Wednesday, December 13, 2017

So Loved.

God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)



So loved.
In this manner of intense feeling.
In way of deep affection.
Agapao.
So loved.
By Divine will in deliberate choice.
Without cause except in the nature of God Himself.
Entirely incomprehensible.
So loved.
The reason of Christmas.
The reason of the divine meeting the flesh.
The reason of obedience.
So loved.
A dearly loved Son who brings the Father great joy.
A dearly loved Son for a dearly loved people.
A dearly loved son as a holy sacrifice so a dearly loved people could be made holy by His truth.
So loved.
A love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
So loved.
Jesus spoke, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.”
A love to abide in.
A love to remain in.
A love that whoever believes gains life everlasting.
So loved.

Heavenly Father, we choose to believe we are so loved. Sometimes it feels incomprehensible. But your word says it, and today we stand on that promise. In awe, we thank you for your dearly loved son who came for a dearly loved people. May our hearts remain full of the wonder of Christ’s sacrifice long after this Christmas season ends. Amen.



This advent series was originally written for, and presented to, Ebenfeld MB Church in 2016. Scripture references were inspired by “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy” by John Piper.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Perfect.

You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin...The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:5 & 8



Perfect.
To be absolute.
To be complete.
To have all the required or desirable elements, qualities or characteristics.
Perfect.
Having no wayward deeds.
A faithful God who does no wrong.
Absolutely just. Completely fair.
Perfect.
A babe born and wrapped in swaddling clothes.
A babe, to be named Jesus.
A babe, that one day in his spotlessness, would deliver an unrighteous people.
Perfect.
The Word who was in the beginning.
The One who moves the clouds with wonderful perfection and skill.
The One to whom even rocks will cry out; to whom the heavens declare His glory and the sky proclaims his handiwork.
Perfect.
To be born in perfection.
To live in perfection.
To die in perfection.
To rise in perfection.
To save in perfection.
Perfect.

Heavenly Father, you are perfect. Your ways are just and fair. Your plan is perfect. Thank you for the wonder of Christmas that brings us to the cross. We confess that sometimes it’s easier to separate the Christmas story from the cross. But that’s not truth. This season, help us remember that not only was your perfect son sent as a baby, but that your perfect son was sent to the cross. May we always remember that Jesus appeared to take away sins and to destroy the work of the enemy. Thank you for His perfection. Amen.



This advent series was originally written for, and presented to, Ebenfeld MB Church in 2016. Scripture references were inspired by “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy” by John Piper.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Seek.

How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44)




Seek.
To search for. To ask for.
To see a star and follow. To be overjoyed as you come to the house of the Lord bearing gifts for a King.
Seek.
To listen to your heart that hears the Lord say, “Come and talk with me.”
And to answer, “Yes, your face I do seek.”
Seek.
To seek earnestly with a thirsty soul and fainting flesh.
To seek first the kingdom of God, and to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Seek.
To seek and find with a wholly devoted heart.
To ask and receive. Seek and find. Knock and enter.
Seek.
To turn from self and seek glory that comes from the only God.
To seek the Lord and his strength;
To seek his presence continually!
Seek.
To rejoice and be glad in our Savior.
To say continually, “Great is the Lord!”
To enter that star-bathed house, see the child, and bow down to worship Him.
Seek.
__________________________________


Heavenly Father, today we come, seeking the King. We bow before Jesus, the wonder of Christmas. It is our desire that we glory only in your holy name. Forgive us the times we sought to glorify ourselves. Today we choose to seek, rejoice and be glad in our Savior. May the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! Amen.


___________________________________



This advent series was originally written for, and presented to, Ebenfeld MB Church in 2016. Scripture references were inspired by “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy” by John Piper.



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Wonder.


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. (John 1:14-16)

Jesus.
The Divine Expression.
The Word made flesh.
The Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Jesus.
As we enter this advent season, let’s do so with wonder. With “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”
Jesus.
Name above all names.
Emmanuel.
God with us.
This Christmas, Jesus deserves our wonder. He deserves our awe, for He is “that which has been completed.” He is full of grace and truth.
And from His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.
Let’s revel in his fullness this season. Let’s abide in his glory. Let’s wonder at the mighty name of Jesus.
___________________________________________________________

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus, the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us. Thank you for His fullness, for His completion, and for the grace upon grace He poured out on us. May we stand in wonder of Jesus this Christmas. Open our hearts to understand Him in ways we haven’t before. Help us behold his glory this Christmas. Amen.
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This advent series was originally written for, and presented to, Ebenfeld MB Church in 2016. Scripture references were inspired by “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy” by John Piper.











Thursday, November 16, 2017

What if you don't feel thankful?



“Hey Google! Do you burp?”
Before I could register the question, a loud, obtrusive sound pierced our kitchen. And that, followed by fits of giggles from my youngsters.


Normally I am turned off by rude noises, but in that moment, I turned from the counter where I was preparing supper and laughed. Not an appeasing little chortle, but a real, deep belly laugh. Complete with tears.
Maybe it was because I was totally caught off-guard. Maybe it was because of the infectious laughter of my kids. Maybe I was at my wits end in coping with emotional stress and pain. But I don’t think it matters, because I desperately needed that kind of laugh!
The whole of the last year-and-a-half hasn’t been funny. Rather, it has been riddled with adversity. Sometimes I know right away when I need to take a public stance with a public voice--my miscarriages are an example. But this particular circumstance seemed more private. And I’m still not ready to share details here.


There can be times when limited details are best. Sometimes, that’s how we relate on a broader level. Not everyone has experienced the exact trauma our family went through over a year ago, but everyone has experienced SOMETHING. And those somethings, I think, can more easily come to a head during the holidays.


A friend posted about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) on Facebook the other day. She said SAD is real, and she was currently experiencing it. SAD is defined as a type of depression linked to the change of seasons, but I think it could also be linked to the pressure to feel certain ways during certain holidays.


Thanksgiving season is here. We are supposed to feel thankful. But what if we don’t?


Some circumstances don’t produce much desire to shout out thanksgivings. I remember one thanksgiving season long ago when I uttered the words: “What do I have to be thankful for?” not in an attitude of jest, but one of severe and utter desperation.


Perhaps that’s you this year.


Those kind of deep, painful circumstances that tempt us to utter dark words can feel enormous and insurmountable. And sometimes the expectation of gratitude during the current season can feel forced or even pour salt on open wounds.


So I am not here to minimize those very real emotions.


But I am here to say that sometimes, those very real emotions can’t be trusted to tell the truth.


For instance, when I wondered what I had to be thankful for, the answer was staring me right in the face. But I couldn’t see it. I was so engulfed in my dark wounds that I had trouble seeing the light.


During our current situation, the ripple effect of sin has left wounds. In the aftermath, I cried. A lot. I grieved. A lot. I spewed. A lot. And I prayed. A lot.


The two circumstances have some similarities--being on the receiving end of another’s choice and not choosing the circumstance. In fact, not even WANTING the circumstance. But the difference between then and now centers in attitude.


Back then, I didn’t understand the concept that for a child of God, not one thing is wasted. But now, I have a better grasp of it. And I have proof it is true.


Not one thing is wasted.


“Every millisecond of your pain from the fallen nature or the fallen man, every millisecond of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory you will get because of that...It’s doing something. It’s not meaningless. Of course you can’t see what it’s doing. Don’t look to what is seen...it’s not meaningless. It’s working for you an eternal weight of glory. Therefore do not lose heart, but take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for.” (excerpt from John Piper’s message “The Glory of God in the Sight of Eternity” as featured in Shane & Shane’s song “Though You Slay Me”)


I have come to believe trial isn’t meaningless. It still hurts. It’s still hard. But it’s not meaningless.


I have come to understand that God is truly sufficient in all circumstances. More importantly, I have come to believe that God is truly sufficient in all circumstances.


He was sufficient then, and He is sufficient now.
He was there then, and He is there now.
So, my belly laugh at Google’s noisy, intrusive burp?
Proof that thankfulness can coincide with pain. It’s just all in how you look at it.

This article was originally published as my column, Lipstick & Pearls, in the Nov. 15, 2017 edition of the Hillsboro Free Press. I have been writing L&P since 2008.



Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Iron Sharpens Iron

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Proverbs 27:17


It was several years ago, and I felt lonely at church. It wasn’t as if I was alone...I saw friendly faces each Sunday, and I was able to have conversations. But, still...I was lonely.


Warren Wiersbe explains that phenomenon in his commentary on Proverbs. He says, “It’s possible to have many companions and no real friends...friendship is something that has to be cultivated, and its roots must go deep.” (p. 437)


And what better place for roots to grow deep than on our knees?


I began praying… “God, I would love a friend at church. I have many good relationships outside of church, but I would REALLY love a friend at church, too.” Later, our church transitioned through a pastoral retirement, and my prayer grew… “God, you know Miss J is alone in her age group. Please bring a pastoral family with a friend for her.” Add another long-ago prayer, way back to a small group I was part of shortly after getting married… “God, please provide good, solid friends for my husband.


God heard all of those things. He numbers our days, and He knew just the right fit. And, in only a way He could, He answered all those prayers in the form of another family. Husbands & wives, boys & girls. It just was a good fit. Over time, the bond was solidified.

Having kids the same age helped. Not giving up on each other helped. Walking through adversity together helped. Praying together helped. But I know what it really boils down to is that God likes to give His kids good gifts. And this one was worth the wait!




I’ve come to lovingly think of this dear family as soul-friends. As iron-sharpens-iron friends. No matter where we start a conversation, we always make our way back to the Lord. And since He is the One in which all things live and move and have their being (Acts 17:28), it’s only appropriate to center our lives, conversations and friendships on Him.


I admit this is all on my heart this week because we had to say goodbye to each other last weekend. This wasn’t a surprise to God, but it sure hurts. We’ve gotten used to having coffee and meals together. We’ve gotten used to having superb conversations together. We’ve gotten used to teasing and joking with each other. We’ve embraced each other’s kids and each other. And maybe at the top of the list, we’ve gotten used to holding each other accountable and sharpening each other, spurring one another on to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24).




So, all that said, I couldn’t help but write about friendship this week!


Wiersbe, again in his commentary on Proverbs, outlines six qualities of true friendship. And in honor of my dear friends, I want to share his list today:


  1. Loving friendship will produce loyalty. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17); “there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (18:24)
  2. True friends know how to keep a confidence. “If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man’s confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.” (25:9-10)
  3. True friends have the ability to control the tongue. “With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor, but through knowledge the righteous escape.” (11:9) Don’t believe the first thing you hear about a matter because it may be wrong. (18:17) And, beware of people who cause trouble and then say, “I was only joking.” (26:18-19)
  4. Be lovingly honest with each other. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” (27:6)
  5. Faithful friends counsel and encourage each other. “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, and the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel” (27:9)
  6. Friends exercise tact and are sensitive to each other’s feelings. “He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted a curse to him.” (27:14)

May each of you experience the sweet communion of soul-friends, and may those relationships be rooted deeply into Christ. Because, like all of life, that is how we stand firm! And may we willingly be iron sharpening iron, continually stirring each other up and forward, always to Christ.