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With the Christmas season in full swing, it’s frightfully easy to become engulfed in the Christmas frenzy. Busy and frazzled, we rush around to find the perfect presents for our loved ones, host the perfect party, amid perfect decorations, while presenting a table full of perfect food.  In all the bustle, we risk the season of love, joy, and peace passing us by along with all that really matters, like spending time with those we love.

All too soon, the season comes to a close. Once the decorations are stuffed away, our home looks as barren as our hearts feel. What went wrong? we wonder.

 

Before we get too far in, here is a practical list of 8 ways to savour the season:

  1. Be grateful. There are always things to be thankful for. Look around and you’ll find it won’t take long to see how blessed your are.
  2. Be intentional with your time. To stave off exhaustion, instead of accepting every invite, consider limiting parties and activities. By intentionally protecting your time, you’ll be less likely to reach the end of the season, or Christmas Day, completely depleted and will have more energy for those closest to you.
  3. Slow down. instead of rushing from one Christmas activity to the next, set aside enough time to fully engage in each moment.
  4. Create memorable Christmas traditions with your loved ones and take time for old traditions.
  5. Buy less stuff.  So often the plethora of things we were told we needed: the newest gadget, the latest and greatest piece of technology, the you name it toy-of-the-year doesn’t fill the space we were promised it would. Consider a memory-making trip or other activities that will outlast the many items you might have purchased.
  6. Donate time or money to a cause. Christmas is a great time to look beyond ourselves and help others. Helping those in need naturally raises our internal gratitude meter.
  7. Celebrate advent. Many Christians spend time leading up to Christmas in spiritual preparation for celebrating when Christ was born.
  8. Focus on Jesus. Let His presence – not presents – be at the centre of your celebration. With your heart and spirit full of His love, you’ll enjoy all the festivities that much more.

May you be blessed this Christmas with the fullness of God’s love.

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  1. In what ways could you be more intentional about celebrating Christ this Christmas?
  2. What new traditions could you include to help make Christ more central to your celebrations? What might you need to take away?

 

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People who are mad at God aren’t always truly mad at God – they’re angry at a person or system linked to God.

That system or person failed them in some way, and because it somehow represented God to them, they transfer ownership for the wrongdoing to God. Even though God didn’t deal the blow, He’s been made responsible for it.

Disillusioned, the wounded leave the faith and walk away from God, carrying deep pain and anger with them for years. What’s sad about this misrepresentation is they miss the true nature of God.

Religious systems and religious people are imperfect. They fail. They sin. The sin harms. The harm hurts. The hurt runs deep.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been hurt in this way, I want to say sorry on behalf of the people who caused you harm. But I also want to encourage you that they are not God. God is love and His love never fails (1 John 4:8; Psalm 136). Although you may feel you want no part of God if this is how He looks, don’t mistakenly bundle God’s infallible character with the flawed character or behaviour of human beings.

What they said or did, or failed to say or do, is no reflection of the true nature of God. I hazard a guess that God is deeply saddened when people leave Him on account of people. He understands this kind of pain and is likewise pained when His relationship with those who have been wounded is fragmented. He offers healing, counsel, direction, and the gifts of deep love, joy, and peace; being severed from Him doesn’t afford these pleasures.

Sometimes the anger toward God isn’t misplaced. Instead, the wounded one isn’t mistakenly blaming God but rather asking why God let it happen. As difficult as this is to absorb, we’re not often privy to these kinds of answers. Sometimes, we merely need to trust. That’s where faith comes in.

Can you believe in a God who doesn’t always tell you why? Who allows hurts this side of heaven? Who isn’t a divine Genie? Bad stuff happens to good and “bad” people alike. We aren’t living in heaven…yet. We just have to trust, even when it doesn’t make sense.

Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8

“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud no to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time…Get down on your knees before the Master; it’s the only way you’ll get on your feet.” James 4:8-10 (Message)

Let’s not make it about people, but about God. He’s trustworthy, perfect, and loves us unconditionally. Let Him heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

May you have the courage to trust God despite the wounding.

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  1. Make a list of those who have wounded you.
  2. Can you forgive them one-by-one? Can you forgive God for allowing it? Return to God and ask for forgiveness for your anger, knowing He is quick to forgive, then rest in Him believing it’s done.

 

 

 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. ~ Ecc 3:11

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We live in a 130 year-old home. There is a great deal of maintenance needed to keep it in decent repair. It seems there is always something in need of attention: some wood rotting here, some paint peeling there, or chips requiring touch ups on the wide baseboards. Our old home is never in perfect condition!

Which rather reminds me of life.

In my experience, there is always something falling out of place or already in need of repair! The trouble is, we live in a world that whispers we need to have life figured out and have it all together. It tells us we need to make plans and goals and make them happen. That we need to somehow strive but also be centered.

But what would happen if we began to think that instead of things falling out of place, they are actually falling into place? That the parts in need of repair aren’t something to bemoan, but instead celebrate that we’re under construction. What would happen if instead of being centered, we make Christ the center? Instead of comparing, we grow grateful for what we’ve been given and trust God will meet all our needs according to His riches? And instead of frustrating ourselves with the pursuit of perfection, we rest and accept that God will make all things beautiful – even the messes.

Because here’s the truth: God made you, He loves you, and there isn’t a thing you could do at this moment to make Him love you any more or less than He already does. You might not feel like it, but, thanks to Jesus, you are already perfect in God’s sight.

For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”

Hebrews 10:14

God sees us as perfect, but I love the rest…we are being made holy.

That explains the messiness.

God sees you as perfect, but loves you so much that He is willing to lead you to further beauty. A fancy word for that is sanctification. If we are in Christ, we are being made more Christ-like. This means the rough and rotten bits are being removed and repaired. That can be painful and discouraging. It can look messy and unkempt. It may appear that things are falling apart. But take heart, it’s your loving Father at work doing what He does best.

You know, if you look at our house from the street, you can’t see the paint chips and rotting bits. Like your life, take a few steps back, try to see it more as God does, and things will look a lot more beautiful.

May you find courage today to embrace and celebrate God’s handiwork in your life!

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  1. In what areas of your life might God be at work?
  2. Can you follow Him as He leads you through the mess and out the other side to beauty?

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“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” ~ John 10:10-11

I’ve noticed a pattern. Maybe you have too. It is regular and systematic and happens daily without fail. It is assumed by our sworn enemy who is bent on our destruction. He slinks around, enticing us with the promise of false happiness. He offers calculated suggestions, deceptions, and rationalizations in an attempt to entrap us. He doesn’t particularly care how long it takes, but if we partake, the full impact of the action has immediate effect.

As we reel in remorse, the ever-ready accuser begins his second assault by piling on condemnation. Now he comes with a flood of lies of a different nature. They are no longer laced with temptation, but are a soul-searing arsenal of words whispering things like: You’re a fool! You don’t deserve grace. Why don’t you just give up? Any of those sound familiar?

There’s a vast difference between the way that Satan comes at us and the way God approaches us in our sin. Satan arrives as the condemner. He is a thief bent on nothing short of our destruction. We are advised to “be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8) Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:10-11)

Satan would take your life; Jesus gave His in your place.

With this realization, you have a choice to repent and be rescued from sin’s grip. It’s surprisingly simple. You confess your sin, ask to be forgiven, and choose to follow, or continue following, Christ. The promise that “you may have life and have it abundantly” remains, and Satan’s power is defeated. God provided a remedy through Jesus. Because of this, the battle is already won.

Just in case you’re feeling as though you’re already partially “devoured”, take comfort fellow sojourner. You are never too far from God’s reach, never too messy for His grace, never too spoiled for His loving touch. You can be pulled from the mouth of the lion, healed and made new again. His love, forgiveness and grace is limitless.

May you be reminded, through the words of John 3:16 paraphrased here, that God loved you so much he gave his one and only Son, so that if you believe in him you will not perish but have eternal life.

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  1. Where are you most tempted? Invite God’s help, strength, and strategy to stand firm.
  2. Where have you fallen short? Remember that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

 

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