I recently celebrated my birthday. My family signed up with me to do the Savage Race, a 6 mile course over uneven terrain with 26 obstacles. Yes, we paid to do this. This race is no joke. It was harder than we thought, messier than we liked, and took longer than we planned.
I was telling some friends about it afterward and one said, “This sounds like your life—a Savage Race.” We laughed, but when I thought about it, I started to think she was not far off. My life has been harder than I hoped , it has been far far messier than I would have liked, and the obstacles have taken me longer to get through than I planned. Partly because I didn’t plan most of the obstacles I have encountered in my life. They just happened, and I had to decide how I was going to deal with them.
I thought when I signed up that the name “Savage Race” was a description of the race. But now I believe it is a description of who is running the race. A synonym for savage is fierce.
We need to be fierce to finish. I don’t believe we are to be brutal, cruel, or hard-hearted, but we do have to be fierce.
We have to look at the obstacles this life throws at us and say, I don’t know why this is here, or how I’m going to get past it, but I do know this—it will not defeat me or define me. We must have a fierceness in how we look at the things the enemy uses to destroy us.
Because as much as the enemy means to harm us, God means good for us.
And I am putting my faith in God’s ability to use whatever this obstacle is for my good more than I am the in enemy’s ability to harm me.
At one point in the race, I was swinging 10 feet above a muddy pool of water hanging from monkey bars wondering how I got there and how I was going to get down. Somehow I made it the rest of the way across without falling. All of a sudden I had done something I didn’t know I was capable of—an obstacle with the potential to stop me instead revealed something about me I didn’t know.
There were other obstacles I tried and failed. I fell. But even in the falling, I knew I had tried. I knew I had attempted something rather than being defeated by the idea of it.
Life throws us things we didn’t anticipate or prepare for, and we aren’t given a step-by-step guide on how to get through them.
But we have The Guide. The Teacher.
And when we fall down, because we will, we have The Comforter. And in these moments of falling or flying, we will find out things about ourselves we would never have known. If we invite Jesus into our process, into our daily life, into our obstacles then we will stop letting fear tell us what we can and cannot do.
We will learn to stop letting the fear of failure and pain keep us from loving and daring and hoping. We will find our hearts, and we will come fully alive. Because that is what this race is really all about.
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV)
Jesus, show me the fierceness You have placed in me to be an overcomer. Show Me what You want to do in me and through me with the obstacles that lie before me — the ones I know about and the ones yet to come. Replace dread and fear and fill me with a sense of excitement and anticipation for the adventure that lies ahead of me with You. You are good. You are faithful. I trust my life and my future to You.
Author: Brooke Kireta
God watched over the generational line of the great King David, and He divinely chose Joseph, the humble Jewish carpenter to be the earthly father of Jesus. This loving righteous man, who was engaged to Mary, was the fulfillment of a promise made to King David, that the Messiah would come from his generational line. God’s trust in Joseph to faithfully fulfill the role of a father-teacher-provider-protector of Jesus speaks volumes to his character and integrity.
Joseph is one of the understated heroes of the Christmas story. As a wife and a mother, my heart is endeared by his quiet steadfast strength and compassion. He is the kind of man any mother would want her daughter to marry.
This humble man gives us a beautiful picture of unselfish love. It’s intriguing to me that not one of Joseph’s spoken words was ever penned on the pages of scripture. He is a low-key hero whose actions expressed the descriptive love language of his heart. Sometimes, words are unneeded, and as the old clique says “actions speak louder than words,” certainly rings true here.
Joseph knew grace before the child of grace was ever born. When his betrothed bride Mary, who by cultural norms was already considered his wife, was found pregnant, seemingly with the seed of another man, Joseph chooses the path of compassion. He decides to quietly divorce Mary, sparing her public humiliation.
Even in the hurt and confusion of this perceived betrayal, love motivates him to protect her—to preserve her in a culture that publically exposed and stoned women who were found unfaithful. A heart of mercy always quells judgement. And, Joseph shows himself as a man of mercy.
However, when the angel of the Lord comes to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-22), Joseph humbly surrenders to a different plan—a different picture.
He chooses to believe the unbelievable and to live in the mystery of God. He stakes his reputation and the risk of ridicule on God’s prophetic words. He accepts the weighty responsibility of raising Jesus as his own son, which exhibits his generosity of soul.
Ironically, the child Joseph chooses to love and raise as his own, will save him and all of mankind. Accepting the mysteries of God often ushers in the miracles of God’s plans…
Friends, Joseph’s responses offer a real challenge as we ponder our own lives. We might consider these questions: When we perceive we are wronged, do we respond with judgement or mercy? Will we follow God even if it costs us our reputation? Are we willing to live in the tension of the unknown mysteries of God? Lastly, do we cultivate generosity in our souls?
Scripture of the Day:
…Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus-‘God save’-because he will save his people from the sins… ( Matthew 1:20-22, The Message)
Father God, You always had a plan of redemption for mankind. Thank
You for Jesus—our Immanuel. May we learn from the honest account of Joseph’s struggle and willingness to accept Your plans for his life. He teaches us how to respond to the mysterious yet amazing plans You have for our own lives. Help us to surrender to Your will. Amen.
Author: Maryanne Abbate
A long time ago on a starry night, love was born. The Father who IS love, sent in love Jesus to demonstrate love to all mankind.
The God, who is not far off, stood in anticipation as the plan that He had set from the beginning of time was enacted. The enemy thought he had won. Humankind’s intimacy and relationship with the Father had been badly damaged in the fall. Mankind’s soul was aimless, not able to be what it had been created to be. The soul cannot have worth outside of the Father because we were made by God and for God. “In him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a, NIV, emphasis added).
The divide between man and the Father was vast because of sin, but this gentle Father didn’t want Heaven without us.
Mankind was lost, searching but never finding.
In disbelief, the enemy watched as the Father sent the Son as a helpless baby, and the news spread across all mankind, from the least to the greatest. He came as love for all who would seek Him.
He came for those who find themselves in the lowest places.
For the weak, he came as a vulnerable and dependent child born to poor parents.
For the misfits, lonely and scorned, He was announced first to the shepherds who were social outcasts as well as religious outsiders. They were ceremonially unclean and therefore could not participate in the religious activities of the day. It doesn’t take a lot to imagine that given their lot in life, their family lives weren’t so great, and they had deeply broken hearts.
For the poor and the downtrodden, this God of Heaven and earth decided that not only would a palace fit for an earthly king not convey his heart, but a simple, impersonal inn or a modest home would not be low enough. He went to the deepest depths and was born in a stable, so we would understand that there is not one person too low for Him. His love reached underneath the lowest place to catch up the lowest person in His love.
But He didn’t stop there.
He didn’t forget about those set high on the social ladder because His love reaches that high. It reaches higher than the wealthiest and the wisest among us.
The wisemen came bearing expensive gifts. They had wise minds, and using that wisdom, they found Jesus by following a bright star and subsequently saw His worth as greater than their wealth and status, even risking their lives to find this child who was and is God’s love manifest.
He was not after the poor. He was not after the rich. He was not after the simple. He was not after the wise. He was after ALL. WE are who He came for.
If you are lonely, His love is for you.
If you are depressed, His love is for you.
If you are grieving, His love is for you.
If you are stressed, His love is for you.
If you are poor, His love is for you.
If you are surrounded by people, His love is for you.
If you are happy, His love is for you.
If you are excited, His love is for you.
If you are at rest, His love is for you.
If you are rich, His love is for you.
His love is for you.
There is not a place where You can be where He is not wanting to show you His love. Only those who resist and reject Him will not know it, and even then, He so wants to show His love that He stands with His arms wide open. “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV, emphasis added).
Word of the Day: For God so love the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16, NIV)
Prayer: Father, Thank You that You love me. Help me to see and know Your love for me more deeply. During this Christmas season, help me to remember that love truly is what this season is about—Your love for mankind. I give my problems, fears, worries and even my celebrations to You. Show me Your heart for me and for those around me. I love You and thank You for Your love for me.
Author: Wendy Gerdes
I love manger scenes of all kinds and find myself regularly stopping and staring at them wondering what that experience must have been like. What was Mary thinking? Joseph? What about those shepherds who were tending their sheep like every other night of their lives when their world was turned upside down by a choir of angels announcing that the Messiah, God with us, had come?
The one night when heaven touched earth and turned history on its head. The night that God staged a rescue in the most unremarkable, remarkable way. The most demonstrative action of love ever performed began in the heart of God a long time before, but this was the night that the plan began to unfold. I wonder if Heaven stood in anticipation holding its breath the night that the birth took place?
All knowing, esteemed, and exalted Jesus now a helpless baby who couldn’t walk, talk, or even roll over on His own. This Son of God who was part of creating the world and all that is in it, couldn’t even lift His head. What must have it been like to watch the esteemed Son make a quiet entrance into the broken world of mankind as a helpless baby?
This was a covert operation to bring hearts back to Him. His love demonstrated, mankind’s heart turned towards Him, and the second Adam enabling man to live differently. The ability to live according to God’s Kingdom now—all because of this little baby. This God/man miracle would make a way for broken hearts to be mended, sinful hearts to be forgiven, depressed hearts to be filled with joy, hopeless hearts to be filled with hope, and relationship with God to be restored. Some would miss Him—many would miss Him in fact.
Some were standing on a promise that had already been answered. They were still waiting in hope not realizing that Hope had come. Without the full picture, a baby seems to be a sad answer to the world’s problems. A baby is not a warrior. A baby can’t free anything, much less a captive world. This was not what they were hoping for, but some saw.
Some saw that God had a bigger plan that was unfolding. They understood that what they were seeing was a plan enacted by the God who created the universe; thus it must be good, grand, perfect, and show-stoppingly amazing. A plan by God can’t be anything other than that. Hope in this baby took a lot of faith. Knowing the whole story, it’s easier to see—although many still cannot see.
It takes a great deal of trust to hope when we cannot see. If we are hoping in our circumstances, we will lose hope if things don’t turn out like we think they should. If our hope is in Him—that He knows, is moving, and holds our lives— we will not be shaken. He is writing our stories and they are woven within the fabric of the larger picture of what He is doing. When we try to make our stories about us, we will always come up empty handed, but when we offer our lives up as part of the larger story He is writing, He will make sense of hopeless situation. We may not be able to see it now, but we can have hope in the God who writes grand stories. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed.
In that little baby, born on a starry night, was all the hope the world would need. It is all the hope that WE will ever need. His Kingdom come, His will be done…
For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed. (Romans 10:11, NAS)
Father, Help me to trust You. I know that You are writing My story, and even though I can’t always see what is going on, You know. I trust You, and I will allow You to be the writer of my story, the designer of my life, and the One who I put all of my hope in. Help me to see as You do, but even when I can’t, help me to trust Your intentions toward me, and Your grand plan for my life. I choose to hope in You.
Author: Wendy Gerdes
Ah, the holidays… For some, the holidays incite a feeling of dread due to family get-togethers that aren't full of peace, but conflict. The elephant in the room sort of experience.
For some, the holidays bring sheer bliss:Decorating, holiday tunes, cooking up special treats, shopping for friends and family, family traditions—all have the ability to transform the mundane into sparkling, magical moments of delight.
Others may experience an onslaught of painful memories of lost loved ones, and once treasured traditions are hijacked by grief. Maybe some are just profoundly aware of the deep loneliness in their souls. Perhaps there is no family or friends with whom to share the joy of the season.
There are many swirling, whirling emotions in the atmosphere. One thing we can remember in this season is that everyone we encounter has a story. We cannot afford to judge others for the brief moment we are sharing space. We need to have grace for one another. Be aware that the stressed out mom behind you in line at the grocery store is trying to manage a load of relatives that are coming from out of town, and she has a house to clean, cooking to do, and her small children aren't cooperating. Be aware that the man that is taking his anger out on the photo lab worker for messing up his order might have just lost a wife and those were pictures of her that he was waiting on.
Be aware of others around you. Look into people's eyes and see them. The Holy Spirit in you wants to show you things: He wants to show you the person nearby that needs a word of encouragement; the person that needs a hug; the person that needs help; the person that needs prayers for peace.
Everywhere we go, we have the ability to release the blessings of the Kingdom. Peace. Joy. Hope. Love. Likewise, everywhere we go, we have the ability to come under some of the swirling emotions that others are releasing. Hopelessness. Anxiety. Anger. Doubt.
Have you ever been in a place where an extremely frustrated individual was being very vocal about his frustration waiting in a long checkout line at a store, and you start to agree with him? You start feeling that same aggravation and irritability? Ever tried staying calm when there are anxious, frightened, or quarreling people all around you? Ever been in a terrible mood and walk into a room of happy, positive people and instantly feel better?
We have to be aware of the atmosphere we are creating and that we are coming under. We have Holy Spirit inside of us to help us navigate this world. He wants to help us overcome the negative atmospheres we encounter in our daily lives. He reminds us that our fight isn't against people, but spiritual powers. I think of them as hijackers. They hijack our atmosphere and bring chaos. They hijack our peace and bring anxiety. They hijack our joy and bring depression.
I don't know about you, but I'm extremely sick and tired of these hijackers. I want to remember who God is, and who I am, so that I can overcome them and release the Kingdom. It's possible. That's the miracle of the gospel. Jesus made it possible for us to overcome these spiritual forces. To not only live in a place of peace, hope, and joy, but to spread it around.
This season, be aware. Be aware of your surroundings.
Are you seeing peace? Joy? Hope?
Or are you seeing the opposite?
If you see the opposite, know that you have a POWERFUL God inside you who equips you to pray against the negativity. To speak to the storm and say, peace, be still.
To end my letter I tell you, be strong in the Lord and in his great power. Wear the full armor of God. Wear God’s armor so that you can fight against the devil’s clever tricks. Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness (emphasis added). We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places. That is why you need to get God’s full armor. Then on the day of evil, you will be able to stand strong. And when you have finished the whole fight, you will still be standing. So stand strong with the belt of truth tied around your waist, and on your chest wear the protection of right living. On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows that come from the Evil One. Accept God’s salvation as your helmet. And take the sword of the Spirit—that sword is the teaching of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times. Pray with all kinds of prayers, and ask for everything you need. To do this you must always be ready. Never give up. Always pray for all of God’s people. (Ephesians 6:10-18, ERV)
Word of the Day:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
Holy Spirit, remind us who we are in You. Remind us our struggle is not against people. Remind us to speak life, hope, and love to those around us. Help us look into the eyes of the people around us and see what You see. Help us to respond like You would respond. Fill us with fresh wonder at the gospel message— fresh wonder at the reason for the season. Thank You, Jesus!
Author: Kerri Barfield