For Such A Time As This

Maximizing everyday moments to glorify God

Immanuel – The Greatest Gift

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel – which means God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Did you know that from the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament, 400 years passed without a single word from God? 400 years! That’s a really long time for complete silence. It’s hard to imagine what people must have thought. Did God die, was He angry, or did He just stop caring? Generations passed with nothing but silence.

And then it was time to reopen the communication lines. He was sending His one and only son to the Earth to take human form to become the gift of all gifts. A Savior for mankind.

He could have shaken the foundations of the earth to announce Jesus’ arrival. But, no. Instead it came in the form of the sweet, soft cry on a newborn. Incredible. Can you just imagine what that must have been like for Mary? As a mom, I know the overwhelming surge of emotion that came with giving birth. But, can you even fathom knowing that you are carrying the Son of God?

blue nativityAnd to know that the cry of her newborn baby was the announcement to the world that the silence was broken! Think about that for a bit – I have, and I still can’t seem to think anything but pure amazement. And the news was spread when the angel of the Lord said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) He was here. Our gift of salvation in the form of a tiny baby.

It makes me think about the gifts and blessings in life that I know I take for granted. Breath, our senses, quiet, the beauty and wonder that surround us every day. There are so many subtle, but incredible things that are so easily overlooked, we may not even think about them being gifts from God. God doesn’t have to loudly announce anything. Small, soft whispers are more than sufficient for the Creator of the Universe.

The soft cry of a baby. In a manger. In a stable filled with animals. Where no one could make room. The Savior of the earth. The One who created the stars, yet chose to come and live among us with one purpose. To save us.

As I think about Christmas, it’s easy to get caught up in all the mayhem of the season. Presents, decorating, baking, parties, cards, shopping and everything else. It seems everywhere we turn there are distractions the world is throwing at us. But the best gift is the one we cannot give. The one we don’t deserve. The one we can’t repay. The one we simply receive.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Ephesians 2:8

Jesus

He chose to come to be the Way. Without Him, we have no hope. Without Him, or future is dark. But, if we choose to accept and receive His gift of salvation, we are secure. There is hope.

Every year about this time, I try to get away and relax with Him. Even if it’s just for an hour or so, stepping out of the hustle and bustle of the commercialized Christmas activities keeps me focused on the true meaning: His unbelievable gift of salvation for all eternity. His choice to humble himself to a life of poverty and scorn, only to die a death He didn’t deserve and pay the price for all sins past, present and future. In order that we might spend all of eternity with Him…

…He loves us that much!

No store gift could ever compare.

And, He knows that there is nothing I say or do could earn His gift. I simply have to receive. Lay down my pride, my fears, my doubts, my control and anything else that my hands might be grasping on to hold. Empty them, so that I might receive the best gift ever.

Jesus.

This Christmas, I pray we all pause long enough to sit in absolute wonder at the greatest gift of all. Jesus in our midst. Jesus, the giver of the ultimate gift. Salvation.

Everything else, no matter how spectacular, pales in comparison and is simply pointing us to Him.

Merry Christmas.

 

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A new creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

 “Their house is so pretty,” my daughter declared as we pulled up to it. It certainly was. A well-kept yard in a nice neighborhood with homes much bigger than ours. Our house, which from the outside, leaves a bit to be desired. We’ve lived there ten years. Until very recently, I was unemployed for a span of three years, which meant no money for upkeep. It desperately needs a paint job. Our hectic schedule has resulted in a somewhat neglected yard. The mulch we put in a few years ago is gone.

You get the picture.

The outside image used to be my focus. It mattered more what things appeared like than what they really were. Appearances. Perceptions. On the outside, it appeared that I had it all together when what was inside was a mess.

That pretty house had a secret that made my heart ache. The family that lives there is crumbling. Separation and likely divorce are in the air. A family in turmoil.

By contrast, we are thriving. My husband and I will soon celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. Our kids are pretty well-adjusted teenagers who actually like their parents. Most important, we love Jesus.

It hasn’t been an easy road, but our hearts have been changed. He promises that when we accept Him into our hearts, we are a new creation. New! We are not the old us. The person I was before my salvation no longer exists. That’s His promise.

Choosing to live that new life is what makes me different. Choosing not to fall into old traps. Choosing not to be more concerned about the exterior of my house – as I was before ­– and being more focused on what’s happening on the inside, in my heart. Transformation. There’s no other way to describe it. He has changed me.

I can’t do it alone. I need Jesus. Every. Single. Moment. Every. Single. Day. That’s the only way to live.

 

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Where will you go?

“Do you think she’s in heaven?”

My daughter asked me this as we were talking about a relative who had passed away. I paused before replying. “I really don’t know,” I said, not liking my reply because it failed to assure her. But, I’ve promised my kids I would always be honest with them.

We went on to talk about some other relatives and friends, some still living, some not. There weren’t as many “heaven, for sure” answers as I would have liked.

That made me sad.

I believe part of my mission is to help point others to Jesus. From there, He helps them see their need for Him and that prompts the decision to accept His sacrifice, accept His payment for our sin and allow His grace to flow in our lives. That process (me excluded), is the only way it happens, friends.

I grew up believing I could be good enough to earn my way into heaven. That I could check off the number of times I went to church, did the right thing, helped others, said my rehearsed prayers, obeyed the customs, was a good person, etc. and that would give God the right scorecard for me when the time came for me to get into heaven. And, I also believed that if by some chance, that wasn’t enough, other people could “pray me in” after I died.

I was so wrong.

Which is why, when God got a grip on my heart, I KNEW that I had to change. Life as I knew it wasn’t ever going to be enough. And the best part is, it never HAD to be!

A decision. An acceptance. A prayer. That’s what it took. Simple as that, but more powerful than any action could ever be.

Jesus said it himself:

  • Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” John 3:3 (NIV)
  • “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” John 10:9 (NIV)
  • “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” Matthew 7:13 (NIV)

The apostle Paul summed it up this way:

  • “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” Romans 10:9-10 (NIV)
  • “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

278-believedefMy friends, if there is even a shred of doubt in your mind about where you will spend eternity, I beg you to pray. Ask God to show up and I promise He will. He loves you more than you can ever imagine and there is nothing in your past that is beyond His grace and ability to forgive.

There is nothing, nothing in this world that is more important than settling where you will go after you die. Because after you die, it will be too late.

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Never rejected!

“As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—” 1 Peter 2:4 (NIV)

Webster’s dictionary defines rejection – or the root word reject – as to refuse to believe, accept, or consider (something). I would add “or someone” to that definition.

This world is cruel in the way that it is quick to reject. Ideas, beliefs, and especially, people. As a kid growing up, I didn’t always fit in. As you can imagine, this led to rejection plenty of times. Being just a kid, I didn’t realize the impact this was having on my self-esteem. I also didn’t realize how it clouded my judgment and influenced my behavior.

To seek the world’s acceptance is a slippery slope at best. In reality, it leads to extremely poor choices, continuous decline and a spiral of sadness that increases with each decision. There is evidence of it everywhere we look. In our attempts to feel special or chosen, we become the opposite.

Webster’s defines love as a feeling of strong or constant affection for a person. I think that definition is appropriate in human terms. It limits love to “a feeling,” which to me, says it can change, grow or diminish.

ImageGod’s definition of love, I am learning, is much different. The Greek word agape means is selfless, sacrificial, unconditional love. This is the love that God demonstrates. God’s love is total, complete, never changing and not dependent on feeling. That is a much different picture of love.

What the world defines as worthwhile and important pales in God’s economy. By comparison, what God sees as perfect and valued is often rejected by the world. Without even trying, we can twist those ideals up in our hearts and live a life that is filled with pain and hurt rather than the joy and freedom God intends for us. I know. I’ve been there.

Peter writes of the living Stone. Looked upon by the world as worthless, it is cast aside. But what the world defines as useless, God sees as perfect and purposed. And his love for us is demonstrated first, by Christ’s sacrificial death in our place so that we might have eternal life with him. And that sacrifice tells us that we are valued, treasured, and precious.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that realization is like a healing balm for my weary soul. For years, I carried around the guilt and shame of seeking earthly acceptance. Now, I can look at my life and see how I am covered in forgiveness and the love that I so desperately sought in places it could never be found.

Freedom is a word that we can throw around without a full understanding of the meaning. Freedom in Christ has meaning far beyond what I can comprehend, but I am learning more about every day.

I am His. He is mine. That’s the only acceptance I need.

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