Jesus: Hope for a Weary World

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining. It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices. For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

At the beginning of human history, sin came into a perfect world through an act of disobedience by the created toward their Creator. Perfect communion was shattered. Consequences came. But even in the consequences God offered mercy and HOPE. In punishing the serpent God said, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15) The woman’s offspring would crush the enemy and offer restoration to relationship with Creator God.

Generations waited, hoped, longed for this Redeemer-Restorer to come: Noah, Abraham, Moses, the children of Israel through their centuries of ups and downs, the exiles in Babylon longing for home. They hoped in dark times and in silent times, longing for help in their weary world for hundreds of years. Praying and hoping.

And then the Messiah came! The Light of the World! The Hope of the World! The Restorer – Jesus Christ!

Are you waiting, praying, hoping in darkness? Is the silence of yet-to-be-answered prayer weighing your heart down? Hang on to Hope, your Deliverer is coming! God has heard your weeping. He has a plan. His timetable is not like yours. The enemy knows this and  whispers in your ear, “He’s not going to come through for you.” It’s a lie! Don’t believe it.

silhouette-image-of-person-praying-1615776During those times where God seems silent in your situation, think of your Savior. God was also silent when Jesus asked for the cup to be removed from Him. But God did not remove it; He had a plan for our redemption. Also remember this Old Testament verse: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” ( Deuteronomy 31:6) God WILL NOT leave you. He is working His plan – timing and all – preparing the way for your next step even when you cannot see it. Hold onto Hope!

This Christmas season, cling to Hope in Christ no matter what you face: a court hearing, financial instability, failing health, broken relationships.

God is working on your behalf even if you cannot see it.

When you hold onto faith and hope going to the Father over and over again in prayer, your faith will grow, your spiritual eyes will be opened, your Redeemer will come through for you – in His time. Don’t grow weary waiting. And when you grab hold of Hope and live it out before this weary world, you encourage those around you to Hope as well.

When Jesus came to this earth He didn’t come through a line of perfect people, He came through a lineage of sinners and flawed, ordinary people just like you and me. Despite their sin and imperfections God used them to accomplish His will for the World. We don’t have to be perfect to be used of God either. He has a role for us to play in His Kingdom here on earth. We need to grasp this HOPE of the GOSPEL. Not just for ourselves, but for this weary world. 

This Advent season and in the coming year – as you await the arrival of whatever your heart is longing for… 

  • May you remember the world waiting for the Messiah to come.
  • May you know the HOPE of Jesus Christ
  • May you grasp God’s great love for you
  • May your longing for His 2nd coming and eternal life be greater than any earthly longing you are struggling with
  • May you meet Jesus in a new way through the silent, dark times
  • May healing, redemption, and restoration arrive this year for you!
  • And may you BE A BEARER OF God’s HOPE in the darkness!

In His time, God’s plans and purposes will be accomplished!

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“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone. … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:2 & 6

Love Came Down

This Christmas let the reality of the baby in the manger transform your perspective.

Little things. Lowly things. Unnoticed things. These are some of the rarest and sweetest gifts. It’s so easy to get caught up in the trappings of the season. A picture perfect tree. box-celebrate-celebration-christmas-264988Beautifully wrapped gifts. An impeccably decorated home. A table set intricately with Christmas China. There’s certainly nothing wrong in making your home beautiful, or taking joy in the fun of decorating for the season. It’s only when the “stuff” becomes your focus and your motivation shifts from the Giver of all good things to the good things themselves.

When the focus is on the things, we veer into the lane of comparison. That turns our focus to ourselves and others and takes our eyes off the truth–the Creator took the form of the creation. He allowed Himself, not just to appear in human form, but to live a fully human existence from birth to death. He chose to come as a baby—helpless and completely dependent. He entrusted himself to the fallen ones. He left his throne and stepped out of eternity into the constriction of time. He exposed himself to the sin-infested humanity he knew would, in the end, reject him, beat him, crucify him.

Jesus knew what it was to be weak and defenseless. He knew what it was to be dependent and discouraged. He knew what it was to be rejected and mocked. He suffered sadness and solitude and grief and pain. Yet he did not sin. He was obedient to His Father at every moment. Even to his last breath in his broken, battered mortal body hanging on the cross.

All that Jesus did, He did out of a great, unbelievable, unimaginable love for us. He could have come as a conquering King. He could have come as a Mighty Warrior. He could have come in power and majesty, but He didn’t. He chose to make Himself vulnerable. He chose to live in a fragile human body. He fully experienced what it was to live a mortal life. Hunger, thirst, exhaustion, loneliness, pain, joy, laughter, weeping, grief. He lived his life so we could run to this High Priest, this Messiah, this Savior, who is well acquainted with our mortality. He knows your heart. He knows your struggle. He knows your hurt. And He loves you. More than mere words could ever express.

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This Christmas, more than most, I’m spending more time soaking in the majesty of who He is. This reorientation is the gift of a struggling season. A season where the Lord has asked me to visit some terrifying places, and His goodness is there, His love is even more visceral, tangible. My heart is overwhelmed. Unable to take in how beautiful and how gracious He really is. It seems the more threatening the darkness, the more I understand how great His love is. How even the hard things of the past prepared me for these very moments of discovering His abounding love and overflowing compassion anew.

This Christmas my prayer is that your heart is reoriented. That your eyes are refocused. That your mind is caught up anew in the incredible gift of the baby in the manger. The baby who changed everything. The One who came to give us hope. The One who came to bring us from death to life. This Christmas take intentional time to step away from the twinkling lights and gift wrapping and decorating and shopping and remember the powerful gift of the love of a Father who gave His only Son, and of the obedience and love of a Son who went to His death so that you would live.

Love came down and changed everything.

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All the Things For All the Reasons

I hadn’t seen my friend in a long while. Whenever we see each other she hugs me big. I am not a big “Hugger.” Some people are. Some people will throw their arms around another and squeeze. I’ve known some Huggers to even make a um-um sound as they give the Huggee the Hugger’s most valuable form of affection. Most people find it surprising that I am not a hugger. The conversation usually goes a bit like this:

Me: “ I am not really much of a hugger person.”
Hugger: “What? No! I’ve hugged you lots of times. I wouldn’t have guessed you weren’t a hugger.’
Me: “Usually I stiffen up, brace myself because I know you are a hugger. Have you never noticed that?”
Hugger: “Hmm, now that I think of it I have.”
Me: “The stiffening is usually a good indicator of a non-hugger.”

As my friend saw me coming down the work hallway, maybe she heard me talking because before I knew it she was coming at me full throttle. Her arms were in the ready position before I had time to lock my knees in preparation for the inevitable impact. She squeezed and even twisted a tad. She told me she sure was glad to see me and I told her I was sure glad to see her. She then explained she couldn’t visit long because the one for whom she had been caring “Has all the things.”

All the things. A quick survey and I saw that she was correct.

All the things, for all the reasons.

A this to manage a that. A one of those for some of it. A little thing for a small amount. A large one for substantial volumes. One of those objects for that particular purpose. That implement for that impetus.

All the things, for all the reasons.

I have pondered much on that as of late. All the things that is. I have found myself saying it often.

“I am going to the Big Box Store because I need all the things and they have all the things.”

“I am not able to do that because right now I have all of the things to take care of.”

“She isn’t feeling well. She has all of the things.”

I have found that I casually say “all the things” all the time.

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I was pondering all the things when the King whispered, “But there is but One thing.”

I was transported back to one of my favorite stories. The one of Mary and Martha from Bethany. I have said many times I am the Mother of the Modern Day Bethany Three perhaps it is that kinship that keeps the Bethany Three in my mind in such a way I knew exactly to whom the King was referring.

The story goes a bit like this. Jesus and his dudes were welcomed into the home of Martha. Martha had a sister named Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him teach. Martha was distracted by all the things and said to Jesus, “Don’t you care that I am doing all the things for all the reasons and Mary is just sitting there doing none of the things?” To which Jesus replied, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10: 41-42

The One Thing. Not all the things. Mary chose the One Thing. The One Thing, unlike the numerous unnamed all the things, has a name and it’s Jesus.

When we chose the One Thing, all the things are no longer as overwhelming. When we chose the One Thing, the King himself said, we are choosing the good portion that can not be taken away from us.

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What Does a “Christian” Marriage Look Like?

Part 5 – How to Fight the Good Fight

I do not fight fair. I get angry. I accuse. I threaten. I say “I hate you.” I twist words, and remind my husband of his previous “failures” like this one. I’m really a mean person. I tell you all this to be transparent, all the while holding my breath that I’m not the only one, and that you will give me grace.

The really bad thing is this – my husband is the kindest, gentlest man in the world. He is patient, considerate, and loves me dearly. Our first few years of marriage he wouldn’t even fuss with me. He’d just sit there and take it. But over time I trained him to be defensive and return harshness for harshness. Now we can have a really “good” fuss if we allow ourselves to, and abandon all self-control and godliness.

anger-18615_1280.jpgThat’s what this real Christian marriage looks like.

Sad, isn’t it?

He and I are each flawed, sinful, selfish human beings.

The really good thing is this. My husband and I are both Christ-followers. And Christ never touches anything and leaves it the way it was. He makes all things new! There is hope for our marriage and for yours! We have seen this newness come and this hope take over throughout our marriage. So maybe you can learn from our mistakes and things we have absorbed through the years.

Within the first few years of marriage my husband’s company required all their employees to go through a course on handling conflict. My husband came home from the conference and we got into a fuss that very night because he told me I wasn’t fighting the right way! Yes, you understood correctly! We started with one argument which turned into a fight over how to fight! We learned this important habit that we have developed over the years:

  • Argue using “I” statements, not “you” statements. This helps us to “fight fair.” “You” statements are accusatory. “I” statements take responsibility for how we feel and for our reactions. Quite often it is the reaction, not the action, that starts one of our arguments. The action might have been done innocently, yet it triggered a negative reaction when it touched on an already inflamed nerve.

For my wise mother-in-law who was a first grade teacher for 30 years we learned this truth:

  • Grab a snack or take a nap or both! Her philosophy was that kids misbehaved because they were either hungry or sleepy. It’s often the same with adults. Everyone understands “hangry” behavior. I can testify we often stop the argument to take a nap and wake up not even remembering what we were angry about.

Scripture has given us a wise instruction on fighting fair. It tells us:

  • Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Ephesians 4:25-27 ESV reveals several important things to us. Here’s the whole section of scripture:

“Having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor [or husband – our closest neighbor], for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”

  1. Don’t lie, tell the truth. If it hurts your feelings, just say so. If you sinned, just say so. If you just want to be mad, just say so. …
  2. We are part of one body – the church. And one body – husband and wife (the two shall become one, Matthew 19:5). So why in the world would we injure our own body?
  3. “Be angry and do not sin!” It’s ok to be angry at times. It’s the way we do it that can be wrong.
  4. “…Do not sin!” A command. Enough said. We all know how to disagree correctly, and we know when it turns into sin. We can do it correctly with certain people at certain times, which goes to show, it’s our choice. We are giving ourselves the selfish freedom to react in anger.
  5. The word for that angry means “being exasperated with.” But in the following phrase we are told not to let the sun go down on our anger – and that is a totally different word. It is the word meaning “wrath or rage”! So… its normal to get exasperated/angry with someone, but resolve it and don’t go to bed in a rage.
  • Do everything without grumbling or arguing. Quit grumbling. Quit arguing. Just do it. Apply the Thumper Rule from Bambi: If you cannot say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” The entire scripture is as follows:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.” Philippians 2:14-16

Our witness to the world will be greater as we live out scripture and give up our grumbling and arguing.

  • Last but not least. It all goes back to part 1 Philippians 2:3-4 – Unselfishness.

Now I’m praying that you and your spouse will grow and mature and be far more fair fighters than my husband and I are. May our mistakes prevent you from making some of them. May our experiences be redeemed through using them to teach and encourage others around us.

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