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Sing

finding Merry

Sing

Here we are, on Day 4 in the four day series of the reading plan, Finding Merry: Experiencing joy this Christmas. It has been my fervent prayer that God is using this space to help you connect with Himself and His Word for whatever you need in this season right now. It is my pleasure to walk with you. I am so excited about where we are going, let’s get right to it: Sing.

Read the following verses from 2 Chronicles 20:

Meanwhile all Judah stood before the LORD, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the LORD will be with you.”

Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the LORD, worshiping the LORD. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the LORD, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.

In the morning

And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the LORD your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the LORD and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,

“Give thanks to the LORD,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.

When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. 2 Chronicles 20:13-24

Sing

We left the King of Judah with his eyes on the Lord, listening to God for an answer to his impossible crisis. Outnumbered with the enemy quickly encroaching, the entire community prayed. The word of the Lord came to Jahaziel, the prophet, whose message had three parts:

  • The battle was not really his, but belonged to the Lord;
  • The king still had a responsibility to show up and lead and Jahaziel provided specifics about the battle plan; to
  • Stand firm, don’t be afraid and hold your position. The king would not need to fight.

At this moment, all the King of Judah had was the words of a guy in the crowd. He could have turned to his own wisdom. There was NO EVIDENCE that God was going to fight for him. None. Jehoshaphat could have questioned, balked, writhed, and instigated his own master plan, just in case God didn’t come through. (Sound familiar?)

But instead, this man took God at His Word to the extreme that he put the choir BEFORE the army. When they started to sing, God went to work.

This is the way God does His work

I know it doesn’t make any sense, but this is the way God does His work. We draw near. Jesus goes before us. You and I listen and show up. And before we see Him do anything good in our lives, we praise Him.  We sing. I don’t know where God has placed you in this particular season of life, but for most, it’s not absent of the need to resist turning inward, focusing on hardships, the pain, insurmountable problems, and the looming unknowns hanging in the shadows.

Let me encourage you in the manner of Jehoshaphat. Before He has cleared the fog or erased your suffering–before He has done anything for you at all…sing.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

I know it doesn’t make sense to put the choir ahead of the army any more than it seems logical to sing when you have not the soul or energy to speak the words. Look beyond yourself and sing. You and I have more than enough reason to find the joy, to focus on the baby, and to look toward the Savior for His magnificent gift.

Wherever you are, I pray you experience the merry that is Christmas.

Go back to the beginning at Day One here.

You can catch Day Three here.

You can also find a version of this plan at www.bible.com or on the free YouVersion app.

with much affection,

 

 

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Wait Right Here

finding Merry

Wait Right Here

Hi there! Today we are meeting up for Day 3 in a four day series of the reading plan, Finding Merry: Experiencing joy this Christmas. When the excitement, the positive vibe, and holiday cheer go missing, we often keep it to ourselves with nowhere to turn, feeling out of step. What do we do when there is just no joy and all we really want for Christmas is for it to go away sooner than later? So far we have discovered together that Jesus offers real solutions to what we lack in this area. Let’s continue on with today’s reading: Wait Right Here.

Read the following verses from James:

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5:7-8

As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. James 5:10-11

Wait Right Here

Amazon now delivers packages within one or two days. We have grown to expect this sort of expediency. In fact, recently I placed an order that took four days rather than the expected two for delivery. The inhumanity!

Today there are many opportunities NOT to wait for anything. Often restaurants allow you to forego the wait by calling ahead. Groceries are brought to your car with a touch of a button, and dinner is conveniently delivered through a phone app. It’s no wonder we struggle so when life requires patience.

My friend, Jenny, knows this all too well. She lost her mom Thanksgiving Day as a child. After her death, the merry went missing during the holidays for years that followed. Her situation is not uncommon. The pain in loss and suffering tends to be magnified with all the festivities and focus on family during the holidays. Most long for the season to hurry up and go away.

Since childhood, every November has been a similar struggle for my friend, Jenny, until last year when everything changed. That’s when Wesley came into their lives. She and her husband adopted Wesley about the same time they learned they were expecting a biological child. What was once a season of pain and loss has become a picture of restoration, expectancy, and joy.

The space in between pain and restoration is where most of us lose our merry.

We don’t like to wait.

This is where the Word of God is the best remedy for finding joy in any and every circumstance. It meets us where we are, not where we should be or want to be. Yet, it points us in the right direction. The Psalmist preaches to himself in a manner we should imitate.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living!
Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD! Psalm 27:13-14

If you find yourself somewhere between pain and restoration this season, ask the Lord that you might have eyes to see His goodness. Pray for the ability to wait on His timing. Rely on Him to make you strong and take His courage rather than your own. Instead of burying your head in the pillow hoping the season will quickly pass, focus your eyes on Him and wait.

Go back to the beginning at Day One here.

You can catch Day Two here.

You can also find a version of this plan at www.bible.com or on the free YouVersion app.

with much affection,

 

 

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Better Than Running

finding Merry

Better Than Running

Hello and welcome back! Hopefully, you are where you expected to be: Day 2 after discovering Day 1 of this reading plan, Finding Merry: Experiencing joy this Christmas. I’m so glad you are here. Although this time of year is designed to draw out happy emotions and the absolute best in everyone, it can often be a dreaded season for some. Let me remind you, that here you have permission to struggle. Together we will journey to the One who can help us find the merry. Today, we will discover, He is even better than running.

Read the following passage from Psalms:

To you I lift up my eyes,
O you who are enthroned in the heavens!
Behold, as the eyes of servants
look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a maidservant
to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the LORD our God,
till he has mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough
of the scorn of those who are at ease,
of the contempt of the proud. Psalm 123:1-4

Read from 2 Chronicles:

O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

Better than Running

Our first child was a runner, but not the elite athlete type. The toddler could unlock, then open a door to run with reckless abandon directly into traffic. Or she would steal away from our hands to run free. Our daughter was not devious, just a freedom-seeker, wanting release from her boundaries. In the midst of the chasing, this toddler illuminated what I tend to do spiritually with God.

I, too, am a runner. Especially on the heels of conflict, pain, or fear my desire is to physically get away. But experience has taught me fleeing is about as effective as a toddler heading for a highway. Not only does this action neglect to solve anything but it can be destructive. No. Running is not the solution.

After another dash toward a busy street, we purchased a safety harness for our daughter to use on outings. This mechanism required her to learn to stick close to mom and pay attention to my voice.

Lessons for a King

This discipline is similar to what Jehoshaphat learned as king of Judah. Once his kingdom faced horrific odds. The enemy outnumbered his troops one-hundred to one. The Bible tells us there were hoards against him. Running would have been a logical option, but Jehoshaphat chose to stay close and keep his eyes on the Lord.

When we don’t know what to do, the pain is too great, and everything in us wants to run, there is another option. We can stick close to our Father, and listen to His voice. He will be faithful.

The Christmas season doesn’t eliminate desires to flee that arise from unresolved conflicts, fears of the unknown, and pain that just won’t subside. Often the impetus is intensified. Running may seem more palatable. The added pressures, responsibilities, and emotional weightiness that come in the season can override our normal capacity to hold onto our joy. The key is to stick close to the Father in the middle of the extra to better hear His voice.

What does that look like?

Just what you are doing. Seize the moments. Utilize technology. Steal any time to listen, seek, ponder, receive, and in essence relinquish every part of you that wants to run.

This time, take your cues from Jehoshaphat. Even when running looks like the best option, don’t do it.

Consider how you can better hear the Father in your own season today?

Go back to begin at Day One here.

You can also find a version of this plan at www.bible.com or on the free YouVersion app.

with much affection,

 

 

When the Merry Goes Missing

finding Merry

When the Merry Goes Missing

Hi! And welcome to the first day in a four-day series right here during the holiday season. While most people are sporting their Ho, Ho, Ho sweaters with a grin uncomparable any other time of the year, there are those of us who struggle to be happy the season is here. The merry is missing, and you don’t know how to find it. Because this is a real issue, we need to take it to the only One who can help, and that is Jesus Christ.

You have permission to struggle here. Take your less-than-giddy self before the Lord. Ask Him to speak to you and help you find your merry.

Read the following passage from Hebrews.

For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness

(for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath,

But this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

“The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever.’”

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office,

But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:18-25

Day 1: When the Merry Goes Missing

Christmas time can be void of merriment for many of us. Often life hemorrhages with burdens all year long beyond the energy you have to expend. This heaviness can’t be lifted with the Hallmark channel, a winning ugly sweater or your Aunt Susie’s eggnog.

Maybe you are having a season like my friend experiencing the holidays for the first time after the loss of loved ones. She can wear her old Christmas sweater but she isn’t welcoming this new normal.

Or you might understand my neighbor’s lack of holiday cheer who prefers the HOLIDAYS disappear. The pain associated with them is too great. Shortly after the unwanted divorce, an only child died of cancer. In such suffering and loss, the merry in Christmas can be sucked right out.

Impossible health diagnoses, catastrophic losses, and difficult relationship issues are just a few of the realities confronting people. How, then, with such suffering, can we experience the joy we desire for the season?

Recognize we have a Savior who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. 

Jesus lives to intercede for us.

We find this principle in Hebrews where the writer explains how the Old Covenant with the Law, priests, and sacrifices represented the forerunner to the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant, the priests were chosen by God to offer sacrifices on behalf of the people and their sins, serving as mediators between sinful man and God. In the New Covenant, God’s Son became the perfect sacrifice, making Jesus, the priest and mediator for us.

Why?

Why can you and I be merry in the midst of our mayhem and imperfect circumstances?

Because Jesus is interceding on our behalf.

Maybe you don’t have the hoopla within for the seasonal festivities. There’s not enough strength. You might not have an inkling how you will even fake a smile, and you fear the emptiness is beginning to show. Remember this:

He is able to save to the uttermost, the one that draws near.

That means when you take your situation and your joyless predicament to Jesus, He is going before the throne, Himself. When you and I don’t have the wherewithal to get the twinkle lights untangled, or even utter a half-hearted “Merry Christmas,” He can go the distance on our behalf.

When you can’t yet find your merry, just draw near.

You can also find a version of this plan at www.bible.com or on the free YouVersion app.

with much affection,

 

 

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