28 December 2018

This 'n' That

Well, another Christmas has come and gone. Around here, the holiday was fairly quiet, which is exactly how we like it. I hope yours was a time of joy and celebration in remembrance of our Lord's incarnation.

Now we march forward to 2019. January always brings with it a newfound sense of optimism. Still, resolutions will inevitably fall by the wayside and a new year will undoubtedly fail to deliver all the pleasant things we anticipate. 2019 will hopefully bring joy for each of us in some aspect, but we can be certain that it will also bring disappointments, trials and challenges, and irony by which we will fail to be amused. This is acceptable, though, because all these things are temporary and we still, as Christians, have much to look forward to as we stride one year closer to being with our Lord forever.

This being Christmas week, many of the articles linked below still carry a holiday theme, so hopefully you won't mind extending your Christmas thoughts at least one day longer.  Why not toss some marshmallows in your hot chocolate, then, as you sit back to enjoy your final 2018 week in review (kind of):

25 December 2018

24 December 2018

For Unto Us a Child Is Born

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.

There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

23 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent Praise

Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 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.
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 2:1-15)

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 2:15-20)

22 December 2018

Equipping Eve: Joy to the World

It's Christmastime, which means we’re celebrating the first advent of Christ. But the fact that there’s a “first” advent implies a second, and that event—the second coming of Christ—is something all Christians should be eagerly anticipating!

Click here to listen to this episode of Equipping Eve and to access additional resources.

21 December 2018

Christmas Sorrow is Overcome by the Man of Sorrows (Repost)

*This is a repost of an article originally published on 21 December 2017.

The memory plays in my mind with brilliant clarity. It's too vivid, really, and I'd much prefer the scene to be a bit more muddled, but I am powerless to change that.

December 21, 2002. Sixteen years ago. Seventeen Christmases ago. Has it been that long?

I was home from college for Christmas break. It was early afternoon and my mother had just stepped into my room to tell me that my grandfather had come out of his surgery just fine. He and my grandmother would be staying in Wisconsin for Christmas, due to the fact that Grandpa just had another stent placed. Thrilled to hear he was doing well, I turned up the volume on the Christmas music so it rang just a bit louder through my room. I readied myself to run some errands with my mother. It would be a good day. No school, Christmas was coming, and the air was cool and crisp. What could be better? Yes, it would be a Merry Christmas.

The phone rang, though I'm not sure I heard it above the crooning of Bing Crosby's voice. Mom entered again, her face very different than before. Grandpa was gone. The stent blew, there was no way to save him. The conversation I'd had with him the evening before would be the last time I would hear him laugh. In that moment, my world both stopped and spiraled out of control, all in one confusing sweep.

This 'n' That

Christmas is almost here. Hard to believe, isn't it? In the busyness of the season, it's easy for us to lose sight of what we are truly celebrating, namely the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And in the midst of that, it's easy to further forget how much more we have to look forward to. There is, after all, a second advent, a promised second coming of Christ.

This time of year, we remember when He condescended to come to earth as a man. His humble birth gave way to a humble life, and it all culminated in His crucifixion. His resurrection three days later demonstrated the Father's acceptance of His sacrifice, and further confirmed that He was indeed truly the Son of God.

In His birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus Christ fulfilled every prophecy foretold in the Old Testament about His first coming. In His return, He will fulfill every prophecy that yet remains. He came the first time to save. He will return to judge.

These are weighty things to consider amid the jingling of silver bells, but they are crucial for us to acknowledge, understand, and celebrate. From the manger to the cross to the empty tomb to His victorious return, Jesus Christ has always been Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11). This December 25, we do not merely celebrate a birthday, we worship a willing Savior. Merry Christmas.

Hopefully these last few days before Christmas will allow you at least a few moments to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

16 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent Praise

Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45)

O Come, All Ye Faithful

And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

(Luke 1:46-56)

O Holy Night

14 December 2018

This 'n' That

Does anyone else remember what it used to mean to plan to see a movie? It meant arriving at the theater about 30 minutes early, buying your tickets, and then entering the theater and selecting your seat. Well, in case you haven't been to a movie in several years, consider this your friendly warning that things have changed.

Now, most people buy their movie tickets and choose their seats online at home, and arrive just minutes before the film is about to start. And if you didn't think ahead, when you purchase tickets at the theater, you still have to choose your seats from a screen before you actually sit down. It's all very weird.

I first experienced this a couple years ago when I ventured into a movie theater after about a 5 year unintended big screen fast. I experienced it again this week when a friend and I decided to go see White Christmas. The whole process makes me feel very old and out of touch, but it was still worth it to see Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen on the big screen. Now, I realize that White Christmas contains absolutely no spiritual or theological themes. That doesn't make it sinful, just agnostic. And while I'll always prefer Holiday Inn, White Christmas will always be a classic. Movies like this are just a fun and lighthearted addition to the season. They entertain us, but they do not point us to the One who is our focus (or ought to be) this time of year and everyday.
She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)
Yep, that's the One!

Now that I have you humming "White Christmas" the song, why not hum while you enjoy your week in review (kind of):

09 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent Praise

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:26-38)

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)

What Child Is This?

Mary, Did You Know?

07 December 2018

This 'n' That

I really enjoy focusing on Advent. I've never understood why so many churches shun recognition of this season leading up to the celebration of the incarnation of our Lord. It seems, in their effort to not be like the mainline denominations, they've essentially ended up being Amish, forgoing frivolities such as decorations, which are benign in and of themselves, and practices that could actually prove spiritually profitable, such as Advent. Still, to each his own, I suppose.

In that spirit, I came across this lovely post about Advent this week. I'm looking forward to reading each subsequent post on their respective Sundays. It reminds us that even things such as an Advent wreath are used to point to Christ (in other words, just because you find this practice among mainline denominations, doesn't mean it's bad). Thus, if our Advent teachings are saturated in Scripture, pointing to the Light of the World, they can indeed be helpful tools for children and adults alike.

In fact, I think it's essential for parents to use this season to focus their children's attention on Christ, though we must be mindful of the tools we use to do this. I'm in awe of my own mother, who over the years has tirelessly developed intricate and involved Advent teachings for her grandsons. I trust these projects will be treasured for many years to come and they are significant, not only because they were created with a grandmother's love, but because Jesus is at the center of every day's teaching.

Parents, I hope that you embrace this season and all of its possibilities for teaching and instruction. How wonderful it would be to see a generation of children grow to love Christmas for Who it's truly about, Christ, and to actually display that love in their lives, rather than merely professing it with their lips.

Okay, that's enough rambling for today. Only 17 days until Christmas, so you better finish up your shopping, then don some fuzzy slippers and sit back to enjoy your week in review (kind of):

02 December 2018

Sunday Morning Advent Praise

The Lord God said, "And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel." (Genesis 3:15)

The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes,
And to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. (Genesis 49:10)

A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel. (Numbers 24:17b)

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. (Isaiah 11:1)

Come, Thou Long Expected Jesus

Moses said, ‘THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways.” (Acts 3:22-26)

O Come, O Come Emmanuel