How to Enjoy Christmas

How does one enjoy Christmas? For many Christmases in my life, I was fed up by the hustle and the bustle of the holidays. Sometimes I was outright angry at secular disbelief, insisting how offended they were by “religious symbols” or live nativity scenes invading their darkness…the true Narcissists of modern times. A few times at Christmas, I loathed my inability to lavish unnecessary gifts on my children and family members. And finally, often, the holidays passed while I boozed through them.

I should never judge how people see the Christmas season, but pray they get the point. I never want to be disappointed that I will be working and not with family, missing the family gathering and meal, watching the children beam when they open their gifts. That is precious, and should burned into thoughts or memories forever…with gratitude. That isn’t the point. So, what is the point?

The point I see today, as a follower of Christ, is the purpose of His visit, my gratitude and acknowledgement of that. I am transformed by believing in Him, His virgin birth… His life and teachings… His sacrifice on the cross… His blood destroying my sins past, present, and future… His resurrection guaranteeing mine from eternal death… and His continual intercession as advocate, defending me from accusations by the evil one. I am lifted when my belief turns to gratitude as I see the real Gift of Christmas, He gave Himself.

The point is seeing entire world is different because of His coming. Invention, exploration, and discovery may have been a part of mankind’s history, yet because of His coming and commission to His disciples to “go ye into all the world,” was catapulted as the Gospel spread, especially through the nations that accepted the message.

In fact, within modern history, from the past 150 years, technology has grown exponentially. I’m filled with gratitude, knowing He is the reason for this, His Spirit, Jesus promised, would come in His stead. The Holy Spirit brought the light of understanding and knowledge to people for invention, exploration, and discovery where His message is freely expressed and received. Where the message is rejected as truth, There is practically no invention, and the people would be living as people lived a millennium or more in the past without the discoveries from others.

How Christmas can be truly good, even wonderful, is refusing to allow the holiday to be about all you have done for others. You may have worked hard to cook, get everyone together, and to find that perfect gift for family and friends…and they don’t offer thanks for your toil. Think about what He has done for you, and be grateful by not expecting accolades…just give.

One last thought, and this is a “biggie.” You may not have time to go serve at a “drop-in,” or soup kitchen-meal-station for the homeless. Take a moment, pause and say thanks for what you do have. Ask God to bring comfort to the homeless, the widow and orphaned, the addict, the alcoholic, those trapped in darkness. Don’t forget to ask for our men and women serving the country, away from their families. Ask God to protect them from danger, from evil, comforting them in their loneliness…and their family the same.

Bonus thought. While you are asking, ask Him to foil the plans and schemes of the grifter running scams, preying on the elderly and weak. May God protect them all.

Merry Christ-mas to all, God grant you light to see His Truth…for His glory!

Get That Feeling

I have not been blogging  much lately. I would love to do so daily but I have been inundated with work, recovery meetings, and preparing to move to a new old home. There is some excitement involved with moving. As a recovering alcoholic drug user, I tend not to try to focus on all of the work load produced from what needs done, just do the next right thing, one day at a time. Someone said, “you know it is December and Christmas is a few days away.”

Thanks. I am aware of the month and the holidays, but unsure of the day of the week most of the time. Furthermore, I have yet to get that “spirit” of the season, but have had several quarts of eggnog, yum! (non-alcoholic)
How do I get into the swing of the season? It’s the same way I do everything in recovery, or cross over RR tracks, stop, look, and listen. I have to stop whatever I am currently focused on, open up “The Book” and read those familiar passages regarding Advent, God sending grace to man, then listen to the sounds of the season. Not the familiar “frosty and reindeer” songs, but the growing unfamiliar carols that herald the “day of days.”
O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray. Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.”
 
“Therefore the Lord HIMSELF will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” Is. 7:14
Just typing these words causes me to get the “feelings” of the season. To think that God Himself would conceive a plan so brilliantly for mankind that rejected Him, leaves me awed by His unrelenting mercy and unfathomable grace!
The alcoholic, the addict, the broken heart, the lonely and friendless, the poor, orphaned and widowed all get the picture when they open their hearts to this Advent of total healing and restoration. God is no longer against us…Immanuel, He is with us.
If you are having that “isolated” feeling that Christmas doesn’t feel like Christmas; take a few moments, stop, look, and listen to bring back the reality of Advent. Have a personal Advent. He, Immanuel, will come in and decorate your heart for the season.
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Hope

Hope, is the forgotten virtue of the alcoholic, addict, over-eater, the couch potato, the individual fixed in their dead-end job, etc. Hope is used by so many of us in an off-handed way that when we say to another, “I hope you have a nice Holiday Season,” and it is forgotten as fast as it was heard. I am guilty of passing conversation like that. In reality, I really want those I converse with to have a good day or a great holiday, I hope they do.
 

Hope is missing in so many people’s lives. Why? Various reasons perhaps. Such as sickness, jobless without prospect, broken relationships, to name a few. I have mentioned this before, and feel it worth repeating. The happiest children in the world are in, of all places, Nigeria. These children face danger daily, possible genocide of the Christians from the Islamic groups that say convert or die. These children are happy because they have hope of a better tomorrow. 

 
The most unhappy children in the world are right here in the USA. They seem to have everything, why are they unhappy? Because they have nothing to look forward to…everything they want is within reach. 

“Hope deferred, (unrelenting disappointment), makes the heart-sick, but when desire comes, (a longing comes true), it is a tree of life.” Prov.13:12
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” Martin Luther King Jr.

Attend recovery meetings and observe the broken entering for their first few meetings. These people are hopeless, beaten down, and walked on, by their own doing. They think nobody loves them, even God…they appear hopeless. But by showing up and at least giving recovery a try, the lights eventually may come on for them, as for so many others.

 
You do not have to have addictions, or overwhelming problems of any kind to be hopeless. Having no purpose, no ambition, and failures have left you totally defeated. You need that tree of life. That tree is the tree of death that Jesus died on, but life for anyone and looks to Him in hope. 

To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. HOPE means hoping when everything seems hopeless.” G.K. Chesterton

Prior to the first advent of Christ, the people of God looked forward to the “Hope of Israel,” the promised One who would appear. Their hope appeared in Jesus, but that wasn’t what they expected. We still look at Him for hope today as we look back at what He accomplished through his death, burial, and resurrection. 

 
By our believing on Him, and inviting Him into our heart for a personal advent, He arrives and our hope is realized, a real tree of life living and changing us continually. This is a mystery to the unbeliever that is hopeless. HOPE is found in Him. Just ask Him, he will come to you too, and then we can together look for to the second advent, the “blessed hope!” 

“Looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Titus 2:13 

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all, Merry Christmas!

Advent…An Old New Song

Helping God Out

I was lying in bed, exhausted from work and thinking God-ward, about how I could do more for others in recovery when I am constantly working different hours, never sure what days I can attend meetings, and write posts that may inspire somebody on this globe to get free of their addiction. “If I could just do these things full-time,” I think prayerfully. My thoughts continue, “there are so many things that need done for You God, I need to do more to promote the book You inspired me to write, I really want to visit the different meetings, AA, NA, Celebrate Recovery…but work doesn’t allow it, what do You want me to do? This is an new, old song I’m singing.

God Needs Me, doesn’t He?

I guess I really am that ego-centric, believing that God+ Keith= world-wide revival, end to alcoholism, drug addiction, and everyone coming to Jesus. No, I really don’t think that way. I just want to play a greater role, doing more for the Kingdom of God, or as much as I can with the time I have left on the Earth. My mind then returns to my early recovery, how I asked God to let me play a bit-part in the Kingdom. I didn’t care if it was cleaning urinals and emptying trash at church…He had different plans, as long as I remain surrendered to His will.

The Epiphany

I had forgotten one important thing, it is, one day at a time silly. God’s Spirit within me jolted my memory of the importance of living in today, even in the moment, bringing thoughts, prayers, and focusing my attention on Him. Every good intention I have, is to be second to the personal time with Him. In that quiet place with Abba, ideas stream, my life changes as He re-shapes me into someone He can use for His glory. I can recall lesser known verses of carols regarding that first advent, and how meaningful they become as I surrender peacefully to His will.

Advent in Song

“O Holy Child of Bethlehem, descend on us we pray, cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell, O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel.”

Hail the newborn Prince of Peace, hail the Son of Righteousness, light and life to all He brings, risen with healing in His wings, mild He lays His glory by, born that men no more should die, born to raise the sons of Earth, born to give them second birth. Hark the herald angels sing, Glory to the newborn King!

Yes Lord we greet Thee, born this happy morning, Jesus to Thee be all glory given; Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, O come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!

I see much more clearly that God can grow His kingdom with or without me. He cannot grow His kingdom with a controlling me, but will use a surrendered me. And having a personal advent, allowing Him to come in, remove and fill, whatever needs repaired and re-supplied, allows me to serve, humbly, with gratitude, and I can go off to sleep knowing He has it under control.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all…Merry Christmas!

Advent…Fulfillment

 Faith to believe, faith to disbelieve.
It takes faith to see how Jesus, by His birth, fulfilled the scriptures written centuries prior to His birth. That first advent was the fulfillment of numerous passages found throughout the Old Testament. His entire life is denied by some, doubted by many, admired by a few, and cherished by the multitudes that trust in Him. Debating His existence is not so difficult with the arrival of the “Way,” as the newly found religion formed following His death. This should quiet those who claim He never existed. Who Jesus claimed to be should silence the doubters as well, simply because with His coming and going, those following Him gave their entire lives in devotion to His existence, many martyred in horrible fashion. The admirers, think of Him as a peaceful pacifist that taught love and tolerance…no deity associated. To those who believe in Him as the propitiation for sin and the giver of eternal life, this is the only explanation, He is exactly who He claimed to be. He fulfilled the law, the requirements of the law, and the prophetic passages attributed to the coming Messiah.

It is written.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel.” Is. 7:14
Then Mary said, “Let it be to me according to your word,” and the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

The Word made flesh.
This moment, these words of Mary’s acceptance of the will of God, ‘according to your word,’ is the moment the Word was planted in her undefiled womb, advent became reality. Christ arrived in Mary with no shepherds, Magi, no angelic hosts proclaiming “peace on Earth,” nothing except a young girl receiving the “Word” by faith. That moment, the accuser began his plan to destroy God’s plan then as he does today using people’s fallen defective nature as his weapon. Fear, doubt, hatred, lies were all a part of the arsenal he would use until that fateful day Jesus would die on the cross. Little did this ignorant fallen one know that he was used to fulfill the scripture, start the church, and seal his doom. Quietly, the plan was in full process.

Who gets it? How is this possible?
This advent can only be understood by the one who hears, believes and accepts. That moment of the individual’s acceptance, that same word planted in the womb of Mary, is planted in the heart of the believer, and as the fetus grew inside Mary, the seed of faith grows in the individual until the reality of the scripture is fully revealed and every line of every verse written in the Old Testament reveals Jesus Christ, King of kings, and Lord of lords. The veil is lifted from the eyes, spiritual understanding arrives. Curiously, the believer is at the extreme other end of the spectrum of the disbeliever. The disbeliever sees absolutely no possibility in this reality, and questions purpose, meaning, and truth, blinded by the devices of the prince of darkness. The believer believes the entire reality and their eyes are opened to the spiritual by the Light of the World.

Receive and see.
Jesus came, and He now comes to all who hear and want sight as well. Imagine, the Lord of Glory loving this crown jewel of His creation, man, enough to come and rescue him from his outright rejection of the one that made him, and loves him, taking on a body of flesh and suffering insult, and physical abuse, being lied about, and suffering the shame of the cross and its horrible death, for that creation. It is too wonderful for the mind to conceive, and I understand why it must be believed through the heart. If you believe His message, ask Him in. You can experience real advent now.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all.

Advent…If It Never Happened

I wonder what the world would be like without Christmas. No Santa, reindeer, elves. No tinsel, lights, no presents. For adults, no holiday off from work, or double time if you work through the holidays. How many songs would be gone? movies? books? poems? The contributions of Jesus’ birth are huge for Madison Avenue, department stores, school pageants, and on and on. In the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the main character George Bailey wishes he was never born, and the movie was depicted in a powerful way, the ripple effect of just one man’s life can have. This man in the movie had done so much for so many without knowing all the good he had done. With his never being in the picture, many lives were in ruin.

 Sadly, there are many people who wish that this holiday didn’t exist. Many hate the commercialization, others the religious symbols, some just hate. They wish Christ had never come into the world, they’re full of disdain and anger over Him. They don’t like the fact that a “fictitious” story could have importance on the path a man. That is a topic for tomorrow perhaps. But the truth is, He was here, He was foretold, He is here today by His Spirit that lives in us by faith. Jesus was, is, greater than George Bailey. Jesus is greater than any man, any king of earth, any person that ever lived. Lives have been transformed by this little child of the manger, civilizations have been structured.
 “…you will find the child wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:2 (NKJV)
George was depicted as a morally good man, and at the end he could see his worth from a different perspective. (Please Hollywood, leave this story alone, no remakes. I can’t imagine what you would do destroying this classic with obscene language and sexual overtones. God forbid.) George Bailey’s story is about one man in one town. Jesus however, is about an entire world changed through His life. Today He is still changing lives, as the bumper sticker I once saw said, “Wise men still seek Him.” That picture of the nativity and His advent, coming as a servant in obedience, changes in the end as God exalts the Son of His love:
“And being found in appearance as of a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore god also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of those in heaven, and of those on the earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil.2:8-11 NKJV                        
Jesus was the greatest man who ever lived.                He had no servants….but they called Him Master                He had no degree….but they called Him teacher                He had no medicines….but they called Him healer                He had no army….but kings feared Him                He had no military battles….but conquered the world                He had no crime….yet they crucified Him                He was buried in a tomb….yet lives today              Jesus is the only reason for the Christmas season!  Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all, Keith.

Advent…Morning Has Broken!

My time in recovery from alcoholism and drug use has caused me to be aware of the significance of the morning hours. Here is the time of day where I place myself in the care of God, and petition His help in staying sober one more day. This is vital to the suffering, no matter their addiction, no matter how powerful their hang-up, or how determined their habits, or how deep their hurt. We surrender our will to Him, He lays out the days direction where we walk. As we continue to follow this plan, our path or direction in life becomes evident, for He lights the way.

“The path of the just is like the shining sun that shines brighter unto the perfect day.” Prov.4:18

I have always loved the mornings, but more so today as I follow Christ. I nearly dread to see midday approach. The time of quiet contemplation in solitude, absorbing the ancient text with the determination of a miner panning for gold until at last…He arrives and speaks to me through His Word, a daily advent. He comes to those who search for Him.

And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you, says the Lord”…Jer.29:13,14a

That time of the morning is a spiritual time where putting God first in my day, ahead of my need for food or anything centered on me, and enthroning Him in the rightful place of first, brings the awareness of His daily mercies and great faithfulness. This daily advent, His coming to my call, whether in worship, or in need, opens my eyes to the Eternal Presence that thinks only kindness and love toward me, and wants me to linger there waiting His arrival. This special time I can be so intimate with Abba.(Daddy) David knew the importance of the morning when he was in the wilderness of Judah and wrote this psalm:

“O God You are my God: early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water…because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You, thus will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands unto Your name.” Ps. 63:1,3

To experience advent, (defined: the coming or arrival of someone important), I must hunger and thirst for His presence. The best I know how to do so is in praise and in adoration that He sent Christ Jesus to us Emmanuel, God with us. The morning hours are a precious time to experience advent, to realize His omnipresence.

“Morning has broken, like the first morning,
blackbird has spoken like the first bird.
Praise for the singing, Praise for the morning!
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word!
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the One Light, Eden saw play.
Praise with elation, praise every morning,
God’s recreation of the first day!
Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all

Advent…a new view

What is advent? It is simply defined the coming of a notable person. In Christianity, it is the nativity of Christ Jesus that religious groups recognize, actually the season up to the nativity. There are different ways that people celebrate advent, and there are many Christians who do not recognize the season at all. If you honor the season, it is a good thing, if you do not, it is not a bad thing. What I  want to do is recognize the event, but not traditionally this year. This “coming” is THE coming of the promise foretold throughout the Old Testament of the One who would banish our sins and reconcile us to the Almighty God through His shed blood…all of this prophesied centuries before.

If this is true, if this actually happened in history, why are we so quiet about it? Shhhh the neighbors are Muslims, or atheists, or Taoists, do you have to type about it so loudly? I am talking about a God that loves me even though I snubbed my nose at Him in rebellion, and thought why would I serve you the way you treat us? He only created a possible trillion galaxies, and knows each star by name. He only created the human being with who knows how many cells man contains, and each one of these invisible boogers has 66,000 moving parts in it. Yet He cares enough for man that He gave His best, taking on human flesh, and tempted as we are so none of us can say to Him, you don’t understand us…He became us. He lived and died like us, was resurrected as we will be as we believe on Him. We must celebrate advent, in thanksgiving, in praise, in gratitude, and in recognition that we created in beauty, the Imago Dei, the image of God.

As I gave thought to this post tonight, I was in a recovery meeting with a man from Yugoslavia, whose father was killed during that conflict, as well as other close relatives. His mother was raped, home was destroyed, everything that he held dear ripped away, and only a memory. His gloom remains to this day. He came to America, thrilled to finally have a chance to improve his life. His life did improve, he began to have possessions, and in fact things became so much better that he drank to celebrate. He celebrated so much, that celebrating possessed him, and he became an alcoholic. His life here was no longer worth celebrating. He is now clean and sober, but stuck in the past. I began to see similarities between the two of us. I can take the same approach regarding my past life of alcoholism and the loss of possessions, friends, and what could have been, or I can take a different approach and see the advent, the glorious arrival.

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” Ps.8:4
“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are Your works.” Ps.139:14
“And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

I want this year’s recognition of advent to be different this year. I want to have a total realization of how marvelously mysterious the working of The Holy Lord is. How wonderful His love and grace toward man to send His very own son to give His life’s blood for a being He created that ignores Him. What kind of love is this? I cannot comprehend it, but I am drawn to it. I want to speak faith, and joy, and in hope of advent arriving in my heart each day through this season, and in honor of His sacrifice in leaving the splendor of heaven to dwell among the fallen. I do not want to dishonor Him speaking negatively and how awful times are, what I don’t have…when He owns it all. And I want to live inspired, putting positive things in my mind, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and living one too. Above all, I want to take C.H. Spurgeon’s advice, and wash my face in praise each day, praising Him daily, throughout the day, throughout the season. A new way of viewing advent.

Thanks for reading, God bless and keep you all!