Reminder: That’s Why He Came

Today I’m reposting a blog that I wrote in 2011 with a song selection at the end. This Christmas season I and others who face hardships need the reminder “That’s Why He Came.” What comfort I receive as I remember He is with me through every trouble and trial.

God bless you with joy and peace this Christmas season and in the new year.

I confess on some past Christmases I have given in to sadness. Celebrating has seemed difficult.

There are two reasons for this. One has been because I have been facing difficult times during the Christmas season. Life wasn’t going according to my plan. People sinned against me in ways I never thought I’d have to deal with.

The other reason I’ve been melancholy at Christmas is because of the suffering of others.

It breaks my heart to see what people go through. I feel this way especially about family members, friends, fellow Christians, and those I minister to in the world of the mentally ill. Some days I ache over what happens to strangers I read about in the newspaper or hear about on the news.

But this year I feel joyful—perhaps more so than I have in quite awhile.

I haven’t been embracing the negative thoughts in my head about all that’s wrong at Christmas time. Instead I’ve heard God whisper four words about Jesus each time I think of something bad that’s happening in my world or in the world of those I love and care about.

He has been saying of Jesus, “That’s why He came.”

Someone died during this holiday season. That’s why He came—to take the sting of death away.

A precious one is riddled with sickness. That’s why He came—to heal all of our diseases.

People are going through loss, hardship, emotional pain. That’s why He came—to heal broken hearts, to bind up wounds, to set prisoners free.

When I think of this phrase “That’s why He came,” an old Christmas song comes to mind.

The carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” is based on an 1864 poem “Christmas Bells” written by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The last two stanzas go like this:

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.

I’m also thinking of the familiar verse that so many of us first heard early in our Christian walks: John 3:16.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Love, giving, eternal life.

That’s why He came.

What about you? Are you or a loved one going through a difficult time this Christmas season? Are you able to embrace the truth: “That’s why He came?” Will you make the decision to celebrate His coming even so and even though? Isn’t it amazing? Jesus is Emmanuel—God with us.  Thank You, Jesus.

 

Song: “God With Us” by “We Are Messengers”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTIzPoANcLs

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Still Feasting On God’s Faithfulness

For my blog this week, click the link below to view a blog I posted last year that will be on CBN.com Sunday, December 11, 2016 as a devotional.

http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/feasting-on-gods-faithfulness 

Since I wrote that blog a year ago, God has intervened miraculously in the family crisis I faced then. Although different challenges have presented themselves, I’m still feasting on God’s faithfulness.

Also, I found and bought a plaque recently which echoes the theme of the blog. Here are the words on the plaque: “Never let the things you want make you forget the things you have.”

“Great Is Thy Faithfulness” sung by Chris Rice

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKZ0xmkUtUo

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More About Rejection

Lately as I continued reading an excellent book about rejection and contemplated the issue, I focused on how a certain person repeatedly rejects me. Then God suggested a question I need to ask myself.

How have you been rejecting him?

Over the years I tended to look only at how I felt rejected and how this individual needed to straighten up and stop rejecting me so often.

But as I looked at my own actions one evening, I saw how easily I slipped into rejection mode.

It doesn’t matter if he rejected me first. What’s essential to embrace is that sometimes his rejections of me came in response to my rejection of him. Other times I answered his rejection of me with rejection, which only makes matters worse and dishonors God.

I can’t keep others from rejecting me, but I can choose not to have a negative response when they do.

As I made an inventory of the people in my life that I felt had deeply hurt me, I saw that I also mistreated most of them in some way. I found myself making excuses for my hurtful ways while magnifying theirs.

Two verses came to mind as I meditated about this matter.

“Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:9 NIV

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34

Routinely I reject the Lord by neglecting to spend time with Him, failing to obey Him, and refusing to receive all He has for me. Yet He does not reject me in return.

Isaiah 53:3 says this about Jesus:

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

Although Jesus didn’t reject others, He was rejected—here it says “by mankind.” But even on the cross where rejection from others led to His death, He forgave instead of answering rejection with rejection.

I’ve discovered I tend to be blind to my rejecting ways, and I don’t respond to rejection like Jesus did.  I respond naturally when the Lord desires and requires a supernatural response.

Another truth that God showed me lately is that I often have a bitter, hardened heart toward those who have hurt me. I conclude my hard heart protects me from further hurt. Instead it keeps me from getting close to others and to God. This truth hit me in regard to hard hearts: Hardened hearts can only reject. Even if my rejections aren’t acted out, they still hurt the relationships in my life, and when my heart is hard, I’m not being like Jesus.

Just as I can be blind to my rejecting ways, I can also be oblivious to the hardness that is taking place in my heart.

In Scripture hardness of heart is described as “stubbornness and perversity.” (See Matthew 19:8 Amplified Bible Classic)

It breaks my heart to see that I still battle stubbornness and perversity which the dictionary defines as “a deliberate desire to behave in an unreasonable or unacceptable way; contrariness.”

What I want to be is to be more like Jesus: “gentle (meek) and humble (lowly) in heart. (Matthew 11:29)

The only way for that to happen is to spend more time with Him and in the Word, so He can transform me, continuing the process to make me more like Him.

Lysa TerKeurst gives some instruction on becoming more like Jesus in her book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely:

“Though my circumstances may not change today, my outlook surely can. I will not run. I will rise above. I will trust God’s will above my desires. I will let truth free my soul from past hurts. I will step into today’s destiny. And in the doing of this, I see His flicker of light, and a pulse of divine hope courses through my heart. (Kindle 4001)

She also says, “The most frustrated people are those who feel their lives can only improve when others put forth the necessary effort to make things better.” (How often I’ve been stuck there.) That’s problematic since we can’t control others. A more productive view of change is to look at ways we need to change.”

God knows I want to change. He’s already brought me so far. Yet I long to stop answering rejection with rebellion. My desire is to rise about bitterness, pride, and excuse-making.

Yes, I’ve made some progress, but God continues to take me down some of the same paths, so I can see that I’m still not finished learning—that I have a ways to go.

I’m praising Him that even as I learn the hard lessons He shows me, He overflows with mercy toward me. He understands my weaknesses. And He wants me to view others in the same way.

God help me. And let my hope be in You alone.

“Rise” by Danny Gokey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dqwpli3On2U

 

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Have A Grateful Day

For my Hearts Set Free blog this Thanksgiving week, please check out a blog I posted in 2015 which is on CBN.com today. I’m praying God will help me to maintain a grateful heart–not just during this Thanksgiving season but throughout the year.

http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/have-a-grateful-day

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A God Who Never Rejects

“I’m reading a book about rejection,” a friend who’s going through a hard time told me recently.

After finishing it, she left the book on my front porch for me to read since I admitted to her I still hadn’t dealt fully with rejections in my life.

“I have to give this book back to you,” I said after reading only a chapter or two.

The reason was because I needed to buy a book of my own. There was too much to underline, too much to absorb, too much to contemplate, too much to read again and again.

As I read, I realized that while I had dealt some with rejections, they still affected my everyday life and my sense of feeling loved. Recently sad and hurt feelings arose about ways people had hurt me in my home church. Before I hadn’t labeled them as rejections, but that’s just what they were. I was rejected severely in my childhood and left that phase of my life feeling “not good enough.” These rejections resurrected this childhood lie. I discovered that the rejections from the leaders were more hurtful because they were authorities representing God, and still they acted in unloving ways.

I remember years ago a counselor instructed that I could deal with rejection in two ways. I could go to God to have Him help me deal with it. Or I could rebel. This counselor also told me that if I chose rebellion mental health issues could be the result. At the time I was battling severe depression.

Many might say that what I did after a rejection could not be termed rebellion. I gave in to overeating, isolation, shopping to feel better, and telling others how I had been rejected. I did hidden things as well. I held on to bitterness, contemplated revenge, and had negative thoughts about the person who had hurt me. The sad thing is that if I don’t deal with rejections God’s way, I will reject others. I can see that my rejections at church were from people who hadn’t dealt with their own rejections.

As I read this book, I realized anew that after rejections I still don’t immediately or fully turn to the Lord. The truth that’s hard to embrace is that each time I don’t turn to the Lord after a rejection, I’m rebelling. He tells me in His Word to call out to Him (Psalm 50:15)  pour out my heart to Him (Psalm 62:8) and come to Him (Matthew 11:28). When I don’t, I’m rebelling against these commands, which are for my good.

Perhaps it’s because I feel He could have prevented what happened.

Maybe it’s because I’d go to the person to talk about the rejection—thinking God would intervene–and was rejected again.

Too often it’s been because I’ve feared that He too would reject me–that He’d add to my sense of shame.

One counselor told me, “God is the only One who will never reject you.”

But in reading the Old Testament, it seems there was quite a bit of rejection from God. Just today I read about God rejecting the people of Judah for their wickedness and going after other gods.

The Good News is that God’s wrath was placed upon Jesus while He was on the cross. Because I’m saved, God sees me as righteous. His desire is to renew, restore, refresh—not reject. He had the same desires toward people in the Old Testament—if they would just turn around and return to Him.

As I think about these rejections in my church life, I can see that I didn’t turn to the Lord at the time they occurred. Instead I depended on my own wisdom and the wisdom of others. As I rode my bike today, I was assured from the Lord that if I had turned to Him fully, He would have given me comfort, counsel, courage, and compassion (compassion not only for myself, but also for the ones who hurt me).

What was hard to admit is that I still haven’t turned fully to the Lord in regard to these rejections. One problem that arises because of this is that I backed off from deeply connecting to others because I don’t want to get rejected again. I’ve done that in many ways in my church life and in my personal life.

Today I’m confessing my way of dealing with rejection as sin. I’m determined to turn to Him fully–even after a rejection that seems small–to receive all the comfort, counsel, courage and compassion He has to offer.

I’m going to believe what the author, Lysa TerKeurst, writes in her excellent book, Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out and Lonely.

“He waits every day with every answer we need, every comfort we crave, every affection we’re desperate for, while we look everywhere else but at Him…

He really does have it all worked out. The gaps are filled. The heartache is eased. The provision is ready. The needs are met. The questions are answered. The problems are solved.

Fully.

Completely.

Perfectly.

In Him. With Him. By Him.

We just have to turn to Him. And sit with Him. No matter what…

How it must break His heart when we walk around desperate for a love He waits to give us each and every day.”

Even though there are many people in my life who have acted in unloving ways toward me and rejected me, I can live my life loved because He loves me forever and can heal me from every hurt and heartache.

Then I can reach out to others and lead them to the Healer who never rejects.

Today I’m celebrating these truths.

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We Win! We Win! We Win!

“Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!”

Those were the words I shouted as my hometown team won the World Series after a 108-year drought—the same words announcer, Harry Caray, would shout after a Cubs victory.

Those six words were in the Tampa Bay Times the morning after that historic game which ended late at night, and yet had me and scores of others staying up to watch even though we had to get up early in the morning for work.

My daughter and I watched the dramatic this-is-going-to-give-me-a-heart-attack game together since my husband was out of town. When the final out was made, I uttered my six words and some others and screamed louder than I did in labor. As I hugged my daughter, I felt overwhelmed emotionally thinking back to all the memories with family involving the Chicago Cubs—especially back in the day of Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Billie Williams.

At work the next day, I still felt excited and discussed the game with coworkers who also stayed up late to watch.

I found myself saying out loud, “The Cubs won the World Series,” for the pure joy of it.

I’ve also said “Cubs win!” quite a few times since that night just to remind myself of the amazing victory.

In the midst of my celebrating, I thought back to what I’ve heard Christian speakers ask in regard to sports and Christianity.

“Why don’t we get as excited about what Christ did as we do about the victory of our favorite sports team?”

But the Cubs were cursed some believed, and their win was such a long time coming. We have to shout and scream and get all excited.

The words came to mind, “We win! We win! We win!” Because of what Christ did on the cross, we who have accepted Him as Savior have a victory that goes on into eternity—a victory that wins us not a spectacular trophy for our city or pride that our team has finally won but an eternal home in heaven.

Another part of Christ’s victory on my behalf is the transformation that has taken place in my life. He found me as a depressed, battling suicidal thoughts, always feeling rejected, self-loathing individual and changed my heart, my mind, and my emotions.

I confess that I do let the things in this world arouse me more at times than the amazing victory Christ won for me. Hell was my destination, but now I’m going to heaven. Once I was starving spiritually and now I’m living an abundant life with more blessings than I ever dreamed possible. Why aren’t I more ecstatic about that? What causes me to take it all for granted too often, or even muse that I somehow deserved it or earned it or that changes came about by my own efforts?

My goal is to get more excited about my spiritual victory and to tell others more often about what Christ has done for me and can do for them. Yes, certain things in this world can seem exciting, but they can never measure up to what I’ve gained through Christ. I’m still excited about the Cubs’ victory, but it pales in comparison to my victory in Jesus.

I don’t want to be complacent about the victory I—we–have won in Christ. Sometimes the enemy tries to tempt me into believing I’m not a winner—that I’m a loser because of all that’s going wrong in my life. Other times he tries to convince me that the body of Christ are losers because of all the wrong things Christians do. I refuse to believe those lies.

Instead I will believe 1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I am on the wining team–not just as an observer or fan but as a player–and because of that there is much to celebrate.

Will you join me in getting excited about what Christ has done for us, how far He’s brought us, and how deeply He loves us?

“We win! We win! We win!”

Note: Please pray that everyone connected to the Chicago Cubs organization will gain the greater victory by coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Ben Zobrist is already a committed Christian. Pray many more will follow.

Get All Excited by Gaither Vocal Band 1989

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o6SNRtTGZTQ

 

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Battles and Bitterness

I’ve heard it again and again. The Christian life is not a playground, but a battle field.

It seems that daily there are battles to fight. In the days when depression plagued me, I battled hopelessness. These days in various areas of my life I battle discouragement and fear on a regular basis.

In relationships I battle to maintain a loving attitude as I face rejections.

Recently I was reminded by the Lord that He fights my battles for me as I cooperate with Him.

“Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15 NIV

The vast army in this verse is a literal army, but in my life the vast army can be negative thoughts or destructive mindsets.

Yet in the midst, He intervenes to give me courage when I’m discouraged and faith when fear threatens to take over.

The thought that came to mind not long ago is that if I hold on to bitterness, I block God from fighting battles for me. Bitterness not only affects my relationship with people, but also with the Lord. I let bitterness guide me, instead of the Lord.

I was reminded of this as I counseled a friend to let go of bitterness in her marriage as she battled hopelessness in regard to its survival.

As I spoke to her, I examined my own life and asked God to help me with that very issue in my own relationships.

Bitterness is the sin that trips me up often. Others sin against me and instead of being gracious and merciful, I’m tempted toward bitterness. Sometimes I don’t even realize that it’s residing in my heart until I suddenly lash out.

Some days I falsely believe that I will win battles in relationships if I just maintain my bitterness. The lie that has tempted me is that it’s my forgiveness that keeps people sinning against me again and again.

God’s Word has something to say about bitterness.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; Hebrews 12:15 ESV

The conclusion I come to as I look at this verse is that bitterness blocks God’s grace, which I need to win the battles in my life.

Today and in the days I ahead, I want to let go of bitterness and allow God to fight battles for me, so I can have victory in relationships and give a loving response—no matter what, like Jesus did.

I’m grateful that God never leaves me alone to fight—that the most powerful being in the universe is on my side and by my side and wants me to have victory.

Lord, I praise You in advance for the victory that is mine in every battle that I face.

“Battles” by The Afters

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQJWT017Jwc

 

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