Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Renewed Focus, New Direction

This is an exciting time of the year for me. God faithfully uses the holiday season, from Thanksgiving through Christmas to the New Year, to stir my heart, clean out dry and useless areas of my life, and bring fresh direction for the coming year.

It begins at Thanksgiving with remembrance of God's specific faithfulness during the past year. I live in gratitude for each new day. Yet Thanksgiving seems to intensify my memory, and I verbalize my gratitude for His obvious presence in my life. Worship arises as I remember all He is and all He does for me.

In the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, He reminds me of what “preparation” is really about. Even as I sing the familiar Christmas carols, I hear a fresh call to prepare my heart for more of Him and to make room for His work.

As the New Year approaches, He gives me increased expectation for knowing His specific calling and purposes for the coming year. And then He gives direction. There is a sense of freshness and new beginning that brings hope and faith for the future.

Too often in past years, the busyness, focus on buying, wrapping and giving gifts, overload of preparations, overload of food and so many other distractions have drawn me away from sitting and listening to His voice. Quality time with Him can easily be set aside.

In the midst of "celebrating," Jesus is often relegated to the corner of the room as we focus on Santa Clause, reindeer, gifts - what we want, what others want. Each year, the mention of true Christmas, celebrating of Jesus as God with us, is not only diminished but is increasingly stripped from public areas. As that happens – and it is happening – we can easily get caught up in the world’s focus and ways. And when Christmas is over, we find emptiness and longing that has not been satisfied with events or things.

Like in the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Jesus is God, Emanuel, right there in our midst. The gift of Christmas is not just His birth, but it is His ongoing life, with us and in us. And we have the opportunity to be with Him as Mary was, but our distracted focus causes us, like Martha, to miss His presence and the treasures He has for us.

The world’s ways continue to daily strip away at human hearts and bring deceptions of relative thinking, entitlement attitudes, and self-gratification. This will not only continue in the future, but is growing stronger in its influence.

God is not surprised at the direction of the world. So for our sakes He cautions us, Do not love the world of the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:15-27).  He tells us to make the intentional choice for Him and His eternal love rather than for the fading world. He enables us to make that choice, but He does not make it for us.

In the midst of the world around us, we sometimes forget to ask what He wants from us…what gift we are to give, first to Him and then to others. At the same time, we fail to ask in faith for what He has for us. He has given us many promises, but  as we fall short in laying hold of those promises, we fail to see them manifest in our daily lives.

God is continually pursuing us and drawing us to Himself. He has invited us to live in His love. As the pull of the world increases, those of us in the Kingdom should be aware of the increasing hunger in our hearts for things of God. Watch for it. It is there as His Spirit is giving us greater discernment between worldliness and Godliness, and He is constantly feeding us with deeper love of the King. We have only to respond to His Spirit and His revelation.

He tells us His desires is for our joy to be full (John 15:11). He wants to abundantly satisfy us with Himself, with His presence, with fellowship with Him and with other Christians. He wants us to stop settling for the empty and alluring things of the world which are void of eternal value and actually work against Him and His plans for us.

Allow this week be a time of reflection. While many people make resolutions which are often attempted in their own strength and fall by the wayside within weeks or even days, I pray that we who are children of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, will respond to His comforting Holy Spirit, and that we will know and embrace His direction for our lives for the coming year. His plan for our lives always begins with our spending quality time building our relationship with Him. Then, as we partner with Him, seeking Him and desiring to walk in obedience, He will faithfully give us the power and strength to fulfill His purposes. He will work in us so we will become more like Him and less like the world. And He will open our hearts and minds to understand the vast extend of His amazing love for us. That is life-changing.

May 2013 find you intentional in seeking Him and receiving all the goodness He has for you.