December 30, 2018

New Year, New You? Start here.

Before you sign up for that gym membership and go out and grab all your clean eats to start the year of right on Tuesday, I have something I want to say to you:

But [Jesus] answered [the devil], “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4

He was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 in response to the devil's temptation, after forty days of fasting, to turn stones into something to eat.

[God] humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

And now, a question for you: Who are you?

Are you a number on a scale?  A checked-off to-do list?  A physical accomplishment?  How your kids behave?  Your salary?  Your degree(s)?  Your leadership position?  How clean your house is? Your relationship to someone else?  The neighborhood you live in?  The car you drive?

Sisters and brothers, we need to give all this up!  Who you ARE is none of these things!  And I don't know about you, but the harder I try to find my identity in any of the above, the more miserable and dissatisfied I become.  Our souls were not made to be satisfied by things, accomplishments, physical appearance, or relationships.  Our souls will find their satisfaction and peace only in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came into the world to save His people from their sins.  And the place we learn about who we really are and how to become what He desire us to be is from our Creator in His Word.

So before you proceed with your resolution-making for 2019, I must ask:

Do your new years resolutions include a plan
to feast on the Word of God?

Because according to Him, we need His Word as much as we need bread to survive!  If Jesus needed the Word to refute the evil one, how much more do we?

Filling up on a diet that daily reminds us that we are sons and daughters of the King of kings, who have an eternal inheritance that can never spoil, perish or fade, who are indwelt by the Spirit of God who will equip and enable us to resist the temptations of the world, flesh, and devil, who are loved with an everlasting love by which our souls were made to be satisfied, will protect us form trying to hang our hope on one or more of the idols I listed above.  The Word that reminds us that we are in much greater trouble that we ever thought, but that God's rescue plan is beyond what our wildest dreams could fathom.  Feasting on the Word of God keeps us in our place, not in a humiliating way, but in a humbling one that will cause us to wonder and worship the God who formed, saved, and sustains us and to desire to extend mercy and love to others, for we have known a love that must be shared.  You will even find you love you more, when you look at yourself through God's lens, not the world's distorted mirror.

Let's neither trust in useless idols to define us, nor invent a god in our head who is not God at all; instead, let's dive into His Word where He reveals Himself so we can know Him.  He has done this, and it should leave us astonished!  Why God?  Why?  Well, 2019 is the year for you to dive into His Word and find out!  The transformation He offers is of far greater value than any resolution can offer you this year.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.
Proverbs 3:5-8 

With all my love in Christ,

PS: I'll share some resource ideas later this week, if you need some ideas of where to begin!

December 9, 2018

Fighting for Christmas (a Repost)

I am thankful not to be feeling this year like I did when I wrote this in 2016, but I want to offer it again as a gift to those of you who may be ready to throw in the towel in 2018.

Fight on; don't give up!

Earlier this month in an Advent devotional provided by our church, which includes Bible passages and selected readings from C.S. Lewis, I read:

Christianity is a fighting religion.
It thinks God made the world - that space and time, heat and cold, and all the colors and tastes, and all the animals and vegetables, are things that God "made up out of His head" as a man makes up a story.  But it also thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, on our putting them right again.

Christianity is a fighting religion.  I don't know what December has been like for you, but I think that sentence really struck me because I feel like I have been fighting this month - fighting for Christmas to win over in my heart.  Not Christmas-the-feeling promoted by Deck the Halls, White Christmas, and Holly Jolly, but Christmas-the-Truth proclaimed by Joy to the Word, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

December has been a tug-of-war in my heart and mind between the Truth and the lies.  I have been more impatient and frustrated in the last few weeks than I have been in a while, and for no good reason that I can find other than the reality of the earthly battle every Christian faces against the world, the flesh, and the devil.  And oh!  How the latter would love to see us stop fighting:
  • to give up on the Advent readings with our family, because it seems like no one is listening;
  • to let go of the traditions, because they seem like too much this year;
  • to give in to all the stress of preparations, because it's more natural to complain than rejoice;
  • to take our eyes of that precious manger, because it seems more comforting to wring our hands and lament than to cast our cares on Him and live in the freedom Christmas heralds into the world;
  • to forget about loving our neighbor generously, because we aren't sure we have the reserves to care for anyone else.

Christianity is a fighting religion.  And I'm gonna fight!  Why?  Because I know Jesus.  Because there is victory over the grave.  Because I'm in enemy territory and I want to stand firm.  For What?  Not a feeling, but for Truth.
  • So my kids can taste and see that God is GOOOOOD. 
  • So that in my little spheres of influence I might have the opportunity to see the Kingdom come in new ways.
  • So that I can see my Savior demonstrate His strength in my weakness.
  • So that God can be glorified, as He is worthy to be.

None of us are entitled to anything, not even a holly, jolly Christmas. But Christians know the Prince of Peace.  And we can let Him rule in our hearts.  As Lewis points out, we can participate in God's work of putting the world right again.

So when I lose my patience, I ask my kids and my Gracious God to forgive me.  When I feel my pulse quickening with anxiety about gifts, or plans, or not measuring up, I stop and look to my Good Shepherd to takes my hand and says I love you, always, little lamb; let's take each day one step at a time.  I will lead you.  When I want to grumble, grovel, or gripe, I will turn on the Pandora Christmas Hymns station and let the lyrics permeate my mind and soul.  When we pass a bell ringer and her red bucket, I dig in my wallet, the kids throw in coins, and we talk about God's love .  Through all of those things I am reminded how the Lord has put my soul right with Him thought Christ, and it renews my desire to be a part of His ministry of reconciliation in the world.

Christmas, true Christmas, is restored in my heart.

Every time we choose love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control, despite every fiber of our being wanting us to go in the opposite direction, we are fighting the good fight!  Every time we repent and believe the good news, heaven rejoices and hope is restored!  Every time we put our neighbor's interests before our own, the Kingdom comes and Christmas is rightly observed!

Christmas is God-come-down, true, life-changing love.  That "sweet baby Jesus in the manger" came to rescue a world lost in sin and destined for death and destruction.  When our hearts are filled with the faith to believe that Truth, well, everything is different.  Christmas holds fresh new wonder, and will year after year!

We have a choice.

Will you fight with me? 

Let's start here.  Sing along and rejoice!

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

December 2, 2018


I originally shared this post in early December 2011,
and repost today for your edification as Advent 2018 begins.

'Tis the season!  Stockings are hung, halls are decked, carols are playing (everywhere you go!)  It is a season of wonder, of joy, of hope, of delight.  And according to Macy's we should Believe.

Believe what?

Yes, surely it has something to do with the fun of Santa Claus making his yearly appearance (without being seen!) in the homes of those with little ones.  But for Christians, people often referred to as "believers," that word and this season offer so much more.

These weeks leading up to Christmas are a time of wonder, joy, hope, and delight because we believe not in one we outgrow, but rather in One who is eternal, all-knowing, ever-present, and Almighty.  The One who came on that first lonely Christmas night so many years ago.

Emmanuel.  God with us.

Jesus.  The Lord saves.

Christmas is no blip on the screens of our lives, to be momentarily enjoyed and immediately forgotten.  Christmas is, rather, a major "we interrupt this program" service announcement than changed the course of human history.  God, set in motion events that would bring real justice and real peace between man and Himself.  Christmas looks toward Easter and points to eternity.

For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16


Our culture invites us to believe in something during this magical season, but offers no real consensus on what.  And it leaves most of us disappointed on Dec. 26 when the fun ends, the decorations are down, the gifts are opened, and the parties are over.

But God invites us to  believe in Him, the only wise God who offers a living hope, a new life, the true light that is the light of men and does not fade when the bright decorations come down.

Christmas is an invitation to believe.
Thanks for the reminder, Macy's!

Do you believe?

Will you believe?

St. John does not include the Christmas story in his gospel account; he zooms out to the bigger picture, looking from eternity past into eternity future:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. 
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John.  He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.  He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.  The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. 
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. 
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”  From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

God has made Himself known in Jesus. (Whoa!)

All the longings of creation are met in Him.

The waiting is over;
the kingdom is near;
repent and believe the good news!