Happy Holidays – A Devotion

Happy Holidays

I Thessalonians 5:8-11 (NLT)

But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation. For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever. So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

Snuggled up in a big comfy chair with my not so little 11-year-old watching our show, it was abruptly interrupted to bring the decision of the grand jury regarding a young man who was shot by a police officer in the line of duty. Ferguson, Missouri will forever have a place in history. Many people took to the streets rioting based on the rumors and speculation surrounding this tragic event. A moment in time that forever changed the life of many people. My daughter immediately could sense the change in my demeanor as the media panned the crowd outside the courthouse. I began to silently pray for the city and its people. I thought about the family who now mourns their son. I also prayed for the officer and his family whose lives will never be the same. I prayed for peace and protection over the city so that it would not result in more loss of life or tragic outcomes. My children live in a very violent world. Just last week, a young man plagued with mental illness experienced a full breakdown entering the library of the local college shooting three innocent victims before being shot and killed. One young man is not paralyzed from the waist down. He was not some young thug in and out of prison or an ongoing threat to society, but a college graduate with a promising future who lost his way. Another innocent first responder lost his life when a man set his house on fire to lure law enforcement and shot the man dead in the street, he continued on his rampage until he was stopped as well. This wasn’t some troubled neighborhood but that of my mother-in-law for many years. Just quiet streets lined with quaint houses. We have entered the end times. Life does not make sense. Wars and rumors of wars are upon us. There is no going back. We were made for such a time as this.

Enter the holiday season from Thanksgiving to Christmas has always been a difficult time for me. A cloud of darkness usually blows in about now hanging over my mood and emotions until New Years. But not this year… Could it be that I am thankful not to be in the Infusion Room with our son while he receives chemotherapy? This may be part of it. Could it be that my mother has finally ended her lifelong addiction to alcohol to live with her King? Perhaps. Or maybe it is because rather than losing our son, we have gained another? This all is a possibility. This has been a hard year. Though I am quite optimistic by faith of the coming year, I have no guarantee that I will not be presented with new circumstances or difficult situations. But if I choose to live in the Light of His Love clearheaded, protected by the Armor of Faith and wearing the Helmet of Salvation defined as confident hope – I will have joy, live in peace and always be thankful.

I Thessalonians 5:1-3 (NLT)

Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you. For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “Everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall on them as suddenly as a pregnant woman’s labor pains begin. And there will be no escape.

 

It would be a lie to say that things are going to get any better in the world in which we live. (I Thessalonians 5:1-11) In fact it would be a complete fallacy and contradictory to the Word of God. Jesus is coming back. The closer the time comes the more darkness will make its last stand. Our Lord warned us that such times would come immediately before His Return. His Proximity to the world causes desperation as the end nears. This is not a doomsday message to strike fear in your heart but a transparent and candid honesty according to His Word. BUT – the Word of God also says this – I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) You cannot change the world but the Spirit of God empowers us to overcome! You are an overcomer! If you have nothing else to be thankful for today, be thankful that the Love of God and His Will for your life is to be victorious in every situation!

With this in mind – as believers, God has dictated our response to such things in I Thessalonians 5:12-22. It’s funny how the Word of God works. After telling us that darkness will prevail all around us and Jesus will soon come back ending life as we know it, don’t worry about it. The unknown is always a source of contingency. People inherently do not life change and prefer the comfort of the known. This is not the life that we have been called to as God moves us from His Glory to His Glory transforming US as He goes. The strength and power to endure is in us and not subject to our circumstances. Not only must we as believers learn to live in the Light of His Love, we must strive to share that Light with others especially in these dark and confusing times.

I Thessalonians 5:12-13 (NLT)

Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.

Respect for authority is lost in our world. The absence of the father in the home may be a large contributor. As head of the family (his ordained position by the Lord), it is has become an increasingly difficult task to instill such respect in our future generations. We have produced young people who cannot succeed because they do not understand authority and the important role it plays in their life. Honor your leaders in the Lord’s Work does not only apply to ministers, reverends, pastors and priest, but every person put in a place of authority. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar even if he puts reverend in front of his name. If you don’t believe me that’s fine. “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” (Romans13:1) Show them great respect. Love them wholeheartedly. Live peaceably with each other comes from respecting authority. God is the ultimate authority over our life. He places the individuals above us in their place. They are accountable to God for their use or misuse of power. We maintain a stance of righteousness with the Lord when we honor Him by respecting the authority placed in our life. Whether their choices are correct or incorrect is not our concern, because our faith in God dictates our response. Faith is subjection to God’s Authority over our life with confident trust that He will make every detail work together for our good!

I Thessalonians 5:14 (NLT)

 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

 

God has filled us with an abundance of His Love so we can share it with the world. People are not your problem. They are not my problem. Sin is the problem. Jesus overcame sin on the Cross so we really should not have a problem with other people. Seriously, there are days that I am sure some person is going to be the reason I do not make Heaven in my frustration. But we must strive to love others as Christ has loved us. We are His Ambassadors to the world in which we live. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20) We must learn to let the Glory of God shine through us cracks and all. (2 Corinthians 4:7) What a relief? That means I don’t have to be perfect because I am only a vessel. When I am pressed, persecuted, struck down that His Glorious Love pours out…or at least it should.

I Thessalonians 5:15 (NLT)

See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

 

Believers do not react to the news but respond in season and out of season with love. Riots will never be the Will of God. Violence against others will not be either. We must remember how God repaid the injustice of humanity. He did so with love. Vengeance belongs to the Lord. He repays rebellion with love. He covers fault with His Grace. His Mercy lends forgiveness in every situation. We must learn to do the same. This is an act of faith and trust in the Lord especially if you are the victim. Forgiveness is always God’s Response to the offenders. We must treat our enemies as Jesus Christ has treated us with mercy, grace and love. (Romans 12:17-20) A word of advice – you can take it for what it is worth. You must come to the realization that life is not fair. This profound revelation will take you far in this life. God is always fair. He has no favorites. If you want to live a successful and prosperous life, decide to seek justice in the Lord and not in a world that is unfamiliar with it.

I Thessalonians 5:16 (NLT) Always be joyful.

Jesus Christ is the Source of our joy. All of it. Happiness is an emotion based on how we feel and what we see. Joy is based on Who we know, love and trust. If you expect a person to make you happy, give you joy or satisfy your life, you will experience many letdowns in life. Despite the best intentions of people, they will always find some way to disappoint others in our inconsistency. God is constant. His Love is unconditional. Christ completes us. If we will put ALL of our faith and trust in the Lord, He will finish this work in our life and we will be able to maintain joy in the midst of deep sorrow and hardship because our Source is secure. “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” (John 15:10-12) When we strive to follow Jesus Christ every step of our life, we will begin to walk in joy always.

I Thessalonians 5:17 (NLT) Never stop praying.

 

Have you stopped knocking? Have you stopped asking? Have you stopped seeking? Could this be the reason there is no peace and joy in life. Prayer is essential in maintaining our relationship with the Lord. When we stop praying, it ends our pursuit of God and His Kingdom. It is in His Presence that we find the One Thing we really need. (Psalm 27:4) Everything else is effected by our connection to God through Jesus Christ.

I Thessalonians 5:18 (NLT)

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

 

Yesterday was a dark and gloomy day. It was raining when I left for the office. Christmas music was on the radio. I was just not in the mood. I turned on the CD player and began my own praise and worship session in the car. Before I had arrived to my destination, I was overflowing in thanksgiving. My joy tank was full again to overflowing. Thankfulness is a decision that I must make. It is not always based on what I see or how I feel but most often on the Promises of God brought about by faith in my life. I choose to be thankful in all circumstances. It is like a drug that lifts me out of disappointment without changing a thing other than my outlook, perception and attitude. Not a single circumstance has to give or situation have to change, but the moment I enter His Presence with thanksgiving I am changed. This is God’s Will for our life to see things through His Eyes. Our pursuit of Christ will always lead to thankfulness which is a condition of contentment. (Colossians 2:6-7) The deeper our roots in the foundation of faith that greater than outpouring which satisfies our soul. God’s Love is more than enough to be thankful for. It produces joy and peace in our life that cannot be recreated by a person. (Colossians 3:14-16) Sometimes thankfulness is a sacrifice when things don’t turn out as we expected or contrary to what we think will happen in our life, but by faith we thank God for His Will, His Way and His Word that will always result in our benefit, blessing and prosperity. (Psalm50:14) Faith produces thankfulness in our life. Confident hope keeps it flowing even in when darkness comes.

I Thessalonians 5:19-21 (NLT)

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil.

 

As I recently blogged, I realized that I have spent my lifetime trying to un-break broken things. I have decided that will not be the case any longer. I cannot make the perfect life for myself or anyone else. All I can do is point to the One who promises to perfect all that concerns me. (Psalm 138:8) The Holy Spirit produces the fruit in my life to share with others. (Galatians 5:22-23) As He works in me and through me, I am able to extend the Love of Jesus to others. I am able to encourage and uplift them even when I am not completely sure that I am happy. We must not stifle the Holy Spirit in our life but give Him free reign to change us from the inside out. God’s Will for our life is to be filled with His Love, Joy and Peace. Not just during the holidays but every single day of our life. When we decorate our tree each year, I carefully inspect the ornament that we have for cracks removing those which are broken. Many times I cannot bring myself to part with the pieces left behind representing what used to be. But this year, I will be throwing away the “broken pieces” of the past. I will no longer hold on to those things that the Lord has been trying to remove. I will stop trying to hold it all together but give it all to Jesus. The Holy Spirit will do a work in those who commit their life to His Work. This is not something we do but who we allow ourselves to become through faith in Jesus Christ.

I Thessalonians 5:22-24 (NLT)

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again. God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful.

 

Happy Holidays! I intend to keep them that way! I want more than anything for the God of Peace to reign in my life now and forevermore. I must decide to consecrate every part of my life to God through Christ Jesus. He desires my whole spirit, soul and body to rest in Him. Tough choice when faced with the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and even harder with the tragedies of this world broadcasted moment by moment in our living rooms. But it’s a new season in our house! It is a new day! God will make this happen because He is faithful. I started reading I Thessalonians just to maintain my thankfulness but once again God points the way to living in His Abundance for life. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. I will continue to knock, ask and seek to know Him more than ever before. Thankfulness is a choice. I choose to be thankful. Joy is a condition. I choose to be symptomatic. Peace is His Promise. I choose to have it! Happy Holidays!

Philippians 4:7-9 (NLT)

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

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