Eph. 2:1 ¶ And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,He made the point that at Christmas and New Year's there are more suicides, traditionally, than any other time of the year. Ironic that the season of greatest joy and celebration (for some) is the season of greatest pain and hopelessness. Pastor James went on to make the point that whatever problems we maybe facing: depression, financial stress, loneliness, unforgiveness, divorce, death, loss of a job, a wayward child, troubled friendships, etc.; that we needed to place those cares "in a box", as it were, and give them to the Lord wrapped up in "but God..." wrapping paper. He wasn't being flippant or cute--the point is profound. He asked, "what problems are you facing that if God didn't intervene and grant the resolve you wouldn't see the victory?" He then said, "it is in the midst of those things, beloved, that you need to remind yourselves what the early church knew; that there is always hope; for when all things seem lost, there is strength to be derived from those two little words, "but God..."
Eph. 2:2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
Eph. 2:3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
Eph. 2:4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
Eph. 2:5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Eph. 2:6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
Eph. 2:7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (emphasis mine).
Twenty-one times those two little words are mentioned in the New Testament. They are mostly stated in the area of the forgiveness of sins. But also in regards to our sanctification, judgment, healing, rescue from danger, salvation, glorification, the incarnation of Christ, etc. Those two words are very important to Scripture and therefore they should be to us.
So on the day after Christmas, I prepared a sheet of paper (one for each of the kids and myself as well) with the above verses printed at the top, along with a prayer that I wrote for my family--a prayer of trust, petition, dependency, reconcilliation, forgivenss, repentance, and hope in God for whatever needs there maybe in each of our lives. I then asked each of the kids (ages 11 to 17) to take fifteen minutes or so and write down on their piece of paper what things they would commit to the Lord and trust Him for that seemed insurmountable except that He intervened (Dad did this too). All of us then placed our sheets into envelopes with each of our names on them that say on the front, "but God..." We placed them on our tree (see photo above) as our gift to the Lord. We are going to open them in a few months and see how He has answered some of those requests and pleadings to His glory alone.
I thought this would encourage others of you to come together as a family before the throne of grace to find help in time of need. If you don't have a family, are single, or maybe divorced and a single parent as I am, just make this your personal petition before the Lord. I would encourage you to invite a few friends to join you in this time together. And you don't have to wait until next Christmas to begin--you can start today.
I'm facing some real needs right now for this ministry and for my family (maybe you are too). I am prayerfully excited to see how the Lord will answer each of those prayer-needs.
Lastly, this current series on contentment is not just so I will have something to write for the blogosphere. It is the the daily journey I am on right now. It is the crucible of grace the Lord has me in--and though painful some days, what an opportunity to trust Him completely--even for our daily bread.
Thank you for letting me share this with you.
Learning to trust God for the hard things,
PS - tip for next year: I purchased our tree this year at Lowes. It cost only 15 bucks for an eight foot Douglas Fur. I really like that store :-). Grace and peace...