A decision will be made.
The Price for More: What will it cost to seek a deeper life?
Having anything worthwhile requires effort, and we are seeking ‘one pearl of great price.’
The Desire for More: Creating an appetite for God
How do we gear ourselves to reach for more of God?
A Deeper Life: What is it?
What do we mean by “A Deeper Life”? What is the search for more and what does it bring?
A Deeper Life podcast – Intro
Are you hungry for more but unsure of what will fill the restless place in your spirit? Do you wonder if you are walking with God in all He intends for you? Whether you are far from God or doing what you know to do in living for Him, A Deeper Life offers solid biblical insight on finding the “more” you were born to live.
Part 1: Elena’s story
Elena Bogren paused at the kitchen window as a scene from across the street caught her eye. The front door was open, a slim figure silhouetted in the light spilling out from the Kelly’s festive entry way. Elena had a glimmer of recognition for that slight, erect frame. “Well, little Johnny made it in after all. Late, as usual,” Elena observed wryly. “That boy!” As she was remembering a much younger Johnny playing in her own front yard, a much plumper and somewhat stooped figure stepped up to enfold the young man in her outstretched arms. Elena could not help letting her eyes linger on the tender scene.
A moment later, Grandma Kelly glanced up from the embrace of her grandson to meet Elena’s eyes across the way. She gazed for a long second before turning to usher the young man into their annual family gathering. Elena’s brief surge of warmth on glimpsing her neighbors’ celebration now turned to burning shame at her own awkward gawking. It was not her party, after all. She turned back to the painful task at hand.
Her mother’s recipe books had plenty of ways to bake a ham; that certainly was not the problem. Jim had brought an enormous spiral-sliced beauty home this evening, the perfunctory gift from his office managers, and beamed as he set it down among cans of sweet potatoes and English peas. “I didn’t want you to have to shop for the fixings,” he proclaimed as he planted a sweet kiss on her cheek. “Thank you for doing this,” he added.
That cheek had seen more than one tear brushed away this evening. She must not let Jim see how badly it hurt to attempt this meal her mother’s loving hands had prepared so many times. Elena had assured Jim he would have Christmas Eve dinner, and a dinner he would have. She had resolved in her heart that no matter how badly it hurt, she would make it happen. Lord knows, he deserved that much. She had turned down his offer of help with the few preparations this one required and shooed him away to his armchair to relax with the paper, a pleasure he had only recently returned to occasionally enjoying.
Jim had supported her unflinchingly as her mother lost her battle, painful day by excruciating day, with cancer. He managed so well over those months, surviving on take-out food, sandwiches, and whatever a can could afford. Elena had only to focus on her mother’s care during the darkest days of her life. Jim had been her rock through those final hours and the service that followed, just three weeks ago.
She thought she had been handling the meal prep stoically enough until the door across the street had opened. The floodgate of her own happy Christmas Eve memories flew open with it: the faces aglow from the fireplace, little ones nestled in the laps of parents and grandparents, Christmas carols forming the backdrop for happy conversation.
Elena’s siblings and grown children had been spared facing this first empty holiday in the home where they had made lifelong memories. Elena did not expect any of them to make another trip to spend Christmas here, after they had exhausted leave time and finances to be with their mother and grandmother at the end. She had assured them she was fine.
Though she had tried to brace herself for what she knew would be difficult, Elena had not anticipated the pain simply preparing a meal, with the glow of a “normal” Christmas Eve so nearby, could bring. And when that glow had burst into even more robust light shining through her own windows, Elena did not bother to look out again at the beautiful decorations she knew the Kelly’s must have just powered on. She focused anew on her resolve to pull this one off for Jim, but she grew more convinced that Christmas was not a season she would celebrate ever again after tonight.
Part 2: The Keene’s story
“Looks like the Kelly’s are getting things kicked off in style again,” Ralph said to Jack, his faithful Schnauzer. Just as he had reached down to pick up the evening paper the lights had blazed to life down the street: not the inside lights–those seemed to have been burning around the clock for the last few days—but the brilliance of their outdoor Christmas decorations, worked on for weeks, but by their unique family tradition, only brought to life the night before Christmas.
“Probably has a lot to do with the power bill,” grunted Ralph, who knew Tom Kelly to be thrifty fellow. Gail Kelly on the other hand, “Grandma” to most, always got her way somehow, when it came to doing Christmas in a big fashion. Despite himself, Ralph had to admire the display a minute before heading back to rejoin his wife in their dimly lit home.
The sight of Cathy’s slumped shoulders with her back to the window and face toward that door–the one she almost never opened anymore–brought fresh pain to his heart. The Kelly’s yard decorations were now casting a soft halo of light around the frame of Jerry’s door. Ralph knew what his wife was thinking. He, too, pictured the mornings that door had burst open when little Jerry could stand the wait no longer. Ralph could still hear his scurrying feet and his gleeful voice urging them into the living room on Christmas mornings.
Cathy had seemed to enjoy those mornings as much as Jerry, and Ralph had to admit they were his joy, as well. Being able to provide a “good Christmas” for their only son had put extra pride in his fatherly heart. It made the long hours he spent away at work seem less of a burden. At this moment he wished for some of those hours back to just toss a ball around with his son.
“Cathy, maybe we should go out for a drive, find some place to grab a bite to eat. Don’t you want to get out for a little bit?” He always wanted to take her pain if he could, to fix things.
“If there is somewhere we could go that it wouldn’t be Christmas,” she snapped. Cathy wondered again why the whole world had to go so crazy over a day on the calendar. They assumed everyone was merry and bright. She only wanted to hide away until the madness ended. “I wish those infernal Kelly’s would stop imposing their perfect family celebration on the rest of us,” she added. “People should realize Christmas just isn’t for everyone.”
Part 3: Tawana’s story
Sin hurt worse at Christmas. Any other day, one could put off the effects of having alienated family and abandoned beliefs for a life of promised pleasure. One could believe on any other day that the promise would be realized somehow. But this night it was all pain and loneliness.
On her way back to a house that was not was not home, Tawana paused heavy steps for a moment outside the window of the only home on this street lit up for the holidays. She remembered how her father had decorated for her every year, a lifetime ago. As she was about to continue toward the place where another man was waiting, she heard a deep, aged voice as a man began to speak, the words carrying through the window into the cold air.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flocks by night.” Visions of little boys in bathrobes and girls in angel costumes flooded Tawana’s mind. She wanted to run from the pain of those memories, but her feet seemed riveted to the sidewalk for some reason.
“…Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger…” Why was she still standing here? She had realized a long time ago Christmas was not—and never would be again—for anyone like her.
Part 4: The Kelly’s story
“Grandpa, why did they invite the shepherds to Jesus’ birthday?” Little Rod was always interrupting, and his mother’s stern glance had no effect.
“What, Rod? What do you mean?” the booming voice replied, not without some irritation.
“Well, the rich wise men were on their way with the presents, right?”
“Yes, the wise men were traveling to seek the newborn king and came some time later. Can we finish the story now?”
“But wasn’t that enough for baby Jesus? Why would they want the old smelly shepherds to come to their party, too?”
Something in Rod’s innocent voice arrested Grandpa Kelly’s heart. He knew why the outcast shepherds had been invited to the birthplace of the King of Kings. Rev. Tom Kelly, retired from many years pastoring a flock, remembered the hurting people he had reached out to over the years and the joy of seeing hope come into their eyes. The youngster’s question touched what had been burdening his mind this holiday season. Now, he could put it into words.
“You see, Rod, Jesus wasn’t coming just for those wise men, and He did not care so much about their gifts. When He grew up and started His ministry, the folks He touched first and most often were the hurting, the lonely, and the poor—people like those shepherds.”
“People like that lady outside, Grandpa?” Rod was pointing to the front window. All eyes turned to see a slim disheveled figure go pale and turn away.
“Just like her,” Grandpa exclaimed and moved quicker than he had in a while. Bounding to the front door, he threw it open. “Ma’am, wait! Ma’am stop, please!”
Tawana froze, mortified at being spotted, but she could not help turning back toward the kind voice.
“Won’t you come inside and join us?”
“Join…you?” she faltered. “But I don’t even know you. Why would you ask me to come in? Besides, I’m not the type you people usually invite to parties.”
“Well, ma’am, seeing you standing out here has helped us remember why we are celebrating this night. You see, it was you, all of us, everyone really, that Jesus came for in the first place. He would not want you to be left out. You are the very reason why He came!”
The old man’s words sounded so peaceful and inviting that though she felt painfully ashamed of the signs of a godless lifestyle she knew her appearance bore, Tawana simply could not resist this love she was feeling. It did not matter at this moment that she did not understand. She allowed the weathered arm of Grandma Kelly to slip around her shoulders and draw her into the warmth inside.
Once Tawana was settled in near the fireplace with a cup of hot cocoa pressed into her cold hands, a thought began to come into focus in Gail Kelly’s mind. Remembering the sadness she had seen in Elena Bogren’s eyes earlier, the grandmother of many years felt God leading her to cross the street and knock on Jim and Elena’s door.
About the same time, Johnny remembered how he had caught sight of Mr. Keene when he went out to plug in the lights. He and Jerry had been great friends, but he had seen little of Jerry’s parents in the years since his death. Life had worn on and circumstances seemed to have separated them all. With the hearty approval of everyone present, he decided it was worth a try to reach out to them as well.
As the Spirit of the One they were celebrating went with the two emissaries, hurting hearts—even the ones hardened by years of pain—began a miraculous healing, and the Kelly’s gathering gently swelled.
That night the Savior of the world did what He came to do, as His children lived out the very reason why He came. Grandpa led them all in one more reading of Scripture after the fine meal they shared:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound…to comfort all that mourn;” Isaiah 61:1-2 KJV.
Part 5: Your Story
Our individual stories are being written as we walk through our daily lives. How they play out will depend on our own understanding of our value to the One who robed Himself in flesh to live among us and to shed His own blood to purge us from our sins. Once we see with eyes of faith the love He wants to shed abroad in our hearts by the power the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of God that can live in us, and we respond to what we have seen with repentance and the washing away of our sins in the name of the Savior who died for us, Jesus Christ, we have paved the way for His love to pour into our souls in ways we could scarcely have imagined possible in this life.
At this season of seasons, seek to understand that you–with your hopes, your fears, your dreams, and your pain–are the reason why He came. So is your hurting neighbor, and those kids down the street whose mother does not know what the future holds for their little struggling family. As you recognize this, and respond as God directs, you are in line to have a more deeply blessed Christmas this year than any you have ever known. May God be with you, as He came to do.
You need the Holy Ghost!
I am a conservative writer who uses superlatives sparingly. I do not beat people over the head with what I believe. Why the urgency in the title for this post? I assure you the emphasis does not begin to convey what I feel in my spirit.
In the night I had a simple dream of the digital currency that is about to be introduced. I had the sense that it was enacted already and in place. I was looking down at my debit cards in the dream and thinking how flimsy and easy to lose (or have stolen) they were. In the dream the implication was that something more “permanent” was about to be put into place, and the world would see it as the best idea ever. If you don’t get my allusion, the “mark” that could be used for buying and selling would “solve” the issue of the cards that could be lost.
I know there are readers who believe the church will not be here when the mark of the beast comes. I am not here today to argue that point, but to point to these warnings: the Holy Ghost will be required for being raptured, and the Holy Ghost will be required for going through any persecution and tribulation that we are to endure. I believe we will be here until Jesus returns “at the last day.” I won’t further delve into that here, but if you feel you need to do so, refer to Bro. Ken Raggio’s in-depth writings and videos at KenRaggio.com, and Pastor John Bowen’s Facebook page, Acts Ministries.
When I speak of your needing the Holy Ghost, I mean the way it came in the Bible days, with repentance, water baptism in Jesus’ name for the remission of your sins, and the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in other tongues as the Spirit gives the utterance. There are many other teachings on this as well, but your Bible in the book of Acts is the best one. (The websites listed above also offer further teaching, as do the books I have available from my homepage and a complete Bible study on this site as well.)
Rather than focus on how the Holy Ghost comes or whether that is what God intended for you, no matter what you were taught in the past, let us look at why the experience of the Holy Ghost will be vital from this day on. I do not refer to the beautiful initial experience of receiving the joy and peace and love of God sheds abroad in our hearts the first time, as I currently am celebrating from thirty-seven years ago this month. I refer, rather, to walking in the Spirit.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh, Galatians 5:16.
The Holy Ghost, (the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit), will do many things for us once we receive it according to the Scriptures: most notably, the Holy Ghost will sanctify our hearts by helping us respond to the Word of God honestly and openly, convicting us of any sin we have committed and giving grace to repent and be cleansed. Even better, the Holy Ghost will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, enabling us to avoid temptations and traps set by the enemy of our souls.
Where I want to focus today though is the discernment that the Holy Ghost will bring, as we daily walk with God. There is much more to this than what I can relate in this morning’s dashed-off communication, but you will need this guiding power of the Holy Ghost for what lies ahead more than anything you have ever needed.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned, I Corinthians 2:14
But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil, Hebrews 5:14
Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not, Malachi 3:18
Many other Scriptures point to the Word of God and the Spirit of God working inside the believer to help avoid the spirits of this world sent to deflect us from God’s divine intentions for His church.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world, 1 John 1:4
You are facing the most creative deceptions ever foisted on the world at large. The enemy of our souls, the devil, is pulling out all the stops in these last days. I have heard it preached recently that there are special deceiving spirits reserved for this last hour, and it does not surprise me to hear that such are being released to work even deeper deception than ever before. A spirit that is intending to deceive works on our feelings and our thoughts. It takes the Holy Ghost and the Word of God to know if a certain sense of things is or is not accurate.
This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you, Galatians 5:8
There is a persuasion that even a sincere person can have that is not of God.
The devil works tirelessly to craft deceptions for anyone seeking to know Truth. The 30,000 plus varieties that all claim to be the right way to God comprise the prime example of camouflage he has employed throughout history to deflect seekers from the simple Word of God that can save them. Now, he knows he has but a short time and is employing ever more sophisticated means to deceive.
Beyond the action of any lying spirit to influence our thoughts and emotions, we now have new advancements in tools that can be bent to that purpose. I know our understanding of technology and its implications vary widely between generations but understand this: the ability exists today to transmit what appears to be the representation of a person speaking when that person did not do so. The image is so realistic that even those who know the individual are not altogether sure which is the true and which is the fake. This technology is being released to the world, and any glitches inherent in the early phases are being removed.
Several early proponents of this artificial intelligence (AI) are even expressing concerns about its potential and ability to deceive. I wrote in Death of Truth? awhile back on the shrinking certainty of ascertaining what is real and what is not as we encounter information on the internet through news sites, social media, or elsewhere. That was only referring to the written word or pictures taken out of context and embellished. How far we have come in just four years.
Are you comfortable that in your human ability or shallow experience with the things of God you are able to understand and determine the difference between a real leader and an image of one? Are you ready to withstand the apparent calling down of fire from Heaven by one who claims the Word of God no longer matters? This technology is only one weapon that will be used to deceive, but how easy it will be to finish the deceit on those who are already weak in their ability to stand for the Truth of God’s Word with it, or with the “next thing” that is coming to pass, whatever that may be.
There is much, much more I could say, but know this: God was planning and preparing for this day long ago. He will bring about the end of all things in His own time and way. But, I tell you that when I received the Holy Ghost in 1986, I remember thinking how remote the mindsets and systems that would need to be in place for the end-time events to come to pass seemed to be. I knew it would come but had trouble picturing how things could change so radically from what they were then. I assure you I no longer have any trouble at all picturing the last days unfold, because the technology and hearts of men are ripe for that very thing.
Many shall be purified, and made white, and tried; but the wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand, Daniel 12:10
None of the wicked shall understand. The Spirit of God residing in an humble, obedient, submitted child of God will produce the wisdom required to understand.
No one will know truth from error without the Holy Ghost. One cannot know the difference now, but the light will dim and the chance to even get what is needed will narrow.
He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand? Isaiah 44:20
If your experience with God is not what I have described above, there will come one of several responses to what I am saying:
“What do you mean I need the Holy Ghost?? Who are you to say there is only one way to do what needs to be done? Are you saying I don’t know God?”
“God, I may not understand all this, but if You have more for me and I need it please show me!” What you show me I will obey!”
For those in the latter category, I will be more than happy to help you move forward or point you to where you can. If you are not sure, or do not know where you can go to get this kind of teaching and the preaching that goes with the Acts 2:38 gospel message, you are welcome to reach out to me. Most of all, set your face to seek God: ask Him earnestly what He would have you do and where to go to do it. Search the Scriptures to know these things are true. I was fasting and praying when I was shown what I needed, thirty-seven years ago. I can recommend no less to you. God is faithful to answer when you seek Him with all your heart. He never turns away a hungry, insistent soul.
Remember, the Holy Ghost is for you and will make you what God wants you to be.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God, Romans 8:14.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, Acts 2:38
Never stop dating
That advice is given to those who want to know how to keep their relationship strong. It may often come from couples who realized just in time that their own love had once cooled and thankfully was rekindled.
We often struggle in various types of relationships to hold on to the sweet, close times. Life so strongly comes along and wedges its way between people who were once perfectly attuned to one another. How can we keep this from happening? What can be done?
Never stop dating.
Be intentional about finding what brings a smile to that person’s face, and go out of your way to make it happen.
The couple who graciously agreed to let me use this picture from a few years back was certainly a shining example of this advice. Through cancer, strokes, unspeakable family losses, and health declines that most would find hard to comprehend, the light of love still shone so brightly between them. As this picture captured, they were beautifully intentional in showing their love and fierce devotion for each other. When God referred to the marriage relationship as demonstrating His commitment to us, I’m sure this is what He pictured.
I shared about them six years ago, and at that time, I had been preparing breakfast one morning when something caught my attention: I recognized a “little thing” as being something my Jesus had provided for me. In that moment I thought about what had happened over the past 30 years.
The beginning of this beautiful walk with God was often marked by moments of becoming keenly aware of some small thing, and acknowledging how sweet it was that Jesus noticed that and addressed it; of how touching it was to feel His presence in the otherwise mundane occurrences of life; of how different that awareness and closeness were from what I thought was an equivalent walk with God in my denominational upbringing and the years before the Holy Ghost came.
I was still amazed for years at the depth of His presence I had been allowed to know, when in the past, I had only read about and imagined such a true closeness. I knew this change had come because of the Gospel preached by the Apostles (Acts 2:38) which I was allowed to see as still being relevant today, and which would bring this power when literally obeyed. I knew that my doing so, by His grace and mercy, had brought all the difference.
When one person in a relationship who reaches out for a close, even intimate, moment is rebuffed or ignored, they often withdraw and become unreachable to the other party. We are formed in the image of God–not only our physical being, but our emotional make-up as well. God penned, through the hand of Solomon (Song of Solomon, chapter 5), the story of the maiden’s Beloved knocking at her door at a time she found it inconvenient to answer. By the time she decided to arise and open the door, her Beloved had withdrawn himself and gone.
I remember many tears rolling down my face once to read that story, and to understand the implications for the treasured walk with God I had been given: if the Spirit of God moved on me for prayer, for closeness, and my heart was “busy” and uninterested at the time, He could very easily move away and be unavailable when I found a “convenient season.” (Felix, who trembled at the preaching of Paul in Acts 24, and chose not to yield to what God was doing until a “convenient season,” never was recorded to have had God deal with him again.)
When God, through the prophet Amos, described Israel’s disdain for the feasts and solemn days He had commanded them to observe — times He had ordained for them to draw closer to Him — He said in that context that he would send a famine unto them, not for meat and drink, but for the hearing of the Word of the Lord. Please know that we don’t come to God when we decide to: we come when He draws us (John 6:44), or not at all.
Over time what changed for me was the recognizing what sweet things were being done, and the remembering that it hadn’t always been that way in my life. Taking the ones we love for granted is something we struggle with in every type relationship. We can even begin to believe we are the reason for our own success in situations where we would look pretty silly propped up by ourselves to make our own way in the world.
Remember. Recognize. Acknowledge. Look for God’s hand in the little things, and take time to thank Him. Talk sweet praises and loving phrases to the God who came to make everything new, and who walks in things both good and bad — for you. If you’ve never seen the truth of Acts 2:38 as it applies to your life, then seek to know God that way — don’t shy away because it represents something different than what you have known. For me, that seeking represented the beginning of something more beautiful than even I could have pictured at the start.
“Nevertheless, I have somewhat against thee, for thou has left thy first love.” (Rev. 2:4)
It need not be that way: Start dating again.
The sweet lady who shared the love I described in the beginning now cherishes that love in her precious memories. Her loss has been devastating. Yet, just today, as she was out of town to distract from the pain of this first Valentine’s Day without her cherished husband, the only One who could love her more gave her a sweet reminder of His closeness and deep care for her.
She shared how a stone with a message of encouragement was lying on the pier where she walked. The message said, “Be kind. Be good. Be strong. Be happy. Be you.” Ideas of how it came to be there are not necessary. It was placed in the path of one who needed to hear that message from Heaven today. Her choice to never stop loving the One who loves her most will pay off for ever and ever as He walks with her hand in hand through the days ahead.
The Story of why Jesus came – read by the author, Susan Jenkins.
As I write, one week from Christmas Eve, preparations for the greatest celebration of the year are in full swing. They are affecting me differently this year as I sit by my mother’s hospital bed where we I have been for the past week. I am not sad over being sidelined from the festivities, it simply feels a bit other-worldly, knowing what is taking place out there somewhere. I find myself wondering how I will feel after Christmas.
My social work education involved the study of psychology and sociology, and I realize the effect of those studies on my thinking, particularly about social trends and their effects on us as individuals and groups. I have noticed, for example, there is something satisfying about anticipating and experiencing our end-of-the-year traditions. When they are over and a new year has begun I feel the need to somehow earn that celebration with the efforts of a new year of living, loving, working, and giving. To have doubts about how I will experience Christmas this year makes me wonder if I will somehow miss the sense of my year being complete for having passed through this blessed season.
We are thankful for the prospect of having Mom home a few hours on Christmas Day if she makes the expected transition to another level of care by then and feels up to it. Many people I am aware of have experienced losses, tragedies, and family changes this year to the degree that no sense of normalcy is possible in the observance of December 25. How will they feel after Christmas?
Perhaps we can look back to the beginning for answers. I understand what we celebrate, the birth of Jesus, did not likely occur at the time of year we observe it, but nevertheless, what we celebrate is Christ’s birth. I ask you to think for a moment on the days after Jesus was born, and if I may take the liberty to use this term, the days after Christmas.
We know a few things about the moments and days following the birth of our Savior. Scripture tells about the shepherds, the divine appointment with Simeon and Anna in the Temple, the Wise Men, and the flight to Egypt. We know the horror of Herod’s anger requiring the blood of innocent babies to eradicate a rival to his throne.
Beyond these localized events, what had really changed? The shepherds saw Him no more after finding him in the manger and then returning to their fields. Though they told many, the baby was not seen or heard from again by them to our knowledge.
Simeon no doubt died in peace as he had requested the day his eyes looked upon God’s salvation and the light to lighten the Gentiles. Anna continued to tell the news of a child no one else saw. The wise men traveled on back East to their homes, and things soon became quiet.
Nothing had changed…yet everything had changed.
As Jesus would one day teach about a little leaven leavening the whole lump of dough, the Spirit of God that resided in the Christ child began to work and influence those around Him.
Though most perhaps could not give words to what they felt, there came a time, thirty years after His birth, when people were surprisingly ready to rush out en masse to meet a rough-looking prophet in the wilderness, confess their sins, and be baptized unto repentance.
These who obeyed what John preached had their hearts prepared to receive what Jesus would teach and command as His ministry began to unfold. What had happened during that first Christmas though not immediately obvious, had truly determined what happened after.
I know that sounds simple, but can you see the parallel for your own life? Whatever your expectations for how this season will go—whether you are excited or lonely, busy or bored, contented or anxious, rejoicing or grieving—there is a thing you can do to affect what will come for you after the day of celebration is past.
Suppose you ask God to show you what He wants for you to get from Him this Christmas? “God, help me your way. Help me to receive from You what you came to give me, and to walk in it for all the days after Christmas.”
As in the beginning, the receiving of what God designed to bring will involve repentance. As in the beginning, the receiving of it will involve baptism for the remission of sins. As in the beginning, the receiving of it will involve the glorious infilling of the Holy Ghost. You see, once the leaven of the Word of God manifested in the flesh had completed its initial work, there was a Gospel to be preached in all the earth by Jesus followers that embodied the death, burial, and resurrection of the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world:
Acts 2:37-40 KJV
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.
The PROMISE, heralded by the angels, seen by the shepherds, affirmed by Anna and Simeon, and worshipped by the Wise Men, is unto YOU. Will you choose to walk the path to receive what Jesus came to bring? I pray you find the JOY that was meant to be yours after Christmas.
If you have already experienced this promise but are away from that place in God right now, here is a time to reach for Him again with all your heart and allow Him to restore to you the gift He came to bring.
And if you are currently walking in that truth but find yourself harried, worn, and weary, oh, precious child of God, take a moment to wait before Him, to raise your hands and seek Him for who He is, and let Him joy in flooding you again with His love, hope, peace, strength, and courage. Remember Jesus words to announce His ministry to the world:
Luke 4:18-19 KJV
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
If I use this time to reach out to the One who fulfilled His Word to us by coming to take away our sins and put His Spirit within us, with a will to receive what He came this year to being me, I will walk in a stronger place after Christmas, no matter what happens around me.
A Perfect Prayer
The information that flowed from the 20th anniversary of 9/11 touched me more deeply than any in recent years.
Reading the transcript detailing the plans of Flight 93 passengers to overpower their hijackers brought the awe of their bravery back to me in fresh waves. I have purchased and am reading Let’s Roll, the book by Todd Beamer’s widow, Lisa. She describes being surprised by an invitation to attend the President’s address to Congress and to the nation, and especially by the repeated ovations she received: an outpouring of gratitude for actions that no doubt spared the destruction of either the White House or the Capitol. I was moved by the desire of so many to say, “Thank you” to one of the heroes, in the person of his grieving widow.
I have also been touched by the role of Lisa Jefferson, the Verizon Airfone operator who handled Todd’s call from Flight 93, giving him information on the other hijackings and the devastation they had brought. Todd and several other passengers and crew relied on her nerves of steel as they made their decision which we will always remember by the last words she heard from Todd: “Are you guys ready? Let’s roll!”
I have read from Mrs. Jefferson’s account in an interview five years later, that the phone had to be taken from her hand some fifteen minutes after it went silent, even after she was informed that Flight 93 had crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. She was still calling Todd’s name.
She, Todd, and the others had hoped that this could somehow end well. She had promised to stay with him until it was over. She could not lightly walk away from that firm commitment. Her book about the experience is Called: “Hello, my name is Mrs. Jefferson. I understand your plane is being hijacked.” I have purchased that book, also.
In reading between these two women’s stories the other night, another event from that week in 2001 ran through my mind. You would not have known of this one unless you worked at Ellisville State School, a residential facility in Mississippi serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I was Coordinator of In-Home Services at the time, having gotten that position after ten years working in one of the four units on the main campus. Though I had begun working with individuals in the community, my office remained on the facility’s sprawling grounds.
The Director had called a chapel service for those whose duties allowed time to attend. We all felt so broken, though Mississippi is a very long way from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., or Pennsylvania. I once had voiced my lack of desire to ever visit the Big Apple with the words, “I haven’t lost anything in New York City.” By the evening of 09/11/2001, I knew I had lost much there: they were my brothers and sisters in many ways, though I had never seen them, and would likely never meet their families.
I had been asked ahead of time to say the closing prayer for the service. As it proceeded, I sat back in one of the little wooden pews, admiring the stained glass windows in the small chapel building. It was used at that time for services on Sundays for the people who lived in the facility.
My memory fails me as to all who spoke or what was actually said, but I recall the theme being of hope, the need to be united, and that God is not shaken by what shakes us, therefore we need to turn to Him as the source of help for ourselves and our nation. I appreciated the administration of our facility recognizing our need to come together.
As the service drew toward closing, I felt a stirring I could not dismiss. What was happening within me felt unique and somehow separate from the events unfolding around me. I knew I needed to tune in to the direction God would have my prayer take when my turn came.
I am of the Apostolic Pentecostal faith. Thirty-five years ago God did a work in my understanding of what it means to live for Him, and after I repented and my sins were washed away in Jesus’ name as I was baptized in that only saving name, I was filled with the Holy Ghost as the disciples in the Early Church were filled. By God’s grace and mercy I have walked in that manner of living for God since then and strive to walk daily in the Spirit, as the Apostle Paul said:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore, glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Thus, as I was approaching my time to contribute to this service I sought to submit my heart and will to God for the prayer He would have come out of my mouth. Many options were available to me: pleas for God’s mercy, comfort, direction, courage, understanding, and peace. He is the source of all these.
But when I was at last called upon and stood to bow my head and pray, none of those words would come. If you have experienced praying in the Holy Ghost, you will understand that I had two options as I opened my mouth: obey what God would have me say or quench the Spirit. I had no desire to do the latter, and the former required overcoming any fears of what others would think of a prayer that was outside the main stream. At last, I realized the only words to utter without quenching the Spirit were these:
I know that I said it loudly and clearly, for I remember the anguish of spirit that accompanied the cry of my heart for myself and my nation. I don’t remember anything else I said in the prayer, or whether I was moved to speak in tongues during it. I only have the sense that it followed the lines of acknowledging, like the prophet Daniel once did (Dan. 9:4-19), my sin and the sin of our nation that had brought us to that hour, our need to receive God’s cleansing by His mercy and to take on His righteousness. It was a perfect prayer for that hour. Once I felt the Spirit had lifted, I ended the prayer and the service concluded.
Outside the anointing that brings boldness we can sometimes wonder how our actions will be perceived by any who do not understand. The comments I recall were positive, as acknowledging the need for raw honesty in the sight of God.
The prayer I felt to utter for the group that day remains valid. We face many more obstacles now than could have been imagined in that week, and our own response still needs to be, “I repent! God have mercy on me, on our nation, on our leaders, and on the future of our children and their children.” Repentance must bring the desire to seek God and to obey what we see in His Word.
I urge you to take time to look deeply into your own heart and pray your own prayer of repentance, then ask God how He would have you change your direction. It is time to reach for God’s Word, to obey the Gospel and keep His commandments with the Spirit living and moving in us. The end, of which I feel 9/11 was only a warning, is drawing very near.