The Party’s Over – What Now?

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Christmas 2019 is history.  My decorations are all back in the boxes and the boxes are all in the storage area in the basement where they will sit until next December.  Here and there I see a few houses with Christmas lights still up but most of my neighbors have removed all the reindeer, snowmen and nativity sets from their yards.

Gifts have been given.  Some were, no doubt, a big hit.  Others may have been a disappointment.  Store clerks have been busy at the return counters.

Children are counting down the days until they have to return to school while many are heading back to work after a few vacation days.

Here and there I hear comments about the letdown after Christmas.  It is understandable that after all the shopping, decorating, baking, parties and family gatherings, going back to the “normal” routine of life can be a bit of a anticlimax.

But I have to wonder:  If we really understood the true meaning of what we just celebrated – that God Himself came to earth to make things right with us – to restore a right relationship with Him – to bring us His peace – why would we experience such a letdown.

Did we not really “get it?”  The real meaning of Christmas has nothing to do with the decorations, the gifts, the parties, the family gatherings.  It has everything to do with our relationship with this little baby that grew to a man, died and rose again.

Having just celebrated that fact – should not our hearts be filled with joy?

Perhaps the problem is we hear a lot about keeping Christ in Christmas.  What we really need to do is keep Christmas in Christ.  Christmas is only a date on the calendar.  Christ is our source of joy year long.

 

 

When a Flood Comes

Feeling overwhelmed?  Stressed out?  Facing a flood of sorrow, pain, economic problems?

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We all have those times in life.  Times when we may even question if God cares.  If God even exists.

When we are struggling through a difficult time we do not need a “Pollyanna” quoting scripture or telling us “it will be alright.”

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While I certainly do not want to be guilty of that, I have been thinking of some of my friends who are currently going through tough times.  Remembering tough times that I have experienced.

Natural floods are terrible events, destroying homes, lives, communities.  For anyone who has been through such an event, I cannot begin to imagine how you must feel.  But in reading about floods, I have discovered that not everything about a flood is destructive.  There are good things that come from a flood.

Wetlands provide nutrient-rich sediments that give support to plant and animal life.  These wetlands, in return, affect air quality for humans and support healthy fisheries.

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Floods also deposit river sediments and these sediments replenish nutrients in topsoil.  These distribution of river sediments make farmland more fertile.  Think of the ancient civilizations that flourish along the floodplains of the Nile, the Tigris and the Yellow rivers.

Flood waters also absorb into the ground and recharge underground aquifers.  This brings fresh water to natural springs, wells, rivers and lakes.  Many populations depend upon ground water and this replenishes these sources of fresh water.

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As in the natural world, so in the spiritual.  Tough times are – well – tough.  No one would choose to go through those floods.  But when they come – and they do – it helps to know there are also blessings to be gained if we will remain steadfast in our faith in the Lord.

In my tough times I have found one of the best, if not the best, antidote to despair, depression, or giving up is the Word of God.

W. Phillip Keller said it best:

“For all of us there are bound to be formidable “floods” in the stream of life.  Just as Joshua and Israel faced a raging river that overflowed its banks and inundated its flood plain, so will we.  God does not try to hold us back from the          rampaging currents of life.  He does not ask us to retreat or withdraw from that threat which would seem to engulf us.  He does not urge us to try and find some way around the apparently impossible barriers before us.  Rather He asks us to believe quietly that:

* It is He who brought us here.

* It is He who will keep and preserve us here.

* It is He who will take us on from here.

This is faith in action.  This is the private, positive response of the person whose confidence reposes in Christ.”

I love this portion of scripture in 1 Corinthians.  If you are struggling right now, I hope it will encourage you.

“And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this spiritual adventure, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that.”

 

 

Between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday – Sad, Somber Saturday!

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First, the cross

We talk a lot about the cross and how terrible the death of Jesus was.  The story of Peter’s denial of Jesus and the rest of the disciples fleeing from the garden where he was arrested are familiar to us.  It is good that we take time to reflect on the agony, the pain, the shame that Jesus suffered for us on that Friday.

The Resurrection

Then we jump to Sunday morning and the wonderful fact of the resurrection!  The surprise, the doubt, the joy as they realized that Jesus was alive.  Again, it is good that we celebrate this tremendous event, this foundation stone of our faith.

But, what was that Saturday like?

Have you ever wondered what that Saturday was like for the followers of Jesus as they hid behind locked doors?  After the shock, the horror of his death, can you imagine the range of emotions they felt on Saturday?  Sad, somber Saturday!

Of course, there was the sorrow they experienced at the loss of their friend.  I cannot really begin to understand the pain his mother must have felt as she reflected on the suffering he had experienced.  Perhaps she could not even sleep, or fell asleep only to wake up from a nightmare seeing him once again being viciously beaten.

There must have been great confusion.  Questions as they remembered all the miracles he performed, all the parables he had told.  Wondering how he could have come to this end.  Had he not made tremendous promises?  Had he not proclaimed that he was the only way to God?  Had he not even raised a dead man after four days in the tomb?

There must have been great disappointment.  What were they to do now?  They had left their homes, their employment to follow him.  They had been so excited about the kingdom he would set up, even arguing over who would sit on his left and his right hand in that kingdom.

There must have been great fear.  Would the Romans come after them now?  How could they get out of Jerusalem and back to their villages and their old life safely?

Had they really heard Him?

We have the advantage of looking back on history, on knowing how the story turned out.  So it is easy for us to say, “Did they not really hear him?”  After all he had told them that he would be killed and would rise again on the third day.  Did any of them think about that and wonder if it could be true?

We have our Saturdays too

But before we berate them for not really hearing Jesus, not really understanding, not really believing what he said about his death and coming back to life, are we any different today?

When our Fridays of suffering and difficulty come and we face a sad, somber Saturday dealing with the problems we face, do we forget his promises?  He said he would never leave us.  He said we would have tribulation in this world, but to be of good cheer because in him we could overcome.  He said he gave us his peace, not the peace of the world, but that peace that comes from knowing who is in control.

Today, before I rejoice at the resurrection, I ask God to help me in my times of sorrow, confusion, disappointment and fear.  I ask him to remind me that Fridays come and we have sad, somber Saturdays dealing with the problems of Friday, but for the child of God, Sunday is always on the way!