Wise Men Still Seek Him

“Wise men still seek him”

My challenge for you today is to take a moment to remember the reason we celebrate Christmas. Not just the celebration that Jesus was born, but the celebration of who Jesus is and the fact that our God sent him to us, FOR us. It’s not just this month that we should be doing devotionals or focusing on our thankfulness for Jesus. We should be doing this all year round! 

We have made Christmas into this huge commercialized phenomenon. Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy about it! I like to decorate and listen to holiday music before Thanksgiving! But I think that it’s even more of a reason for us to remember that the true importance of it all is seeking a deeper relationship with the Lord. 

Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!

1 Chronicles 16:11

Christmas Spirit 

Many of us have fond winter memories of our childhood. We decorated cookies, watched movies, played in the snow, had time off from school, and everyone seemed to be in good spirits. As we get older, our vision of the Christmas season changes. For some, cookies and sweets turn attention towards calories. The classic movies we’ve watched 100 times lose their sparkle when we’re cleaning up the 5th spill of the night from our oh-so-precious 2yr old. We get very little time off and often have to travel. Christmas spirit is interrupted with the pressure to get everyone gifts they will love. It always costs more money than we expect and takes more time than we have.

The holiday season is a time in which we often have a lot on our plate. We accept numerous holiday party invitations and the shopping never seems to stop. By the time we are finished wrapping presents at 11pm on Christmas Eve, we’ve totally missed the point of it all. How is it already Christmas? Where did the time go? We are so busy with the presents, decorating, and preparing that we forget about the peace, love, and joy.

I encourage you to spend one day a week resting and observing the Sabbath. 

Many of you are thinking “I thought this would be an uplifting Christmas devotional. Why would you remind me how busy and stressed I am then tell me that I’m supposed to take a day off? That’s just not going to work for me”. Let me ask you this… when you’re mentally worn out, physically exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed… does that work for you?

Are you spiritually, emotionally, and physically fulfilled? See, God called us all to a day of Sabbath; a day of rest.

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Genesis 2:2 (NIV)

Exodus 20:8-11

Leviticus 23:3

Luke 23:56

Luke 4:16

Six days you shall work, but on the 7th day you shall rest. In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest.

Exodus 34:21 (NIV)

This gives us a biblical example that God calls us, in our most busy and time-demanding seasons, to rest. God himself took a Sabbath. It is much easier to add things to our list than it is to cross them off.

When we say yes to too many people, we create unsurmountable schedules. We eventually get overwhelmed and have to cut back on something. Maybe it’s health (exercise, sleep, eating lunch), work, house chores, or a cancelled coffee date with a friend. No matter how many hours in the day, we can’t do it all. We have to take time to rest. I encourage you to take a day a week to rest. Just like any other time your routine changes, it may not be easy the first time. Stick with it. See how it can change your life.

When is the last time that being obedient to God led you in the wrong direction?

Cuddle up with your spouse and watch a movie, read a good book, catch up on blog posts or Bible studies, or play a boardgame with your family. Allow your child-like Christmas spirit to come back! This doesn’t mean that God is asking us to lay in bed all day. Just do whatever “resting” means for you. For me, it’s a glass of wine (in the evening!) with either a good book and bubble bath or a movie in bed with my husband. Do whatever it is that recharges you.  A day of rest simply means to not run all of your errands, live by a schedule, or have a list of things to get done.

God knew that we would need a reminder to practice self-care. We need to fill our own cups before we can fill anyone else’s. Sabbath is something I need to put into practice far more often than I do. Let’s try together and be a little less stressed this holiday season.

Feel free to comment and share your experience of Sabbath this week!

The Lord Will Fight For You

The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:14

This has been my favorite bible verse for a long time. It is usually the phrase that I need to hear and follow the most. It’s even on the front of my planner so that I see it every day! If youre anything like me – type A, surivive on coffee, and put more things on your to do list than you are ever able to accomplish in a day – then you know how important this reminder from the Lord is. If you don’t have a similar personality to the go-go-go coffee-coffee-coffee (Gilmore Girls, anyone?) mindset, you know that our society runs on tight schedules and busy lives *side note: check out the book ‘Too Busy Not to Pray’ by Bill Hybels*. There are times that we all need the reminder to be in a quiet place with God and pray. We don’t always make the time to be STILL. I struggle with this a lot. I’ll pray while showering or walking to the metro… I am a chronic multi-tasker. I think this verse is also a great reminder that God is at work even when we aren’t. this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t work towards our goals or try to actively solve problems in our lives, but rather that the Lord will fight even when you don’t. It takes an incredible amount of faith and trust to let God do his work in your life.

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” -James 1:6 

We must believe that God has good intentions for our lives and that he is with us and cares about us. We have free will, therefore God doesn’t govern and control everything that happens… but I believe that he does take the circumstances we are in and leads us to good things. Have you ever strayed from God but looked back later and recognized how he was working in your life? Maybe you haven’t always believed in God, but you can see how even before you knew him, he was right there with you. I have experienced both of thse, and it is just another reminder that God is always with us and for us.

Sometimes we need to be still in other ways. Take a look at our life, our priorities, how we spend our time, how we spend our money. Reflect. Practice self-care. Make it a priority to be still with yourself and be still with the Lord. If you feel stuck or you feel like God’s not answering your prayers, be still and reflect on what the Lord is doing in your life right now. What are you grateful for? “Every good and perfect gift is from above” -James1:17

I do not “forgive & forget”

“FORGIVE and FORGET.”

Most of us have been given this advice at some point in our life. Some of us have heard it from other Christians, and if you’re anything like me you may have thought that it sounded like a good idea! Maybe you felt like you weren’t good at forgiving because you couldn’t quite forget how that person hurt you.  Maybe you felt like you weren’t a “good Christian” because of this. Maybe there is someone in your life that you think you have forgiven, but are not completely sure if it is seen as true forgiveness because you have distanced yourself from them. I am here to tell you why I stopped telling myself to “forgive and forget” and why you can, too.

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We know that forgiveness is a huge aspect of the Christian faith. Whether you are Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, etc., we have all been taught that Jesus forgives, so we should as well. So, the “forgive” part makes sense, biblically…

  • Matthew 18:35 says forgive “from your heart
  • Jesus even forgave Simon Peter, his disciple that denied him 3 times
  • Luke 6:37 – “…Forgive, and you will be forgiven.”
  • Matthew 6:14-15 says: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
  • Colossians 3:13&15 – “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of your has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. ” & “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

    From this passage, I gather that forgiveness is closely linked to having peace in your heart. 

 

Forgiving someone does not just involve telling God and/or the other person that you have done so. In order to truly forgive, one must be at peace with the other person and with the situation. It is an active CHOICE. It is hard work and can take a lot of humility to forgive someone; pride often gets in the way of forgiveness. In the end, I think we can all agree that forgiveness is necessary, particularly if you have a friendship with the person.




 

But… where does the “forget” part come into play? I believe that most people who give us this advice are doing so out of love and sincerity, but I wonder how many people have actually thought about what forgetting something really entails. Sometimes we feel that by forgiving someone, we will be saying “it’s okay”, when it might not be. I think that this

misconception about the biblical concept of forgiveness

stems from the wording of the advice forgive and forget. Forgetting implies that you have completely wiped the transgression from your memory and will never think of it again.

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Biblically…

  • In Matthew 18:21-22, Jesus told Peter that he was to forgive his friend not 7, but 77 times.
    • This implies not keeping track of faults.
  • Luke 23:34 – “… Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing…”
    • Jesus forgave all of us, even without repentance. The person we need to forgive may not have apologized.
  • Matthew 5:39-40 (can also be seen in Luke 6:29)
    • … If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
      • A lot of people have misconceptions about this verse. My NIV Quest Study Bible (page 1418) says…
        • To be struck on the cheek was symbolic of being personally insulted, not physically attacked. To ‘turn the other cheek’ meant to ignore the insult.
        • This means to forgive instead of seeking revenge
  • 1 Corintheans 13:5 
    • “Love keeps no record of wrongs”
      • do not hold something against another. Do not use it for leverage in an argument, do not remind them about it to inflict guilt, and do not base your opinion of the person upon their wrongdoings.

 

All of these teachings are very accurate, but none of them explain the word forget quite like we use it today. Society has turned the phrase “forgive and forget” into something that is said without thought. It is seen on t-shirts, notebooks, and tattoos. Even in the above passages, forgetting does not mean to completely wipe the transgression from your memory. It simply means to not hold it against another person… which in itself is a part of the concept of forgiveness. So, why add the “forget” part? All it does is lead people astray, which allows them to have their hearts hurt over and over again.

  • Hosea 3:1-3
    • The Lord said to me, “Go, show your love to your wife again, though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress. Love her as the Lord loves the Israelites… So I bought for her fifteen shekels of silver and…. barley. Then I told her, ‘You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.'”
      • While this is an Old Testament example, Hosea is still practicing love and forgiveness while making sure his wife knows that what she did was not okay and cannot happen again. Hosea forgives his wife while being cautious of his heart and purposeful with their future.
  • Luke 17:3 
    • So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.
  • Proverbs 4:23
    • Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.



After far too many years of striving to FORGET and getting hurt over and over again by the same people in the same situations, I have stopped telling myself to forgive and forget. It ends at FORGIVE. 

And yes, you can still love others in this way. It just means that you are loving yourself, as well. 

Friendship

Proverbs 27:17

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

 

As I was going for a run in my new neighborhood the other day, I stopped to talk to some of my neighbors a few streets down. I immediately felt a strong friendship with them and knew that they had the love of Christ in their hearts. There are certain people that you meet in life that radiate Christ-like kindness. The next day, I brought them a homemade apple pie in exchange for borrowing their lawn mower. I knew instantly that I would be coming over to their house frequently to chat and have bible studies. Today I brought the lawn mower back. When I knocked on the door, “mom” answered and started crying. She said that right before I came she had been praying and thanking God for putting me in her life. She is very sick, and has a lot to be thankful for. The Lord has blessed her with a second chance at life and she says that she knows she is still here for a reason. We talked for at least an hour, and I will be going over there tomorrow with lunch and a bible. I have learned that there are times in life when the lack of community in our world is appalling, and then there are times when you feel a strong connection with a stranger and make a life-long friendship. 

 

Today I was reminded by The Lord why community is so important. You never know who is going to come into your life and what kind of impact they may have. Listen to your gut feelings and the whispers from God and He will lead you to people who may become very important in your life. There is a reason why the bible talks so much about community – we all have something to give to one another. We are called to live in community and treat your neighbors like brothers. “Neighbors” do not have to live close to you, but can be a stranger you meet at the airport. We are all children of God.

 

I am thankful for beautiful weather and kind strangers that become friends. What are you thankful for today? 

Stability and Strength

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The past few months have been very difficult for me. I will post this week, but for now… the only stable thought that I have is that:

 

I know I love God.

I know I love my family.

I know I want to spread the love of God.

I know I want to have a family.

 

And… the person who stands beside me for all of this needs to fear God, be strong, brave, loving, and protecting.