Christmas Reflection 1 – Strength in Joy

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Christmas is my favorite season of the year. The spirit of rejoicing and giving that comes with it is contagious. Although it has been commercialized in many ways, the true essence of Christmas is still very real in my life. There are three more days until Christmas so it has been impressed on my heart to write a personal reflection each day on Christmas.

I was inspired to share my own Christmas reflections after reading my Christmas devotional on the Bible app. Initially, I was going to journal this then I remembered stumbling over my blog and how encouraging it was reading my previous posts so here I am blogging again. Below is an excerpt from the Chris Tomlin devotion that inspired me:

“When God sent His son as a baby, no one knew the birth of this child set into motion God’s epic plan to redeem mankind. Today, this is not only where His story begins, it’s where our story begins, too. While we were yet sinners, God decided to send a Savior for us. And while He did it in the smallest of forms and the unlikeliest of ways, His perfect plan was unfolding all along. Two thousand years later, it’s easy to see the bigger picture. Looking back, it’s easy to trace the fingerprints of God’s larger purpose at work.

When we reflect on the past, we can see God’s faithfulness more clearly. We can remember how He’s come through for us and how He’s uniquely woven His plan into our lives.” -Chris Tomlin

SO here I am remembering the past in order to see God’s faithfulness and renew my trust in Him.

I read through Luke 1: 26-56, which is when Jesus’ birth was foretold to Mary then she visits Elizabeth to share the news with her. It is such a beautiful story of strength and joy.

Why strength? In the age we live in today, many are very concerned with people and their opinions on their lives. During my time as Miss American Samoa, it was ALL that I was concerned about. I wanted to portray the title the way everyone else saw fit. Going back to Mary, she displayed strength that I truly believe was not her own but from the Lord. She was basically a teenage girl who wasn’t married, but about to be pregnant. If it’s somewhat shameful in our society today, just imagine how much more in the Bible times. YIKES!  Yet, she didn’t complain. She was scared I’m sure, but her response is one that has been used in sermons all over the world…

“Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.”  – Luke 1:38 (NLT)

I have read this story many times, but this statement hit me hard for the first time. I was sitting here thinking, “WHAAAAAA!?!?!” She was about to be pregnant without a husband yet HER FAITH! Her faith in the Lord and His plans blows me away. The story continues after this with Mary going to visit her cousin Elizabeth who the Lord had also blessed with a child to pave the way for Jesus. When Mary gets to Elizabeth, the Bible says Elizabeth’s baby leaped within her and the Holy Spirit filled her.

42. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. 43. WHy am I so honored, the the mother of my Lord should visit me? 44. When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what He said.”
-Luke 1:42-45 (NLT)

This is when the joy factor comes into this story. They rejoiced in the Lord’s plans. Although I’m sure they knew it would not be an easy road, they rejoiced none the less. Mary even has a song of praise she says after Elizabeth said what she said.

I thought to myself. Do I have that kind of strength to trust the Lord? How many times have I rejoiced in the Lord knowing the journey is about to get “interesting”? How many times have I relied on the Lord’s strength and submitted to Him when He asks me to do something unheard of?

To be honest, I don’t have that kind of strength. That kind of strength comes from spending time with the Lord and cultivating a relationship with Him that I’ve lacked. The relationship that I relied on for the past year is now wavering and because of that I’m falling a part. It’s interesting how the Lord always brings us back to Him when we start to stray. He allows the consequences of choices hurt so He can heal. Like Mary, we need Elizabeths in our lives to remind us that we are highly favored by God and that we should remember we are blessed because we believe in what God is going to do. I’m reminded I can find strength when I rejoice in what the Lord has planned. I’m reminded I  can find strength by believing His Word. I’m reminded I can find strength in His joy. If there is anything I love about Christmas, it’s the JOY that surrounds the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

Thank You Jesus for allowing Your joy that brings strength to fill the world especially during the Christmas season. I pray that everyone especially those who are hurting during this time can experience the same gladness Mary and Elizabeth had by remembering Your perfect plan and that Jesus is the reason we rejoice every Christmas season.

Joy to the world/ the Lord has come/ let earth receive her King/ let every heart prepare Him room/ Let heaven and nature sing/ Let heaven and nature sing/ Let heaven/ Let heaven and nature sing.

Photo Challenge: Work of Art

I have always admired the natural beauty around me since I was little. I have always loved beautiful things because I know I serve a beautiful God.

How do I know my God is beautiful? I see it in everything He has created and in each day He orchestrates. The God I serve is the greatest artist. His creation is so beautiful. There is always something new outside for me to enjoy, I just have to open my eyes and see it for what He created it be. Beautiful.

I sincerely believe the greatest work of art is a new day of promise. I never encounter the same view or scenery every morning when I wake up. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to use to portray a “work of art” until I came across the symbol of promise God created for Noah that still stands as a testimony of God’s promise to never destroy the earth again (Genesis 9:13). Isn’t this the most beautiful covenant you have ever seen?

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Double rainbow this morning while getting out of my car across from my workplace.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/work-of-art/

Three Days Later

Sometimes I wonder what was going on in the heavens on the second day before Jesus rose on the third day. So many different things could’ve been going on in the heavenly realm and even down below.

All I know is Jesus died on the cross and rose again three days later. I like to think it was specifically for me. He sacrificed His blood for me. Every drop of blood that fell from Him was so I don’t have to die in my sin.

He died so I can live. It’s the simple truth. When He rose from the grave, I received power to live the way God intended me to live. Thanks to Jesus, I can now have a relationship with God freely. I don’t have to live in fear of where I will spend eternity. Three days later, I have hope. I have peace. Most of all, I have love.

This Blood – In Honor of Good Friday

This song by Carman is probably one of my absolute favorite songs about the crucifixion. I couldn’t sit here and not share this song with all of you. It’s a powerful and very anointed song. God gave up so much for the sake of all who do and don’t believe…YET.

I pray you will be blessed by this song as much as I am every time I hear it. If you haven’t experienced the mighty power of the blood of Jesus, I want you to know that His blood was and still is for you.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threshold

 

The threshold of every Jesus moment is at the cross.

The threshold of every Jesus moment is at the cross.

“At the cross, at the cross
Where I first saw the light
And the burden of my heart
Rolled away.
It was there by faith
I received my sight
And now I’m happy all the day”

This chorus from the hymn At the Cross by Isaac Watts describes perfectly as to why the cross is the most perfect picture of a threshold. Every Christian experiences that moment in their life where they receive salvation and experience that overwhelming feeling of grace and love. It is at the foot of the cross of Jesus where all the past, present and future wrongs are left behind and this new born Christian starts the journey to eternal life. The Christian life is not an answer to an easy life, but it is the answer to a stronger and more complete life. A life that begins at the cross.

Pictured above is a picture of my church members coming to the cross to find healing, restoration, forgiveness and grace. Touching the cross is a symbol of leaving behind all the hurts, pains, sins, wrongs at the cross of Jesus so they can start a new journey in a new season with the Lord as the Guide.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/photo-challenge-threshold/

Today’s NaPoWriMo challenge is based on writing a love poem to an inanimate object. I figured why not tie it in.

Christ’s Cross: My Threshold

To demonstrate my love,
I can not do enough.
Words are inadequate
Value beyond a diamond in the rough.

Everything wrong I’ve done
I don’t have to carry
I can leave it at the cross
Where all my sins I bury

The threshold of a new journey
A life with Jesus I’ll be beginning
After I nail my sins to the cross
Where Christ died for my new being.

To demonstrate my love,
I can not do enough.
Christ’s cross where He suffered and bled
So I can leave my sinful slough.

Day 7 of NaPoWriMo 30 Day Challenge: http://www.napowrimo.net/2014/04/one-week-in/

Honor

A simple thank you to all those who selflessly & courageously fight for American rights and freedoms.

A simple thank you to all those who selflessly & courageously fight for American rights and freedoms.

Words are inadequate when it comes to giving honor to where it’s due. The whole reason Christians honor God is because of the fact He sent His one & only Son to come and die on the cross for the sins of the world. The same goes for these freedom fighters. The reason they receive so much honor is because of their willingness to serve this country with their lives.

I always use to think of the military as just another job outlet. After going months or even years without seeing some of my family members because of their choice to go into the military, I realized its more than just a job. These people have families and friends they go for long periods of time without seeing. They sacrifice being in the comforts of their own homes and being a part of their communities to go out and fight on behalf of those they love and those they don’t even know. A lot of these men and women miss out on time with their children  and significant others simply because they made a choice to give up their lives to the United States of America.

Here’s to all those veterans that have sacrificed their lives and time so we can enjoy ours. Thank you for your service. God bless each and every one of you and your families.

Believing Truth

What exactly does it mean to “believe”? Who determines what is and isn’t right? Why is it not up to a person to come up with their own set of rights and wrongs? How do we confirm what is believed to be truth?

These are questions that have pestered me over the years in my fight to determine truth. Determining truth is not easy. Truth to one person is a lie to another. There are rules and regulations set forth by the government to ensure order. As time changes, ideas change along with culture which causes a shift in the minds of many on what truth is. These laws are constantly changing, which is why there are amendments. With the power to change the law, it brings the ability to change humanity’s version of “truth”.

“We have a right to believe whatever we want,
but not everything we believe is right.” 
― Ravi Zacharias

How I’ve come to determine truth

I grew up believing in God and raised in a sheltered church environment. Occasionally, I would let the rebel out and do things I knew a “church girl” shouldn’t do thanks to curiosity. The Samoan culture I grew up around always acknowledged God in every event and occasion so I was use to being surrounded by the belief in God. Once I moved to Utah for school, it was a completely different environment from the one I was use to. I was use to a place where God came first in everything and going to a secular-ish school completely changed my entire mindset.

I realized there were other “truths” out there that influenced what I believed was right. For example, I started believing drunkenness was OK as long as I wasn’t hurting anyone. I accepted the idea of “do what makes you happy” as my ultimate truth. Eventually it wasn’t working out and I revamped my definition of “truth” to “a relationship with God (the Christian one) makes you happy”.

Instead of binding myself to religious laws I saw as truth, I learned to live in the freedom of love which comes from Jesus. So far, it hasn’t proved me wrong. I believe in the message of the grace of God shown through Jesus’ death on the cross. Although this may be right to me, it may be a completely different story for you. What do you believe is right? How does your version of truth influence what you believe to be right?