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Adventing Along . . .

21 Dec

This morning I was thinking about living out of the country and how it has helped me to put Christ in Christmas.  Not that I’m saying it’s impossible in the United States, nor am I railing against commercialism.  No, it’s the simple fact that I have to order my gifts over the Internet that gives me time to meditate on Christ’s birth and death and its eternal effect on our lives.

And I can’t get over the impact that John 1:14 has had on me this holiday season.  Wuest’s expanded translation is my favorite, but I love many of the translations–all expand my heart.

And the Word (Christ) became flesh (human, incarnate) and tabernacled (fixed His tent of flesh, lived awhile) among us; and we [actually] saw His glory (His honor, His majesty), such glory as an only begotten son receives from his father, full of grace (favor, loving-kindness) and truth.  Amplified version

Ok, full of grace and truth.  Jesus was full of grace and truth and we are to be full of grace and truth as His Spirit lives in us.  I was thinking about that this morning and then came across the poem, Psalm of Life, by H.W. Longfellow.  Here is a stanza:

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Today we are to ask God to make his grace and truth real to us.  Today we are to allow His grace and truth flow through us to those who are around us today.  Call it Christmas spirit if you wish, this is the real spirit of Christmas that lives in us throughout the year.

Advent Musing

17 Dec

Tropical Christmas

This verse just jumped up and socked me in the solar plexus.  I had to stop what I’m doing and share this right away.  I’m bowled over with wonder.

And the Word, entering a new mode of existence, became flesh, and lived in a tent [His physical body] among us.  And we gazed with attentive and careful regard and spiritual perception at His glory, a glory such as that of a uniquely-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.  John 1:14 The New Testament, an Exanded Translation by Kenneth Wuest

So this morning I was looking up grace and truth in some Bible dictionaries and commentaries.  Grace is undeserved and shows the helpless poverty of man and the limitless kindness of God.  Another definition for grace when applied to Jesus, is beauty, charm, and winsomeness.  Isn’t that breathtaking?  Winsomeness.

Jesus is the truth.  The Spirit guides us into truth, the truth liberates us from estrangement and frustration, it can be resented, and it can be disbelieved as too good to be true or someone can choose to believe a half truth.  My prayer today is, “Father, help me see Jesus clearly, receive your grace, and believe your truth.  Amen.”

Hot Potato-ing: Easier Said Than Done

14 Dec

How I felt this week . . .

The other day I wrote a post about hot-potatoing your worries to the Lord.  This week I’ve been finding it not so easy to do.  Some things are so simple in theory, but much more difficult in practice.  My sister’s been in excruciating pain for the last week and a day with a partially obstructed intestine.  They finally did surgery on Monday and now she’s in terrible post-op pain.  My heart aches for her–and her family–every moment of the day.  I have to admit that I’ve not done a good job of hot-potatoing my worries to him.  Fortunately, God is bigger than my weakness.

But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me! 2 Corinthians 12:9

P.S. (Added in the evening)  Good news.  I just spoke to my sister, the ng tube’s out, her voice sounds great, and she even ate a piece of toast.

He Said, She Said.

25 Sep

I'm important. Have you thought about me, me, me??

He said to his dizzy wife on the couch, “I’ll stop at McDonalds and eat between the gym and grocery shopping.”

She heard, “I’m making sure that I get something to eat  Forget about you.”

She said, “Can’t you stop at McDonalds after you grocery shop and get me something too?”

He heard, “I want you to pay extra for the taxi and go through McDonalds with all the groceries.”

Later calling him at the gym, she said, “I’m sorry, hon.  Go ahead and go to McDonalds between the gym and grocery shopping and I’ll heat my cheeseburgers in the microwave.”

He heard, “Don’t worry about anything, I’ll microwave myself something for dinner.”

Later still, he came into their bedroom with a huge bouquet of flowers for her.  She waited a while for him to get organized and finally asked, “Did you pick me up cheeseburgers?”

He said, “Oops.  I didn’t listen.”

This evening of conversation shows us the MANY opportunities we have to engage in real grace listening and grace responding.  When we fail we need to bounce back and try again.  P.S.  We did end the evening with a lot of giggling as we realized how ridiculous we’d been.

The Hatfields & McCoys

15 Aug

If you’re from the United States, you’ve at least heard of the infamous feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys in the 1880s in the mountainous where Kentucky and West Virginia touch.  I’ve been thinking a lot about the feud this week as I just read a book about it called, The Coffin Quilt by Ann Rinaldi.  When reading, I just wanted to holler out.  YOU CAN BE THE ONE TO STOP THIS.  JUST SWALLOW YOUR PRIDE.

Around here you have to be either for the Hatfields or the McCoys.  You have to choose sides.  Well, Will and I are staying out of it.  I’m tired of it, Fanny, all the killing.  When you cast an eye on a boy, make sure he’s out of it.  And when you wed, get away.  Stay out of it, Fanny, do.  Or it will destroy you. ~ One of the McCoy sisters speaking to another.

What an object lesson for us.  Pride and hard-heartedness leads to destruction.

And become useful and helpful and kind to one another, tenderhearted (compassionate, understanding, loving-hearted), forgiving one another [readily and freely], as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 (Ampl)

Of course, the good news is that we don’t have to try to whip up these feelings in ourselves.  This morning I’m going to ask God to search my heart for hard heartedness and unforgiveness, and then fill me with Himself, giving me the capacity to be tenderhearted and forgiving.  The word for forgiving here is charizomai, which means to show one’s self gracious kind, and benevolent.  That is, to give life and not death.

Faceted Grace

22 Jul

The Glow of His Grace!

“Grace means favor. But what kind of favor? for favor is of many kinds. Favor shown to the miserable we call mercy; favor shown to the poor we call pity; favor show to the suffering we call compassion; favor shown to the obstinate we call patience: but favor shown to the unworthy we call GRACE!! This favor is Divine for we are “saved by Grace through faith.”

This was posted by an unknown Facebooker whom I can’t find again now that I’ve cut and pasted.  Nevertheless, isn’t it a powerful thought for today?

Hearts a Bustin’

7 Jun

Hearts-a-Bustin'

When I was a brand-new believer working as a landscaper in North Georgia, Psalm 51 was the first passage in the Bible that became a rhema word to me.  I’m using the word rhema to mean not just a word that I read which would be logos, but a word that spoke to my heart in a deep and profound way.   I saw my sin so clearly.

 3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

Hearts a Bustin’ (eonymus americanus) became a symbol for me of the ache I felt for the sin I had committed.  I collected them and dried them in a little tea cup and I drew them and wrote about them.  To me the Hearts-a-Bustin’ represented my broken and contrite heart.

17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

I was and am so glad that God has made me clean and restored me.  The peace and joy that flowed through me when I read this Psalm are indescribable:

7Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Today I am so thankful for the Word of God–especially those portions that have been rhema to my heart.

Photo courtesy:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/martinlabar

Time for Some Great News

5 Jun

He saved us —not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This [Spirit] He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:5-7

We are regenerated.  Regeneration is the production of a new life consecrated to God, a radical change of mind for the better.  This word is often used to denote the restoration of a thing to its pristine state.

We are renewed.  Renewal means renovated, a complete change for the better.

We have been made the sons and daughters of God the Father.  Hallelujah!  Sunday is here.  We are washed, we are justified, we are heirs.

It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.  Titus 3:5-8

A Little More Bad News

3 Jun

I don’t know if it was in a song or a sermon, but I do remember the repetition of “It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s comin’!”  Let’s take one more look at our sinfulness before we start looking at the riches we’ve been given in Christ.

Please do not let this get you down.  Let it instead fill your heart with love for Christ who sacrificed so much for us when we were in the muck and mire.

We evangelical believers generally abstain from the grosser sins of society; in fact, we tend to sit in judgment of those who practice such things.  But beneath the surface of our own lives we tolerate all kinds of ‘refined’ sins . . . . Beyond that, we seldom think about the words of Jesus that the greatest commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” . . . I don’t think any of us can fully plumb the depths of that commandment, but here are some obvious aspects:

  • Your love for God transcends all other desires (Ex. 20:3)
  • Like David, you long to gaze upon His beauty and seek fellowship with Him.  (Psalm 27:4)
  • You rejoice in meditating on His Word, and, like Jesus, you rise early to pray.  (Psalm 119:97, Mark 1:35)
  • You always delight to do His will, regardless of how difficult it may be.  (Psalm 40:8)
  • A regard for His glory governs and motivates everything you do–your eating and drinking, your working and playing, your buying and selling, your reading and speaking–and, dare I mention it, even your driving.  (1 Cor. 10:31)
  • You are never discouraged or frustrated by adverse circumstances because you are confident that God is working all things together for your good. (Romans 8:28)
  • You are content because you know He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5) ~ Jerry Bridges, The Gospel for Real Life
Ouch!  Once again, this is not a call to beat ourselves up, but a call to realize how much we need Jesus every moment of every day.  It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming!

Year End Thoughts

1 Jun

It’s that crazy time of year in a teacher’s life.  Next week is the last week of school.  We’re hectically trying to tie up all the loose ends of this school year:  assessments, report cards, transitions, and saying good-bye to teachers and students who are leaving us.  At the same time, we’ve jumped focus to next year and are planning how we can do a better job.  To do this we need to reflect on what has worked well and what has not worked so well.

In a teacher’s life this is our New Year’s time.  Out with the old and in with the new.  It’s a time for resolutions and reflections.  When you’ve been teaching for a while you don’t think of last year being 2010, you think of it as 2010-2011.  🙂

It is also that time of year when I reflect on my spiritual life.  And I want to try and do it without beating myself up or feeling guilty for my many failures.  I need to keep an equal focus on my sin and God’s grace.  Yes, I avoid overt sins like adultery and murder, but what about those sneaky sins?  What about difficulties in my prayer life?  What about judging others?  We started talking about the gospel on Saturday–how it is a bad news/good news story.

The best preparation for the study of this doctrine [that is, of the truth of the gospel] is–neither great intellectual ability nor much scholastic learning–but a conscience impressed with a sense of our actual condition as sinners in the sight of God. ~ Jerry Bridges The Gospel for Real Life

I’m not suggesting that we go around beating our ownselves up, but we can’t understand the greatness of the gospel and of what Jesus Christ sacrificed for us if we do not have a healthy view of our sinfulness.

Last night, Mike and I had dinner with a friend who met with us to tell us that she’d lied to us.  She kept circling around to the same place in her conversation, “I know what I’ve done was wrong.”  That’s a good place to be.  It is the place where God’s grace gets heaped upon us.

For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] Ephesians 2:8-9 Ampl.