Christmas Offerings:5 tips for living a life dedicated to God

 

By Erika Rizkallah

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1-2

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For many, New Year’s Eve is the day to leave the things of the past behind and start fresh. But for me this process begins on Christmas Eve.

December 24 is my “Dedication Day” and is the most important day of the year to me. It’s become sort of a ritual over the last seven years. It happened like this: In 2009, I left my old life in the D.C. area behind to follow God to a new place.

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It was a big deal because not only did I leave family and friends, I left my job in ministry. I’d been on staff at a church when I heard the Lord tell me to GO. It didn’t make sense to me then and it certainly didn’t make sense to my boss.

My family and friends were also skeptical. After all, why would God send me to an unfamiliar place when I was succeeding where I was? Especially when I had no idea what I was going to do!

But go I did.

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That leap of faith has rewarded me in ways I can’t express. However, I went through a tremendous identity crisis with buckets of tears and confusion. I didn’t know how to just “be”. . . without a home, career or support system. Ironically, He sent me to North Carolina whose state motto is: Esse Quam Videri which means To be, rather than to seem.

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Isn’t God wonderful?!

He sent me here for that purpose. To be my authentic self – his daughter in Christ.

After a period of loneliness and settling in, I had a “moment” with Him I’ll never forget. I was in the bedroom of my rental home praying about the year ahead. I said, “Okay Lord, I followed you here. I’m waiting for my new assignment.” I didn’t hear anything. So I thought, Well, I’ll just serve you in whatever thing you place in my path.

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In that moment, I was filled – and I mean filled – with a sense of overwhelming joy. I literally danced! I carried that joy into the new year and I served my “old self” off.

Since then, I’ve rededicated myself to the Lord – to his plans and purposes for me – each Christmas Eve.

If this sounds like a welcome adventure to you, here are five tips to help get started . . .

Pray – All conversation with God begins and ends in prayer. Ask him to reveal His will for you in the upcoming year. He’s kind and generous and wants to lead us to authentic life in Him.

Remember – What is it about the current year you want to revisit or leave behind? Remembering needs to be done in a place of solitude with plenty of time set aside.

Listen – Bend your ear toward Him, keeping in mind His voice is often soft. You may not hear anything immediately but when you do make sure to write it down!

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Commit – With a heart intent on heeding his will, devote yourself to the task ahead. Even just “being” is hard work and requires trust, perseverance and faithfulness.

Obey – Obedience isn’t a word we like to hear or practice in our culture but it’s a requirement for all God’s children. You may need to clear your schedule, distance yourself from toxic people or learn to say no to good things so you can say yes to better ones.

That first year of service wasn’t always butterflies and jellybeans. I served in obscurity, behind the scenes on every occasion. I scrubbed toilets, ran errands, served meals and babysat the neighbor’s kids.

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But through obedience, I experienced overarching peace and clarity. Best of all, my relationship with our Heavenly Father and His son, Jesus, deepened my faith and soothed my soul.

How about you: What offering can you give to Jesus this year? 

 

 

Now is the time for joy

Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.” Matthew 11:4-5

One morning I read about what it meant to be “blind” in Old Testament times. Back then, being blind was fairly common. The sun, desert sand and wind inflamed the eyes and the blind were some of the most helpless members of society. Helping the blind and lame was the sign of a righteous Israelite.

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When I was little “helping a blind man or old lady across the street” was considered a good deed!

In later Old Testament times, blindness was a sign you were cursed by God and considered sinful or disobedient. This was the culture in which Jesus lived. Giving sight to the blind was a messianic sign, so when he healed people’s eyes, it was a statement. He was saying:

am here!”

This awes me. God has put us on this planet “post-Jesus” and what an excellent thing! We can praise God and shout for joy that this is the time in which we live. Although this world is still filled with violence, wickedness and sin, we have been bought back.

           We’re the redeemed.

Here’s what the prophet says in Isaiah 35:1-6…

The desert and the parched land will be glad;

  the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.

Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;

  it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.

The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,

  the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;

they will see the glory of the Lord, 

  the splendor of our God.

Strengthen the feeble hands,

  steady the knees that give way;

say to those with fearful hearts,

  “Be strong, do not fear;

your God will come,

  he will come with vengeance;

with divine retribution

  he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened

  and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

Then will the lame leap like a deer,

  and the mute tongue shout for joy.

Water will gush forth in the wilderness

  and streams in the desert.

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Wow. This is for us! We who believe in Jesus, should be filled with joy, but it’s easy to let the troubles of this world blind us. I’ve been guilty of this myself, but now my eyes are opened – I was blind but now I see.

Your Turn: What (if anything) have you been blind to before?

Walking on The Way of Holiness: Joy of the Redeemed

By Erika Rizkallah

This morning I woke up in tremendous pain (more than usual) and couldn’t move. My husband rushed to get my medication and I stayed in bed waiting for it to kick in. For those of you who know me, I live with a rare pain disease that doctors say will never go away.

Good man that he is, he brought me coffee and my Bible study tools. I lay in bed, mulling over the thought that today, I’d remain bedridden. I hate these kind of days; I’m used to them, but it’s Friday and I had shopping plans!

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Somehow in my study I turned to Isaiah 35. Isaiah is one of my favorite Old Testament books and his name means “The Lord saves” or “The Lord is Savior.” It’s filled with prophecies about the Messiah and was written by a man who answered God’s call and became a prophet to kings. More than that, Isaiah’s writing is filled with gorgeous imagery and hope, as well as warning.

Isaiah 35 is subtitled “Joy of the Redeemed.” As followers of Christ, we are people of redemption and I highly suggest you read this short chapter. The last few verses talk about the highway called The Way of Holiness. Here’s what it says:

No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

As I read, gladness and gratitude overtook me and though I sigh, my spirit is filled with joy. I can move now – although with difficulty – but I know that one day I will run along that highway, dancing and singing with gladness!

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Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Hebrews 12:12