Category Archives: Advent/Christmas

The Power of Relationship

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” Proverbs 17:17 (KJV)

Many of you have asked “the source” of inspiration for the weekly WordBytes.  Interestingly, many come as a result of simply observing life and the things that God calls to my attention.  This week I received an unexpected thank you card from a young lady whom I have the privilege of mentoring.  The thank you note was “unexpected” in that I consider my time with her more beneficial to me as I observe her daunting resiliency to life’s interruptions.  She signed her name to the card with the addition of this week’s scripture, Proverbs 17:17.  Voile!  This week’s WordBytes—“The Power of Relationship.”

God has built us for relationship.  During Creation, the LORD God observed, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” (Gen. 2:18, RSV) Therein enters Eve; man in relationship with woman.

The Garden of Eden was the meeting place for God and His creation, Adam and Eve. There they walked and talked with one another.  Imagine the conversations they must have had; man in relationship with the Creator of the Universe. Then sin entered the scene.  Their relationship was broken. Adam and his wife were expelled from the Garden. Their relationship became strained.

In relationship we experience true joy that enables us to manage both painful and difficult situations.  In relationship, we find not only a “friendly ear” but also the resources we need to pull us out of our “personal ditches.”  We find the confidence we need to “trust our heart.”  In relationship, we experience the courage to “overcome our fears.”   Solomon captures the power of relationship in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

As we prepare for the holidays, let us reflect on the power of relationship.  Many of us minimize the importance of relationship in our lives.  It is in meaningful relationship that we can experience true joy.  Seek out those who need support and encouragement to live in these difficult times.  Extend your love and kindness to those who may be laboring under extreme emotional strain.  Lend financial support to those who may just need “a break”.  Relationships, whether they are family or friends, are the best investment of your time, talent, and resources.  If your relationship with a friend or family is broken or strained, let the holidays be your excuse to reconcile.  Get back into relationship!

SELAH:  Ask Jesus to show you those relationships He wants you to establish (or re-establish) this holiday season.

The Great Access: Practicing the Presence of God

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” Psalm 139:7 (NKJ)

“For through Him (Jesus) we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.” Ephesians 2:18

With the explosion of social media, one of the greatest assistances has been the development of technology that facilitates networking and contact with people who, under normal circumstances, would be inaccessible.   Facebook and LinkedIn, for example, have made it possible for individuals to make connections with people anywhere in the world who might assist individuals with their personal and business aspirations.  These are the benefits of the technology age.  However, one of the most phenomenal opportunities is not the result of the technology age we live in but the “grace age” Jesus provided believers via “supernatural entrée” to the Creator of the Universe.  This access can be realized through practicing the presence of God.

God is “everywhere present” (Ps. 139ff) and we live our life daily “in His presence.”  Although sin once separated us from God, our position in Christ (Rom. 5:1-2) re-established our direct access to Him. This access does not require that we travel to the temple in Jerusalem as was once the tradition of the Jews prior to Christ’s first advent (Deut. 16:16) nor can entrée to God only be found in the modern church sanctuary.  We live continually in the presence of God with potential for ongoing fellowship with Him anywhere and anytime.

Fellowshipping reminds us that God is “relational” (versus religion) and desires time with His children—those whom He loves and sent His Son to die for (John 3:16).   These are the blessings of those in Christ, which even the angels in heaven covet (1 Pet. 1:11-12).  Believers have the extraordinary opportunity to spend time with God not “doing”—presenting petitions or offering prayers of intersession but simply “being” with Him.   Practicing the presence of God is the intentional discipline whereby we pause during the busyness of our life and abide with God.

What exactly is meant by the phrase, “practicing the presence of God”?  In pursuit of an answer to that question, I found the best definitions from two renowned practitioners of this spiritual habit.  Following are their responses for your consideration.

“…to acknowledge the Presence of God who is really there is actually a form of prayer, a way of praying always as the Scriptures exhort us to do.  When we do this, the eyes and ears of our hearts are open to receive the word He is always speaking.  We enter into a path of obedience perhaps unknown to us before where we joyfully acknowledge, ‘Jesus is Lord.’

Leanne Payne, The Healing Presence

“…continual conversation with Him, with freedom and in simplicity.  That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him every moment, that we may beg His assistance for knowing His will in things doubtful, and for rightly performing those which we plainly see He requires of us, offering them to Him before we do them, and giving Him thanks when we have done.”

Brother Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God

Practicing the presence of God is built on several foundational truths about God and His relationship with believers.

  • God lives within us. “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16.  Before returning to His Father, Jesus promised to send “another Comforter” that would abide with them forever (John 14:16).  That Comforter was the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity.  He guides believers in all truth—truth that He hears from the Father (John 16:13).
  • God desires to communicate with us.  “Then God went up from him in the place where He talked with him.” Genesis 35:13.  God is not some distant deity disinterested in His children’s daily affairs.  We cry “Abba Father” (Gal. 4:6) knowing He hears our every word; in response we are to listen intently as He directs us:  “this is the way walk in it” (Isa. 30:21).  Communication between the Father and His children result in unity of thought and agreement in purpose.
  • God wishes to be in relationship with us. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8a.  It has always been God’s desire to be in unbroken fellowship with man.  By instituting His plan of salvation, He created the means by which that which was lost in the Garden of Eden could be restored.  Now reconciled to God (Col. 1:20-21), man is once again free to fellowship with his Creator.

Jesus Christ was the greatest practitioner of living in the presence of God.  Throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus synchronized His every move based on what He heard from His Father (John 5:30).  Living in continual communion with God, Jesus modeled the power of practicing the presence.

With these definitions and truths in hand, the spiritual reality of practicing the presence of God releases His fullness into the believer’s life.  There is peace, joy and love in abundance.   In unhindered communion with God, believers are able to live life more victoriously.

As Advent 2016 closes and 2017 begins be intentional in practicing the presence of God.  Live moment to moment in awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence.  Awareness of God’s presence means that in our heart, we proclaim Christ is Lord.  In Him “we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28).   Acknowledgement of God’s presence means that we live our life attentively listening to His voice.  We live in unbroken communication with Him—“He in us and we in Him” (John 17:23).

Good to the Last Byte…

Want to learn more about practicing the presence of God?  Kevin Martinez of Christian Living and More offers six (6) ways to practice the presence of God throughout your day.  Click here to begin.

Make Straight the Path

The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make His paths straight.’    Mark 1:3 (KJV)

My husband and I often argue over the accuracy and value of GPS systems.  It seems as though sometimes it takes you the longest and most convoluted way.  Such was the case this weekend as I attempted to attend a Christmas pagan at a church I was not familiar with. “Turn right, go left, make a U-turn at the corner” were the only instructions I received.  Upon arriving, I found that there was a straight path that I could have taken—and it was printed on the back of my ticket.   John the Baptist made paths straight in preparation for Jesus Christ’s first advent.  Believers can do the same, as we acknowledge Jesus’ presence today while anticipating His imminent return in the future.

The Apostle Mark, through the leading of the Holy Spirit, cites two quotations from the Old Testament prophets, Isaiah and Malachi, to describe the preparation for the arrival of Messiah:

The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.  (Is. 40:3)

Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts.  (Mal. 3:1)

The words messenger and voice refer to John the Baptist, the prophet God sent to prepare the way for His Son (Matt. 3; Luke 311-18; John 1:19-34). In ancient times, before a king visited any part of his realm, a messenger was sent before him to prepare the way. Making His paths straight was a familiar term that often included both repairing the roads and preparing the people.   By calling the nation to repentance, John the Baptist prepared the way for the Lord Jesus Christ and His ministry.

God has since the creation of the world been in the process of establishing a pathway to Himself—a path which includes provision for redemption and restoration for His fallen creation—both mankind and the physical earth (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 8:21-23).  All who acknowledge their sins and trust in Him will be saved.  The basis of that hope is the sovereignty and majesty of God (Is. 40:10; Ps. 93:1-2).

Advent 2016 can be an enormous opportunity to make “paths straight” by heralding the “supernatural” nature of Christ’s entry into the history of mankind.

Jesus has come.  During His first Advent, Jesus brought peace to all “who were once far off” (Ep. 2: 13) and estranged from God.  God manifested Himself in Christ Jesus to save us from the sentence of death, created by our sinful state.  We are now are reunited and reconciled to God—no longer destined to suffer God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18).

Jesus is still coming.  Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to reveal Himself (John 16:13).  The Holy Spirit is the present manifestation of Christ in our lives.  He teaches and directs us in all that we do.  He empowers us (Eph. 2:19) to do the work of Christ in the church today.

Jesus will come.  Much is written in the gospel accounts about Christ Second Advent (Matt. 24:44; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:28).   Jesus’ return will be a time of judgment:  to punish those who failed to accept the good news of the Gospel and to reward believers for their works of righteousness (Rev. 20:12).  We don’t know when Christ will return but we can be assured, He will come.

Finally, believers can make “paths straight” for the way of our Lord by having the courage to walk in the light of the salvation in which Christ has set us free (Col. 2:6-7).  No longer living for ourselves nor bound by sin, we can live out the purpose that God has established for our lives (1 Pet. 2:24).  It is our identity with Christ—in His death, burial, and resurrection—that conforms us to His image and transform our lives so that we are effective witnesses and “path makers”.      

Prayer:  Let us rise and meet our Creator. Let us raise our hands and voices in acknowledgment that God’s Holy Spirit moves among us, calling us to new life in Christ. Let us raise our eyes, knowing that this new life of stewardship for all God’s creation is seen in the life of Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

Forget Not

Tomorrow will usher in a new year for each of us. With the New Year, we will exert new effort and commitment to those things which we feel will make us “healthy, wealthy, and wise.” Many of us will closeout 2014 singing “Auld Lang Syne” in remembrance of great times we have experienced this past year. As we do so, let us give special celebratory attention to the One who is the “Chief Architect” of our life—“the Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). David, the author of the 103rd Psalm, reminds us to “forget not” all the benefits of the Lord.

The 103rd Psalm is a general praise psalm written to magnify the name of God and boast of His greatness. In this psalm, readers are told to “forget not” the extraordinary benefits God have extended to His covenant people. These same benefits are ours today, in the twenty-first century.

Forgiveness of iniquities. Who other than God can forgive sin? Through Christ’s sacrifice and atoning blood, not only are our sins forgiven but our “sin nature” has been rendered “inoperative” (Rom. 6:14; Heb. 2:14-15). If we “fall short”, we need only confess and God faithfully forgives us (1 John 1:9). He then removes remembrance of them to the furthest points of existence—even to the heavens (Ps. 103:11-12). There is no other god or religion that offers such forgiveness.

• Healing of diseases. Disease is the result of sin’s entrance into the world. It was not part of God’s original plan for His beloved creation. Yet God, within His providential will, provides physical healing—both on this side and the “other side” (2 Cor. 5:1; Rev. 21:4). Spiritual healing is now available to release us from anger, shame, guilt, and unforgiveness. After His temptation in the wilderness, Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit and spoke these words in the synagogue in Nazareth: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me. He hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:14-19). Jesus is our Healer today.

• Redemption of life from destruction. In Hebrew, destruction or sahat, is translated pit or dungeon; corruption or decay. Before God’s intervention (through Jesus Christ) we were “in a hole, destined to die.” The sin of one man, Adam, caused death to rule over us, but all who receive God’s wonderful, gracious gift of righteousness will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:17). God will continually save us from the world, Satan, and our “old nature.” He is our Preserver (Ps. 145:14-20).

• Crowning with lovingkindness and tender mercies. God’s lovingkindness and tender mercies are evidenced from Genesis to Revelation, as He provides and protects His covenant people. Through our confession of faith in Christ, lovingkindness was extended to us, as Abraham’s seed and heirs to the promise (Gal. 3:29). The literal translation of tender mercies is “tender and compassion.” It expresses love of a superior for an inferior; this love is seen in the deep feelings that move the superior to help. While we were without strength to save ourselves Christ died for us (Rom. 5:6).

• Satisfaction with “good things”. The NIV rendering of this verse is “He satisfies your desires with good things.” When we are obedient to God, we are in the center of His will. He will give us what is best for our life—even when we don’t see it. The result is renewal of hope and trust and the ability to continue our walk of faith. “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in You!” Psalm 84:11-12 (NIV)

As you celebrate this New Year Eve, remember to “forget not”, throughout the year!

Our Lord’s Coming

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” James 5:7-8 (NKJ)

I hope all of you have enjoyed the Advent reading for 2015: A Time of Devotion. It is my hope that this special devotional gave you an opportunity to experience God in new ways as you explored Christ’s return upon your life.

Advent is rapidly coming to a close and giving way to the glorious celebration of Christmas. Advent not only commemorates the historical entry of our blessed Lord and Savior into our time and space but also anticipates the prophetic promise that Jesus Christ will come again. The fulness and understanding of the meaning of Advent is not simply the understanding that Christ has arrived (past tense) but that He is still coming (present tense) AND will come (future tense).

Jesus has come. During His first Advent, Jesus brought peace to all “who were once far off” (Ep. 2: 13) and estranged from God. God manifested Himself in Christ Jesus to save us from the sentence of death, created by our sinful state. We are now are reunited and reconciled to God—no longer destined to suffer God’s wrath (Rom. 1:18).

Jesus is still coming. Through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, Jesus continues to reveal Himself (John 16:13. The Holy Spirit is the present manifestation of Christ in our lives. He teaches and directs us in all that we do. He empowers us (Eph. 2:19) to do the work of Christ in the church today.

Jesus will come. Much is written in the gospel accounts about Christ Second Advent (Matt. 24:44; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:28). Jesus’ return will be a time of judgment: to punish those who failed to accept the good news of the Gospel and to reward believers for their works of righteousness (Rev. 20:12). We don’t know when Christ will return but we can be assured, He will come.

Understanding the “supernatural fact” of Christ’s Advent is too wonderful for our “natural mind” to comprehend. Jesus Christ has made His presence known to us in such a way that cannot be limited to time but extends throughout time as we know it. So we await Christ’s second coming “rejoicing in His glorious appearance” (2 Tim. 4:8)—past, present, and future. Jesus has come, is still coming and will come again. Hallelujah and Amen!

Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year as you receive more of God’s revelation through His Word.