November 18, 2014

Turning Toward Christmas

It is November 18, 2014. I am home today (thank the Lord), but since my to-do list is significant, I will not have as much 'free time' to rest. Still, I am thankful that the Lord has provided these days off each week. I do not know how I would have made it through this semester teaching and completing doctoral assignments without the weekly rest breaks (my Tuesdays and Thursdays). The Lord is good to me, so very good to me. He has covered me with His blessing, His favor, and His sufficiency. I rest in His care, in His comfort, and in His confidence. I know that the plans He has for my life are GOOD, and that He is working to bring those plans to fruition. I give praise, testimony, and honor to the One we celebrate this Advent season, and to the who is coming again (soon!)

Semester End Brings Rest and Reward

I have blogged about this semester ad nausea. Yes, it has been challenging to me. Yes, I have been overloaded with work, both in teaching and in preparation. Yes, I know that I placed myself into this position with my desire for money (dare I say greed?) And, yes, I am aware that my heavy teaching load conflicted with my studies at Regent.

Yet, despite all those facts, I see the Hand of God upon my life this past semester. There is no way that I would have been able to keep up with the workload and demands of teaching without His Grace and His Mercy. The Lord has been my ROCK. He has provided the refuge I needed especially in those times when I thought I was overwhelmed and unable to carry on. He has been my SHELTER against the strong winds that have blown hard against me, seeking to knock me over and keep me down. Yes, my Lord is at my right hand, and He is my DEFENDER and my SHIELD.

Now as I consider the fact that I have less than three weeks to finish my semester (teaching and at Regent), I realize just how much the Lord has done for me. He has been the one to move me through these challenging days, and He has been the one to provide what I needed to complete each task and assignment. My to-do list is still long, but I am slowly checking off assignments, turning in work, and moving each day closer to the finish line. The Lord has me well-covered, and He has provided the strength, the determination, and the focus to complete what needs to be completed by the last day of school.

I need to make great headway on several key assignments. I feel confident that I will accomplish what needs to be completed today.

Looking Toward Advent

I have never been a big Advent person, which just means that while I love Christmas, I have never gone all out to celebrate the church tradition we call "advent." Advent normally celebrates the coming birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many families I know have made it a Christmas tradition to celebrate each week as Christmas day draws near. Often, these weekly home celebrations coincided with church events, Sunday services where the Advent candle was lit, and the retelling of the birth narrative from Luke. I love these kinds of traditions, and I think they have a place in our home and corporate worship celebrations. However, for me, since I do not believe that December 25 is the day of the Lord's birth, I have never really focused on the day of celebration, but rather I have focused more on the season of celebration.

In this Advent Season of 2014, I am considering how the coming of the Lord into the world some 2,000 years ago can be experienced still throughout our daily life. I ask myself, "how can we remain connected to the Lord, how can we live out the Great Command, and how can we demonstrate the love of God in our relationships with others?" Advent is a time of preparation, a time when we eagerly wait with excitement and with anticipation for the coming arrival of the Lord. The Lord entered into the world in Bethlehem as a baby. Now we look forward to the Second Advent, to His return, when He will come as Lord and King.

I think for me that the way I can celebrate this advent all year long is to allow Him to reign as Lord and King over my life NOW rather than to wait until He returns. Yes, there is something about learning to live in a way that places the Lord over every detail and event in your life. I know that for many Christians who say they love the Lord, often their lives show a fractured picture of this so-called love. They love Him when it is convenient to do so, when they have great need or when they are filled with joy on Sundays. Yet, throughout their days, there is little love for the Lord showing through to the world. In fact, most often what the unchurched say about Christians is that they live hypocritical lives. They do not live what they say they believe and what they demand that others believe.

I surrendered my life to the Lord a very long time ago. It has been a good 8-9 years since I gave the reigns of my life over to Him, and in that short amount of time, I have grown, I have been changed, and I have been shaped into a new creature, a new person who lives her life in a dramatically different way.

I call this way "His Way" because it is not something I have done to myself (as in legalism to the ordinances and commands of God), but rather it is something He has done in and through me. He has shown me a new way of living, a new way of walking, a new way of talking, a new way of believing. His way has transformed my thinking, radically altered my life plans, and provided a direction for me to go -- a direction that not only has improved my standard of living -- but that has helped me to influence others to walk alongside of me.

It is fascinating to think about it, to think how His way works. I believe that His way is patterned off of the way He walked, talked, and lived with His disciples when He was here on Earth. Once He returned to the Father, the disciples practiced this same "way" and they sought out followers to walk with them. In a like manner, we are also to practice this Way and to lead others (we become the leader and we seek out followers). The goal is to lead others to the One we follow. So while we are leading, we are not becoming Leaders with a capital "L." No, we are simply little leaders (small el) as we live His way, and through our surrendered lives, we then reach out to others to encourage, to equip and to empower them to do the same.

I think of my role in His grand plan and the only thing I can determine is that the process the Lord uses to draw each person to Him has not changed in all these thousands of years. Each individual and each heart is transformed in the same way, with each life experience shaped and molded to create a similar desire. The Lord does not work in one person 'this' way, and in another person 'that' way. Yes, we all come to the Lord through our various paths, and we bring many hurts, hang ups and habits to the Cross. Yet, in truth, we all come to Him the same way --> BROKEN --> and in need of a Healer and a Savior. The transformation process that takes the broken individual and restores them to wholeness is magical (not in an occult-like way, but rather in simply a mysterious way). The Lord of the Universe transforms what was damaged and cast off into something beautiful and useable. We become useful to Him as we undergo this transformation process. It is GRACE at work in us, and it is GRACE that transforms us into the followers He needs us to be.

Therefore, this Advent Season, my desire is to become that person of Grace, to become the one individual in my small sphere of influence who brings hope, who brings healing, and who brings Him into the lives of those who desperately need to receive Him. My focus is shifted toward a healing ministry, a ministry that seeks those that need to hear the message of salvation, that need to experience the healing touch of a loving Savior, and that need to learn what it means to follow after Him. I want others to be transformed just as I have been transformed so that they too can experience life to the full --> the abundant life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him and call Him Lord.

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