Monday, January 6, 2014
Today is the 12th day of Christmas, also called Epiphany. Tradition holds it to be the day on which the Magi (akaWise Men) visited Jesus to worship Him. Afterward, they were supposed to report back to king Herod and tell him where Jesus could be found. Herod pretended to want to go worship Jesus but really just wanted to eliminate Jesus, who he heard was called a newborn king. But thankfully, the Wise Men didn't follow Herod's orders. Instead, Matthew 2:12 (NKJV) tells us:
"Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way."
When you meet Jesus, the direction of your life changes. When you meet Jesus, your priorities change. When you meet Jesus, you don't stay the same. You can't help but go another way in life.
And it's really not about being religious. It's not about being self-righteous and being a good person. It's not even about having the right beliefs. At its essence, Christianity is about a relationship with Christ which leaves you changed, better, and different. Any any beliefs you hold, rituals you practice, or traditions you keep stem out of your love for Him and His love for you.
That doesn't mean you'll never sin or mess up again. It doesn't mean you won't hurt others and be hurt by others.
You won't be perfect, you won't always get things right, but you will be going a new way in life simply because you met Jesus.
So as you go about your life as a follower of Christ, remember you are following Him another way. A new way. And it's the only way which leads to the good life on earth and eternal life in Heaven.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
I am VERY glad that 2013 is over, more so than any other year in recent memory. This year was undoubtedly the most traumatic year of my life so far, at least on par with 2001 when my grandpa died after a long bout with cancer.
The year started off well, just like any other year. Actually I started it off thinking "maybe this will be my year!" because my birthday is 2/13 and the year was 2013. Silly, I know. But that's what I kind of thought. By February things had been starting to turn strange but by summer, I was done with it. June 2 was the longest day of my life and that began the longest week, which is still just a blur. It culminated on June 8 with the most indescribably painful, agonizing day of my life when my dear friend left us for her Home in Heaven. I can't even begin to put into words how intense the grief held in that day for me and for so many others I care about.
The rest of the year held so many difficult days - not only from grief, additional responsibilities at work, the pressure of making sure I led well during a crisis in our church family, the concern I held for Pastor Walter and his kids - but also from excessive car trouble, a few more migraines that I'd like, and the seemingly intensified circumstances of life. To top it off, I thought the year was finally over but on New Year's Eve I threw out my back at the gym and spent the day in agony, missing a friend's party I really wanted to attend.
But as I think back on everything that 2013 held, I realize it wasn't all bad. I also see glimmers of hope and points of light. Scripture says every day is a day the Lord has made, including the painful and confusing ones, so I chose to take joy even in the hardest ones.
See, one thing I learned in a Bible study last year was the definition of "blessed." The word blessed means "more than happy". GREATER than happy. It means the ability to have joy and peace as a child of God whether times are good or bad, happy or sad. Life is not always happy. 2013 was rarely happy. But through it all, I was blessed, more than I can explain.
I gained a deeper understanding of the sustaining grace of God than I had ever experienced. I more fully appreciated the compassion of and for others. My sense of tactfulness & carefulness with others was sharpened. And the GOODNESS of God - I could talk to you about that for countless hours until my throat was raw, and then I would grab a pen and paper to write until my hands cramped up because my Lord has been indescribably good to me.
Greater than the grief, greater than the struggle, greater than the pain, greater than the sorrow, greater than the sadness, greater than the confusion, greater than the questions - greater than the worst days and greater than the best days has been the goodness of my Lord. I can confidently look back and say that 2013 was BLESSED.
I'm not thankful for the bad things that happened and my heart still hurts in many ways, but I am thankful for the good things that God brought out of it. Truly, He is a God who restores what the enemy has stolen.
Yesterday I was still feeling pretty lousy when a pastor named Jud Wilhite from Central Christian Church posted a Scripture which encouraged me in a profound way. Here's the verse:
"For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland." (Isaiah 43:19 NLT)
A pathway in the wilderness. Rivers in the wasteland.
Last year was wilderness. It was wasteland.
And now, it's time for something new. I'm ready, I'm optimistic, and I'm confident in my hope because God is the God of new things. With Him, the best is ALWAYS yet to come.
So 2014, I welcome you. I welcome the good, I welcome the bad - because I know whatever happens it will also be blessed. And I know God is good.