Rest

And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 2:27-28

Did you know the Sabbath is mentioned in 36 different verses in the first five books of the Bible (the Pentateuch) alone?

Besides those, 20 additional verses do not expressly use the term Sabbath but speak of a seventh day of rest, making an average of 11 mentions per book. In a written tradition using repetition for emphasis, this commandment is underscored with greater intensity than the one prohibiting murder.

Let that sink in a moment.

On this year’s trip through the Bible, I’ve been drawn to the numerable mentions of Sabbath and have been prayerfully meditating on why. By God’s grace, I think I’m beginning to see glimpses of a few reasons.

There’s too much for a blog post, really, but I wanted to look at one facet: Have you ever wondered why God would command us to rest when rest is not only something we all need, but also a wonderful gift?

I think in part, this is so we would see the rebelliousness of our own stubborn hearts.

Sabbath – one day in every 7 to rest – is really an enormous benefit to our mental, physical, and spiritual health. But of course, we humans have an incorrigible contrariness about us when it comes to God and His commands. We tend to want to do things our way, decide we know what’s best – even decide for ourselves what is right and wrong.

And we’ve decided Sabbath isn’t all that important. Especially today in our 24/7, fast-paced world, rest is something we would much rather complain we can’t find. A glance at the mental health statistics in my country suggests how well this is working for us.

Maybe that’s what is going on now with COVID-19. Maybe, just maybe, this is a kind of Sabbath thrust upon a people who refused it otherwise.

In America, we often talk about how busy we are, how we never have time to stop. Some of us even claim we find it a struggle to read our Bibles every day.

Well now we have time. What are we going to do with it?

Isaiah advises:

“If you turn back your foot from the Sabbath, from doing your pleasure on my holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight and the holy day of the LORD honorable; if you honor it, not going your own ways, or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly; then you shall take delight in the LORD, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Isaiah 58:13-14

What if we rested? Physically, yes, but also embracing the full idea of Sabbath as God meant it to be. Keeping it holy. Dedicating it to Him. Taking delight in Him, in His Word, in worship of Him.

What if we took this time – these next few days or weeks or whatever it turns out to be – and really dove in deep to Bible study, to prayer, to searching our hearts, and repenting of sin?

What if we really pondered the Word of God and spent time talking through it with its Author?

What if we pressed into obedience and taking every thought captive to obey Christ and honestly loving God with all our hearts and souls and minds?

What if we did this openly with our families, praying together, reading together, talking about the greatness of God together?

What kind of peace and joy might that bring?

This time of quarantine and social distancing could be lonely, frightening, and difficult. Or it could be the greatest blessing we’ve ever received.

So? What are you going to do with it?

Thank You

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This is just a quick thank you to all of my followers! I’ve been out of the loop off and on this last couple of years. Raising teenagers has kept me very busy in my analog life, so my digital presence has been spotty.

However according to WordPress, Running the Race recently passed 500 followers. So thank you for your patience, support, and for reading! I pray something here has been helpful to you!

Much love,

Heather

Semi-Quarantine Musings

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:8-9

This was among the first passages of Scripture I memorized with my kids back in our homeschooling days.

Today after an incredibly appropriate virtual church service, I watched the kids belonging to a friend and her worship team. While I had this captive, non-teenage audience, I had a little Q and A time with them concerning Moses and Joshua. I briefly told them about when Joshua began to lead Israel following Moses’s death, and I tried to quote this memory verse.

It seems Ms. Heather needs to get back into practicing her memory work. The old memory just doesn’t work so well these days.

Anyway, I’m sure the words were comforting to Joshua when the Lord spoke them to him. They can be equally comforting to us today.

Who knows what the future holds? Some schools are closed, some are not. The grocery store shelves are barren of toilet paper and other random items. Major league sports teams have called off upcoming games. People are scared.

But you know what? God saw this coming. As a matter of fact, there’s a bit of ironic proof it you want to go back and click on the link above to hear the message my family listened to this morning!

If we belong to the Lord, there is nothing to fear. This could be a good time – a very good time – for us to lay down all our frantic distractions and listen to Him.

I can’t help but note that when He assured Joshua of His presence before he went in to take the Promised Land, He also reminded the man to continually meditate on the Book of the Law and be careful to do it.

We have that Book of the Law and so much more; we have the full counsel of the Word of God within arm’s reach in paper or in digital form. We even have a luxury Joshua would have lacked – our choice of translation.

Folks, we don’t have to learn ancient Hebrew to read it (although there’s a much greater depth to it in Hebrew than English can fully capture). We don’t even have to read it at all. We can open the Bible app and have a stranger read it to us. We have no real excuses!

Let’s take this time as a gift – an enforced Sabbath for all the decades and decades of Sabbaths we’ve ignored – and spend more time in the Word.

I know this gal is going to spend a bit more time meditating on it than I have in recent years. The shocking failure of my memory today served to bring that neglected area to the forefront of my attention.

I can’t wait to see what else God brings to mind in the days and weeks to come. I’m sure He’ll reveal other areas where I need to be more faithful or where I need to repent and obey.

I don’t think it will be easy. But I know God and whatever He does, I know it will be good.

And I know there’s no reason to be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord my God is with me wherever I go – even if I go nowhere.

If you don’t have that assurance, get into His word and do business with Him today. Why wait? With no sports to distract you and fewer excuses than ever before, take this gift of time and get serious about eternal matters.

I’ll look forward to hearing your stories of how God used the coronavirus pandemic for His glory, whether you choose to share them here or we talk them over in eternity. But don’t delay. Let’s get serious about God and see how seriously good the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob really is.

While you’re meditating on His Word, get outside and explore the world He’s created. You may find some of His fingerprints along the way.

PS – The photo is not a virus, nor is it an alien seed like I told the kids, but it is a fungus. I found it today while walking around my back yard with a one-year-old watching his older friends running and playing. Curious about it? Check out Detective Gluck’s blog post to learn more!

Progressive Thinking

Once upon a time, a cousin and I decided to hike up the unmarked back way of the Chimney Tops in the Smoky Mountains, an off-trail hike that was – and likely still is – illegal.

Long story short: We got lost.

A 90-minute hike morphed into several hours of struggling through dense underbrush on our bellies and the like. For lack of a better idea, we kept climbing until we made it to a summit from which we could see the Chimney Tops in the distance. Relieved, we trekked across the mountaintops until we arrived, bloodied by thorns and mud-caked, at our destination.

We took the trail back down.

Modern society seems to equate the idea of making progress with improvement. However, much like the progress I made by ignoring the rules, we frequently make progress in the wrong direction.

It’s a happy accident the progress my cousin and I made revealed a glimpse of the distinctive bare-stone peak of the Chimney Tops instead of a spectacular view of similar-looking forested hills prevalent in the Great Smoky Mountains. Even happier, our progress delivered us in sight of our goal instead of in between a black bear and her cubs.

The ancient nation of Israel also made progress – 40 years of it round and round and round again until an entire generation died. And they started by progressively ignoring the commands of the Lord.

These two historical journeys spring simultaneously to mind when I hear the term Progressive Christianity. One bit of progress supposedly made by this movement is the bringing up to date of antiquated ideas and mores. It implies an improvement on the original Christianity.

Ironically, the ideals behind Progressive Christianity are not new. They are very old. Older, even, than Christianity. As old as the serpentine question, “Did God really say–?”

Make no mistake: anything – whether person, book, song, ideology, or trinket – calling itself Christian that forgets to insist on Christ as its focus has also forgotten to be Christian.

I’ve read countless “Christian” articles begun more than a few “Christian” books that had far more to do with humanism than with Christ.

Christianity aims to exalt God by belief in Christ’s atoning work – a belief which inevitably results in complete surrender to Him as Lord. In the process, loving thy neighbor and all those other things do happen. But loving God comes first.

For a genuine Christian, neighborly and charitable acts are merely the natural outpouring of a life overflowing with love and adoration for the God Who Saves. Gratitude for being forgiven prompts forgiveness. Awe at being loved despite our wretchedness prompts acts of love and sympathy towards others who are unloved.

The visible work is the building, not the foundation. The foundation is solid, immutable, eternal – the Rock of Ages. Truth is a fixed point, fixed by the One who invented it.

The definitions of right and wrong do not shift simply because we are a little older than we were a week or a decade or a century ago. The progress of time does not shift the foundation of Truth. What’s good yesterday does not become bad tomorrow any more than left becomes right on certain days of the week.

An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays.

From Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

Like it or not, truth remains true. The truth of gravity asserts itself with painful clarity when I miss a step walking downstairs even though falling down stairs is something I object to both on an intellectual and visceral level. My preferences and feelings do not cause me to levitate; gravity has its way regardless.

Just so, evil does not become good because time has passed, nor does it become less evil when there is more of it around.

God does not cease being Holy and Sovereign simply because the passage of time and the long miles of the journey have dimmed our understanding of holiness and sovereignty.

He is no less awesome because a fashionably modern fatigue has drained our ability to feel awe.

One cannot start with Truth and make progress unless one proceeds away from it.

When God Speaks

Thus did Moses; as the LORD commanded him, so he did.

Numbers 17:11

One complaint I’ve heard among unbelievers – including yours truly in the years before God got through to my stubborn heart -is that prayer doesn’t “work.”

I confess I only have my own pre-Christ experience to draw from when I’m breaking that phrase apart. However, what I meant at the time (and what I think most unbelievers mean today) is that their prayers do not achieve the results they want.

Of course, if every prayer whispered or shouted resulted in a concrete and predictable outcome, prayer would merely be the coinage for the vending machine on high. But that’s a rant for another day, perhaps.

My prayer habits after nearly two decades of following Christ are markedly different then the demands I haughtily tossed at the Most High back in my arrogant youth. During those days, I evidently thought that I, the creation, had some inalienable right to order my Creator around. Talk about role reversal!

It can be argued that Moses made his share of bold and unseemly comments and requests. Especially for a person who had witnessed several mind-boggling displays of power, the guy had a bit of steel in him when it came to talking with the Lord of Hosts.

If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.

Numbers 11:15

Read Exodus and Numbers. There are plenty more. The intriguing thing is, despite Moses’s alarming audacity, God grants a great many of his petitions!

For me on this, my anybody’s-guessth time through the Bible, a refrain of sorts has captured my attention. It always begins with, “The Lord spoke to Moses, saying…” and often ends with a variation on, “…Moses did as the Lord commanded him.”

Another way of putting it is the book is full of God’s instruction and Moses’ obedience.

When I think about it in these terms, what I called “prayer” in my unbelieving days – those imperious attempts at imposing my will upon God’s – were highly ignorable. Not because they were bold or demanding, but because there wasn’t a single atom of obedience tied up in them.

Though his start may have been a trifle reluctant, Moses did spend a good portion of his life obeying God. Even then, his disobedience was addressed and dealt with by God. Sin is always serious even if it is seldom.

So when the Lord speaks to us, do we listen and obey? Or are we more apt to filter the words of God, discarding the uncomfortable bits and keeping only the attractive and cozy ones?

If as the Lord commanded does not often appear in the refrain of our lives, why would we expect any of our requests to be granted? And if we aren’t hearing from the Lord at all, we might want to check our obedience and cooperation levels as well.

He is, after all, God. King.Creator. Above all things, He is to be reverenced and obeyed.

Secretarial Duties, Leviticus, NYC, and Sabbath

You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD… Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.
(Leviticus 19:30, 20:7-8)

Hi. It’s been a bit since I’ve written, I know. My plan was to pour all my writing effort into a book I need to finish, and so I signed off around the middle of January while in the middle of a blog writing respite.

But of course, my plans and God’s plans differ from time to time. When they do, experience has taught me it’s wiser, safer, and saner to leave my plans where they fall and follow His way.

So the last few weeks, I’ve been filling in for the lady who works the front desk at my girls’ school while she recovered from surgery. This made the first full-time job (outside the home, anyway) since the birth of our now-19-year-old son.

It was terrific fun. I love the kids at the school; loved getting to know them better, loved working with the staff, loved being there.

Still, I’ll be glad to get down to business in March and finish the book. I hope to write some short posts here, too – one a week or so. But today is just a quick check-in; a hello, still alive, before I head up to NYC with the 10th grade class.

I’d like to take this little check-in moment to fill you in on my year so far. Our church is reading through the Bible chronologically this year, and I am loving it. Many days, I’ve both read and listened to the day’s selections – an exercise which seems to press the Word into my conciousness a little more deeply.

While this is not my first time through the Word chronologically, it may as well be. That’s what I love about the Bible. I can read it over and over and over again, and there’s always some new nuance or some truth I’d previously overlooked before to greet me. It has a quality of being at once both comfortably familiar and startlingly novel that I adore.

In the last week or so, two things have been impressed on my mind.

Well, let’s be honest. There have been so many more, but to keep this brief-ish, I’m choosing to focus on two…

Foremost is Sabbath. I hope to write more about this soon, but for now let’s just say I have been astonished at how much coverage Sabbath gets in the first 3 books of the Bible.

By the time you reach the point I’m at now – Numbers 6 – you’ll have read a reference to the Sabbath or the seventh day 79 times. Sabbath is also the only one of the Ten Commandments predating the Mosaic covenant.

Hmm. Maybe it’s important.

The other is a fun fact I learned just this morning. Out of curiosity, I counted and discovered the phrase, “I am the Lord,” is repeated in Leviticus 52 times.

I firmly believe the refrain exists because we need a continual reminder that GOD is God and we are not.

What are the implications of these two small truths? Profound. Enough to prayerfully consider for the next few days.

Lord, change us and teach us that You alone are God. Show us how to live like it each and every day, amen.

Living in the Eye of the Storm: A Migraine Story

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.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Hello friends. I’ve been out for a while, and I’m afraid I’ll be out for quite some time to come. Though this may be my last entry to WordPress for many weeks, there’s plenty here to look at. Feel free to browse my archives. Look around. Explore. Even comment – I’ll answer if and when I can.

It’s been quite a few weeks here at the Davis household. This past Saturday saw an epic storm with damaging winds and a deluge which caused flooding on the already-soggy ground.

In apparent sympathy, my body decided an epic migraine was just the thing, and I partially woke in the middle of the night – enough that I was aware of pain but not enough to get up and take the appropriate meds. It wasn’t until around 9 am that I finally had the sense to add a Toradol injection to the triptan and then, ah! Sleep…

Meanwhile, my unexpected nap came in the middle of a remodeling project we began the day after Christmas. Room by room, we moved furniture, ripped out carpet, and laid new flooring upstairs. One room received a total makeover. Another got a fresh coat of paint and a few unexpected repairs. But while I remained down for the count, my house looked like this:

Ah, construction!

We still have bare subfloor in spots.

On the second day of the new decade, my poor daughter totaled a vehicle. Thank the Lord, she was unhurt but we are now down to 2 vehicles, one of which is 15 years old and leaks coolant.

The girls’ school is 30 minutes’ drive south and my husband’s job is 45 minutes’ drive north (on a mythical zero-traffic day), so our time and logistics just got interesting.

On the same day as the truck’s demise, your favorite klutz (that would be yours truly, aka me), tested gravity outside the ginormous leaky vehicle and scored spectacular bruising and scraping on her left arm and ribcage, evidently straining the intercostal muscles on the right in the process.

I’m healing up well but I still can’t sleep on my right side. Which, of course, made the waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night migraine thing more festive.

And all that to say… I’m doing fantastic! I’m serious. Really, truly good. I’ve had such joy, such peace, and such … I don’t even know. It’s been a few amazingly wonderful weeks. God is good. It doesn’t matter what is going on around me or even what’s going on with my poor old body. God is Majestic. Awesome. Perfect. Oh, how I love Him!

And He’s done some really great things in the midst of this mess.

  • I’ve been able to confess a parental sin and repent. You see, the teen was driving our second-most-valuable vehicle because I had originally needed the seating capacity of our clunker for cross country season. But when it was over, I pressed the matter a bit then let it slide. My bad. She should have been in the oldest car. Lesson learned.
  • My kids are getting a taste of making do and compromise.
  • The family is practicing humility and love in the midst of all of this.
  • I’m given the opportunity to read through the Bible chronologically once more, but this time with an online discussion group of friends who just can’t get together often because of schedules or distance.

And there’s so much more.

I literally feel as if I’m living in the eye of a storm. The whole world rages and fumes all around me. Destruction and chaos roar past, yet I feel calm. At peace. Joyful.

God has provided in such neat ways. As of Monday, I’ll be working full-time to fill in for the incomparable Ms. J at our school while she has back surgery. It’s temporary, but it will certainly keep me busy for a few weeks. It’s also about the only job I could take with the vehicle situation, so thanks for that, God!!

And I’m still planning on finishing my book. Tennis season starts soon. And spring play practice. The house is a mess. I’m behind on my Greek and need to be in the Word in Hebrew, too. But still I am at peace and full of joy.

You see, this isn’t my home. It’s my appointment – my position, if you will, and I will be the best steward I can of the work God gives me to do, writing, parenting, and all of it.

Ultimately, however, my Home is with Him. Someday He will call me there and I will go with great excitement. Until then, I will continue to serve Him here with near-equal excitement to see His hand at work in the good times and in the bad.

Where He calls, I will go with enthusiasm and good cheer. Even into the midst of the storm.

And he [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Matthew 8:26

All Things New

The following is the December devotional I wrote for my church family. I wanted to share it with you for Christmas. I’ll be taking a break with my family (and hopefully finishing the first draft of my book) for the next few weeks, so merry Christmas to you and may the Lord draw you closer to Him in the year to come!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

As a teenager, I believed I would die at the age of 26. I had no health problems and the number seemed arbitrary, yet the idea remained lodged in my mind.

Then in early adulthood, a series of poor decisions spiraled my life into chaos and the years slid away. My 26th birthday came and went unnoticed, eclipsed by life events more pressing than the passage of another year.

Mere weeks later, I sat on the edge of the bathtub in my apartment staring at a positive pregnancy test. Once I opened the bathroom door, I would have to face the baby’s father, a man I barely knew, and admit our lives were forever changed.

And they were. That year, that pregnancy, marked the beginning of God’s work in my life and heart – a work that took a broken, lost, and angry atheist and transformed her into a passionate lover of God, His Word, and His people.

I was a married homeschool mom of three before the Lord reminded me of my morbid adolescent certainty. Oddly enough, I’d been right. At age 26, I died to myself and begin to live for God. Everything I had been, every goal and ambition, changed radically that year. The old me had passed away; the new had come.

Nearly two decades have passed, and my life before and after Christ are as different as stone and water. To me, 2 Corinthians 5:17 is not just a pretty platitude. It is truth, raw and real.

Perhaps because of this, when I read Luke 2, I do not picture the idealized and brightly colored manger scene often displayed on Christmas cards.

Instead, I visualize sweat on Mary’s brow as she inhales the mingled stink of animal manure and blood. I feel her confusion as she wonders, “Is this how it’s supposed to be, God?” I imagine Joseph struggling to keep animals from jostling the newborn Child as they poke their noses into a trough that should hold their dinner but instead holds this Baby.

And I picture the Babe Himself lying there, straw poking His newborn skin through cloth scraps like a premonition of the nails that will one day pierce His flesh. In my mind’s eye, the shadow of the Cross obscures the Infant’s features.

Do you see it? Embodied in helpless human infancy is THE King of kings. In an unthinkable act of humility and sacrificial love, He willingly lay aside boundless power, confining Himself to the stuff of His own creation.

Learning to walk, to talk, enduring the pain of birth and of human life only to grow into a Man who will take on the sin of the world – and greater pain still – to finally settle the price of redemption for the creatures He loves. For the creatures who even now reject Him.

And someday, that King will return. Someday, He will make ALL things new. To this new creation in Christ, that is the true joy of Christmas!

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.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:3-5
  • Spend some time reflecting on the implications of the Almighty confining Himself to the form of an infant human being. Is any act of humility He asks of you greater than what He has already done for you?
  • Ask the Lord to show you if you’ve been clinging to any of the “old things” from your pre-Christ life and to help you let them pass away.
  • How can you show your gratitude to God for the gift of new life in Christ He has given you?

My Christmas Wish

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

Luke 2:7

There it is, recorded for posterity in anticlimactic language – the moment God came to be not only with us, but as one of us.

When I really meditate on the implications of the Almighty Creator as a human infant without even the ability to control His limbs or focus His eyes, it fills me with an emotion there are no words for. How can any act of humility be too great for me to submit to in light of what He’s done for me? How can I not feel awe and reverence and wonder?

But then… I think we humans have a great capacity to trivialize. We see the image of that first Christmas everywhere this time of year, but it is sanitized and greatly altered from the reality. Modern Nativity scenes are filled with a couple of peaceful animals, a Western-style barn, a lovely winged lady, and a small gathering of predominantly white people.

Not remotely realistic. Nor very awe-inspiring.

I wonder sometimes if in this age of rapid technological advances and torrential information overload, we’ve lost our sense of wonder? When we can describe a chocolate bar as divine or a movie as awesome, have we lost our sense of what Divinity and Awe really are?

If we have Westernized and sterilized the Nativity to the point of losing that peculiar mixture of terror and joy brought about by the Most High’s astonishing incarnation, it’s no wonder we so easily lose sight of the purpose of His birth.

Forgiveness of sin. Eternal life. These are tremendous, staggering concepts, but we so often treat them as background information – a side show to the really important stuff of shopping and eating and watching shows. Or at least that is what an objective observer would likely think by the way we spend our time and dollars.

However, no matter how fleeting our thoughts on the Blessed Event of our Savior’s birth, no matter how little value we place on the priceless gift He gave by His death and resurrection, I guarantee there will not be a single human being unaffected by His future return as King of kings!

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.

Revelation 19:11-13

Visualize that moment. It’s hard for me not to feel awe. And the crazy thing is, no matter how easy Yeshua may have been to overlook at His unassuming, anticlimactic First Advent, He will not be easily dismissed at the Second.

So today, this season, spend some time reading and reflecting on what it means that the Creator God came to earth as a human child…

That He learned to eat, crawl, talk, walk…

That He experienced the range of human experience and temptation without falling into sin…

That His only experience of sin was on the cross when He bore the weight of all of our crimes…

That He did this for YOU…

That despite the humiliation of an ignoble birth, a life devoid of worldly success, betrayal, the shame of public execution, and all of that, He will come again, but this time in all His power and splendor…

And that next time, you will recognize Him and honor Him whether you believe now or not.

Next time, there will be no decision to make; your decision will be made already – too late for some. Next time, if you haven’t chosen to surrender to Him willingly now, you will surrender… but it will be too late to be saved.

Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:9-11

So my Christmas wish this year is this: Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, consider my Lord Yeshua. Read His story. Think about these things. And give your life to Him so that we can talk about the wonder of His mighty saving grace for eternity.

Choose Jesus, Yeshua Messiah. Choose life.

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days…

Deuteronomy 30:19-20a, emphasis mine

Christmas Present

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…

Philippians 1:29

It’s that time of the year when peppermint and pine have staged a coup and sent all things pumpkin spice into an ignoble retreat to the clearance shelves.

The North Pole has launched its annual penetration into American homes as well. All over social media, parents are documenting their complicity with the greatest stalker of our age, the Great Elf Himself (you know who I mean – the man in the red suit), by positioning his elvish spy network in various locations throughout their homes. Evidently this is how he sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake…

But of course, all of this martial festivity is a feint to disguise the main offensive which targets our contentment and will lay siege to bank accounts and credit lines for the month of December: the tantalizing lure of the perfect gift.

Ah, Christmas!

Is it just me who sees the irony in all the smiling faces and twinkling lights when the first Christmas was celebrated in the murky stink of a stable? When the first Gift was born to be raised up as the Lamb of God who would be slaughtered to take away the sins of the world?

Perhaps this is why Paul told the Philippian church it had been granted to them to suffer for Christ.

Being a nerd, I had to peek into the original Greek and research the word translated granted. That word, transliterated echaristhe, carries the connotation of doing a favor, graciously bestowing, or giving freely.

Think about this: the Philippian church had been favored with suffering for Christ’s sake.

If you’ve read this blog for long, you’ll know that I have written about the unusual blessing of chronic migraine and what my God has done in me through pain. But I can hardly say I’ve suffered for His sake; I’ve just learned – or rather, am learning – to suffer well for His glory.

But meditating on this verse lately has changed the way I pray for my kids.

Like most parents, I’ve wanted to give my kids good gifts. I’ve longed for them to learn from my mistakes and spare themselves the hardship of self-imposed suffering. I’ve sincerely desired for them to have a better life than mine; to make better choices and live with less difficulty.

But by praying for them to be spared hardship, struggle, and suffering, am I praying to deny them a wonderful, God-given favor?

As I look back over my life, I see suffering that I had no control over, but I see more well-deserved suffering brought on by stubborn attempts to live for myself.

I’ve no right to complain about any suffering, really, when I consider that my Creator chose to join in human suffering despite never engaging in human sin. But I have zero reason to complain when I brought pain down on my own head simply because I refused to obey God – or at one point, refused to acknowledge Him at all.

Yet in His astonishing grace, even the harrowing consequences of my crimes are redeemed. Once I surrendered myself utterly to the Lord, He even turned the most awful, negative consequences of my sin into a glorious gift.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

Romans 8:28-29

And He really does. In the economy of my Sovereign, truly nothing is wasted!

And so, I no longer pray that my young people will be spared suffering.

Instead, I have begun to pray that no matter how or why they suffer in this life – whether brought on by their choices or thrust upon them by others – God will give them the grace to suffer well.

By suffering, I pray they will be drawn closer and ever closer to the redemptive, compassionate heart of God. That they will choose to suffer for Him for a little while so they can rejoice together with Him for all eternity.

And when I think of suffering in the terms of eternity, what gracious favor is offered to us – embrace suffering for few paltry decades with the promise of everlasting joy to look forward to when it’s done.

What a gift, indeed!