God’s Christmas Presents Part 1

God Gives the Best Christmas Presents:  Hope, Joy, Peace, and Unconditional Love

God Gives the Best Christmas Presents: Hope, Joy, Peace, and Unconditional Love

God knows how to give the best Christmas presents.  God uses people to give us many goodies and items.  Perhaps He is most famous for giving us things we can’t buy such as hope, joy, peace and unconditional love.

The Gift of Life:  Isaiah 9:6  “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder.  And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  God’s precious gift of a Messiah came in the form of a human baby.  He gives us the gift of human life every time a baby is conceived.  Scripture contains many stories of couples who could not get pregnant.  They went to God for their answers knowing that ultimately God is the giver of life. Every person on earth has a divine plan from heaven for their life.  Fulfillment often comes from living out this divine destiny.

Daily Blessings  Psalm 68:19  “Blessed by the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation.”  Daily loaded with blessings.  What a great gift.  Just living in America comes with a lot of blessings.  Most people have running water, bathrooms in the house, water heaters that provide warm showers every day.

Gifts Offer Introductions Proverbs 18:16  “A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.”  As we offer gifts to others, it does soften a heart to hear. It does offer opportunities to come before men and women of importance and state our causes. A giving heart produces a life full of opportunities.  I’m also reminded of 1 Peter 3:15 which suggests we be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and respect.  “If someone asks about our hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.”  NLT.

See more on God’s Christmas Presents:  God’s Christmas Presents Part 2

 


Prayers for the Parched: Glad It’s True

Because of the Work of Christ, our Hope of Eternal Life is in Him

Because of the Work of Christ, our Hope of Eternal Life is in Him

Luke 4:17-21  “The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him.  Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, “Today the scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

 

In the middle of a Christmas party on December 8, 2001, Sue Dumont went to be with the Lord for eternity.  She was 38.  For many of us who witnessed this, it was dramatic.  We were left grappling with our questions and trying to come to peace with what happened.  My friend Sandra realized she may never know why it happened.  But she knows our friend Sue is with God now. And this truth gave her peace.  Not everything can be explained.  It just is.

 

When I was a little kid, if Dad said it was okay, then it was.   And just being in the love of our family made it so.  Sandra prayed this prayer in her car driving home from a Christmas service one night shortly after Sue’s death.  It’s used with her permission.

 

Daddy,

There are a lot of things I do not understand

There are a lot of other things I am simply glad are true

I do not understand how it is that you came here as a person, so we could touch you

But I am really glad it’s true

I do not understand how it is that you came here as a person, so we could touch you

But I am really glad it is true

I do not understand why it is that you love me

But I am really glad it is true

I do not understand all what you are doing in my life

But I am really glad it’s true that you are working

I do not understand that you died, and you rose, for love

But I am just really glad that it’s true

Good night, Daddy

I love you, and Merry Christmas


Looking for the Living Hope

A Living Hope Lets the hopeless find hope, the broken be healed, and the oppressed go free, again and again

A Living Hope Lets the hopeless find hope, the broken be healed, and the oppressed go free, again and again

For so many, the holidays seem full of hope and joy at seeing family members.  I have spent enough Christmases without family to not have the hope that comes from being with familiar family members.  In those years, being part of the family of God offered me the hope of a larger family that has many surprise members.

Paul writes about a living hope in 1 Peter 1:3,  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who…has begotten us again to a living hope.”  Jack Hayford comments, “It is the song of the gospel and the message of the Kingdom of God:  ‘Let the hopeless find hope, let the broken be healed, let the oppressed go free!’”  This piece is tucked in his devotional quoting his book, A New Time and Place every year at the beginning of the Christmas season.

Hayford continues, “It is not a matter of fortune or luck.  It is a matter of love.  It is the way of the King.  He reverses situation. He turns impossibilities on their heads.  He transforms darkness into dazzling light and plants living hope in the lives of all who come to Him.”


Steph’s Recipe’s: PERSIMMON PUDDING

Persimmon Pudding can be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Persimmon Pudding can be served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Every autumn, my neighbors bring me a bag of persimmons from their tree.  I love to try new recipes as well as pull out some of the favorites.  Inevitably, I include this recipe for Persimmon Pudding.  The batter is light orange when it goes in the oven and it comes out dark and yummy.  Most people can’t figure out the main ingredient at first when I bring it to a potluck.  This recipe creates a very moist pudding.  People will ask for the recipe.

 

PERSIMMON PUDDING

 

2 cups sugar

2 cups flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

2 cups Hachiya persimmon pulp

2 cups golden raisins

2 cups coarsely chopped nuts

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons vanilla

3 tablespoons melted butter

 

Preheat over to 350 degrees.

Sift together sugar, flour and baking soda.  Set aside.  Beat together persimmon pulp, milk, vanilla and butter.  Slowly add in 2 cups at a time of the flour mixture, mixing thoroughly.  Stir in raisins and nuts.

Pour into a large casserole dish and bake for one hour or until pudding pulls away from the sides of the dish and center is still gooey.


Recognizing the Answer to Big Prayer Request After Waiting

Man Praying Asking God and expectantly waiting for the results

Man praying and asking God and expectantly waiting for the results

This year my church selected the theme of waiting for Advent.  It wasn’t what I normally associate with Christmas.  But there is a lot of waiting that goes on at Christmas – waiting for all the greetings from friends, waiting to see family, waiting to see what’s wrapped under the tree. Luke 2:25 says, “Simeon was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Sprit was upon him.”  Simeon was praying a heartbeat prayer.  His prayer was for Israel to be consoled.  He recognized the need, articulated it in prayer, and was waiting for the answer.  Asking God to console all of Israel is a big ask.  And after the ask, Simeon didn’t write off the lack of any change or difference.  He was actively looking for and expecting an answer.  He didn’t know that it would come in the form of a little boy visiting the temple.  But Simeon’s spirit saw the boy and felt the shift in his spirit.  He somehow knew this was not an ordinary boy.  He recognized the nudge of the Holy Spirit which was upon him. Seeing the answer in a person brought him peace, long before the world had any idea of who Jesus was or His significance.  Simeon still didn’t know how this boy would be the answer.  His spirit was attuned in active waiting, such that he knew Jesus was the answer to his prayer for Israel.  His peace was so deep that he was ready to depart life in peace.

How many big prayer requests have I asked of God?  One request I have is that revival would come to America.  I’d like to see people know God as a loving and just God.  I’d like to see America honor His statutes.  I’d like to see people have a healthy fear of God. And so, I wait and pray.

It takes time to see the results of big prayer requests.  We ask and leave many things in God’s hands, believing that He is at work.  We ask knowing that He hears our prayers.  We ask, trusting that He is at work on it. I now add to the request that I would recognize the beginning signs of change and shift.  “Show me a sign for good…because You, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.”  Psalm 86:17.  I believe this is a time to ask for big things of God. Nothing is too difficult for God.


Worshiping God as King and Righteous Judge

Jesus in His Kingly Glory.  Art by Danny Hahlbohm

Jesus in His Kingly Glory. Art by Danny Hahlbohm

I had the privilege of hearing Mike Bickle of IHOP in Kansas City speak at an Aglow International conference in 2009 that the church would be coming into a season of honoring God as King.  We were coming out of a decade where the body of Christ had been learning about Jesus as the Bridegroom.  In our worship music, this means that many songs had been written and sung about Jesus being the loving bridegroom and the church His bride.  Mike Bickle himself had addressed many of these issues with his in-depth teachings on Song of Solomon.

Since there have been a number of worship songs written honoring Jesus as King.

 

Sing to the King

Forever Reign

You Alone Can Rescue

I Will Look Up

There is a Kingdom

Looking ahead, I wonder what aspect of God we might start hearing more songs written about. If we really are in a season of revival, it follows that there will be repentance and forgiveness themes.  Maybe we’ll hear mention of God as the Righteous Judge before whom the blood of Jesus atones all sins.  So many people go through times where they want someone to hear their side of things and render a fair assessment.  Maybe that time is coming.  It follows that people would want to revere God as the Righteous Judge that He is.


What’s Your Spiritual Age?

Anna recognized Baby Jesus in the temple.  Photo: sherriejohnson.blogspot.com

Anna recognized Baby Jesus in the temple. Photo: sherriejohnson.blogspot.com

Spiritual age progresses with overcoming challenges.  We can stagnate at an age for several years if we don’t allow our spiritual core to learn and advance.  I seek people younger than me for prayer if I know they’ve gotten victory in a particular area of their lives and I want that victory in my life.  If they’re walking with peace in the sme trial I am, I want their blessing for breakthrough.

Among my friends that are older than me, age is not the determining factor in whether I ask for their prayer.  Mature Christians develop roots that have weathered life’s storms.  These people have wisdom I wish to learn from. I seek out shade under their leafy trees with gnarled trunks.  I listen to their stories with their victories. They grant me family status as they share their life lessons with me. They may be retired in the natural, but their faith has refired in the spiritual realm, giving spark to my faith embers.

Luke mentions a woman who spent much time in the courts of the temple.  Anna was a prophetess who was 84.  “She never left the temple but worshiped might and day, fasting and praying, thanks to God and spoke about the child to all.”  Luke 2:36-38 NIV To this dear saint, God let her see the Messiah.  Not only did she see a couple coming with a baby, God opened her eyes to recognize that this baby was the promised Messiah.  Would I have recognized Jesus with such spiritually mature eyes?  May our spiritual maturity progress along with our calendar age.  May be keep learning and seeking God in all we do.


Prayers for the Parched: Once Again – Part 2

"Now there was a widow that kept asking a judge for justice..."  Photo:  friarmusings.wordpress.com

“Now there was a widow that kept asking a judge for justice…”
Photo: friarmusings.wordpress.com

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray an not give up.  He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God not cared about men. And there was a certain widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!’ And the lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says.  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night?  Will he keep putting them off?  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.  However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ Luke 18:1-8

 

The reason I like this prayer is its ongoing nature. We continue to ask for justice and peace.  Jesus continues to pray for us. Why?  Because we need it!  Human hopes are exhausted in our overly indulged, overly committed lifestyles.  This prayer points us to God’s never ending abundance.  “Continue to teach us to pray.:”  This prayer affirms that it is a process of learning how.  All those frustrating little life experiences are God’s teaching ground.

Holy Spirit, we again give you this church and this community

Please bless our fellowship

Deepen our commitment to being Jesus’ body, bringing his love to bear on our relationships here and where we live and where we work

Inspire our worship so that seekers will sense your power and your love working in us and working through us

Lord we pray for our country and our world and continue to ask for justice and peace

We ask that you would make us generous people so that our abundance can bring your hope where human hopes have been exhausted

Father, lead us as your children to be more and more like Jesus

Lead us to deeper and deeper in our walks with you

And continue to teach us to pray, even as Jesus taught his disciples to pray.

Amen

Prayer for the People, Menlo Park Church Service 12 February 2000

View Part 1 of Prayers for the Parched: Once Again – Part 1


Prayers for the Parched: Once Again – Part 1

"Now there was a widow that kept asking a judge for justice..."  Photo:  friarmusings.wordpress.com

“Now there was a widow that kept asking a judge for justice…”
Photo: www.friarmusings.wordpress.com

For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.  Psalm 100:5

“We again give you…”  Have you ever been on a weekend retreat where there’s a spiritual catharsis on Saturday night at the communion service?  These Magic Moments are where we commit something in our life to God.  It could be a dream, a hope a decision, or a disappointment.  Or, perhaps we give him the request/burden that we’ve been carrying for years.  They’re wonderful times.  So how is it that the peace can sometimes disappear in 24 hours?  I think it’s because we crossed our fingers while we prayed.  Or we picked up that burden again on our way out of the chapel. Some trials need to be laid at his feet again and again and again.  Keep at it.  With supernatural help, there is victory ahead.

Lord, Jesus,

We have come here to praise you and to sing your glory

We pause before you to praise you and stand in your glory and to know you better

Lord, in giving you our worship we ask that you would transform us

We ask that you would assure us and remind us of your faithfulness to us

Because there is a seemingly endless list of situations and people that leave us worried and overwhelmed

Lord, please renew our confidence in you and in your love

Lord, we give to you our best selves and ask that you inspire us to be your servants wherever we find ourselves

Lord, we also give to you our hidden selves and ask that you shine your light on the parts of us that long for healing and for deliverance

Lord, we give you thanks for never shying away from us or being shocked at any secrets we harbor and for always responding to us with grace and mercy

Continued in Once Again – Part 2

 


Encouraged by Stories of Jesus Meetings

Praying for People Around the World Matters Photo courtesy of akukusutla.blogspot.com

Praying for People Around the World Matters Photo: akukusutla.blogspot.com

As I was praying through my list of family members who don’t know Jesus,  I asked God if this exercise had any value.  Most of these names have been on my list of many years with no change in their interest in Jesus, God or spirituality.  With a vague sense of obedience, I keep contending for a relationship with God for them.

Two days later, I was having coffee with a Healing Rooms Team Intern who shared the story of his cousin.  They had grown up as close as brother and sister.  His family had a strong faith in God; her family had none.  This cousin considered herself an Atheist.  He remembered getting into a vocal discussion about this topic a few years back after a movie.  College, travel, marriage and health issues has allowed several years to pass without connecting.  Out of the blue, he received a text asking for a book recommendation on learning something about Jesus.  He offered an N.T. Wright book suggestion and she read this and asked for another.  He wondered what was up.

At a holiday event, he saw her and asked about the back story. She said she had been walking her baby daughter down a neighborhood street in a stroller and turned a corner and had an encounter with Jesus.  She said she wasn’t sure what was going on.  She felt His peace and love and presence so strongly that she realized she needed to learn more about this person of Jesus Christ.  Despite her family’s surprise and dismay, she set a date to be baptized and invited my friend.

He said he had not prayed for her for along time.  This happened out of the blue.  I found this story so encouraging in light of the question I had asked God about my family members who still want nothing to do with God.  The story gave new infusion to my prayer efforts.  We never know how or when God will answer our prayers.  I was reminded that He’s listening and acting on our prayers at the moment and over time.  Long after we forgot we prayed something, He’s still answering our prayers.  I was inspired to keep praying, believing that God is at work all the while.