What Inspires You? {Advent: December 5}

  
What inspires you? What makes you see your circumstances in a new perspective, and what causes you to let go of the unhealthy patterns in your life?

You need to spend more time around the things that inspire you. Things that inspire you range from a variety of categories. It can include people, patterns, styles, textures, destinations, colors, shapes, animals, plants, nature, music, landmarks, books, certain stories, blogs, a course you’ve taken, magazines, journal articles, smells, sounds, words, podcasts, movies, tv shows, retail stores, restaurants, your industry, etc.

So, take five. Take five minutes, get your journal, and write down ten things that inspire you. Be specific. If you think of more than ten things, write those down too.

Now for each thing that inspires you consider how to incorporate it more in your life. Think of purposeful, tangible, ways in which you can do so. For example, if there’s a certain pattern that inspires you, pick out a set of notecards or some scrapbook paper with that pattern to set on your desk. As another option, purchase a cookbook with your favorite kind of cuisine in it. Have an inspiring destination in mind? Purchase a travel book on that destination and plan out your next visit. Listen to your favorite podcasts daily. Purchase a year-long subscription to your favorite magazine. Network with people in your industry, or each month read a new book that relates to your career.

Whatever is on your list of inspirations, make a point to surround yourself with those items. Be sure you encounter those inspirations on a regular basis. Life isn’t supposed to be boring, so let it inspire you!

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Just to let you know, Dallas Theological Seminary is giving the gift of a free online course this Christmas to anyone who signs up. The course is an eight-week study on the Gospel of John. Click here to sign up for the course.

Lets Be Honest {Advent: December 4}

  
Really honest. You ask God for clear direction. You want signs, you want clarity, and you want to know that God speaking to you. But what do you do when you actually realize that He is talking to you? Do you listen or do you pretend not to hear him? Do you actually follow His leading or do you tell God, “No”? You see, we ask God to lead us, but then when we think that we hear him, we just ignore it because, “Surely God wouldn’t ask me to do that,” so we think. We want to be absolutely certain, and in our quest for certainty, fear starts to grow within us as we consider what it takes to respond to what God might possibly be instructing us to do.

Earlier this fall when I returned home to Alabama, I visited the church where I grew up. I still know several of the people on staff, and they know my family well. They also know that my family and I have been walking through a really difficult season: five members of my family diagnosed with cancer within the past four years and just witchin the past year, my grandmother’s health rapidly decreasing. Moving home has made me even more aware of the pain that surrounds my family, and my heart has become somewhat calloused. At the end of the worship time during the service, our pastor asked people to come down to the altar and have staff members pray over them. There was no doubt about it. This was one of those times when you just know that God is nudging you to move. At first, even though I knew that’s what I needed to do, I said in my mind that I would just sit through it and enjoy the comfy chair. Nope. God wasn’t going to let that happen. I got the message and asked my mother to walk down there with me. We caught up with a close friend who prayed for my mother, family, and me. It was a sweet time and was exactly what I needed. God knew it. I knew it. I almost ignored it, but God melted my stubborness.

What is God asking you to do? Go do it.

Speak {Advent: December 2}

 

This one is not as long, because I want you to have time to apply it in a practical way.

As we talked about yesterday, you have something to say. Deep, honest words and emotions are stuffed in your heart that you long to express. When you try to find an outlet to speak, you only end up hitting a wall. Jump over it. You need to speak. You want to communicate emotions that you fear others may judge. You want to express points that need to be said, but you are scared to say them.

Let me encourage you to speak. Your voice needs to be heard. You can find ways to say what needs to be said in a way that’s constructive. You can speak what’s on your mind with kindness. If there is something you are timid to say or if it is something that might hurt someone, write it down in a journal. Regardless, speak.

Sparkle {Advent: November 30}


I’ve always been drawn to things that sparkle. Glitter, Christmas lights, sprinkles, iridescent jewelry, sequins, fireworks, stars, sunlight on the ocean, the light parade at Walt Disney World. You name it. If it sparkles, dazzles, twinkles, or glistens, the little kid inside of me explodes. That might be why Christmas is my favorite holiday. Sparkly things everywhere.

I once heard a sermon in which the pastor explained our fascination with Christmas lights. He explained that those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere experience the winter solstice during the Christmas season. So, our part of the earth is at its darkest point when we celebrate Christmas.

Since I heard that sermon, I’ve continued to let that message sink in. We can be in the darkest of circumstances and there still be a flicker of hope, something glimmering there in the distance. This is what I have to hold onto, that Christ will return and establish the kingdom of God in its full glory, because then there will be no more pain, no more evil, and no more lack of empathy.

We are weak without hope. This hope that we have in Christ is not some futuristic fantasy. No, our hope starts now. Let all the sparkles of this season encourage you towards hope and remind you that the Holy Spirit is still active in your life.

Comfort and Joy {Advent: November 29}

God rest ye merry, gentlemen

Let nothing you dismay

Remember, Christ, our Saviour

Was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power

When we were gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy,

Comfort and joy

O tidings of comfort and joy.

One of the best parts of Christmas is the overall sense of comfort and joy that come with the season. Yummy food, pumpkin pie, hot cocoa with marshmallows, crackles from the fireplace, friends and family gathered with ugly sweaters, extra cuddles with your favorite puppy or kitten, lights and presents around the tree, and yummy sips of your favorite latte. These are some of the delights of the season, and they reflect a deeper spiritual longing for comfort and joy. We seek peace from God; we look for joy in Christ; we look for comforting reassurance from the Holy Spirit; and we crave warm affirmation from the people around us.

Yet, a strange thing happens during this season. We experience tension as well. We see fatal events happening in our neighborhoods and around the world, we hear about people suffering in unthinkable conditions, and we feel guilty about our desire for comfort and joy. We look at our own suffering and wonder how long it has to continue. We hear the words “comfort” and “joy,” and we scoff at their seemingly superficiality. We argue that we should just be about the Lord’s work and not be concerned about comfort and joy.

That’s nonsense.

The Christmas carol above speaks of the news of comfort and joy that come as a result of Jesus’s birth, ministry on earth, crucifixion, and resurrection. We look at Christmas and wonder how we can justify enjoying the season with all the calamity that surrounds us, but we forget that the point of Christmas is that we as believers will have ultimate comfort and joy. We celebrate Christmas and Easter as separate holidays, but I challenge you to think of them in a holistic sense. The joy that comes with Christmas reaches its fulfillment in the resurrection of Christ. Without the resurrection, Christmas would be just another holiday. No longer are we slaves to sin; no longer are we without an advocate who intercedes for us; no longer are we without someone who understands the full scope of our deepest pain.

The type of comfort and joy that we have as believers is not superficial. No, our comfort and joy will endure even through the darkest of times. Our comfort comes from knowing that we can rely on the Holy Spirit to work on our behalf because of who we are in Christ. Our joy comes from realizing the comfort that is Yahweh.

So, the next time you hear a silly song about reindeer on the radio, drink an espresso treat from a red cup, or watch a cheesy movie about some city girl falling in love with a childhood friend from her small town just in time for Christmas, don’t brush them off as irrelevant, trivial signs of the season. When you see Christmas lights or hear someone belting “Jingle Bells,” remind yourself that God is present in your life and that He is your constant comfort and joy.

For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 1:5

Scripture references: Isaiah 40:1-2, 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17, Isaiah 49:13, 2 Corinthians 1:3-7