A Joy-Filled Christmas

Experience JoyThe tree(s) have been up for a couple of weeks now.  The house is decorated and we are experiencing “hygge“, the recently popular Danish expression that goes far beyond the definition of the word.  I can’t help but giggle that in the last couple of years, books have been written here in North America about how to experience “hygge” in your home.  My parents were Danish, so I understand the true spirit of “hygge”.  It truly is a lifestyle, but it’s way more than that, and it’s not just experienced in and around Christmas but throughout the year.

Truly non-Danes do not get it.

Danes, who are known as the “happiest people on earth”, don’t need to write books on “hygge” because it just comes naturally to them.  You’ve either got it, or you don’t.  Reading books on how to attain it, means you probably won’t ever have it.  Sorry.

It is like JOY but goes far, far deeper than the word itself.  You either have it, or you don’t.  You can read books on how to attain it, but if you equate happiness with JOY then you probably won’t ever have it.  Sorry.

You see, JOY is something you have within you, that is not associated in any way with your personal circumstances.  You can have great JOY without experiencing happiness.  Read my series on Finding JOY NOT HAPPINESS.  It goes into great depth about being JOYFUL in spite of hard circumstances.

Christians know that JOY is not associated with personal wealth, health, things, work, or career.  JOY is found in only ONE Person…Jesus.  If you have JESUS, you have JOY.

Some people spend their whole lives trying to discover how to fill that void that only Jesus can fill.  They think work will make them happy, or friends, or family, or possessions, or hobbies, or a host of other things that may give them personal satisfaction or happiness for a little while, but it is all transitory.  None of those things has any kind of staying power.  A job loss, a broken relationship, a health crisis will quickly cause happiness to crumble but great JOY will remain if that person has put their faith and trust in Christ Jesus.

This Christmas Season as you dash around the malls in search of that perfect gift for that special someone, why not think first about accepting and then sharing a Gift that will last for all time?  It won’t cost you a penny to give or receive, but it is invaluable.  It is JOY wrapped up in a Person.  Accept HIM into your heart and experience the kind of JOY the angels heralded on that night as Mary laid her boy-child into a manger bed.

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:1-14)

Merry Christmas!

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Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

I was listening this morning to the song, “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord” and suddenly I was singing, weeping and raising my hands in Worship to God all by myself as the powerful message of the words impacted me as never before.

 

Blessed Be Your Name
In the land that is plentiful
Where Your streams of abundance flow
Blessed be Your name
Blessed Be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name
Every blessing You pour out, I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be Your glorious name
Blessed be Your name
When the sun’s shining down on me
When the world’s ‘all as it should be’
Blessed be Your name
Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name
Every blessing You pour out I’ll
Turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say…Blessed by the name of the Lord…
You give and take away, You give and take away,
My heart will choose to say, Lord, blessed by Your name…
(words by Matt Redman)

 

Those lyrics just got to me this morning!  The entire song acknowledges that our journey on earth is not an easy one.  There are challenges, tribulations and pain along the way, yet we are to praise God in the midst of our trials.

I don’t know about my readers, but there are times when a Worship song seems to line up with my life circumstances so profoundly that I believe God purposed I hear that particular song at just the right time to encourage me or to encourage others. I especially was impacted with this verse:

“Blessed be Your Name,

On the road marked with suffering

Though there’s pain in the offering

Blessed be Your Name.”

Each of those lyrics aligns with Scripture:

Blessed be Your name                                     (Job 1:21)

On the road marked with suffering            (Job 13:15, Acts 5:41, Romans 5:3, Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 1:5, Philippians 1:29, Philippians 3:8,10, 2 Timothy 1:8, 2 Timothy 2:3, 2 Timothy 4:5, 1 Peter 2:19, 1 Peter 3:14, 1 Peter 4:12-13, 1 Peter 5:9)

Though there’s pain in the offering            (Job 1:20, Psalm 51:17)

Blessed be Your name                                     (Job 2:10, Lamentations 3:38)

I have several friends now who are going through seasons of “suffering”.  One has recently lost eight family members to the horrific church shootings in Sutherland Springs.  At the memorial service that my husband attended, though grief was fresh, there was an outpouring of praise for God’s goodness and mercy. Pastor Pomeroy, who lost his precious fourteen year old daughter in the shooting, despite his own personal suffering, gave the eulogy for his friends and congregants, delivering a Gospel message that my husband said was both powerful and convicting. There was no doubt that there was “pain in the offering”, but this is a Pastor and congregation that models their strong faith despite great suffering.

I have a young friend, a mother of three young children, who is fighting Stage 4 Breast Cancer. Although that road is marked with suffering, she perseveres through her treatments by giving the Glory to God in all things and being joyful in her circumstances. She is a hero to her friends and family as she models stamina, courage and unwavering faith. Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

A precious woman from our church posted a picture of her husband on Facebook the other day. He was curled up fast asleep on their couch and she had written, “Don’t leave me, my love.” His battle with cancer is nearly over. Short of God’s miraculous intervention, she will soon face life without him. How does one say, “Good-bye?”

As Christians, we are not immune to suffering and hardship. Yet we face the ills of the world from a different perspective than those who are not Christ followers. We are heaven-minded. Our road marked with suffering here on earth is short-lived, even miniscule, that has no comparison to the pain-free, glorious eternity we are promised in Heaven when we are saved in Christ.

Does it negate our sorrows now, or the grief and pain we experience while walking these difficult pathways here on Earth?

No.

“Though there’s pain in the offering”… we are called to persevere, endure, and continue to give Glory to God! We CHOOSE to say:

“Blessed Be the Name of the Lord!”

Amen!

 

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Pure Love

Last Sunday, in a small Baptist church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a lone gunman entered, and in an act of pure evil, massacred twenty-six individuals and wounded twenty more of the congregants there.  Most of those killed and wounded were children.  One cannot fathom the level of depravity that would drive someone to senselessly murder innocents like that.

A week ago, we came home from attending worship services at our church in Cochrane, Alberta, to learn of the shootings through social media and through the heart-breaking texts sent to my husband from his field operations man who lives and works in Sutherland Springs.  In one chilling text Nick wrote: “I’ve lost 8 of my family members in the shooting.”

How does one respond to that kind of announcement? My husband and I have had a week to process it all, though physically removed from the reality of the horrific events, distance still does not numb the shock. The only thing my husband and I could do was to pray! We wept for Nick, and the other families who had suffered so much loss, and then we prayed for them. Sometimes we faltered, not knowing what to pray, but we knew that Christ was groaning and interceding for us when we couldn’t find the words! (Romans 8:26) We have not stopped praying. My husband, Charles, has spoken at length with Nick over this past week, and Charles and another work colleague will fly from Calgary to San Antonio to attend the funeral(s) representing the oil company they all work for.

Scripture tells us that pure “love” is the willingness to lay down one’s own life for someone else.  (John 15:13)  Christ did just that when He laid down His Life by dying on the Cross for us, while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)  He was our Ultimate Sacrifice.  A sacrifice that the writer of Hebrews says is a “once and for all” act.  (Hebrews 10:10)  We, as Christians, can never thank Him enough for that act of pure love.  It was a gift freely given so none should perish.  (John 3:16)  It is an eternal gift, bought at a great price!

This past week, as we’ve all come to a kind of unwilling acceptance of the horror of the tragedy, we have learned much about the victims, the heroes, and the heart-wrenching stories of self-sacrifice inside that church and after the shooting. One story in particular hit a nerve with me: a Sunday School teacher shielding her teenaged grandson with her own body sacrificing her own life to protect him. What exceptional bravery on her part, and what an act of pure love!

Even in the midst of such profound suffering in that community, numerous testimonies of God’s faithfulness and goodness are already being told all over the media.  It indicates to me that although it seems that darkness threatens to overwhelm the world, the Gospel message will never be squelched!  To prove my point, the Texas Governor Gregg Abbott proclaimed Sunday, November 12th as “… a day of prayer across the state for Texans to unite to pray for those affected by the “horrific, inexplicable evil.”

“Even though anguish and sorrow hang over the community, we will not be overcome by evil. Together we will overcome evil with good. You all have already shown that,” Abbott said at last Sunday night’s prayer vigil.

“Love will conquer evil. You left me inspired. Hours before that [vigil] your community saw the very face of evil. Hours later, you reflected the very grace of God. You are a demonstration of God’s grace across this entire world,” Abbott said.

Of course there will always be those people who want to use this horrific event to politicize it, or to make light of prayer, or to use the tragedy for their own worldly agendas. I am not going to comment on that. Instead, I applaud what Vice President Pence said when he attended a vigil in Texas Wednesday for those killed, “We mourn with those who mourn, and we grieve with those who grieve, but we do not grieve like those who have no hope – for our faith, and our heroes, give us hope.”

Some have pointedly asked in the aftermath of this, “Where was God?” “Why would God allow this to happen?”  We all cry out to God for the answers to those questions when our human experience cannot explain the evil of this world.  I understand.  It is natural to ask the “Why?” questions but when we ask we must also be willing to accept the answer, even if we don’t fully understand or even agree with it.  Max Lucado said last week: “Life is a dangerous endeavor. We pass our days in the shadows of ominous realities. The power to annihilate humanity has, it seems, been placed in the hands of people who are happy to do so.

Contrary to what we’d hope, good people aren’t exempt from violence. Murderers don’t give the godly a pass. Terrorists don’t vet out victims according to spiritual resumes. The bloodthirsty and wicked don’t skip over the heavenbound. We aren’t insulated. But neither are we intimidated. Jesus has a word or two about this brutal world. “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul” (Matt. 10:28).”

He continued, “We Christians trace the source of violence back to the devil. We place the fault of bloodshed at the feet of the one whose days are numbered; Satan. We find our hope in the sure victory of Jesus.”

For those walking in darkness, this truth from Scripture may seem ludicrous and insensitive, but for those of us who believe in our Risen Saviour, this is our Hope! Christians are not exempt from the violence of this world. God may choose to spare us, or He will deliver us into His loving, eternal arms, either way, we are delivered. We are guaranteed entrance into Heaven because of His Act of Pure Love.  As long as we accept His sacrifice and as long as we put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ we are saved.

In the presence of such evil in this world, we are confident that God will always be with us, no matter the circumstance, no matter the opposition.  We must never lose hope, and we must not let fear defeat us in times of tribulation.

I ask that you continue to pray next week as the funerals are held for the victims of this senseless shooting. Pray for those who are still recovering in hospital and for all those families directly impacted by this event.

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