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December 26, 2012

Keys To Unlocking Christmas Power; All Year Round

By Anthony Wade

Walk in the power God intended for you...


Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. -- Psalm 103: 1-5 (NIV)

The gifts have been opened and soon enough the tree will come down. It will be stored away with the memories of Christmas 2012 until next season, when we creatures of habit will go through the same patterns we always do. As the nativity fades into the background and the world prepares to say goodbye to this year I can't help but pause and wonder is that it? I say that because we tend to rush through this life as humans never pausing long enough to process, appreciate or consider the events we just experienced. Christmas should be different though. The birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ should be different. It should not be merely a tinsel-filled footnote at the end of a long year. There is power in that child in the manger. Power for our lives. Power to overcome the schemes of the devil. Power to live the victorious Christian life we hear so much about yet have such a hard time abiding in. So I asked God for a Word today for us. A Word that we need to take with us into 2013. Manna that can be re-harvested every morning in our lives and reapplied. Because when the lights come down and the Santa suit is put away, we still have to go back to our lives. Our lives where we struggle sometimes. Where we need to live with more power from God. The power to trample upon the scorpions the devil throws in our path. The same power that led the life of Jesus from Bethlehem to Golgotha can lead us as well to the destiny God has already written for each one of us.

So what is the Word of the Lord today to move forward from celebrating His birth into the day to day victories He desires for us? The key verses contain the keys to carrying the power of Christmas with us all year round. The first key is to not pay lip service to praise and worship. We can get so accustomed to playing church in our culture. I remember at my old church the vast majority of folks would be late for service, cutting into what was already a rapidly reducing time of praise and worship. I remember this crystallized for me when I went to a Christian concert and essentially spent five hours in pure praise and worship. The presence of God was so thick that night. We fail to realize how limited our praise is at church due to the limited nature of the church itself. We can tend to want to get the worship part of service over with when instead we should be basking in it. How important is this?

But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. -- Psalm 22: 3 (ASV)

God actually inhabits the praises of His people! We praise to usher in the presence of God into our lives and into our services! Note what the Psalmist says here though --praise the Lord oh my soul -- in my inmost being. The soul is where our feelings are housed. It is much easier to worship in our spirit but when all hell breaks loose in our life it must go far deeper than that. Worship is not meant to be background noise either. Too often we have turned praise and worship into a commercialized industry instead of offering thanks to God Almighty. Worship music blends into the background of our lives at work or even at home but we fail to stop and consider the words that we sing. The object is not to entertain us but to bless God. Singing "Majesty" while ignoring His awesome majesty in our lives strikes me as not being very worshipful. Worship Him in our inmost being -- not just on the surface. We have too many surface worshippers. Raising their hands on Sunday and powerless when the devil raises hell on Wednesday. There is no power in a divided being. There is no power in someone who merely pays lip service to the praise and worship of Christ.

Secondly, we see the reason we need to praise God -- to forget not His benefits! Let's face it, we live in a "what have you done for me lately" culture that thinks the things they are blessed with are either entitlements or are forgotten as quickly as they are received. Even those with a thankful nature are often quick to forget what has already been given them. The reality is that there is no end to the benefits from God towards us:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. -- Lamentations 3: 23 (NLT)

Each morning there are new mercies from God towards us! Every single day is a gift from God! His faithfulness is not capricious, blowing with the wind or changing on a whim. It is Christmas morning every single day of our lives but we sometimes can only seem thankful on December 25th, or if something really big happens. Cultivating a thankful heart protects us from the lies of the enemy and empowers us in Christ. When we properly reflect upon all God has done, is doing, and has promised to do, how can we not be thankful! The key verses conclude with a reminder of some of the benefits we have already received. Benefits we need to be ever mindful of and thankful for.

The Psalmist starts by reminding us that God forgives all of our sins and heals all our diseases. Not some; all. The greatest gift given to us by God is the forgiveness of sins. We did nothing to earn it. We do not deserve it. Quite frankly we undervalue it and underestimate the depth of God's grace. When Jesus Christ hung on that old wooden cross it was to cover all of our sins, past, present and future. The Bible says there is now no condemnation for those who walk with Christ. Yet how many Christians still lead bound lives? Bound by the guilt of sins past, the struggles of sins present, and the foreboding sense of defeat in the sins yet to come? God does not expect perfection beloved -- He expects repentance. We strive towards Christ-likeness knowing full well we can never attain it in this mortal flesh. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God but He is not a God of a second chance but rather another chance. We often strip His power out of our lives by refusing to accept the scope of His grace in our lives. We fall into the traps of legalism, guilt, or a works-based religiosity that can never satisfy and only serves to deepen the divide between us and God. Should we provide service unto God? Absolutely but not out of some warped sense of duty but rather because there are other people in desperate need of the same bottomless grace that He has bestowed upon us. This gift of forgiveness of sins is not only a daily occurrence but a moment to moment experience:

If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness. If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts. -- 1John 1: 8-10 (NLT)

These are some of the traps we can fall into regarding our sin and God's grace. We can convince ourselves to look the other way when it comes to our own sin issues. We see false gospels abounding that focus solely on the grace of God so as to lull the believer into thinking they do not have to worry about sin in their lives. That is pure heresy. We cannot claim we have no sin anymore than we claim we have never sinned. We need an honest and open policy when it comes to our sin. Today's deep theology is this -- God knows what we try to hide or downplay from Him anyway -- why not just confess it? If we confess it than He is faithful and just to forgive that sin and cleanses us as well! That is the gift that keeps on giving because it restores our closeness with God and empowers us to trample on the lies of the enemy who seeks to use our sin to divide us against the very grace that saves us.

The Psalmist next reminds us that God is the God who redeemed our life from the pit. Humility is crucial to a thankful heart, which is necessary to walk in the power Christ intends for us to have. The sad reality is that far too often we can forget as Christians how far down God had to go to save our sin sick souls. What pit did He find you in? I remember my pit very well. So did the Apostle Paul:

For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I'm not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God's church. -- 1Corinthians 15: 9 (NLT)

Paul was responsible for starting so many churches across the known world yet he always maintained his humility. Even at his end, he refused to accept that he had grabbed hold of why God grabbed hold of him. We see in this verse the secret was that he never forgot the Damascus Road that God found him on. He never forgot who he was before Christ. He never forgot the pit God redeemed him out of. This may seem simple enough but how quickly can we forget? There is a story where Jesus has ten lepers crying out to Him for mercy. Jesus tells them to go show themselves to the priest and on the way, they are healed of their leprosy. Here is how the story ends:

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, "Praise God!" He fell to the ground at Jesus' feet, thanking him for what he had done. This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Didn't I heal ten men? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?" And Jesus said to the man, "Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you." -- Luke 17: 15-19 (NLT)

I hope the percentages are better with us but sometimes it sure seems as if nine out of every ten forget all God has done for them as well. How quickly the nine forgot. Here is the real secret though. While the event of these men being healed was a one time event, the thanksgiving for it should be a daily occurrence! Every day we should be thanking God for what pit He dragged us out of! Every morning before our feet hit the floor we should be thanking God for another day and for everything He has already done for us. That is where the power of Christ lies in our lives.

The benefits do not stop there! God crowns us with love and compassion! Do we realize this on a daily basis? Do we even recognize it in our lives? One Bible version says that God "continuously surrounds" us with love and compassion. Everywhere we can see there is the love and compassion of God -- but are we seeking? Are we looking for it? Do we ascribe some of the good things in our life up to chance or luck instead of divine providence? Do we gloss over the good things in our lives as somehow not being enough or heaven forbid -- something we earn or deserve? Sometimes we can develop a negative Godly mindset. When something negative happens in our life we can then go to God and possibly even blame Him. When something positive happens however, we do not even consider the hand of God in it. That is a recipe for an ungrateful heart and that is the perfect ground for the enemy to sow his lies into. You cannot walk in the power of Christ if your natural reaction is to blame God for everything that goes wrong and give Him no credit when things are going right. The world has turned God into a caricature of a grumpy old man hurling lightning bolts down upon us in His disappointment. The reality is He continuously rains compassion and love upon us every single day if we would simply look for it.

The final benefit listed in the key verses is an interesting one to dissect. God satisfies our desires with good things. Wait a minute preacher; are you saying God gives me whatever I want? Not exactly.

Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. -- Psalm 37: 4 (NIV)

We always want to rush into the part of the verse we like without paying any mind to the qualifier. In this instance, yes God will give you the desires of your heart if you delight yourself in Him. What does that mean? If we would take the time to delight ourselves in the Lord then we would know His will better and we would not find our desires conflicting with His will. Reading the key verse portion more closely we see three separate things that God works in concert together. First, is that we have desires -- things we want. That seems simple enough. Secondly, God will satisfy those desires. That does not mean that God gives us what we think we want -- it means His answer ultimately will satisfy us. Thirdly however, He accomplishes this through the provision of "good things." Well, what does that imply? Simply put, sometimes we may not realize that what we truly desire are not good things. They are not good for us. They are not good in God's eyes. They are simply not good.   How many can testify to that? To desiring something that ultimately was no good for us? I know I can. God is not in the business of giving into all of our desires. He is in the business of satisfying them with only good things:

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. -- Romans 8: 28 (NLT)

He causes everything to work for our good! Even when the answer is "no." God is not some universal waiter here to bring us whatever we desire. Rather, He wishes to satisfy what it is we want with His perfect and pleasing will. That is how we carry the power we feel at Christmas to our day to day lives. God did not intend for us to stop once every year and dabble in that power but to live it out until He calls us home.

The key verses conclude by saying the result of these two keys -- sincere, in-depth praise and remembering all of His benefits, will result in our youth being renewed like the eagle. The dictionary actually refers to what an eagle is known for - size, strength, and powers of flight and vision. This is the power God intends for us to walk in as Christians. Not some woe-is-me existence wallowing in misery until I can one day enjoy eternal life. No beloved. The eternal life is available today for every believer. The power is there today for all of us. God wants us to grow in our size and our strength -- fed by His Word and sustained through our faith. He wants us to develop the power of Christ inside of us through His Holy Spirit. Powers of developing the vision of God and flight in our lives. God always has a new level for us to fly to. We can always go higher in this walk but we have to be willing to. We have to have a sincere, soul deep praise in our beings for all of the wonderful benefits he provides for us -- now and forever, amen.

Reverend Anthony Wade -- December 26, 2012

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.