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Posts Tagged ‘Romans 12:2’

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We’re off! The race to Christmas has begun.

The next twenty-six days will include shopping, wrapping, sending, writing (the Christmas cards), decorating, cleaning, baking, attending, final rehearsing and performing. Did I leave out anything?

No doubt some of you are far down the track. Your house is already decorated, the cards are nearly finished, the cookies are baked and tucked in the freezer. You started preparations weeks ago.

 

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I am not among you—never have been. What would Christmas be without a little hustle and bustle to get the adrenalin flowing? Except I almost always become overwhelmed, which leads to frazzled nerves.

This year I want to maintain (or recapture as needed) an Advent perspective of tranquil expectation and worshipful celebration—even when the schedule and the to-do list get a little crazy.

How?  The following three ways might be a good place to begin:

 

1. Gratitude.

Gratitude will prepare the way—the way to salvation from discontent and agitation, the way to the presence of God.

 

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(“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me

and prepares the way

so that I may show him

the salvation of God.”

–Psalm 50:23)

 

Gratitude renews my mind and spirit as I remember: “The things [I] take for granted, someone else is praying for”–things like:

  • Colorful Christmas cards in the mailbox
  • An ample supply of sugar, flour, and butter for cookies
  • A Christmas tree filled with treasured, memory-laden ornaments
  • Loving family gathered to revel in each other’s company and hear the story of Jesus’ birth once again
  • Presents aplenty under that tree, to express our love

 

Christmas presents under the tree

 

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.” – William Arthur Ward (1921-1994).

What better time than Advent to be more thankful, to experience more joy, to take note of our many blessings in the ordinary? M-m-m. ‘Think I’ll reflect on that question in my journal during these days leading up to Christmas.

 

2. Prayer.

 If someone asked me, “Is there a scripture about the impact of prayer on a person’s emotional state?” I’d steer them to Philippians 4:6-7.

 

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“Do not be anxious about anything,

but in everything, by prayer and petition,

with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

And the peace of God,

Which transcends all understanding,

Will guard your hearts and your minds

In Christ Jesus.”

 

How easy it is to steer others in the right direction, but not take that route myself.

So these reminders are for me:

  • Be anxious about nothing – including the long task-list that requires completion by Christmas.
  • Pray with a grateful heart about everything that needs to be done – including what to say on the Christmas cards, what gifts to give, what is needful to accomplish and what is just my OCD in over-drive.
  • Pray for godly perspective. The result will be as he has promised: peace that transcends understanding.

To keep mindful, I’ve put Philippians 4:6-7 on the bathroom mirror.

 

3. Hope.

 

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Yesterday, the first Sunday of Advent, we focused on the word, wait –an action often accompanied by impatience.

But in the ancient language of the Bible, Hebrew, the word wait is the same as the word for hope. How appropriate—hopeful waiting—waiting that includes positive expectation, confident assurance, and absolute conviction, because our God is the One and only God of hope.

And because of him we have confident assurance of:

  • Strength (Psalm 31:24)
  • Blessing (Jeremiah 17:7)
  • Joy and peace (Romans 15:13)
  • Eternal life (Titus 1:2)

 

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What a glorious list.  And that’s just the beginning.

If I focus on my God of hope and all his benefits, my attitude will be transformed (Romans 12:2). If I turn my face to the Son, the shadows will fall behind me.*

Too often in the past, my attitude has turned the season of Advent into an adversary to be beaten.

This year I want Advent to be an adventure of gratitude, prayer, and hope.

 

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*Based on a Maori proverb

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com (2); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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(“The object of a new year is not that we should have a new year.

It is that we should have a new soul.”

G.K. Chesterton)

A new soul. I like the sound of that, don’t you? In my imagination I see a freshening of my attitudes, improved motivations, and increased spiritual strength.

But where do I start in order to achieve a new soul?

No doubt, a new soul begins with repentance—expressing to God my sorrow for wrongdoing and availing myself of his help to change. Just as King David prayed, I can ask God to:

 

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(“Create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

–Psalm 51:10, emphasis added)

 

Notice that David asked God to create in him a pure heart. David didn’t promise to clean up his act on his own. Only God could make David’s heart new and pure. The same goes for me. All I can do is submit myself to his transforming power and follow his lead.

That pure heart David asked for is a clear conscience. And with the release from guilt came a rush of joy and the restoration of sweet peace with God. Doesn’t that sound wonderful?

“No one is happier than the one who has repented of wrong” (Max Lucado).

 

A new soul involves renewal of the mind.

 

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Or, put another way:

 

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world,

but let God transform you into a new person

by changing the way you think.

Then you will learn to know God’s will for you,

which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

Romans 12:2, NLT (emphasis added)

 

Once the negative influences of sin have been removed, I need to fill my mind with excellent, praiseworthy contemplations.

Why waste my thoughts and allow them to wander on worthless topics or circle around pointless worries? Instead, I want to set my mind on the positive, especially on God himself.

A renewed mind is not problem-focused; it is Person-focused.

 

A new soul requires day-by-day rejuvenation.

 

“We do not lose heart.

Though outwardly we are wasting away,

yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”

–2 Corinthians 4:16 (emphasis added)

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God has established certain laws by which our world is governed. Gravity is one example. The law of entropy is another. It states that all elements of the universe tend to disintegrate over time. Plants and animals die and decay, iron rusts, rock erodes.

Our souls tend to disintegrate over time, too, when left unattended:

  • Worry and fear wreak havoc.
  • Self-centeredness creates an appetite for entertainment, possessions, and recognition—appetites that are never satiated.
  • Foolishness reigns because wisdom is ignored.
  • Rationalizations replace honest evaluations.
  • Uncontrolled behaviors harm relationships.

But when we avail ourselves of God’s influence day-by-day and step-by-step, the law of entropy has no effect on our souls.

 

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The Amplified Version expands the meaning:

 

“The steps of a [good and righteous] man

are directed and established by the Lord,

And He delights in his way

[and blesses his path].”

–Psalm 37:23, AMP

 

Consider the import of these key words:

 

Steps – Even spiritual achievement rarely happens in an instant. God values slow and steady progress.

 

Directed – He isn’t just interested in the details of our lives; he’s lovingly engineering them.

 

Established – There is always design and strategy in God’s endeavors, even if we only occasionally perceive it.

 

Delights – God is pleased with those who follow the path he has thoughtfully and wisely set.

 

Blesses – God lovingly bestows such gifts as peace, joy, hope, satisfaction, and purposeful living.

 

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Holy Creator of new souls, as I stand on the brink of a new year, I do confess my failings to you. Purify my heart; show me how to refine even the motivations behind my right actions. Thank you for your gentle nudges to turn my mind toward you, and your loving attention upon every step of my life. I praise you that continual contact with you results in a soul–a life–that is continually refreshed and made new!

 

(Art & Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.mybible.com; http://www.verseoftheday.com; http://www.dailylifeverse.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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Visit a theme park and you soon learn that part of the adventure is waiting in line–even if you pay extra for fast passes.

Such was our experience at Disney World two years ago. The castle of Beauty and the Beast required wait time—well over an hour. But friends of our daughter had told her, “Don’t miss it,” so we joined the long, looping line.

You may also know that, while you wait, the folks around you can become like friends. Topics such as home state, kids’ ages, and other experiences in the park, get the conversation going. Commiserating over the long line adds to the camaraderie.

Finally we approached the entrance to the castle. Only fifty or so guests were allowed past the gilded rope. This was our first surprise, since most theater-attractions seat hundreds of people. (No doubt there are at least several theaters within the castle, to accommodate the crowds. But each group enters separately, totally unaware that there must be identical venues down alternate hallways.)

First, we were ushered into an outer room, hosted by a footman, I believe. He assigned roles to many of the guests. Among them, the father from Michigan with the four kids became a butler, the little ballerina (who had performed intermittently as we waited in line) became a teacup, our son-in-law, a knight, and our granddaughter, a salt shaker. Each participant was given a colorful placard to identify his or her part. The footman explained what they would need to do, once we entered the library to meet Belle.

 

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One particular role seemed completely inappropriate. For the Beast, the footman chose a little girl with an obvious limp.  It seemed cruel to choose such a child for the Beast, of all characters.  As he draped a red cape over her shoulders, I thought, He probably didn’t notice her difficulty walking. But those of us who had become acquainted outside the castle knew full well: this was going to be awkward.

Soon we were ready to enter the library and meet Belle. Our small gathering of almost-friends filed into the dimly lit, cozy room.  Most of us sat close together on benches.

Beautiful Belle, in her yellow satin gown, directed the teacups, salt shakers, and other dancers in a delightful little polka, while the knights stood guard. Such an elegant and charming princess, that Belle.

Then she said it was time for her dance with the Beast.

Our new little friend slowly and carefully approached Belle without any sign of self-consciousness. Her eyes locked with Belle’s, glistening with pleasure and adoration. Gently, they nearly waltzed, Belle being mindful to accommodate Beast’s handicap. And for a few precious moments, that little girl’s physical challenges were forgotten in the inexpressible delight of dancing with Belle.

Suddenly, my eyes filled with tears. That little girl had been the perfect choice for Beast. Her ecstatic joy was obvious in the non-stop smile and luminous eyes. She was the center of attention of a princess—someone whom she dearly loved and greatly admired. Even more poignant, the sweet look of love returned by Belle, her gracious intentness focused entirely upon the child.

Love soon encompassed the entire room. Surely every guest felt it, not just me. We loved the child for her precious innocence. We loved Belle for her warmth and kindness. We even loved each other, as almost-friends, sharing in this  miracle—a once-in-a-lifetime experience, never to be repeated.

But wait.  In actuality such euphoria and reverence is available to us–every day.

We can keep company with Jesus, our Prince of Peace —not just for a few miraculous moments, but  All.  The.  Time.  In fact, like the father of the prodigal son, he waits in eager anticipation for us to come “home” to him and linger there.

We can be transformed, just like that little girl.   For the length of that magical dance, she was blissfully unaware of her handicap. Why? Her attention was riveted on Belle.  Paul challenges us to do the same in the spiritual realm:   “Fix your attention on God,” he said.  “You’ll be changed from the inside out” (Romans 12:2, The Message).

We can experience love beyond imagination. Belle portrayed perfect love for one shining moment; God is perfect love (1 John 4:8). And the love of his Son, Jesus, is wider than any experience we encounter, longer than our lives last here on earth, and higher, purer, and deeper than any other love (Ephesians 3:18).

And then, one glorious gift that even the lovely Belle could not bestow.  We can be healed of our handicap, the handicap of sin.  Jesus paid the price for our sin when he died on the cross.  He sacrificed himself so that we could be healed of the ravages of sin and enjoy a God-enhanced life (1 Peter 2:24; John 10:10).

With ecstatic joy we can revel in all the privileges of one-on-one relationship with our Prince, who loves each of us as if there was only one of us (St. Augustine).

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Oh, Prince of Peace, what an astounding privilege you grant us, to bask in your perfect love each day.  Thank you for the assurance of your love throughout scripture, reminding us that we are precious and beloved to you.  May our status as your precious ones free us to live unencumbered by self-consciousness, fear, and worry.  And may we never fail to express your gracious love to those around us.

 

(Photo credits:  www.wdwmagic.com; http://www.galleryhip.com)

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