Freedom: You Keep Using That Word…

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

(Galatians 5:1)

Let freedom ring. Right?

Like nearly every word in this information-glutted world, it’s helpful to know what it is the speaker or writer is celebrating freedom from. Not all freedoms are created equal.

I am very thankful to live in a country which holds (for now, at least) to some degree of political freedom. Of course, as history tells us, power always seems to centralize among the powerful. Though technically a democratic republic, the actual choice is between two groups of wealthy and influential people. I am free to choose which of the two will come close to representing my values in government, or I am free to choose among the varied parties certain to lose.

Even yet, remains a sort of freedom, if one continually reminding me that I am a sojourner here.

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.

(1Peter 2:15-17)

But what disturbs me far more than the escalating atrophy of economic, political, and social freedoms in America is the way many of my fellow followers of Jesus seem to confuse these with the sort of freedom the Lord gave up His life to provide.

This is becoming especially evident as those sorts of freedoms become especially more fragile. In this climate, so many well-meaning brethren charge ahead into all sorts of secular activism while waving the banner of the Kingdom of God with zeal. They don’t even seem to realize the irony. Many early devotees of Jesus believed He came as a political King as well.

But what Christ died to set us free from was not political tyranny.

My friends, we may have been sold the fantasy of utopia on earth and been raised in the context of the American Dream, but if we are in Christ, we need to keep an eye on what true freedom is really all about. I’ll give you a hint – it isn’t about guns or masks or toilet paper.

So let’s step take a break from not treading on one another and look at the One we have all trod upon.

Who could be more free than the Author of life? Yet He, the Almighty Creator – this Messiah laid aside His Divine freedom and became a part of His own creation. The Infinite confined Himself to finite boundaries; submitting Himself to being human with all the awful turmoil it brings; to die at the hands of people created through Him, nailed to a tree by iron spikes, both of which were also made through Him.

And He did it to set us free – not from ideologies we feel oppressed by nor from rules that hurt our feelings – but from sin.

The real truth is, we do not take our crimes against God anywhere near seriously enough to comprehend what a gift this is. But that’s a broader topic and I’m already stuffing in too many words for the average modern mind’s patience.

Don’t miss this fact, though: Jesus accomplished our freedom by submitting Himself to death at the hands of Rome – a tyrannical foreign government which occupied Israel at the time. Let that one sink in.

Instead of setting us free to make our own choices, Christ set us free from slavery to the corruption-laced idiocy of our natural bents.

For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.

(2Pe 2:18-19)

He did not set us free to pursue our own gratification in any form. Rather, He set us free from the slavish need to gratify the insatiable self.

His Spirit enables us to actually reach for righteousness – something we are fully incapable of while chained in slavery to our own destructive desires. Heck, on our own, we don’t even glance at righteousness, much less reach for it.

That’s the true freedom Jesus offers – the freedom to cover the shriveled sickness of our fallen appetites and our obsessive fixation with self and dress instead in respectability. He offers as a garment His own noble nature; a nature always and forever righteous and free from wrongdoing.

To live forever with Him, forever free from the guilt, sorrow, and shame with which sin stains even our most virtuous and selfless moments.

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

(John 8:34-36)

A freedom worth fighting for.

Those Worrisome Words – Christian

For series background info, see my previous post.

Our kickoff word is Christian.

Sooooo many people use this word, and yet in utter sincerity, I do not think it means what they think it means.

Nerd Alert – brief foray into etymology ahead!!

The word Christian actually comes from a Greek word which was coined not long after the death of the Christ, who was likely called Yeshua by His contemporaries and more commonly known today by the transliterated and (possibly Swiss-ified from the Geneva Bible translation) name, Jesus.

Long story short, His Greek title would have been (transliterated), Christos. Christianos was the Greek derivative used to refer collectively to those who followed His Way not long after His death. The English is easy to spot from there.

But what does the word mean? What, exactly, makes a person a Christian?

I’ve had a virtual conversation with an atheist who believes Adolf Hitler was a Christian. And from his perspective, it makes sense. After all, Hitler belonged to a nation which identified itself as a Christian nation, he mentioned Divine Providence (a way of referring to God) many times in his speeches, wrote about his concept of God and the Divine Image in his autobiography, and even proclaimed Jesus as Savior and Lord during a speech or two.

Surely that’s enough to make him a Christian, right?

After all, if yours truly, a mother of three, suddenly chooses to identify as a man, I can be a man – thus saith the progressive logic of the current century and thus the atheist’s puzzling little piece fits, though admittedly the picture is more a puzzle assembled than if it remained in scattered pieces.

The truth is, Hitler also used the term Christian while remaining ignorant of its actual meaning. Consider this quote straight from the pen of the mustachioed Austrian madman himself:

It would be better if they left this [missionary] work alone, and if, in its stead, they tried to teach people in Europe, kindly and seriously, that it is much more pleasing to God if a couple that is not of healthy stock were to show loving kindness to some poor orphan and become a father and mother to him, rather than give life to a sickly child that will be a cause of suffering and unhappiness to all.

Adolf Hitler, from Mein Kampf

According to the deceased dictator’s philosophy, the God-honoring Christian thing to do is to sterilize the sick and infirm, allowing them to perhaps raise some healthy orphan rather than perpetuate their inferior genetic stock.

He goes on to sing the praises of eugenics. The gist of this section of merry old Adolf’s autobiography is that allowing unhealthy, crippled, mentally deficient, or “racially impure” (presumably by his standard) people to procreate is an act of immorality.

Logically consistent, but abhorrently far from what Jesus actually lived and died to accomplish. Hitler shaped his concept of God, Christianity, and morality around his lifestyle, ethnic makeup, and opinions rather than shaping his worldview around the actual Christ as presented in His Word.

Like so many of us still do today, deceiving ourselves that we have no kinship with a freak like Hitler. Too many of us fail to see the inherent dangers of redefining what it means to follow Christ.

So is a Christian merely a person who identifies himself with the Christ and calls Jesus his Savior and Lord?

Not according to the Christ Himself:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 7:21

The Lord goes on to declare even some people who call Him Lord and do incredible feats – things I’ve certainly never accomplished – in His name will not enter. Jesus labels these Christ-proclaiming high-performers workers of lawlessness, not Christians.

So what is a Christian, if not a person who calls the Christ Lord?

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

John 14:23

There’s the start of the definition, though it’s necessary to know Jesus’s commands. Read Matthew 16:21-27, John 13, John 15 – heck, really you need to read the entire Book and study the types of Christ in the Old Covenant before moving on to study the actual Christ in the Gospels and letters making up the New Covenant.

To know what a Christian is, study the Christ. And remember that He tells us we can know them by their fruits.

A person is not a Christian just because they say they are, nor because they do a little Divine name-dropping or throw out a frequent, “Praise the Lord!”

Instead, observe their fruit. Do his actions bring acclaim to himself? Does her lifestyle honor herself?

Or do they imitate the life of Christ?

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:12-13

Aftermath

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ…
Read the rest of Luke 2:25-35

Luke 2:25-26

Another Christmas morning is in the books. For several weeks now, most of us have been caught up in a whirlwind of parties and preparation, baking and shopping, wrapping and decorating.

Today we stand in the aftermath. The seasonal crescendo has come and gone, leaving behind memories, decorations, and perhaps a few stray shreds of wrapping paper beneath the sofa. The excitement wanes as we once again submit to the tyranny of the mundane.

I wonder… in the days after the first Christmas, did Mary and Joseph experience a similar sense of encroaching ordinariness? Their lives had been turned on end by angelic announcements followed by a singular pregnancy and the anticipation of Messiah.

I imagine the high emotions of those days – awe at the coming task of parenting the Son of God; sorrow over rejection from friends and family who see only evidence of promiscuity in the swelling of Mary’s belly.

But now it was all past. The daily drudgery of caring for the Infant, providing food and shelter, and waiting out the time of purification had settled in.

Do you sometimes wonder, “Is this it?”

Do you think our Lord’s human parents did also?

This is the point when Simeon entered – a full forty days after the drama had faded into routine. But Simeon did not see merely another couple with a child performing the necessary rites of a Torah-observant Jewish family. Simeon saw the glory of the King through the ordinariness of daily Jewish life and new parent fatigue. And he embraced the Babe, proclaiming the good news and praising God as he did.

Perhaps we can learn from Simeon. Perhaps we, too, can diligently seek our Savior in the midst of familiar workaday routine. What if we embraced every tiny glimpse of Him, proclaiming the mercy and praise of God to our families each day as we’re going about the necessary duties of life?

Perhaps we can use this time to teach our kids that Christmas isn’t Christmas because of the gifts and twinkling lights, but because of Christ. Maybe together, we can start identifying Christ in our everyday lives and praising His goodness to all who stand near.

Maybe for us, every day can be Christmas.

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. What are some practical steps you can take to discover Jesus in the middle of your day-to-day life?
  2. How can you celebrate the birth of our Savior long after the seasonal festivities have ceased?
  3. Try instituting a new habit: With your family, spouse, small group, or a couple of friends, start a daily conversation about where each person saw Jesus in their day.  This can be done verbally in conversation or via text, email, or whatever. Just learning to recognize and acknowledge Him in our lives can be tremendous!

A Very 2020 Christmas Break

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 1:8

Today is officially the first day of Christmas break for my people and me. But for us, it started a bit early this year.

Thanks, COVID-19.

That’s right. Yours truly has been in quarantine since Tuesday when I went for my COVID test. It was positive, and my last week of school suddenly became my first week of break.

I only felt glued-to-my-bed lousy for a couple of days, though my brain seems to have decided it wanted no part of the diagnosis and vacated for warmer (or perhaps healthier) climes. It took my energy with it, too. Stinkin’ deserters.

The worst of it has been my guilt at realizing what I thought were issues caused by extra coffee the day before my test were actually early COVID symptoms. And the most annoying symptom so far is the exposure of my ultimate parenting fail: When I emerged from my bed for the first time, I discovered my husband had been doing all the dishes while my girls did… whatever it is teenage girls do.

But evidently they were very busy with it, assuring me that they did “lots of cleaning” – which I can only assume was done at a neighbor’s house since my own shows a scandalous lack of either cleanliness or order.

Even though the illness tossed a pipe bomb into my plans for last week (not to mention shattered any illusions I may have still clung to that my girls were responsible, capable young adults), I’m not upset.

Oh I admit, I did look forward to my final devotional with my students. I had hoped to make some homemade chocolate-dipped strawberry marshmallows to share with the staff, and I did really want to celebrate my official entrance into menopause with a treat made by my favorite Magical Baking Fairy But I really can’t complain.

After all, this is Advent – the time of year when (I hope) we all look forward to the future arrival of Jesus while celebrating His first.

In the face of what He did for me the first time around, I can really only feel gratitude and sorrow. Gratitude for what He gave for me; sorrow for how little I give Him in return. But mostly, I feel joy. Joy for the privilege of knowing Him; joy for the promise of eternity to get to know Him more.

As I contemplate both Advents, I can’t help but think of my own arrival at the end of this race, whenever it may be. When I think of the great day when I will officially enter into eternity with God, all other celebrations pale in comparison. I pray it is the same for you.

Merry Christmas!

You Keep Using That Word, Part 2: Progressive

I need to preface this with a shoutout to the author whose podcast and book put a name to a dark and nameless dissonance I’d been often frustrated by in my walk with the Lord.

As an atheist who came to know God through the Bible long before stepping into a church congregation, I’d puzzled for years over a disconnect I found between me and some who call themselves Christian. We used the same terms, claimed the same Lord, even referenced a few of the same Scriptures, but what we meant by these things didn’t seem to mesh.

Then I heard Alisa Childers reference Progressive Christianity. Whether by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instinct, or both, I knew this was the name of the lurking menace I’d encountered.

If you’re looking for an excellent Christmas present or a great Christmastime read for yourself, I HIGHLY recommend Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers. She writes with grace, tact, and candor of how a self-proclaimed “flaky artist type” took a plunge into the deep waters of apologetics and learned that her faith is built on Rock-solid ground.

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be sorry. Now on to today’s program:

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

Galatians 1:6-8

Progressive. The word just sounds so… dynamic, doesn’t it?

It hints at sophistication; of gaining ground. When attached to a noun, this adjective lends a sense of importance, of forward motion, and of… well, of progress.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

– Inigo Montoya

But in truth, progress isn’t the significant thing. Making progress in the right direction is of far greater importance.

Four times now, I’ve made excellent progress on a hike – along a route that diverged moderately from the planned path. Once my companion and I forsook the path entirely and struck out on our own.

Such enthusiastic and progressive hiking experiences culminated in a variety of results. One particularly memorable result involved an unintended tour of adjacent mountaintops while keeping one eye on the sun’s position in the sky and the other on our (fortunately) distinctive goal.

We did make it to the goal before sunset, though our appearance must have been alarming. We were immediately offered food and water.

I suppose experiences like these have taught me to be cautious of vague descriptors such as progressive.

So when I first heard of “progressive Christianity,” I initially responded with a mixture of puzzled disbelief and a primal shock of icy horror.

If progressing up the wrong mountainside prompted wide-eyed day hikers to thrust their half-empty water bottles towards me, what is the appropriate response for people progressing towards the wrong eternity?

Though we’re easily lulled into believing our physical, mental, and emotional needs are the most important thing in life, the plight of those meandering comfortably and happily down the broad path to destruction is far more desperate than, say, a starving hiker lost in the backcountry with nothing but the clothes on his body and the seal of the Holy Spirit on his heart.

Progressive Christianity shares very little with actual followers of Jesus the Christ. It is progressively moving towards quite a different goal. A more honest devotee would call it progressive churchianity – or even what it is – secular humanism dressed in a dollar-store Jesus costume complete with Anglo-Saxon features.

Ironically, Christianity as it is understood through the Word of God, the teachings of the Christ, and the early Church is progressive.

It speaks of progressively becoming more like Jesus of Nazareth; of progressively dying to oneself and one’s sin; of daily progress towards the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Of progressive expectations of persecution and suffering laced with the joy of knowing it all has a purpose and an eternal hope.

However, the other thing wears the name of Christianity much like decaf wears the name of coffee. It has little of the flavor and none of the power.

What passes under the title of progressive Christianity has a form of godliness but denies its power. It promises something which resembles peace on earth and good will towards men while assuming a lack of peace and good will among men is the worst part.

Progressive Christianity treats the spiritual equivalent of ebola with a splash of lavender essential oil and a sweet little smile.

And it is making progress in our churches. Just not in the right direction.

Unmasked

Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.

2 Timothy 2:3-4

Here’s a bit of irony for you: the issue of whether or not to wear a mask has unmasked a disturbing dereliction of duty within the Church.

If only the problem were confined to small bits of cloth…

But it isn’t. Every time I browse social media, a heaviness invades my heart.

So much of my feed brims with frustration. So many responses are subtly, or even overtly, hostile. So many opinions flung into virtual print seethe with smugness and accusation but lack verifiable data.

It’s sad to see the bickering in the secular world, but it’s appalling to see it within the Body of Christ. It’s as if we’ve forgotten who our enemy is.

Our enemy is not the lady asking you to please put on a mask in the grocery entryway, nor is it the man walking around without one.

Politicians, political parties, billion dollar industries, liberals, conservatives, illnesses, treatments, “THEM” – none of these are our enemies. And none will be our savior.

In truth, all the issues causing us distress and mouth-foaming rage are temporary. Transient. A vapor soon dispersed by the wind.

For those of us who are in Christ, the time we spend here is not a matter of rights or politics or safety. It’s a matter of eternal life or death.

Brothers and sisters, the hour is growing late. We are ambassadors for the King, and it’s imperative we remember what this means.

And if I may be frank, getting caught up in the swirling digital babble clamoring over politics and masks and disease numbers and the maelstrom of controversy does not point the hurting, sin-weary heart to Christ.

We are called to share in suffering, not dodge it. We willingly sacrifice all else in order to proclaim forgiveness of sin through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are in Christ, our allegiance is not to any worldly agenda. It is to God’s agenda, and it we take it up at any cost to ourselves. A quick glance through the pages of Scripture yields several examples.

Jeremiah endured public ridicule and imprisonment, but not for his rights – for the Word of God. And he did it after God told him no one would listen.

Hosea did not place his right to a happy and satisfying marriage over his obedience to God’s command to marry an unfaithful prostitute. The command of God superseded his rights and he knew it. And acted on it.

Ezekiel did not spend over a year lying on his left side and eating bread baked over a poop fire because it brought him joy. He did it for the Lord.

Paul did not suffer persecution, torture, and chains by standing up for his earthly freedoms. He, too, did it for the honor of serving the Lord.

They knew what today’s Church seems to have forgotten. This world is dark, broken, horrible. Bad things will happen. And yes, we will lose rights and freedoms; we will be persecuted. We will suffer harm.

But if we belong to Christ, we will not be overcome so long as we remain faithful to Him and His calling on our lives. But we must have a willingness to share in suffering as good soldiers.

The enemy is not out there, fudging numbers and plotting to cover the faces of the globe with cloth. The true enemy works intimately, stirring up our pride; our selfishness; our sin.

Mine. Yours.

And he is gloating over our distraction from our primary purpose as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. Let’s no longer give him the satisfaction.

See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, 
but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. 
Rejoice always, 
pray without ceasing, 
give thanks in all circumstances; 
for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 
Do not quench the Spirit. 
Do not despise prophecies, but test everything;
hold fast what is good. 
Abstain from every form of evil. 
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, 
and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:15-24

Wise Words

When you get sick, and sad, and weary of God’s people, turn your thoughts to God Himself; and if ever you see any spots in the Church, Christ’s bride, look at her glorious Husband, and you will only love Him the more as you think of His wondrous condescension in having loved such a poor thing as His Church is even at her best.

C. H. Spurgeon

Back in the days of my atheism, I had a ridiculous habit. OK, I had several ridiculous habits, but one of the silliest was a tendency to judge Christianity by Christians.

This, of course, is foolish; akin to judging the entire field of theoretical physics by the mathematical expertise of the world’s preschool students.

If you want to rightly assess Christianity, the Person to examine is Yeshua Messiah, aka Jesus Christ. He is the one who set the standard. His Church are the ones learning how to live up to it – one computational error at a time.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:7-9

Friday Flora: Increase

And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

1 Kings 17:12

Y’all, it’s getting real here in the Davis household. COVID Madness has infected certain companies, leading those who run them to fretfulness.

And a fretful company is not a good thing. They start searching for heavy things to pitch overboard to keep the thing floating high above the waves.

Thus, yours truly is officially back in the workforce, this time serving in a very different role than the recent short-term positions. All things considered, I’m grateful to be helping a litttle with the family income – especially in the middle of COVID Madness.

An older, less experienced me would be pretty darn nervous right now. Instead, the present me is pondering the many things I’ve written in my Ebenezer Journal (aka – my journal reminding me, “Thus far, the Lord has helped us.” See 1 Samuel 7:12 if you need a reminder.)

I need those reminders sometimes. Especially when large bills loom and small numbers cower before them.

But thus far, the Lord has helped us. And you know what? He has already taken our tiny little faith and our itty-bitty obedience and amplified the results far beyond anything I ever thought possible when I nursed my first baby, unsure how we’d pay the full amount of the next month’s rent.

So while the numbers in my bank account may tremble a bit in the shadow of bills to come, this girl isn’t trembling at all. Because I serve a God who is able to do far more abundantly beyond anything I ever asked or thought.

He has never failed to provide. Never. He’s even provided amply enough for us to be generous.

We haven’t always had all the things we want. But we’ve never done without the things we need.

Sometimes He provides just in the nick time, often we have to work to pay for some foolish choices, but He’s never been late.

It’s from experience that I trust my God – the God who is able to take a little bit of faith, a handful of flour, and a few drops of oil and multiply it to cover the needs of one generous widow, her son, and their guest.

He’s already provided me with salvation from my sins, a family, a more amazing life than I ever deserved, this current job, and so much more.

I trust my God with my whole heart, in little or in plenty. How could I not? I have Him! I have the Lord my God; my Savior Yeshua; my King!

Whether we return to times of plenty or continue in times of want, my heart is full.

Because in Christ, I have all I need.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, 
for I have learned in whatever situation I am
to be content.
I know how to be brought low, 
and I know how to abound. 
In any and every circumstance, 
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, 
abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13

Blessing

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; 
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.
(Psalm 63:1-4)

So how are you holding up during COVID Madness? I’m still enjoying having all my family around for the most part. But I won’t lie: I miss my friends. I miss seeing one daughter play tennis, and this weekend, I’ll miss seeing my other daughter’s now-cancelled spring play.

Finances are a bit tight, too. I’d hoped for more chances to substitute at the school while working on this silly book and help out with our expenses -which have increased. And in truth, I’m a bit sick of never being able to keep the house clean.

Even still, I count myself very blessed.

Wild Violet

I am blessed not because life is perfect and my kids have all the opportunities we’ve sacrificed to give them. I’m blessed because I know the Creator of the universe. Because my Lord died to give me access to the Throne of Grace. Because in Christ, I have the astonishing privilege of meeting with the Almighty, of reading His word and talking to Him, every single day.

Each day, I also love to walk in my neighborhood and marvel at the beauty He’s placed all around me. Even the weeds here are pretty.

Even more, though, I marvel that the same God who put such detail in the tiniest of flowers has put the same amount of attention into the details of my life.

Every single thing – from chronic pain and fatigue to the challenges and joys of motherhood; from a childhood of sorrows to a roller-coaster adult life; from the roof over my head to the dirty floor under my feet – all of it, He has used for my good. Preparing me. Changing me. Growing me.

Because He is a good Father, my God has not kept me from hard things in life. Instead, He has used the hard things to teach me more about Himself. To expose my need of Him and to shred my awful pride.

I am blessed not because of what He gives me, but because of who He is. He is my God, my King, my Savior, and my Rock. He is my Reason for doing everything I do. And He is worth it, not because He is the Giver of good gifts. He is the Good Gift.

Whom have I in heaven but you? 
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. 
My flesh and my heart may fail, 
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
(Psalm 73:25-26)

Y’all, I am totally in love with the Lord my God. Even now when life isn’t easy and the future is unknown. Truth be told, the future has always been unknown to me. But not to God.

Dwarf Larkspur along a trail

In Christ alone, I have peace. Apart from Him, I not only have nothing, I am nothing. But in His love, knowing that He is my future and my hope, I have Shalom. Peace.

Because His steadfast love is better than life, I will praise Him. No matter what.

Friends, I pray that You will seek Him with all your heart and find Shalom beneath the sheltering wings of the Most High. Even now. Especially now.

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?