Mangers are Messy

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“She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.” (Luke 2:7)

I have a Nativity set that I put out every year for Christmas on a shelf at the top of my TV cabinet in our family room. A shelf that usually has family pictures and mementos on it. Stuff that I usually put away in a box or tuck away in a closet in order to display Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds, Wise Men, the Angel and of course, Baby Jesus in a place of uncluttered prominence.

If your mind’s picture of the Nativity at all resembles mine, it is probably very neat. The hay is clean andmessy-manger the star is bright, Mary doesn’t look like she just had a baby and Joseph looks totally calm and collected. They never look like they just spent days – maybe weeks traveling to Bethlehem. They never look like they were desperately seeking shelter as the time to give birth approached. The scene is calm, tranquil, and very uncluttered.

She – Mary – laid him – Jesus – in a manger and mangers are messy places. Click To Tweet

This greeting card version of the Nativity plants seeds in our minds that Jesus came into calm, tranquil, and very uncluttered life so therefore, in order to properly celebrate and welcome Jesus at Christmas, we too need to get to where our lives are calm, tranquil, and uncluttered.

The manger teaches us something quite different. I’m blessed to share this in the Christian Community News magazine. I hope you’ll join us there and discover how Jesus comes into our messy.

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Life Insurance v Life Assurance

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I almost paid the renewal notice without a second thought. But then I noticed that the renewal premium seemed higher than in previous years. A little research later, and yes indeed, it was higher – by about three hundred percent.

My term life insurance policy had reached its term.

We had a term policy for me because that was the advice of our financial planner at the time. It made sense. We had young children at home and in the event of my early death, the policy would help pay for childcare, housekeeping, and help replace my income. It would be my way of helping continue to take care of my family after I was gone.

But now, with the term expired and premiums tripling, my husband and I concluded that we did not need that policy any more. We could cancel it.

While that decision made sense – our children are grown and we don’t have any debt to speak of that silver-or-goldmakes my income necessary to replace – it was still disconcerting to cancel that policy.

A piece of me cried out at the idea that my life had no value. My contributions to our family, our life, the world in general did not warrant any kind of payout for the future. I felt like I was being canceled.

I lamented this with my husband and he cocked his head, giving me that look that says I’m being overly dramatic and silly. “Your value is not in a life insurance policy,” he gently chided.

I know this. I really do. But deep in the recesses of my heart are the doubts that wonder … if I don’t have thousands of dollars to leave you, will I matter after I am gone?

Back in the days of the early church, there was a crippled beggar who sat outside one of the temple gates – the one called Beautiful. His only source of money in order to survive came from those willing to toss a few pieces of silver or gold into his hat as they passed him by. People in his life for but a short moment and then they were gone.

Without even looking up he asked Peter and John for money as they walked by. Do you have anything you can leave me when you are gone?

Peter looked at the man and understood that this man needed something more than money. Money might last a day or two, but he had something to give this man that was infinitely more valuable than money.

“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

The man immediately stood up and began walking and jumping and praising God. Peter was eventually gone from this man’s life. But the man’s life was never the same. He encountered the healing and saving power of Jesus. The fullness of his life was restored to him. (Acts 3:1-22)

Maybe Peter’s pockets where in fact empty. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Peter knew what I need to know. What you need to know when those doubts creep in.

Money is a temporary inheritance or legacy. Jesus is an eternal gift. Click To Tweet

What I have I give you.

Peter knew Jesus and had the saving grace of his Savior. Peter had forgiveness of his sins. Peter had a restored relationship with God. Peter had the power of the Holy Spirit within him. Peter had a new life.

This is what he gave to the man.

Standing there with the canceled life insurance policy in my hand and my husband’s words ringing in my ears, I recognized that, while I might not be leaving behind silver and gold, I could give what I had. And what I have is far more valuable and my life will matter the most if I give what I have.

Life insurance only becomes valuable at the time of someone’s death. Life assurance is valuable today.

We are never ‘canceled’ when we can give to others the fruit of a life transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit, the example of peace grounded in faith, and encouraging words that promote healing and forgiveness. We impact someone else’s today when we share a reason to come and experience new life in Jesus for themselves.

If, in the giving of what we have, our spouses and children, our parents and friends, and the perfect strangers we meet on the street experience the healing and saving grace and power of Jesus, so that they too jump and dance and praise God, then our lives will have mattered far more than if we had left behind silver and gold.

Will you give what you have?

Christmas love,

Denise

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God’s Faithfulness, Our Faithfulness

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“Be strong and courageous! For you will lead these people into the land that the LORD swore to their ancestors he would give them. You are the one who will divide it among them as their grants of land. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you.” (Dt 31:7-8 NLT)

Standing on the edge of the Jordan River, Canaan stretches out before the Israelites, as far as their eyes can see. The Promised Land.

Will they trust God and cross the river in faith for the hope of their future?

How could they not? Who wouldn’t trust God for something called the Promised Land – a land of milk and honey? That sounds pretty good.

But this is the second time they have been in this position. Forty years prior, they were supposed to do exactly that – cross the river and possess the land. But they didn’t. They faltered. Why?

That first time, standing on the banks of the Jordan, the realities of the giants and enemies they would encounter outweighed the promises of God to go before them and to deliver their enemies to them. They faltered for the same reason we do when facing an unknown journey. They did not recall their past with God. They did not bring to their current situation their history of His faithfulness.

If we do not remember and recall God’s faithfulness in our past, we will not trust Him for our future. Our fears will drown out our faith.

God’s faithfulness. What exactly does this mean?

Everywhere in the Old Testament where we see faithfulness as a characteristic of God, it denotes stability, steadfastness, trustworthiness. It means God can be counted on to be who he says he is and do what he says he can and will do.

Moses, will not be going with the Israelites into Canaan. The mantle has been passed to Joshua. So in his final words to the people he has led, fought with, anguished over and loved, Moses recounts their journey and all of the ways God had provided for them along the way. He implores them to be careful to obey the commands of the LORD. Be strong. Be courageous. And believe that the LORD himself will cross into the land ahead of them.

Moses knows that we need to know. As the people are poised to enter into the unknown of what lies ahead, they need to know and remember how God has been active in their past so that they can trust and believe him for their future.

He calls them to be a people who respond to his faithfulness to them by being a people of faith.

happyIf God’s faithfulness means that he is steadfast, trustworthy and can be counted on to be and do what he says is and can do,

Then our response of faith is to believe that God is who he says he is and can and will do what he says he can and will do.

A number of years ago my dad became the victim of the cognitive decline of Alzheimer’s or dementia. This was not a journey my parents planned to take. Who does?

Who plans to have to journey through illness, the death of a child, job loss, or any number of other situations? You find yourself standing at the brink of something you know has giants in it and where you know you will encounter the enemy and you have a decision to make. What path will you take? Anger and Fear or Faith?

Anger keeps us from recognizing God’s faithfulness. We cannot see His provision when all we see is what we have lost or don’t have. Fear sees the giants and enemies but doesn’t claim God’s promise to drive them out ahead of us.

Faith, on the other hand, looks back and recalls God’s faithful activity in our lives in the past and then looks forward, trusting Him for our future.

God instructed Moses to make sure everything was written down. It wasn’t enough that Moses spoke it over the people. He made sure there was a written record of God’s provision, their history as a people of the LORD, the commands and all of the instructions. The people had everything they needed to be a faithful, believing God people.

Then, as Joshua prepares to step into leading the people, the LORD impresses upon him the importance of all that Moses wrote down. Read it. Know it. Meditate on it. Obey it. Then – you will live in the fullness of the benefits of my faithfulness to you.

Faith recognizes God's faithfulness in our past and trusts him for our future Click To Tweet

My mom’s response to her new situation was to begin really reading the Bible. She started every day with the Upper Room and spent time looking up, reading and meditation on the passages.

Her reality did not change. My dad still had dementia. The journey did not suddenly get easy. In fact, it got harder.

But her ability to conquer the enemies was there. Because she was steeped in the Word, she knew and recognized God’s faithfulness all along the journey and she knew she could trust him for her future.

We cannot believe what we do not know.

This is why God tells the Israelites to live according to his commands. Why he tells Joshua to study, and meditate on, and obey the Book of Instructions. Why Jesus tells us to obey his commands.

This is where we discover God’s faithfulness in our past and learn how to live in the faithfulness of trusting him for our future. God will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Will you trust him?

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