I genuinely hope you’ve been able to enjoy a little quiet time over Christmas and that this post finds you positive in spirit and ready to usher in a new year in ministry together. As we recently prepared for this particularly unusual Christmas season at North Coast, we looked at, studied and considered Advent. As our senior pastor, Chris shared, “Advent is the anticipation of the coming of something special…about those moments, places and times where something is about to happen that our hearts and minds are invested in.” To bring us back to the hope, love, joy and peace that the Christ Child brought that first Christmas and continues to bring to millions today.
And yet, I can’t help ask the question, how are you really doing in these times? Because I recognize that a lot continues to be thrown at us these days. More things that we’ve simply never had to deal with before. Things that, if we’re not careful, can allow the enemy get the upper hand in. I mean, let’s just look at the season of Christmas itself. Does it sometimes seem like once we’ve reached December 26, it’s basically over? Festive lights and other decorations begin to come down; trees we painstakingly selected, cared for and celebrated with are tossed to the curb, gifts are returned or exchanged or quickly absorbed into the routines of our daily lives and we begin to lose the anticipation and wonder we so recently felt? Our commercial outlets have slashed prices on anything and everything Christmas related and are already spurring us on to invest in the next holiday. It’s enough to turn even the most hopeful hearts a little sour. So, how can we help one another to continue to remain in the hope, love, joy and peace that Christ brings to Christmas?
One piece of scripture that continues to inspire me is Hebrews 10, especially verses 19-25, where the writer (Paul, Barnabas, Luke or Apollos?) encourages us to take refuge in the reason Jesus ultimately came down from Heaven to dwell in our midst.
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We don’t have to be overcome by the temptation to relapse to some of our old habits and beliefs but can instead draw ever nearer to our God and all of His promises. But doing so is so much more effective when we do so together. Spurring one another on and continuing to meet together how and when we can will indeed help. Together, we can continue to have and build relationship with our God through the shed blood of Jesus and from the perspective of our salvation.
Most of us intuitively recognize that a simple turn of the calendar to a new year won’t make things “all better” nor will it necessarily keep us from experiencing pain, suffering or continuing challenges in this world. We’re going to face rough roads and likely even tougher decisions ahead. And yet, the New Year brings with it a new hope, at least in our current circumstances. A sense that things are slowly but progressively turning to corner toward getting better as several vaccines have been developed and approved and people are beginning to receive them. That perhaps the end of our present danger and the challenges that accompany it are in sight and we may soon(er than later) be able to get back to some sense of “normal.”
We can and should continue to develop positive perspectives; the continuing and growing sense of Hope, Love, Joy and Peace in all circumstances through and in Christ Jesus. Sometime we just need a little reminding and a little help from one another. And so it is that I offer “another tool for your toolbox.”
Another friend recently shared with me a blog I will repost in this edition of our e-newsletter.
It’s entitled, “Sometimes I Wake Up Grumpy,” written by fellow blogger, Lori Hatcher and from her site, Hungry for God, Starving for Time.
In her writing and teachings, Lori often begins with the premise of wondering what it might be like if we were able to speak face-to-face with God which she muses as a FaceTime-Like conversation.
As I now share her recent post, I do so wishing you all of God’s richest blessings in 2021; that you may tangibly sense His presence and guidance as you navigate this most recent “new normal” and that we continue to engage in ministry together in ways that bring Him Glory.
Right here with you,
Sometimes, I Wake Up Grumpy
By Lori Hatcher
FaceTime: God, sometimes I’m not very pleasant to be around. How can I change my mood?
…ever heard the saying, Sometimes I wake up grumpy, and sometimes I let him sleep?
Sometimes I’m the one who wakes up grumpy.
Perhaps I didn’t get enough sleep the night before, or a child awakened me several times. Maybe the eggplant parmigiana I ate for supper did summersaults in my stomach, disturbing my rest and souring my disposition. Or I might be dwelling on a hurt or offense from the day before, allowing it to fester in my subconscious all night. Maybe there’s no good reason for why I wake up out of sorts and cranky.
What’s one to do when (s)he wakes up grumpy? Here are a few suggestions:
- Choose to be “swift to hear and slow to speak” (James 1:19).When I’m grouchy, I tend to give my mouth cart blanche (complete freedom) to say whatever comes to mind. Usually it’s complaining or critical. It’s also typically directed at those closest to me. As soon as I recognize the stirrings of grumpiness, I ask the Lord to “set a watch about my mouth” (Psalm 141:3).
- Put on praise music.
Although praise music seldom changes my circumstances, it helps direct my thoughts to God and his goodness. Once I get my eyes off myself and focused on God, my mood often does a 180. It’s hard to be grumpy when I’m singing about God’s love for me.
- Take every thought captive.
Second Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” When I capture my thoughts and compare them to the truth of God’s Word, I often find they are false, deceptive, or destructive.Evaluating them in light of God’s Word helps me discard them and exchange their damaging power for God’s promises. If my thoughts tell me There’s no use praying about that situation; it’s hopeless, taking this thought captive and comparing it to the truth of scripture tells me, “Nothing is too hard for God” (Jeremiah 32:17). I correct my wrong thinking and fill myself with hope instead of despair.
- Adopt an attitude of gratitude.
On particularly bad days, or when circumstances seem overwhelming, I may feel that my thankful list is very short. Sometimes I’m so discouraged it seems there’s nothing good happening in my life. It’s during these times that my thankful list begins with intangibles. Lord, thank you for my salvation. Thank you for the Comforter, your Holy Spirit, who lives inside me. Thank you that Romans 8:28 is not a typo, but that you will work all things out for good in my life. . .”When I intentionally thank God for the good gifts in my life, it’s almost impossible to maintain my sour disposition. Often I speak my thanksgiving aloud. Hearing the long list of good gifts God has given me is often just what I need to restore my joy.
- Remember that this world is not all there is.
Some days the world is so yucky that it’s hard to see past it. The apostle Paul, imprisoned, lonely, and spent for the gospel, penned these words: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). Our time on earth is a vapor compared to the future that awaits us in eternity.
When you wake up grumpy, what do you do to turn things around? I’d love for you to weigh in with your response. If you’re reading via the internet, click here to leave a comment.