As I was reading my Bible one morning I was constantly having to refocus. My mind was not listening and instead was in full throttle worry over things that I knew I should not be concerning myself with. That's when I stopped and said (out-loud)... My mind is my worst enemy!
It dwells on things it shouldn't. It fast forwards and then rewinds. It seems to have its own will.
And then I heard Paul saying (not out-loud :), "O wretched person that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"
But wait, he then says...
"So then, with my mind I myself serve the law of God... (Romans 7:24,25)
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit." (Romans 7:25; 8:5)
With my mind? When I am muddling over things that have already taken place, I am concerning myself with what I have no power over. When I am rehearsing the future, I am concerning myself with things that do not belong to me. I am serving my appetites, desires and fears -- not God. When my mind is serving the Spirit of God it is not strategizing on how to fix someone or something else that was not given to me to fix. It is alert and at rest and becomes an asset for God's kingdom, full of the thoughts and ways of Christ. It sees clearly, discerns rightly, listens well, responds obediently, and sleeps well at night. It loves and believes the impossible. It believes the best and is ready for God's direction & wisdom.
Does this resonate with you? Has your mind gone off track?
If so, why don't you pray what I did:
Forgive me, Lord for forgetting.
Forgive me for taking ownership - for taking Your spot.
I set my mind on You and Your ways.
I set my mind on the things of the Spirit.
Have a peaceful & effective day!
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
This morning I woke up way too early (4:30am!) and my mind was bombarded with several failures of my past. I had flashbacks of many moments that I wished could be erased or at least that I could go back and redo. Half asleep, I tried to rally my thoughts and gain proper footing. My heart was saddened with the memories. I think it will always be, for there was nothing good in these moments of selfishness and pride. But, and there is a but, these were not the end of the story!
Each moment of life can be separated out as a snapshot in time, an instagram post with no explanation of the why or the where of the image. Each moment though has another attached to it on either side and each of those do as well. If I were to take a few steps out I would find that the images connected like dominoes, creating a story board of motion and revealing a greater perspective than any one image could have on its own. That is the reality of life.
What I saw in my half comatose state, were up-close, snapshots without any context attached to them. They were flipping by so quickly, reminding me of the dark moments of much larger scenarios... reminding me of things that I could have done better!
Today is Good Friday. This has always been a sobering day for me, largely due to being raised in a home that was very careful to honour its memory of one of the most significant moments in history, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. As a moment in time, it was beyond sad, it was wrong, it was cruel and, it was a dark stain of injustice on humankind. This innocent man was unjustly tried and murdered.
These moments in time can give the great impression that somehow darkness had won and that the devil had gained prominent status. I suppose, as a snapshot, that is what seemed to be apparent in this case.
What one has to do though, is to stand back and observe the broader picture, the complete story as far as we have told us, viewing the history leading up to the event and the cascade of moments sprouting off of it. From that vantage point, even the darkest day can often find a greater purpose, even a victory. Think of all the sacrifices made over the years by valiant soldiers giving their lives to rid us of a pressing evil...
In this moment of history, Jesus Christ, the son of God, gave his life willingly as a sacrifice for humanity's selfish ways, gaining us eternal freedom. He was a sinless man who took on our sins, our moments of selfishness and pride and paid for them with his life. He was the perfect sacrifice, saving us from ourselves.
Now, I can soberly take my moments of sin (past or present) to this same Jesus and find that I am forgiven and released from the eternal offense of them. I can also find that my mind, though sad at memories of failure, does not feel guilty anymore. Jesus paid the price for them and there is nothing left for me to be condemned about.
Such news is good and brings my heart and head peace! Maybe that's why it wasn't long before I fell back to sleep again :)
This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.
The Nativity Story
Luke 1:14 - You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.
Matthew 1:18-25 - This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
Isaiah 11:1 - Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
Matthew 2: 1-23 - Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” King Herod was deeply disturbed when he heard this, as was everyone in Jerusalem. 4 He called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, “Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?” “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they said, “for this is what the prophet wrote: ‘And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared. Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” After this interview the wise men went their way. And the star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem. It went ahead of them and stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.
After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance. Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
“A cry was heard in Ramah—weeping and great mourning. Rachel weeps for her children, refusing to be comforted, for they are dead.”
When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel, because those who were trying to kill the child are dead.” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and his mother. 22 But when he learned that the new ruler of Judea was Herod’s son Archelaus, he was afraid to go there. Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for the region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth. This fulfilled what the prophets had said: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
Luke 2: 1-20 - At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.
That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.
Psalm 98:4 - Shout to the Lord, all the earth; break out in praise and sing for joy!
Luke 2:10 - but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.
John 3:16 - For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Isaiah 9:6 - For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
1 John 4: 7-14 - Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. And God has given us his Spirit as proof that we live in him and he in us. Furthermore, we have seen with our own eyes and now testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. NLT
For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. (Isaiah 11:1)
I cannot begin to tell you how much this means to me. One of the most immense gifts that Jesus gave us that first Christmas was freedom from the guilt of sin. As he lived in Mary, I too can have him live in me. When He moves in, guilt and shame moves out! His Spirit shows me how to do life the way Jesus did, with joy and freedom.
“There is, then, now no condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit; for the law of the Spirit of the life in Christ Jesus did set me free from the law of the sin and of the death;”
Look for Christ and you will find Him.
And with Him, everything else.
“C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity”
You will find hope, peace, joy, family, eternal life, forgiveness, freedom. You will find love and life for what it was meant to be.
God's love for us is intense. So much so, that he took the effort to speak very directly with people so we could not mistake the miracle and gift of Jesus' birth. He lavished his love, attention, and affection on us when we weren't even looking for it.
What is it to lavish? Lavish is an old word with rich meaning, as in, sumptuously rich, luxurious, and elaborate. What does this have to do with Jesus Christ's birth?
On one hand, Jesus left rich & luxurious surroundings to be born into poverty. But on the other hand, God dealt elaborately in matters relating to the people who were directly involved with Jesus' birth, benefiting not only them but us, today, as well. Here are a few scenarios recorded for us:
Invited? By God?
My head knows the facts. My heart knows this is truth. My humanity remains in wonder that the God of this universe would engage so personally with me.
Jesus came at Christmas to offer us partnership.
He came to call us in to his rich, blessed community.
He partnered with us by becoming a baby.
He offers us the opportunity to partner with him by becoming his child.
Amazing! Do you believe?
Christmas! What a profound opportunity to
highlight the love of God and the sheer grit of Jesus.
God gave us Jesus out of his vast supply of love.
And he still gives forever.
Jesus said 'yes' to his father's plan out of his immense love for us. He showed us what true humility and strength look like.
And he still says 'yes' forever.
May our hearts swell and beat fast for this God. May we be drawn deeper into his extravagant love... forever.
May we give the gift that is forever.
Please inquire for the word of the LORD today. 1 Kings 22:5