can begin to receive true love, identity and purpose that they were birthed for. To watch an identity crisis play out in one’s life in heartbreaking. It truly takes the love of God in one’s heart to break through the wall and let that person out. 1 Peter 4:8 says“ love covers a multitude of sins.” In these people I see deep wounding and rejection. It’s Gods love that covers sins but it also fills the heart. Opening ones heart to receive love from another human and even God is often a very difficult thing to do when one has been abused. But once we choose to love and be loved and choose forgiveness that love that Peter talks about covers those sins of abuse. Accepting Jesus as your savior is the beginning of eternally knowing Gods love and who we are in Christ and who he is in us. Then we will come to know who we are inside and out.
One of the things I love about my job is the interesting people who come in to the store. A few weeks ago an older woman came into the store and as I was helping her I asked her what project she was working on. She told me and we talked about it for a minute but them she said to me “ hold out your hand I want to give you something” I was not sure what to think but I held out my hand anyway. She placed in the palm of my hand, this little rock that was painted like a ladybug. As I looked at it she began to tell me that she finds these little rocks and paints them to look like little bugs of some sort. This happened to be a ladybug. She then went on to tell me that she selects certain people to give them too and I was the one she selected that day. She went on to tell me that she gave it to me to pray for me and that it was to remind me to pray for someone and her. I felt honored that she chose me that day and placed the rock in my pocket. I did pray for her and someone else that day every time I put my hand in my pocket and felt that rock. But then it ended up on my dresser. Today as I was dusting I saw that ladybug rock and was reminded not only of that beautiful lady but, of what that ladybug rock meant. So now it’s in my office next to my bible and my computer fulfilling it’s purpose to remind me to pray for that precious lady and someone else today. My prayer for that precious lady is for her health and a steady hand to make those little rock bugs and the boldness to reach out and encourage others to pray.
We have been talking lately about the Holy Spirit and how some people don’t know much about him or are afraid of him. As I was reading in Matthew the other day, the scripture in Matthew 1:20 caught my eye .It says that Mary has conceived a child by the Holy Spirit and his name shall be Jesus. Well no wonder some people are afraid of the Holy Spirit, because they will be impregnated with Jesus. Once you’ve conceived, a birth will follow. Paul said in Galatians 4:19 “my children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you”. With any conception there is a labor and birth. Anyone who has birthed a child knows the labor involved or anyone who has birthed anything, like a business or a concept of any kind knows the labor involved and the birthing process. It usually involves blood, sweat and tears. But once done it’s glorious and well worth the labor you had endured. Once you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior you are now impregnated with him. He is living on the inside of you now and as the scriptures tells us through out, our flesh wars with our spirit. As we live each day and go through trials and tribulations involving relationships at home in the office or whatever we are a part of, we can yield to the spirit and lay down our flesh or we can yield to our flesh. But yielding to the spirit is hard work. We are laying down our thinking, our ways ,our wants and our will and giving it to a part of us that will birth Christ in us. His ways His thoughts his will and his character will become us as we birth him onto our very being. This is not an easy process I’d like to candy coat it but let me assure you that the outcome and outlook will be well worth the labor it took to birth Christ in you. His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts and his love and grace endures forever, as his mercies are new everyday. My friend, our first choice to make Jesus our savior leads to our second choice to make him our Lord! Endure the labor to the end and the birth of Christ in you will be glorious and eternal.