Celebrate and Dream

Time.

It marches onward, whether we’re ready or not.

Here we are at the end of 2017, and headed into 2018.

For some, the very fact that you are still here today–in spite of what you’ve gone through in the past year–is a miracle!

For others, you are just ‘ready’ to flip that calendar, and have 2017 over with.

Still others had so much to celebrate in 2017 that you want to savor every last second, and you’re not all that sure that 2018 can measure up.

Whatever your perspective, I want to encourage you to do 2 things: Celebrate, and Dream.

Celebrate what happened in 2017. 

Sure, some of it may have been difficult…even excruciating…but you’re here, and there’s a great chance that you’re a better person today for having gone through it.

Besides…even in 2017 was tough, there were moments to celebrate. Moments of beauty. Moments of tenderness. Moments of elation and celebration.

So take time, today or over the next few days to celebrate those moments. Maybe you should look back through your Facebook, or through your calendar…you’ll remember.

…and when you do, thank God for His grace, His faithfulness, and His blessing!

“Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.                                                                          Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings!” (Psalm 36:5-7)

For some, God has been there…all year. He’s been calling to you, moving your heart to come to Him. For others, you know, by faith in Jesus, that He’s been there. You’ve felt His hands beneath you, you’ve known His faithfulness.

Now, as time marches forward and we get ready to flip that calendar, I also want to encourage you to Dream.

Dream about what 2018 could be. The promise it holds…the opportunities. 

This is as good a time as any to make the changes which could or should have been made earlier. Consider how you want to be different in 2018.

If you’ve never opened your life up to Jesus, I can’t stress it enough–OPEN UP TO HIM, in faith and repentance, TODAY! He is waiting to forgive, restore, love and lead you…but you must submit yourself to Him.

If you have done so, then you already know that today–like every day–is a new opportunity to grow. However, it might not be how it’s been before. It might be that the Lord wants to do something new in your life this year…that He’s been trying to stir your heart and wake you up more, so that you hear the leading of His Spirit more clearly. Maybe He’s been preparing you.

Rather than simply asking God to ‘bless you real good’ in 2018, do this: Dream forward, in the power of the Holy Spirit…what is it that God wants to do in your life? Ask Him for His heart and trust Him for His direction.

Could it be that there’s a ‘step of faith’ He’s been preparing you for? 

Maybe there’s a ‘stronghold’ in your life that has been holding you back, and He wants you to experience VICTORY in 2018!

Maybe there’s a new priority that He wants to lay on your heart and mind in 2018.

Dream forward, in the Spirit…what is He stirring up within you?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, 
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Go ahead: Let God take you to a whole new level in 2018.

New levels of closeness to Him; new levels of faith; new levels of Spirit-driven Power within, new levels of love for those who are lost and blind to their lost-ness…

Celebrate the past, and Dream forward in the future.

God is moving!

He has never failed, and He hasn’t changed!

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Don’t Sleep Through Christmas!

Christmas is a busy time of year!

In our culture, many celebrate Christ-mas–the coming of the Christ (Messiah) by filling our schedules with activities and traditions.

Many of these are rich, beautiful moments and produce lasting memories.

The pace and pressure, however, can be overwhelming, and it can tire us out!

On Christmas morning, after weeks of baking, shopping, wrapping, singing, programs, concerts, decorations, cooking, card-writing, and partying…how tragic would it be if we slept right through it! We crashed on Christmas Eve (or very early on Christmas morning), and forgot to set our alarm…and then just kept sleeping!

What if we woke up late in the afternoon on Christmas Day realizing that we’d missed it!

EPIC Fail!

Crazy! You say…’Ridiculous’. It would NEVER happen!

Maybe not…but Spiritually it happens all the time!

We spend all of our weeks leading up to Christmas hearing songs about the ‘Christ Child’, ‘Emmanuel’, and so on. We go to church and hear messages about Him. Some of us even read books or blogs, like this one, about Him.

For some of us, He is a major part of our desire to celebrate!

So…we don’t want to sleep right through it–spiritually!

Yet, many times, we do.

Granted, we may read the Christmas narratives in the Gospels of (Matthew 1 and Luke 1-2), we may read some of the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus (Isaiah 9:6, Micah 5:2), and some of us might pray.

However, many of us realize that it becomes more and more difficult to really WORSHIP that ‘God in the Flesh’–Jesus the Messiah–while at the same time buying in to all of the ‘extras’ that our culture pushes.

If we are not careful, we will become more ‘worldly’ than ‘godly’, and our Christmas celebrations will be much more about ‘Celebration’ then about ‘Christ’.

This is what I mean by ‘sleeping’ through Christmas.

Many, many do it.

I don’t want to be one of them. Do you?

 

If not, then some time in the next 4 days (it is, after all, December 21st), and shut off the music.

Shut off the t.v.

Turn out most of the lights.

Pray and ask God to help you open your heart and mind up to him.

Get a Bible and read at least 1 of these  passages: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-56; Luke 2:1-40; Isaiah 9:6-7; Micah 5:2)

Close your eyes and try to imagine yourself in that story. Ask God to help you feel the things they felt as these ancient prophecies and angelic promises were fulfilled. Ask Him to give you a new understanding of the realities they faced…The amazement they must have felt.

Then, Pray again, giving Him the praise He deserves.

Push back the noise.

Simplify.

Quiet yourself.

Worship.

Really CELEBRATE Christ Jesus this Christmas.

Peace On Earth…?

Peace…the elusive desire that we all have.

We long for peace within, peace in our world, and…for those who are believers…peace with God.

Yet, it seems ever-elusive.

At times, we sense it getting close, only to find it slip away.

Like a mist, it vanishes into the air. Like a liquid, it slips through our hands. The harder we try to hang on to it and keep it within our grip, the more likely it is that we squeeze it between our fingers.

People try to ‘manufacture’ peace.

Some tell themselves that inner peace can come from meditation or ‘centering’ themselves. Others try to control everything they can, plan for every circumstance, and then rest peacefully, hoping they’ve thought of everything.

Yet, personal peace remains elusive.

Interpersonally, we try to ‘compromise’ our way to peace. I’ll give a little and you give a little, and in so doing, we can reach a place of ‘equilibrium’. It’s not really ‘peace’ per se, but it’s as close as we can consistently hope to get.

Politically, world leaders try to ‘ negotiate’ for peace…we hope that IF rivals would lay their weapons and agenda’s down, and seek a ‘fair’ and ‘balanced’ solution, that it will come. Some try new strategies, others try new leadership…all in pursuit of peace.

Yet, for all the money and time spent on those negotiations, ‘peace’ continues to be elusive. Wars, rioting and unrest continue.

Against all this, we have the Christmas story, where God intervenes in human history by sending his Son, Jesus…that baby…in a manger. He was announced by the angels when they said. “Behold, I bring you Good News of great joy, which is for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior who is Christ, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10-11)

In announcing this birth, the Angels said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to those on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

Jesus was–and is–the ‘ambassador’ of peace.

Peace with God.

Peace within.

Peace with others.

Peace in the world.

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us… Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death.

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.” (Ephesians 2:14-18)

HE–Jesus–is THE means of Peace with God.

HE–Jesus–is THE means to peace within.

HE–Jesus–is THE best, most consistent way to peace with others, and

HE–Jesus–will be THE only way to real peace in this world. He will establish it in His own perfect timing, but it will not be because men–no matter how well intentioned–decide to pursue peace.

Only in and through Jesus will real ‘peace’ be found. Not politics, not negotiation, not contracts, not mediation, not intimidation, not legislation…

Jesus. THE Prince of Peace.

HE is the means, Period.

…and that’s why the promise of Peace is so important…because it only comes by embracing the ‘Christ child’ and giving our lives, our future, our relationships, our causes–everything–to Him.

That ‘good news of great joy to all people’ is for you…and me.

Receive His peace today, and give Him the praise He deserves…at Christmas, and always!