Random Blog Clay Feet: December 25, 2010
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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Accept His Presents

Christmas is possibly most associated with the idea of giving and receiving presents. Yes, there are many other traditions connected to this time of year, but presents usually play a very central role in our relationships with others during this holiday season more than at any other time. This tradition has also enabled commercialism to exploit our fears and desires and has produces a whole different twist to the holiday season that is far from what God has in mind for our lives.

As I sat watching a program on television relating some of the fascinating things to be learned from the earthly sanctuary given to the Israelites through Moses by God, some thoughts came to my attention that relate directly to our relationship with God. Some may be more open to thinking about these things this time of year more than at any other.

One of the hardest things we have to discover is how to maintain a healthy relationship with God in the area of presents, gifts and the appreciation that these are supposed to produce in our hearts. Some have a very difficult time admitting that they ever need gifts from heaven while others take God's blessings for granted so easily that they fail to experience any significant appreciation for the many things God provides for them all the time. Unfortunately too often I fall into both of these categories.

As I jotted down notes of ideas as they were coming to me, the very first thing I wrote down was, Accepting His Presents. Several times I have written about this topic and I am still fascinated with the way that God sometimes puts interesting things into the language that I grew up using in ways that convey subtle but important lessons about my relationship with Him. To my amazement, the more I looked into the idea of presents and how it is directly linked to the word presence, the more in awe I am of how these two synonyms tell me what God really wants most to do in my life.

God wants me, more than anything else, to come to know the joy of His presence. And the greatest, most valuable and life-changing gift He can ever offer me is His presence – which is His present to me.
As I have pondered my own desires relating to the traditions of gift-giving, I have come to realize that what I usually long for far more than presents someone might try to offer me is the presence of their heart and person. If someone I care about would offer me themselves in ways that were vulnerable, meaningful and heart-connecting, it would be far more exciting and bonding for me than anything else they might try to purchase to give me instead.

Now, I have heard people talk about these kinds of things for years, but most of that talk seemed like so many religious platitudes to me and had little effect on how my heart felt about God. I suspect these words may have the same ring to some who may come to read this as well. But when a person begins to experience the deepening of these principles more at the heart level and the words begin to come more from a taste of the actual experience rather than just an intellectual theory, the experience begins to really come alive and so many other things begin to fall into place that it is impossible to convert many of them into words adequately.

I have sought to really sense the presence of God in my personal journey to know Him for many years. I have deliberately practiced making myself more aware of His presence, have visited places where I might better encounter His presence. Sometimes I have been disappointed when I discovered that where many people insisted they could feel God's presence readily that in fact they were more likely pursuing an emotional high from intense music rather than really meeting with the true God described in the Bible. Elijah had that problem at times and God had a few words to say to him about it.

Something I learned today that is very important for me to remember in my desire to experience much more of His presence/presents in my life more consistently is my own need to stop agreeing with Satan. It is so easy to think along negative lines, to allow discouraging assumptions, and let the insinuations of the enemy act as dark filters to block me from enjoying the presence of God who might be very close but not affecting me as I want to be affected. Someone has reminded me tonight that along with my need to stop agreeing with Satan's insinuations about God that only reinforce his lies in my life, but I also need to start affirming the truth about how God feels about me and about my true identity.

Instead of verbalizing discouraging thoughts, I need to take charge of my expressions and begin to vocalize the truth as it is in Jesus and about how much God really loves me. I can express faith, sing faith, become bold in faith by simply choosing to dwell on those truths in my thoughts and speech instead of falling into my default rut of gravitating toward viewing the faults in others or amplifying problems and difficulties. I can focus on God's goodness, His faithfulness, His everlasting forgiving attitude and His incredible grace.

Speaking of forgiveness, I also felt impressed in my spirit that the issue of offense that I have been learning more about recently is one of the main stumbling blocks that can prevent me from embracing the presents of God. When I allow offenses to remain in my heart, I will be quickly sucked into the trap of Satan and there soon will follow darkness, deception, anger, bitterness and all sorts of other problems. With these heavy cloud covers over my life it then becomes next to impossible to embrace the joy of God's presence with me as I can only see the problems in and around me.

If I want to live in the presence of God and celebrate the presents that He provides for me so lavishly all the time, I must be willing to become aware of any offenses I may be holding onto against anyone or against God. I must take ownership of the pain caused by those offenses in my heart, releasing the other person from responsibility for resolving them. Then I can in turn give them over to Jesus for release and healing and freedom in my own heart.

When I let go of offenses (which is the real definition of forgiveness) I become less and less encumbered and have increasing capacity to embrace joyfully God's presence/presents in my life. In effect, when I lay down the offenses I have been holding onto so tightly thinking they will somehow give me protection or advantage over someone else, I free up my hands to then be able to take hold of God's glorious presents for me and can enjoy the pleasure of His presence.

Do you think the Scriptures mean nothing? The Scriptures say,
"The Spirit God made to live in us wants us only for himself."
But the kindness God shows is greater. As the Scripture says,
"God is against the proud, but he is kind to the humble."
So give yourselves to God.
Stand against the devil, and he will run away from you.
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
You are sinners, so clean sin (resistance) out of your lives.
You are trying to follow God and the world at the same time.
Make your thinking pure. Be sad, be sorry, and cry!
Change your laughter into crying. Change your joy into sadness.
Be humble before the Lord, and he will make you great.
(James 4:5-10 ERV)