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How Long?

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When will it snow, Mommy? Can we watch a Christmas movie and drink hot chocolate tonight? Is that package for me? How many days left until we open presents?

The Christmas season is packed with expectancy. From the moment the first scent of leftover holiday cheer is release from the storage box, everyone in the home looks forward to the culmination of these joyful few weeks. Christmas is coming!

As theologically-minded parents, we have the opportunity to use that feeling of anticipation to teach our children one of the most major themes of Scripture which is the presence of God with man.

In the beginning, the Creator designed a perfect garden, with perfect foliage, perfect animals, and perfect food in which He walked in perfect relationship with Adam and Eve. That communion was tragically broken with their sinful rebellion, but the story didn’t end there. Genesis 3:15 says, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Something was coming to resolve this curse, but it wouldn’t be as immediate as this first family may have suspected. 

The entire Old Testament traces the suspense surrounding the wait for a permanent resolution to this sin problem. God instructs his people to build the tabernacle and later the temple as dwelling places for His Presence. God’s relationship with his chosen people came at the price of sacrifice after sacrifice, year after year.

A small child may feel like the days leading up to Christmas are endless. Each seems to drag as she waits patiently for the hope promised to her. In a similar and even more significant way, Israel longed for the arrival of their Rescuer. How long would God wait to fulfill his long-standing promises?

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.”

In His perfect, never early, never late timing, the Father set into motion the answer to His covenant with mankind.

“And the Word [Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

God himself would now tabernacle with his Creation. Jesus would be both the High Priest and the Sacrifice necessary to complete the plan set in motion in Genesis. When He returned to Heaven, he would send the Holy Spirit to dwell in the hearts of the redeemed. The Church is now a living temple for the presence of God.

But, we’re still waiting. There’s more to come.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

What a breaktaking description of the end of the story! We live in anticipation for all to be made new. We look around at our broken world and ask, “How long?” but we can wait with hope. Just as a small child confidently knows that there will be gifts under the tree on December 25, we as believers cling to the fulfillment and resolution that is surely coming with Jesus’ return.

The celebration of Jesus’ birth is a chance for our families to wonder at the greatest Gift ever given and prepare for the final chapter of God’s story yet to come!

Immanuel, God is with us!

 

 

 

One Dollar Bill {a Christmas reflection}

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My request wasn’t new. As he’s gotten older, I often instruct my son to hold the door for strangers as we are out and about. He dutifully props the door open until the last person has passed.

This time was different. One of the shoppers was an elderly woman accompanied by her adult daughter. As they got closer to the door, I heard her exclaim, “Look at this nice young man holding the door for us!”

She fumbled through the items in her hand, rustling through receipts and coins until she located a $1 bill which she handed to my son with words of gratitude.

I was surprised at this woman’s act of kindness, but understood her desire to reward my son for his “good behavior.” It never occurred to me that my son wouldn’t understand her gift.

“Mom, why did that lady give me a dollar?” he asked as he caught up to the rest of the family. He was bewildered that she would pay him for such a simple task. I explained that she was thankful for his help and wanted to show her appreciation before she left the store.

The interaction was soon forgotten and the money was spent on a box of Nerds to share with his brother and sister on the way home.

That was last week and I have yet to stop thinking about it.

The argument could be made that my son was deserving of the woman’s gift. He did something nice for her, so she did something nice in return. Many of our daily interactions follow a similar pattern. In fact, we keep a mental tally of the good and bad in order to balance it out with our responses.

Since she made a meal for me when I was sick, I need to make one for her when her baby arrives.

I can’t ask her to watch my kids because I might not be able to babysit hers in return.

She was totally stuck-up when I saw her at church yesterday, so I just won’t try to talk to her anymore.

We live our lives by the “tit for tat” rule.

Kindness for kindness.

Rudeness for rudeness.

Good for good.

Bad for bad.

When we as followers of Jesus act this way we are forgetting that this cycle is in complete contrast to the gift we were offered 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem and later at the cross of Calvary.

Romans 5:8 stops me in my tracks every time I read it –

….but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

I was not “holding the door politely” when Christ sacrificed his innocent life for me. I was His enemy. I hated good and desired evil.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

2 Corinthians 5:21

Kindness for hatred.

Sacrifice for selfishness.

Good for bad.

I write through tears this afternoon as I sit overwhelmed at His merciful gift to me, an unworthy sinner. Although, I am often tempted to try, any repayment for this salvation is impossible. My good works are simply a small token of gratitude to the God of the universe who stooped down to rescue me.

He “held the door” for me AND gave me the reward He earned. This, my friends, is incredibly good news and as we finish out the Advent season, I pray that our hearts would understand once again the richness of the gospel of Jesus. His coming offers a peace, hope, and wonder that will last well beyond Christmas.

Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

 

Note to the reader:

My “wish” and prayer for you this season is that you will be overcome with the beauty of the eternal One who became man for you. May the realization of His eternal love and His eternal power over the circumstances of this broken world, bring you a peace that passes human understanding.

I will be taking the next few weeks to reflect on my Savior and rest with my sweet little family! I’ll “see” you in 2017!

Until then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

On Fevers and Advent

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I gently separated her damp curls from her sweaty neck. Her cries had forced me out of bed just as I was falling asleep. It was obvious that the fever had tightened its grip on her little body and was planning to hold on throughout the night.

It had appeared suddenly after her nap earlier in the afternoon. She didn’t complain, but lay lethargically on her daddy’s chest until an early bedtime. Her toddler sparkle had been replaced by an indifference to the world around her.

There is not much a mother can do during these small battles with germs. I wish the maternal guidebook included a magic potion to relieve all the possible illnesses our children may contract during their years under our roof. I wish I could experience their symptoms for them leaving them healthy and carefree.

Instead, their small bodies must fight the germs on their own. They must build an immunity to disease. Their white blood cells must strengthen to fight off future viruses.
As a mother, I can only offer comfort, cool drinks, and tepid baths. I cannot take away their symptoms, but I offer my care as they battle the bug inside of them.

on-fevers-advent-1This stands in stark contrast to the deep spiritual illness we all contracted in the Garden. Each individual throughout history experiences the symptoms of a sin-sick soul. Our hearts hide hate, bitterness, and fear. We spread our infection through harsh words and self-serving choices. Human beings are unendingly capable to express evil in the most disgusting of ways.

We do not possess spiritual white blood cells that work to fight the disease of sin. We cannot defeat the depravity of our hearts. The diagnosis is grim.

Read these words from Scripture:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted. Isaiah 53:4

It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:24b-25a

 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. I Peter 2:24

You have been healed. 

What was once dead is now alive. What was once broken is now whole. What was once damaged has been restored.

My prayer this advent season (which kicks off today, by the way) is for a renewed awe at the incarnation of God himself.  May my eyes see clearly the severity of my sickness and may my heart rejoice at the cure provided by Jesus. May my soul once again realize that its very life depends on the One who gave His so freely. May this Christmas season be filled with joy flowing from more than dazzling lights, Frank Sinatra, and plaid and velvet toddler dresses. May it celebrate the ultimate healing found in Immanuel, God with us.

When Easter Sunday Feels Like Every Other Day…..

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***This is a repost from my first blog, A Steady Rain. After another busy Easter Sunday, I wanted to remind my own heart of these truths. I hope it’s a blessing to you too!

When Easter SundayFeels like every other day

I’ll spare you the details but our Easter Sunday morning was not the peaceful, serene, and reflective morning you might expect from your pastor’s family. The day started with tempers, disobedience, throw up, and the list could go on… I’m really hoping I’m not alone in this but I’m guessing that there were disappointments and failures not only in the morning but all throughout your Easter Sunday.

We all desire perfection and beauty. We somehow hope that because the date on the calendar says it’s a special day that the people and events of the day will follow suit. But Scripture tells us otherwise. Our lives, our world, our souls are hopelessly broken. Even our Easter Sunday mornings are tainted with the ugliness of sin. 

I enjoyed our Easter Sunday morning service so much this year. It wasn’t because there was some major change in the service itself. There definitely wasn’t gorgeous weather (it snowed super hard all morning). It wasn’t even because the kids were amazingly well behaved (they weren’t). It was because I had been confronted head-on with the desperation of my own soul that morning. 

When Easter SundayFeels like every other day (2)

I gravely need the resurrection. I need the hope that is offered me through Christ not because I have any potential in myself to succeed, but because Christ turned the cross from a symbol of guilt to one of unwavering love. 

Easter IS like every other day of our existence because we live in the confidence that death has been defeated on our behalf. Our biggest failures and shortcomings point to the One who crushed the serpent’s head at the cross!

He is risen, indeed!!

My Christmas Wish…..

The lights are twinkling. The spicy smell of the Christmas wreath candle brings back memories of years gone by. Something about Christmas Eve makes my warm hot chocolate taste even sweeter. The kids are too excited to go to sleep and I may not be getting any new toys or games under the tree, but I have to admit I’m pretty excited too!

My heart is overwhelmed with peace. Not because my circumstances are inherently peaceful, but because words from Matthew are still ringing in my ears from our before-bed story time.

“Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

He is come! The Prince of Peace reigns!

As we wrap up an old year full of mistakes and regrets mixed with sweet memories and head into a fresh, untarnished year brimming with hope and uncertainty, His kingdom will never end! Emmanuel – God with us!

ddmerry christmas

My “wish” and prayer for you this season is that you will be overcome with the beauty of the eternal One who became man for you. May the realization of His eternal love and His eternal power over the circumstances of this broken world, bring you a peace that passes human understanding.

I will be taking the next few weeks to reflect on my Savior and rest with my sweet little family! I’ll “see” you in 2016!

Until then Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

 

 

COMING SOON:

The last edition of the bi-monthly Kitchen Table Newsletter announced our upcoming series, Galatians: No Other Gospel. GalatiansThis series will begin January 10 and will touch on some of the major ideas/themes found throughout this awesome book of the Bible. I’d love it if you would take a little time before then to read through Galatians. You’ll glean so much more from this series of posts and can share some of your thoughts and insights in the comments!

First Breath…

As a part of our Christmas celebrations, we sat down this past weekend to watch the Nativity Story as a family.The kids were really intrigued by the movie. They were so excited for the part where baby Jesus would be born.
While we were watching, we were discussing the fact that babies don’t breathe air until they come out of their mommy’s tummy. Then they usually start crying.
Finally, Mary and Joseph arrived at the cave where she would deliver Jesus. My little guy watched in anticipation until the baby was born.
With a sense of amazement and excitement, he blurted, “Jesus just took his first breath!”
He didn’t realize it, but his comment was super profound!
The same mighty One who created the Earth and filled Adam’s lungs with breath was now willingly inhaling his first breath as a tiny baby.

The sovereign King of the universe laid aside His glory and put on our broken flesh to complete for us what we could never accomplish ourselves.
That, my friends, is a beautifully deep concept that I hope to continue meditating on throughout this Season.
Praise God, for the manger, because without it, we would never have the triumph of the cross!

 

*This is a repost from my old blog, A Steady Rain! I needed this reminder for myself during this busy season! I hope it encourages you!

Can Santa point us to Jesus?

Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas! It’s that time of year where we’re surrounded by reindeer, magic snowmen, and elves! As families who want to emphasize the beauty of the advent, it can be hard to wade through the surface traditions that Christmastime brings.

Instead of fighting against the mentions of Santa and his midnight delivery of toys to children around the globe, it might be helpful to find references to the gospel even in the familiar traditions of this season. It’s possible that even St. Nick can help us point our kids (and ourselves) to Christ!

Can Santa point us to Jesus-

 

You better watch out! You better think twice! He’s gonna find out who’s naughty and nice……

The truth is that we are ALL naughty! The fall in the Garden of Eden long ago sealed our fate as depraved, “bad” human beings and our position on the naughty list. Giving money to the Salvation Army bell ringers or showing up for a Christmas Eve service does nothing to move our names to the preferred nice list. In fact, even the most consistently “good” person can never measure up to God’s holy standard. (Romans 3:10). We don’t have to be left on that cursed naughty list though. Jesus Christ covered up his divine nature with our sinful flesh and lived perfectly for us. His record is now ours when we accept His work on our behalf meaning that when the Father sees us, we are no longer “naughty” but perfectly “nice”.

Oh, we are Santa’s elves. We work hard all day….

In order to make enough toys for every boy and girl in the world, those elves have a ton of work to do! I’m sure magic helps a bit, but a lot of effort goes into the process! Jesus completed a task far greater than any Christmas toy as He hung on the cross for us. John 19:30 tells us that he breathed, “It is finished” as he bore the wrath of a holy God in His body. He would be separated from His Father because of our sin, not His. Any work we do would never come close to the effectiveness of His work on our behalf and is only done out of our gratefulness to Him. The work is done!

5 golden rings, 4 calling birds, 3 french hens, 2 turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree……

Except for the rings, those gift ideas probably don’t appear on too many Christmas wish lists these days, but the desire for more “stuff” hasn’t disappeared. We spend hour shopping for the perfect present for each person in our family and look forward to early Christmas morning when we enjoy the surprised look on their faces! Unfortunately, even the most expensive of gifts won’t last forever. Toys will break (even as early as Christmas afternoon), cars will be dented, and jewelry will be misplaced. All is not lost, however! The gift of grace earned through Christ will never end. Through it, we receive abundant life which begins when receive it and comes to completeness in eternity! The gift of salvation will last forever!

Enjoy this holiday season! Sing silly carols and make gingerbread houses with your family! Have fun choosing gifts for one another and finding the best place for mistletoe. But, let the joy of the holidays be fueled by the Prince of Peace whose coming provided eternal riches for your soul! Even the Grinch can’t take that away!


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A Thanksgiving Favor….

It’s Thanksgiving week!! I hope you have some fun things planned with your loved ones during the next few days! I wanted to write something thought provoking and inspirational as we look at this season of gratefulness, but then I read this Psalm.

No words I could write would so beautifully sum up the thankfulness that is stirred up in our hearts as we see a God high and lifted up who still pursues the lowly and desperate (me).

Would you do me a favor? I know it’s easy to skim a post like this and then head off to more urgent things. Would you stop for a moment though and read this short Psalm aloud? I pray that you’ll be gripped with the greatness and faithfulness of our Father. When you’re done, I’d love for you to share in the comments a phrase or idea that really reminded you of the gospel!

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Psalm138

Psalm 138

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart;
    before the gods I sing your praise;
I bow down toward your holy temple
    and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
    for you have exalted above all things
    your name and your word.
On the day I called, you answered me;
    my strength of soul you increased.

All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O Lord,
    for they have heard the words of your mouth,
and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord,
    for great is the glory of the Lord.
For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
    but the haughty he knows from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
    you preserve my life;
you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
    and your right hand delivers me.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me;
    your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.
    Do not forsake the work of your hands.