This Is Not Heaven!

Are you lonely, discouraged, disappointed or distraught?  Welcome to life!  I do not mean to be insensitive or flippant, but sometimes we need an ice cold splash of reality in our faces to remind us that this is NOT heaven!  In fact, it is my hope that you will be encouraged by this reminder because it underscores the very reason Christ Jesus came to this earth.  Philippians 2 presents a realistic depiction of the sacrifice He made in leaving heaven to enter the world as we know it:

  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
 Who, being in very nature God,
  did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage;
   rather, He made himself nothing
  by taking the very nature of a servant,
  being made in human likeness.
 And being found in appearance as a man,
  He humbled himself
  by becoming obedient to death—
  even death on a cross!  (Verses 5-8)

We celebrate Christmas as a season of remembrance: when God’s Son left the purity of heaven to enter this very dangerous and sin-polluted world.  Jesus came to save those who would trust Him for heaven.   

Think about His life on this earth, it was about sacrifice from beginning to end.  Jesus was:

  • Born in a barn to parents who would soon be on the run, seeking to protect their baby from a crazy king bent on His destruction.
  • Raised in obscurity in a poor family and in a town regarded with disdain.  (“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” [John 1:46])
  • Rejected by those He came to redeem, He certainly knew the pain of loneliness, disappointment and suffered the cruelty of men.  ( He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.   He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.”  [John 1:10, 11])

We celebrate Christmas when we take our minds off ourselves and the world around us, to embrace the Hope of Heaven that belongs to those who have faith in Him.

“Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.  (John 1:12, 13)

There is no lonelier place than feeling discouraged, disappointed or distraught in a crowd . . . especially at Christmas.   But take heart, there is more to life than circumstances that can change with the tides.    Instead of avoiding the pains of life by filling those moments with busyness or chatting about nothing, turn your attention to the One who came down from heaven to save you and praise Him:

Thank You Lord for loving me and for saving me from myself;

Thank you Jesus for granting me the hope of heaven; help me to go deeper in appreciating all that You sacrificed for me . . .

Thank you God for Christmas as a season of remembrance . . . may You be magnified in my life this day and always!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.  My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”  (John 14:1-3)

 All to His Glory!

Joyfully Bittersweet ~

I can have joy in spite of circumstance, I can have joy in spite of people . . . through Christ who strengthens me.  Life lesson I learned through study of Philippians in 1978.

How was your Christmas?  Were there moments that you would like to hold onto as we enter the New Year?  Personally, I do not enjoy the pressure of the “must-do” list that can take over Christmas (whose idea was that?!!)  but I have learned to slow the pace down a bit so that I enjoy Christmas more than I used to.   In fact, I am actually looking forward to putting together our annual Christmas/New Years letter.  It has become a way to personally assess our year while keeping in touch with family and friends we wish we lived closer to.

To be honest, I would assess our Christmas and this past year as being joyfully bittersweet.  The joyful part was centered on the constancy of Christ who never changes and can never be taken away.  The bittersweet?  Well, the bittersweet part has to do with the ever-changing life circumstances over which we have no control.    How can bitter and sweet have any part of the other?   Over the past 30+ years I have discovered that when joy (the constancy of Christ) enters into the mix of life experience, the bitter becomes more palitable with the sweetness of Christ in the mix.   To be sure, it is a mystery, because it is not something we humans can just conjure up in ourselves at will.  No, I believe that the miraculous working out of bittersweet joy in the human heart when it has been broken or suffers disappointment has everything to do with how we relate to God.  Are we willing to trust Him in our ever-changing life circumstance?  Speaking very personally, I have found that the more I am willing to say, “Yes Lord, I will trust you in this,” the sweeter even the hard things have become.

While wonderfully grateful for the family that is near; thousands of miles separated us from the rest of our family.   I have snapshots in my mind and heart from this Christmas that I will hold onto as long as I can:

  • Looking forward each day to reading Christmas letters and seeing pictures from friends and family we miss the rest of the year . . .
  • Finally getting the lights right on our Christmas tree.  (We changed to LED lights that were too bright on their own {we joked about wearing sunglasses Christmas morning to retrieve the presents under the tree!} but were finally able to moderate them with some softer lights.  You may wonder, “MORE lights?”  All I can say is we were grateful it finally worked!)
  • The candles lit in Church for the Christmas Eve service and the crowd of people there to sing praises to God . . .  Glory to God in the highest!
  • The excitement on the faces of our three grandboys just before they started to hand out gifts from under our Christmas tree . . .
  • Talking to my parents who live 3,000 miles away from us about their gifts . . .
  • Catching up with our son and daughter-in-law half a world away on Skype . . .
  • Hearing the stories about the rest of our grandchildren from our other daughter hundreds of miles away . . .
  • Singing “Happy Birthday dear Jesus” with family around the beautiful cake my daughter made complete with 21 red candles and a little creche between the candle light . . .

Joyfully bittersweet?  Yep, that about sums it up!

“Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.”  I Peter 1:8,9