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December 2008 Archives

December 10, 2008

A Calm and Quiet Soul

Psalm 131:1-2 (NKJV)
LORD, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.

I had lunch with a long time buddy of mine yesterday. He happens to pastor a church that has experience wonderful growth over the past 8 years. We enjoy each other's company and process life and ministry together. I was sharing with him about some leadership struggles I was experiencing and feeling a little paralyzed from not knowing what to do. His response was encouraging, but direct. His comment was that I see things at such a macro level, that I can tend to overcomplicate things. It can be like trying to get to step 5 before completing step 2. I have a tendancy to try to get to the desired result without completing the entire process. His words resonated with me, and today's reading in Psalms affirmed this sense.

I have a tendancy to be overly concerned with "great things." I like "deep" and "profound" thinking. Vision and strategy are all things that stoke my fire. But these things can create a discontent in my soul. The Lord wants to break me from, wean me from continually geting ahead of myself. I've got to break my dependency to being on "the cutting edge." This means I also have to care a little less about what people think of me and the persona I must be trying to project. I must be content with what is in front of me. I must be focused on what He has told me to do and see it through, without getting distracted by my own need for recognition("haughtiness") or ambition ("lofty eyes") or being imressive ("great matters," "profound"). Like my friend said, hear God and just do what He tells you.

Lord, I want to do just and only that; to hear You and to do what you've told me to do. Wean me from my need for affirmation and teach me contentment through obedience so that my soul would be calm and quiet.

December 15, 2008

Down and Out

Micah 7:8 (NKJV)
Do not rejoice over me, my enemy;
When I fall, I will arise;
When I sit in darkness,
The LORD will be a light to me.

I don't know why this verse captured my attention today. I'm not feeling especially persecuted; I don't feel like I'm in the dark (although there are times that both of these are true). But this verse brings perspective to each of these kinds of situations. When I fall, I will get up. Yet so many times failure feels fatal. But it's not. To paraphrase the theologian LL Cool J, "Don't call it a comeback..." With the Lord's help, just get back up.

It's also true when darkness comes. It is disorenting and disconcerting. It's lonely and confusing. But the Lord says, He's the light at the end of the tunnel. He's the illumination that allows me to see where I am and what needs to be done.

Not especially deep today, but rich never the less. I'm sure that this will be something I'll have to turn to sometime in the days/weeks/months ahead.

Lord, be my light. Be my strength.

December 16, 2008

Plug the Dam

Proverbs 17:14 (NKJV)
The beginning of strife is like releasing water;
Therefore stop contention before a quarrel starts.

Man, is this proverb ever true! It always suprises me how much stuff people supress (including me). If you ever want to discover what issues people have with you, get in an argument with them about something. Not too far into it, whatever problems were once held back come flooding out even if it's unrelated to the issue at hand. We (people) can help it. Once the plug is pulled, it's hard to control what comes flooding out.

This proverb instructs to stop contentions before it goes to the next level, but how? First, steer clear of anger (Ephesians 4:31). Just get rid of it. Don't let stuff back up and clog the pipes of the heart.

Then there's the responsibility to walk in self-control (Proverbs 29:11; Galatians 5:22-26). I don't know why I give myself permission to "vent." The scripture says that's foolishness.

When it does come time to confront something, love has to be the boundary for the conversation. The truth does need to be spoken, but both restrained by the speaker and filtered by the hearer through love (Ephesians 4:15).

Issues, problems, misunderstandings are an unavoidable part of life with each other. It takes faith and trust with a healthy dose of self-control to keep them from blowing up. Funny thing is, if conflict is navigated correctly, it becomes a shaping force in one's life, not a destructive one.

Lord, secure the walls of my heart. Help me not to let the pressure internally become disasterous to those around me. Strengthen me, heal me, forgive me, so that I can walk clean with those around me.

December 17, 2008

Life at 75 MPH

Habakkuk 2:2-3 (Contemporary English Version)
2 Then the LORD told me:
"I will give you my message
in the form of a vision.
Write it clearly enough
to be read at a glance.
3 At the time I have decided,
my words will come true.
You can trust what I say
about the future.
It may take a long time,
but keep on waiting--
it will happen!

I don't know why I don't spend more time in Habakkuk. It's a rich, little book. Very readable for a minor prophet and so many foundational concepts contained in it. I also wonder if every December 18 I so a life journal entry on these same verses? (I should check my archives).

As a pastor the holidays are a time of reflection and preparation for the start of a new year. In this season, I've not yet had the time to really get away to hear God abut what he has for the church I serve in 2009, but I'm geting tastes of it. What I need to do is to take the time to capture all these thoughts, allow them to become clear through prayer and prepare to lead our church on the journey He has for us. I've already spent time getting ready for this; reading some books that stir my heart, meeting with friends & leaders who challenge me. Snce August I really feel that this year at New Life is all about "making disciples." There's a lot of Christians, but not many actual "Christ-followers" (see Jesus: "You're my disciples if you do what I command you...," etc.)

Now it's one thing to say it, but it's another to communicate it; to really help people understand where we're going and how we're going to get there. That's why the CEV spoke to me in it's translation today, "Write it clearly enough to be read at a glance." People's lives are rush by so fast, like traffic on the freeway. So this vision for our church has to be "caught on the fly." Like a billboard, the vision has to have a simple and clear message. Like a road sign, the vision has to point people in a specific direction. Like the sound of an alarm, people have to understand what the sound means and how to respond. This is my challenge over the remaining weeks in 2008. And if I do my part of writing it down, the Lord says I can trust Him with the future outcome.

Lord, help me hear, help me focus, help me communicate what, where, and how You're leading our church into our future.

December 29, 2008

Jesus' Birthday

Zechariah 14:16 (New King James Version)
And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

Tonight concludes the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah. This year it happened to coinside with the week of Christmas. Part of our family's holy-days celebration is to light the menorah each night of Hanukkah. This year I wanted to understand this holiday a little more, so I did a little more research through which I ran across this interesting online article about "The Messiah in Hannukah" at BiblicalHolidays.com, a portion of which I am quoting below:

Was Jesus Conceived on Hanukkah?
Many believe that our Messiah, the “light of the world,” was conceived on the festival of lights—Hanukkah. The Bible does not specifically say the date of Jesus’ birth. It was not during the winter months because the sheep were in the pasture (Luke 2:8). A study of the time of the conception of John the Baptist reveals he was conceived about Sivan 30, the eleventh week (Luke 1:8-13, 24). Adding forty weeks, for a normal pregnancy reveals that John the Baptist was born on or about Passover (Nisan 14). Six months after John’s conception, Mary conceived Jesus (Luke 1:26-33); therefore Jesus would have been conceived six months after Sivan 30 in the month of Kislev—Hanukkah. Was the “light of the world,” conceived on the festival of lights? Starting at Hanukkah, which begins on Kislev 25 and continues for eight days, and counting through the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy, one arrives at the approximate time of the birth of Jesus at the Festival of Tabernacles (emphasis added).

The "Light of the World" concieved during the "festival of lights?" It's interesting to note God's timing in the fact that the event commemorated by Hannukkah took place approximately 165 years before Christ's birth. This gave enough time for the celebration to become rooted in the culture. This event is also during the 400 years know as the inter-testmental period, during which its thought that God did not speak to his people. Yet could the the purification and restoation of the temple been prophetic?

Furthermore, it make sense for Jesus, "Emmanuel" - God With Us (or as it could be translated, "God who tablernacles with man") to come during this season. In fact, the day following the conclusion of the 7-day Sukkot festival is called Simkat Torah, the day on which the year-long reading of the Torah is concluded and started again. And now, as John said in his description of the incarnation, "the Word became flesh and dwelt among men" (John 1:1-4,14).

And now we come to today's reading, where it says that all nations will come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tablernacles. Not Passover, not Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), not Pentecost, but Tabernacles - when God came to live with men. I wish I had more time to write because this has so many implications. I can't wait to do some more research on the subject. Nevertheless, During the season that I as a Christian celebrate Jesus' birth, I am pointed to a day when as it says in Revelation 21:3-4, 23 (NKJV):

“Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
The city (the new Jerusalem) had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light."

For more basic information on the Feast of Tabernacles I reccomend the following articles: "The Festival of Booths" and "Succot", @ Hope4Israel.org 's blog as well as "Sukkot: A Practical Guide for Believers in Messiah" hosted @ Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation's website

December 31, 2008

My Book of Remembrance

Malachi 3:16 (New King James Version)
16 Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another,
And the LORD listened and heard them;
So a book of remembrance was written before Him
For those who fear the LORD
And who meditate on His name.

As I want to lead our congregation into the life-giving discipline of reading God's Word and journaling each day I was caught by this verse. I know that it means a "scroll" was was made containing the names of those who feared the Lord. But I want a "book of rememberance" for myself; a journal of the conversations God has with me, a reference to learn from and to refer to, mostly a way to remember what God is speaking to and shaping in me. This book can be a point of conversation with other people who fear Him and we can share our learnings together, meditating on His name.

As I conclude another year of reading the scripture through, I'm grateful for the way the Lord uses his word to speak to me and transform me. Lord, thank you for speaking and listening.

About December 2008

This page contains all entries posted to JustJeff | Life Journal in December 2008. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2008 is the previous archive.

February 2009 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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