13 January 2018

Equipping Eve: Feeding on God's Word in 2018

With a new year often comes the start of a new Bible reading plan and Bible study. How should we approach both our reading and study of the God's Word, and what are some resources to help keep us focused and accountable this year?

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve.

Bible Reading Plans for the New Year
Every Woman's Grace (resources from the women's ministry of Grace Community Church)

12 January 2018

This 'n' That

I've long lamented my handwriting. On any given day, depending on the medium, the setting, and/or my mood, it might be a sloppy cursive, a sloppy printing, a slightly more legible printing, or a sloppy "prursive."

The struggle for not only legible, but admirable, handwriting, is one that I've kept to myself. Whenever I see that someone—man or woman—writes with a beautiful, flowing script, I envy them. Yes, I'll admit it. And so I keep trying to force myself to write neatly. Of course, my efforts aren't helped by the fact that I often am writing on my lap or writing in a hurry, but nevertheless, I strive.

My ongoing endeavors to write legibly have, I think, been greatly aided in recent days with the receipt of a fountain pen as a gift at Christmas. I've long been a slave to my favorite ballpoint pens, so this has been quite a change, and one that I believe has been for the better. No, the pen has not magically altered my handwriting into that magnificent script that I wish flowed effortlessly, but it has caused me to slow down and be more deliberate, even if just jotting notes. When you have a beautiful writing tool, you tend to want the output to reflect the instrument.

Of course, the typed word prevails these days, but studies have shown, and I think many of us can testify from experience, that our brains retain things better when we write by hand. Further, handwriting is so personal—who doesn't love to receive a handwritten note from a loved one, knowing they spent time and effort to relay an important message to you? I still have many small notes written by my grandmother, and seeing her handwriting brings back many wonderful memories of her.

You see, whether we like it or not, our handwriting is part of our legacy. It's true, sloppy writing will not taint memories, but would we rather not have those messages we've written be able to be shared for years to come? Oh, sure, we can type our thoughts, but how much more special is that handwritten note?

A far more important part of our legacy, however, is our witness for Christ. Whether our handwriting is akin to professional calligraphy or whether our readers must squint and turn the page in order to decipher our code, at the end of the day, it has no eternal significance. How we live for Christ, then, is far more important. How did we react to the joys and trials of life? Did our families and friends see our trust of God in even the most difficult circumstances? Did the gospel of God's grace drip from our lips at every opportunity? Did our children see us reading the Word, and praying to our Lord?

Let us each pray that our legacy is one that brings glory to God, even after we are gone. Even lovely handwriting will fade, but our witness for Christ will reach into eternity.

With that, why don't you take a few minutes to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

05 January 2018

This 'n' That

"Equipping Eve tree" created by Jerry Krider.
Well, we've nearly survived the first week of 2018. How did you fare? Are all of your resolutions, if you made any, still intact? Are you still enjoying your Christmas gifts, or have they already been shoved into a drawer or closet?

One of my favorites gifts that is definitely not hiding in a closet is this "Equipping Eve tree," designed and carved by artist Jerry Krider. Krider is an amazing woodworker and showcases his work at art shows, mostly in the Midwest, I believe. I have to say that this is a truly phenomenal piece, and I love it!

I've also been enjoying the electric blanket I received. Seriously, how have I gone this long without one? For someone who is always cold, this is a no-fail gift. Not to mention, it pairs extraordinarily well with the Elizabeth Prentiss biography that was also under the tree!

Still, all these are just material gifts and even the luster of our favorites will eventually fade. So here we are. It's the fifth day of 2018, life is slowly returning to "normal," and half of the country is experiencing a ridiculous cold spell and/or being pummeled by snow. I suppose it's a time of renewal in more ways than one, then! So as we reflect on whether we're maintaining our New Year's resolutions, and considering how useful our gifts might be throughout the year, we ought also be asking ourselves another far more important question: are we keeping our focus on Christ? Even amid the busyness of the holiday season, we may find ourselves immersed in advent devotionals and thoughts of Him. Yet, as the new year begins, and as we return to that "normal" spoken of earlier, we may be tempted to set Christ aside while we get our affairs in order for this new season.

Sure, we may not set aside our Bibles. After all, we all opened up to Genesis 1:1 on January 1, didn't we? We have to keep that Bible reading plan going at least until we get to Numbers! But even if our Bible reading plan is up to date, we can still end up setting aside our Lord, forgetting that He alone must be at the top of our list as we organize our earthly lives for another year.

With that, let me welcome and thank you for spending the first Friday of 2018 here at Do Not Be Surprised. Let's all take a few moments to enjoy the first week of 2018 in review (kind of):

29 December 2017

This 'n' That

I hope everyone had a joyful Christmas celebration this week! If your holiday didn't turn out to be filled with perfect Hallmark movie moments, well, that's okay, as long as Christ was celebrated.

Now we're on to a new year. 2018 looms before us, promising a year of laughter, smiles, friendships, memories, tears, trials, and disappointments. Yes, no matter who you are or what your circumstances, I can guarantee that you will experience all of these in some measure over the course of the next 12 months.

So, as you prepare for the onslaught of all that this new year will bring, remember the truths you know from Scripture. Truths such as, every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17; cf. Luke 11:13), that discipline from God is designed to grow and strengthen us, and is exercised because we belong to Him (Hebrews 12:7-11), that trials test our faith for our own sakes, with the result of praise and glory to Christ (1 Peter 1:6-9), and that Jesus Christ is our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30), our peace (Ephesians 2:14), our friend (John 15:13-16), and our Shepherd (John 10:11), and, if we belong to Him, we shall never be plucked from His hand (John 10:27-29).

We rest in these and the many other sturdy truths of Scripture every day, but as we approach a new year it is particularly strengthening to meditate on these and the character and nature of our God. Begin today. Tomorrow, repeat. Then repeat again the next day, and the next day, and the next...you get the idea. Something else you should repeat, albeit weekly rather than daily, is the practice of pouring yourself a cup of coffee or tea (or soda or water or whatever) and taking a few minutes to relax and enjoy your week in review (kind of):

25 December 2017

Good News for All Time and All People

And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:9-14)

The angels announce that with the coming of God's Son we may look forward to God's supreme and most costly gift. Their news was not just for one day or for a tiny handful of people: it was intended for all time, to the very end of the world; and it was meant for all of us, from the greatest to the least....

Since the angel invites us to rejoice at the coming of Christ, not inane ordinary way but with unbounded delight, let us make the most of the message. What can we say about this joy? If we involve ourselves in worldly pleasures and are wholly absorbed by our own wants, we will never rejoice in the grace of Christ. Let the shepherds instead be our example. Their earthly lot did not change, despite the fact that they had heard the angel's word and had witnessed the birth of God's Son. They went back to their flocks exactly as before; they continued to live as poor men, guarding their herds. In terms of the flesh and of this passing world they gained nothing from the privilege which we read about here. For all that, they were full of joy. Theirs is a lead we should follow. For although the gospel might earn us neither wealth nor fame, and although it might not bring us gratification or amusement, nevertheless we should be glad that we are the objects of God's favor. That is where true blessing and happiness lie, and where real rest is found....

—John Calvin, "Glory to God on High"

Merry Christmas to you!

Christmas Day Praise

Angels From the Realms of Glory

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.
(Luke 2:1-14)

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. (Luke 2:15-18)

O Come, All Ye Faithful

24 December 2017

Sunday Morning Christmas Praise

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:18-25)

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:1-7)

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)