Celebrate!

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Red, white and blue.  I’ve seen it everywhere this past week.

If you live in the USA, you have too.

There are flags waving, crepe paper adorning, patriotic symbols flashing, celebration of the 4th. of July, our independence day, the birthday of America ring out across our land.

And the celebration continues into Sunday, July 5.

I celebrate my freedom to worship today, to serve the God I love, to live in a country where I can proclaim my faith without fear of persecution.  I celebrate that I can worship openly, not in hiding, like so many fellow believers do in other parts of the world.

Despite my freedom, at times I feel like a fish out of water or a fish in the water swimming upstream, going against the flow.

When I get weary and tired, God’s strength and power gives me the Spiritual muscles to keep swimming even when the current pushes against me.

And He gives me the power to live here, now, at such a time as this but to always remember who I am, where I came from and where I’m headed.

He gives me the power to LOVE. And I hope I will LOVE coming from a humble position.

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself:  ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers. adulterers–or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

But the tax collector stood at a distance.  He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his chest and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”   Luke 18: 9-14

My prayer is that I will LOVE coming from the humble place of one needing mercy–ah, grace, mercy–I am nothing without it and everything with it.

I’m aware that as a Christ follower I am called to be different, live differently than our culture — to live counter culturally — but I am also called to love differently than is humanly possible in a world that is not my home.  That is hard and impossible without the power of Christ in me.

I don’t want to forget that this is not my home.  I don’t want to forget that I live in a world where I don’t really belong.  I don’t want to ever forget that I am a citizen of Heaven and that I am just passing through.

I am a sojourner.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a sojourner too.

We are not citizens of our world trying to work our way to Heaven.  We are citizens of Heaven allowing Him to complete His work through us.

As I look around at all the red, white and blue.  When I celebrate, join in on the festivities, parades, fireworks, I’m reminded that this celebration can’t compare to the one going on in Heaven when we open our hearts and lives to Jesus–the one who loved us enough to come down into this world to save us.

He’s the one who throws open wide the doors to the Kingdom of Heaven and welcomes us into a new and forever citizenship — a land with similar colors to remember and celebrate.

Jesus bore the red – through His blood, the blue through His bruises and we wear the white.

When God looks at us clothed in Jesus, He sees us as though we have never sinned.  White as snow.  Pure and perfect without blemish or stain.

As I celebrate my freedom here, I’m thankful for my liberty, the freedom to worship, the freedom to express myself.  I celebrate all that and more.

I celebrate the beauty, the glimpses of His glory that surround me daily and I’m truly thankful for all the good and perfect gifts that He’s given to me for my enjoyment.

But I also remember not to get too comfortable and to remember that I will be called to live counter-culturally at times, maybe even be ridiculed for that, possibly be misunderstood,  but I will remain joyful remembering that this is not my home, I’m just passing through.  The best is yet to come.

Blessings,

Nancy

The Light That Keeps on Giving

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Twinkling lights are sure to catch our eye at this time of year.  We’re attracted by their shimmer through our neighborhoods and homes.

I especially enjoy waking up in the morning before dawn and clicking on my Christmas tree lights.  Sitting in the dark with just the glow from the tree is the best part of my day.

Light.  We’re drawn to light.

Jesus referred to himself as the light of the world.  Yet Isaiah 53:2 tells us that, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”.

The light of the world, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords didn’t enter this world with majestic brilliance.  There wasn’t any pomp and circumstance, fanfare, no castle, no royal clothes, no trumpets sounding or a parade to usher in His arrival. 

He wasn’t draped in purple but in simple swaddling cloths.  He didn’t have a cradle just an animal’s trough as a bed.

Surrounded by the smells and sounds of animals and with the love of His parents–a carpenter and young peasant girl–He came quietly, modestly into our world.

Not too long ago, King George of England was born.  The airways, the internet, the media exploded with the announcement.

The only spectacular light that shone the night Jesus was born was around the Shepherds.  An angel brought the Shepherds the birth announcement surrounded with the glory of God.

Then the sky resounded with shouts of praise from a multitude of angels, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  Luke 2: 14

The shepherds–who were considered the lowly of the low–they were the ones standing in the company of angels and surrounded with God’s glowing presence.

Did you ever notice that God does things completely the opposite of the way we would expect?

Consider King David whom Jesus descended from–he was just a young shepherd boy tending the sheep when Samuel arrived at his father Jesse’s house to anoint the next king.  Samuel thought for sure it would be David’s older brother, Eliab but the Lord told Samuel, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  All of David’s older, stronger brothers weren’t picked by God.  David the youngest, smallest less obvious son was anointed by Samuel to become the next king.  (You can read the story in 1 Samuel 16). 

Our world often focuses outwardly on appearances, the bigger, the better, the beautiful, the powerful, we love the wow factor and success is often measured by the opinions of people.

Jesus’ wow factor came from His words of authority, His light came from turning the attitudes and thoughts of His culture upside down and inside out.

Jesus grew up and lived a total counter cultural lifestyle.  The King of Heaven’s light burned bright in the way He treated people.  He valued women, reached out to the poor, welcomed the downtrodden, was merciful, associated with those that earthly kings despised, He comforted, healed, loved and protected.  When the religious walked around with a holier-than-thou swagger pointing out the sin in others, Jesus embraced the sinner and encouraged them to follow Him and He reprimanded the accusers.

Jesus was born to become Israel’s Savior (and ultimately the whole world’s) but the people of Israel thought He’d be a militant savior.  God himself, clothed in skin, didn’t come to save Israel from a political leader and to set them free from Roman bondage.  The people were looking for an earthly king, someone to rescue them from their circumstances.  When they didn’t get what they wanted, many walked away–they turned their back on Jesus.  Their souls became blinded by expectations and they couldn’t see past their perceived ideas.  They couldn’t see that He was their Spiritual Light to lead them back to God and give them eternal life.

Those who did believe, spread the light and it kept burning throughout the world until it reached us and now we, who believe, become light carriers and the Light of Christmas keeps on giving…

Written by Nancy Janiga ©2014