Maybe You Aren’t Feeling It This Christmas

On holidays like Christmas, it can be so hard to look at Facebook and see one family picture after another – every family seemingly so happy and joyful being together.  It is easy to think this is all as real and happy as it appears on Facebook.  But is it really?  Is this really reality?  The truth is that it isn’t.  Facebook is not really a place where people are transparent and show their lives as they really are.  This Christmas hit me hard yesterday as I attended one of the Christmas Eve services at my church in Northern Virginia.  Up until the service, the holidays had been okay for me.  Suddenly, I found myself crying throughout the service – feeling so alone (as I went alone and sat in one of the few empty seats by myself).  It APPEARED as though everyone else was experiencing the service and Christmas with immediate and extended family members in attendance.  The enemy started sending piercing arrows my way:

  1. “You are alone, always have been, and always will be.” – Truth: I am never and will never be alone with Jesus.
  2. “You don’t belong, why are you even here in this service.”  – Truth: It is my right as God’s child to come into His Presence, join in community with His Body, and worship Him.
  3. “Look at the families everyone else has to enjoy.” – Truth: All is not as it seems.  It is a matter of perception.

The sermon was on the parable of the 2 Sons – both prodigals.  As I sat, listened, and wept, I identified mostly with the younger son.  I feel as though I have spent my time, energy, finances, and emotions on things that don’t satisfy and I feel utterly empty, an emptiness that only Jesus can fill and satisfy.  You may ask, “how can I feel this way when I am a Christian?”  The Christian life is not a perfect, happy, and joyful life day in and day out that is free of grief, loss, trial, tragedy, and struggle.  Reality still exists.  I was quickly reminded of a book a friend had recommended to me several months back called “The Prodigal God” by Timothy Keller and I have been reading it since the service yesterday.  As I was reading it this morning, I read a line about rights and was reminded of a blog I wrote 3 years ago about Gratitude and Entitlement.  Here is part of that blog:

I want to say along with David in Psalm 16:6:  “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (NIV)

I have learned that I have no rights except these:
1. To be adopted as God’s child because of Jesus.
2. To cry Abba, Father.
3. To come boldly to the throne of grace anytime, any place, for any reason.
4. To worship Him with every part of me forever.

I am learning that ALL IS GIFT.  Everything I have today is a gift from God.  I came into this world with nothing and I will leave the same way some day. As I have learned about having no rights and receiving everything that happens and everything I am given as a gift from my Father, I have found great freedom.

When I live believing that I have rights to things, I end up feeling at the mercy of those things and feel despair when things don’t happen the way I think they should or things just aren’t the way I think they should be.  When I live out of a place of gratitude where all is gift, I experience true freedom and true peace. It is all a matter of attitude and perspective.

Today, what this means to me is this: I will live today out of gratitude and I will receive ALL as gift: my aloneness, my singleness, my emotions, my emptiness, my weariness from the last year, my fickle emotions, my periodic struggles with doubt and unbelief, and everything else that the enemy may present to me as a loss, or failure on the part of my Heavenly Father to care for and love me perfectly.  Each of the things I have listed I can be grateful for if I choose to.  Why choose to be grateful?  Because in every one of these areas, God is working and He will be glorified above all else!!  He created me with all of my struggles, failures, and feelings that HE MAY BE GLORIFIED ABOVE ALL!  May you realize you have no rights this Christmas and may He be glorified as you choose gratitude!!  Blessings.

 

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What’s In Your Blood?

Chest pain, lower jaw pain, nausea, vomiting, severe headache…Those were the symptoms I was experiencing 3 weeks ago.  The ambulance came, checked my vitals, ran an EKG, and everything appeared normal.  They took me to the ER.  What I learned very quickly is that the only way to tell if you have had a heart attack is by testing your blood and looking at the cardiac enzymes – they will be elevated and peak at 24 hours after the attack.  I had had a heart attack.  The next step is to have a heart catheterization to view the condition and blood flow in the major arteries of the heart and to look for blockages.  The attending cardiologist saw one blockage in a very small branch artery where many blood vessels had built around it – so that didn’t cause the attack.  They don’t know what caused it.

All of this has made me think a lot about my blood, arteries, and my heart – from a physical and spiritual perspective. Remember, all of the outside tests run by the paramedics showed everything was normal.  Maybe you look like everything is fine spiritually on the outside.  But what’s in your blood?  Does it show signs of a spiritual heart attack?  Maybe it is hardened with plaque causing reduced blood flow? Or are there blockages between you and God?  Maybe there is so much hurt you have 100% blockage in an artery.  You’ve lost connection with God.  Or is your blood pulsing with a passion for Jesus.  Maybe your blood is thin, maybe you are just hanging on in your relationship with God?  Maybe you are at the point of giving up.  I want my spiritual blood to be flowing and pumping hard with a passion for Jesus!  I want my heart to be so strong that people can see Jesus in me from the outside!

So, what if you are in one of the places I mentioned above?  Maybe you are far from God, maybe you feel nothing and God seems far away?  Maybe you have had a heart attack spiritually and need to re-evaluate and re-engage in your relationship with Him?  Maybe there is a complete blockage due to hurt or anger toward God?  Maybe you need Him to clear that blockage?  Or maybe life has just worn you down with all of the trials, challenges, hardships, illnesses and tragedies and your blood is running really thin.  If any of these resonate with you, I want to encourage you – God has not moved, He is not angry with you, He is not out to punish you.  In fact,

“Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity—that he loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain—that he loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it. Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be.” – Brennan Manning

Brennan Manning is my favorite author of all time.  I have every book he has ever written and I heard him teach multiple times while he was alive.  The way he communicated the relentless love of God for me has transformed my life!

God loves you now and His love has not changed.  Nothing you can do can change His love for you.  It is relentless, all-pursuing, unending, has no limit, or boundary.  It has no end and you cannot change the way He loves you.  If we could, His love for us would be very fickle.  Maybe you are thinking, “yeah, I know that, but I feel nothing.”  Thank God His love is not dependent on our feelings!  That’s when faith comes in.  Sometimes the feelings aren’t there and we just have to confess the truth of His love and stand on His Word!  His love never fails!

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Contemplating Christmas

mangerAs Christmas quickly approaches, I wanted to take a few minutes to share my thoughts.  My thoughts have been so consumed recently with life, work, and some physical issues.  I had a heart attack the week of Thanksgiving, which has given me even more to think about.  God protected my life and all is okay.  As all of these things swirl around in my head, I search for the simplicity of life and renewing my passion for the Baby at the manger.  As I have been resting and focusing on my health, I haven’t decorated for Christmas – just seemed like a lot of effort when I wasn’t having people over for any party or anything.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m no scrooge.  I love Christmas – I just haven’t expressed it this year as most people do with the decorations, pictures of Santa, and multitudes of presents, Christmas carols, and Christmas lights.  I contemplate on what Christmas is really about – to me it is about setting aside all of these thoughts and struggles and responsibilities of work and home and life and choosing to meditate on the Child in the manger.  When all is said and done, all of these things occupying my thoughts won’t matter.  The basis of my identity lies in Exodus 9:16  “But I have raised you up[a] for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”  God has a purpose for my life and your life that has not been completed, a purpose the enemy cannot thwart or derail no matter how he tries.  Simplicity: God created me to demonstrate His power and proclaim His name throughout the earth!  It is all for His glory!  Maybe you are struggling in life this Christmas season: conflicts or struggles in family, relationships, work, addictions, stress, physical health issues, despair.  Maybe life is simply overwhelming and you feel paralyzed.   In John 10:10, we are told how the enemy comes to kill and destroy – he comes to derail us, to attack us with doubt, self-pity, depression, confusion and to take our focus off of Jesus.  He disturbs our sleep, causes chaos and seems unrelenting at times.   But, the Truth is that God came to give us life and life more abundantlyHe has a purpose for your life this Christmas season.  He wants to show you the depth of His love and to demonstrate His glory through every trial or difficulty you are facing!!  We are not victims of the enemy!  Because of Jesus, we are victors! 

Revelation 12:10-12 (NIV)

10 Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God,
    and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
    who accuses them before our God day and night,
    has been hurled down.
11 They triumphed over him
    by the blood of the Lamb
    and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
    as to shrink from death.
12 Therefore rejoice, you heavens
    and you who dwell in them!
But woe to the earth and the sea,
    because the devil has gone down to you!
He is filled with fury,
    because he knows that his time is short.”

Remember, the enemy knows his time is short!  Maybe you wonder, “why on earth do I blog and how can I be so transparent?”  We overcome the enemy by the blood of Jesus and the word of our testimony!  God has, is, and will bring glory to His Name out of every trial I have walked and will walk through while I am on this earth!  It is all for HIS glory!  NOTHING IS WASTED!  As you approach Christmas this season, remember the purpose for which you were created and the power you have through the blood of Jesus and the word of your testimony!  To HIM be all glory forever and ever and ever. Amen!

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