On Loving Each Other

Loving and praying for each other is not optional and scripture doesn’t leave room for anything but whole-hearted engagement with people who are suffering. True, it’s overwhelming, scary and messy for us as individuals and as the church trying to meet a wide array of complex needs (e.g., disability, mental illness, aging, chronic illness). But people with atypical lives are not a liability to the community or the church. They enrich our lives, communities and churches! 

No situation is too big or too complicated for God.

LORD, forgive us for showing partiality with our love and compassion. You call us to love our neighbors and pray for our enemies. Move people into our circles of influence that give us opportunity to stretch our love muscles and prove ourselves faithful to YOUR ways! This is one of our spiritual acts of worship.  AMEN


Christmas Worship Like the First Time (Part 1)

It’s December and, once again, Christians all over the world are celebrating Jesus’ first coming. I’ve been thinking about when I first experienced Jesus’ coming into my own heart and life in a way that I knew was real and deeply personal.  I recall a sense of wonder and intrigue in my worship that year which was very different than years before. 

I want my current worship to reflect at least the same vigor and curiosity as it had in those early months when I knew my life and passions had been profoundly changed forever. That was a time when others noticed my new priorities and sometimes wondered about them too. I hope my life compels others to turn and look where I’m looking — toward the treasure of Jesus.

I’ve been studying Revelation this fall. Three things are striking and inspiring to me about John’s vision of Jesus. First, it is while John was worshipping “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” that Jesus revealed Himself to John.  Next, John “turned to see the voice that was speaking” to him. He paid attention and had an opportunity to see the manifest presence of Jesus for Himself!  When John saw Jesus, he “fell at his feet as though dead.” And do you know what Jesus did then? 

Jesus touched John.

I wonder. Will my life and faith reflect the kind of zealous and attentive worship that leads to such an intimate encounter with God? Will yours? 


How might the world around us be different if our Christmas worship reflects the kind of wonder and enthusiasm we had the first time we encountered Jesus in an intimate way?

Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. Luke 2:9-17 (NLT)



Just Love Me

Do you ever wonder if you have a “calling” on your life? Have you noticed how many of your friends are wrestling to understand their own greater purpose? I believe that our culture at large is presenting increasing pressures to be contributors and world-changers. Even the Christian community and a plethora of books are promoting ways to find our purpose.
Having a sense of purpose is essential but our understanding of what that really means can become twisted. We can become tempted to define our value to God and the world by whether or not we are doing something “of significance.” This way of thinking is dangerous. It makes us vulnerable to dissatisfaction, comparisons, restlessness and low self-esteem. It takes our eyes off of God and puts our attention on ourselves. 
Jesus didn’t tell us to go change the world. He said, “go bear fruit.” Jesus’ aim was not for us to feel pressure or shame. He said, “take my burden on you for it is light” and He assured us that it was through Him alone that the world could have “life to the full.”  God doesn’t need us to accomplish anything. But he does want us to join Him in loving others. (See Psalm 139:7-12 and 1 Corinthians 15:10.)
Maybe it would help to change up the way we talk about this issue and redefine a couple of things according to the heart of God and His ways.  Bear with me for a moment as I attempt to define two important words according to my understanding of God’s Word:
pur•pose 
/ˈpərpəs/
  1. The reason for which you were created and exist
“ I was born to love the Lord God with my whole heart, soul and mind.”
“I was made to live my life as a spiritual act of worship (whether I am making dinner, mowing the lawn, playing with children, sharing the Gospel or any other such thing).”
“I must become undistracted by the trappings of cultural values (job titles, accolades, an accumulation of volunteer hours, etc.) and devote myself foremost to trusting God and demonstrating that love by loving others, moment by moment, as He would.”
References: Matthew 22:37, Deuteronomy 11:22, Romans 12:1-2, John 13:34-35
dream
/drēm/
  1. A cherished aspiration, ideal or hope impressed on a person by the Holy Spirit
“ I sense this prompting about an idea, vision or perspective is from God because it lines up with scripture.”
“I want a heart that breaks over the things that break God’s heart.”
“This specific passion or strategy I’m excited about promotes God’s plan.”
“I am experiencing a sense of urgency to see God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.”
References: Psalm 23:1-3, Hebrews 6:11, Hebrews 12:1-2, James 1:2-4, Acts 2:17, Colossians 3:23
Friend, instead of a purpose, maybe all you lack is a dream. Ask God about it. He, after all, is the planter of passions and talents. He, of course, is the weaver of our soul and the one who appoints us in relationships. Until heaven we will not fully know what Kingdom purposes God has squeezed out of our often hum-drum existence. We can, however, trust that He is making much of our seeking Him and sharing Him.
Pray that God would help you see how He has already placed you in roles and relationships where you have significant contribution to make. Your daily routines may seem mundane but they are ripe with opportunity in God’s way of seeing. Ask Him to prompt you with a dream and show you any new places where He would want you to join Him.
I am learning something in my own life that gives me a precious sense of peace and freedom while reminding me how deeply I am loved by my Heavenly Father. Whenever I start feeling confused about whether I am following God’s specific “plan” or wondering if I am stewarding my gifts to their fullest, God whispers again this most basic request:
“Just love me.”
It is my prayer that everyone reading with me today will experience the fruit of a love affair with God — fruit like big dreams, big power (from the Holy Spirit in you) and a big love for others that motivates you to persevere in faith as a fully engaged disciple.
“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” 
Philippians 2:13


The Wonder of God’s Christmas Presence (Part 3)

This is the final installment in a series of posts meditating on Immanuel — God with us.  Let’s continue worshipping together by thanking God for revealing Himself to us and by remembering how very near and accessible He is.


I have loved re-reading the experiences of the Israelites as the Christmas season comes around again. Not only does it fascinate and reassure me to “connect the dots” of covenant love and the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies, but I personally relate to the Israelite’s situation on a few levels. 


It is encouraging to me remembering that just as God’s presence led those freed slaves through a desert to the Promised Land, He is with me through times when I feel trapped in my circumstances or stuck in a wilderness. While God is moving me toward my Promised Land, the Holy Spirit dwells within me to guide me, inspire me, empower me, comfort me, advocate for me, equip me, protect me, reassure me when I’m discouraged, forgive me when I doubt Him, give me grace when I grow impatient and give me a restful peace when I feel frantic and overwhelmed.


I appreciate that the same promises God made to the Israelites remain true for me. And I understand those promises even more clearly now because Jesus’ presence brings new layers of enlightenment to what is happening then and now from the broader Kingdom perspective. 


How does God teach or encourage you with these verses about His presence today?

Exodus 25:21-22And you shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel.  

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 

Colossians 1:26-28  The mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 

John 17:20-22  [Jesus said,]“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one. 

Hebrews 10:19-24 19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.   

Colossians 2:9  For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. 

Romans 8:11  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jsus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. 

1 Corinthians 1:9  God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Ephesians 3:12 Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. 

What are learning or embracing about the wonder and fullness of Jesus’ presence as the Christmas season arrives?

Encourage someone this weekend by sharing an answer to this question. Also, consider encouraging me and others here by telling about your experience in the comments below or by writing to me at lisa@walkrightin.org

The Wonder of God’s Christmas Presence (Part 2)

Today continues a three-part series of Christmas season posts thanking God for revealing Himself to us in Jesus. 


We’ve had a stretching fall at our house being extremely short-staffed with respite/caregiving support. For a few reasons (some known and some unknown), we’ve had more difficulty than ever staffing PCA (personal care assistance) positions that opened up this summer when most of our helpers went off to college. My husband does some traveling for work also, so I’ve spent more time by myself with Carly (who is non-verbal). I’ve been feeling isolated and the physicality of her care has taken a toll on my body. Between Carly and me, we’ve spent far too many hours in physician clinics and physical therapy offices this fall. It’s frustrating to give away precious hours to appointments like this when I might spend them writing, Christmas shopping or at lunch with a friend. Knowing that God remains with me and for me stirs my courage and helps me persevere.

God has been revealing His presence among us in various ways since the creation of the universe. During the Christmas season, we remember and celebrate how very near, available and accessible He is.  Since Christmas is the celebration of God incarnate — God made flesh in the person of Jesus Christ — let’s worship reflecting on ways God has been expressing His presence to us throughout history and creation.

Psalm 19:1  The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 

Exodus 13:20-21   And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. The pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night did not depart from before the people. 

Exodus 14:24  And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic. 

Exodus 40:35-38  And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out till the day that it was taken up. For the cloud of the Lord was on the tabernacle by day, and fire was in it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel throughout all their journeys. 

John 1:9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.  

Colossians 1:22 He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him. 

John 10:9-10  I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 

John 15:4  Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 

Revelation 21:1-3  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.  

Psalm 16:7-8  I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
 in the night also my heart instructs me.  I have set the Lord always before me;
 because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

 
How do YOU recognize that God is near to you?  

Tell us how Immanuel is revealing Himself to you recently. Share in the comments below or write me at lisa@walkrightin.org.  


The Wonder of God’s Christmas Presence (Part 1)

I’m coming into this Christmas season wearier than usual on the caregiving front and wrestling a bit with fears about the future for our 16 year old daughter who has Angelman Syndrome.  My life, like yours, is complicated and sometimes scary.  I can’t imagine doing this life without the confidence that God is always near, holy, compassionate, powerful and sufficient for all our needs. Despite that assurance, I still struggle too often between deep gratitude for His presence and longing for a greater sense of it.


How about you? Do you sometimes wonder what God is up to in your circumstances? Have you ever fought off feelings of abandonment and asked God to show you who He is in fresh and tangible ways? Although I see evidence of God, His love and His power every day, there are still areas in my life where I am waiting to more fully understand and see Him.


During this Christmas season, I invite you to join me in asking God to remind us and refresh us in the Truth of Who He is, how He keeps moving toward us and how He makes it a priority to be available with all of his compassion and authority.  


Today begins a short series of posts meditating on Immanuel — God with us.  Let us worship together by thanking God for revealing Himself to us and by remembering how very near and accessible He is.

Matthew 1:23“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 

Exodus 25:8And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. 

John 1:14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

Ephesians 2:19-22So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. 

Psalm 139:7-8Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there.If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me and your right hand shall hold me.

What are YOU learning about the presence of God in your life today…in this generation, during this holiday season, on this particular day in history or in this particular season of your life?  

Share with a friend, family member, neighbor, co-worker or even stranger. Tell us in the comments below or write me at lisa@walkrightin.org.  Your encounters with God encourage others and honor God.