The anticipation for The Hallmark Countdown to Christmas® has been building for weeks. Everyone seems to love the endless stream of happily-ever-after Christmas love stories.
How could you not?
The cynics may think they're sappy. But I am a fan - I have to admit it. I am either wearing a smile or find tears streaming down my face at the end when love is revived, rekindled, or realized.
Some stories involve the young - sometimes the young at heart. Restored relationships, broken homes mended, prodigal children returning home, hardened hearts softened by the kindness of strangers - each story brings a unique kind of joy. I have enjoyed every one I've watched. And I wouldn't hesitate to enjoy watching any one of them again.
I secretly envision living my Hallmark Christmas® - the Christmas when Larry is home. When he will be here to help bring out all the decorations. It would be the one when my heart does not break as I, alone, hang all the memories on the tree.
Maybe in 2020, my Hallmark Christmas® will be "Hanging the Memories Together Again." Larry and I will turn on the Christmas music and be magically taken back in time as we relive the Humemory that each ornament carries. The homemade picture ornaments, and the special ones purchased each year to preserve happy memories of vacations or special holiday outings. The blown-glass church from our Oglebay excursion when Austin was little, and 'Fishin with Daddy.' And all the other sentimental ornaments from all our years together, starting with the very first one - the wooden pipe Larry whittled while at work. It's no finial d'arbre - not a beautiful topper for the tree, not a gift of love. He was killing time, not creating an heirloom. All it needed was a simple strand of red and green ribbon and taadaa, I transformed it into a keepsake. As I search for just the right branch for its display, I'm transported back to 1989.
In my 'Hallmark' Christmas story, this lonely house would be filled with friends and loved ones joining us in our holiday homecoming Christmas celebration. It would be the party we were never able to have because work schedules never permitted it. Larry would be in his element in the kitchen cooking and baking for days preparing for guests. A celebration where he would share his new-found faith without inhibition.
I can only hope - and pray that this will be the last Christmas I have to spend apart from Larry. Though movies, songs, and even our hearts, tell us Christmas is about family - and it is, the real hallmark of Christmas - is the birth of Christ, our Savior.
God's love delivered from heaven.
Matthew 1:21-23 NCV
20) While Joseph thought about these things, an angel of the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, “Joseph, descendant of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because the baby in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21) She will give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22) All this happened to bring about what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23) “The virgin will be pregnant. She will have a son, and they will name him Immanuel,” which means “God is with us.”
Lost friends and loved ones returning home to Jesus and accepting His Christmas Gift of Love, now that is a beautiful hallmark story worth hearing again and again.
- With a happily-ever-eternal story, without end.
I begin this entry an early December morning after reading my Reflections devotional for today. "Sorrow and Rejoicing" is the title. God's timing always amazes me. I strayed from my customary ritual of reading my two devotionals then journaling in what has become my prayer room. It's a leisurely Saturday. Prompted to write, I got my coffee, sat in my recliner, and noticed the church devotion on the lamp table.
As I flipped to December 7th and saw the title, my first thought was, 'Well, He's got something specific for me to hear.' After, what is now, too close to ten years, God knows my conflict of these two emotions. He also knows the reasons for the conflict.
The story of the Baby Jesus' birth is a beautiful and joyous one. Still, the shadow of His purpose follows. He was born to die a brutal and sacrificial death for the sins of the world. Even still, rejoicing comes at His Resurrection.
Sorrow is generally the result of the loss of something loved and cherished, regret for things said or done, for unfulfilled hopes and dreams, or for things that can never be. Sorrow comes after experiencing the joy of loving, hoping - living, and then losing cherished relationships, losing loved ones, and losing hope.
However, when we place our hope is in Jesus Christ, we can rest in His promises. Even though our sorrow at the losses in this life can prompt the sting of tears - even years later, when Jesus is the source of our joy, we can live joyously amid sorrow.
The conflict comes in response to my ability to do this very thing. I feel like no one truly understands the depth of my sorrow at being forced to live separately from my husband for many more years than is justifiable; or, of greater importance - more than is lawful. No one truly understands the anger I live with about the doubt and patronization dealt to me from a perverse and abusive judicial system, nor the feeling of being powerless against it.
Few ever see my sorrow, anger, helplessness, and pain - but it's there. It's always there. The pain resides deep within, beneath the joy I live out confident that God is in control. The event that delivered such sorrow has brought with it, faith in Jesus to those I love. A faith that might have never been realized absent the pain. My faith deepened as a result of my suffering, to a level I would never have experienced without it.
Still, no explanation nor any description of the pain or joys we experience does anything to change reality.
Rejoicing and sorrow - these highs and lows, are all part of the same mountain I climb in this life, while I await the ultimate joy promised when I meet my Savior Jesus.
It may not always be easy to maintain a thankful heart when in the midst of an emotional firestorm. Or when in the eye of a financial hurricane and you're just waiting for everything to spin your "security" out of control.
The ability to bow before our Holy God in thankfulness when we feel our life is in a downward spiral does not come naturally. It must be cultivated. Our human hearts react emotionally to our circumstances. Our human responses of fear and anxiety are not sinful. They are natural.
The ability to express thankfulness to the Creator and Master of the Universe springs from the humble acknowledgment that He is God and I am not.. He is my Heavenly Father who loves me and has everything under control. He has my life - all of it in His hands and will see me through whatever trial I must go through.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)
Micah 7:7 As for me, I look to the Lord for help.
I wait confidently for God to save me,
and my God will certainly hear me. (VOICE)
Waiting patiently on the Lord is much more challenging than it sounds. I believe I am significantly more patient than most. And although I long ago came to the realization that one does not get everything one wants; I still find this wait is not building my faith. It's leading, rather, to the questioning of it.
It is not God I question. I know God is all powerful. That He spoke the world into being and that, at His command, sorrows can evaporate. Still, daily in this world, we will have troubles - or comfort one who does. It will find us. For some, the assaults can be relentless and, without hope, they seek relief in destructive ways. God delights in giving us our heart's desire. But for His reasons, He may elect not to do so. God may not choose to answer in the affirmative. His response may be, "Not now."
Knowing when to accept things as they are or patiently wait for God to deliver, requires faith. I know on any given day I am vulnerable to falling into the abyss of self-pity. My faith is inadequate. So I will wait upon the Lord to deliver me.
...“I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
Micah 7:7 | Revelation 1:8 | Numbers 6:24-26
He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8
I'm not sure where exactly God is leading me. I am certain of very little in this life. For now, however, I believe God is calling me to share my faith and my love for Him. And to share the experiences that have helped to strengthen it.
My nature would silence me. It whispers, "Nobody cares what you have to say. What makes you think anyone is interested in your life?" That could very well be true. I listen to others and sometimes wonder, "What makes you so sure you are right, or that anyone cares even if you are?"
God created every one of us. He gave us value and created us for His purpose. I have no confidence whatsoever in my ability to make the right choices. That is why I depend on Him to put me on the path of His choosing, not mine. I ask, and sometimes the answer is abundantly clear. Other times there is noise and confusion, and I may not be so sure. I may wander in a direction that He didn't plan for me to go. I'm okay with that.
I know He's still in control. He will close a door, redirect me, or do whatever it takes - because He's got it covered.
I need not compare my path to that of another. I need only, in humility, listen to God as He leads.
Ephesians 2:10 | Micah 6:8
A necessity to my spiritual life is my time alone with God in the morning. It is my quiet time with Him. Reading my devotional, and spending time with Him in prayer and His word sets the tone of my day. It gets me in the right frame of mind to face whatever the day holds for me.
Sometimes the day doesn't begin so well. A restless night, unsettling dreams or concerns about the day ahead could, if I let them affect my entire day. But when I allow God's word to speak to me, and I journal my prayers, it eliminates the cloud that hovers over my spirit threatening storms through all my endeavors.
The clouds of distraction can cause other problems creating a snowball effect. But when I refocus on the love and glory of the Lord. His Son-Light melts that snowball and drives out the clouds.
I always begin with praise and a thankful heart. It may feel at times as if there is little for which I can be thankful. That is only because my focus is on my circumstances, mood, just how I feel at any given moment. It's because I'm not considering all the things that I have for which I can be thankful.
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. 2 Cor. 4:18 (NLT)
The first and greatest thing I can be grateful for is that God is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing God who loves each and every one of us. The second is that out of His great love He called me to be His. He gave me this desire to know Him. I didn't develop it on my own. I simply choose not to ignore His invitation.
Create a quiet space of your own to be with God. Let Him be the commander of your day. In your war room, under His Leadership, plan your strategy for defeating the distractions that the devil may use to undermine your day - and your faith.
We may have battles to face. But with God by our side, they are battles we can win.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18 | Isaiah 6:3 | Psalm 130:5
In spite of circumstances, in spite of disappointments and heartache and pain of this life; God, in His great love, has put His song in my heart. He has chosen me and it fills my heart with joy.
In times of despair when my world is unsettled, He sings His love song to me. I follow His melody, and it places me on solid ground. When I set my eyes on him instead of my sorrow, I can sing my songs of praise to Him.
We are in perfect harmony as I allow His Light to lead me out of my darkness.
9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)
Jeremiah 31:3 | Isaiah 61:10 | 1 Peter 2:7-11
Though my circumstances may not improve - and perhaps have led me to be even more disheartened, I know that as long as I remain close to Him, in His word and constant prayer, I know that I'm walking in His Presence. It is God that harvests the Spirit's fruit within me.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 3:22-23 (NLT)
I cannot harvest this fruit on my own because He alone is the source. I cannot experience His spiritual "nutrition" if I am not near Him to receive it.
How amazing it is that He can produce such sweet fruit in us when our circumstances can at times be so bitter.
John 3:8 | Galatians 5:16-26
Today the Jesus Calling author is instructing me to "WELCOME CHALLENGING TIMES as opportunities..."
Well, in response I must say, I have, and I do. I know many people who don't want to be challenged. They don't want to "expand their territory," take on an added responsibility, learn a new skill, or life lesson. That isn't me. I enjoy learning - anything.
In all honesty, I must also say I'm growing very weary of the challenge. I would like a break from the challenge of putting on a happy face when I'm anything but happy. I'd like a respite from the constant trials and tribulations that come with this life that make every day a struggle to get through.
I'd like relief from the piercing guilt I feel over my internal daily pity party. I feel shame as I consider the "real" challenges of those who are suffering grief, terminal illness, loss, paralysis, emotional trauma and all the other problems far greater than mine. There is always someone who has a problem greater than our own.
The author warns of the mistake of measuring our strength against the challenges we face. That is one mistake I don't make. Some have commented on "how strong" I must be. I surrendered any notion of my independent strength. I long ago learned it is worthless against the challenges I have had to face in this fallen world.
Trust in what the Lord for what He has already done and in what He plans to do is a requirement for me to keep up this inorganic strength and hope. I begin every day with a thankful heart - in spite of whether my current circumstance, This choice provides the smile that would otherwise be disingenuous and betray the hurt in my heart.
If one gets a glimpse of my pearly whites, it is not because my sorrows have ended and I feel happy. "Happy" has not been in my dictionary of emotions for some time now. I don't expect it to reappear any time in the near future.
It is possible only by His Light beaming from His Perfect Peace. That alone, is my Joy.
James 1:2 | Philippians 4:13 | Isaiah 26:
I have to confess. I am struggling. My intentions to be disciplined and dedicated are failing. Though I'm failing, for now, to meet my own expectations of what I believe God is calling me to do, I am encouraged every day when I continue in His presence.
I am reminded in today's reading that "the world is in a fallen condition," **and "things always seem to be unraveling around the edges." ** But He doesn't leave me in despair. It continues, "At the same time, trust that My way is perfect, even in the midst of such messy imperfection."**
As long as I stay connected to My Heavenly Father, I can remain hopeful. I can expect to fail. I can expect the world to disappoint - and even break my heart. Though I can count on sometimes being too worn out to keep fighting, and too worn out from the same battles I've been fighting, as long as I can still turn my eyes upon Jesus, I will find strength and joy, and His Peace.
Psalm 18:30 | Isaiah 41:13
** Jesus Calling , June 1 pg 160
John 16:33 I have told you these things so that you will be whole and at peace. In this world, you will be plagued with times of trouble, but you need not fear; I have triumphed over this corrupt world order. (VOICE)
I confess, my world is not at peace. I wake each day in uncertainty about my future. I have a home. I have family and people who care about me. But my husband, my partner and best friend, he cannot share my days. He is not present when I awaken to help me face the trial(s) and rejoice in the victories of the day. I cannot reconcile why individuals have chosen to make compound my suffering. Waking at night, I wrestle with the reality of my world.
Then I allow God to once again, fill me with His peace.
My circumstances have not changed. I recognize my trials for what they are - the fallout of the spiritual battle that we all face. Instead of retreating in defeat, I return to my refuge. There in God's presence, I renew my perspective, and He renews my strength. This world may rob me of all I cherish in this world. But my peace in Christ Jesus cannot be stolen.
The inhabitants of this earth will never be at peace with each other. This fallen world is populated with sinful people. Even the "good" taint their goodness with the sin of self-righteousness and judgmental attitudes.
Genuine peace can only be achieved through our Heavenly Father the Creator, and His Son Jesus Christ. In Him, I find shelter from my fears and freedom from my cares and concerns.
Revelation 22:13 | John 16:33
I encourage you to share how your faith has brought you peace in times of trial.
As I 'patiently' wait on the Lord for His timing, how can the years and the time fly by so quickly yet at the same time find myself in exactly the same place I was years before?
In my heart, I understand His ways are greater and higher. Every day I recite to myself, "For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 I get it, I really do.
- At least I want to believe I do.
I'm still on my journey of faith. My library of prayer journals assures me that I have made my heart's desires known to my Father in heaven. Devotions every morning, My Utmost..., Living Every Day..., One Year Bible Devotional, and now Jesus Calling. He's still calling. I'm still listening - still persevering in my faith.
My writing is therapeutic. But it takes time and energy. It's difficult to believe that it has been almost eight months since my last 'journey entry.' Much has happened in those many months. Life has been chaotic, unsettled, tiresome, and to be honest - discouraging. Despite my intentions to write, I just couldn't find the energy. I wanted to continue sharing my journey. But I chose my devotions over my writing.
My faith is essential. It is essential that I stay connected with God. Though someone may stumble on to my Utmost Journey blog one day, and be encouraged, my time with God is life-giving water. Without it, I couldn't face the trials of this life with strength. He is my strength.
If there is anyone out there, who read this blog and thought I had retreated from the journey. I have not. It's that time flew by as I found myself standing still, unable to move, clinging to God so as not to stumble into a pit of despair.
A few months ago I visited a different church because I would not be able to attend home church services. As a visitor gift, I received a copy of Jesus Calling.
I hadn't planned on visiting that church. I never felt led to purchase a copy of this devotional for myself. God, however, knew it would be a source of encouragement to me in a time of great need. Just the right human words and just the right time. Just the right scriptures to assure me God still loves me. He still cares when I hurt, and that He is still the One in control.
I'm still on this journey of faith. I'm just traveling with different reading material at the moment. I'm Still Listening as Jesus is calling.
Isaiah 41:10 | Zephaniah 3:17 | Psalm 34:19
Lord, today and every day, help us to call on you to be our strength and our guide.
1 Corinthians 12:7 Each believer has received a gift that manifests the Spirit’s power and presence. That gift is given for the good of the whole community. (VOICE)
God has gifted each of us with the gift of His choosing, for His intended purpose. In my quest to find my "calling," or path, or destiny, I wonder how often I have disrupted His plan by ignoring or doubting it, or by giving it little consideration at all.
It may be that I spend so much time "searching" that I fail to act or follow through with what I believe God wants me to do. What is it that holds me back? Is it insecurity, fear - lack of trust?
I devote time to God's Word and prayer. I strive to live a life of holiness. I draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to find strength in times of trial. Still, I have a sense that I am leaving something undone.
Could it be that I am "hoarding" the gifts God has given me? Am I using the gift of His power and my faith only for my personal spiritual growth or gain? Have I limited His effectiveness in my life by trusting Him in my world, but not trusting Him to send me into His?
Phil 2:1-4 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. (NLT)
As I allow God to purify my heart and empower me by His Spirit, I pray for the courage to follow wherever it is He may choose to lead me. In Jesus' name.
Psalm 99:5 Lift up the Eternal our God in your heart;
bow down to the earth where He rests His feet.
He is holy, perfect and exalted in His power. (VOICE)
Today with Jesus He reminds me through His word, of the magnitude of His Holiness. The world, it seems, has chosen to adopt and focus only on the character of God that is non-threatening. We "believe in" the merciful Father who loves us and His Son Jesus who will "stick closer than a brother."
God delights when His children desire a relationship with Him.
But Abraham, Moses, and all the other heroes of the faith realized that we should tremble when we consider the Holiness of Almighty God. He is the Creator of the Universe, and everything in it, He crafted by His Hands. The magnitude of this reality should drive us back and to our knees, weeping at the realization of our unworthiness.
Our response when we come face to face with His awesome Power and Holiness should be like that of those enjoying a leisurely day at the beach only to look up and see a wall of water soon to overtake them with all the power of the tsunami that formed it. Rising in its presence, they must choose if they will fall in surrender to it or turn and try to run.
When we think of our "best friend" He becomes a pal who knows all our flaws and puts up with us in spite of them. We blaspheme God by reducing His Son - the Holy, Sinless Lamb of God, sacrificed for our sin, to little more than a "good bud" who offered to go to bat for us with His dad.
May we never confuse our relationship with our Creator with that of our earthly relationships. God extends His grace and love to us because He, alone, has the authority and chooses to do so. Not because he wants to be our pal.
Lord help me never to forget the magnitude of Your Holiness, the depth of my depravity, - or the need for the world to know Your Son Jesus.
Micah 6:8 O man, He has told you what is good. What does the Lord ask of you but to do what is fair and to love kindness, and to walk without pride with your God? (NLV)
Why do some attempt to put holiness living in a negative light? Certainly, it is part of the spiritual warfare going on in the world. Those who follow Christ rather than the world - that just isn't "cool." In the event this maneuver proves ineffective, accusations of elitism and self-righteousness may ensue. When all else fails, any flaws and failures must be discovered and exploited.
Living a life of holiness can make one a target. Unless one lives a life of solitude and is not engaging the world, the likelihood of experiencing one or all of these attacks is inevitable.
How can these tactics be so useful? Because to a greater or lesser degree, We are vulnerable to each one. Any one of them could be true. Regardless of whether or not we have decided to follow Christ, we are born with a sin nature. To deny it is to declare God a liar.
When we seek the approval of others instead of God, the mocking may be effective in leading us off the path of holiness. If we maintain a holy life is it because we have never experienced any significant challenge to it? If we're not careful, we could fall victim to a prideful attitude. If we have escaped that particular snare but are not mindful of our demeanor, others could still perceive us to be self-righteous. Lastly, the ugly fact is that we all do have failures - maybe even skeletons in our closets. Any one of which could be selected and used against us.
In Christ, our sins cannot condemn us. We must, however, be mindful that our actions reflect on Him and the body of Christ.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)
Psalm 94: 18-19 18 If I say, “My foot is slipping,”
Your faithful love will support me, Lord.
19 When I am filled with cares,
Your comfort brings me joy. (HSCB)
What a beautiful picture of our Lord. Always there. Faithful. Supportive. Encouraging.
I admit, there have been times I've thought to myself, "I am on the edge right now." I've even heard the words come out of my mouth. Things were piling up, going wrong, or just not happening as quickly as I wanted. I could have written the Psalmist's words myself.
More times than I can count, the faithful love of the Lord has supported me when "my foot was slipping." He lovingly put His arm around me, took my hand and "walked me back from the edge."
I am acutely aware of all the anxiety, cares, and concerns that come in this life. My stress doesn't disappear because I have put my trust in Jesus Christ. But when I sit down with Him each morning and let Him speak to me through His Word, His love, and His comfort replaces my cares with joy.
Romans 4:7-8 7 “Oh, what joy for those
whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sins are put out of sight.
8 Yes, what joy for those
whose record the Lord has cleared of sin.” (NLT)
Psalm 94:1-3 1 O Lord, the God of vengeance,
O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth!
2 Arise, O Judge of the earth.
Give the proud what they deserve.
3 How long, O Lord?
How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat? (NLT)
Christ Jesus transforms our heritage as sinners. We no longer are criminals living in violation of His law. Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are free to follow it.
As followers of Christ, we enjoy freedom. We are released from the bondage of sin in which we were born. In our own capacity, we are no better than the blatant sinner that other may revile. All sin is repugnant to our Holy God.
What is it that keeps one from accepting our Heavenly Father's most generous offer? - Freedom. Freedom from the guilt of our past sins and liberation from the deception that leads to the desire to violate God's law.
Psalm 94 8-11 8 Think again, you fools!
When will you finally catch on?
9 Is he deaf—the one who made your ears?
Is he blind—the one who formed your eyes?
10 He punishes the nations—won’t he also punish you?
He knows everything—doesn’t he also know what you are doing?
11 The Lord knows people’s thoughts;
He knows they are worthless! (NLT)
The devil's deception arrives in many forms. Sin, however, is rooted in pride. Some believe there is no God, that we alone control our destiny. Others may believe they're doing just fine the way they are and have no time, nor do they find it necessary to seek God. We may even convince ourselves that since we are believers, our "good" hearts, are "too big to fail."
Three entirely different perspectives. Each one is rooted in pride, assuming 1st place when God alone holds that gold medal.
Romans 3:10-12 10 Here’s what Scripture says:
No one is righteous—not even one.
11 There is no one who understands the truth;
no one is seeking after the one True God.
12 All have turned away; together they’ve become worthless.
No one does good, not even one. (VOICE)
No one is righteous - not even one. Righteousness comes only through the humble acceptance of Jesus' of salvation and submitting to God's authority over my life. It is His robe, but He permits me to wear it.
He sacrificed His life of ours. We must crucify our pride to live free from our sin for which He died to save us.
Psalm 90:14 Satisfy us each morning with your unfailing love,
so we may sing for joy to the end of our lives. (NLT)
Today's devotion especially spoke to my heart. That satisfying joy comes with knowing and serving God. Living life surrendered to Him and with the power of the Holy Spirit brings with it the inexplicable joy that accompanies God's faithful love.
It is not a joy that the human heart can explain. It is not possible to understand. It is beyond belief - except through experiencing it.
It is not optimism - an attitude, a positive outlook on life. And it is a fantastic attitude to possess. A glass half full is no better than one half empty. But is is when one is an optimist. Joy, however, is more than an attitude that forces us to find the treasure hidden in every unfortunate circumstance.
The gift of living joyfully comes to us even when there is no hidden treasure to be found. Even in uncertainty, pain, unhappiness, fear, and unspeakable grief? Yes.
Being joyful is not reliant on being happy and content. It is to know Jesus Christ and walk in His Spirit. To live it is the only way to know it. Even then it is never fully understood. Praise God that it doesn't need to be.
Thank You, Lord, for the those who encourage through
their optimism. They are a blessing to our lives.
And thank You for the joy of walking in Your Spirit.
It is the blessing to our soul.
Jeremiah 31:1-3 This is what the Eternal has to say:
Eternal One: There will come a time when I will be the God of all the clans and families of Israel, and they will be My people. This is what I, the Eternal One, declare to you:
My people who survived the sword
found grace as they wandered in the wilderness;
When Israel went in search of rest,
I appeared to them from far away and said:
“I have loved you with an everlasting love--
out of faithfulness I have drawn you close. (VOICE)
Sometimes we find ourselves "in a pickle." We've ended up somewhere from which we're not sure we can return. Perhaps it is caused by the actions of another. The fallout from living in a fallen world. It may also be the personal consequences we experience, like that of a rebellious teenager determined to get their way - at whatever cost.
While wandering in our spiritual wilderness, we too can again find favor. If we seek God, no matter how long we have kept Him at a distance, He will appear to us from far away.
Our Faithful Father's love did not end when our rebellion began. His Holy Spirit calls to us. When we listen and follow Jesus, He will lead us out of the wilderness back home into the loving out-stretched arms of our Heavenly Father.
Romans 5:8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! (HCSB)
Father, I pray You help those in the wilderness to respond to You when they hear Your Spirit lovingly calling us back into Your loving arms. Help them to trust Your Son Jesus to lead them home.
2 Chronicles 7:14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves
and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven
and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (NLT)
In a society where personal truth reigns supreme and where individual liberty is god, the need to repent is a tough "sell."
Everyone from politicians to preachers can testify the fact that we have major social problems. And they are growing daily. The proverbial slope is getting slipperier, yet few are willing to look up and grab hold of the only One who can keep us from crashing at the bottom.
The thought of a need for repentance is an offense to most. Hearing that it is a necessity is like listening to a language not our own - the idea is foreign to us. We tell ourselves things like, "I'm not that bad." or, "At least I'm not as bad as...." When, in fact, in our heart, we are saying, "I will determine if I am a sinner."
Read below, The Voice translation of how Jesus clarified the issue with His response in Luke 13:2-5:
Jesus: 2 Do you think these Galileans were somehow being singled out for their sins, that they were worse than any other Galileans, because they suffered this terrible death? 3 Of course not. But listen, if you do not consider God’s ways and truly change, then friends, you should prepare to face His judgment and eternal death.
4 Speaking of current events, you’ve all heard about the 18 people killed in that building accident when the tower in Siloam fell. Were they extraordinarily bad people, worse than anyone else in Jerusalem, so that they would deserve such an untimely death? 5 Of course not. But all the buildings of Jerusalem will come crashing down on you if you don’t wake up and change direction now. (VOICE)
Lord help us to see our need to turn to You with repentant hearts and let our nation be restored.
Melinda started her fifth year of her devotions reading Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest. In 2015 she has made the commitment to share what this year's journey. Taking a detour, she began living Every Day With Jesus