Friday, December 31, 2010

The Righteous Shall Live By Faith

This morning God took me to Habakkuk and i was encouraged as I watched him ask God... How long will wicked prosper? and God answers! Of course, He says He'll use even worse wickedness to destroy them (not the comforting part). Then Habakkuk asks why God would use "really" bad people to destroy the "kinda bad" people... And God answers again! Praise God He is not silent to the "why?" questions we ask!

God answers by saying, "The righteous shall live by faith." Today, that made perfect sense to me. We  can't understand His ways because we aren't Him... so joy comes by trusting that He does know and understand ALL that He is doing! We live and hope by faith in our loving and compassionate God in times that seem contrary trusting as we cling to Him that these times show that we believe and that HE is indeed our Supreme treasure!

I thought of friends who have just gone through HARD times and some about to face them. In my own family there were many really good things to celebrate this year (Caleb, weddings, getting to report to Jesus Film). And yet some really hard things (losing Gam, almost losing our job, not getting paid for months, our family all living really far away)

Today as I read, I was praying that God would strengthen us, so that like Habakkuk (while facing losing crops to live on and family and even his own life) we could say:

"Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
God, the Lord, is my strength;
he makes my feet like the deer's;
he makes me tread on my high places."

I am confident that He will strengthen you as well to rest in faith in Him, in all things, to His glory.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2 Timothy- the whole Bible points to Jesus

Do you ever follow the links people post on their blogs? I did this week (thanks Justin Taylor!) and I read a really cool sermon series by John Stottthat drew out 2 Timothy in new ways to me. He shows each Chapter as a call to the gospel. 


A call to: 
1)Guard the Gospel (Ch. 1)
2) Suffer for the gospel (Ch. 2)
3) Continue in the gospel (Ch. 3)
4) Preach the gospel (Ch. 4)


Here's one glimpse that stood out to me from his 4th sermon:
"the Bible is the handbook of salvation; it is simply full of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament foretold and foreshadowed him. The Gospels told the story of his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. The book of Acts described how Christ through his apostles continued to work to preach the gospel of salvation and to found the church. The Epistles displayed the full glory of the divine-human person of Jesus and of his saving work. The book of Revelation portrayed Christ sharing the throne of God and promised us his final victory. The Bible is full of Christ; it depicts him supremely as Savior and invites us to come to Christ. That is the whole purpose of the Bible, to bear witness to Christ..." 


HP:Justin Taylor

Thursday, December 23, 2010

When Christmas Is Hard

I read a blog by Matt B. Redmond that, at first, seemed insensitive, but as I read further it really moved me. When we weep and mourn and struggle at Christmas, it can lead to a truer worship. In our lack, we see our need and can look to Jesus alone for our joy. Praise God He did not leave us in our sin and suffering but came to suffer and die Himself to save us. JOY is possible in our suffering this season and maybe even more real in our hearts because of it.
"Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.
-Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. 
-Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful.
-Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone.
-Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream.
-Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media.
-Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge.
-Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials.
-Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence.
-Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place.
-Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. 
-Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams.
-Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception.
-Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray.

Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most."

Monday, December 20, 2010

Celebrating CHRISTmas: Post #5- Thoughts On Santa

I hope you've caught on through these posts that we LOVE the Christmas season and love having fun celebrating in tons of different ways throughout it. By now, if you’ve read along this series, you’ve probably noticed that Santa hasn’t been mentioned in any of our traditions. 


A few people have asked me to blog about it. I've been hesitant. I am young(ish). I've only been a Mom 5 years. I'm pretty confident that I have a lot to learn and I'm not an expert. I certainly do not want to assume that I know what is right or good for other families (and keeping Romans 14 in mind as I type) and so I hesitate. But mainly, I do NOT want to take the focus off of celebrating Christ and His incredible love and grace in this blog series. 


And yet, I believe those that asked genuinely want to know what we teach and why. Some of you are prayerfully considering how to celebrate Christmas. And I am seeing that blogging means sharing (in humility) what God has lead us to in this area as well as others that may be controversial. Thank you for the challenge.


But first: here's a word from Pastor Mark Lauterbach (of Grace Church in San Diego, CA) to think on as we tackle any subject that the Bible doesn't clearly teach for or against:



"In cases where there is no one to one correspondence and where multiple principles apply, seek personal application and follow it without universalizing the rule.
 I must apply.  I have every reason to seek the application of Scripture to my life -- and to do so as unto the Lord.  To say, "It doesn't matter, I am free" is not living unto the Lord.  To say, "I think this is an area of life where I may partake or abstain and know I am pleasing God, but I sense God is calling me to partake" -- THAT is conscience toward God. 
 I dare not add to the Word of God.  I also have no warrant to go beyond what is written, and make the work of the Spirit in my heart and life the universal rule for all, and to judge all by my rule.  And I must turn from the most subtle form of legalism, to think my rule is superior and if the other person "got it" as well as I do, they would agree with me.  It is precisely against such pride that the Apostles speaks in Romans 14."



Our main reason that Santa isn't included in our traditions is simply that we desire that Christ be the center of everything we say and do. We "make much of Him" and little of everything else because it's so easy for us to wander from Him and miss the beauty of the His great love for us. It's one of the few times when it's socially acceptable to display Christ (nativity) and to sing songs in public about Him! We want this season to be a huge celebration of Jesus. All reasons and arguments that we hashed through kept coming back to this one principle to us: keep Christ central. 

That being said, we don't fully avoid or try to shelter our kids from exposure to Santa. Instead, we teach that Santa, as taught today, isn't real but is a fun (pretend) man. Just like Elmo or Mickey, we enjoy seeing him at the mall and waving. We don't buy things that promote Santa or display them in our home, but we enjoy looking at stuffed toys or stickers at friend's homes and in stores. Santa is basically a fun decoration we see, but not our focus or included in our traditions.

For those of you weighing it seriously, this is a  really well written response by Noel Piper (John Piper's wife) that affirmed our decision. She also has an awesome book called "Treasuring God in Our Traditions" that I highly recommend! (You can read through it online for free.)




*note: I did prepare a more detailed response that is available for any of you who have concern with our teaching or are prayer fully deciding what to teach your children and would like to go deeper into some of the "arguments" for/against Santa together through private messages! Just email me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sharing Jesus with Family

I just read a really helpful blog for many of us who want to share Jesus as we come together with our extended families and friends this Christmas. It's a blog on CJ Mahaney's website called "Home For the Holidays" sharing tips from Charles Spurgeon (a pastor in the 1800s!) that applies so well today.

He taught from the the passage in Mark 5:1-20 where Jesus exhorts him to “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v. 19)


Some quick tips he expands on:

  • Christmas is suited for sharing the gospel with family and friends.
  • Aim to share the story of God’s grace in your life.
  • By sharing we edify believers.
  • By sharing we reach lost friends and family.
  • Be alert for one-on-one opportunities to share your story.
  • Don’t expect this sharing to be easy.
  • Overcome this fear by sharing to honor your Savior.
  • Share your story with gratitude to God.
  • Share your story with humility.
  • Share your story truthfully—don’t embellish it.
  • Tell your story seriously—don’t share it flippantly.
  • Don’t neglect your personal devotions during Christmas.
  • Rest upon the Holy Spirit’s help to share.
  • Remember that this story you share over the holidays is the story that will be on your lips eternally

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Celebrating CHRISTmas: Post #4 CHRISTMAS DAY- Finally Here!

In my last post, we left off Christmas Eve after reading Luke 2 from Daddy’s Bible and filling out paper ornaments that shared what we love about Jesus.
 When we wake up Christmas morning, the first thing we do is our stocking hunt:
-Jimmy hunts through the upstairs of our house for small "stocking stuffers" that are wrapped. Each has one of the ornaments we filled out the night before in it. We read it in praise to God for Jesus. We raise our hands and say "Praise the Lord that Jesus always obeyed the Father" or "Praise the Lord that Jesus is God!"


-Once the hunt is over, we slow down and Andy prays thanking God for sending Jesus. I need this small moment the most, because it redirects my heart away from "tradition" and back to the precious gift of Jesus, "The Lord Saves". Then, we RACE downstairs to "hang" the ornaments on our paper tree and see how the house looks (remember, we decorated while the kids slept) all decorated for Jesus' birthday!



Our next big fun is to go to the table for our "Happy Birthday Jesus!" party- and sing and blow our kazoos and EAT CAKE (very fun 1st thing in the morning!!!!) While eating the cake, we read the whole Christmas story from the kids Bible that we've read in chunks all month. (This is a good time because while eating cake, we have full attention to the story)

-Then we read forward to the Wise Men bringing gifts to Jesus, the "King of Kings", to worship Him. We share that as we give each other gifts, it reminds us of God's perfect gift to us, Jesus. And that giving gifts gives us an opportunity to show how we love each other! THEN WE OPEN GIFTS (from us, not Santa)


In response to questions I’ve received, I’ll do one more post in this series to share some thoughts on Santa.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Celebrating CHRISTmas: Post #3 Decorating paper ornaments to His glory

Keeping Christ Central the Whole Season: Christmas Eve

We really get excited thinking about Christmas Day. Christmas Eve is a great time to redirect our excitement from all the things we will get (ouch!) back to the real gift- God with us, Jesus taking on flesh to save us from our sin.

One annual “must” for us is to celebrate with our church family at the children's service. There is something so special about setting apart certain times annually to gather together in special celebration of Jesus and Christmas Eve always has that feel. My favorite part has always been singing "Silent Night" in candlelight. I get tears just thinking of all of us singing "Christ the Savior is bo-orn." He IS born! Immanuel- "God with us" came from heaven to us. Beautiful. One funny memory for us will always be that Jimmy was a donkey in the play last year and continually turned around backwards to stare at himself on the big screen. Ha!

Once we’re home, we continue the anticipation of Jesus’ birth by prepping for His birthday party! We each write on paper ornaments some things we love about Jesus' character to post on a large paper tree that says “Jesus, we love that you… (examples of characteristic on an ornament- "always obeyed the Father", "forgive", "are God", "like me") It's so good to really remember who He is but also really fun to tangibly praise Him as a family through a fun craft! Next post I’ll share what we do with these on Christmas morning.



We end the night by reading the Luke 2 story out of Daddy’s bible as a family and then share His full life and death and resurrection that allow those who are His to have eternal life. We want to show that Jesus is THE gift to us at Christmas.  "The Lord Saves" came to save us from our sin!!!

Once the kids are asleep, Andy and I transform the dining room into a huge birthday party, wrap some stocking stuffer gifts, and hide them around the house. I’ll share what happens Christmas morning in the next post…

Monday, December 6, 2010

How Gift giving is a gospel tool in our home

How can we teach"earning vs. receiving" theology? One way we like to bring it into our conversation with our children is during the times of gift giving (birthday, Christmas, and Easter morning especially)

We don't want our kids to think they can earn or lose good gifts. Gifts are given out of love, not earned. (In the same way, we know that obedience only comes out of love. When our kids know Christ, they will want to obey, not the reverse.)

We show (and explain) that "unearned free gift" teaching in all our gift-giving with the ultimate hope that our kids will see that though they don't deserve God's love,  God gives that undeserved love and forgiveness freely through Jesus to all who call upon Him to be saved. 

"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus"- Romans 3:23

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."- Romans 6:23

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. " - Ephesians 2:8-9

"remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. " -Ephesians 2:12-13

It's a gift that I still don't fully understand and yet get chills and a little teary just typing about. THIS is exciting and freeing truth and we want them to rejoice in it. Gift-giving can be such a reminder of THE gift God gives: eternal life through Jesus.

Jesus is Not a Tradition, He’s God.

“…we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”-2 Corinthians 4:8

I'm sharing a lot of the things we do and traditions we keep as I post. I just wanted to step back and remember that though we "do" a lot, it is never meant to be about the tradition itself (though I've failed here before). We places these traditions in our home to redirect our hearts away from ourselves and towards Jesus. Please know that it is my heart daily, in ALL I do to seek Christ and treasure Him. But I just don’t do it. I want to, but I seek for myself instead and wander. I’m thankful that He does not ever leave me there though. He graciously draws me to Himself even in the midst of my endless rebellion.

We placed traditions in our family for fun, but mainly to remind us of Christ’s saving work on the cross. I love traditions and there are many of my family traditions growing up that we continue on today. I want my kids to have those fun memories at home and things to look forward to. To know that those fun times point us towards the only true hope in life, Jesus, is priceless to me. THAT is our central vision, Christ supreme in our lives, not the tradition itself.


Noel Piper expresses this SO well here: "Although we can’t bequeath God to our children, we can help them know him and understand him in ways that prepare them to believe in his name. ‘Everyday’ and ‘especially’ traditions in a family are an important part of that teaching, of picturing who God is and what he’s done in our home and in the world. Traditions are a vital way of displaying our greatest treasure, of showing what—Who—is most important to us." 


We never want our focus to be on how (the tradition) but always on who (Christ).

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”-Hebrews 12:2

Friday, December 3, 2010

Celebrating CHRISTmas: Post #2 New to us- the Advent Calendar

My last post was long, so here’s a short one: 


Here's the advent calendar I want (cute drawers to fill with candy, presents, and scripture) once we can afford it:
But for now, we have this homemade felt tree and will be using it as we read through Scripture to encourage us to remain excited as we come closer to the celebration of Christ's birth! We also bought a chocolate filled one for fun to go with it (yum!). 


Though Andy grew up celebrating Christ's coming through the Advent season, this is my first advent experience, so I’ll let you know how we like it.


 As a couple, each morning we're reading from Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus: Experiencing the Peace and Promise of Christmas, by Nancy Guthrie, a compilation of old and new theologians to stay our minds on Christ. What an incredible season of hope. So excited to fix our eyes on Jesus throughout Advent! 


In my next post will share about our Christmas Eve traditions. We LOVE Christmas Eve. It is such a fun night of anticipation!!!!