Then God said…

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters.
And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 

Then God said, ‘Let there be light.’” Genesis 1:3

The voice of God thundered into the formless, empty, darkness and brought forth light and life!

God’s words spoke all creation into existence and He proclaimed it, “Good!”

“By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.” Hebrews 11:3

God’s words contain creative power!

God spoke and His very breath formed substance from nothing; He spoke and all things were born!

“The Lord merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. He assigned the sea its boundaries and locked the oceans in vast reservoirs. Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of him.

For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.” Psalm 33:6-9

The world was formed; the sun, moon, and stars were hung in the sky, the earth was filled with fishes swimming in the oceans, animals roaming upon the ground, and birds souring in the sky.

But God wasn’t finished.

The earth wasn’t yet complete.

There was one more creation, unique and completely different then all He had created so far.

“Let Us make human beings in our image, to be like Us.” Genesis 1:26

I can only imagine when God spoke those words He drew the attention of all creation and a holy hush fell over all the heavens and over all the earth as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, created human beings in their image, to be like them!

All creation looked on in wonder as God reached His hands down into the dust of the earth and formed the shape of a man. Then He bent His head down low, and breathed His very breath into the nostrils of man, and God’s creation became a living being.

Adam, you, and me, were all formed by God, made in the image of God, created to be loved by God, and intended to be one with God!

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27

“Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!” Genesis 1:31

 

Perhaps you find there are some formless, empty, dark places you are facing in life…

Situations that seem to have no purpose and you don’t understand how to get past them.

Relationship issues or financial difficulties that leave you feeling empty and unfulfilled or worried and unable to get ahead.

Dark corners in your heart that you know need to be cleaned out, but seem too overwhelming to deal with.

I’m here to remind you that these are God’s specialties!

God’s words contain creative power!

God’s words create purpose when your life seems formless.

God’s words create fullness when your life seems empty.

God’s words bring light when you find yourself in the dark.

May you choose to listen to God’s words and find the truth that will bring you light and life!

New Year, New Journey!

As you welcome in this New Year do you have a complaint against God? Is there something you desperately need an answer for? Have you tried everything you know to do, done everything others have advised, and still have no break through? I just want to tell you that is actually a very good place to be!

The end of self can be the beginning of new life!

The realization that self doesn’t have the answers, and that others don’t have good advice leaves you with the only voice that speaks truth into every complaint! There are only two voices, the voice of truth and the voice of the liar. When you rise above the reasoning of others, guard your heart and mind against your own fleshly thoughts, and let go of any lies you believed, you will see what the Lord has to say to you! And when you hear His voice of truth you must write it down because His answer isn’t just for you, but for those around you as well!

“I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint. Then the Lord said to me, “Write my answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.” Habakkuk 2:1-2

I hope this verse inspires you as it does me for the coming year. While the enemy means harm from the complaints you have against God, God intends that His answers will provide a story that you will write to strengthen yourself and to inspire others.

Four years ago I began to write my story. I spent two years writing about my journey through seasons of life and the lessons I learned along the way. When I began to write I thought that perhaps I would have it printed with the hope that my story would encourage others along their journey through life. When I “finished” it, (when are you ever sure a story is finished?) I went to a writer’s conference where I hoped to have someone else read some of it to receive input and constructive criticism. My story never came out of the folder, but I did hear a lot about blogging. Mark had mentioned it to me several times before so when I came home from the conference I decided that was what I was to do, and from then on I have been writing and posting my blog weekly. I really enjoy blogging; beginning with asking God to show me something new from the Bible or to teach me something from life experiences so I can share with others, then the process of putting what God shows me into words as I write and re-write the text, and then finding or taking pictures to illustrate the lessons. I have found it very fulfilling and I also have found that it keeps me accountable. Many times I write things God has spoken to me from the Bible or lessons I have learned from life situations and I have found that those lessons will be tested. That’s when I need to remind myself of the words I wrote and choose whether I will take my own advice or give in to my feelings and emotions. And so, though I really enjoy blogging, I believe God is calling me back to writing my story. I see this season of blogging as preparation and the theme; “What the enemy means for harm, God intends for good!” is also the theme of my story. My story includes many experiences when I didn’t recognize the truth of this theme. Many times I responded to situations by listening to the wrong voice and experienced the harm meant for me by the enemy of my soul. That harm was meant to steal, kill, and destroy me, but it was those very strategies against me that brought me to the end of self. The end of self can be the beginning of new life! It was in that dark night that God’s light flooded my soul. His unconditional love and grace washed over my wandering heart with these four words, “God is for you!” As I traveled through life I have come to realize that believing this truth, never doubting that, “God is for you!” has been my anchor, has been my stronghold, has been what has enabled me to face the troubles that came my way, and to trust that God will work all things together for my good, and for the salvation of many. And so, as I use my time to write my story I will continue to blog excerpts from it along the way. A New Year and a New Journey begins!

Good News of Great Joy!

It was a night just like any other. Shepherds were watching their sheep out on the hills near Bethlehem when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the radiance of God’s glory surrounded them!

The shepherds were terrified by the angel’s presence. 

“Don’t be afraid!” he said.” Luke 2:10 

The angel of the Lord understood their fear, but told them that they had nothing to be afraid of.

The appearance of the angel and the light of God’s glory that shone all around them caused great fear to come upon them. But that fear of God’s holy presence caused them to know this was no ordinary person with an ordinary message.

God is to be feared, but not to be afraid of!

Holy fear of the Lord gets your attention!

To fear the Lord is to listen to Him!

The shepherds didn’t need to be afraid because God’s messages are always intended for your good…

“I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12

The shepherds lived in a time of great spiritual darkness. Many people no longer worshipped the One true God, but instead chose to worship man-made idols. They no longer lived in obedience to God’s commands, but lived according to their own fleshly desires. They no longer lived in the light of God’s presence and blessings, but in the darkness and emptiness of their own sinful ways.

Into this dark time of bad news and consequences of sin…

The light of God’s glory shone around them!

The angel of the Lord brought them Good News!

Good News that would bring Great Joy to all people!

“The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:11-12

This is the Good News we celebrate at Christmas!

This is the Great Joy that is for all people!

The Savior has been born!

Jesus, born to save us from our sins.

Our sin brings darkness into our lives. It deceives and blinds us so that we live in the darkness of selfishness and fleshly desires.

Our sin brings bad news into our lives. It convinces us to do things our way, but then we reap the consequences.

Our sin leads to much sorrow, sadness, and depression. It causes us to focus on self and self is never satisfied.

We need an answer to all the darkness in our lives.

We need an answer to all the bad news in our lives.

We need an answer to all the sorrow, sadness, and depression in our lives.

We need to be saved from ourselves!

“And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Christmas is the celebration of our Savior!

Celebrating the Light that dispels all darkness!

Celebrating the Good News that changes all bad news!

Celebrating the Great Joy that replaces all sadness!

When the angel had spoken to the shepherds, he was joined by thousands of other angels all praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:14

When the angels left the shepherds  had a choice to make. They could have chosen to ignore the angel’s message. They could have decided it was too much work to walk all the way into Bethlehem. They could have thought they shouldn’t leave their sheep just to see a baby in a manger. But, no, the holy fear of the Lord caused them to believe what the angel said to them. They chose to leave their sheep and hurried off to Bethlehem. There they found the babe in the manger and were astonished that it was just as the angel had told them. They returned to their flocks praising and glorifying God for all they had heard and seen.

The world is still as it was when Jesus was born, spiritually dark, filled with bad news, and overwhelmed with sadness and depression.

And Jesus is still “born to save the people from their sins.”

If this Christmas finds you in a dark place, facing bad news, or feeling sad and depressed, I pray you will ponder the message the angel brought to the shepherds. The message filled with love, peace, and hope right from the throne of God. For this is the time to go and find the Savior, the Good News, that will bring you Great Joy! For when you find Him you will believe and will break out in praise to God!

 

Make Room for Jesus

I praise God for the beautiful way He presented the Christmas Story through the many people who joined together to make the Living Nativity a wonderful celebration!

I am thankful for the willing hearts that allowed room in their busy schedules to make room for Jesus this Christmas!

But I am also challenged with this…

Yes, I did make room in my busy schedule to make room for the Living Nativity, but what about other days, other seasons of life?

What does it look like to make room for Jesus?

When I think of making room for someone it often requires changing some of my things around to so they can feel comfortable. It requires changing my schedule to accommodate theirs.

It means I must adapt my life so that the other person can live theirs. 

Jesus doesn’t have physical things to bring into my house, but He is with me all the time!

Jesus doesn’t have a to-do list hanging on my refrigerator, But He has works He wants me to do!

How must I live so that Jesus can live His life through me?

There is a story “Papa Panov’s Special Day,” about a shoe maker who had a dream that Jesus was going to come and visit him on Christmas, the following day. He woke up to a cold morning and after putting on a pot of coffee he noticed the road sweeper out on the street. He called to him and welcomed him in for some warmth and a cup of hot coffee. A little while later he noticed a young woman carrying a baby. She looked thin and was dressed in shabby clothes. He invited her into his shop as well and offered her some soup and bread, and warm milk for her baby. He noticed the little boy had no shoes and went to his shelf and pulled down a little pair of shoes he had made and gave them to him. All throughout the rest of the day as he eagerly waited for Jesus to come all he saw were people walking by his shop. To some he gave smiles, to some he gave bread, and to some he gave a coin, but Jesus never came. That evening as he was sitting in his chair disappointed that he hadn’t seen Jesus, he began to “see” the faces of all who passed by his shop that day.

 

Then a still small voice spoke to him, “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me water. I was cold and you took me in. These people you have helped today – all the time you were helping me!” 

Watching for Jesus gave the shoe maker a new perspective. Expecting Jesus gave the shoe maker a new purpose.

Making room for Jesus made room for others!

To make room for Jesus I need to re-arrange the things in my life that so subtly creep in to steal our time together. I need to look for Jesus in God’s word because that is where I find the instruction and the greatest examples of how to make room for others!

I need to expect Jesus to show up in my day so that I don’t have a “me first” attitude. It is so easy to go throughout my day unaware of the needs of those around me. I walk right past. Talk right over. Drive right through. My mind is so caught up with what I need to do and where I need to go, I don’t make room to notice or help others.

I realized that when everyone made room in our schedules to make the Living Nativity happen, it allowed for God’s story to be told. It was a celebration of the true meaning of Christmas so all who came could see and hear of God’s Love, Light, and Life come to earth.

This is what making room for Jesus is all about, so those around us will see and hear of God’s Love, Light, and Life so they too will make room in their hearts for Jesus!

No Room in the Inn

Heaven knocked on the door of the inn, but there was no room. The inn keeper welcomed many people into his inn that night. Many people who were hungry and weary from their long journey to Bethlehem. The inn keeper was busy feeding and providing for all their needs. He had no time for one more guest to come into his inn.

The inn keeper had no idea that heaven itself was knocking on his door. The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace was knocking at his door. Yet, he was too busy, his inn was too full of people to welcome heaven to come inside.

The inn keeper turned heaven away; he sent Him to the stable. And in that distant stable, that place away from the busyness and fulness of life, heaven entered this world. Jesus was born in his stable on that silent and holy night. He missed heaven because his inn was too busy, too full to let Jesus come in.

Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door I will come in to him and dine with him and he with Me.” Jesus is still knocking on doors. Not the doors of inns, but on the doors of men’s hearts. He is still looking for hearts that have room and welcome Him in.

Though Christmas time is often busy and filled with too many things to do, may you choose to make room for Jesus to live through you as you reach out with His love and compassion to meet the needs of those around you.

Small, Humble Beginnings

Sometimes I wish I could have a “It’s a Wonderful Life” experience. When George is at the end of himself an angel comes and “rescues” him from himself, and then proceeds to give George a gift. The gift of seeing his life as though he were never born.

Obviously that isn’t possible in real life, but I was talking with Kayla the other day and we were pondering what life would have been like if Mark and I had stayed in Waldwick instead of moving to Ringwood. Of course it was only a one sided view as we reminisced of all the things that have occurred because we live here that never could have taken place if we hadn’t moved.

It began one summer day in 1991 while our family was vacationing at Spruce Lake. Mark and I were taking a walk while the boys were playing with the other kids attending family week. The boys were growing and our house was getting crowed so we had recently planned to renovate our attic into a master bedroom, do some work on the existing bedrooms for the boys, and while we were at it we planned to have the house re-sided. We had talked to a construction company, had been given a quote, and put money down on the project. But out of my mouth that day came these words…

“It’s not so much the house I don’t like, its where it is.”

I don’t know which of us was more surprised. I honestly hadn’t really thought that thought before it came out of my mouth.

I suppose it was in my mind, but I had never given into thinking about moving. I never considered it an option. And even as I said it I didn’t expect it would really happen.

That sentence turned out to be a game changer.

After I put voice to that, when I put my feelings and that idea into the atmosphere it put things into motion.

Mark actually really listened to how I felt about where we lived and began to talk about the possibility of moving. When I asked about the plans we had made for the house and the money we put down his response was,

“It would be better to stop the work even if it means losing some money than to do all the work and you still not be happy here.”

Sometimes there are conversations between husband and wife and in the moment things are said because they seem to be the right things to say, and then life happens and those things that were said don’t become reality.

I was amazed when that single sentence I put into the atmosphere that summer day at Spruce Lake became reality!

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Proverbs 16:9

I see this verse as the answer to understand how everything unfolded in amazing ways as we made the decision to look for a place to move.

As Kayla and I were talking the other day one thing that came up that never would have happened is the Living Nativity.

The first Christmas we celebrated here Mark was Joseph, I was Mary, and Mark read the Christmas story to the audience that was our friends and their families of our small group that met each week. We began in our house as the angel came to tell Mary of God’s plan. Then we went outside and I rode our horse as Mark led him up to our barn. There baby Jesus was born and laid in a hand-made manger Mark made from a pallet. It was very simple, but from that was born the Living Nativity that has taken place for twenty years since shining the light of the true meaning of Christmas into this dark world.

It is a reminder to me that there is a bigger picture to life than I could ever imagine!

While I may see my desires and decisions from my perspective and as the fulfillment of what I want for myself, God has so much more in mind.

God’s thoughts are so much greater than mine!

God’s ways are so much higher than mine!

Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians,

” just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.” 1 Corinthians 10:33

Though moving here to Ringwood was something that I really wanted and I saw it as something that would be for my profit, I now see so clearly that God intended for it to be for the profit and salvation of others.

Several years ago the Living Nativity out-grew our property and has moved to Solid Rock Day Camp in West Milford. I’m very thankful for Scott and Bonnie, the camp directors, and many others, who have joined together to keep the Light of the true meaning of Christmas shining bright.

This Saturday, December 8, we will celebrate the true meaning of Christmas with the presentation of the Living Nativity at Solid Rock Day Camp with two performances, one at 5:00 and one at 7:00.

It is free and open to all. Please join us and may the simplicity of the Christmas Story be a reminder that small, humble beginnings bring forth great profit to the lives of others, and are intended for the salvation of many!