Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Meditations

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14


Christmas was an act of war.
Do you realize that?

With the birth of Jesus, God Himself invaded enemy territory. Satan had rule over earth since the fall of man. But Christmas began a significant battle. God entered the battle ground.
 
And Satan threw everything he could at Him.
Herod sought to kill the baby Jesus. He slaughtered hundreds of innocent children in the process. Bethlehem had become a battle ground.

God knew that we were trapped within enemy territory. He wanted to offer us freedom. Jesus came to rescue us. God desires no prisoners of war. (2 Peter 3:9)
This is what Christmas is.

When the angels sang, they proclaimed cries of victory. They knew with Christ on the scene, it was only a matter of time.

Glory to God in the Highest…and on Earth, peace and goodwill toward men.

Everything Satan threw at God, Jesus conquered.

No temptation swayed Him.
No threat overcame Him.
Not even death could stop Him.
God proved the victor!

Christmas was the beginning of the end.
Christmas was an act of war.
The Christmas invasion brought our rescue.

This is why we come.
O come let us adore Him.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Christmas Meditations

The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

Christmas is such a beautiful season. The colors. The lights. The preciousness of a baby. It’s easy to romanticize the event. But in reality it was anything but. A dirty stable. Crowds. Rejection. Labor pains. Urgency. Sometimes we get that.

But the biggest contrast to the romanticized version of baby Jesus in a manger is the reason Jesus came. Jesus came to die.

We tend to make it be about us. Jesus loved us. God wanted us. And all of that is true! But don’t just focus there. Look at the entire big picture.

Jesus came to die.
 
Jesus came because He loved the Father. Jesus came because he wanted to do the Father’s will. Jesus came because he hated sin. Jesus came to see justice served- that the debt of sin would be paid.

A friend of mine is having her son right now as I write. I know her heart is full of dreams for her child. Every parent does… that first step, friendships, graduations, weddings. Every person has dreams of their own…starting school, learning to drive, the first boy/girlfriend, a first job.

But not Jesus.
He came to die.

That was His purpose, His mission, His focus:
Revealing God’s goodness and triumph over sin.

I haven’t yet put up my Christmas tree. To be honest we are still deciding if we will. But this morning I pictured a different tree standing in the corner of our family room.

What if I hung my Christmas lights on a cross?
Would the meaning be more clear?

Jesus, the light of the world, born to die in my place.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Meditations

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11

 
As I mentioned earlier this week, I’m struggling this year. I just can’t “get into the spirit” of Christmas. As God and I keep wrestling through things, I know part of my struggle is my missing the joy of sharing Christmas. It’s just us – again. It’s always just us now. The fun and excitement of surprising others, of spoiling others, and receiving all of that back is gone. Before you send me an email about life seasons, know that I get that. Even if the boys were here, it wouldn’t be like it was when they were younger. Teenagers don’t get as into Christmas baking and decorating as younger children do. I do get that.

But what’s important here is this realization that part of my struggle comes from fatigue of life and a selfish unwillingness to get into the spirit. The phrase “what’s in it for me” would aptly apply here.

And that’s where God introduced my next one liner to think on.

Christmas is about Worship.

When I read what I wrote above, I sound like a little child. Christmas is all about me. But it’s not. Christmas is about Jesus forsaking his glory and coming into my mess, coming down to live among selfish, egotistical people like myself. Jesus came to rescue us and reunite us back to God and rather than be grateful, be touched, be impressed, my response is I want more.

So I’m trying to take me out of Christmas this year. I still don’t know what that all looks like. It might mean adjusting some traditions. It might mean starting some new ones. But I want my response to Christmas to be one of bended knee. I want to come and adore not ask for more.

When the good news was proclaimed, the shepherds left to seek Him.
When the star appeared, the magi traveled to find Him.
When Simeon and Anna held the child, they rejoiced in worship and praise.

This is what Christmas is about.

I want every Christmas tradition to be full of meaningful worship, or it doesn’t happen. If I put up a decoration, it should be done to reflect the understanding I have, to express the gratitude in my heart. I put up lights to push back the winter darkness just like Christ came to expel the darkness from my heart.

I give a gift not because it’s expected and I don’t simply give something because it’s easy. I give a gift to express the gratitude in my heart for the one I give to. I willingly sacrifice to make it special because of the value the recipient holds, just like Jesus willingly sacrificed on my behalf.

I send a Christmas card and letter not to showcase the greatness of my life, but to proclaim the power and reality of God.

I’m convicted this year not of my traditions but of my motives behind them. Christmas is about worship. About gratitude. About humbly receiving a gift I don’t deserve. Father God, forgive me for so often making it be all about me. May this year’s Christmas be about what I can bring to you, in gratitude of all you brought to me.

 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Meditations

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

Christmas is less than 20 days away. I have to be honest, I’m fighting hard this year. Holidays are always hard for me and this year is particularly difficult for some reason. But God’s working patiently with me, giving me one liners to meditate on… like this one:

God with Us.

Did you ever stop to think about those three little words?

God With Us.

God- the maker of all, originator of life, creator of everything seen and unseen, all powerful, infinite, eternal, omniscient, omnipotent… THIS God is with us.

With- we are never alone. No matter what we are going through, no matter how isolated we feel, how overwhelmed we might be, God is WITH us.

Us- This all powerful God left glory and came to be with US, with you and me. We are the reason he came. He pursued US.

God with us.

No other religion has such a relationship. Every other religion has man trying to close the gap that exists between man and god. Only Christianity is based on the move of God, not of man. God knew we could never achieve His standard of perfection. So He came to us. He descended into our mess to come rescue us.

Do you realize how much God loves you?

God With Us.

Three little words to think about…

Friday, December 5, 2014

Faith Defined

Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in. Luke 18:17 MSG
 
What’s the most important verse in the Bible?
 
Have you ever wondered? We all have our favorites. There probably isn’t a most important as every single one is God breathed and thus important. I’m not sure that God ever does “un-important” anything J
 
But recently I read a verse that I know I’ve read before. I even know I’ve read it in this translation. But this time, I read it, and it grabbed hold of my heart forever.
 
You are blessed because you believed the Lord would do what He said.
 
That’s it. It’s not long. It’s not complicated. In fact, it’s so simple I think most of us miss it.
 
The verse is spoken by Elizabeth to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Right before Mary breaks out into worship and song over God’s goodness to her, Elizabeth speaks these words over her. But it wasn’t the context of the verse that struck me. It was the simplicity.
 
This verse truly sums up faith and what it means to be a Christian.
 
Remember when Jesus said unless we have child-like faith, we can’t enter the kingdom of God? (Matt. 18, Mark 9, Luke 18) This is what it means.
 
I’m around kids all day long. When you say something, they believe it… well they do until they get jilted enough by our broken world. But this simplicity, this taking someone at their word, this is what Jesus means. And this is what we see in Mary when she simply believed God would do what He said. This is what we see in Abraham when God promised to make him the father of nations. And scripture says “his belief was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:3)
 
This is the “child-likeness” Jesus seeks in each of us. This is faith. God speaks. We believe. It really is that simple, this life of faith.
 
God says He will provide; I believe it.
God says I’m forgiven; I believe it.
God says His grace is sufficient; I believe it.
God says Jesus covers my debt of sin; I believe it.
God says He is good; I believe it.
 
No matter what promise you see in scripture, faith is simply believing God will do what he said. Even when it doesn’t feel like it; even when you can’t see it.
 
That Goliath that’s terrorizing you looks bigger than God. But God says He’s all powerful. Will you believe it?
 
That tragedy squeezes the life out of you and in your pain you wonder how God could let you go through this. But God says He is always and only good. Will you believe it?
 
That sinful regret presses down so heavily you’ll never be free. But God says Jesus died and paid for and covered every sin. Will you believe it?
 
Faith is simply a choice.
 
So often we make things more complicated than they need be. We want it to be more. We want it to be about us. But it’s not.
 
Faith is simply believing God will do what He said, God is who He said.
 
Let’s pattern our life after the faith of Mary, the faith of Abraham, the faith of a child. Let’s believe and live like God will do what He said.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What he would say...


4 years. It seems like yesterday and forever ago all at the same time.

All this week I’ve remembered back to special moments, gifts, of that final week. Yes it was hard to say goodbye, as Peter put it, but it was so, so precious, so rich and tender and full of love.

And that’s what I miss most. The sharing of life, whatever it held, with my boys. I often wish, not to bring them back, but just the chance to talk once again. To share. To connect. To love.

In thinking about that this week, I wondered what Peter would say.
I felt it would be simply this:

Tell Them!

Tell them, Mom!
Make sure everyone knows!

Tell them that God is real. Someone does exist that controls all of time. He created the Earth, the Moon, the Sun, the stars, the universe in its entirety. Not only did He make it, He sustains it. He holds it all together, keeps it running. He is powerful. He is the giver of life. He has more power than death. Words cannot fully express, nor your minds yet fully comprehend, all that He is. But. He. Is!

Tell them that God is good. You’ve never experienced such goodness. Unconditional love. Total grace. The source of compassion. No evil exists within God. His intentions are only good, for your good, for our good, and He has the power and patience to make it all so. You can trust Him even when you don’t understand Him because he is totally, absolutely good.

Tell them why He came. Tell them Christmas is less about how much God loves us (although he REALLY does) and more about how much God hates sin. Jesus came to earth to die. This God of perfection, this God of power, knew we could never pay the debt our sin creates. But He hates sin so much He paid the debt Himself. The extreme of the cross shows just how much. He gives us grace freely, forgiveness we don’t deserve. This is how good God is. This is how real God is. This is how powerful God is. This is why God is worth serving.

Tell them Mom.

Tell them they have a choice. God won’t force Himself upon us. He wants creation to function as He designed, not the messed up broken disaster we currently call life. But He wants relationship not obligation. He wants love not fear. So He gives us free will: the freedom to accept Him on His terms or reject Him on ours. We can accept His payment on our behalf, or we can say no thanks and do our own thing. But that path we choose leads to a destination. And the destinations are not the same. We can reject His help in this life and thus, have no help in the next. Or we can trust His goodness here and then live secure in His goodness there.

Tell them Mom.
Make sure everybody knows.

Tell them God is real. Tell them God is good. Tell them God’s made a way. Tell them they have a choice.
Tell them I hope they choose Him...because I want to see them again.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Thanksgiving Prayer

Thank you Lord for all my life has held. All of the good. All of the blessing. All of the richness--which includes all of the trials, all of the pain, all of the chiseling and shaping of my heart. Thank you for taking on my debt that I could be freed from my rebellion, my self-obsession, my fear into the truth of your love, your grace, your peace. Thank you that nothing in my life, no pain, no tear, no hard place has ever been wasted. But each moment instead became a stepping stone of greater understanding of Who You Are. Of all the richness in my life, of You I'm most grateful. May my life surrendered give witness to Who You Are and what You can do in a life. In Jesus Name, Amen.