Posted by: Rolf | January 4, 2019

Tenacious Joy

Why are you not more joyful?
Author: Daryl Wingerd

Why are you not more joyful? Oh, I know. You are warm and friendly, even bubbly at times. You are always enthusiastic when singing with your church. You smile a lot. You even handle troubles and trials with a positive attitude. But why are you not more joyful? Why do you not exult in God more than you do?

Genuine joy and exulting in God is not the same as positive thinking, religious friendliness, enthusiasm during corporate worship, or other outward expressions that earn you the reputation of being a joyful person. These can be artificially pasted on any life, no matter how the heart feels. True joy is soul-happiness. It comes from knowing and loving the one true God, and from the awareness that He knows and loves you. It is experienced in affectionate thoughts toward His Son Jesus, and it is fueled by the presence of the Holy Spirit who dwells in all true believers. It is also expressed in heartfelt submission to His will.

True joy should be visible to others, but it can be experienced on the inside even when the trials of life make the outward appearance dark.

Seven Possible Causes for Joylessness.

  1. You might be unregenerate. In other words, you might not be “born again” (John 3:3). You may have had a religious experience, but not a 2 Corinthians 4:6 experience, never having seen “the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Because your spiritual eyes have never been opened to truly see Him, you have no reason to rejoice in Him.

The Remedy: Seek God with all your heart: God cannot be discovered apart from His own willingness to reveal Himself, but He has also promised that “He is the rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). He once said to the Israeilites, “You will seek Me and find me when your search for Me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). Two things, then, must be understood if your search for God will be successful: 1) You are utterly dependent upon Him for gaining a true knowledge of Him, and 2) He imparts the knowledge of Himself to those who earnestly seek to know Him. These truths are complimentary, not contradictory.

  1. You may be a true Christian who is doctrinally immature. You may have reached a plateau of basic biblical knowledge, but are going nowhere in terms of gaining an increasing knowledge of God. The joy of infancy in the Christian life is precious, when we first come to know the God who has saved us, but prolonged immaturity can squelch joy.

The Remedy: Develop and maintain a pleasant dissatisfaction with your current level of biblical knowledge, particularly in terms of knowing who God is. Do not be satisfied with knowing a few Bible verses and winning a few Bible trivia contests. Knowing the names of Moses’ parents, Abraham’s wives, Jesus’ 12 disciples, and the guy who dozed off and fell from the window while Paul was preaching, may impress your friends, but it will not give you joy. If you want to experience increasing joy, heed Peter’s instruction to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18).

  1. You may possess a great deal of knowledge about God, while neglecting to enjoy what you know. You may be familiar with many biblical truths about God and His ways. You might have a shelf in your mind (so to speak) on which you have placed the meanings of all the Hebrew names for God. But you never take these treasures down off the shelf for the pure pleasure of handling them and examining them closely. What joy will a man get from his classic car if he never polishes it or takes it out for a spin?

The Remedy: Meditate on God as a daily habit. Don’t merely know that God is omnipotent. Enjoy His omnipotence. Think about what it means for you and the world around you. Don’t be satisfied to merely understand that He is faithful. Consider all of the ways in which His faithfulness enriches your life.

  1. You may be walking in disobedience. It impossible to find sustained joy in God while you are consistently disobeying Him in some particular aspect of your life. Sin has a deadening effect on motivation, on prayer, on fellowship, and on the personal disciplines that are such an essential part of pursuing joy in God.

The Remedy: Repent and obey God from this moment on. If you truly desire God, if you are truly seeking joy in Him, then you must desire to do His will. You cannot claim to delight in God’s person while caring little about His attributes of holiness and righteousness.

  1. You may have a misguided understanding of self-denial. The Christian life is a life of seeking ultimate pleasure, not in the things of this world, but in God Himself. When Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself,” He was not teaching us to deny ourselves pleasure of every kind. There is great pleasure, after all, in knowing God. As the Psalmist said, “In your presence is fullness of Joy. At Your right hand are pleasures forever.” (Ps. 16:11).

The Remedy: Be like the man in Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all he has and buys that field.” Learn to see the Christian life for what it really is—the pursuit of ultimate satisfaction.

  1. You may be failing to recognize your difficulties as gifts from God. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). If it is right to exult in our tribulations, as Paul says in Romans 5:3, then it is right to exult in the God who sends them.

The Remedy: Train yourself to think like Job. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 2:21). Job rejoiced in God even though God took away everything from Him, proving that true happiness does not depend on earthly circumstances or possessions.

  1. You may be sinfully preferring joylessness. If you are not thinking biblically, it might seem safer or easier not to rejoice in God. After all, if you never allow yourself to go too high emotionally and spiritually, you never risk being brought low. There is also a certain fleshly appeal in consistent dullness, especially when the opposite requires hard work and the death of self-focus. Furthermore, attention from people who sense your “lowness” might appeal to your sinful desire for pity.

The Remedy: Obey God by rejoicing in God. Joy is not optional. It is commanded. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1). “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4). “Rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16). Given these clear commands, consider what James says about obligation: “One who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin” (James 4:17). When you are not rejoicing, you are sinning!

Your sour, non-exulting demeanor (that is, when joylessness shows through your skin) has a deadening effect on Christian fellowship and can drag others down with you. Persistent joylessness indicates a lack of love for other Christians. It even serves to turn unbelievers away from the gospel. Obey, then, for sake of obedience itself, and for the sake of those who know you. Get up out of the special-needs chair and light a fire of holy joy under others who might want to continue sitting in it!

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

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Posted by: Rolf | December 24, 2018

A Golfer’s Christmas Poem

‘Twas the day before Christmas

And all ’round the course

Stood white stakes and pine trees

And well-tangled gorse

Still the golfers lined up

Their carts at the ready

Hoping their drives would be straight

And their putting strokes steady

The pro gave instructions,

The starter handed out keys

And before one could say, “Birdie!”

They were off to their tees

A scramble this was,

To curb expectations,

And perhaps to create

Some holiday elations

But a surprise was in store

When snow started to fall

Now good luck it would take

To find a little white ball!

Yet the beautiful thing

About this game gone amiss

Was how it reminded their hearts

Of the real Christmas

For Jesus, we’re told,

Came to seek and to save

To give bread to the poor

And unshackle the slave

It wouldn’t be easy

The will of God for His Son

To die on the cross

For each sinful one

On this snowy day

The golfers finally gave in

They rode to the clubhouse

Thinking no one would win

But when they arrived

Snowflakes lighting their hair

Singing carolers awaited

In fine festive wear

Their voices were lifting

A song of true praise

To the New Covenant Savior,

To the Ancient of Days

With the words of the angels,

“Peace on the earth”

Sung richly, sung sweetly

On the night of Christ’s birth

Jesus has come

To save all who believe

Be they golfers or not

Pained tears He’ll relieve

Wherever you’re spending

This Christmas, my friend

To your joys He’ll add laughter

To your sorrows He’ll tend

So lift up your voice

Sing with the brothers

Pray with the sisters

Dance with the mothers

Give the gift of your love

To your daughters, your sons

Reach out to your neighbor

Serve hurting ones

For the star is still shining

It’s shining through you

As you tell those close by

“Dear friends, it’s all true!”

About The Author
Jeff Hopper is the editor of the Links Daily Devotional and COO of Links Players International. He played two years of college golf and still keeps up his game as long as the sun is shining.
December 24, 2018 Copyright 2018 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

Posted by: Rolf | December 20, 2018

Tis the Season to be Jolly?

Author Jim Elliff

“’Tis the Season to be jolly?” Well, maybe.

The business of Christmas, that is, the hard and cold commercial trade of the Thanksgiving to Christmas sales window, is a measure of how well America is doing. It’s the thermometer in our corporate mouths.

Needs are created through the media in order to entice the buyer into purchasing more this year than last. No one is to be disappointed at Christmas, after all. The manipulation is as blatant toward children as adults. And who can bring themselves to crush the psyche of anyone by not giving them all they want?

The end result of all of this is “happiness.” The receivers of the presents are happy and the merchandisers are happy. The media people are happy and the credit card people are happy. Everything is happy during Christmas.

Happy is what it is supposed to be, that is. But sometimes things go south. The economy may well not cooperate.

Sickness may invade the home, jobs may be lost, anger and sulkiness may pervade the atmosphere, death may stalk a family member, drugs and alcohol may taint family togetherness, divorce clouds may darken the skies, disappointment may rule a child’s spirit, and depression may turn you pensive and silent. And so it goes behind the closed doors or in the inner space of so many. The Bible says that even in their laughter there is sorrow.

Can tinsel and presents, carols and candy really bring happiness? Not often, and not much. And if our happiness is based on circumstance, is it a true happiness? Isn’t it just a playful escape, a temporary delusion? Does a little thin paint on the outside eradicate the rust beneath? Do cosmetics on a corpse make the death go away?

I think the diversion is worth something, mind you, But when the reality is so strong, do we have the right to call even Christmas a source of true happiness?

This “reality is much more troubling than the list mentioned above-the depression, sickness, sulkiness, and aggravations. The reality for a person without Christ is a permanent state of non-forgiveness, alienation from God, separation from the true people of God forever, and hell. Those are the matters that make happiness hard to come by and what makes laughter so fugitive for the thinking person.

Even joy based on family can elude you. Everything is moving, changing, shifting. You cannot rest on anything to bring solid, stand-against-all-odds joy but that which is permanent. And that which is permanent is God.

When the angels sang about Christ’s birth, they said that they were bringing tidings of “great joy.” Great joy?—yes, joy for every person who will come to Him by faith. It is in the relationship with God through Christ where joy is found.

If a person is related to God through His Son Jesus Christ, then joy, that deeper happiness that is more than a facial characteristic, is a birthright blessing. The true Christian should be joyful because his sins are forgiven, his place in heaven is secure, his life is in-dwelt by God’s Spirit, and he has an open door to God’s throne room. No matter what happens, he always has reason to rejoice because the big things are taken care of, and the Spirit in him promises to help him through all the rest. In a word, his joy is not based on circumstance, but on huge unchanging facts and an even bigger God behind the facts.

For sure, some true Christians forget what they have and need a refresher course on what is provided for them, but on the main you will notice that true Christians have joy that is bigger than circumstances. I’m not saying this about pseudo-Christians, of course, the church-goers who really don’t know Christ.

Christmas then is not the season to be jolly, as if the other seasons are the opposite. But it is the reason to be joyful. Christ’s coming to the earth, His perfect life and sacrificial death as a substitute for sinful people like us, is certainly a reason for joy to all who will come to Him by faith.

Is that you?

If you are one of those who has not come to Christ, then the best you can do this season is to hope for good circumstances and a kind of naïveté about your actual situation before God. But things could be different and the coming of Christ that you are singing about this holiday time could become the best news you have ever heard-“good tidings of great joy!”

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

Posted by: Rolf | December 8, 2018

Sowing and Reaping

“Sowing and Reaping” is a law, like the law of gravity. The law of gravity always works the same way for everyone. So does the law of “sowing and reaping.” It’s a fixed principle that God built into his creation.  The principle of “sowing and reaping” is one that applies to every believer and non-believer alike. Everything you sow today will be reaped in your harvest tomorrow.

Those laws are not legalistic in nature, but redemptive. They are given by the Creator of all things so that we might know how to enjoy the greatest life possible in this world He created! One of the most consistent threads woven through all the teachings of God is personal responsibility. We must make our own choices, we must choose to walk in love and we must manage our lives in a way that inspires favor from those around us!

Reaping what we have sown is not a curse of the law; it is not something God makes happen to us, but is primarily the natural and social consequences of our choices! If I eat unhealthy food I’ll probably be unhealthy. If I mistreat others it is likely I will have few friends. If I am lazy no one will want to employ me.

God’s Word shows us what love looks like in action, and His grace empowers us to walk in love. Since we reap what we sow, when we walk in love two things will happen. We will inspire others to walk in love toward us, and we will tend to see past the things we would normally fear and criticize. So we can make sowing and reaping work for us or against us. It’s all about choosing what we will sow. If you don’t like what’s growing in the garden of your life, consider planting different seed!

God is no respecter of persons. In other words, He shows no partiality. He wants everyone to be saved and do good and that means forming good habits as well.

“Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” 2 Corinthians 9:6. You can sow into any area of your life, either sparingly or bountifully, whether it be spiritual, relational, financial, or physical. But you will only get out what you put in.

Are your daily habits reaping the harvest you are desiring? Or, are there areas you need to work on to achieve the goals and results you’re looking for? Are you reaping “blessings or weeds?” This principle carries over into your everyday life. However, most Christians live as if in a box. They make God so small that they seem to always remain where they are.

Well my friends, let me tell you, that is a lie! The devil wants you to remain where you are because you’re no threat to his agenda against God’s saints moving in action against him. When you do nothing you become just that. God gives us commands spiritually but also physically. These commands can work in any area of your life specifically in sowing and reaping.

“Plant your seed in the morning and keep busy all afternoon, for you don’t know if profit will come from one activity or another or both.” Ecclesiastes 11:6

If you have a goal you’re aspiring to achieve, the best way to measure the success of that goal is to look at the habits you possess now. This will determine the outcome.

Are your habits forming seeds for a profitable harvest or for a rotten one? Remember, God doesn’t have the same timeline as we do, “For His ways are above ours and His thoughts are above our thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8. And, He has a perfect will and a perfect timing for each one of our prayer requests.

Many Christians today sit, pray, and go to church waiting for God to just plop down a great reward simply because they’re saved. As if it’s owed to them, they do nothing but wait for God to give them whatever they ask just because they’ve said their 100th prayer. But God requires action on our part. You must take that step first then God will meet you. God says, “If you’re faithful with very little I will make you faithful over much”. Luke 16:10

He always wants you to be the best version of you. That means making good choices and getting rid of any bad habits that are causing your harvest to grow weeds instead of blessings.  The seeds you plant become the harvest you reap. To have a successful harvest you must know what you’re planting. So you want something different? New changes for this new year? Then you must have clearly defined goals you can sow into DAILY. Start with the spiritual and you’ll be successful in the physical.

For me, this was in the area of discipline with my studies, finances, ministry, and prayer life. Almost everything in life takes discipline, and it’s hard, but I was overwhelmed and stressed out from the burden of all my tasks. I had an attitude of, “Woe is me!” So what did I do about it? I began to practice discipline.

I woke up 1 hour earlier to start my devotional time with God and got focused and intentional about completing my daily tasks that I planned out the day before. Like many of you, my schedule is hectic and I would complain to God all the time that I had “no time”. So He showed me this area of discipline that I neglected, and it has made a dramatic difference in my everyday life.

Just by starting my day earlier and being focused on my tasks, my stress has diminished! Are there areas in your life you want to see changes made?  Then it’s time to set goals, stay disciplined, and strive to be all that God has called you to be! Here is a key takeaway: “Bad habits are easy to form but hard to live with. Good habits are hard to form but easy to live with.”

You see, I began to sow seeds of discipline and the harvest was immediate “peace and time.” So maybe you’re interested in starting a business, but your sowing hours of TV, social media, eating, shopping, just being a busy body without really being busy with much. Yet you wish and keep saying you will start a business. Well, sadly, you won’t if you don’t sow the right seeds.

This applies to any goal you may want. And, the same applies spiritually if you want to grow deeper in the Lord. You must sow in the time with Him. Be intentional because the devil is always intentional about making sure you’re not!

In the Bible, there was a great man named Abraham. God had a covenant with him. He was greatly blessed, but not just because he was born that way. True, God had purposed to use him before he was born. But God still required action on his part. In Genesis 17, God told Abraham that if he walked blameless, He would make a covenant with him. “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Genesis 17:1-2

You see God required Abraham to do something first. He required action on his part, even as favored as Abraham was, the rule of sowing and reaping still applied to him. Imagine how much discipline Abraham had in all areas of his life. Here are some of the seeds Abraham sowed to receive a “Harvest of Blessings” from God. You can sow them too. It may not be easy, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

He obeyed God
He took action
He worshiped
He maintained peace
He was generous
He had perseverance
He had gratitude
He was disciplined
He had integrity
He walk by faith

God wants us to have a prosperous harvest in our lives. But He gives us choices to make every single day. We can either make wise or foolish choices. God won’t force our hand in either direction. Remember, you will always receive a harvest on everything you have sown. What that harvest will be is up to you.

Can sowing be in the form of money?  Yes…but I would ask the question what is your motive? See, God looks at the heart unlike man. So are you sowing money in order to get a return or are you sowing it because you want to give back to God because you know it’s His anyways and your demonstrating your faith and trust in Him by doing so. It is good to have a plan and prepare in advance for yourself but I would pray about sowing money only to get a return because what happens in case you don’t get what you expected, how would you still view God? Would that impact that? If so then re- evaluate your motives and allow the Holy Spirit to lead you and guide you on what on where to sow. Nothing is wrong with sowing money and it is encouraged to bless others, just be careful to examine your heart when you do so.

This principle called “sowing and reaping” it’s found in Galatians 6:7: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” God is declaring that you are not to be deceived into believing that what you do or don’t do will not reap consequences. These consequences can be good or bad, it’s the effect of your action, whichever that is. God is not mocked because His glory cannot and will not ever be compromised. “For the measure you use, will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

Posted by: Rolf | November 28, 2018

The Promise of a Savior

“Today . . . a Savior has been born.” Luke 2:11 NIV

You will never understand who Jesus is until you realize he came to save you from your sins. This is why he lived, this is why he died, and this is why he rose from the dead. “He came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 NIV. And he saves all those who trust in him.

If our greatest need had been education, God would have sent a teacher.
If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent a banker.
If our greatest need had been advice, God would have sent a counselor. 

But since our greatest need was forgiveness, God sent a Savior. His name is “Jesus.” He is Christ the Lord, the Son of God who came from heaven to earth.

And that brings us right back to the doctrine of the Incarnation. Who is that baby born on Christmas day? As the familiar carol puts it, “This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing; haste, haste to bring him laud, the babe, the Son of Mary.” He is the divine Son of God from heaven who in his earthly birth took on a fully human nature. All that God is and all that man is meet in perfect union in Jesus Christ. He is fully God and fully man — the God-man who came to earth to save us from our sins.

For those who face loneliness during this season of the year, take comfort in this fact: God’s answer is not a theory or an abstract doctrine or a book to read or a seminar to attend. It’s not a better job, more friends, another movie to watch, or another song to sing. It’s not even the beauty of a sunrise or a sunset. God’s answer to loneliness is wrapped up in a person — Jesus Christ. He is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. He is the only one who will never leave you or forsake you. Loneliness can be overcome through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Do you know him?

All that God has to say to us can be wrapped up in one word: “Jesus.” And not just any Jesus, but only the Lord Jesus Christ revealed in the New Testament. He alone is the Lord from heaven. He alone can save us. All that God has for you and me is wrapped up in his Son. No matter what difficulties we face or the decisions we must make, God leads us back to that simple one word answer: “Jesus.”

In an interview with David Frost on PBS, Billy Graham said he hoped the last word he uttered before dying was simply this: “Jesus.” We can’t do any better than that.

Dear God, fill my heart with the wonder of Mary, the faith of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, and the determination of the Wise Men so that I may rejoice in the birth of Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Amen.  

 

Let the joyful music lift your heart as we celebrate our Savior’s birth.

Adapted from Ray Pritchard’s Advent devotional called Christmas Promises.” The eBook contains 25 daily devotions covering December 1-25.  You can download the eBook for FREE from Amazon for five days only: Wednesday, November 28-Sunday, December 2.  If you have trouble downloading from the Amazon website, you can download it from the KBM website in the following formats Kindle (.mobi)  Nook (.epub)  PDF version.

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

Posted by: Rolf | November 19, 2018

Christmas Mess

What’s with this “Christmas Mess” we’ve gotten ourselves into?

Maybe we can, as some friends in the faith do, blame it on the Church for ever getting involved in trying to counter a seasonal pagan celebration with a “Christian” holiday.

But in truth, this “Christmas Mess” moved along from its inception in the third or fourth century until well into the twentieth century before it turned into the commercial free-for-all we often see today.

Some point the finger at novelist Charles Dickens, whose beloved A Christmas Carol ignited attention to the “humanity” of the season over and above its Christ-pointing roots.

Then again, we might go right to Scripture and train our light-dazzled eyes on the magi from the East. After all, weren’t they the first unexpected guests intruding on important family time?

Oh, the holidays, stretched out now from at least the end of October, right through the after-Christmas sales. Black Friday, that sacred shopping day, is spilling into Thursday night now. We don’t even know how to rest when we’re given a day off!

But in the midst of times like these, we have a wonderful role as men and women who live in the kingdom of God. We are, Paul wrote, “ministers of reconciliation.” When a season like the one that closes each year yanks people even further from God, we are called to offer another possibility, a life realigned with the one who offers eternal life.

In order to do this well, we must recognize both what is challenging and what is excellent about the season, and we must endeavor to make everything we can about the holiday season personal.

THE ENEMY AT CHRISTMAS
Throughout Scripture, we are reminded that there is an enemy at work, one who has set himself against the ways of God and made it his business to disturb our spirits just when we should be resting in the Lord. This enemy is, of course, Satan. And while it is common in the church to pay him the most attention at Halloween—a holiday that is said to belong to his devotees—the enemy is perhaps best at using the allurements of the lighter holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, to set us up for trouble.

The enemy’s effort is founded first of all in his hatred of joy. True joy in the Lord is, Ezra told the Israelite’s of old, our very strength. More recently, pastor John Piper has made his mark by declaring over and over that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.” Joy and satisfaction—now there are two oft-touted Christmas characteristics!

Yet if we were to stand outside our biggest local department store the day after Christmas, when the crowds wait in line to return their gifts and spend even more, we would struggle to find one soul who would report that their holiday was marked with “joy and satisfaction.” A little pleasure, perhaps. A smile, a laugh, and a full belly. Maybe even a gift they wanted. But real, live joy and satisfaction? It’s not happening.

Why? Because the enemy uses the modern emphases of Christmas to create unrealistic, unfulfilled expectations in people or to allow them a measure of satisfaction—but it is a measure far below what their souls tell them is truly out there.

The enemy may also try to steal people’s attention from focusing on the coming of the Lord incarnate. Christmas remains a religious attraction to many because, unlike Easter’s dual message of death (where people must face the pains of mortality) and resurrection (which many consider so much hocus-pocus), Christmas presents a little child, innocent and beautiful. Visitors still turn up for church at Christmas—if they are not too distracted!—but not so much at Easter anymore.

OUR EXULTANT VIEW
The chief way that we counter the work of the enemy in this season is by combining exaltation and expectation. It is true that some believers again point to the Christmas holiday and suggest that we should not celebrate because of the day’s “pagan origins.” Perhaps. But this certainly does not mean we should not celebrate Christ. There is no day when we should not celebrate Christ!

So we counter the enemy by focusing on the Messiah who has come and who is to come again. We lift up his name in song and in prayer and in Scripture reading and in preaching—just as we always do!

Moreover, we make a significant connection between the comings of Christ. He came once to make the perfect sacrifice; he is coming again to “bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28). The coming of the Messiah was the biggest thing on the minds of the Jewish people in Rome-occupied Israel before the birth of Jesus.

We might make an argument that the second coming of the Messiah should be the biggest thing on the minds of believers today, for he will bring the enactment of our salvation. Make Christmas a holiday of expectation, just as Christians who attend to the Advent have done for centuries.

It is no accident that in John 14:1-4 Jesus coupled the words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me,” with the promise, “I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you may also be where I am.”

Both the Advent and the New Year are times of expectation. And when it is Jesus we expect, the Messiah to whom we turn our eyes, then we are moved to exaltation. Our Hallelujah choruses touch the Audience of One for whom the hallelujahs are meant; our nativity scenes depict not only the miracle of birth and family but the first identity of the one who would be accredited to us by signs and miracles; and even our gifts given to one another signify not only love among friends but the grace of God given freely to us.

When we set out to make the holidays a season of prayer, then, there are three arenas for our prayer. We will pray against the evil, pray in the good, and pray with grace for others. So let’s look at each of these directions for prayer.

PRAYING AGAINST THE EVIL
If you have read this far into this article, it would suggest that you are a person firm in your belief in Jesus. You know him not only as the baby in Bethlehem’s manger but as the miracle worker from Galilee, the atoning sacrifice at Calvary, and the risen King ascended to the right hand of God. Which means one more thing: “you have friends and family who do not believe this at all!”

One of the greatest attacks of the enemy during holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas arises out of the chasm between those who love Jesus and those who do not. You may have an excellent relationship with those who share your holiday meals, but who decides whether that meal is initiated with prayer? And if it is, how long and how strong is that prayer? What often occurs when there is a rift like this in our holiday relationships is that we get to thinking, Oh, I don’t want to spend the holidays with them.

They are so turned against the Gospel. They just won’t see Jesus for who he is. And in that thinking, our hearts are hardened toward those who need salvation. We cannot do this! We cannot allow ourselves to expect that the heart of our dearest friends will not be changed. Jesus captured us; he can surely capture them. And so our first prayer against evil must be a prayer against ourselves. We must pray that our hearts will not be hardened to those who need our grace-filled, Jesus-style love.

After the prayers of your lips, be reminded that this kind of grace and love will show itself on your tongue. Proverbs 18:21 offers this: “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” At holiday time, you might remember this truth in prayer through a humorous picture: “Lord, let the fruitcake of my lips contain the fruit of your Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Second, the holidays are a time that will wear us out and wear us down. That is, we will face physical and spiritual weariness if we are not “prayer-ed” and prepared. On the prayer side, make a habit of sitting in your car for a minute before you leave and a minute before you get out, using this time to seize quiet and pray. What should you pray?

Look at 1 Peter 1:8- 9: “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” What a powerful holiday prayer, to ask for the constant infilling of “inexpressible and glorious joy!” That’ll preach—not only through your words but through all that you express in this season.

On the prepared side, we must recognize that from the beginning, God built rest into the cadence of a well-lived life. The Lord of the Sabbath is calling you to lay down your wall-to-wall calendar, your overfull inbox, and your self-imposed obligations so that you may attend to him. Don’t put another appointment on your phone until you’ve blocked out the hours of rest you will give to God. You have limits. Recognize them, and meet them with quiet and with solitude, according to the example of Jesus himself.

Third, we must be on guard against the draw of materialism. You may think, No worries, I nailed this one long ago. I even ask people to give to World Vision rather than buy me a gift. And yet you allow yourself to be pulled into finding “the perfect gift” for everyone on your list. Gift-giving can be an exercise symbolic of grace, yes. But it can also be an exercise in idol-chasing: “It’s the thought that counts, but it’s the smile on their face when I give them the best gift of the season that counts more!” 

We confront such sin with prayer. We ask that our pursuit of the material is replaced by our expression of the eternal. A material gift cannot replace love, especially as it is expressed in the time, attention and concern that mark our desire to see those we love not “get what they want” but “receive what they most need.” 

Finally, when we pray against the evil that invades the season, we must recognize the common occurrence of depression and loneliness that flood over many people during the holidays. Be on the lookout for those who have been widowed or lost a parent or child in the past year. Lift them up by name in prayer, asking God to bring his unmatchable comfort in this time.

And make yourself available as an answer to your own prayers, for God may want you to make the phone call or the visit that delivers his words of encouragement.

Depression, because it is the absence of joy and brings loss of compelling purpose, is the agent of the enemy to turn people’s eyes from Christ and onto themselves. Pray that joy will reign in the hearts of those you know who are prone to depression this season, not forgetting that you may need this prayer yourself!

INVITING THE GOOD
In our assessment of the evil that arises during the “Thanksgiving-to-Christmas” season, we have already spoken of the prayers that run counter to that evil—prayers for joy and comfort. But let’s review four directions for our prayer that invite God’s good into the season.

  1. Compassion. Against the hardening of your heart during this season, pray that God will instill you with compassion. Pray that he will give you eyes and ears for those whose needs actually beg the question, “Is there no better way than this?” These are people whose hearts may already be open to Jesus. When you pray for compassion, you are actually submitting your holiday hours to God, allowing him to turn you from your shopping or eating schedule so you can sit with a friend—old or brand new—and speak openly about the offer of abundant and eternal life delivered through the one who came at Bethlehem. There is a better way. With compassion, you will be ready to point it out to those who are earnestly, even desperately, seeking it.
  1. Joy. Every Christmas season, we sing it: “Joy to the world! The Lord is come.” But is this the message of our lives during these potent weeks? We must reflect the joy that comes with eternity-minded contentment, and we can only do this if joy fills us. The prayer here, then, is simple: “Lord, strengthen me with your joy. Let my life be a constant reflection of what truly thrills my heart—the joyous salvation we have in Jesus!”
  1. Sincere love. We are all young at love. The patient, kind, selfless, protective, trusting, hope-filled, persevering love of 1 Corinthians 13 is the work of a lifetime, layered in by fits and spurts. Only eternity will perfect what is so limited in our human expression. And yet Christ is in us. He is the fullness of joy, the hope of glory, the igniter of true love. Willingly, he gave his life for us. How willingly will we give our Christmas season for others? In prayer, ask God to make you an agent of his love this season, one who carries grace as his ambassador to the holiday table where you share space with those who need his touch.
  1. Spiritual renewal. If this has been a difficult year for you or someone you know, you can expect this: without renewal in Christ, the holidays will almost certainly not make a good year bad. So we do well not only to pray “defensive” prayers against what godless circumstances that surround us, but to go on the offensive in prayer. Ask the Lord to make this season the best of your year in terms of spiritual refreshing and growth. Again, ask him for a harvest of fruit in this season—fruit in your own life and fruit in your relationships with others. Now is the time to make investments in heaven, where our stored treasures last.

INTERCEDING FOR THOSE IN NEED
Finally, we must become intercessors for those who need the love and mercy of God. If you are unfamiliar with the function of intercession, it is simply this: to form a bridge from one person to another. Scripturally, we are told that both Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit intercede for us before the throne of God.

In fact, Paul wrote to the Roman believers that they would find times when they could not ex- press themselves to God. In this hour the Holy Spirit would intercede for us “through wordless groans.” Obviously, our sin demands such intercession, for in our unholiness, there is a gap between us and God. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross bridges this gap.

But Scripture also establishes that we may pray for others, bringing them to God’s throne, in the same way that we confidently approach that throne ourselves. Paul asked expressly for prayers that he could not carry alone: “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me” (Romans 15:30).

To the Ephesians, he wrote, “Keep on praying for all God’s people.” And most specifically, we find the work of intercession in Paul’s letter to his beloved protégé, Timothy: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people.”

INTERCESSION IS LOVE PLAYED OUT IN PRAYER
To intercede at this time of year, take on these three practices:

– Be specific about names. You don’t buy gifts for “the world” or your “family.” You buy gifts for specific individuals. Pray in the same way, taking time to remember people one by one.

– Be specific about these people’s needs. Again, this is about attentive concern. Yes, God knows what these individual friends need. But there is great value in taking the time in prayer to express to God their specific needs, because this softens your heart for the hours you spend with these people; your conversations with them will carry the spirit of your conversations with God about them. Again, slow down and pray well, emphasizing spiritual needs—from salvation to mature holiness—as you pray for your individual family members, friends, and colleagues.

– Be specific about the needs of the season. We have spent time reviewing the evil that arises during the holidays, as well as considering the godly characteristics that we want to pray into place. Keep these in mind as you pray for others. For instance, you may pray, “Lord, my friend is facing her first year without her husband. This can be such a difficult, depressing time. Won’t you please touch her heart, filling her loneliness with a strong awareness of your great presence? Bring her joy in the midst of her mourning, and allow her to come out of this season praising you more than ever.”

A simple, effective practice you can implement is to print a calendar of the season and write the name of one family member or friend on each day of the calendar (of course, you may do the same thing in your mobile device or tablet). Each day, take that attentive, concerned time to pray for this friend.

Make it your most important gift to your friends this season. If you send personal Christmas cards, you may also add the note “praying for you this season,” which can provide the spark for a conversation the next time you meet.

In conclusion, we often lament the disappearance of Christmas from the commercial outlets in our local malls. But the spirit of Christ never resided in these “Christmas sales” or even “Christmas trees” as it was.

The spirit of Christ resides in those who are committed to him and who bear his name. By our prayers and our prayer-fueled living, we have opportunity to render this spirit in the three great traits of the season—joy, love, and peace. As words and as wishes they are little more than sentiments.

But in the people of Christ, they are the expressions of his life in us. Let us live that life as shining lights in this season and every season onward.

About The Author
Jeff Hopper is the editor of the Links Daily Devotional and COO of Links Players International. He played two years of college golf and still keeps up his game as long as the sun is shining.
November 19, 2018 Copyright 2018 Links Players International
The Links Daily Devotional appears Monday-Friday at www.linksplayers.com

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

Posted by: Rolf | July 10, 2018

Simply Amazing!

Phil Mickelson breaks rules again, this time at Greenbrier.

For a guy who claims he knows the rules of golf inside out and bends them whenever it is to his advantage Phil Mickelson broke the rules again.

Mickelson tamped down fescue grass with his foot in front of the seventh tee Sunday at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier in West Virginia. He then called a two-stroke penalty on himself for improving his line of play.

All I can say is Phil is a “fraud and perennial cheater and rule bender.”

He does not deserve to represent America at the 42nd Ryder Cup Matches which will be held in France September 28–30, 2018 at the Albatros Course of Le Golf National in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, a suburb southwest of Paris.

See you at the first tee…

Phil Mickelson incurs another weird, dumb penalty
Cheatin’ Phil Mickelson Becomes Self-Reporting Phil Mickelson After Stomping On A Tuft Of Grass

Posted by: Rolf | June 17, 2018

Mickelson’s actions were simply cheating

Let me first say that I have always felt Phil Mickelson to be a perennial “cheater, gambler and insider trader.”

He has always shown himself to be a true “rule bender” of the game of golf. After seeing what he did on Saturday, June 16, 2018 at the U.S. Open I have lost all respect for him.

His explanation for why he did what he did was ridiculous. He admitted he wanted to prevent his ball from running off of the green. So he ran after it and hit it back to the hole while it was still moving.

The game of golf has always been about integrity and the spirit of the game. His actions were a complete “disgrace” to the game of golf. There is no other way to look at what he did other than to just say it: “He cheated.”

He did not want to take his lumps on an extremely difficult golf course and decided he would make up the rules to best suit himself. He said he knew what he was doing. I guess that means he knew he was cheating but didn’t care — because he is lovable Phil and everyone will just overlook it.

There is a huge difference between using the rules to your advantage and taking advantage of the rules. The USGA officials were also spineless in not taking the correct action that was required, most likely again due to his popularity.

He should have been disqualified on the spot for disrespecting the game. Could you even imagine Arnold, Jack, Gary or Lee ever thinking about doing this? No, never. How he wasn’t disqualified is anyone’s guess.

The fact that he was not even sorry for his actions and defiant makes it even worse. In my book, Phil will now always be known “simply as a cheater.”

Mickelson should have been disqualified. When you distill his actions and his explanation down to their essence, this is what you get: “He knowingly violated the rules to save himself from a much higher score. If you don’t kick a guy out of the tournament for that, when do you do it?”

See you at the first tee…

https://www.si.com/golf/2018/06/16/phil-mickelson-putting-moving-ball-disqualify-shinnecock-us-open
https://theathletic.com/396085/2018/06/16/reilly-hey-phil-do-the-right-thing-and-dq-yourself-since-the-usga-wont/
http://www.golf.com/ap-news/mccarron-accuses-mickelson-cheating
https://www.golfdigest.com/story/us-open-2018-phil-mickelsons-actionsand-wordsat-shinnecock-will-be-his-cross-to-bear
https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2645060-pgas-silence-hypocrisy-on-phil-mickelsons-misdeeds-is-par-for-the-course
https://www.golfdigest.com/story/phils-insider-trading-escape
https://www.click2houston.com/sports/phil-mickelson-sparks-controversy-at-us-open
http://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/23815139/phil-mickelson-withdraw-us-open-bizarre-display-13th-hole-shinnecock-hills
https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/may/23/snyder-phil-mickelsons-insider-trading-revelations/

Posted by: Rolf | January 1, 2018

New Year Prayer

A Prayer to Keep God First This New Year
By Debbie McDaniel

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor. 5:17

Dear God,

Thank you that you make all things new. Thank you for all that you’ve allowed into our lives this past year, the good along with the hard things, which have reminded us how much we need you and rely on your presence filling us every single day.

We pray for your Spirit to lead us each step of this New Year. We ask that you will guide our decisions and turn our hearts to deeply desire you above all else. We ask that you will open doors needing to be opened and close the ones needing to be shut tight. We ask that you would help us release our grip on the things to which you’ve said “no,” “not yet,” or “wait.” We ask for help to pursue you first, above every dream and desire you’ve put within our hearts.

We ask for your wisdom, for your strength and power to be constantly present within us. We pray you would make us strong and courageous for the road ahead. Give us ability beyond what we feel able, let your gifts flow freely through us, so that you would be honored by our lives, and others would be drawn to you.

We pray that you’d keep us far from the snares and traps of temptations. That you would whisper in our ear when we need to run, and whisper in our heart when we need to stand our ground.

We pray for your protection over our families and friends. We ask for your hand to cover us and keep us distanced from the evil intent of the enemy; that you would be a barrier to surround us, that we’d be safe in your hands. We pray that you would give us discernment and insight beyond our years, to understand your will, hear your voice, and know your ways.

We ask that you would keep our footsteps firm, on solid ground, helping us to be consistent and faithful. Give us supernatural endurance to stay the course, not swerving to the right or to the left, or being too easily distracted by other things that would seek to call us away from a close walk with you.

Forgive us for the times we have worked so hard to be self-sufficient, forgetting our need for you, living independent of your spirit. Forgive us for letting fear and worry control our minds, and for allowing pride and selfishness wreak havoc over our lives. Forgive us for not following your ways and for living distant from your presence.

We confess our need for you…fresh…new…again. We ask that you make all things new, in our hearts, in our minds, in our lives, for this coming year. We pray for your refreshing over us.

Keep your words of truth planted firm within us, help us to keep focused on what is pure and right, give us the power to be obedient to your word. And when the enemy reminds us where we have been, hissing his lies and attacks our way, we trust that your voice speaks louder and stronger, as you remind us we are safe with you and your purposes and plans will not fail. We ask that you will be our defense and rear guard, keeping our way clear, removing the obstacles, and covering the pitfalls. Lord, lead us on your level ground.

We ask that you would provide for our needs, we ask for your grace and favor. We pray for your blessings to cover us, we pray that you would help us to prosper and make every plan that you have birthed in our heart to succeed. We pray that others would take notice of your goodness and could not help but to say, “These are the ones that the Lord has blessed.”

Help us to be known as great givers, help us to be generous and kind, help us to look to the needs of others and not be consumed by only our own. May we be lovers of truth, may the fruits of your spirit be evident in our lives – your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Shine your light in us, through us, over us. May we make a difference in this world, for your glory and purposes. Set you way before us. May all your plans succeed. We may reflect your peace and hope to a world that so desperately needs your presence and healing.

To you be glory and honor, in this New Year, and forever.

In Jesus’ name,
Amen.

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

Posted by: Rolf | December 24, 2017

Christmas Choices

You don’t have to celebrate Christmas. There is no command in the Bible to remember the time of Christ’s birth—not even a hint of it—nor is there any illustration of that happening in New Testament days.

As far as we can tell, the Apostles never had a Christmas meal together, or a special worship meeting on that day.

Yet, many churches will focus a significant part of their yearly calendar on emphasizing Christmas. Some will do so both before and after the holiday itself, dedicating weeks to it. And many people will think that Christmas is, of all times of the year, one of the most holy days in the life of believers.

A good number who profess faith in Christ will think that attending special Christmas meetings, along with the Easter service, is required of God above almost all other obligations in the church year.

Some of these become what is often called, “Christmas and Easter Christians,“ believing they have satisfied God at least on a rudimentary level because they attend to these special days. But neither Christmas nor Easter is a required celebration by God.

It might surprise you to hear me say that a pastor could preach a sermon on the resurrection of Christ at the annual Christmas Service, and likewise, a message on the birth of Christ at the yearly Easter meeting, and God would not be unhappy in the least.

For one thing, we likely don’t have the date of Christ’s birth on the right day. Many calculate his birth to be more in the September-October time frame, perhaps closer to the very end of September. Some project another date. Almost certainly, it wasn’t a time when snow was on the ground, as is depicted in so many nativity Christmas cards.

The most important question is not whether or not you have to celebrate Christmas, but may you do so. I say “yes.” In fact, we do ourselves. We don’t get upset with people who do not celebrate it for the obvious reasons.

Nor are we worried when people get too commercial in their Christmas gift giving. Greed is wrong any time, but if a person is not greedy, then giving and exchanging gifts is not sinful. In fact, it may do much good in healing broken relationships.

If we wish to think about the birth of Christ during the December season, as long as we don’t make it obligatory for everyone, or take people’s enjoyment away by acting spiritually superior, then that’s our business. God loves to be worshiped for His great acts, and the birth of Christ is among the few most important things God did for mankind. Worship him as you will and when you will. In fact, worship him in your actions and heart all the time.

What if you choose to exchange gifts with each other and do not say anything about Christ on Christmas Day. Have you sinned? No.

What if you wish to think about Jesus’ birth two days after the December 25th date? Are you out of sync with God? Not at all.

The choice is yours as to what you will or will not do this Christmas.

But in all things you do, live as a believer should. Be grateful, kind, interested in others more than yourself, serving, generous, forgiving, and always mindful of what God through Christ has done for sinful people like you. In this way you please God most.

 

Holidays: Do You Really Enjoy Them?
An Empty Chair at Christmas
O Come, Let Us Ignore Him
A Clash of Kings

In His Grip and Serving Grace…

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