Friday, December 25, 2009

And You Shall Call His Name Jesus

Christmas morning. We got up early and gathered around the tree...and the computer as we skyped with my dad. The troops where he is got the day off and so, he was able to call in and watch us open gifts. It was hard...being able to see him but knowing he wasn't really there but I was glad he was able to.

However, before we do gifts, we always read the Christmas story and Daddy always reads it. Thanks to technology, this year wasn't any different and we all sat in our living room as, half a world away, our deployed sailor read the words of the Christ's birth in the sandy deserts of Iraq. As he began to read, I was struck by the situation. We are Christians here the United States; he is over there in a Muslim country but today, Iraq proclaimed the birth of the world's Messiah.

As we finish out the last month of this long deployment, I thank God that He has kept my dad safe thus far and I pray that He will continue to do so. But...I know that, no matter what is to come, through all the years of my life no matter how many or few, He's going to be there with me and whatever it is, it will be better than anything else...even if I don't understand how. Because our God's ways are not our ways and His foolishness is wiser than man's wisdom.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

We went and got our Christmas tree today. Going to Kluck's, picking out the perfect tree, and taking it home and setting it up to Christmas music has been one of the deepest traditions of my family. It was wonderful and really feels like Christmas now...but not quite like it has before.

For those who don't know, my father has been serving our country in Iraq for the past year and will be returning home in late January. We are all happy to be back together so soon but the holidays aren't even close to the same without him. And, of course, on our way home, the song "I'll be Brave for Christmas" by Big Daddy Weave came on the radio and we all tried not to cry.

Sitting here, I realize a little more of what Christmas really means. It is so easy to get wrapped up in the gifts and the lights and the beautiful decorations but bright garlands and ornamented evergreens are not what this holiday is about. It is about something much bigger and MUCH better.

It is about a baby. Just one baby and yet, there was never another like Him. God the Son in flesh; born not to wealthy parents in a beautiful palace but to a peasant girl and his first crib, a manger where animals would eat. That was the entrance of the Son of God.

I miss my dad. Sometimes, I just have to grit my teeth at how deeply I miss him but I am not sorry that the Lord gave us this trial. It increased my love for my earthly father and now, it has showed me a little more of the love of my Heavenly One. That same pain that I am feeling now, God felt a hundred times over when His Son left heaven and came down as a Man and then, even more than that, when the Father had to actually turn away from His Son as Jesus bore the world's sins on His shoulders. That take your breath away, clench your jaw pain that I feel...He didn't just endure that, He purposefully endured it...for me.

He missed His Father, just like I do, and He loves me even more than that pain. I could not ask for a greater gift and I will never be able to thank Him enough!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Comfort in Insignificance

"Be comforted, small one, in your smallness. He lays no merit on you...Be comforted, small immortals. You are not the voice that all things utter, nor is there eternal silence in the places where you cannot come." C.S. Lewis from Perelandra

I finished this book today and towards the end, I found those two passages. At first, I confess, pride reared its ugly head. I get to rejoice that I'm insignificant? But then, I thought on it more. Yes, I do!

At the core of our sin nature, there is our pride and arogance that desires to be like God. It is the temptation that Eve was given in the garden and just like our first parents, we are ever listening to its lie yet again. Selfishness, anger, even worry, they are all tenacles of the same massive pride. We want to be our own God.

But do we really? Do we really understand what being God is? Yes, He gets all the glory and worship but He has endured pain that we cannot even fathom! And, besides that point, how comfortable would you be if your loved one's lives were in your hands? If you alone were responsible to ensure that your father made it home safe from work every day, your mother stayed strong as she served her family, or your children lived through the raging fever of the flu? Wouldn't you kinda, you know, go insane with the pressure?

That is why I think C.S. Lewis' character told the human to rejoice in his smallness. God does not require us to do His job. The world will not crumble because we goofed; our salvation will not be in jeapordy because we didn't see something coming. He does not lay any merit on us...He knows we are sinners and He sees us as we are, expecting neither more nor less. He understands us, for He became like us.

Rejoice! God is mighty enough to be God by Himself! He doesn't not need us!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Never Was Grief Like His

I know this is a long post but trust me, it is worth it. This is a portion of my Sunday School lesson on 'How did Jesus win our salvation?' Read the passage please. It left me speechless...

Excerpts from 'The Sacrifice' by George Herbert

"With clubs and staves they seek me, as a thief,
Who am the Way and Truth, the true relief;
Most true to those, who are my greatest grief:
Was ever grief like mine?
See, they lay hold on me, not with the hands
Of faith, but furie: yet at their commands
I suffer binding, who have loosed their bands:
Was ever grief like mine?
Arise, arise, they come. Look how they run!
Alas! what haste they make to be undone!
How with their lanterns do they seek the sun!
Was ever grief like mine?
Therefore my soul melts, and my heart's dear treasure
Drops blood (the only beads) my word to measure:
Was ever grief like mine?
These drops being tempered with a sinner's tears
A balsome are for both the hemispheres:
Curing all wounds, but mine; all, but my fears:
Was ever grief like mine?
So sits the earth's great curse in Adam's fall
Upon my head; so I remove it all
From th' earth unto my brows, and bear the thrall:
Was ever grief like mine?
The soldiers also spit upon that face,
Which angels did desire to have the grace,
And prophets, once to see, but found no place:
Was ever grief like mine?
'O ye all who pass by, behold and see';
Man stole the fruit, but I must climb the tree;
The tree of life to all, but only me:
Was ever grief like mine?
Such sorrow as, if sinful man could feel,
Or feel his part, he would not cease to kneel,
Till all were melted, though he were all steel:
Was ever grief like mine?
'Now heal thy self, Physician; now come down.'
Alas! I did so, when I left my crown
And father's smile for you, to feel his frown:
Was ever grief like mine?
In healing not my self, there doth consist
All that salvation, which ye now resist;
Your safety in my sickness doth subsist:
Was ever grief like mine?
But now I die; now all is finished.
My woe, men's weal: and now I bow my head.
Only let others say, when I am dead,
Never was grief like mine."

He suffered more than we can even imagine, to gain the love we so rarely give Him. How truly great is our God!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Live like We're Dying

"We only got 86,400 seconds in a day
to turn it all around or to throw it all away
We gotta tell 'em that we love 'em while we got the chance to say
Gotta live like we're dying!"

This is part of the chorus to a popular song right now by Kris Allen. It isn't a 'Christian' song but it applies anyway. God is not confined to speaking truth only through the music of those who claim His name. We can find truth even in the words of the firmest athiest.

So...what are we going to do with our lives? Who are we going to live for? What, at the end, will give us joy? Imagine if more people starting living like this, living as if the day they had were the last they would ever see. What would change?

As Christians, every night we should go to sleep ready to meet our Maker and knowing that we didn't waste a second of the day we are now finishing. We only have one life,all we are guaranteed is the moment we are now in. What are we going to do with it?

Christ came to earth to die for us, He wrapped Himself in flesh to take the punishment for our sin, He bore the shame and agony of the cross to redeem His sinful creations. As He went through each day, He knew that He was one day closer to His own death but also, to the glory of His resurrection. Will we follow our Lord's example or will we live for ourselves? Will we enjoy good now or we will wait, realizing that there is greater good to be gained at the feet of our Savior?

You only have 86,400 seconds in this day. Will you be proud or ashamed of them once they are gone?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Harlot Bride

Exekiel 16.

This is sin without veils, without sugared words, and without side stepping. It is put down in clear, powerful, attention demanding language. We are not allowed to ignore this.

The orphan has been wed by the King, the bride has been adorned by her Husband, and the wife has betrayed her Savior...

Imagine if a man and woman were about to be married; he had popped the question, she had accepted, and now, they are at their wedding day. The groom is at the altar, the wedding march begins, and the bride comes down the isle. But what if...instead of white gown and veil and eyes on her fiance alone, this girl comes clothed in the garments of a prostitue and flirting with every man in the room?

We were abandoned and covered in our own blood and filth and He came, cleaned us off, and claimed us as His own. He covered us with beautiful robes and gave us all that we have and just like Israel did, we so often spurn it. We run after the fickle idols of this world and sacrifice His own gifts to the vanities of our hearts.

Do we understand how puny, how miniscule we are compared to the God who has saved us? Do we realize how brutal of a betrayal it is when we run from the greatest Love ever just to have some sinful pleasure that will burn on the Day of Judgment? We are His Bride; we should be striving every day to be beautiful for Him.

And yet, our offended Groom does not leave us. He doesn't throw the ring down in the church and walk away. He stays there, calls us back to Him, with pain even, and continues to teach us, to persue us, and to love us when we are unlovable. What an amazing God we have!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sandpaper People

I just got a new background with the help of my awesome, high-tech younger sister. She suffered through my painstakingly slow persusal of the different options and my control-freak need to do everything myself. Bless her heart!

As the oldest of five, I have had plenty of instances when that younger sister and the other three have acted in the same aggravating way to me. They are loud when I am trying to study, they ignore or interrupt me when I am trying to talk, and they discover unlimited ways to simply tick me off. Mom calls them 'sandpaper people'. Those are the people who rub your rough edges smooth; they teach your patience, selflessness, obedience, and humility. That would be my siblings.

And yet, there are times when I hear my six year old brother burst into hysterical laughter or eat lunch with my two beautiful sisters or marvel at the complexity of my other brother's artwork, and I just have to praise God for what would I do without them? What would I do without that obnoxious noise that fills this house or those young voices telling me things I feel too busy to listen to? I am first a Christian, then a daughter, and third...a sister. My siblings change me in ways they don't realize. They define who I am and the way I treat my husband and my kids, should God bless me with both, will be that way because of the decisions I made about them. They are my best friends, my worst enemies, my motherhood practice, and one of the greatest gifts God has given me and I am eternally grateful!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our Alabaster Flasks

"A woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, "Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold...and given to the poor.
"But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, 'Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me...For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.'"

This passage was part of my devotions today. The story has always fascinated me; just the whole picture of Jesus, the cross only days ahead of Him, reclining at the table and Mary, nervous and sorrowful, coming in with that flask. The sound of pottery smashing as she broke it, the pungent scent of the costly liquid filling the room, and then, this young woman anointing the Master's head and washing His feet with her tears, wiping them dry with her long, dark hair.
That perfume was not cheap and it was probably all Mary had; a fragrant oil to perhaps be used at her own burial. And yet, she gave it completely and recklessly to Christ; every drop was poured over Him, she kept nothing back.
How often do we clutch our alabaster flasks so tightly and say, "No, Lord, everything but that! You can have everything else but not my job, my home, my spouse, or my money. Not that one precious flask."
And yet, that is often that very thing that He most wants because it is of most value to us. Sometimes, as with Abraham, He asks us to give up the unthinkable just to see if we really love HIm best? we? What is your flask? What are mine? If He asked for them, would we obey? Or would we grasp it tighter, hide it away, and mutter excuses on how the God of the universe isn't worth that much?
Do we trade the Creator for a creation or do we smash it recklessly and completely and let the sweet scent of obedience fill our nostrils and cover us in the fragrance of a heart truly under the lordship of Mary's Master?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Light and Life Obeyed

"O Father, you are sovereign, in all the worlds you made;
Your mighty word was spoken, and light and life obeyed.
Your voice commands the seasons and bounds the ocean’s shore,
Sets stars within their courses and stills the tempest’s roar."

We think of God's powerful arm; His mighty throne room; or His loving eyes but how often do we think about His voice? His mighty word was spoken and light and life obeyed. Imagine, the darkness of before creation and then, a voice to shatter the mountains and still the heart of a child shot across the waters, commanded light to form, and like an obedient servant, it leapt forth shimmering and brilliant!

Through all six days of creation, it was His voice that was obeyed as dry land stretched up from the waters, animals and plants sprang to life, and finally, a man was formed with the breath of life breathed into his nostrils.

But the power of God's voice does not end with creation. Look at the second part of the verse. It commands the seasons and bounds the ocean's shore. I always liked that image. It is as if He drew a line in the sand and told the waves, "Here you go and no farther for I AM."

He sets the stars in place and He stills the tempest's roar. He has utter power over nature and us. We have no need to fear. We serve a God who knows all the stars by name and at whose voice, the earth quakes. We can rest knowing that His voice, His love, His arms, and His eternal plan are unfailing; we will never be alone.

"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1

Monday, October 5, 2009

Love Like This

How much does God love us? To the moon? To the stars? Our human brains can't even take in the depth of His love!

Two days ago, my father came home for a two week R and R after serving nine months in Iraq. My entire family went to the airport and waited...and waited...and waited. I stood at the window and tried not to be sick; I could not sit still I was so eager to see him.

Then,finally, he was there in the flesh and we enveloped him with hugs. Tears were on everyone's cheeks and I was shaking with adrenaline. My mom couldn't even text to say that he was home to those of our friens who were waiting for the news. We were just too excited.

That night, I sat in bed and thought about how great it was to finally have him home and it struck me. That is how God loves us. He yearns for us to finally come to Him in heaven; He longs for me a hundred times more than I ever longed for my dad.

I mentioned this thought at community group since the topic of our dicussion was very similar and one of the men added to what I had said. What if, instead of hugging us and wanting to spend every minute he could with us, my dad had juat walked past us towards the McDonalds or the latest Kohl's sale? That would have hurt more than I can imagine, to be ignored by the very person that I have so eagerly been waiting for.

We do that every day to God. We would rather finish our book or take our nap or buy the latest fashions than give even a little of what He gave to us back to God. He loves us so much; He DIED for us and we ignore Him. How dare we? Think of how that hurts Him and yet...and YET, He doesn't just give up on us. He still pursues us, stil loves us, still helps us when we're in trouble and we decided that praying is worth our time suddenly. He still keeps all His promises. He is truly a wondrous God!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Be Still

"'Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!' The Lord of hosts is with us; the GOd of Jacob is our fortress." Psalm 46: 10-11

Our world runs by in a fast pace. Hurry, hurry, hurry. Here in America, we are always rushing somewhere. Hence the drive in pharmacy, fast food resturants, and microwave dinners. We are always trying to save time. But why?

What are we saving time for? Is it just for the pure and simple fact of having more time to hurry and do something else? Do we rush just for the sake of rushing?

It is so easy with our honey-do lists and the thousand different demands on our time to let God and Scripture slip to the background but whenever we give Him second place, we are sure to be less gracious, less peaceful, and less able to see the blessings and joys around us. He knew that. That is why He told us to be still. This doesn't mean that we can never be busy but that even our business, we remember that He is in the throne and He is in control.

Every other summer or so, my family goes camping up to Lake Superior. We get a campsite right by the lake where we can climb through a thin strip of trees down to the beach and then, out into the icy cold water. We play in the sand, ride on the waves, made smores around the campfire, and fall asleep to the sound of the water.

One day, after swimming, I was standing on a washed up piece of wood and looking out across the water to the faint gleam of Canada's shores with the cry of birds and the crash of the waves in my ear. I stood there in wonder at the creation and I thought of that verse. 'Be still.' How good it is to be silent in your soul, even if you aren't in your motions, and to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that He is God. That is how we can have peace even when life is like an earthquake roaring around us.

"I am God." It is a powerful three words with volumes of meaning behind them. God. We have given that word many definitions but none compare to the Bible's definition. Holy, majestic, righteous, soveriegn, merciful, mighty, loving, truth, eternal, omniscient, omnipresent, never changing, ever faithful. He is the Warrior whose mighty arm will be our fortress and He is the tender Shepehrd who will make us lie down in green pastures and lead us beside still waters. He rules kingdoms, poewrs, wars, and nations and He raises up or tears down according to His perfect plan. We can trust Him for He is God.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Isn't it interesting the places we can get post ideas for? Today, mine came from a prayer at our community group. The man who was praying mentioned his gratitude that God has given us the Holy Scripture and it struck me. What would this world be like without the Bible?

It has been cherished, died for, belittled, and burned. It is the one Story that never grows out of date or irrelevant, though many people would like to claim so. Even Christians often push it to the margins or forget so very often what a blessing it is. Think about it. We love and trust God because we read of how He always provided for His people in the past. Romans 8, any of the Gospels, or 2 Samuel 22. These show His incomprehensible love, His everlasting mercy, and His mighty power.

God is not required to reveal Himself to us. He didn't have to give us the guidance and encouragement of Scripture. It is a gift and we need to remind ourselves of that. Here in America, Bibles are so easily available but there are places in the world where Christians have only portions that they cherish and memorize. I heard once of a person who walked, I believe, forty miles one way just to get a Bible. Would we do the same? Do we understand how precious it is?

It is the words of God Himself!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Perfect Society

Today, I went to a Christian conference for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I heard a lot there; a lot of encouragement and a lot of conviction. But there was one quote that struck me full in the face. It is from a feminist named Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.

She wrote that "When motherhood becomes the fruit of a deep yearning, not the result of ignorance or accident...another Newton will come forth to unlock further the secrets of the earth and the stars. There will come a Plato who will be understood, a Socrates who will drink no hemlock, and a Jesus who will not die upon the cross."

I just sat there...

Margaret Sanger missed a lot of things but that last sentence blew me away. A Jesus who will not die upon the cross? That is what her vision of what a perfect society is. So many people see the cross as horrible, murderous, and ugly...and it is if you just look at the death. However, if you go further, if you look at the Man and understand why He was on that cross, why He let Himself be beaten, spit upon, and killed, and why He came out of that tomb three days later, it isn't ugly. It's beautiful!

Jesus dying on the cross is the one thing that saves our world from utter damnation. That is a controversial statement in this day and age...but it is true. He says Himself, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." There is no mountain with multiple paths, there is no 'your way is okay for you and mine for me'. There is ONE way and it is through the cross. We don't have to like it but it is still there. Our prefence does not define true reality.