Thursday, November 29, 2012

Keeping Christmas in Perspective

This post is a repeat from last year, but I thought it was an appropriate one to begin the holiday season.

“Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and revive me in Thy ways: (Psalm 119:37 NASV).

As much as I rejoice in the meaning of Christmas, I also have a hard time with what is has become in our society. I can feel exhausted and even offended by the constant barrage of materialistic glitz and glitter of worldly commercialism.  On the other hand, I myself am guilty of being lured into that mindset as I prepare for the holiday.  I can become discontent over what I can’t or shouldn’t do or buy for others.  Food and decorations can be a trial rather than an enjoyment.  I feel overwhelmed by the magazine covers showing the perfectly decorated Christmas tree and holiday table settings.  New recipes make festive foods look so simple, yet I know otherwise.

Although all of these things can be good and enjoyable aspects of the holiday season if kept in perspective, it is especially difficult for me when all things must revolve around my pain and energy level.  I may end up feeling depressed, tense, and discouraged rather than anticipating the celebration of Christ’s birth.

During the holidays more than ever I need God’s Word to revive me and keep my eyes and heart focused on eternal things rather than worldly ones.  Satan has a way of turning even the good things into temptations and struggles.  I need to prepare and guard myself against these attacks.  Christ’s birth can and will be celebrated with or without the glitter.  Whether I am in plenty or in want financially or physically  this holiday season, my focus should be on knowing that because of the gift of Jesus, “no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” (I Corinthians 2:9).  And amidst the pulls of commercialism and pain, God is giving me gifts even now if I keep my eyes on Him.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, during this blessed season of celebrating Your birth, help me to put aside the vanities of the world and to seek You above all else.  As I do, You revive my heart (Psalm 69:33 NAS) bringing me true peace and joy. Amen.


Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sowing Seeds and Harvesting Sheaves for God through Our Pain

“He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:6).

Sowing, reaping, and harvesting are all words that may be associated with the Thanksgiving season.  We may not farm for a living, but even if we aren’t planting literal seeds in the earth, as believers we are called to plant seeds for God’s kingdom in the world around us.

Living with pain, virtually any seeds we sow - any services we are able to render - are probably done through some tears.  Pain may limit us in helping with hands-on physical ministries. When we do push through we may pay for it later and wonder if it was worth it.  But there are different seeds we can plant through pain. Our examples of showing patience, love, encouragement, faith, and others through our suffering reap a harvest in our lives and in the lives of others.

I think especially of the seeds of perseverance. At times these seeds may be quite literally watered with our tears of pain.   Yet at some point they will yield sheaves which we will harvest in joy rather than sorrow.

Only God knows every seed we are planting for Him through our pain.  Although our acts of service may not be out in the fields of the physical world, a few words through an email, phone call, prayer, or note may have a ripple effect of which we have no concept.

As Thanksgiving approaches we can look for opportunities to sow even a single small seed.  It may be painful to the point of tears to do so.  But the Lord promises that one day – whether now or later – we will see the sheaves grown from those seeds, and the joy we experience will make the pain worth every tear. 

Prayer:  O Lord God, thank you for those who have sown Your seeds in my life.  Help me seek ways this Thanksgiving season to sow your eternal seeds in those around me through my pain, clinging to the promise that one day my tears will be turned to joy when I reap the sheaves of those seeds.  Amen.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Blessing and Thanking God through the Pain and Devastations of Life

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth”
(Psalm 34:1 KJV).

As November begins, the east coast is suffering the overwhelming aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy.  Praise God, we did not experience much damage this time, but my heart is heavy for those who did.  I wonder how hard it will be for Christians in those areas to be truly this thankful this Thanksgiving season, having suffered such great devastation.

I was reminded of these words from the contemporary worship song “10,000 Reasons” by Matt Redman -  “whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, let me be singing when the evening comes”.  How hard it is to do that through crises like these natural disasters.

Those of us with ongoing pain and illness can relate to that difficulty.  We know the devastation that pain has caused and how it affects every aspect of our lives.  Unlike the destruction from natural disasters however, the effects of our problems may be irreparable.  Our bodies may not undergo reconstruction until eternity.  Are we still able to bless the Lord and praise Him at all times?

David, the author of this Psalm, saw much destruction and devastation in his own personal and public life.  Although physical pain may not have been a problem for him, we know he experienced many tragedies, yet he admonished himself to bless the Lord at all times.

As Thanksgiving approaches I want to acknowledge all the many blessings God has given me, but I also want to bless and thank Him through my pain and problems.  Those are the tools He is using to reconstruct me into the eternally new creation that is coming - one that will never suffer the devastating effects of this fallen world again.  So whatever difficulties come this Thanksgiving season, may I bless God through them and be thankful.

Prayer:  Lord, I know that no suffering You allow in this life is sent without Your great love and divine purpose for eternal good. I thank You for all the blessings in my life.  I also pray that through the hard times, by Your grace, all that is within me will still bless Your holy name.  Amen.