Have a playful Christmas!

Posted: December 24, 2015 in Uncategorized

kids & animals manger scene

If the mystery and awe and joy of the Christmas story does not move you the way it used to, maybe it’s time to release your inner child.

When my grandchildren came on the scene, they helped to restore my playful spirit. They are so easily amused and entertained and I love to experience their new discoveries with them. Asher, who is 2, is now saying “ooooooo!!!” when we drive by the colorful lights.

When we were toddlers, our world was full of wonder. Laughter was common and trust came easy. We had no past to regret and we hadn’t yet learned to worry. Then something happened. We grew up. We experienced pain, embarrassment and heartache, which produced fear, cynicism and distrust. But Jesus said,

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little
children
, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 18:3)

We need a childlike faith to trust God, to enjoy being his children and to live without fear and anxiety, even in this crazy, cruel world. The peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension (Philippians 4:7) produces a joy that beats circumstantial happiness any day.

So go ahead, have fun this Christmas. It’s supposed to be merry, after all!

The angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you
good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
(Luke 2:19)

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During the coldest time of year, when the trees are bare and the nights are long and signs of life are hard to find, a shimmer of hope breaks through with the emergence of a brand new year.  I used to wonder why people celebrate so much on January 1st

https://dwellinhissecretplace.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/draw-closer-this-week-15-its-time-to-turn-over-a-new-leaf/

a new leaf

Hello, everyone!

I haven’t added any posts for awhile because I’ve been busy working on a new study called Dwell in His secret place. It’s similar to the Get Close to God series on this blog but will be a year long quest discovering and practicing 12 keys for an intimate relationship with Christ.  There will also be weekly posts to help keep us on track.

If you are a Facebook user you will soon receive an invitation to join us.  If not, you can catch the posts on my new blog:

http://dwellinhissecretplace.wordpress.com/

I’m really excited about this project because it is a collection of truths and tips from the Bible, authors, friends, and things you have shared on Rob’s Reflections since August, 2008.

I really appreciate the way you have followed this blog over the years and I hope you will come along on this new journey with me and contribute often with your comments.  We can learn so much from each other!

See you there,
Rob

 

 

the_secret_place5Forty-sixth in the series Get Close to God

Back when I worked on multifunctional office machines, I learned the value of preventive maintenance.  Those workhorses could copy, print, scan, and fax all day long, week after week.  But if they were not allowed to go off-line long enough for a good cleaning, calibration, and replacement of worn out parts, pretty soon their performance would suffer and they eventually broke down before their time.

We are also multifunctional in our roles as husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, and employees, aren’t we?  We are constantly pushed and pulled in many directions and after a while we begin to wear down.  Some of us are driven by the almighty dollar and some of us try to please everyone but up end not pleasing anyone well. Doing our best is admirable, but if we don’t take scheduled maintenance breaks to let our heavenly Technician clean, adjust our focus and energize us, we will break down before our time.

Serving God and trying to live right is very important, but how many of us prepare properly before we go out?  How many of us just wing it without first putting on the armor of God?  But how can we take up the shield of faith or swing the sword of the Word if we’re not prayed up or filled up with scripture?  Reading your Bible and praying may seem like a counterproductive use of your time at first.  But if you stick with it, you’ll soon acquire a taste for your “daily bread” and your soul will begin to crave for spiritual food.

He that dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)

I think one of the reasons it’s called the secret place is because so many of us never find it.  Our restlessness keeps us so busy we don’t slow down enough to become restful.  We need to go off-line and get alone with God, rest for awhile and quit trying to figure everything out on our own.  We don’t have to pray long, elaborate prayers.  Sometimes I don’t know how to pray or even have the energy.  That’s when I just sit down with my hands open and relax in his presence. I usually don’t hear or sense anything from the Lord, but that’s OK.  He knows I’m surrendering some time to be with him and I usually come away refreshed and confident to tackle whatever the day will bring because I know he’ll be with me.

We’ve got to dwell in the secret place before we enter the public place.

My quest to know Christ on a personal level is accomplishing at least two things for me.  First, it lifts me out of dependence on apologetics to try and convince me of the reality of God.  The closer I get to him, the more affirmations I receive of his existence, which removes my doubts.  Second, I have found no greater satisfaction in life than seeing God do something through me that I could not do on my own.  My pride wants to pull myself up by my bootstraps, but the only way to real and lasting change is walking with the Spirit.  It is not simply letting go and letting God.  It is shifting my focus and energy from trying to do it all by myself, to seeking God with all my heart before and while I work.  I have found this to be more of a challenge, actually, than just staying busy “doing things for Him.”  Yes, I have to fight my urge to go it alone, but his joy is stronger than pride, trust is stronger than fear, and peace is the glorious result.  This is heaven on earth, a preview of the eternal bliss that awaits us.  Don’t leave home without Him!


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carrying-the-cross-daily2

Forty-fifth in the series Get close to God
 

If you were going to promote the Christian lifestyle, would you tell your prospects what Jesus did in Matthew 16:24?

“If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

We don’t like someone telling us how to live our lives, much less denying us the freedom to pursue our desires.  We are not willing to sacrifice our comfort or safety unless it is for a pleasure source that is worth the inconvenience or the risk.  Some find it in a cause, or for love, and some recklessly abandon all restraint for another fix for their addiction.

Is Christ asking us to give up every pleasure or go live as a monk? A.B. Simpson said,

“The meaning of self-denial is not an infliction of personal torment nor penance, but it is simply the giving up of the very principle of living for ourselves. It is completely changing the direction of our being and will, so that no longer in any sense do we act with reference to how anything will affect us, but our one thought is how it will affect God or others.”

It is the difference between waking up in the morning and evaluating how the things on my calendar for today will make me feel, versus asking the Lord to show me how I can be used by him in the midst of those activities.

Buried beneath the layers of religiosity and grandiosity lies a precious little secret that can fill and energize our hungry souls like nothing else.  We try so hard to be good and please people and please God, but what does he want the most from us?  Are you ready?  Here it is.  He wants…us.  He wants us more than our programs and committees and initiatives.  Those things are important, but they must involve working closely with him.  He wants us to work with him, not just for him. We need to work closer, not harder. Not only does he become more real to us in the process, but we accomplish so much more, at least at what matters the most.

Is pursuing Christ worth risking everything for?  Let’s hear from someone who thought so: “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him.”
Paul, Philippians 3:8

The more we become captivated and consumed with the love of God, the more we will recklessly abandon all restraint on our time, talents, and treasure, and willingly release them for his purposes and glory. Only then will we understand the motivation behind Paul’s devotion and the testimonies of the “I Am Second” movement. They have discovered that being a willing slave for Christ is better than being free to follow their own desires which never stay quenched.

How do you know if you are denying yourself or not?  Listen to how many times you hear me, myself, and I in your thoughts: I don’t want to do that.  I’m not comfortable doing that.  That bothers me.  That’s awkward for me.  What will they think of meI don’t have time for that.  I don’t want to give that much of my money.  I know those thoughts because I think them.  But I don’t want to.  What I do is not the good I want to do.  Sound familiar?  Yes, Paul, again, in Romans 7:19. But he goes on to say, “Thanks be to God-through Jesus our Lord!” 

I don’t want my life to end before I come to the end of myself.  I don’t want my pride to fill my final years with regret.  Admitting we need God doesn’t make us weak.  It makes us stronger as he empowers us to be all he made us to be.   And just what is that, you might ask?  Well, if you’re still trying to find yourself, then read the next verse: 

“For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?”

 

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hamster wheel

Forty-forth in the series Get close to God

Well, it’s that time of year again. When we try to muster up enough self-control and self-confidence to accomplish some self-improvement to boost our self-esteem as a result of our self-reliance. I don’t suppose I need to ask you if you see a pattern here.

I’m not against trying to become better at something or aspiring to get into shape or wanting to kick a bad habit. I just think it’s time we got off the hamster wheel long enough to share our desires and dreams with the one who can help us get past January 31st before running out of steam.

When Israel’s biggest enemy, the Philistines, heard that David had been anointed king, they came out in full force and spread out in the valley. David had already accomplished much success in his military campaigns, including sneaking into the water shaft to take Jerusalem from the Jebusites. If anyone had a right to feel self-confident, it was him. But he still checked in with the Lord before the battle. “Shall I go and attack them? Will you hand them over to me?” The Lord said, “Go, for I will surely hand the Philistines over to you.” The enemy was defeated but undaunted so they came back for more. David might have been tempted to try what always worked before, but he paused to consult again with his heavenly General. It’s a good thing he did, because he received a different tactic that time, instructing him to circle around the enemy and attack them from behind, resulting in such a devastating blow that it launched Israel as the super power in the region.

Can we learn from David as we consider our goals for the New Year? “Should I do this, Lord? Will you help me succeed?” Don’t wait until you have improved yourself enough before you approach God. He wants you as you are right now, warts and all. Come to him with a repentant heart, ask him to help you, and then give it all you’ve got!

Is there something that you have been wanting to see happen in your life? Is there a desire or dream about some kind of ministry that’s been haunting you for a long time but has remained dormant, a casualty of a lack of confidence or procrastination? Do you feel distant from God and long for the kind of closeness that brings peace and joy that is now alien to you?

Six years ago I was pretty bored and kind of depressed with how my life was going. That’s when I realized I needed to learn how to connect closely with my Creator and with brothers and sisters in Christ. Since then he has given me new opportunities for ministries that have infused excitement, enthusiasm, and purpose into my soul. I still have the same job but somehow it has become more meaningful now when I take the Lord to work with me.

Maybe life is pretty comfortable for you right now and you see 2014 approaching as just another year of doing what you’ve always done before. If you’re that confident in your abilities and don’t feel you need God very often, perhaps it’s time to take a risk and tackle something that you need God’s help for in order to succeed. Or maybe just try involving the Lord in what you’re already doing. You’ll be amazed at how much more you’ll be able to accomplish with him and how your career can also be your mission field. Either way, I guarantee it will bring you closer to him!

No matter what I would like to see happen in my life, I need to remind myself that I won’t make it to February without keeping in step with the Spirit. Getting and staying close to God needs to take priority over all my other goals. That foundation has to be solid or the building will come tumbling down.

Do any of you have an aspiration of the spiritual kind? Please share it by replying to this post so we can come alongside you and earnestly seek the Lord concerning it. Your dream may become a reality by next January, or sooner! After all, “with God all things are possible” (Mathew 19:26.)

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It truly is amazing how our souls are lifted when we count our blessings.  Dissatisfaction comes from dwelling on what we don’t have.  Contentment comes from recognizing what we do have.  I think if we can be objective, we would say there is a lot more that is right in our lives than there is wrong.  I’ve heard it said that thankful people are happier because they cherish the good things in their lives.

Yes, I do have frustrating challenges with things and people and my job but I also have people who love me and my job provides a warm house and a full belly.  Best of all, I have an awesome, personal God that’s always here for me and Christian brothers and sisters who always have my back in their prayers.  Would you like an example?  I probably would not have passed a very difficult security certification in Atlanta yesterday without those prayers.

Can people tell if we’re thankful?  Try this exercise.  Every night for a week, review everything you said that day.  What did your family, friends and co-workers hear come out of your mouth?  Positive, cheerful and grateful words or negative, complaining, and critical ones?  Instead of grumbling about not having enough money, we should appreciate the things we spent it on.

Sharon and I like to remind ourselves when one of our appliances or cars don’t work perfectly by saying “First World problem!”  

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  James 1:17

 
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