Merry Christmas! The Good News and Gift of the Most High 🙂 Praise our Lord!!
The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven,and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.
I know firsthand the abject difficulty for parents to find peace when agonizing over a child who is hiding and rebelling against those who love him. Indeed, I have spent countless nights tossing, turning, worrying and praying for my reckless and wayward child. Parents naturally experience distress when they do not know where their prodigal child is or what that child might be doing. It is instinctive for a parent to be concerned about the welfare of their children, even those that are not in rebellion.
Yet, God does not want those who follow Him and carry His word within them to live in a disempowering spirit of fear or anxiety. Living tentatively and apprehensively is not His good and perfect will for our lives! The Bible frequently reminds us to “fear not” (Psalm 23:4, Isaiah 43:1, Philippians 4:6-7, Psalm 118:6, Joshua 1:9, and Psalm 56, etc.) 2 Timothy 1:7 instructs us that God has endowed us with a “…spirit of love, of power and self-discipline.” So, it is never God’s will that we live in anxiety and constant trepidation!
The dictionary defines ‘prodigal’ as one who “…wastes resources freely, recklessly and extravagantly.” Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 portrays a son who destroys and ravages not only his inheritance through wasteful recklessness, but also his relationship with his parent, his beloved father.
How extremely heartbreaking it is for parents to witness a child indulge in wasteful, self-destructive behaviors with potential lifelong, devastating ramifications. When a child walks away from his family, makes repetitive poor choices, flouts responsibility and loses integrity, those who most love the child are so very grieved, shattered and dispirited. And what happens when a child’s poor choices advance into compulsive behaviors, like drug and alcohol abuse — and if continued repetitively, alcoholism, drug addiction and the like?
Yet, as heartbreaking and far-reaching as the situation may be, we absolutely CANNOT allow the enemy’s ploys of fear, anxiety or even panic to overwhelm Abba Father’s TRUTH, wisdom and perfect plan. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11). We must absolutely remain focused on Him, not on the present dismal situation. We must know and trust that He alone is the remedy, the advocate, the comforter and the hope — and that He holds the reins!
Yet, such mental acuity is difficult for parents whose children are in the midst of their rebellion. With that in mind, here are some tips that I have found very helpful when I need to stay focused on “standing in the gap”:
- Diligently act in FAITH, trusting God and His Word. Many of you are familiar with the adage, “Let go and then… Let GOD.” God promises He will lead us away from our fear in Isaiah 41:13: “For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”
- Rid your thoughts of uncertainty, disbelief and fear, all malicious tools of the enemy. The Bible instructs us that there is “no fear in love” in 1 John 4:18 and that “…perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment” and “the one who fears is not made perfect in love.” Take out your spiritual garbage regularly, ridding yourself of the malevolent ‘rats’ who seek to rob your peace and wreak havoc in your life.
- Harbor diligently in God’s Words and daily seek His wisdom and grace. Remember that God is more than “able” to protect all who stand on His Word. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us, “…cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). So, while family counseling, self-help books and other resources are useful and beneficial, never forget that the only truly safe and reliable place is within God’s shelter and fortification. Study your Bible and hide His Words in the center of your heart.
- Diligently pray for your child’s deliverance through the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ. Ask that God’s good and perfect will be done. I like to pray Psalm 34 and Psalm 91 over my children. There is also Ephesians 6 and Isaiah 61 among numerous others.
Finally, always remember the beautiful, celebratory conclusion of Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son and the truths revealed within:
- God patiently waits with kisses and an open embrace for his children to return to the fold.
- God welcomes His formerly rebellious children back into His embracing arms with a celebratory feast
Our Father wants nothing more than to restore His children to a relationship with Him and His kingdom so that what was dead can come alive and what was lost can be found and made whole —— in His perfect love! Can you agree with me and find hope and clarity in God’s truth and promises?
Are you a perfectionist? Do you have a child who is a struggling perfectionist?
According to psychologists Joachim Stoeber and Julian Childs, “….perfectionism… is a personality trait characterized by a person’s striving for flawlessness and setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by overly critical self-evaluations and concerns regarding others’ evaluations.”1
Indeed, a perfectionistic mentality creates paralyzing strife, anxiety and undue pressure, leading one to feel discontented and frustrated with life. We must also be aware that perfectionism is a sin deeply rooted in pride. When we struggle and strive on our imperfect efforts, raising our life’s bar to unreasonable and extreme heights, we are not relying on God. Instead, we are exerting our limited energy on trying to do things that ONLY God, the only “PERFECT ONE” can do.
God’s Word tells us that all have sinned and that we all fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Jesus, our Lord and Savior, came to forgive us our imperfections and shortcomings and has commanded that we find our rest in Him. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Our ‘perfection’ is to be completed in Christ alone…
We are called to live godly lives, not become self-indulgent, self-absorbed slaves to the world’s perception of us. Rather than worry about the affirmations of others, our focus should be on developing and nurturing our faith in Christ, as well as submitting to HIM our hearts and minds for HIS purposes.
So, when you are striving in your own ‘perfectionism,’ remember the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Let’s lean unto Him and teach our children the same. For, in the end, we are weak — but HE is strong, right?
1Stoeber, Joachim; Childs, Julian H. (2010). “The Assessment of Self-Oriented and Socially Prescribed Perfectionism: Subscales Make a Difference”. Journal of Personality Assessment 92 (6): 577–585. doi:10.1080/00223891.2010.513306. PMID 20954059.
The Bible, the LIVING WORD of God, contains thousands upon thousands of verses that provide direction and comfort to our lives, during both the good and the bad times. So many of our children need comfort and direction taken from God’s word and NOT the world’s untruthful utterances.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 asserts God’s truth regarding our temporary struggles within this sinful world and provides comfort to all who are willing to receive it, including parents who are praying over their spiritually lost children. The verse can provide a comforting balm to our aching hearts:
“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
This past year, I have found my life verse and have also selected verses for members of my family. A ‘life verse’ is a verse or passage from the Bible that you choose to be your most cherished and recited verse. As such, you commit the verse to memory and recite it, write it down, and affirm it in your everyday conversations with God. The verse/passage should be one that speaks to your heart, as though it was specifically written with you in mind!
My life verse/passage is Psalm 23:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever”
This passage resonates deeply within me and my life. The very vision of God as the Good Shepherd, leading me, walking with me, restoring me, feeding me, and anointing me, provides me with a true sense of comfort and confidence of who I am in Christ. It also reminds me that HE is in charge, not me —- and not the world!
I have also selected life verses that help to guide me in prayer for each member of my family. I have chosen the following life verse for my daughter, who is my first child:
“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD and their vindication from me, declares the LORD.” — Isaiah 54:17
This verse speaks to my heart for my daughter as it is God’s promise of protection, shelter and fortification. I turn this verse into a prayer of affirmation on behalf of my daughter, receiving God’s promise for her as one of his children. She may currently be struggling with the lies of the enemy and the deceit of the world, but I will choose to stand untroubled and believe God’s promise for her.
Do you have a life verse? If so, what is your life verse? Do you have life verses for each member of your family? If not, I highly recommend it. You will find that your verses provide hope, inspiration and strengthen your faith.
“My family dwells in the shelter of the Most High and we abide in the shadow of the Almighty. We SAY [speak it out loud!] to the Lord, “My Refuge and my Fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” For it is God who delivers us from the snare of the trapper and from the deadly pestilence of sickness and disease. God will cover us with His pinions, and under His wings we may seek refuge. God’s faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark.
We will not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day, or of the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon. One thousand may fall at our side, and ten thousand at our right hand, but it shall not approach us. We will only look on with our eyes, and see the recompense of the wicked. For we have made the Lord, our Refuge, even the Most High, our dwelling place.
No evil will befall us, nor will any plague come near our tent. For He will give His angels charge concerning us to guard us in all of our ways. They will bear us up in their hands, lest we strike our foot against a stone. We will tread upon the lion and cobra, the young lion and the serpent we will trample down.
God says to us… because you have loved me, therefore I will deliver you; I will set you securely on high because you know my name. You will call on me and I will answer you. I will be with you in trouble. I will rescue you and honor you. With a long life I will satisfy you, and let you behold my salvation.” (Psalm 91)
God yearns for us to “stand in the gap” for our prodigal children and pray for them to be delivered from destruction —- and from the very clutches of the enemy who comes to lie, kill, steal and destroy. In Ezekiel, the Lord scanned the entire earth for anyone who would stand in the gap and build a hedge of protection around the land, but could not find a single person.
The Lord told Ezekiel: “I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall [a hedge of protection] and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.” –Ezekiel 22:30
The Lord desires that we intercede in prayer for others for their protection. “Intercede” is a Latin word that literally means, “go between.” We must ‘go between’ our children and the enemy, praying a holy and blessed hedge of protection around them.
We must also remain mindful in our prayers for our children that the ever-watchful enemy is on a never-ending quest to produce gaps and cracks in the armor of our children. Indeed, he maliciously targets the very weakest fragments of people, scrutinizing their experiences and abilities; and then attacks each area of vulnerability, including opening deep emotional wounds, producing an endless stream of guilt and shame.
As depicted in Ezekiel, nobody would intercede for the nation to create a spiritual wall of protection around the house of Israel. So, the enemy ran free in his quest to steal, kill, and destroy. God is appalled when no one is found to intervene: “He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene.” (Isaiah 59:16a).
Jesus was the paramount example of someone standing in the gap for others and can be our model for how we should intercede for our loved ones. (See John 17, Luke 22:31-32, Luke 23:33-34, and 1 John 2:1).
Won’t you please stand in the gap with me today for the liberation of our children, interceding in prayer that God’s Truth, Hope and Love prevail?