I'm taking a blogging break until the new year starts. I hope to drink lots of hot cocoa, eat cookies of all shapes and sizes, overdose on Christmas movies, and--once I finish my current WIP--catch up on my reading! All this while spending time with my family and friends.
I LOVE this season!
A very Merry Christmas to you all and a Happy New Year. What will the next few weeks be filled with for you?
I was thinking of John 3:16 this week. Well, can't say I was really thinking of the exact words, but I was thinking of gifts. Which made me think of God's big gift: His son. Which then led me to the words I learned before I can ever remember...my first memory verse...probably yours too:
For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NASV Now that's the version I learned it in and still the one that rolls through my mind, but I have to say I do love swapping out the "begotten" for "one and only". Jesus was God's "one and only" son. Anyway, as I sat there with those familiar words, God does as only He can do and gave me a new insight on them. It's stuck with me this week, and while this may be an insight you've already been given, it was powerful to me and I wanted to share. You know, sometimes the most obvious of things we don't see. So here it is...
We envision this verse through our eyes today. Eyes that haven't really observed the offering of our children toward gods as a sacrifice. But back then? gods demanded sacrifice and so often it involved the peoples' children. What a price to pay...and they did! But the One true God flipped that on its end when He sent his son. See, while all the other gods asked for the peoples' children as a sacrifice to please them, God sent His as a sacrifice to save us.
Can you even imagine how they read this verse? What it meant to them? What God truly did? Oh what a bottomless love for us! And it wasn't the first time. Go back to the foreshadowing of all this, when Abraham took Isaac up to that mountain, and God had him put his son on an altar. Only He didn't allow Abraham to sacrifice him, instead He sent a ram. And the blood of the animals for years to come would have to try to meet what no one could until Jesus Christ came and died on that cross.
The one true sacrifice. Perfectly blameless and holy. Infinite wrapped in finite clothing. The only One who could truly pay the cost for our sins. God's son.
God didn't hold back. He gave once--to us--what all the other gods had asked for repeatedly, from us. And His gift still gives today. It still covers every mistake, every dark moment, every sin we've every even thought of. The gift of His son is one that cannot be taken back or exchanged. It's one-size-fits-all and can be afforded by anyone. All you have to do is ask, and then believe in faith. The only sacrifice God wants on your part is to lay down your will and take his. That's it.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God. Ephesians 2:8
This is it. The final verse of the year. I've finished the second half of this year concentrating on the names of God and this last verse is not only perfect for this time of year, but also is chocked full of His names:) Here's our last recap followed by our last verse:
El Shaddai - The All Sufficient One (Isaiah 46:4)
Jehovah Nissi - The Lord My Banner (Proverbs 21:31)
Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Psalm 34:14)
El Roi - The God Who Sees Me (2 Chronicles 16:9)
Jehovah Jireh - Our God Provides (Philippians 4:19)
Immanuel - God With Us (Matthew 28:20)
Our Portion - (Lamentations 3:24)
Jehovah Rapha - The Lord our Healer (Psalm 30:2)
Our Comforter - (2 Corinthians 1:3-4a)
Our Advocate - (1 John 2:1-2)
Our Cornerstone - (Isaiah 28:16)
Our Refiner - (Psalm 66:10-12)
My kids love to make Christmas lists. I did too. I remember laying on the orange, fuzzy carpet in my family room and pouring over the JCPenny catalog, writing down all my heart's desires. I didn't just write a list, I wrote a phone book! My kids are no different, only now they point at the endless TV commercials or ads on the computer.
It's all in fun, and they know they're not getting everything on their list. In fact, they don't even let me say it anymore, they stop me. "We know, Mom, a Christmas list isn't a check-off list." And honestly, they love whatever they receive. (Ok, they didn't used to, but they're getting older.)
This year it got me thinking how sometimes we approach God with our lists. We write down everything we want and hand it off in a prayer, and we do expect it to be a check-off list. But God's not Santa. Not even close. And prayer isn't about a list, it's about an active relationship that we take part in.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16
Earnest means an intense mental state or an impressive amount. We approach God with our prayers in a serious way, engaging him and seeking him...not simply hand him a list and walk away. After all, he wants a relationship with us and prayer is our time to talk with him. Thank him. Praise him. Seek him. I'm not saying we can't have a prayer list. In fact, it's wonderful to keep a list of things you pray for and then note when those prayers have been answered. That's an account of the things God has done in your life and a reminder of things to give thanks for. It's an encouragement as you're still praying for other desires, deliverances, and needs. I am saying that your prayer life consists of more than that list. Prayer is knowing God's Word (which is our sword) and calling it out, applying it to our situation, believing with our faith (our shield) that God can and will do what he says he will do and fervently seeking him to be in the middle of our situation.
I've been working lately on moving past my feelings to follow God's word in all things, at all times. So when I read this verse, two things stand out to me. First, the determination of the "I will". When David wrote this, he was in a cave, fleeing for his life. God had promised him he'd be king...and he was in a cave. Things weren't lining up so well in his God-given destiny at that moment. I can't believe he felt much like being thankful or praising. Yet he determined that he would. That's the same determination we still need in our lives today. No matter what, "I will...." Sometimes we need to force our wills beyond our feelings and simply do the Word of God. Our feelings will follow. They aren't supposed to lead.
Second, what stands out to me is the order. First, we give thanks. Not just a little but with our whole hearts. And while doing that, we don't simply give thanks for the moment we're in, but we remember all our other blessings. All the other moments God has brought us through or delivered victory. It's so important to recount our blessings, to remember God's faithfulness. There's power in speaking victory and life, in recalling God's faithful history with our lives. I think it pulls us into the next part of the verse, being glad, exulting and praising him. And there is a reason for us to do that. Two really, because God's Word also says his joy is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10) so we grow strong, and he inhabits the praise of his people (Psalm 22:3)which means he floods our current situation. I don't know about you, but I want him in the middle of all my moments.
So join me today in not simply committing this verse to memory, but committing it to our ways. In all things, in every situation, even beyond what we are feeling...give thanks.
So last week I was reading out of The Message and I came across Romans 16:20.
Enjoy the best of Jesus.
Five words. Simple. To the Point. And they have stuck with me unlike few others have for quite some time. Made me stop and ask, "Am I enjoying his best, or just his good-enough?...what is his best for me?"
I know this much, it starts with Him, because Jesus didn't come to give us good-enough. He came to give us his best. He came that we would have an amazingly abundant life that is wilder than anything we can ask or imagine. Which makes me wonder, If we're where we imagined we'd be, then perhaps we're not at his best. I'm not preaching discontentment, oh please, don't think that. I'm simply saying, God wants to exceed our expectations. Okay, think of it this way...
I homeschool. Which makes me the local teacher. What this also means is I set the break schedule. Unbeknownst to my kids, I'd planned on nearly a week off for Thanksgiving break. To achieve this, we had to accomplish our studies earlier and stay on task for when we finished break. My son, however, likes to believe he knows my plans. As such, he put off some of his work in anticipation of doing it today--a day I planned off. I wanted to exceed his expectations of a short break, while he was simply happy where he was at. Had he not listened to my voice telling him to be sure to get it done, he'd have missed the extra time off. He'd be right where he expected, doing his schoolwork today, never realizing I'd planned on giving him the blessing of one more day of vacation.
See, sometimes I think we miss the best of Jesus because we settle for the good things around us. We think we know where we're going, but if we're in that driver's seat then there's no need for him. And oh, do we need Jesus! We need him to exceed our expectations, because it's there that our strength is no longer enough and we have to fully rely on him. It's there where we grow in our faith. It's there where we learn more about him and deepen our relationship with him. It's there where we reach his best.
Think about it. If I'm only doing what I can imagine is possible, then I rely on me, not God. And I don't want my best, I want his best.
Go ahead and add to that list. You name it. He'll supply it. Because he came that we would have life abundantly in every area. It's his best. HE gave us his best. And I'm ready to enjoy every ounce of him!
I've no doubt God placed this verse in my path to help me close up my year which has been centered around my One Word: Abundantly. It's been an amazing year full of many sweet lessons. I'd love to be reminded of your 2013 words and how God's worked them into your lives.