Tis the Season: Week 1 Heart Attitudes

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WHAT characterizes one who walks in truth? Let’s reflect back on what we learned from those in the first Christmas Story. God did not choose the wise or wealthy, or those of great social standing.  He chose those who were humble and obedient to His Word even in the face of bizarre circumstances. He chose those who were still enough to hear and listen to His instructions. He chose those who were willing to trust His heart in spite of their circumstances.

Too often we get so busy with our drive-thru, instant gratification lifestyles that we miss the life God has for us. There were those who missed the grand and glorious fulfillment of His promises from years before.  Those who missed hearing his voice after 400 years of silence.

The people God chose to be part of the story of Jesus’ birth had some qualities of heart in common. We can learn from them. If we want to be women who walk in God’s ways and learn His truths we need to be women with:…continue reading

Tis the Season: Week 1 Intro

Tis the Season Blog header Wk 1As we seek to prepare our hearts and homes in order to celebrate what’s truly important this Christmas season, let’s take time to stop, look, listen and celebrate Immanuel—God with us. (Download/Print the study guide, including family activities and Preparing Our Home ideas.)  

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We begin our Advent study looking at the truth found in Psalm 86:11:

#1 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth;

God’s ways are not our ways and we often miss His presence and joy because either we are not looking or we are looking for things that don’t line up with His truth or His ways. Or rather His ways don’t seem to line up with what we “think” His ways should be.  This is what happened in the first Christmas story. God had things planned (and still does) beyond their wildest comprehension and as 2 Peter 3:8 encourages us:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 

Read the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at your presence — as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil — to make your name known to your adversaries, and that the nations might tremble at your presence! When you did awesome things that we did not look for, you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear,  no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him. —Isaiah 64:1-4

Our God is still a God who acts for those who wait for Him.

We are going to look at a bit of the history at the time of Christ’s birth and investigate in further depth some of the details of the Christmas story.  This may seem boring and unnecessary, but it is crucial to helping us understand who God is and His ways.

God made a way for us to understand His ways and His truth — Jesus!

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… And 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. —John 1:1-5, 14

Jesus! He is Immanuel —God with us. This title for Christ is prophesied in Isaiah 7:14 and fulfilled in Matthew 1:23. There are over 300 prophecies from the Old Testament about the birth, life and death of Christ Jesus and every one of them was fulfilled! Matthew 1:18 begins the story of the Nativity with these words… Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way… …continue reading

Tis the Season…Are You Ready?

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Tis the Season…

  • for busyness and overwhelmed schedules packed with events
  • for strained pocketbooks from all the shopping for just the right gifts
  • for stressed and frazzled relationships gathering with relatives
  • for the loneliness of facing Christmas alone this year

 

But is this how Christmas was truly meant to be experienced?

Advent means “the coming”.  It’s a time of inward preparation for the commemoration of the coming of Christ. It’s a time to be still and remember the God of our past, present and future. It’s a time to celebrate His presence in the present and prepare for His second coming to earth.

Advent is a time to prepare for Christ’s coming by looking at our lives and seeing if there are habits, attitudes, or behaviors of which we need to repent. —Ann Hibbard

Fifteen years ago, the Lord really impressed upon me that I needed to take a look at my heart and what I was instilling in my children when it came to Christmas.  My husband & I felt we needed to move our family toward a season more focused on celebrating Christ and generosity rather than “getting gifts”.  I read a magazine article, where the author had incorporated the giving of three gifts in his family.  They gave a gift of love (something special the person wanted), a gift of encouragement (a letter), and a gift of the heart (handmade craft).  Each person gave these three gifts to every other member of the family.  So instead of the parents being focused on buying gifts for the children, the children were involved in gift giving in an even greater way. (I’m sorry I don’t remember the magazine or the author. I wish I had kept the article and could credit this person.  God used him in an amazing way to impact our lives.)

We chose to adopt this plan for our Christmas that year and it radically changed our Christmas then and for years to come (and continues to impact our lives and the lives of our grown children and their families). We did a make a slight change the second year.  The making of a craft with each child (three kids times four crafts each!) made me crazy and stressed —the opposite of what we were going for.  So the next year we swapped the craft for a gift of service and spiritual growth. Each of our children gave a gift of service. They each wrote out on notecards an act of service they would complete for the recipient at some point in the following year.  We encouraged it to be something that would be meaningful to the other person and not just “easy” for the giver. My husband and I gave each of our children a gift of spiritual growth.  It might have been a new devotional, a Bible, a journal, a new Veggie Tales or Adventure in Odyssey video, really just anything to encourage their walk with the Lord in the next year. We plan to continue with this attitude and mindset of giving with our grandchildren. And I have to say…I was concerned that the gift of encouragement (the letter) would be the least well received. I was wrong! The first year it was the gift our children wanted to open first and it has continued to be special part of our family Christmas, even as our children have married and left home. We have continued this letter exchange and added two children-in-love to our list of recipients. This year I’m so excited to be writing letters as a first-time Grandmama to our two granddaughters who were born earlier this year!

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(15 years of Christmas Letters)

Each year since then, as the Christmas season approaches, I ask the Lord to examine my heart, my attitudes and my lifestyle and to make me more intentional and Christ-centered as I prepare for Christmas. This year as I was praying, the Lord impressed upon me the words of Psalm 86:11-13.

Teach me Your way, Yahweh,

and I will live by Your truth.

Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.

I will praise You with all my heart, Lord my God,

and will honor Your name forever.

For Your faithful love for me is great,

and You deliver my life from the depths of Sheol.

—Psalm 86:11-13 (HCSB)

It became a four-week Advent study titled, ‘Tis the Season.  I’d like to invite you to join us over the next six weeks as we seek to prepare our hearts and homes, now, in order to celebrate what’s truly important this Christmas season.  Psalm 86:11-13 will be our guiding verses each week as we seek to cultivate hearts that honor and reflect Christ to those around us. We’ll get into God’s Word to prepare our hearts and share decorating and family time ideas for preparing our homes to experience Christmas anew this year. Let’s take time to stop, look, listen and celebrate Immanuel—God with us.  (I’ll be teaching the study in a four-week series at our women’s Bible study in our church and the study guide is available to download below, but note it will be a six-week series on the blog.)

You can download a copy of the study handouts and homework here.

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Unshakeable Faith Part 2

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Are you struggling with fear of the future? Is your world shaking right now because you are unsure of how you will make ends meet?  No doubt, we live in a shaky world. But we can live in it with unshakeable faith and experience unimaginable peace, joy and contentment in the midst of it all.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. —Hebrews 12:28

  • Receiving – paralambanō (G3880) – to take into the mind
  • Kingdom - basileia (G932) – Christ’s rule and reign in our hearts and lives; clothed with His  power and dignity
  • Cannot be shaken- asaleutos (G761) – unshaken, unmoved, not liable to overthrow and disorder,  firm, stable, enduring.

Those circumstances in life that shake our world also serve to build our faith.  They are opportunities for growth.  Opportunities to grow deeper in our relationship with God and the training ground for learning to trust Him in even greater ways.

Hebrews 12:28 is a great reminder and encouragement to us. We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be moved, one that is firm and stable and secure.  God is our Rock and Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of this foundation for our lives.  We have to receive it as ours.  Take up our places as daughters of the king and co-heirs with Christ.

What is shaking your world right now?  What makes you fearful?  Last week we looked at the fear of vain imagining.  We saw an example in scripture of those who allowed their vain imaginings to run wild and those who chose to trust God in the midst of their fear.  Let’s wrap up this series by looking at another example of situations that cause us to be fearful: concern for provision and the future.…continue reading

Unshakeable Faith

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What is shaking your world right now? What do you fear?  We live in a shaky world and we’ve all experienced fear in our life. Fear very often produces a very real and felt manifestation. It’s that  sensation that we feel from our hair standing on end to the very tip of our toes. You know the feeling! It’s the internal security system the Lord has wired us with that produces that rush of adrenaline that propels us to action to remove ourselves from harm’s way. But living in a state of fear is not part of God’s design. (2 Tim 1:7)  Fear can be real or imagined, irrational, abnormal and even paralyzing in our lives. Let’s look at how we can stand firm in shaky world.  Hebrews 12:28 encourages us to remain steady when things are shaking:

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

In the Bible fear is defined as an emotional and intellectual anticipation of harm or what one feels may go wrong. It is being anxious or timid. But it can also mean a very positive feeling of awe or reverence for God, which may be expressed in worship.

Faith is belief in truth, a reality, a firm persuasion or confidence, to trust. It is what enables us to stand firm and live unshakeable in a shaky world because of the object of our faith is the One who does not change, who created all things, sustains all things and is sovereign over all things.

Join me over the next few days as we take a look at three types of fears we deal with and three examples from Scripture on moving from fear to faith.…continue reading

Are You A People Pleaser?

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The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted. —Proverbs 29:25

Do you find yourself craving the praise and appreciation of others?  How is this affecting your faith?  How is this creating fear in your life?

Read: John 12:42-43

Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. —John 12:42-43

“Notice that John doesn’t say that their problem was one of poor self-esteem or feelings of inferiority. No, he pinpoints their problem as being a problem of love. What did they love more than the approval of God? The approval of man. What did they long for more than the praise that would come to them from God: “Well done, good and faithful servant”? They loved the praise of their peers. In fact, they loved it so much that they disobeyed Christ’s command to witness for Him.” —Elyse Fitzpatrick

The word loved in John 12:42-43 is a very strong Greek word, agapao. This was a word that meant that they lived for and were addicted to the approval of men.

Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. —Galatians 1:10

Galatians 1:10 poses a valid question for us to consider. When our lives are focused on gaining the favor of others or pleasing them for our own goals, we’ll be at cross-purposes with the Lord.  Either we seek the Lord’s favor or we seek man’s favor and our choice affects the way we live our lives.

As you consider whether you have a disposition to fear man or try to gain others’ approval, can you identify behaviors that are linked to it?…continue reading

A Renewed Perspective and Refreshed Mindset

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A new perspective is so often what I need.  This past weekend, I officially entered my 50’s and “wasting away” takes on new meaning.  Unfortunately it’s not my “waistline” that’s decreasing.  This is one of those birthdays I was not looking forward to for several reasons —and I KNOW!  50 is the new 40, just like 40 was the new 30 — nevertheless, it was a decade  I wish I could stall for a bit.  We’ve been talking about our mindset and thought life in this Finding Freedom from Fear series, and today’s passage from the lesson was so appropriate:

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. —2 Corinthians 4:16-18

This milestone in my life was the perfect occasion to ask myself some questions based on these verses:

Do I see my troubles as light and momentary or large and looming?

Do I focus more on the outward wasting away or the inward renewal?

Do I fixate on the seen rather than seeking for glimpses of the unseen eternal?

Do any of these resonate with you?

Too often the gravity pull of this world tempts me to get wrapped up in and often overwhelmed by the here and now.  But as I renew my mind in the truths of God’s Word and who HE is, I am reminded that the perspective I choose in the midst of the here and now not only affects my attitude, but my joy, my contentment, my peace and my relationships.  And I do have a choice —gravity pull or glory perspective.  For the TRUTH is, the unpleasant and hard in the here and now is most definitely achieving for me an eternal glory in Christ Jesus that far outweighs them all!  Take a look at the preceding verses in this chapter — a great “BUT…!” passage:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you. —2 Corinthians 4:7-12

These are great truths to focus on when an attitude adjustment is needed.

Celebrating who HE is and all I am IN Him!

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Change Your Mindset

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Sometimes my thoughts can drive me crazy and leave me mentally exhausted!  The information that floods my head on a daily basis can be overwhelming — “to do” list, family concerns, children, work, marriage, the upkeep of my home, finances, health, the chaos in the world around me and abroad and on and on.  I can find myself focused and fixated on the wrong things, which in turn can lead to worry, fear, frustration and just being stressed out in general!  So what’s a girl to do?  Romans 12:1-2 offers us some insight as we continue to explore cultivating a peaceful and joyful mind, heart and life.

 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

We see two contrast in thinking this passage: a mind conformed or a mind transformed.

conformed – syschematizo (GR4964) — to fashion alike, conform to the same pattern; to conform one’s self (i.e. one’s mind and character) to another’s pattern; a masquerade.

transformed – metamorphoo (GR3339) — to change one’s form, to transform; refers to an invisible process in Christians which takes place or begins to take place during their life in this age. From two words meaning to shape, form in the midst of (together with), fellowship.

It’s not hard to conform to the world’s way of thinking.  We are bombarded with thousands of messages a day telling us how we should think, feel, look and act.  …continue reading

Perfect Peace of Mind

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perfect peace – shalom meaning,

well, safe, happy, completeness, soundness, peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment

 A mind of perfect peace is…

…dependent on Jesus

…looking to Jesus

…leaning on Jesus

…seeking Jesus

…believing Jesus

…trusting Jesus

…loving Jesus

…living for Jesus

Free. Content. Joyful. Peaceful. Complete. Secure.

Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. —Matthew 11:28-30

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3 Habits for Cultivating a Sound Mind

Change your mindset

A Sound Mind?!?  Yes, please!  Many days I feel just the opposite; “going out of my mind” or “losing my mind” might be a more accurate description. Menopausal middle-age is beginning to take its toll on my mind.  This morning I squirted shampoo into my body puff…but it worked; my skin had this great Moroccan Oil glow.  Yesterday I was heading back to work after lunch and a new billboard for the Whole Foods Market (coming to our area soon) caught my eye.  Next thing I know, I’ve passed the church and I’m heading down the road towards the Whole Foods.  I’m constantly searching for my glasses only to find them on top of my head.  I walk into a room and can’t remember what I’m doing. You get the idea. My mind is overtaxed, swirling and often I feel like I’m in a foggy haze.  And I know you don’t have to be menopausal or middle-aged to know what I’m talking about.  I know those of you with babies and young children at home can relate…and those with pre-teen and teens at home can relate.  The point…it’s not confined to a particular season of life.  So who’s with me?  Who’s ready for a sound mind?!

Last week in the Take Heart post, we looked at finding freedom when we are fearful of the future, the uncertain or the unknown.  Today, I want to continue that discussion as we look at three habits we can cultivate in our lives to help us change our mindset and attitude, to develop a sound mind, and to walk confidently and courageously in Christ.…continue reading