Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peace on Earth

Luke 2:8-11
8 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. 9 Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!

I love to imagine myself within some of the stories I read in the Bible. As I read about the shepherds guarding their flocks of sheep on that “Christmas” night in winter when an angel of the Lord appeared… I imagine what it might have been like had I been there with them.

Soooo…ok,I hate to admit my very first thought was…this all happened during wintertime…it hadto be cold that night.Yikes…I hate the cold!I’m pretty sure if any details were given about my being present that night,well…I’d be the Sheppard girl found huddling with the sheep just to stay warmer!But,thankfully,another thought occurrs to me almost as quickly.
I’m probably use to working outside on a winter’s night…so the cold would not be an issue for me! Finally… with all this “concern” dealt with I am able move on into the story…

I imagine that quiet night with only the soft sound of a few crying sheep …looking up into that clear night sky and gazing at the beauty of a full galaxy of stars! Amazing …the vastness of them all as they appear to be near enough to touch with my hand. Although I have experienced similar starry nights, this particular night seems special somehow as my heart leaps to praising God and thanking Him for creating such beauty and bright lights!

“What an unusually beautiful night” I said to my fellow shepherds. But before they could respond and while I was still content in the pleasure of praising God…Suddenly an angel of the Lord appears!

If I thought the night sky had been lit up brightly before by all the stars… well… the “radiance of the Lord’s glory” is now surrounding me and all the other shepherds! The brilliance of this light is so blinding it would just have to knock all of us off our feet! As I strain to adjust my eyes… I feel terrified… "is it because the Lord’s radiance is revealing my unworthiness to be in its glow?" What a moment that was for both the angel who spoke and for us shepherds who heard!

I pause here in the story as I begin to wonder…”How did the angel of the Lord sound when he delivered this message of great joy to the shepherds? I mean, after all, he was speaking about Jesus…he already had seen our Lord and worshipped Him in heaven… and now God the Son had arrived into the world as a baby to live in human form! I wonder…did the angel know why Jesus had chosen to leave perfection to dwell among the imperfect? Did the angel of the Lord not think this was a strange thing for God to be doing? The bible doesn’t tell us what the angel knew...or thought…only that He was the one chosen to announce Jesus’ arrival (birth). So perhaps when he saw the shepherd’s fear, his voice was first filled with compassion and than quickly changed to the excitement he felt as he spoke of a joy that he was very familiar with…a joy yet unknown to these shepherds!"

No sooner had the angel assured us saying; “Don’t be afraid! “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David.” (Luke 2:11)

When…

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (Luke 2:14-15)

What an amazing and joyous moment…imagine, in the middle of a shepherd’s field among sheep and shepherds…armies of heavenly beings appear and sing… pouring the joy of the Lord over us! What an amazing 1st Christmas gift! God has chosen to tell us about the birth of the Messiah, our Savior - the Lord!

Then…just as suddenly, all the angels disappear from our sight and the night returns once again to a quiet and star lit night.

Luke 2:15-18 (Amplified)
15When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing (saying) that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us. 16So they went with haste and [by searching] found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in a manger. 17And when they saw it, they made known what had been told them concerning this Child,18And all who heard it were astounded and marveled at what the shepherds told them.

There is so much more to this story… but this is where I have decided to stop and “visit a while” this year. I don’t know about you…but I desire to experience what the angels sang over those shepherds that 1st Christmas night…I want to experience their anticipation of seeing Christ and experiencing the promise of peace on earth.

God’s PEACE…not the fleeting kind felt only when things are going well…but the lasting peace found only in God.

I know I am saved by faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God… and that there is no “works” I must do to get to heaven. But something caught my attention this year in the song of praise the heavenly hosts sang…did you catch it too? It is found in Luke 2 verse 14. (NLT)
14 “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” (The NIV version; “whom His favor rest”).

“What pleases you Lord?” I’ve decided to ask this Christmas… As I reflect on my prayers over this past year I realized that most of my prayers have been me telling God what I want (whether for me or others)and saying to God what I think is best for my life in order for God to eventually please me here on earth. Yikes! Maybe… I have at least once (or more?)… held some hope that somewhere in my prayers that I would “touch on” pleasing you too Lord. Unfortunately…it has been far too rare that I have even thought to ask the Lord…”what is it I may do this day which you have given me… to please You Lord?” I believe the answer to finding a lasting peace will be found in God’s answer to this prayer and my response to Him.

“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16)

I sincerely believe our Lord desires to give all of us His peace… not only as we celebrate our Savior’s birth…but throughout every day…in every circumstance…in the good times and in the hardships and trials of this life.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NLT) 6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

May this Christmas… when Jesus opens our gift to Him…may it be a life that desires to be filled only by Him.

Merry Christmas!
Kathy

John16:20 (NLT)
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

“Over”weight

I know…I know… most of us are probably feeling a bit “overweight” right now having indulged in a feast or two as we celebrated Thanksgiving a few days ago. If you’re like me…you now probably are wondering if you’ll be able to control your “hand to mouth motion” over the next few weeks as you try to resist all the home-made Christmas goodies that both family and friends will be giving us to eat…even more pounds to lose…Yikes!

I don’t have to think too long on any of these delicious but diet killing thoughts before I find myself “weighed down” with a lot more than just a couple of extra pounds. No, these simple but “worrisome” thoughts always invite their family and friends… then all too soon I’m hosting a huge party whose only guests are “worries, fears and dread”…Oh my!

Suddenly, I’m no longer looking at only “how to resist Christmas treats” but have somehow just added on several bigger difficulties I struggle with. Double Yikes! I have quickly become buried under the weight of "everything" that this life brings which is difficult to do or is too heavy to bear!

Which brings me to this…I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how it “feels” to be weighed down by all the hard stuff this life brings. When I have been overcome by life’s hardships and difficulties I can actually feel heaviness lay over me…a very noticeable weight over my whole being. I’ve also noticed this same kind of “heaviness” in others who are experiencing a “too heavy to carry” burden(s) in their lives or the lives of loved ones.

Although I know better…I still sometimes take a “problem”…lifting the weight of it onto my shoulders when it seems light enough for me to do so and I’ll carry it around with me. If the problem doesn’t go away “quick enough”…perhaps I’ll try some “unfocused” prayers for its resolution…but, for the most part… I just carry it around with me. If the problem remains (longer than a day) I can even become so accustom to its weight that I will begin to ignore the harm it is causing me. So... like a fork to mashed potatoes with gravy on a full stomach… I ignore my “discomfort” and allow this “problem” to be joined with “worry”. These two together…grow heavy and before I know it…“dread” shows up. The problem I started out carrying so easily now has me buckling to the floor under its weight… I’m completely “over” weight and outmatched.

Everyone has something(s) in their lives that has the potential to put them under a body blanket of heaviness that makes them feel like the “weight of the world” is on them. I have found when I have attempted to carry the burdens of life…they weigh me down so severely that they don’t allow me to walk around as the victorious child of God I am! I’ve learned if I don’t stop “eating the troubles” of this world…the weight of them becomes so heavy that I can barely lift my head… there have been some days… I didn’t even want to…

Psalm 68:19 (Amplified Bible)
Blessed be the Lord, Who bears our burdens and carries us day by day, even the God Who is our salvation!
Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]!

You know… life is hard. Life is not all bad and it’s certainly not all good… but one thing I think is also true…even the good and fun stuff this life will bring… comes to us with at least a “pound of hard” somewhere in it. Concerning the hardships God’s children endure here on earth Charles Stanley explains;
"Some things are so important to God that they are worth interrupting the happiness and health of His children in order to accomplish them.”

I can chose to try and “pick up and eat” all this hard stuff and get weighed down and discouraged by life’s “unfairness”…or allow God to show me what it is He would have me do. I think He simply wants me to trust Him for what He has placed on my “plate” from the table of burdens. My portion has been carefully measured and is the perfect amount according to what God desires to accomplish in me.

In fact…the Lord doesn’t expect me to carry my “plate” and He doesn’t want you to carry yours either…Jesus will not only carry all the weight of this world…but He carries you and me too.

Genesis 18:14 (NIV) Is anything too hard for the LORD?

You know…for me… when I give the Lord all the “hard stuff” this life brings…I find He makes the good and fun things a bit sweeter… mmmmm, sounds like dessert!

Kathy