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!

 

 

 

Purpose in Pain

So, yesterday I went to have my root canal finished. One detail I didn’t mention when I wrote about the discovery of the infection at the root of my tooth is that the dentist discovered the infection had damaged the nerves to the tooth which allowed him to perform the root canal without any pain, without the need of novocaine.

I never imagined a root canal performed without pain!

I was so fascinated that I did some research on pain and when I read all that takes place the moment something affects the tissues of our bodies I realized the purpose of pain.

Pain is intended to protect! 

I believe since we are triune beings, having a body, soul, (mind, will, and emotion) and spirit, what takes place in each of these affects the others.

“Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 1:2

“Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:25

If the physical body is subject to pain, what about the soul and spirit? Can they be harmed in any way? If so, how do you know? Do your soul and your spirit experience pain?

I’m sure you have experienced pain in your soul when others have abandoned you, broken their promises, or disappointed you in some way.

I’m sure you have experienced pain in your spirit when you have done something you know you shouldn’t have done, or when you disobeyed God’s commands and felt the guilt from your sin.

Physical pain is intended to get your attention that something is wrong so you will do something to keep from further harm.

And so, emotional and spiritual pain is also intended to get your attention so that you do something to keep from further harm.

We are quick to seek help for physical pain, but it seems we put up with emotional and spiritual pain for way too long!

My tooth is an example of what can happen when bad cells break down the nerves that are intended to send important messages to the brain. Having one tooth that had no nerves going to my brain was okay and I certainly didn’t mind not having novocaine, but to consider what would happen to me if all my nerves were severed and I had no sensation of pain at all.

Considering the consequences in the physical body is pretty obvious, but why then do we allow emotional pain and spiritual pain to go unattended to for so long?

When I read about pain one thing that I found interesting is the power of sight, of the visual. When people see the wound, when they have a visual of the break, infection, or disease their pain increases. Just as when I saw the shadow under my tooth on the ex-ray.

Perhaps this is why emotional and spiritual pain is often neglected, it remains hidden deep within the mind, heart, and spirit.

And perhaps, like my tooth, over time the lies and deception of the enemy damage sensitivity to the truth of God’s word and don’t allow you to realize there is anything wrong.

Pain is an indicator.

Pain isn’t to be ignored.

Pain has purpose.

We are quick to seek care for our physical bodies. We make the time to have check-ups, ex-rays, and tests to be sure we won’t experience any pain.

We take the time to eat the right foods and exercise so that our bodies stay healthy and strong.

But what about taking care of your soul (mind, will, and emotion)? What check-ups, ex-rays, and tests are you doing to see the condition of your mind, your will, and your emotions? Is there some pain that needs tending to? Are there lies that need to be exposed so that they can be confessed and replaced with God’s truth?

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24

And how about your spirit? Are you taking time to be sure it is fed and exercised well to be healthy and strong? Or has there been some damage done to your sensitivity to God’s truth? Have other things blocked your time alone with God so that you don’t hear His voice and follow in His ways?

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12

You are a spiritual being living within physical body!

Your body, soul, and spirit are created to work together and when one of the three experiences pain, though it is meant for your harm, God intends for it to be the very thing that draws you into His presence so that He can bring truth, healing, and restoration.

” Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

 

 

What has happened to Giving Thanks?

What is happening to the celebration of Thanksgiving Day?

The holiday intended to celebrate God’s many blessings and to give Him thanks for all He has done has become a day to indulge ourselves in the blessings without truly appreciating them, or considering who they really came from, or to give the Giver thanks.

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father,” James 1:17

How important is thanksgiving?

How does giving thanks to God affect our lives?

The word “thank” is found 165 times in the Bible. That includes thanks and thanksgiving. And the word “thankful” is found 10 times.

When I read through the verses that include these words it is very clear that God intends for us to be a thankful people.

I listened to an audio book, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” by Ann Voskamp, several years ago and it opened my eyes to the amazing opportunity we have to live fully aware of the very things that are right in front of us each day for which we are to be thankful for. Ann includes many scriptures that show miraculous things happen when thanksgiving is expressed to God.

If thanksgiving is so important and so powerful no wonder the enemy of our souls wants to rob it from us. Not only has Thanksgiving Day become a day of indulgence that crowds out the giving of thanks, but every day of the year has become so filled with busyness, cares, and worries that we rarely take the time to stop and truly appreciate what we have, what we are experiencing, and bow down before God and give Him thanks.

The story of Daniel in the lion’s den is an example to us that we must never allow the enemy to steal our thanksgiving.

Daniel’s faith in God and his obedience to God’s commands caused him to live a righteous life that brought favor from the king. The king’s favor lead to position and power. The other administrators became jealous of Daniel and looked for a fault to accuse him of.

But Daniel was faithful, responsible, and trustworthy in all his dealings, and so they decided that the only thing they could accuse him of would be something connected to the rules of his religion.

“So the administrators and high officers went to the king and said, “Long live King Darius! We are all in agreement—we administrators, officials, high officers, advisers, and governors—that the king should make a law that will be strictly enforced. Give orders that for the next thirty days any person who prays to anyone, divine or human—except to you, Your Majesty—will be thrown into the den of lions.  And now, Your Majesty, issue and sign this law so it cannot be changed, an official law of the Medes and Persians that cannot be revoked.” So King Darius signed the law.” Daniel 6:4-9 

The administrators’ jealousy plotted a scheme against Daniel. Either he would forsake his God or he would be killed in the lion’s den.

The enemy of God’s people continues to plot schemes intended to steal our prayer and kill our thanksgiving!

Those who have faith in God, who obey His commands, and live a righteous life have God’s favor upon them. God has crowned them with glory and honor intended to bring Him praise and thanksgiving that will produce miraculous works here on earth!

But as the administrators in Daniel’s day, we have an enemy who is jealous. The enemy knows the power of praise and thanksgiving and plots schemes meant to keep us in fear and busyness so that miraculous things won’t happen and God won’t be glorified.

Daniel gave us an example of how to respond to the schemes of the enemy.

“But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God.” Daniel 6:10

The scheme of the administrators didn’t offend Daniel.

The king’s law that couldn’t be changed didn’t phase Daniel.

The threat of the lion’s den didn’t scare Daniel.

Daniel’s trust in God enabled him to pray and thank God as he did every day!

No threat of the enemy could steal Daniel’s prayer or kill his thanksgiving! 

Of course Daniel’s enemies were right there to catch him in the act of praying. When they went and reported this to the king the king was deeply troubled, and tried to think of a way to save Daniel. But a signed law couldn’t be revoked and so the king ordered Daniel be thrown to the lions. But the king said to Daniel…

“May your God, whom you serve so faithfully, rescue you.” Daniel 6:16

What did the king see in Daniel that caused him to speak words of hope into an impossible situation?

God’s favor brought a prophetic word even from an unbeliever!

Prayer and thanksgiving to God in the midst of persecution brings favor and protection from the One who is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above and beyond anything imaginable!

God’s favor isn’t limited to the thoughts and ways of men. His favor goes beyond the possible, the probable, and into the supernatural!

And though he couldn’t do anything within his power to save Daniel, the king hoped the favor and power of Daniel’s God would be able to rescue Daniel.

“Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God, whom you serve so faithfully, able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “Long live the king! My God sent his angel to shut the lions’ mouths so that they would not hurt me, for I have been found innocent in his sight. And I have not wronged you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and ordered that Daniel be lifted from the den. Not a scratch was found on him, for he had trusted in his God.” Daniel 6:20-23

The ironic thing is that though Daniel’s prayer and thanksgiving had him thrown into the lion’s den, it was his prayer and thanksgiving that rescued him from the lion’s den!

I don’t know what would have happened if Daniel decided to stop praying for thirty days. I don’t know what would have happened if Daniel decided not to thank God for thirty days.

But I do know we wouldn’t have this story to learn from today.

We wouldn’t know of the power of prayer that enables God’s people to face the impossible. We wouldn’t know the power of thanksgiving that shuts the mouths of lions!

What scheme is the enemy using to keep you from prayer and thanksgiving?

I encourage you to look up verses about thanksgiving and be reminded of the importance and power it has in your life.

May this Thanksgiving Day be the day that you resist the schemes of the enemy to steal your prayer and kill your thanksgiving and choose to do as Daniel…

 

To kneel down every day in prayer and give thanks to God and watch for the miraculous to happen!

Expose the Hidden Shadows

For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.” Hebrews 4:12-13

I went to the dentist for a routine cleaning the other day. The hygienist said it was time for a full round of ex-rays. I’m not really a fan, and I wasn’t having any symptoms of anything wrong, but apparently I didn’t have any say in the matter as she began to shove this huge thing into my mouth and told me to bite down.

Then she proceeded to clean and polish my teeth. I was feeling good about the whole thing expecting to leave with no problems. For several years prior all my molars that were filled with decay and old fillings were replaced with crowns. My mouth had been made beautiful so this time everything should be good!

Then the doctor came in to examine my teeth. He looked at the ex-rays and noticed something. Something that wasn’t there five years ago. Something that I was completely unaware of. Something that wasn’t visible when I looked at my teeth. Something that didn’t even hurt, but there it was a shadow at the base of the root of my tooth.

There was no decay in that tooth, yet somehow infection had set in. The doctor asked if any trauma had occurred to that tooth. I didn’t know of any one time it was hit or bumped, but I did mention that I tend to clench my teeth when I’m stressed. He agreed that perhaps that was the cause of this mysterious shadow.

The dentist told me that though it was a healthy tooth the infection at the root required a root canal.

I have to admit, at first I was in denial. I was thinking to myself…

“It is a healthy tooth, how could it be infected?”

“It doesn’t hurt, why do I need to do anything?”

So I asked the doctor how long I could let it go expecting him to say several months, but he said two or three weeks.

Hummm…

So, as I walked out to the desk to pay the bill for my ex-rays and cleaning I wasn’t sure what to do about the root canal.

I left the dentist office feeling much different then when I walked in. Now that I saw the shadow I knew something I didn’t know before I walked into the dentist office. Something was revealed to me that needed consideration. I had a choice to make.

I realized this is the same as with the shadows of my heart.

When I sit and read the Bible, or listen to a sermon, God is as the dentist who examines my heart. His job is to care for my heart so that it is clean and healthy. He examines my heart to rid it of any decay or infection that threatens to bring harm and pain.

God uses the Light of His Word and the Power of His Holy Spirit is as an ex-ray to expose any unseen shadows of the heart! 

Perhaps my heart is as my tooth, perhaps I’m walking around feeling good about all God has already done in my heart and thinking that there probably isn’t anything else that needs to be done, but I have a shadow of a sinful habit that I am unaware of.

What if the stress of every day life is slowly causing infection to grow in my heart that will eventually cause pain and suffering?

But, because I’m not a fan of the ex-ray of God’s light I avoid His penetrating truth.

Or, because I don’t think anything is wrong I don’t allow for God’s light to shine into my heart.

I’m glad I didn’t stop the hygienist from taking the ex-rays. I’m glad she didn’t give me a choice. I’m glad she did her job whether or not I felt like it was a good idea or not.

Though we have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus, and we are a new creation filled with the Holy Spirit, the stresses of life and old sinful habits can cause shadows to occur in our hearts.

When I saw the shadow at the root of my tooth I had a choice.

I could make an appointment for a root canal,

or I could ignore it.

I wanted to ignore it, but now that I had seen the shadow I became more aware. When I was outside I drew in cold air and felt a sensitivity in that tooth. When I clenched my teeth I felt a slight sensitivity in that tooth.

Once I saw, once I felt the pain, I could no longer ignore!

It took me about two weeks to choose to have the root canal.

The root canal required my healthy tooth be drilled and an implement pushed through with which the dentist ground out all the infected cells of my tooth, the root, and the surrounding tissue. All the infected cells needed to be removed. And then he poured in an antibiotic that was meant to kill off any remaining infection. Once the bad was removed, he filled the hole with a sterile plug and sealed it so that nothing else could seep in and cause another infection.

Nobody chooses to have a root canal done because they enjoy it. It is done because it is needed. There is infection and if left unattended it will cause much pain and suffering.

Why then do we ignore the shadows that the light of God’s truth exposes? Exposed shadows are not intended to bring shame, or to be ignored, but to bring awareness and to allow for permission for God to do a root canal for complete cleansing and healing.

Shadows are evidence that there is a battle going on, good cells are waging war with bad cells that are trying to take over!

God wants to remove the bad cells of old sinful habits and fears from your heart. God knows that the constant stress of fear, worry, unforgiveness, and resentment, will lead to a battle within your heart. This battle between good and evil will grow and eventually cause great pain to you and to those around you.

As God’s son or daughter, it’s His job to examine your heart and to keep it clean and healthy. When His word of truth and the power of His Holy Spirit reveals a shadow in your heart all He wants of you is to choose a spiritual root canal.

An interesting fact about my root canal; the infection separated the nerves of my tooth from my brain so I had no pain.

But, even this is an example of God’s root canal of your heart. How you think about the cleaning God wants to do in your heart will greatly affect how you respond to the pain involved in removing the bad cells.

When you realize the bad is only going to get worse and create more pain, and when you realize the bad needs to go so that the good God intends for you will bring peace to your heart, you will choose to submit to His loving hands and will be amazed at how painfree His root canal to your heart really is!