Some Christmas Advice

Christmas

 is my favorite time of the year. 

I grew up in the northern part of Wisconsin, and my most valuable and tenderest recollections are my Christmases.  I was raised in a Norwegian Lutheran church, (Think: Lutefisk.). Many memories flow from that; the cold, the snow and the tree, and the presents.  I’m a ‘wealthy’ man through all of these great memories.

Even when it was bad, it was still very good.

I remember our annual Nativity play at Church. I fondly remember the sticky, caramel-covered ‘popcorn ball’ each one of us would get from the church ladies’ aid.  I also remember a very bleak Christmas when there was no money to be had for presents. A local charity came through at the last minute with gifts. I was profoundly touched by all of this, and more. 

But I have no real way of instilling any of this in you. 

However, I do exhort you to go out of your way to minister to the young hearts you have contact with.  Help them believe.  Make it easy for them to touch the miracle of the manger.  Let them leave your company yearning for  God’s presence in their day. 

It won’t take much, maybe keen imagination on your part and humble prayer.  But those things you do may spark, ignite and become a blaze that will direct them through their lives.  Be kinder than you need to be. Purposefully do something that will impact them, even small things often carry an astonishingly strong influence.

You may be in the thick of it.

Just maybe you have lost the purpose and meaning of this day. But I’m pretty sure any failure isn’t permanent. But at least, try to do as much as you’re able. Let Linda and I pray for you this season. Email us, please.

A Lutefisk History – Lutefisk Recipe 

 

Clearing Your Head

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.”

     Philip Yancey

There are going to be times when things become exceptionally clear to you.  

Those moments burst into our muddled thinking and bring crystal clarity to us.  It doesn’t happen very often, but through it, we start to see something in our present situation.  Its icy water splashed into our sleepy faces.  It completely adjusts us and we are launched into a startling awareness of our hearts, minds, and relationships.

To the mentally ill, it verges on not quite enough (but sometimes it is) when we are brought into this place.  Alert and awake, we are ushered into a certain sense of what is real, and what isn’t.  Change often hinges on this special discernment; it truly is an amazing work of the Holy Spirit.  We discover we can’t change ourselves, but the Spirit is the only one who can.  

The Bible and its promises are soaked with His power. 

There is a certain hope and security that comes from His restoration of our mixed-up lives. His work is quite exceptional, for He is an Artisan. However,  we will never be happy or at peace if we refuse.  And if we decide poorly we will get stuck inside a deep loneliness, and failure– the realization of being cast aside.

It’s scary, but so much is based on what we decide in these chosen times. 

Depression and darkness will continue to pelt us.  But there is no other authentic shelter to be found!  Through our stubbornness and pride, we will be soaked through and through.  But even in this dejected state, we can still decide to harden our hearts. If we do not choose Him, we will stumble in our own darkness and sin. This is a miserable place, I have been there. Trust me, I understand completely.

We dare not let the darkness we face confuse us. 

We most certainly should not let this happen. On just a volitional basis (thinking) we must not let the darkness reassert itself into our lives.  We are delivered by what the Lord Jesus has done for us.  He shepherds us through a darkness that is quite convoluted and complex. (Think— being lost in a minefield at night.)

It advances on us and so many can’t resist its strength.  But being mentally ill is not something that someone can just decide on, it is real and carries a poison that few can resist.  Any odd romanticism of “being a tragically wounded poet” is so foolish, and dangerous.

But the truth is, we have Someone who has volunteered to be our Savior and advocate.

He will speak on our behalf.  He alone can escort us through this terrible darkness.  Without His voice, we can’t defend ourselves, and we will just deceive ourselves. We are desperately sick, and He is the only cure.

If you are presently struggling, I would tell you that you have a home.  It is a place of acceptance and assurance.  The cost of depression and delusion can’t even come close to matching even the simplicity and basic place of just being a “minor” disciple of Jesus Christ.

But no matter what has happened, He has been pursuing you, in a deep hope you will respond to Him.  

I exhort you to embrace this love and trust Him, even when it gets very hard.  But no matter what happens, don’t ever give up.

 

 

Trials Come With Great Purpose

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NKJV

“There is no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me. If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose.” 

 Alan Redpath

“All joy,” (verse 2) is a fantastic thought. It stresses a joy that becomes militant, something powerful and significant. “All joy,” surpasses “some joy” or even “occasional joy.” Instead it’s a joy that remains joy even when tired and weak. It will only shine brighter in the darkness.

Jewels, diamonds, and pearls are typically displayed on a black background.

This only reveals their brilliance. In the same way darkness should only encourage us to be deliberately brighter than our surroundings. We must understand that we shine only because He makes us shine. There is a divine incandescence that awaits every believer who feels the need or desire for more of God.

The signs surrounding God’s nearness are available to each believer. He is close to those who want Him, and there is nothing will stand in His way. The Lord cherishes and treasures the seeking heart. There is nothing that can detour the believer’s yearning after their Father.

Name your trial, then turn it to God in prayer.

Leave it alone and refuse to carry it no further. It’s now the Lord’s concern. Simply watch for the deliverance to come. When God sees your heart, He will lavish Himself out on you.

 

Proximity is Your Choice, So Choose

He is Faithful to You

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
   you hold my right hand.
 You guide me with your counsel,
   and afterward you will receive me to glory.”
 

“Whom have I in heaven but you?
   And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
 My flesh and my heart may fail,
   but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Psalm 73, ESV

Continuity is a medicine for us who are always on the edge of losing control. 

One patriarch in the Book of Genesis was told that “he was unstable as water.” And this pretty much describes me as I struggle with depression.  But the promise from Psalm 73 is for a continuous presence.  There is no flickering, no jumping about.  He is steady.  He does not flit or fluctuate. 

He is always, and forever, constantly, focused on you.

He provides guidance, free of charge.  We can experience many confusing days.  We make the attempt to walk through them, but we quickly grasp our ineptitude.  It goes very much better when He is speaking into our hearts.  Since He is present with us on a continuous basis anyway, let us turn to Him for direction.

There is a realization in verse 25. “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”  This statement declares “point blank” who and what is real. Try reading this verse and emphasize the “you.”

The psalmist has an ‘umbilical cord’ attached to heavenly places. 

This feeds him and gives him a radical strength to stand up and ‘to be’.  The writer is completely over with the things of this earth.  He desires only heavenly things, that which really comes after looking down the long corridors of eternity. He has made his choice. He will follow.

In verse 26 he admits a desperate weakness. 

He understands the foolishness of his flesh.  He knows that he has been pathetic and spiritually feeble.  There is absolutely nothing he can do about this.  He has tried and tried repeatedly to change.  His heart is like a colander that drains away all the grace and mercy that pours out on him.  He holds on to nothing. He must stay under the faucet to survive.

But still, there is a profound realization that God is strengthening his heart.  He has done this on an eternal level.  What this means is this:  He has touched me and by that touch has made me like Him. The rest of this Psalm extends and states certain things that the Psalmist has learned himself.

 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
   you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.”

   “But for me it is good to be near God;
   I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,
   that I may tell of all your works.”

Psalm 73, ESV

God draws a person, but coming closer is also your choice.

The Psalmist sees that his “nearness to God is my good.”  He realizes that by taking refuge in God there is something that will be quite wonderful.  There is some effort that must happen.  So he makes God his refuge.  The Lord God is now a ‘bomb shelter’ or a covering for our souls.  He continues this process with a deep commitment to sharing ‘the works of God.’

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