Wednesday, December 30, 2015

CHRISTMAS BENEDICTION














This Christmas
I wish for you
light
to crumple up the darkness

This Christmas
I wish for you
love
to pull us closer to one another 

This Christmas
I wish for you
peace
the same the angels sang

This Christmas
I wish for you
starlight
to follow on your way home

This Christmas
I wish for you
promise
to keep hope alive for you

This Christmas
I wish for you
God
newly born and in the flesh

This Christmas
I wish for you
Jesus Christ
born this night
light of the world[1]


Sunday, December 27, 2015

LESSONS FROM A PREGNANT GIRL

We sometimes think that celebration is a reward for accomplishment. It can be that, but it is much more. Celebration can also begin at the start of an unexpected challenge, one that makes you nervous and fearful. 



It’s the joyful song that Mary writes after the angel tells this young virgin that she is impregnated with the Son of God. We can learn much about the practice of celebration by listening to this young woman with a strange pregnancy.


Luke 1:
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
48 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”


It starts with Mary’s thoughts and what she chooses to remember about God’s ways.

First, there is a focus on God’s love for her. What God is doing will prove to be an overwhelming challenge to her, but instead of feeling victimized in the circumstance, she rejoices because God loves her. He has chosen her for something so special that most people would miss its significance. Hers is a soul that magnifies the Lord (makes God bigger than the challenging circumstance).

Secondly, she realized that once again, God had chosen the humble to do something eternal. She remembers that from the stories she had heard of God’s ways. There were many Jewish women who would seem more noble and equipped for the task of raising a Messiah, but that was not to be God’s way.

Instead, God gave a priceless treasure to the poorest and a satisfying meal to one who was very hungry. When we celebrate God’s choosing of the humble and weak, we are joined to the generations of people that blessing flows through.

The writer to the Hebrews would tell us to look at Jesus as an example of joyfulness. He endured the cross by waiting for the joy that would follow.


Hebrews 12:
For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.


So that is what Paul and Silas did. They looked at Jesus’ endurance and made a prison cell into a party room. That sounds so subversive doesn’t it? In the worst possible scenario, you look at Jesus and decide to sing. What do you do in your tough spots?





Thursday, December 24, 2015

WE'RE HAVING A BABY



When Jesus told the disciples that he would soon be leaving them, he talked of joy that would grow in them though things appeared hopeless. They would have a perspective from God that would give them the hope of a new day.




John 16:
20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 


Jesus compares joy to the arrival of a child. A woman suffers, but also looks through the pain to the arrival of new life. There is a hopefulness that can trump your pain. With the joy that God gives, circumstances and people do not have the authority to take it from you.

Was there a time when you had more joy in your life? When we encounter painful trials, celebration is a spiritual practice that gives us the strength to keep going.

Shall we keep going?




Monday, December 21, 2015

CELEBRATION AMIDST STRUGGLE


If you are working twelve-hour days, seven days a week, with the hope that you will someday reach a goal and be able to relax—you’re missing something.



If you will not take a holiday until you can afford to go where you want to, again you are missing something.

What goal, what unmet need or barrier is there between you and learning to celebrate in your current circumstances?

There is a time for everything, but when is your time to celebrate? In the very difficult time of a funeral, we may take time to celebrate the life of the deceased. We share stories and memories of the good times with that person. Yes, even at funerals it is good to laugh and think highly of the one who passed. This too, is celebration.

There is a Spanish word ‘festiva’ from which we derive our English word festival. Festiva is the act of celebrating in the midst of hardship and struggle. It is an attitude of learning to take joy when none is offered to you. Celebration is a subversive act that defies the burdensome concerns of life.

Celebration is a change of perspective. It is looking at the simplest and the greatest reasons to sing, dance, laugh and feast.

Celebration is Paul and Silas in jail at the midnight hour. With the ache and sting of being whipped, beaten and confined to a filthy cell, they choose to sing songs of praise to God. Celebration defies the darkness of oppression and injustice.




Friday, December 18, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: DON'T CALL IT LOVE

The hamster wheel is a fitting metaphor for the fast-moving, repetitive cycle of a person's unhealthy thoughts. Maybe, it's also like a stationary exercise bicycle set to maximum resistance. You exert a lot of energy but the view is always the same and you find yourself starting over again and again. It is just so hard to keep at it.

Doctors Jantz and Clinton provide a thorough, easy read through many of the patterns of relationship seeking and relationship breaking.


As a pastor, I have sat with countless people and listened to their thoughts on why their relationships are in trouble. This book is a valuable tool for both counsellor and struggler. As I read, I was reminded of my own relational dependency issues from puberty through into the earliest years of marriage. 

Like the good Christian doctors recommend, I found a healthy self-identity in learning to see myself through the eyes of the Creator. There is a world of difference between loving with a sense of  internal freedom and trying to make something happen out of a base of fear, inadequacy and desperation.



_________________________________________________

"Book has been provided courtesy of Graf-Martin Communications and Baker Books in exchange for an honest review."


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

HOLY DAYS ARE HOLIDAYS

It is easy for us to assume that obedience and holiness are hushed and somber postures. The day of return was not about how bad the children had been; it was about how joyful the Father is when even one sinner repents.


A Holy Day is meant to be a Holiday. Do not spend your holidays weeping and moaning. Have a feast! Share your food with those who have none. Give gifts just because you can. Dance! Stop working and let your hair down.

It has always been God’s intention that we have Holy Days. We are most at home with God when we celebrate in a joyful way.

Celebration is the happy dance of a child with a new toy on Christmas morning.

Celebration is the joining kiss of bride and groom on their wedding day.

Celebration is being reunited with your favourite people after a long absence.

Celebration is storytelling, belly laughs and staying up past your bedtime because you just don’t want to sleep.

Celebration is honouring people not just for their accomplishments, but because of whom they are.

Celebration is worship; the happy heart of a grateful people.

The joy and celebration originates with the God who is joyful. It is God’s Joy that becomes our strength. I think that we are mostly joyless creatures after failures and hardship. And yet, we come alive in God’s presence.

I notice that celebration is not mindless. It is not a fake emotion that comes from a rock star leader telling everyone to ‘make some noise’. No, there is something in our mind when we celebrate.

Did you see it in verse 12?


Nehemiah 8:
12 Then all the people went away to eat and drink, to send portions of food and to celebrate with great joy, because they now understood the words that had been made known to them.


Understanding God is the cause of great, great joy. The loving instruction of a wise Father is endearing—it changes us for the better. Understanding is the joy of finally solving a mystery or discovering the missing part.

It is the celebration of finding the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. God is the joyful finder who throws a party every time.

Hear the words of Jesus about celebration. We are like lost sheep being found.


Luke 15:
I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.


We are like a lost sum of money that is recovered.


Luke 15:
10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”


We are prodigal children who have found their way home. And how does this make the Father feel?


Luke 15:
32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.


Once you understand the things that bring joy to God, you will understand why Jesus came to save us.

You bring joy to God… You.

Happy holy days!




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