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We interrupt this Christmas celebration to bring you Comfort…

20131212-115012.jpg“They will call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” (Matthew 1:23)

What is the one thing that most of us want when everything seems to be falling apart around us?  I don’t think I would be alone in saying I am looking for a friend.  I am looking for someone who loves me to commiserate with or a shoulder to cry on.  I am desperate for someone to tell me that everything is going to be ok, even if they don’t believe it or see how that ever could be.  We are looking for comfort in companionship.

Of all of the names that Jesus has in the Bible, one of my very favorite is Emmanuel.  The reason? God is with me.  No matter what I face today or tomorrow.  God is by my side through every bit of it.

This is what makes the Christmas story so beautiful.  ”And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory. the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1 :14)  God sent Jesus to Earth to humble himself.  The world has never witnessed a more genuine act of self-humbling. So completely did our Lord humble Himself that He surrendered His will to the will of His Father in heaven. His desire was to do the will of the Father, therefore He could testify, “I do always those things that please Him” (John 8:29). It was humiliation for the eternal Son of God to become flesh in a stable, and then to dwell in a humble home in subjection to a human parent. God was ”sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin” (Romans 8:30). Only eternity will reveal the depth of meaning for Him and for us found in those words, ” He humbled Himself.”

Isaiah 43:2 says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”  Notice in this verse it says when you face trouble, not if.

We are going to have bad days, weeks, years even.  Christmastime is no exception.  In fact, emotions are magnified during this season making our highs higher and our lows lower.  The question is when you find yourself hurting, where do you turn?

We all face trials, hurts, suffering and Jesus understands our journey through these deep waters.  During His days here on Earth, Jesus himself was tired, lonely, hurt, hated, beaten, rejected, persecuted, misunderstood and mistreated, mocked and laughed at, betrayed, temped, and condemned.  He has felt forsaken, lost loved ones, and experienced pain.  He understands how it feels to be separated from God.  Imagine Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.  It is late at night, Jesus is walking His own dark path.  He knows the time is coming for his death and the fate that awaits Him.  Jesus says His “soul is crushed with grief to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38) He is distraught, anguished, tormented.

Does your soul feel as if it is crushed to the point of death?  Is your mess so big you don’t even know where to begin digging in order to clean it up?  Give it to Jesus, he has been where you stand today and can relate to what you are going through. Look again at Isaiah 43:2 and the promise that God makes you, “…I will be with you.”  What does Matthew 1:23 say Jesus’ name is? Emmanuel.  He wants to give you comfort and hope and walk with you through whatever pain you are experiencing. He wants to be there for you!

It is why He sent His son.

This is what we celebrate.

The gift of “God with us.”

Rejoice, rejoice Emmanuel.

Take some time today and listen to “How Many Kings” by Downhere and allow it to really penetrate your heart.  May you find the true source of comfort and friendship we are all so desperately seeking.

The Innkeeper read by John Piper

The Innkeeper often gets vilified during the Christmas season as we challenge each other not to be like the innkeeper. I myself have done it many times over. This riveting story is a paradigm shift that caused my heart to ache. A picture of the cost of housing the Savior; it made me stop and remember again that we never know the struggles and baggage that someone else carries with them. A beautiful, heart-wrenching take on what might have been and a reminder that this season is about so much more than red and green packages placed under a tree. This season is prophecy fulfilled, for our sake He became poor, and because of that the road to Calvary must begin with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time

Is the Christmas season the best month of the year or just the most stressful? Yes! This humorous video overwhelms us with all the craziness that crowds our schedules at Christmas and then adds a tongue-in-cheek reminder that “Jesus is the reason for the season” and after yesterday’s post I couldn’t help but piggy-back this on. Enjoy!

Thankful…

Happy Thanksgiving…We are so blessed, even on our bad days. Josh Groban’s song always brings me to thankful tears and I wanted to share it with you. Sometimes we get caught up in our own messes that we lose sight of our blessings and what is truly important.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)

Some days we forget to look around us
Some days we can’t see the joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be.
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see.

It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.
-Josh Groban, Thankful

I pray that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving…

Today is REALLY not looking good.*

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*Someone doesn’t want this message shared. For some reason it was posted originally in a password protected format. So we will give it another try. The enemy will not have success in silencing this.

“When darkness overtakes the godly, light will come bursting in” (Psalm 112:4)

I know we have been down this path before but sometimes it feels like life just keeps circling around on itself, like you are stuck in a holding pattern. Today I found out that the hard copy proof of Run and Be Still, that I have been stalking has yet to be created, let alone shipped. To say that I was angry that someone dropped the ball three weeks ago and left it laying in the outfield was putting it mildly. (And that the only reason the mistake was even discovered was because I finally listened to the voice in my gut telling me to call and check on the project progress.) So ok, deep breath, running shoes, and headphones (because it’s really hard to be angry when you are spending time in worship) and things begin to become right in the world again. As I was jogging I realized, through God’s help, that there are forces at work beyond what I can see or even comprehend, really.

Satan’s lies are easiest to believe in our darkest days. I want to stand holding a candle in that darkness, lighting up the lies with the truth of God’s promise and the hope of brighter days ahead, from the shoes of someone who has walked that path. I know that in becoming a light in that darkness it robs Satan of some of his power. He isn’t going to allow that to happen easily. So, the book got “lost.” In realizing this it strengthens my resolve to fight. It encourages me to push to get my book into the hands of those hurting souls who God will begin to heal. And it once again opens my eyes to the very real battle that is waging constantly around us.

“It’s one thing to know that you’re going into a challenging season. You get prepared for it. You get mentally ready. But what about the difficulties that we don’t see coming? The unexpected crisis that catches us off-guard? Sometimes, it can seem so overwhelming that it almost knocks the wind right out of us.
 
The Scripture says that we shouldn’t be surprised by fiery trials. That’s because the forces of darkness would not be fighting against you if they didn’t know that God has something amazing in your future! Sometimes, those unexpected difficulties are just a sign that you’re on the right track. It’s always darkest just before the dawn appears. The enemy always fights the hardest when you are closest to your breakthrough. The key is to stay the course and keep fighting the good fight of faith. Keep your joy and keep declaring God’s Word over your future. God has promised that you will overcome every obstacle. You will defeat every enemy, and right now, I declare that you will fulfill your destiny in Jesus’ name!” (excerpt from spiritual inspiration)

Keep the faith and light up the darkness with the help of the Son!

Back To School

Today is a bittersweet day. It is our back to school day. The time with our children is fleeting and I was so touched by this video (I sat with tears rolling as I watched it) that I had to share it. This is my heart. This is my story. This is for all the moms, dads, grandparents, anyone who has uttered some form of these words offered up in the video.
“I want more first days, a lot more. I know they are mine for just a moment but they are yours, God, for eternity. Keep them safe God and if you would just fill in the gaps with the things I forgot to say because I was too busy or too distracted. That would be great. That would be really, really, great.”

Happy first day…

Listen Up!

20130817-132904.jpgThis week we have looked at the challenge of living remarkably (A Remarkable Challenge.)  To do this we have talked about the need for this to begin internally with our relationship with God (Inside Out) and that you just have to be the you God created (What If…) Today, I want to look at how we can let God use us for His purposes.  So the question is this…Have you ever wished God would use a billboard to communicate with us?  Wouldn’t that be so much easier to understand and follow?  But if we want to hear God we have to be quiet.  We have to be still.  We have to have our hearts tuned to the channel of the Holy Spirit.  And we have to be ready to move, to take action when given direction.  Even when it doesn’t make sense.

Let me share a story with you about a woman who touched me deeply just by listening to the Holy Spirit and taking action, even though it didn’t make sense.  This was taken from a letter that I had written to my prayer team shortly after having been diagnosed with Takayasu’s arteritis.

I wanted to share another amazing story of how God continues to work and reveal himself. A little before 9:00 one evening this week my cell phone rang. I was tired and thought of not answering it but the number was vaguely familiar so I picked it up. The voice on the other end was a very dear lady whom I haven’t spoken with in probably a year. (I had worked with her in the creation of her image and marketing collateral for her non-profit organization, Pampering Parents, one of the projects I am most proud of having been part of. You can read her amazing story at Pamperingparents.org) She was almost as surprised to hear my voice as I was to hear hers as she tentatively said “Ashley, I didn’t know if I could still get ahold of you. You have been on my mind lately. How are you doing?” She didn’t even really know why she felt so compelled to call out of the blue.  I absolutely couldn’t believe my ears and the words began spilling out over one another as I began filling her in on “how I was.” She was absolutely shocked to hear everything that had been going on. The Holy Spirit had placed me on her heart and she listened. She began to encourage and share with me immediately, reminding me of 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul asks God three times to remove the thorn from his side and how through our weakness God is able to display his perfect strength.  This passage is one that I had already spent time in but God knew that I needed to hear that message and his words again that night from one of his servants. My spirit was so lifted after we prayed together and God’s presence was tangible. We serve an amazing Lord who continues to know just what I need and provides it at exactly the right moment.

If you listen and hear His voice, through God’s Word or other source, then you have a choice to obey God’s word or go your own way. Hebrews 3:15 says if you hear and do not respond it is the same as rebellion and hardens the heart. This is the path that leads to destruction; whether it is by willful rebellion or by indifference there is no distinction.
If you listen and obey, then generally, you are spiritually growing in relationship with Christ and seeking ways to serve “the Kingdom” mission with your gifts and talents. If you are listening you should be shrinking and He should be increasing in you. His kingdom should be becoming more and more important to you each day and you should be less and less concerned with the cares of this world and its enticements. I wish this narrow road to perfection were an overnight process but like the people of Israel this sometimes seems like a back and forth process in life. Finishing well is what matters not how or when you start.