faith


I’m de-Christmasing the house. As much as I love Christmas (and believe me I do LOVE Christmas), I am looking forward to putting the busyness of the holidays behind me and returning to my regular routine. Even though all the outside trappings of Christmas will no longer be visible, I hope the spirit of Christmas will be visible all year long through my regular routine. How? You might ask, well …

As we know, Christmas is really about celebrating the birth of God’s Son, the long awaited Messiah, Jesus Christ. God sent His Son to bring light to a dark world. We celebrate His birthday one day a year on Christmas Day. Those of us who are Christ followers, however, can make Christmas last all 365 days per year. How?

Individuals who have experienced spiritual rebirth carry God’s Spirit, His light, inside us. That light comes with marching orders. We are to let His light shine in us and through us so we can light up a dark world. We allow God’s light to shine through us when we choose to love/give regardless of how we feel. Real love is a verb. It is a choice. It is selfless. It is choosing to do something for someone else regardless of the cost to self. It is not a feeling. It is an action. It is this love that brings light to a dark world. When we do that Christmas can last 365 days a year.

Chris Rice sings about this in his song Go Light your World. Here’s the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsM5lt9tCFo

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Continuing to read Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. More favorite excerpts:

• History is not an endless succession of meaningless circles but a directed movement toward a great event. God has a timeline. And because of Bethlehem, we have an idea where we stand on it…We refuse to believe that this present world is the sum total of human existence. We celebrate the First Advent to whet our appetites for the Second. We long for the next coming.

• God made you on purpose with a purpose. He interwove calendar and character, circumstance and personality to create the right person for the right corner of the world, and then he paid the price to take you home.

• In the manger God loves you; through the cross God saves you. But has he taken you to his home? Not yet. He has work for you to do.

In an effort to keep myself focused on the reason for the season I am reading Max Lucado’s book Because of Bethlehem. Some of my favorite excerpts (for now) are as follows:

• This time of year babies take center stage. And well they should. Is not Christmas the story of a baby…On a starlit night in the company of sheep, cattle, and a bewildered Joseph, Mary’s eyes fell upon the face of her just born son. She was bone-weary, surely. In pain, likely. Ready to place her head on the straw and sleep the rest of the night away, probably. But first Mary had to see this face. His face. To wipe the moisture from his mouth and feel the shape of his chin. To be the first to whisper, “So this is what God looks like.”

• All the love of God was in Jesus. All the strength of God was in Jesus. All the compassion and power and devotion of God were, for a time, in the earthly body of a carpenter…What started in the Bethlehem cradle culminated on the Jerusalem cross.

Excerpts from When Doing Isn’t Enough:

Waiting is not popular in our modern society. Immediate gratification is popular. We want what we want now, and we do everything possible to get whatever it is we want now and avoid waiting. Sometimes waiting is unavoidable though and we have no choice but to wait… God appears to like waiting and seems to require it of anyone who will be used by him, particularly those who will be used in a significant way.

Waiting on God means that you are willing to look to God for guidance and direction, and are willing to abide by his timing regarding the events in your life. It means accepting that God knows better than you do what is in your best interest. It means putting God in the driver’s seat of your life. Waiting on God requires surrendering to him.

In light of all of this though, waiting on God is not passive waiting. It is not helpless waiting. It is not unproductive waiting. Waiting on God is active waiting. Waiting on God requires a conscious decision to trust God and wait on him no matter what, to not let fear run your life and to live by faith, putting one foot in front of the other even when you can’t see the path.

Waiting on God also requires a clear understanding of what I can do and what I cannot do, what I have control over and what I do not have control over. God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. We need to do what we can do, and leave to God the things we cannot do.

If one is to willingly agree to wait on God one first has to know God, the real God not a distorted image of God. The real God is love. He doesn’t have love. He doesn’t show love. He is love. It’s his character.

Trust is inherent in waiting. It’s easy to trust God when everything is going well for us, when our life circumstances and situations are in our favor. It’s not so easy to trust him when life seems to turn against us.

I am currently reading Lisa Bevere’s book Lioness Arising. The following excerpt particularly caught my attention: “Consider the word submission for a moment. What comes to mind? Probably Ephesians 5:22, about wives submitting to their husbands. Interestingly, many Christians have taken this verse and created an extreme and limiting definition for the word. I believe the word submission has been distorted beyond God’s intent for it. Many Christian women have believed their primary value lies in their ability to serve men. They have not realized that speaking in the church, respectfully voicing their opinions, or taking on the responsibility of a leadership role is serving. I heard a definition of submission that framed and aligned it with God’s plan for all Christians…Consider this: the prefix sub means under, and mission is an assignment.”

According to this definition then, submission means under assignment. I take this to mean assignment from God. Therefore, to live in submission means to be obedient to your assignment or purpose or calling from God.

Healing is a choice. It’s not our choice though, it’s God’s choice. It’s always God’s choice.

God created a natural healing process. When we get injured or when we get sick there is a natural healing process that takes place. Healing doesn’t always happen though. Sometimes people get injured or get sick and healing doesn’t occur and they die or live broken lives. OR, the healing doesn’t happen in the way or the timing that we want. For example, God may choose not to heal the physical or mental illness. He may choose, instead, to give us the inner strength, peace, and resources to cope with the illness. How and why this happens I haven’t a clue. Healing is God’s choice. It’s always his choice.

When it comes to emotional and spiritual wounds, however, I believe that God wants to heal us. I believe that he wants us to be healthy emotionally and spiritually so that we can better serve him. He also gave us free will, which means that we are able to make choices. The choices that we make can either allow God to heal us or can hinder him from healing us. Our choices can either facilitate the natural healing process or can block it.

The first choice we need to make re: emotional and spiritual wounds is whether or not we want to get well. Believe it or not, not everyone wants to get well. We can become comfortable with our wounds and want to hold on to them. Though they may get in the way in some area or areas of life, they may be our best friends or protectors in other areas.

The next choice we have to make is are we willing to do whatever it takes to get well. Sometimes there are things we need to do, doctors that we need to see, medicines that we need to take, procedures that we need to undergo, therapy sessions we need to go to, recovery meetings we need to attend, etc. in order to get well. The question then becomes are we willing to do whatever is needed.

(Some of the above content is paraphrased from Steve Arterburn’s book Healing is a Choice)

There is an event recorded in the gospel of Luke about a man who did what he had to do to be healed. “One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seems that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, ‘Young man, your sins are forgiven.’ But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, ‘Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!’ Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, ‘Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.’ Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God” (Luke 5: 17-25).

Here’s a song about this event. I invite you to take a listen.
Joy Gardner – Healer In The House (Live)

Today those of us who live in the United States celebrate our political freedom. It is ours simply because we are Americans. We don’t have to do anything to get it. Political freedom was obtained for us by individuals who paid very high prices to obtain it, such as:

Cost of the American Revolution:
• Total American military casualties were approximately 50,000 men.
• Of these 50,000, approximately 8000 died in battle; 17,000 died from disease.
• Of the 17,000 that died from disease 8-12 thousand of these contracted diseases while living in the deplorable conditions of rotting prison ships in NY harbor.
• Another 2500 Americans died while encamped at Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-1778.

Cost of the Civil War:
• Casualties were approximately 750,000 soldier deaths.
• Of those 750,000 soldiers, 56,000 died in prisons.
• Another 60,000 men lost limbs.

Spiritual freedom is also available to those who want it. The price that was paid for spiritual freedom was also very high. It was bought and paid for by one man. Jesus Christ obtained spiritual freedom for us at Calvary. Spiritual freedom, however, is not automatic like political freedom. We have to do 3 things to obtain our spiritual freedom. Those 3 things are: 1. Accept Jesus’s work on the cross as a personal gift; 2. Give our lives to him to do with as he pleases; 3. Lay our hurts, habits & hang-ups at the foot of the cross & LEAVE THEM THERE!

Political freedom and spiritual freedom are very different and do not necessarily coexist. It is possible to be politically free and be in spiritual bondage. It is also possible to be spiritually free and be in political bondage. Political freedom is being released from the bonds of others. Spiritual freedom is being released from the bonds of self.

The Apostle Paul discusses spiritual freedom in his various letters. Paul’s calling, the assignment God gave him, was to travel throughout the known world preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and planting churches. He would stay in a certain location for a period of time, plant a church and move on. He stayed connected to the churches he planted by writing letters to them.

Toward the end of his ministry Paul spent approximately 2 years in a Roman prison. While there, he wrote letters to the churches in Phillippi, in Colosse, and in Ephesus. Excerpts from these letters:
• “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (Ephesians 1: 6-7).
• “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2: 7).
• “… you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourself in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
• “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
• “I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church” (Colossians 1:24).

To me, there is no clearer example of spiritual freedom than the image of Paul sitting in a foul Roman prison chained to a Roman guard writing these words.

To summarize:
We obtained political freedom by winning.
We obtain spiritual freedom by surrendering.
When we are politically free we do what we want.
When we are spiritually free we do what God wants.

When we are obedient to God he rewards us by infusing us with an internal peace that the world cannot give and cannot understand. It surpasses human understanding because it can only come from God.

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