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“So this joy of mine is complete.

He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John 3:29-30

The words of John 3:29-30 were spoken by John the Baptist regarding Jesus Christ. He was explaining to people that he was not the Messiah but rather been sent ahead of Him. John the Baptist lived a Lenten lifestyle 365 days a year. His possessions were few, his physical needs minimal. His focus was on the eternal reward. John’s decrease was not about what he possessed, or lacked, but rather was about who got the attention for his life. He lived so that all the attention he drew would position people to see through him and gaze on Jesus Christ. John didn’t stand waiting to take selfies or glamorized his life. He willingly diminished his importance so that others view of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ could become clearer and more focused; so that the importance of Christ would rise.

Attention is not immoral. However, it becomes wrong when used to serve self instead of God.

John directed those who sought to follow him to become followers of Jesus:

The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I cam baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel” (John 1:29-31)

Offering our Heavenly Father the praise He is due fills His heart with gladness, just as assuredly it must have when King David stated,

“May my prayer be set before You as incense, the raising of my hands as the evening offering.” (Ps 141:2)

“I exalt You, my God the King and praise Your name forever and ever. I will praise You every day; I will honor Your name forever and ever. Yahweh is great and is highly praised; His greatness is unsearchable.” (Ps 145:2-3)

For this week of Lent, may we fast recognition and praise for ourselves and redirect attention; redirect praise to the One to whom all praise is due.

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Lent—Let Go Let God

We have all heard the expression “Let Go, Let God.” Pastors have used it to challenge us to surrender, to allow Christ to be on the “Throne” of our lives, even to challenge us to allow the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. But, this popular admonition also applies during Lent. Let Go of those areas of our lives that keep us from totally becoming more Christ-like in our attitudes and actions.

Lent is an opportunity to approach Jesus Christ with new energy, new focus, or perhaps an entirely new perspective. New is inspiring. New is clarifying, but it can also, at times, be a reminder of what is old. When we want new beginnings, we often are drawn back into the reminders of past mistakes, past successes, past hurts, and the strength-stealer—called REGRET.

Regret drains energy. Regret diminishes dreams and hopes and leads us into spiraling negativity. Focusing on regrets keeps us looking backwards instead of toward the future that God wants for each of us. So, for this Lent season, let go of Regret. God’s mercies are “new every morning.” (Lamentations 3:23) Meditate on the truth of the God’s promise that He “makes everything new!” (Rev 21:5)

Put off your old self, that self that looks back. As instructed in Ephesians: “Be made new in the attitude of your minds; and put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:23-24)

Fast regrets today for Lent! Put on the new heart and mind of Christ and look forward with hope towards the joy that awaits you as you grow more like Him, and truly our Lord God wants that for each of us.

Romans 6-7 is St. Paul’s great theological explanation on how we no longer need to yield to those tendencies and desires that would pull us back to our natural sin nature and away from Christ’s redemptive grace. Lent is that season of 40 days in the Christian calendar that allows each an opportunity to examine those aspects of our lives that take our eyes off the redeeming sacrifice of the Cross. But way too often, many of us, including this author, view Lent as that time to make a token “sacrifice” giving up some indulgence, such as chocolate, coffee, television, or some other extra in our lives. But is that really Lent?

Deuteronomy 8:2-3 reminds us that the Lord God led His people into the wilderness for 40 years to “humble” and “test” them in order to know what was in their hearts, whether they would keep His commands. Lent is significantly shorter, 40 days not 40 years, but it too is a time for us to consider what is in our hearts. Rather than fasting chocolate, what might be the fruit of fasting a miserly attitude and adopting an attitude of generosity? What would happen if we fasted those pastimes that we use to escape responsibilities? Or fasted spectatorship in life rather than active involvement? Or excess accumulation? Lent is a time to consider Jesus’ call to abandon the world’s illusions and embrace His journey to live for the glory and benefit of eternal life; a journey He embraced all the way to the Cross so we might experience fully the life He calls us to.

Lent should be a daily crucifixion of those aspects of our lives that keep us from being suitably impressed by the Cross of the Resurrection on Easter morning. There have been many years when I have been rather passive about the period of Lent. Certainly, times when I didn’t reflect any on the depth of sacrifice Jesus made to take that journey to the Cross. After all, He gave up heaven to come to the earth as a baby. He gave up 33 years living with His Heavenly Father in perfect paradise. Jesus gave up omnipresence, clothed Himself with flesh. He gave up being worshipped by angels and accepted the disregard of humanity. Jesus chose weakness rather than power over the universe. Jesus chose voluntarily. Jesus lived an uncluttered life so that His purposeful and focused death could produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit in those who accepted His sacrifice on the Cross.

Perhaps this season of Lent warrants us considering what clutter we should remove, what might we truly decrease in our lives, so that His Love, His Grace, His Glory, might increase through us to touch the hearts of others with the gift of Resurrection Sunday.

 

You Are Mine!

“I have called you by name;

you are mine.”

Isaiah  43:1

~ The reality of this promise grows ever so much more vivid when we place our name in this verse.  “I have called ____ by name; ____ is mine.”

~ We all need to be reminded of this Truth!  Who in our circle of influence needs to hear this simple, yet powerful reminder from God’s Word?

~ Is there someone dear to you who you who doesn’t yet know how treasured they are by God?  Let us not give up praying they will have the ears to hear their Father calling them by name.

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“Do not call to mind the former things,

Or ponder things of the past.

Behold, I will do something new,

Now it will spring forth;

Will you not be aware of it?

will even make a roadway in the wilderness,

Rivers in the desert.”

Isaiah 43:18,19

The beauty of these words goes beyond its flow and poetry; these words hold out God’s incredible promise to His people that things will not stay the same, and that Redemption will look different and new.  Biblical scholars point out that to the ancient people of Israel, the coming Christ and the radical impact that the Gospel would make on their world as they knew it would be both new and different.

These verses above also point out that there comes a time when we are called to forget what is behind and to eagerly look forward.  We are encouraged to embrace change, even when it isn’t completely understood by our finite minds.  We are advised to “behold” the Lord’s mighty hand at work, as He paves our way in to new adventures with Him, and as He nourishes new opportunities with His power.

In this year of 2016, we at Given the Time have been called exactly to this place. Since 2010 we have strived to obediently listen to the Spirit of God and to encourage Real Women, existing in Real Life, with Real Truth. Each year God has faithfully led, and this year is no different.  God has clearly led each member of our editing team to set aside our previous pattern and to watch eagerly as He does something new and different. We do look back on the unity and joy we experienced as a blogging team with pleasure. And the many thousands of views this blog has enjoyed, we think of these with gratitude to God and awe because they represent real people who God has allowed us to interact with, but we won’t get stuck in former things. We plan to seek out the promises God has made us in His Word, and if He leads us to do so, we will post our insights, but no longer will be posting blogs on any type of schedule.

This is New!  Really different! A little scary!  Yet, so very exciting! May God bless your 2016 as you also seek out and claim His promises for you!

My Identity for 2016

Editor’s Note: 2016! WOW! Are you ready for a new year?! Did you start the year with New Years’ resolutions? Perhaps, you are starting this year wondering how 2015 disappeared so quickly. 2016 begins a new adventure for Given the Time. This will be a year of focusing on who we are because of the Cross of Christ. There are more than 7000 promises God made to us through His Word, the Holy Bible. We hope you will take time to study and consider what God has promised you for 2016, and who you are because of those promises.

One of the ever increasing concerns in our world today is identity theft and having our personal identity compromised by one who wants to use it to perpetuate a crime. While we are bombarded with messages urging us to be vigilant to protect our identity from such manipulations, how many of us take the same precautions to protect our identification from the negative labels that run through our own minds or that bombard us about who we are as women? For example, perhaps you were called clumsy as a child so now believe you are hopelessly uncoordinated, or you were told your nose was crooked, so now you look in the mirror and believe you aren’t pretty, or you look in the mirror and don’t see a face that would grace a cover of a swim suit publication so you think of yourself as ugly, unworthy, or unattractive.

The Enemy seeks daily to steal our identity. Not through the misuse of a driver’s license or a credit card scam, but by planting negative comparisons of ourselves through words and images that bombard us through social media, television, radio and even from those we associate with daily. John 10: 10 reminds us that the purpose of the Enemy is to steal, kill and destroy. We alone can remind the Enemy who we are because of Jesus Christ. We alone can take the more than 7000 promises God gave us in His Word and remind the Enemy that He doesn’t get to steal our identity, our peace, our joy, our hope.

Our Heavenly Father, God Himself, gives us hope, peace, and assurance through the Holy Spirit as we trust in His Truth (Romans 15:13). Let’s choose 2016 to be confident and full of assurance, because God knows our name—He has our name written on His Hand! (Isaiah 49:15), God loves us, even with all of our flaws and quirks—He loves us with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Furthermore, we can know that God leaps for joy over us and sings a happy song over us (Zephaniah 3:17).

The words of He Knows My Name, by Francesca Battistelli, are resonating through my head as I bring this year to a close. I am grateful that while the world around me may not protect my identity, or even know my name, I can enter 2016 with the confidence that I have a Heavenly Father who loves me, wants His best for me, and knows my Name.

Oh, Holy God, thank you. There is just nothing else to say, but thank you–for knowing who I am and who I can be; who the best me is. Thank you Lord God, that I don’t have to question my identity in You. You know me, and love me just as I am. Help me be bold to stand confident before the world, assured that because You love me, all things are possible and that never will You give me more than You can handle in my life. I trust You, Lord God, with 2016 and will stand each day in awe of Your amazing grace. Amen

We have been looking at Mary and Elizabeth and their journeys to find the peace that enabled them to say as Mary did, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever He wants. May everything you have said come true.” (Luke 1:38) Mary was a teenager who had just learned she was pregnant. She was not married. She was a virgin. She knew Jewish law and tradition—she could be stoned for being pregnant and unmarried. She certainly faced criticism and shame in that culture.

While for Elizabeth it wasn’t much better. She had faced years of shame for being barren in a culture that believed having a child was a woman’s duty and responsibility. She was “very old” (Luke 1:9) and suddenly going to have a child to raise. Yes, she was glad but certainly, as any older woman knows, the thought of raising a child at that point in life would have also brought concerns and challenges. Yet, both women appear to us in God’s word as exemplifying peace. Even when we believe someone or something is a blessing, there are complications. Blessings bring positive complications, but none the less they are complications. For example, my spouse or my child or my grandchildren may very definitely be blessings but they are also complications.

We can look at the birth of Jesus Christ from the perspective of 2000 years hindsight, but Mary would have been looking at it with less than 20 years of life experience. Based on a history that believed a Messiah was coming to save the world perhaps she believed like the Pharisees who looked at the coming of the Messiah with the perspective of their understanding, which is why they didn’t expect the Savior, the Messiah to come in a lowly manger, to be raised by a carpenter, to come out of Nazareth or to enter Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. They were looking for a political solution, not a spiritual solution.

Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that God will give us blessings beyond all we can ask or imagine, but God often blesses us in ways that don’t seem like blessings. That may include how joy, peace, and other intangible blessings come packaged—perhaps inside turmoil, death, loss of a job, or illness. When you look at your Christmas gifts, or reflect on the chaos of the past few weeks of preparation and now clean up, take time to reflect, think and ponder as Mary did (Luke 2:19). She too must have felt the chaos—after all shepherds, wise men, animals in the manger! But, out of that chaos came a blessing that was the redemption of mankind. Your chaos may not look like it holds much peace, joy or blessings, but remember God works all things for good of those who love Him and for His glory (Romans 8:28). Wait, ponder, ask God to reveal to you His blessing so you don’t miss the miracle of this season or the gift of the Messiah.

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