Christmas Wonder

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“For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government is upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonder (footnoteas in signs and wonders – Miracle), Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9: 5 One New Man Bible

I wasn’t going to write a blog post this week, what with Christmas and leaving for SHINE and just having to prepare for all of that. However, this is so strong on my heart right now that I just have to write about it. The Hobbit movie review will continue next week.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had this much trouble getting in the Christmas spirit. Although I have been set free from the sense of sadness and depression I was having, it still hasn’t felt like Christmas exactly. Of course, it could have to do with the fact that instead of relaxing after Christmas, I will be boarding a plane to go to a weeklong convention bound to change my life. But still, I wanted the Christmas spirit so about five days ago, I asked the Lord why I was still having trouble. I  heard Him almost immediately.

“You need everything to work out the way you think it’s supposed to and situations to come together and answers to become clear. That’s what Christmas has come to be about for you.”

Wow. That hit me. For a while now, I’ve said that I love Christmas because it makes me feel like everything is going to be ok. Whatever I’m going through is going to work out. And while that sense of hope and excitement is important, I made that more central than Jesus. So I asked Him what Christmas is really about.

“It’s about finding Me in every situation, in every moment. It’s about the Love I have for you to send down My Son. It’s about trusting that no matter what situation you’re in, I’m there. I’ve got it.”

Then I asked the Lord something I’ve been wondering for a while.

“Why does Christmas seem bigger than Easter? Isn’t Easter technically more important?”

And Jesus answered me, and He said, “Christmas represents the beginning of My life, and my life is just as important as my death.”  

Which that kind of blew me away. Jesus’ death was the final battle, the climax in the story. He won us eternal, heavenly life, but through His earthly life, He showed us how we can live on earth, here and now. Jesus doesn’t just care about getting us to heaven. He cares about us right now. In this moment, wherever we are.

Jesus could have just come to earth and died. But He didn’t. He healed. He taught. He cast out demons. He subverted overly religious authority. While I never want to forget the majesty and wonder of His death on the cross, I also never want to lose the wonder of the beginning of His life on earth.

That brings me to this morning. Listening to one of Bethel’s cds, I landed on the song “Wonder” an amazing spontaneous worship song. The first part of the song says,

“May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King”

I realized that sometime throughout the last or so I lost my childlike wonder at Christmas. My childlike wonder at Jesus, the King of the Universe, as a tiny baby surrounded by hay.

That scene, that imagery can sometimes become so cliché at times. When did I become immune to the manifest presence of Love bundled in swaddling clothes? When did the “feelings,” the traditions, the circumstances surrounding me become more important than my Love, here on earth? When did I forget the beauty of my King as a baby?

While “Wonder” is not really a Christmas song, I don’t think anything else fits more perfectly right now. I want everything about today, Christmas Eve, and tomorrow to be wrapped up in His presence. The only gift I want is my childlike wonder.

He loves you. He loves YOU! While baby Jesus lay there, wherever it was and during whatever time of the year it was, He already knew He was going to die for you. He already looked forward to the sermons He would give and the miracles He would do, knowing that years from then, you would read about it in the Bible and something would touch your heart. He was already planning how He was going to use the things He did back then to encourage and heal you now. He is a beautiful baby boy, and He came just for you.

Father, I pray that you would come down now. Fill us with Your wonder. Touch the hearts and minds of people everywhere. Remove the layer of worldliness that surrounds Christmas and replace it with eyes that look to You and hearts that glow in Your presence and passion lit on fire for You. Father, give us more of You this Christmas and continually pour out on us love, the same love that caused You to send down Your Son. Jesus, we love you. I love You. I will always love You.

If you need help getting some wonder, try this song by BarlowGirl. A beautiful lullaby written from the point of view from Mary, it makes me cry almost every time.

Merry Christmas everybody and God bless! I love you, guys.

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Spiritual Musings about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – Part One

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“But I shall sing of Your power. Yes, I shall sing aloud of Your loving kindness in the morning, for You have been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.” Psalm 59:17 in One New Man Bible

**Warning: This blog contains spoilers about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey so if you have not seen it, go watch it right now and then come back and read this. And if you read it anyway, without having seen it, you might be confused because I’m going to write assuming that my readers know what I’m talking about.

My best friend Ariel came to stay with me last week for a while (Yay!!), and two nights ago we rewatched (which, according to Microsoft Word, is not a real word) the first Hobbit, preparing ourselves for the release of the third one, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, TODAY! Well really last night, but you get the picture.

After the movie, as with all of J.R. Tolkien’s works, we discussed the incredible spiritual implications and teachings the Lord showed each of us. So in addition to myself, this blog post comes to you from Ariel and my mother. You’re welcome.

My mom spoke about the constant battling throughout. The orcs, the trolls, the disgustingly fat goblin king and his creepy army. It exhausted her, mainly because she feels that exact same way. We have been in our own battle the past couple months with finances, health, relationships, peace of mind. The enemy doesn’t like to give us breaks, but the Lord continues to teach us about spiritual warfare, equipping and preparing us.

What stuck out about the battling to my mom was the vigor with which they fought. She said, “I haven’t been fighting nearly as hard as they did. No matter what came, they fought with everything they had. I’ve just been kind of laying down, tired, saying, ‘Ok God, come and do it.’”

Defeat should never be our attitude, even when we feel like there’s nothing left in us to give. I know I’ve already written about this before, but it’s something that I sometimes have to remind myself daily. I need to rise above my feelings and stand on the word of God. Stand in worship to Him. Through different pastors and my own personal time with Him, God has shown me that those are our weapons. When we don’t have anything “practical” to do, we worship, and we speak out loud his promises. Don’t just read the Bible in your head. Read it out loud. Morning, noon, and night. Literally. Out loud.

Psalm 13 is one of my favorite Psalms because I so related to it in junior high and high school. In the first verses, David asks God how long God is going to forget about him. “How long will You hide Your face from me?” he asks. I can’t even tell you how many times I have asked God that exact same thing.

But in the last verses of that Psalm, David says, “But I have trusted in Your loving kindness. My heart will rejoice exuberantly in Your salvation! I shall sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Even with everything he just said, David declares his praises to the Lord. Whether being chased by Saul or his own son, David stood on the Lord. His life was literally on the line, and still he declared the goodness of the Lord.

Just this last Sunday, I heard a message by a woman talking about spiritual warfare. She pointed out David, saying that David was a giant slayer. And he was a giant slayer because he was a worshiper, because he fell on his face before God. Our weapons are not iron swords and guns but the sword of the Spirit, which is the word. Our weapon is to worship God. He showed Ariel and me a while ago that when we worship God, we engage in spiritual warfare.

It doesn’t matter how well you sing or what instruments you play or don’t play. It doesn’t matter if you’re not even close to being musical. Worship is a necessary part of our victory in reclaiming, through the blood of Jesus, what satan has tried to steal from us.

Another part of that victory, as I mentioned, is reading out the promises of God. I randomly flipped open the Bible after telling God I needed help and found my thumb on Joel 2:23 through 27, a section titled “Seven Blessings” in the One New Man Bible translation. This passage lists seven blessings: double blessing, abundance, restoration, never a lack, miracles, respect, and divine presence. (And it’s not listed this way in any other translation so if you can’t find those exact words, that’s why.)

Since the Lord has shown me that passage, I have read it out loud right after I wake up in the morning, before I even get out of bed, and right before I turn out my light and fall asleep at night. That’s how we war. That’s how we use our sword. It seems so simple, and maybe even like it’s not doing anything, but that is exactly what satan wants you to think. I’m not going to stop. I’m not going to give up just because I don’t see the results I think I need. I’m going to shove the word of God in satan’s face every time he tries to get in mine. It’s time for me to fight like a hobbit.

Which brings me to the other thing my mother noticed. Near the end of the film, Thorin is drawn towards the pale orc, Azog I think, locked in this intense gaze full of intimidation and hatred. Thorin is thrown down, and it looks like the end. Then out of nowhere, Bilbo flies in and takes down an orc, beginning a charge from the other dwarves. Bilbo, though remarkably smaller and probably weaker than Thorin, succeeds. My mother remarked that Bilbo was drawn in by love, by loyalty, by honor and respect.

Revenge and hatred weaken us, despite their lies that we grow stronger the more we wallow in them. When drawn by these things, we will fail, often alone in our endeavors. But being drawn by love brings a strength that we could never have just on our own. Being drawn by love ignites something in others that will spark them to join you. Bilbo and Thorin essentially did the same thing – attacked an orc, but they were motivated by two completely different things that produced completely different results. No matter how cheesy this sounds, love always wins. Always. Love truly is the most powerful weapon in the world. Because love is God. God is love.

So these are the musings from my mother, with some embellishment from me, about the first Hobbit movie. As usual, I wrote much more than I intended so Ariel’s incredible revelations will have to come in next week’s blog. Unless I decide to write it later this week. We shall see. But for now, take what you want from this blog. Allow the Lord to reveal to you what He wants. Give Him the freedom and time to speak to you in whatever way He chooses. Ask Him to show you what verses He wants you to stand on. And go watch The Hobbit.

Jesus’ Joy

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“And the God of hope might fill you with every joy and peace when you believe, for you to abound in the hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13 One New Man Translation

When I was younger, starting around 5th grade, part of my nightly routine was to tell my mom my list of worries. I’m serious. I usually had at least three. I would count them off on my fingers and explain the reasons and thoughts behind them. with a rather complicated, painful divorce and a best friend turning her back on me more and more each day, it wasn’t hard for me to find things to worry about. My entire world had suddenly becomes very unstable.

As I continued to grow up, I often felt very uneasy. Even if I didn’t consciously think of the worries, I still felt them, always at the back of my mind, itching to pop back up in full force and unsettling my heart. The worry slowly chokes out your peace and drains you of joy. Not fun.

During the last six years, especially the last two years, as I’ve grown closer to the Lord, the worry has lessened exponentially. Apparently drawing closer to our Father helps us worry less. Crazy how that works.

However, I’ve still worried enough that it disrupts my life, sometimes my sleep, and always my peace and joy.

And now Christmas season has arrived. My favorite time of the year. There’s a reason Christmas has a song called, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”

For me, Christmas brings peace. And joy. And hope – the joyful, confident expectation of good. I always feel that anything is possible during Christmas time. That no matter what wrong is going on, everything will out for good.

But this year, I’ve had to fight for that. I’ve had to fight and peace and joy and hope, which, in the process of fighting, I’ve actually been losing these things.

I think I’ve spent the majority of my life in the mindset that I can be joyful and peaceful when all of these “worries” have finally worked out., and I’ve just been waiting for that day. However, there’s a problem with that because another worry will always pop up. So of course, I’ve only had short time periods where I feel at peace and full of joy. I’m learning just how wrong that mindset is.

Before Thanksgiving, I asked the Lord to make this the best Christmas season yet. I told Him that I want to be joyful no matter what is going on in my life, and then I let my request go to see how He would answer it.

My family and I ushered in the Christmas season by attending a concert with Steven Curtis Chapman, Brandon Heath, and Jillian Edwards. The name of the tour? Joy. It is literally called Joy: The Christmas Tour.

Then, before the concert even begins, one of the local radio DJs walked out with her son to tell us about the Joy Pledge. It’s a pledge that they say on the radio, and she and her son proceeded to lead us in it right then.

It says, “I need joy. And when I keep my eyes on Jesus, I have joy. When I lose it, I will choose it. I choose joy.”

I couldn’t even finish it without tearing up. And then Steven Curtis Chapman comes out and leads us in the first song, which was “Joy to the World.” I definitely cried during this song. Not out of sadness though. Rather out of the beauty of the Lord’s love for me and the way He chooses to speak to me. So perfectly personal.

The answer is right there. And I’ve heard it all before. Choose joy. Gaze at Jesus. Don’t worry about whatever is going on in your life. I’ve finally heard it enough that it’s sinking in.

If I am always counting out my worries, then I will always find something to worry about. My life could be, hypothetically, completely perfect, but if I’m in that mindset I will still find fear and anxiety.

It’s not about what’s going on around me. It’s about what’s going on inside of me. I think for the first time in my life, I’m finally beginning to understand that.

Joy, He’s showing me, entwines itself with trust. What hinders my joy is fear and worry, which is so stupid because God can take care of everything. When I begin to believe that, when I begin to look only at Him and trust Him, He shows me how not a big deal everything else is.

I know that this is something that takes practice. It’s something we need to be told every day. and it’s something that can be really annoying to hear when you’re in the midst of something difficult..

Sometimes, joy gets to be an overwhelming feeling that washes over you. But sometimes, it really does have to be a choice. We may have to consciously move our spiritual eyes away from our problems and onto Jesus.  Multiple times in one day. But it is possible. It is possible to choose joy when you have a million and one things on your mind. It is possible to be peaceful in the midst of hardships. I promise. The Bible wouldn’t say, “Be joyful always” (1Thessalonians 5:16)  if it wasn’t possible.

I don’t want to wait for joy anymore. I don’t want to wait for peace. And I definitely don’t want to try to fabricate my own joy.  This amazing, wonderful Christmas season, I choose joy. His joy. His love. His presence.

I choose joy by gazing at Jesus, by continually combating every worried thought with an image of me placing it in Jesus’ hands. Because He is working out all things, and I’d rather enjoy that process than go through it with worry.