Season of Joy or of Stress? We Have a Choice.

Holiday stress is real, just Google the term. Most of us are adding additional spending, shopping, decorating, cleaning and traveling to lives which already lack the margin.

Add over eating, under exercising and family dysfunctions and you understand the following exchange in the movie “Christmas Vacation.”

To his father, Clark Griswold asks, “How did you get through it?”

“I had a lot of help from Jack Daniels,” his dad replied.

Compare Grandpa Griswold’s  response to that of the magi when they saw the star above where the baby Jesus  lay.

And when they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. Matthew 2:10

Debilitating stress, numbed with alcohol compared with having great joy?

We have gotten way off track.

The wise men’s  joy was a  reaction to the coming of  Emmanuel – God with us. They got it.  God coming to earth in human form is a reason to rejoice exceedingly with great joy.

“In your presence is fullness of joy.” Psalm 16:11b

If we want to experience true joy in a society fighting to keep Christ out of Christmas, we must fight to keep Christ in the center of every aspect of our lives.

The Magi’s joy preceded the timeless sacrifice Jesus would make for the sins of men.

Jesus said, “Truly, truly I say to you, he who hears My words, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.” John 5:34

The word “believe”  above means  to commit to, trust in and rely upon.

If you have believed in Jesus in this way, the following facts are true about you:

  • You are not an orphan, but are a true child of God
  • You have been given an inheritance which includes the Indwelling Holy Spirit and an Eternal home
  • You have been made into a new creations, freed from the penalty of the law
  • You have been given supernatural peace, hope and joy which transcends all earthly circumstances
  • Your purpose is now clear. You are to love others as Christ has loved you
  • You don’t need anything other than passionately loving Jesus to give you the same joy the magi experienced

Pause: Don’t rush past these glorious facts. The tremendous significance of the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ on our behalf is a reason for even greater joy than the wise men experienced.

No matter how stressed we feel in this busy season, we must fight to find our joy in Jesus and what he’s done for us.

No matter how disappointed we feel when expectations aren’t met, we must fight to remember the significance of God coming to earth as a man to die a death in our place and to grant us lasting peace.

No matter what devastating circumstance we may face, we must fight to  guard our hearts and bring our pain to Jesus, asking him to lighten us with the joy of His presence.

And no matter how magical the season becomes with family and gifts and celebration, we must fight to keep Jesus in the center of our affections.

No matter how society tries to take Christ out of Christmas, we must never forget the significance of  Emmanuel.  The calendars we use are based on His coming.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you are our true Joy. This world is filled with grief and loss, but You’re always the answer. I’m sorry for when I’ve allowed other ‘joys’ to compete with you in the deep affections of my heart. Please help me guard my heart. Show me quickly when I care too much about the world around me that I forget about you. And when pain threatens to steal my joy, keep me delighting in you all the day.

Thank you that if I had nothing on earth but your love and the hope of my eternal home with you, these facts alone would be reasons for exceeding great joy.

We celebrate You.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4

Hope Remains, latest novel by the author

 

 

The Idol of Opinions 

“You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols.” ‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭12:2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Have you ever been worried about what people think of you? Done something simply because you wanted somebody else to think well of you? How about doing something you know you shouldn’t have just to please another person?

Desiring others to think well of us is not a bad thing, but when we look to them to gauge our value, we’ve crossed the line.

Peter stopped eating with the gentiles when James and certain influential Jews were around. Afraid of what they would think, he acted like a racist. Paul sternly rebuked him.  (See Galatians 2:11-14)

Personally, I can relate with Peter. I’ve struggled with being concerned about what people think about me. Rather than loving selflessly, as Jesus commanded, I sometimes look for something in return from others. It’s like I “need” their approval.  This stems from a misplaced understanding of where my value comes from. I’m loved by the Creator of the universe with a love which surpasses knowledge. God’s love gives me my complete value.

But sometimes I lose sight of God’s love for me. Caught up in the swirl of life, I look to other relationships to give me what only He can. This is sin.  Using other’s to validate me is giving too much worth to their opinion. In essence I’m worshiping their opinion as an idol, making me an idolater.

Idolatry

The word Idol literally means “an image for worship.” A stark reality is that when I do anything to enhance another person’s opinion of me, I’m bowing down in worship to that person in my heart.

In quite spicy language, Paul puts our trying to please others this way:  “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” ‭Galatians: ‬ ‭1:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Paul’s words add gravity to this sin of idolatry. But, praise be to God, Jesus Christ died to set us free from all sin. God wants us free.  There’s tremendous power in the cross of Christ to bring death to every sin.

“For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:13 ESV

Though I’ve known about my struggles with pleasing others for a long time, dealing with it as sin and bringing it to the cross of Christ for mortification has brought tremendous freedom and lightness to my heart. I’m becoming more and more secure in Father God’s love for me. This frees me to love other’s as Christ has loved me, without expecting or needing anything back in return.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you so much for revealing this sin to me. When my flesh wants to walk in the old ways of gaining value from the opinion of others, please show me quickly that I might bring this idolatry to the cross and walk in your Spirit. “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”

I know you want to show me more and more so that I can walk in the full freedom You’ve designed for me.  You are impressing upon me that my completeness is in Christ Jesus alone. I love the lightness of heart that the confession of sin brings. Please continue Your work in me. I love You and thank You for loving me so much.