Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 28, 2014

Before I Ever Knew Him

Before I Ever Knew Him

One of my Christmas gifts this year was a book entitled “Memories for My Grandchild” by Suzanne Zenkel. It is actually a book that I write as I answer prompts and questions about my birth and background, my childhood and teen years, and about how I met “Grandpa” and our early years together. It is pretty much a recap of my life story with areas to write about my faith and my beliefs as well as about my relationship with my grandson.

I realize that most of these entries would mean little to my grandson now, or even as a child, but it excites me to think of what it could possibly mean to him when he is older. I would love to be able to curl up now with a book written by my grandmother, to read about things she remembered about her parents and childhood home, about games she played, music she enjoyed, and special toys or items she treasured. It would be great to learn what my grandmother was like before she knew me and before I knew her.

But even more, I love the opportunity to write about my spiritual beliefs and to let my grandchild and perhaps even his posterity, know forever what Jesus means to me. To be sure, I’ll tell him face-to-face as I have opportunity – as we go – but it overwhelms me to think that what I write down about my relationship with Jesus could possibly speak to my grandson, or perhaps even his children after him, to tell them about Jesus and the hope we can have in Him. What a privilege to share with my grandson what happened between Jesus and me before I ever knew him.

But as much as I think about my grandson and want him to come to know Jesus, I am overjoyed to know that the Sovereign, Almighty, Creator God thinks about him, too. The Psalmist declared: “How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!  If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand” (Psalm 139:17-18a).

God knows all about my grandson…He made him and planned his days (see Psalm 139:13-16).

God loves my grandson…He planned for his redemption before the foundation of the world by sending His Son Jesus (see 1 John 4:10 and 1 Peter 1:20).

God loved and planned for my grandson long before he was ever born, before my grandson ever knew Him.

And this is true not just for my grandson, but it is true for you and me as well. All of us are born into different situations with different opportunities. We are rich or poor, loved or neglected, full or hungry, healthy or frail, but God knows each of us intimately and loves us the same. While with our limited understanding we cannot understand or explain these differences and the burdens that some must bear, one thing we can know – we all meet at the cross. God not only made us, but before we ever knew Him, He planned a way to bring us into fellowship with Him.

But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born] of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:4-7).

I pray that one day I’ll have the opportunity to tell my grandson that before he ever knew God that God thought of him. I pray that he will understand what Christ did for him and that he will joyfully accept His gift of salvation. For then I’ll know that no matter what my grandson’s life may look like here on earth, he will have his Father in heaven guiding his footsteps, listening to his heartfelt cries, loving him, comforting him, and giving him a peace and joy that only a child of God can know. How I hope I’ll have that privilege! And all because my God who I cannot begin to fathom or understand thought about me – before I ever knew Him!

 

“Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34b).

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 23, 2014

I Am and I Will

I Am and I Will

One of my favorite renditions of the hymn “Just As I Am” is by Travis Cottrell. The chorus goes something like the following:

“I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am”

Every time I hear this chorus or sing it at church, I’m reminded that I can come to my Heavenly Father in whatever shape that I am, with whatever need that I have, and that He will be there for me. When God called Moses to go to the people of Israel and bring the people out of Egypt, Moses asked God: “’Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?’” (Exodus 3:13). “God answered Moses: ‘I Am Who I Am.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I Am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14).

I Am Who I Am – translated from the Hebrew – Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh. Ehyeh is the verb “to be.” Therefore, the I Am Who I Am can be translated as “I am, I will be, or I was being.” This name of God reflects His eternal nature. He was in the beginning, He is now, He will be in the future. “’I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,’ says the Lord, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8). Our Father, the great I Am, is with us right now and will be with us tomorrow, the next day, and the day after. I can come to Him as I am and I can expect Him to hear me – to mend, heal, rescue, fill, pardon, and welcome me – not because of who I am but because of who He is.

Yet how many times do I come to my Father, even sincerely talk to Him, yet fail to come expecting God to be “the I Am” in my life? I may come to him in my brokeness, but do I expect Him to mend me? I may call out to Him when I’m sick or wounded, but do I expect Him to make me well? I may fall before Him totally worn out, discouraged, and empty, yet do I look expectantly to Him to fill me to overflowing? And do I come to Him burdened with unforgiven sin, and truly believe that He will forgive me and make me clean? Do I expect God to make a difference in what I’m going through? Do I come expecting the great I Am to make a difference in who I am?

Expectancy is hinged on belief. The writer of Hebrews reminds us: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Do I truly believe that God is ready, willing, and able to be all that I need Him to be for me? Do I believe that whatever I’m going through, He is there ready to act on my behalf?

There was time in Jesus’ ministry when He asked His disciples a question about who people thought He was.

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

(Matthew 16:13-17)

You and I must answer that same question. What do we believe about God and about His Son, Jesus? Do we believe that God is the great I Am? Do we believe that Jesus is the Son of the Living God through Whom God spoke to us (see Hebrews 1:1-4)? We may be believers who have trusted Jesus for salvation, but who are trying to live the Christian life in our own strength. We may be believers who are experiencing pain or suffering, or trials and troubles that we just can’t understand. Yet God Himself is ready to be the great I Am and to meet whatever need we may have. Consider just a few of the ways that Scripture reminds us that God is ready to be there for those who believe and trust in Him.

  • He will help us.

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you,
yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”
(Isaiah 41:10).

  • He will guide us.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye”
(Psalm 32:8).

  • He will restore us.

“Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you—
the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten”
(Joel 2: 23-25a).

  • He will comfort us.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

  • He will take care of all our needs.

“And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

  • He will defend us.

“Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:9).

As King Asa was reminded by the seer Hanani: “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9a). God wants to be strong for each of us, but do we believe? Are we willing to take all of our brokenness, all our wounds, and all of our emptiness and surrender them to God? Can we bring our deepest desires, our hurts and losses, and our biggest disappointments and relinquish them to God? Can we trust Him to be our I Am? Surely, He will!

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 16, 2014

Always There

Always There

This past weekend, my husband and his five brothers lost their only sister, Christine. Her two daughters and their children and their children lost their Mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Sisters-in-law lost a sister, nieces and nephews lost an aunt, friends lost a friend, and all who knew her lost someone very special – someone who was always there.

While the relationships each of us shared with Christine were all different, some much more close and personal than others, I think most of us would probably agree that Christine was easy to love because of the way she loved. She accepted you the way you were, loved you the way you were, never asked for anything in return – and she was always there.

She was always there with that sweet smile, gentle spirit, and a genuine caring attitude.

She was always there for her family. She loved her family with all her heart and practically every conversation I enjoyed with her usually included some sweet story about family, perhaps something about a grandchild or great grandchild, and sometimes something on her heart she wanted me to pray about. In earlier years, I can remember she would always have photos to share and the story behind each picture. In later years, she would sometimes tell me to be sure and look at the pictures someone in her family had posted on Facebook. She loved and cared for her family and they knew that she was someone who would always be there for them.

She was always there for her friends. She called, sent cards, and let people know that she was thinking of them and praying for them. Christine genuinely cared for others and was concerned for what they may be going through. And while she might not have been physically able to do a lot for others, her friends knew that she was always there to listen, to encourage, and to pray for them.

Sometimes, it can be easy to overlook quiet, gentle people like Christine. They don’t clamber for attention, but are much more satisfied in the background. They don’t try to keep up with everyone else, but find contentment in what they have and in what they can do. They don’t argue, strive, or contend; but they are always there, quietly in the background, ready to encourage and lift up others.

As I was thinking about Christine, I was reminded of what Paul told the Ephesians: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3). We’re not all called to be a Christine. God gifts each of us in different ways. Yet we are all called to “walk worthy” of the calling we have, and to walk with lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, love, and peace. Christine made that walk look easy as she allowed Christ’s love for her to spill over in the way she loved others.

I’m thankful for the privilege of knowing Christine. She taught me much, not so much by what she said, but by the way she lived and by the way she loved. She helped me see Christ a little more clearly and showed me that sometimes the most important thing we can do for others is to just be there – to listen, to encourage, to pray, to love – always there!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 8, 2014

Do I Believe?

Do I Believe?

I’ll be the first to admit that my new year has not gotten off to the best start. A lingering cold and recurring back pain has served to dampen my energy and zeal to tackle my plans for the new year – not to mention, the banging my head against the wall telephone calls that I’ve been subjected to in trying to do something as simple as get my new insurance card (which I still haven’t received, by the way)! It’s been a tough couple of weeks in many ways, but then I opened a calendar from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and suddenly, my minor setbacks seemed trivial indeed!

As I turned the pages and stared into those sweet faces, the penetrating eyes peering beneath the shiny bald heads, and the innocent and sometimes even mischievous smiles; I thought about these kids and their families. There was no way I could fathom all they had been through this year – a parent watching a child undergo devastating cancer treatments, a child suffering in ways I never had, siblings whose lives also were turned upside down as families tried whatever they could to save the life of a brother or sister, and families whose lives seemed to be suspended in time and separated from anything that seemed “normal” – and still, they smile. Instead of bemoaning my petty issues, I found myself praying for each of these sweet kids, their families, and countless others that they represent.

The truth is we all have issues. Some may be going through situations a lot more serious than others, but we all experience our share of difficulty. Jesus Himself told His disciples that they would have trouble in this world, but then He added: “but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In other words, no matter what we’re going through or what difficulties we may face, we can still be encouraged because of Christ and what He has already done. He has overcome the world. He has won the victory!

So what does that mean to me personally? When I’m sick, when everyone has turned against me, when someone dies, when I’m discouraged and just feel like throwing in the towel? How can I be of good cheer? How does Christ’s victory over the world change what I’m going through right now? Perhaps we can glean a little understanding from what Jesus told the disciples just prior to the above exchange about trouble.

The disciples were fearful because Jesus was talking about leaving them. He had told them about the persecution they would face from being put out of the synagogue to even death. Although they knew something of denial and suffering as they had walked with Jesus, He had been with them. But now Jesus said He was leaving. How could that be good? The disciples could not understand how Jesus’ leaving could be better than His physical presence with them.

Jesus’ leaving, however, meant much to His disciples – but not just to those early disciples who walked and talked with Him, but to believers like you and me as well.

1. When Jesus left, He gave us a Helper, the Holy Spirit. While we may not have Christ’s physical presence with us, we have the Spirit dwelling in us, leading, guiding, teaching, encouraging, helping, strengthening, and comforting us. And even more, it is His Spirit in the believer who can witness to unbelievers, convicting and convincing them of the truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment.

“But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”

(John 6:5-11)

2. When Jesus left, He gave us direct, full access to our Heavenly Father. Jesus provided forgiveness for our sins through His death on the cross and now is with the Father interceding for us. We can go directly to the Father, fully assured of His love and acceptance because of what Jesus did for us.

“26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.”

(John 16:26-27)

 

3. When Jesus left, He secured peace for all believers in Him. This is not a peace that we try to “muster” or find or earn. This is a peace that comes straight from the Father and that passes all human understanding. This is the peace that guards and keeps the believer even during difficult times – it is a gift from God that cannot be explained. It is a peace that the world cannot know.

“27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

(John 14:27)

4. When Jesus left, He overcame the world and He made us victors, too. The sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross secures eternal life for all believers. No matter the struggles we go through on this earth, we can be of good cheer because Christ has overcome all the pain and agony we know here on earth and one day we, too, will be released from our mortal bodies and fully realize our victory in Christ.

“10 And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.”

(Romans 8:10-11)

After Jesus talked with His disciples about leaving, He asked them: “Do you now believe?” (see John 16:31). The truth is that all believers, regardless of the troubles we face, can be of good cheer because Jesus has overcome the world. Because of His victory, we can be victors, too. But we have to believe. If I don’t believe it won’t make much difference when troubles come, when I suffer or face loss. But if I believe, I can become a conqueror, too, as I allow His presence within me to help me and as I trust everything to Him, knowing that the trials I face today are only temporary and that one day I’ll know the fully victory I have in Jesus. May we all truly believe!

“17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,  18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

(2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

 

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | December 30, 2013

A New Chapter

A New Chapter

I have been sick this weekend…a bad cold and chills has literally put me to bed. I honestly cannot remember when a “simple” cold has affected me in such a way. But as I cough and sneeze, as I bury my pounding head in my pillow, I am more than ready to turn the page to a new chapter.

My daughter turned the page to a new chapter earlier this weekend as we helped her move to a new place to live. She will be entering 2014 living in a new state and working on a new job, a job that she is overjoyed to have. She is eagerly looking forward to this new chapter in her life.

Likewise, my son and daughter-in-law plan to begin a new chapter in their lives next month as they become first-time home owners and launch new careers.

New chapters come in all shapes and sizes. Some herald new beginnings and new opportunities. Others offer relief from pain or hard times. And, sometimes, a new chapter can introduce separation, suffering, or some other difficulty. I wonder what new chapters await me in 2014. What new chapters await you?

But through the years as I have faced different chapters in my life, I have learned that it’s not so much what happens in my life as the One I seek to lead me and walk with me as I journey. I have experienced both good and bad times when I was not seeking Christ nor living for Him. I have also experienced both good and bad times since I have put my hope and trust in Him. And what a difference Christ can make in the journey!

  • Christ makes us new.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When we repent and turn from our sins and accept Christ as our Savior, He makes us totally new. This “newness” is actually Christ living within us (see Galatians 2:20). While we may be physically living in this world, Christ is living in us spiritually. As we put our faith in Him and trust in Him, He gives us the power to resist sin and choose to live righteously.

  • Christ gives us the Holy Spirit to live in us.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).

We do not live the Christian life in our own strength. We have a helper, the Holy Spirit, who walks with us, guides and helps us. Among the many works of the Holy Spirit, the Bible affirms that the Spirit comforts us (Acts 9:31), gives us understanding (1 Corinthians 2:12-13), empowers us (Micah 3:8), gives us discernment (1 John 4:1-6), guides us (John 16:13), helps us (John 14:16-26); and gives us joy (Romans 14:17). Regardless of the road we are called to travel, the believer has the assurance that He is not travelling alone.

  • Christ gives us hope.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (Peter 1:3-5).

Sometimes, our steps on earth can be painful and heartbreaking, but we can face the future with hope because of what Christ has already done. But as it is written ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’” (1 Corinthians 2:9). This world is not our home. We’re on the way to our home in heaven and something that totally defies human explanation.

Whatever new chapters I may face in 2014, I know that I can trust Christ to be right there with me, His Spirit to lead me and guide me, and His very presence to surround me. With that assurance, what have I to fear? As I face all the new chapters in my life this year, I can be assured that Christ is with me and that He has me covered. If you want to have that assurance too, you can find out how to find it here – http://glorifyinghim.wordpress.com/how-can-i-be-saved/. It will be the best decision you have ever made!

Wishing you a blessed 2014!

The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life; Of whom shall I be afraid?

Psalm 27:1

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | December 17, 2013

Will I See Christmas?

Will I See Christmas?

“Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds” (Luke 2:17-18).

The sights and sounds of Christmas

Surround me everywhere,

Trees brightly decorated,

Joyful music in the air.

Shoppers forage for treasures,

Children’s eyes twinkle with glee,

What’s in all the packages

Peeking from under the tree?

But as I watch and listen

And as Christmas Day draws near,

I cannot help but wonder,

Will I see Christmas this year?

Will I take time to ponder

That first Christmas long ago?

Will I yield my will like Mary

And say, “Let it be so”?

Will I kneel before the manger

As I slow my hectic pace?

Will I stare in childlike wonder

As I see my Savior’s face?

Will I look into the heavens?

Will I hear the angels sing?

Will I journey with the shepherds

And tell all I’ve heard and seen?

Will I be lost in wonder?

Will my heart be filled with cheer?

Will I make room for Jesus?

Will I see Christmas this year?

Merry Christmas!

May we all be lost in wonder,

May we all be filled with cheer,

May we all make room for Jesus,

May we all see Christmas this year!

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | December 10, 2013

The Christmas Dishes

The Christmas Dishes

Years ago when my kids were small, Christmas dishes were something of a luxury. They were pretty and would surely be fun to have, but our money certainly had more important places to go than on fancy Christmas dishes. That didn’t stop me from dreaming, however. I can still remember riding the escalator to the top floor of one of my favorite department stores and longingly admiring all the pretty Christmas dishes. There were so many colors and designs – Christmas trees, snowflakes, winter birds. I would have been absolutely tickled to have had any of them, but there was one set that stood out from all the rest.

This particular set of dishes featured a beautiful snow-covered village scene painted on each plate, bowl, and cup. In addition to the village itself, the scene included horse-drawn sleighs, Christmas trees, kids playing in the snow, and a beautiful house with lights in the windows. What a beautiful Christmas scene, I thought as I carefully fingered the fragile plates and cups. Maybe, one day!

Just a couple of weeks later I was preparing dinner while the kids and I waited for their Daddy/my husband to get home from work. He was running a little later than usual and I was relieved to finally hear the familiar sound of his truck pulling into the driveway. The kids scampered to the door, eager to welcome Daddy home, when one of them exclaimed: “He’s got something.”

“What is it?” I asked as I continued to work on supper.

“It’s a BIG box!” I was simply told.

As their Daddy heaved the box through the door, he was met with a chorus of questions from three inquisitive little minds. “What is it? Is it a surprise? Is it something for Christmas?”

I smiled as I listened, but wondered myself, until I heard him answer: “It’s a surprise for your Mama!”

I couldn’t believe my eyes as he opened the giant box, reached in, and proudly produced a lovely Christmas dish – the very one I had been admiring with the beautiful snow-covered village scene. I kept repeating, “Oh, you shouldn’t have!” as I eagerly unpacked the box and examined each plate, cup, and bowl. I knew that he shouldn’t have. The money he spent surely had other places it needed to go. But, I was so glad that he had!

Through the years as we’ve used those Christmas dishes, I’ve often wondered what it was about the simple winter scene that captivated me so. I’ve come to the conclusion that in many ways, it captures the essence of Christmas. No, there was not any snow in Bethlehem on that first Christmas when Jesus was born. There were no Christmas trees with colorful lights or sleigh bells jingling in the air. But on that very first Christmas, ….

  • There was light in the midst of darkness – “Behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid” (Luke 2:9b).
  • There was joy – “Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10).
  • There was a gift – “For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord’” (Luke 2:11).
  • There was praise to the Giver and a promise to those who would receive the Gift – “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:13-14)

Jesus was born so that we might live. Jesus, Himself, later stated: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).  Jesus came on that very first Christmas to give us life – abundant life. To me, the simple, uncomplicated scene on my Christmas dishes captures the beauty and wonder of that life which Jesus came to give to all who would receive Him – a life of peace and goodwill.

Every year as I pull out my Christmas dishes and unpack them for the season, I remember that special gift all those years ago. The pieces are beginning to show the effects of years of use – scratches, chips, and we’ve lost a few pieces along the way. I admit I’ve looked at and admired new Christmas dishes in the department stores, but I’m just not ready to part with what’s left of my old Christmas dishes with the beautiful snow-covered village scene. Maybe it’s because of my husband and his sweet, thoughtful gift. Perhaps it’s because of the many Christmases our family has enjoyed around those plates. And still maybe, it’s because of that beautiful, peaceful scene that reminds me of God’s great gift at Christmas, Jesus, and the abundant life He came to give!

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | December 2, 2013

My Bethlehem

My Bethlehem

 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”
(Micah 5:2)

The city of Bethlehem is located about six miles southwest of Jerusalem. The first reference to Bethlehem in the Old Testament was when Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, died while giving birth to Benjamin. Genesis 35:19 states: “So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).” Later, Bethlehem is referenced in the book of Judges (17:7-13) as the home of the Levite who became priest to Micah. The Book of Ruth also takes place in Bethlehem. Ruth gave birth to Obed who would become the father of Jesse, the father of David. It was also in Bethlehem that Samuel anointed David as king of Israel. And then the prophet Micah announced that the One to come, the Messiah, would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). The New Testament gospels confirm that Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

God planned for His Son to be born in the tiny village of Bethlehem. He planned for Him to be born to a poor peasant girl and for his first breath to be taken, not amid splendor and riches, but in a stable. God planned for His Son’s first bed to be a manger filled with soft hay and for His first visitors to be lowly shepherds. God chose Bethlehem for His Son’s birthplace.

I wonder why God chose Bethlehem? Many feel that the small, obscure village revealed God’s concern for the lowly, the outcast, and the forgotten. While I certainly agree, I can’t help but wonder what Bethlehem meant to Jacob; Micah and his priest; Naomi, Ruth and Boaz; Obed and Jesse; King David; and, yes, even Jesus. I’m sure that Bethlehem was a special place for them, too.

Jacob probably forever remembered Bethlehem with sadness as he recalled the loss of his dear wife. Ruth may have treasured memories of her marriage to Boaz and the birth of Obed. Perhaps Naomi remembered how good it felt to come back home to her own people. David probably remembered his anointing and God’s call. Did Jesus think about the night He was born in Bethlehem? Did He listen as Mary and Joseph recounted each detail of what happened that special night? Did God use Bethlehem as a place to comfort, encourage, call, and inspire? Was Bethlehem perhaps not just God’s choice to speak to others, but was it also a place God lovingly prepared for those He called there for a certain time or season?

Each of us has one or more Bethlehem(s) as well – places that God may lead us through, maybe show us around, or perhaps settle us in. And I believe, with all my heart, that God not only knows where we are, but that He is actively involved in preparing these places for us. Consider the following:

  • Sometimes Bethlehem is not a place we want to be.

 

“And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace” (Jeremiah 29:7).

 

Jeremiah is addressing a group of exiles who have been carried away to Babylon and other towns. This is not their home nor the place where any of them necessarily want to be. Yet even in this place, God has a plan for them – “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). Even when we find ourselves in a place where we don’t want to be, we can be sure that God knows exactly where we are, that He is there with us, and that He has a plan.

 

  • Sometimes Bethlehem is a place where we discover a personal call.

 

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5).

 

God had a special plan for Jeremiah and placed him at the right place, at the right time to fulfill God’s call upon his life. Just as God was intimately involved in every detail preceding the birth of Jesus, just as He called and equipped Jeremiah, He also has a plan for you and me. Our Bethlehem can be the place where we come face to face with God’s unique calling and plan for us.

 

  • Sometimes Bethlehem is a new place.

 

“Now the Lord had said to Abram: ‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

 

Sometimes, like Abram, we may need to leave the comfortable and familiar, what we have always known, and go to a place we’ve never been before. But we have God’s promise to go with us and direct our steps.

 

  • Sometimes Bethlehem is a place of promise.

 

“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2b-3).

 

This world is not our home. No matter what troubles or injustices we may face today, we have a precious promise. One day we will be with Jesus, Himself, in the place He has especially prepared for us.

As we enter this Christmas season, may we contemplate the many facets of Bethlehem on the night Jesus was born – a young mother and her just husband; an innkeeper with no rooms, but a stable; a host of angels and a motley group of scared, yet amazed shepherds. It doesn’t quite seem like the setting for the birth of our Savior and King, yet that is exactly what happened that night in Bethlehem. Such is often the case with our Bethlehem(s). How many times do we fail to see the hand of God at work in the various places we find ourselves? But as sure as He fulfilled the age-old prophecies and orchestrated the birth of His Son, He is also busy working out all the details in our lives wherever we may be. This same God who prepared Bethlehem for Jesus is with me in my Bethlehem. How I thank God for Bethlehem!

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | November 25, 2013

The Blessing of Contentment

The Blessing of Contentment

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.”

(1 Timothy 6:6-8)

This week in Sunday School kindergartners used tree trunk and leaf stickers to make trees of thanks. Before putting each leaf on their trees, we printed or help them print the name of someone or something for which they are thankful. One little girl, on her very first leaf, proudly announced: “I’m thankful for Me.” At first I smiled at her response, but then it occurred to me how profound her response really was. Am I thankful for me?

Surely, I am thankful for the way God made me. The Bible tells us that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (see Psalm 139:14). But more often than not, instead of thanking God for how He made us, don’t we wish we were more like someone else? If only I were prettier, smarter, or more talented…then I would be thankful for me. Not only are we not satisfied with ourselves, but neither are we content with where we are in life… if only I had more money… if only I lived in a bigger house … if only I could get that promotion … if only… if only … then, I would be content.

Contentment is not always easy. Yet contentment can be one our greatest blessings. Paul stated to the Philippians: “…for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12). And then he tells us how: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The key to contentment is not who, what, or where we are in life. The key to contentment is the One for whom we live. When we live our lives, totally committed to Christ, seeking to be more and more like Him, while accepting His will in our lives, we are on the road to the godliness and contentment that Paul taught to Timothy – “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8).

Contentment is not something that we obtain through constantly trying to be satisfied. Instead it comes through commitment and surrender of all we are, along with all of our hopes and dreams, to the One who made us and who loves us best of all. As we are content in Him, we find contentment with who, what, and where we are today … while knowing that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). He’s continually at work in us to make us more like His Son. – The Lord will guide you continually,
And satisfy your soul in drought, And strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.”
(Isaiah 58:11)

Perhaps the following acrostic can help remind each of us the contentment we can have in Christ. On this Thanksgiving, perhaps we can all join my kindergarten friend and exclaim: “Thank You, God, for me!”

C                     Commit all that I am to God (Proverbs 16:3)

O                     Obey His Word (Luke 11:28)

N                     Nourish the spiritual gift(s) within me (2 Timothy 1:6)

T                      Think on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Philippians 4:8)

E                      Exalt and worship God (Psalm 99:5)

N                     Name my many blessings and praise God (Psalm 103:2-5)

T                      Trust God in all things (Proverbs 3:5-6)

M                     Mention the lovingkindness and goodness of God to others (Isaiah 63:7)

E                      Enjoy all the good things God gives us (1 Timothy 6:17)

N                     Number my days and how I can invest them for eternal purposes (Psalm 90:12)

T                      Thank God in all things ((1 Thessalonians 5:18)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: glorifyhim1 | November 20, 2013

Cultivating Gratitude

Cultivating Gratitude

How do we show gratitude to others? One of my kindergartners in Sunday School is learning to express his gratitude by saying thank you. Each week as he leaves our room, his mother asks: “What do you say?” The little fellow will turn to me and obediently, almost bashfully say, “Thank you.” But this same kindergartner also expresses his gratitude by what he does. Throughout the morning, he listens and follows directions. He helps stack the blocks and put away materials, treats others kindly, and helps pour juice and pass out snacks. Such actions of kindness and helpfulness can also reflect an appreciation and gratefulness for what others do for us.

Doesn’t it feel good to be appreciated? I’ve learned that when someone expresses true gratitude and appreciation for something I have done, it energizes me and makes me want to do even more. It seems that true gratitude leads to more kindness, then more gratitude, then more kindness, on an on. It’s a pretty good cycle to get into. But I’ve also discovered that phony and sincere gratitude are quite easy to distinguish. While we can learn to say thank you and even be polite, true gratitude is much, much deeper. True gratitude comes from the heart and it is often felt more than it is even heard.

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of 10 lepers who called for Jesus to have mercy on them. Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests. As the lepers went to the priests, they were all healed of their leprosy. One of the lepers, when he saw that he had been cleansed, returned to Jesus, fell down at His feet and gave Him thanks. Jesus asked a haunting question: “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:17).

I wonder if God sometimes wonders where I am. Like the nine, do I receive His daily gifts and benefits; loving answers to prayer; and unexpected, even miraculous, blessings and just continue on my way? Psalm 118:1 reminds us: Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.” David prayed: I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High” (Psalm 9:1-2).

Every new morning is a gift from our Father’s hand. The air we breathe, the food we eat, the joys we know are all expressions of His love, mercy, and grace. How do I thank Him? Like David, I want to praise Him with my whole heart. But how do I do that? Through the years I’ve experienced times when I felt my heart was just overflowing with thanksgiving to God for His good gifts. Unfortunately, however, I’ve also experienced times when I’ve carelessly and selfishly accepted those blessings as if He owed them to me. How do we cultivate true gratitude?

While we can be taught to say thank you and even a certain measure of appreciation, I believe that true gratitude comes from the heart. It is not something that we necessarily learn, but something that overflows from within us. A lack of thankfulness and gratitude – not only to God, but also as it is expressed to others – generally points to something amiss in our hearts. We can take some clues from the leper who said thank you.

  • Return to the Savior.

When the leper saw that he was healed, he returned to Jesus.  Chances are if we don’t feel particularly thankful or grateful, we need to look at our hearts. 1 John 3:20 states: “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” Are we harboring sin in our hearts? Is there pride, a critical or judgmental spirit, jealousy or envy? Is sin hindering God’s Spirit within us? If so, 1 John 1:9 reminds us: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It is hard to not feel thankful and grateful when we confess our sin and receive His pardon and forgiveness.

  • Recognize the Giver.

The leper recognized who had healed him. James 1:17 states:  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” God is the giver of every good and perfect gift. Sometimes it may be a beautiful sunrise that speaks peace and wonder to His child. At other times, He may guide other individuals to be His instruments to bless, encourage, strengthen, and help in some specific way. But every good gift originates from Him to bless His child.

  • Rejoice in the Lord.

The leper praised and glorified God. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!  Philippians 4:4). When we glorify God, we take a step beyond just saying thank you. We exalt and honor the Giver – not just for what He gives us but for who He is. As a result, we express our gratitude not only with our words, but also with our actions.

Like the leper, when we return to Jesus, recognize Him as the Giver, and rejoice in Him, we cannot help but have a heart overflowing with gratitude. My kindergartner in Sunday School is learning how to say thank you and express his gratitude, but as I watch his kind and helpful actions each week, something tells me that he is also learning something about Jesus.  Because it is through Him that we truly cultivate a heart of gratitude that bubbles up and spills over into our actions and into our thanksgiving and praise!

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