Dear Mary, Did You Know?

Dear Mary,

You don’t know me, but I know your Son. Your firstborn. Son of the Most High God and LORD of all the earth. Or maybe I should say he knows me. I think that might be better. For it’s He who searches hearts and minds (Rev. 2:23). He who made me and holds me together. He’s my rock, my refuge, my shield.

What was it like Mary, to raise him? To have the radiance of God’s glory call you mother; the author of life (Acts 3:15) and salvation (Heb. 2:10) play on your living room floor; the Son of the living God eat at your table. Indeed Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).

Did you know Mary? Did you know you held the source of eternal salvation in your arms? (Heb. 5:9) Did you know you were rocking the Shepherd and Overseer of souls (1 Peter 2:25); tickling the toes of the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8); playing peekaboo with the Savior of the world? What went through your mind as you tucked in bed the Ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5) and kissed goodnight the face of God?

Were you taught as a little girl of the virgin birth to come? “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Could you even fathom you were the one Isaiah spoke of seven hundred years before; the one to bring forth the Redeemer? (Is. 47:4).

Who would have thought, the Author of Life, would put on flesh to be the Author of salvation. It leaves me undone every single time I think about it. “Taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). What a story! A story you got to be a part of.

I’m challenged by your immediate willingness to surrender your life to His service. Were you scared (Luke 1:29)? I would have been terrified. To be with child and yet not married – they could have stoned you. I would have hid.

And you did for a while – escaping to be with Elizabeth. Whose greeting must have welcomed you like the fullness of spring. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42) She knew! She already knew!

Knit by love and wonder and the greatest of men growing in your wombs, how sweet were your conversations in the still of each day’s light? Did you sit hot tea in hand, while Zachariah played his part, silently mouthing the Scripture bombarding his eager heart? Or maybe he wrote them word for word, the verses he’d hidden deep inside, while his two favorite ladies treasured each one with unhindered delight.

Then empowered by God’s grace in the arms of your dear friend, you went home to face the future, no matter how it would end.

How nervous were you to tell Joseph? I would have pleaded with God to tell him instead. Yet left with no choice, you forged ahead. Did you beg him to listen; did you beg him to stay? And then sit in confusion when the conversation didn’t go your way? Or did God step in and save you, as he’d soon do for us all, before the brokenness of rejection crept in to make you fall.

Though relief kindly met you the day of Joseph’s dream, I’m willing to bet misjudgment didn’t make you beam. Pregnant out of wedlock, how many painted you an immoral girl? Did your parents believe you? Did Joseph’s understand? Or was it a whore of a daughter-in-law they thought they got instead.

Then the decree to register, did it take you by surprise? Or fit like a piece in the bigger than you puzzle of your life? (Micah 5:2) Yet knowing time was near, you had no choice but to go south ninety miles on a donkey or perhaps a cart. Ankles swollen, baby ready, you rode the rough terrain with a man you called your husband to the town we all know by name.

How scared were you Mary when the first contraction came? When it seized you with determination, did you hide it at all the same? Counting and recounting until you couldn’t hide it anymore. What went through your mind when no one would open their door?

Wake up Bethlehem your time in history has come, yet there was no place for you to have God’s sweet and precious son. Was Joseph mad with urgency? Could you hear it in his voice? Did you plead with him to hurry? Did you plead with him to help? Until he finally found a stable or perhaps a room off to the side, to welcome the King of Glory in a manger on his first night.

Where was the fanfare? Where was the fun? For the birth anticipated since the garden had come undone.  It was reserved for a few meager shepherds tending their flocks not far. Who heard the angels call and followed a special star.

I’d say it’s not what you pictured when Gabriel first made mention of the plan. But I have a feeling it didn’t matter once you held his tiny hand. Could you sense the magnitude of the moment? Could you sense heaven standing by? As they watched Immanuel invade the world with a simple little cry.

Did you know time stopped counting down at his arrival and began counting up until his next? Could you fathom the baby you were holding was deity at it’s best? Diminished in his glory so the world would know him not. How did you later let go? For it’s my freedom that he bought.

Nestled in your arms for only a short time, you knew the birth of this child would change your life forever (Luke 1:48), but did you know it would also change mine? Thank you for your example. Your willingness to say yes, when God called you and put you to the test.

Mother of the great I AM your new normal, I have no idea how you did it so informal. One day at a time that’s how we mothers roll. In hopes of raising great kids, because that’s always the goal.

But yours was great from before time began. Perfect in every way he still holds my hand. Faithful until the end I’ve received him as my King, thank you Mary he makes my heart sing.

You may have carried him then, but it’s he who now carries me. I’d be lost without him for all eternity. Bruised for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities, he’s my Savior, my God, but it all started with him bouncing gleefully on your knees.

It happened didn’t it? It’s all true. He came, he died, and came back, and reigns over me and you. I look forward to meeting you someday and talking as only mothers can. But until then Mary, I’m holding tight to the precious boy your raised up to be a man.

In Christ Alone,
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Truths to Dwell in on Election Day

If there’s an emotion I struggle with most, it’s anxiety. That all too familiar feeling of uneasiness that wraps itself like a noose around my heart when I linger too long on the I-have-no-control-over-this-issues or the how-is-this-going-to-work-out scenarios or the what-if possibilities or the I-can’t-help-but-worry situations.  

And once I let it take hold, it’s hard to shake. Anxiety has a strong grip. Refusing to leave me alone, even in the most mundane tasks – following me from room to room while I put away toys and pick up clothes and throw away diapers I should have tossed in the diaper champ three days ago. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Tired of giving uneasiness a free ride, I take deep breaths – pausing to see if it’s better with each exhale. It’s not.

I’ve found only one way to loosen the grip of anxiety — grip harder to the word of God. And I mean tight. With an earnest effort. The kind that might be deemed excessive.

Isaiah 26:3 declares, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Perfect peace doesn’t come with a long run or a warm bath – it comes with a mind fiercely fixed on Christ.  

A mind willing to take every thought and doubt and question and shove it deep into the heart of Scripture. Again and again and again.

This. This is my approach as tomorrow turns into today and Americans vote not just on the next President of the United States but on my future and my kids future and our rights as Christians and my future freedoms or lack thereof.

It’s enough to make my insides simmer. The power that’s at stake – the supreme court judges that will be appointed to either uphold Biblical standards or spit on them. The knowing that above all else I will choose God and be a champion of His word no matter what it might cost me.

I don’t like. I really really don’t like it.

But there’s only one way and that’s straight through it. So I’ll tackle the apprehensions climbing up my throat with God’s Word diligently pouring through my mind. Anchoring me to the one ultimately in control. And I’ll do it with these four truths and the Scriptures that back them.

1. God is sovereign.
The presidency is not determined by us, it’s decided by God.

A friend kindly reminded me the other day that God is not sitting up in heaven nervously hoping enough Christians vote. He knew long ago who would be named President in 2016.

Jeremiah 27:5 says, “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.”

And again…
“I will appointment the leader of my choice. For who is like me, and who can challenge me? What ruler can oppose my will?” (Jeremiah 49:19b, NLT)

Whether it be for the rod or revival it’s God who allows the scepter to slide from one man’s hand to another (or woman for that matter). We may be surprised, but God never is.

“The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath: “It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided.” (Isaiah 14:24, NLT)

Yet God says to the righteous, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)  Thank you Jesus.

2. Christ is King.
No matter who sits in the Oval Office, Christ sits on the throne of Heaven.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The LORD is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5-6

“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14

“On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Rev. 19:16

3. Truth will prevail.
I can’t stand lies. Yet for months the news has been brainwashing us with them, many have been led astray to believe them, and Satan (the father of lies) has been hard at work to uphold them.

But the Word of God is truth (Jn. 17:17) and it will not pass away. It will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). It may be shoved aside for now. It may be forgotten. It may be torn apart by people who make it say whatever they want it to, but ultimately it will prevail! And be upheld! And be the standard by which Christ rules.

For He is truth (John 14:6). And speaks only truth (Isaiah 45:19). “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160)

Those who live by the TRUTH will be rewarded with eternal life, “but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:8).

In the end, truth wins.

4. Those who fear God will be blessing.
It may not look like blessing. It may be harder than we ever anticipated. But there is blessing in store for the Christ follower who fears God enough to wholeheartedly obey him. Especially in the midst of a society that doesn’t.

“Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 28:14

“Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments….He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (Ps. 112: 1,7)

Not afraid of bad news…

If you need me in the next few days, I’ll be right here smack dab in the middle of these truths. Will you?

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Our Problem Isn’t the Government, It’s Holiness

I admit, I’m fearful. As a mother with four young children I’m deeply concerned about the future of this nation and what it holds for my littles. More than anything I want Christianity to be the religion our country holds closest to and the foundation we still stand upon.

But it’s not anymore. Biblical values are no longer the driving force behind societal right and wrongs. We gave that seat to political correctness and women’s activism quite some time ago.

Not that I don’t think men and women are created equal. Not that I don’t think women should have rights. We do and we should. But something’s gone terribly wrong in our society. And instead of facing the music. Instead of digging in to see where we may have gone wrong, fessing up to mistakes, and seeking to make it right, we just blame the government.  

Who is absolutely at fault, don’t get me wrong. We have leaders leading us in just about every wrong direction. Upholding lifestyles of immorality as good and normal. Passing abortion laws under the pretense of women’s rights instead of advocating a beautiful thing called adoption. Making decisions they have no right to make.

And it makes me want to scream. To get in the face of these so called wise people and tell them a thing or two about what I really think of them and their plans to steal the freedom of my children and belittle life.

So I yell at the TV and pray. Asking God to do something. To intercede. To bring revival. To protect me and my comfortable life. To work in the hearts of those in authority. Or remove them or replace them or keep them from putting in place rules and regulations that might hinder my lovely little existence.

Which is not wrong. We need to be praying, especially for our leaders. But I think we’ve forgotten something. (Or at least I had.) Something not necessarily easy, but important. And undeniably vital to the heartbeat of God.

I think we’ve forgotten holiness.

The setting apart of God’s people for righteousness. 1 Peter 1:15 says we are to be holy as He is holy. We are to conduct ourselves in such a way that matches the character of He who indwells us. For we are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” saved to proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). Yet what do our attitudes and actions and apathy most often proclaim?

We pray and then we go back to conformity. We ask, but then we go sit in front of the TV. Watching shows that take God’s name in vain and uphold sex outside of marriage and praise divorce and normalize weak men and applaud aggressive youth.  

We uphold Friends as one of the best sitcoms ever and post pictures of ourselves devouring reruns when almost every episode includes sexual immorality. We get more excited about the comeback of Gilmore Girls than we ever have about the coming of Christ.

We play video games that kill and we brag about it. We engross ourselves in murder mysteries and the nightly news, instead of engrossing ourselves in God’s word. Teaching our kids it’s ok to toe the line. To watch sin and laugh at it and be a part of it as long as it’s just on TV or with a gaming controller.

Which has me wondering, why would God ever want to move on behalf of such an apathetic people? A people who profess his name on Sunday’s but haphazardly throw him on the shelf Monday through Saturday. Who sit and laugh at the stuff he hates. Who live in a constant state of inconsistency. Who say they are Christians but could care less to uphold what Christ actually says.

We seek His intervention, but we don’t seek His Word. We covet His action, but we don’t covet His attributes.

Yet it’s holiness that moves God to act on behalf of his people and always has been. When the Israelites obeyed the LORD, God protected and prospered them. But when they profaned his name and acted in wickedness, God rejected them.

Not that he wanted to, but in holiness he had to for they refused to obey. “My people have turned their backs on me and have refused to return. Even though I diligently taught them, they would not receive instruction or obey” (Jeremiah 32:33, NLT).

God desires obedience. The cross didn’t change that. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).

Beloved, it’s holiness that moves God. When his people choose to do that which is honoring to him, he can’t help but respond. It’s our sin that keeps him quiet. Isaiah 59:1-2 says, “Listen! The LORD’S arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (NLT).

Our sins.

Yet the LORD encouraged Israel with this, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud, I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free” (Is. 44:22, NLT).

Return to Him! Not just in word but in deed. In holiness. In righteousness. The government has nothing on God. His presence alone “brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (Is. 40:23).

But why would God act on behalf of a people who live as though they care nothing for him? Profaning not only his name, but his holiness.

Yes, we can pray. Yes, we can ask God to heal our land but without a return to holiness, without a whole hearted seeking of God and a good riddance to the sin we’ve let infiltrate our daily lives for far too long , I sincerely wonder at the outcome.

“This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:26 NLT  

I can only imagine what God might do if we – his people – asked for the old, godly way, and walked in it. It starts with us friends. It starts with us.

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Truths to Remember When the Unthinkable Happens

I don’t know what’s happened in your life the past week but I know God is still the same God he was a week ago, a year ago, ten years ago, two thousand years ago, and beyond. He is still “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex. 34:6). And He always will be.

Even when the hard things happen. The things that leave us with more questions than we have answers. More doubt than we have certainty. More fear than we have faith.

This world is not what He hoped to give us, though he knew it would happen. He knew sin would leave its scar on us all. He knew death would overshadow us. He knew life would not be easy. But he also knew his love could overcome it all. “In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Jesus has overcome my friend! And I don’t know about you, but I sometimes need that reminder. Along with a few others:

  1. God is forever faithful. It’s who He is. “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations” (Deut. 7:9). It’s who He’s always been. And who He will always be. His faithfulness endures to all generations. (Psalm 119:90) “For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness” (Psalm 33:4).
  1. God’s mercy is new every morning. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23). Even when the morning brings heartbreaking news. Even when the day doesn’t end as it should, He is still merciful.
  1. He is close to the brokenhearted. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). This is one of my all time favorite verses. I have it highlighted, underlined, and circled in every Bible I own. He cares my friend. He is near the brokenhearted. Waiting to comfort. Waiting to instill hope and peace. If we would simply turn to Him.  
  1. God is good (Ps. 25:8). And does good (Ps. 119:68). Even when I don’t see it. Even when I don’t understand or can’t explain it. He is still good. “Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God” (3 John 11).  
  1. God is sovereign. He’s in complete and total control. “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations” (Psalm 33:11). Though it may not seem like it. Though it may feel as though God has turned his back. He has not. He works all things according to his purpose. Which is for “all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4.)
  1. He has gone to prepare a place for us. (John 14:3). This life is not the end. It’s only a beginning for those who confess Jesus as LORD and believe in their hearts that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). These “momentary afflictions” will be far outweighed by an eternal glory we now cannot even begin to comprehend! (2 Cor. 4:17) There is so much waiting for us. Heaven is not a figment of our imaginations, it’s simply more than we could ever imagine. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
  1. Jesus is coming back. He really is. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).

These are truths we can stand on every single day my friend. Truths that are constant and unchanging. Truths we can share no matter one’s nationality or personality or upbringing or lack thereof. Truths the entire world needs to hear. Truths we can live by and wrap ourselves in when uncertainty is the path before us. Truths we can sometimes forget. But not today. Today we remember, even in the hard things. Even in the unthinkable things. 

(Photo credit: Pixabay)

How Motherhood Has Changed Me

Next week we’ll tackle Genesis 36 but if it’s ok with you, this week – my thoughts on motherhood. Because it has changed me in ways I never saw coming. And it’s just the funniest thing to step back and take a look. So I hope you enjoy. I hope you laugh. I hope you read this and think: Yay I’m not the only one who has a phobia of highchairs!

Quite honestly I don’t think I could do this journey without humor (or Jesus). Who has held me together from the moment we brought our first bundle of joy home and I suddenly turned into a Schizophrenic vacillating every five minutes between  “I just can’t believe how much I love this little peanut” and “Oh good grief what have we done. My life is so over.”

There may have also been a few dinners I wept at the table while repeatedly assuring my husband I was infact truly happy. #seeyouaretotallynormal #becauseididittoo #andweallknowiamnormal Anyway, one particular development I totally did not see coming is my undeniable germaphobia. I’m not exactly sure when it happened. But I’m pretty sure it had something to do with ordering deli meat and turning around to find my baby sucking on the side of the cart.

Scared he might grow an eleventh toe or contract some rare disease that would further my sleep deprivation, I called my mother, and formed a battle plan that included clorox wipes (in her bag and mine and one for the car), a clip-on hand sanitizer, a cart cover – that could double as a highchair cover, and a package of those plastic disposable table toppers that are just plain awesome.

I’m not gonna lie though. I about had a nervous breakdown the first time we forgot the cover and my one year old had to sit in a naked highchair a previous child had probably just wiped his snot all over. (Which meant sleepless nights were obviously in my future.) But I am happy to report I’ve relaxed some with kid number four. I no longer twitch when said child eats popcorn off the floor at elementary basketball games. (I honestly don’t know how fourth children survive.) But Aldi is still a stretch for me. I fight the urge to beg and plead to keep my cloroxed cart every time they make me switch at checkout. (I know I have a problem.)

But as it turns out my phobia has real merit. Kids get sick, A LOT, with illnesses I did not know existed. Like the hand, foot and mouth virus. (Um excuse me, what did you say doctor? I promise we haven’t been to Europe.) But the one that gets me everytime. The one that makes me want to lock my children in the closet until spring is absolutely the stomach flu. If you or anyone in your family (or your third cousin whom you saw a week ago) has had it anytime in the last month, then please don’t be offended if I keep my distance. (Just kidding. Maybe.)

But for real my kids will probably grow up to be like Monk.On the bright side they may get their own TV show. On the downside they may accidentally pee their pants because they are so scared to use a public restroom.

But the crazy thing is – when duty calls – I will catch snot rockets in my hands, hold feverish little  ones close to my chest, eat pretzels after my 2 year old ralphs for the 6th time on a drive home from North Carolina, and stand outside in my nightgown because of a crazy thing called croup. Because I have this insanely strong love for these people God has given me. A love some days I don’t even understand.

Apparently since adding the “mother” title to my repertoire I not only have a strong desire to love but a temper to boot. I did not know it was possible to swing from “Just look at my precious little love bugs, what a gift from God” to “If you want to live to see another day you had better get out of my sight” in 4.5 seconds but it is. It really is.

I actually use to consider myself quite level headed, even tempered, calm feathered, however you want to say it. But I’m not so sure anymore. Not too long ago I admit to you, for the purpose of encouraging another sweet soul who has also found herself on the edge of insanity, that I did in fact yell at my children with all the ferocious intensity of a seething hyena “IS THAT HOW JESUS WANTS YOU TO ACT?” Well now. If there was ever a moment the kettle called the pot black – it was that one.

I also use to be quite reserved. Prior to motherhood there were just some things I preferred not to talk about. As in womanly things or bathroom things or things you just don’t discuss when you grow up with a house full of boys. But now – well – something about breastfeeding and breast pumps and postpartum and explosive baby diarrhea or a constipated toddler that just makes you throw caution to the wind. I can now talk about poop like it’s a paint color. Or any other manner of bodily reactions or fluids without even blushing. Apparently this is a perk to motherhood.

I have also said things I never thought I would say. Like the “p” word otherwise known as “potty.” I once promised my mother that word would never be spoken in my house (don’t ask me why). I now say it 35 times a day at octaves I did not know achievable. Along with things such as “Stop hitting your brother with that hammer.” “If you put your finger in your nose one more time I’m cutting it off.” “No you can’t just eat banana peppers for dinner.” And my personal favorite “Is that poop on your hands?”

I just never in a million years thought I would ever string the English language in such a way. Nor did I anticipate the prayers I would utter. Please LORD, if you would just put this baby to sleep, I will offer whatever organs I can and still live. Please LORD, if you keep them healthy and allow me to go on my getaway weekend, I will memorize the entire New Testament.

Albeit motherhood is surprising. So very surprising. Like in how much my heart hurts when they hurt. How overcome with pride I feel when they succeed. How quickly worry can take me to imaginary places I don’t ever want to go in real life. Or how often I have to fight the urge to pee because I am laughing my head off.

But most of all I have gained a new understanding of what it means to unconditionally love. I don’t care how many messes I have to clean up I cannot, will not, ever stop loving them. It’s opened my eyes to God’s unconditional love toward me. Something I know I can only slightly grasp even now – because who in their right mind would sacrifice one of their own children? God, that’s who. For me. For you. And for all our little peanuts. “For God so loved the world he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Dear LORD, Thank you. From the bottom of my heart thank you for the privilege of being a mother. And for teaching me just a little more about the depth of your love. I am filled to the brim with gratitude. Thank you for your sacrifice and thank you for the little love bugs running around my home in their underwear. Overflow my cup that I may overflow theirs. And help me not beat my head against the wall. At least not too many times. In Jesus name, Amen.

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P.S. My third grader just brought this home to me. image
truth.

5 Things Jesus Didn’t Do For You

It’s Easter. The time of year we set aside to remember what Jesus did for us. His sacrifice. His love. But have you ever paused to consider what Jesus didn’t do for you?

1. He didn’t stay in Heaven. Now I can understand going from earth to heaven. I’m looking forward to it. But Heaven to earth? No thanks. Yet Jesus didn’t hesitate. Leaving behind the blessed sound of seraphim calling “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts” (Is. 6:3). In exchange for “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” (John 19:15).

Abandoning the throne room of heaven glistening of crystal and sapphire for nothing. No place to lay his head. His appearance reduced to something despised and rejected with “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Is. 53:2). Instead of the glorious appearance of gleaming metal and fire encompassed by the brilliance of a rainbow (Ezekiel 1).

The marvelous presence of the Father replaced with that of fisherman, tax-collectors, self-righteous pharisees, the poor, the needy, and people like us. Downright sinners. Utterly and completely lost. So in need of a Savior He didn’t even consider for a brief moment staying in Heaven. Because…

2. He didn’t consider Himself better. Though he could have. Though He is. He didn’t. “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:15-16) humbled himself in the likeness of man. Counting others as more significant than himself. Though he is God, “he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Phil. 2:6-7; NLT).

He washed the disciples feet. He walked from town to town. He spoke to a Samaritan harlot. He healed. He gave food. And ultimately he gave his body as a ransom for sin. Carrying his own cross as far as he possibly could. Though through Him “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). Though “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) He still never even once considered himself better. Therefore…

3. He didn’t sin. Ever. He died a criminal’s death as a perfectly righteous man. But I dare say it wasn’t easy. In every respect Christ was tempted just as we are. Tempted to lust. Tempted to give up. To get even. To give in. To fall headlong into a pit of despair because life simply isn’t fair. But He didn’t. Not even once. Day after day he remained sinless (Heb. 4:15). Even after forty days in the wilderness and who knows how many temptations from the devil (I don’t think Satan limited himself to just three); Jesus persisted in purity.

Even when they didn’t believe him and called him a liar. Even when they picked up stones to kill him. Even when they testified against him and spit in his face and mocked him as King of the Jews, he clung to holiness. How? Is beyond me. I would have failed miserably from the start. But Jesus didn’t. So he could be the holy and unblemished lamb necessary for our atonement. The once and for all offering given to God on our behalf. If only we’d believe. If only we’d bow in submission to the one who loves us beyond any conceivable measure.

How do I know? Because…

4. He didn’t get off the cross. His body racked with pain so agonizing most could not watch. His lungs compressed. His heart failing. His flesh ripping. The nails, the thorns, the agony of being rejected by God as the sin of man surged upon him. Yet he stayed. Compelled by his love for us. For sinful mankind – he remained. Crying out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The rulers sneered, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God” (Luke 23:35). Alongside the soldiers who yelled, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” But he wouldn’t. No he wouldn’t. Why? So HE could save them. So He could save us.

So we could spend eternity with him. Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Made holy and blameless before a God who can accept nothing less. Adopted as sons. Made co-heirs with Christ to an eternal inheritance beyond anything we could possibly imagine. Redeemed by his blood! Forgiven! Freed from the clutches of sin. The riches of grace lavished upon us.

And as if that weren’t enough…

5. He didn’t leave us alone. He gave us the promise of his presence. (Matt. 28:20) Along with the Holy Spirit. Our helper, comforter, and counselor. Sealing us for the day of redemption. And allowing us the opportunity to do even greater works than he did. Sounds wrong doesn’t it? But it’s in there. “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (Jn. 14:12). “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:16,17).

But are we doing it? Are we doing the works Jesus did? Let alone something greater? As believers we have the power of God’s Spirit within us. So let’s be bold! Let’s be confident! And let’s tell the world what Jesus didn’t do for them.

Thank you Jesus – My Savior, My God. Thank you for all you did and didn’t do for me.

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When You’re Still Waiting

As a year slips past and another rapidly approaches I wonder…are you still waiting for something? direction perhaps? good news? joy? Does the change of the calendar find you still praying? Still spilling your guts before a seemingly silent God? Hoping beyond hope that this year…it will happen. Your deepest desire fulfilled. Your longing satisfied. Your dream finally realized.

If so you’re not alone. The truth is…we’re all waiting. Maybe not for the same thing. Maybe not with the same intensity or for the same reasons. But we’re all waiting…for something. And when the thing for which we seek most earnestly finally happens, it doesn’t take long before we’re waiting for something new. Why? Because the reality is… life’s about the waiting.

(The following excerpts are taken from a devotional I posted last May entitled Life’s About the Waiting. To read it click here)

Consider Abraham who waited 25 years for God to make good on his promise of a son. Consider Jacob who waited 7 long years to marry the love of his life. Or Rachel who watched Jacob father 10 sons before she nursed a sweet baby of her own.

Ask Joseph who waited 2 unending years for the cupbearer to remember him in prison. Moses who waited 40 years for God to finally use him to free his people from slavery. David who fought and hid and ultimately waited 15 years from the time of his anointing until he ruled as king. Ask Zechariah and Elizabeth who remained barren year after year though they fervently prayed. Yet God delayed for his purposes. for his timing. for the one who would pronounce the coming of the Kingdom – John the Baptist.

Consider the faithful listed in Hebrews 11 who are still waiting. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Heb. 11:13a).

Consider the earth which “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Consider believers who “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

And then consider Noah who waited 57 days for God to open the door of the ark after the earth had dried. 57 days!! As if 10 months on a big boat with a bunch of stinky animals wasn’t long enough.

I can’t help but wonder what the atmosphere on the boat was like during those 8 weeks. “Dad we can see it’s dry outside…let’s just break the door down. Dad seriously…I can’t take this any longer! I need off this boat!” Or what about his wife? I could see myself begging to go outside.

Yet they waited for God to give the command to go. They waited for God to open the door. Certainly not something many of us are very good at…waiting for God to open the door.

But you know what? It’s not about getting through the doorway. It’s not about the achievement. It’s about the waiting. About finding joy in the waiting. About glorifying God in the meantime.

Because that’s where the blessing is. Not in the attainment. Not in the accomplishment. Not in the acquiring of a long awaited goal. The blessing is in the waiting. “Blessed are all those who wait for him” (Is. 30:18b).

It’s in the waiting we draw near to the God who saves us. Seeking diligently for His almighty presence. It’s in the waiting we come to know his strength and not our own. As we learn to trust. Learn to lean. And learn to pray. It’s in the waiting we get to watch Him work. In us. Through us. And around us. And it’s through the waiting we grow.

There is much blessing in store for a heart and mind that waits steadfast on God. So as tempting as it to wish away the waiting. To rush the waiting. To loathe the waiting. Let’s savor the waiting. Knowing there is purpose and blessing in the here and now. “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 27:14)

Because there’s blessing to be had in the waiting.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What are you waiting for? How can you bring glory to God by your actions and attitude while you wait?
How can you see God working in the waiting? What purpose might he have?

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A Letter to Mary

Dear Mary,
You don’t know me, but I know your Son. Your firstborn. Son of the Most High God and LORD of all the earth. Or maybe I should say he knows me. For it’s He who searches hearts and minds (Rev. 2:23). He who made me and he who holds me together. He’s my hope. “My rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:2).


Devotional Scripture: Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-40
Key Verse: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11


What was it like… to raise him? To have the radiance of God’s glory call you mother; the author of life (Acts 3:15) and salvation (Heb. 2:10) play on your living room floor; the Son of the living God eat at your table. Indeed Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42). Not because of who you are but simply because of who HE is.

Did you know Mary? Did you know you held the source of eternal salvation in your arms? (Heb. 5:9) Did you know you were rocking the Shepherd and Overseer of souls (1 Peter 2:25); tickling the toes of the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8); playing peekaboo with the Savior of the world? What went through your mind as you tucked in bed the Ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5) and kissed goodnight the face of God?

Were you taught as a little girl of the virgin birth to come? “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Could you even fathom you were the one? You. were. the. one. God had planned all along to bring forth our Redeemer (Is. 47:4).

It’s incredible isn’t it? Who would have thought, the Author of Life (Acts 3:15) himself, would put on flesh to be the Author of our salvation (Heb.2:10). “Taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). What a story! A story you got to be a part of.

I’m challenged by your immediate willingness to surrender your life to His service. Were you scared (Luke 1:29)? I would have been terrified. To be with child and yet not married – they could have stoned you. And what of Joseph? Did you know he planned to quietly divorce you? Did you worry for your future and that of your child? Did you question God’s plan? I’ll be honest, I do sometimes. But the LORD had everything worked out didn’t he? (I need to remember that.)

But that didn’t mean it would be easy. (Though we often think it should be.) Your life was anything but easy. From people assuming you got pregnant out of wedlock to the decree from Caesar to register. Did you know it was necessary? Did you know the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem? I would have balked at the idea of traveling. Travel now? You want me to travel now? But it appears you went willingly.

Did you panic at the first contraction? “No…not here…not now. I’m not home. And I’m here with a man I’ve yet to know intimately.” Did you tell Joseph right away or delay for a while? Counting. Waiting…until you couldn’t hide it anymore.

Until it was time. Time for the birth of God’s own Son. A birth anticipated since the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). Yet there was no fanfare (except in the host of heaven). No red carpet. No special treatment for the mother of Immanuel. In fact there was not even a room. Not even one. Just a stable, most likely, with animals and a manger; that held the eternal King of Glory on his first night.

It’s probably not what you pictured when the angel Gabriel first told you God’s plan. But I have a feeling it didn’t matter. Not even a little once you laid eyes on your baby boy. The great King of kings; the Maker himself. Could you sense the magnitude of the moment? Did you know time stopped counting down at his arrival and began counting up until his next? You knew the birth of this child would change your life forever (Luke 1:48). But did you know it would change mine? And multitudes of others?

Thank you Mary. Thank you for your example. When God gives me a task I pray I’ll respond as you did with reverent obedience. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). For He is trustworthy isn’t he? He is the true God. The only God. And it really happened didn’t it? He came. You held him. And nursed him. And loved him.

And he grew as all our babies do. And he willingly laid his life down for me; for you. Crucified on a cross before your very eyes. Bearing the wrath of God for all men. Until it was over. And he was gone. Did you know he’d be back? Did you understand? Oh what a sweet reunion it must have been for you. He’s alive isn’t he? He’s alive today! I know he is. For he lives within me. You may have carried him but he carries me. Every day he carries me. I look forward to meeting you some day and talking as only mothers can. But until then I’m holding tight to your son, my Savior and my God.

In Christ Alone,
Stacey

What I Will Teach My Children in an Upside Down World

This week…we take a break from Genesis to have us a little chat. Instead of Abraham, what happened this week was some soul searching. Friday’s Supreme Court ruling shook me. My heart ached for my children. My sweet imagelittle one’s still so innocent. How am I to teach them in this upside down world? In a culture contrary to Biblical standards? How am I to do this? And I felt God’s gentle encouragement prod my aching heart. Teach them truth. Simply teach them truth. Teach them I am Sovereign. Teach them to love me with all their heart, mind, and soul. Love me Stacey…teach them to love me.

So I declare to you today as a memorial to my God exactly what I will teach them. Please stand with me. Declare it with me. Don’t let me stand alone. Let us teach them… That the LORD God is the Creator God; the Sovereign and Holy God; the Almighty One. He is the only true God. The Living God. He is love and because he loved the world so much he sent his Son, Jesus Christ, (who is God, who is from the beginning, who holds all things together and spoke all things into existence because he himself is the Word) to die on the cross in our place. To be our Savior because we need a Savior. We are sinners every one of us. Big selfish sinners. We deserve eternal separation from God in hell but by grace through faith in Jesus Christ we can have eternal life in Heaven with God. It is through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ alone that we can be reconciled to God. Not by my own works. No, not by works. (Though works are evidence of true faith.) This…this I will declare to my children.

I will teach them that the Bible is not man made. It is the inspired Word of God. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). John 1:14 declares Jesus himself is the Word. In reference to Jesus Revelation 19:13 declares “He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.” So to twist, change, slander, curse, or malign the Bible is to malign the very King of Kings himself. The Bible is truth. Jesus is truth. Anything and everything that does not align itself with Scripture is wrong. Run from it! Take a stand against it. Uphold God’s Word. Know it. Live by it. Keep it. And in this you will be blessed. Abiding in God’s Word, keeping his commandments, is the secret to a life full of joy (John 15:10-11). This…this I will declare to my children.

imageI will teach them that God made us male and female for his glory and purposes. He designed marriage to be between one man and one woman. (God defined marriage. We have not the right to redefine it.) God says homosexuality is sin. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” (Lev. 18:22). I will teach them homosexuality is wrong. And it’s ok to name it as such. It’s not intolerant. It’s not mean. It’s truth. But to be fair homosexuality is not the only sexual sin. Sex outside of marriage, pornography, adultery, rape, incest. All of it…is SIN. And God can have nothing to do with sin. Anyone continually practicing such sin CANNOT have a relationship with God. God is holy. God and sin cannot mix. Yet forgiveness can be found through faith in Jesus Christ. But there must be repentance. There must be a turning from sin to be reconciled to God. We are to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). In Christ we put off the old self which is corrupt through deceitful desires, “and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). God is holy! God and sin do not mix! This…this I will declare to my children.

I will teach them that idolatry (putting anything or anyone before God), slander, obscene talk, misusing the Lord’s name, disrespect, coveting, lying, gossip, etc…is all sin. Even tantrums are sin. Any act of defiance against God is sin. (Not just homosexuality) But we live in a world that no longer recognizes sin for what it really is. And has justified it. But we must not. Though we will be called intolerant. Though we may face persecution. Do not fear the world. Fear God! For it is he who judges impartially (1 Peter 1:17). And if you suffer for righteousness sake know that you will be blessed (1 Peter 3:14). God honors those who honor him (1 Sam. 2:30). This…this I will declare to my children.

I will teach them the life they live now matters. The choices they make have eternal significance. Jesus is going to return. He is coming to reward those who revere him and judge those who do not. He warned us “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt. 12:36-37). “So then each of us will give an account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12). Judgment is coming. Therefore live in light of eternity. Live for God! You will not regret it. I promise you…you will not regret it. This…this I will declare to my children.

I will teach them the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:37, 39). Toimage love God is to keep his commandments (John 14:15). And to love your neighbor is to speak TRUTH in love with gentleness and respect. True love does not approve of sin; nor celebrate it. True love confronts sin for what it is that all people (no matter race, gender, religion, political association, past or present sin) may know salvation in Jesus Christ. True love is not a matter of tolerating sin but exposing it that every man, woman, and child may repent and be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. This is love. This I will declare to my children.

Oh sweet little ones. I pray you will stand for truth. I pray you will stand for Christ. I pray you will honor him no matter the cost. I pray you will love the Lord with all your heart. I pray you will love your neighbor by speaking truth. I pray you will remain strong in the Word. Unshaken. Unmoved by a world arrayed in opposition to God. Be strong little ones. Be courageous. Be bold. Be truthful. It’s ok to be truthful for He is truth. In an upside down world, this is what I will teach my children.image

Hey Mom You’re Doing a Good Job

A little something extra this week…No it’s not from the book of Genesis. It’s something that’s rolled around in the recesses of my heart and found its way to my keyboard one day. No matter where we are at in life sometimes we all just need to hear that….we’re doing a good job. For me it’s being a mommy. So for all you mommy’s out there…I just want to say…you’re doing a good job! Keep at it. Don’t loose heart. And it’s ok if you don’t enjoy every moment…


It happened again yesterday at the end of a long doctor’s appointment. One that made me wish I had caked on the deodorant and brought more than three packs of fruit snacks. The kind of appointment that sends us to the ENT today for one precious but cranky baby boy. I was tired. imageNothing new…I’m always tired. And those words fell upon my tired tender heart yet again. That kind nurse, while gazing at my sweet boys, lifted her eyes to me and said “Enjoy it. It goes fast.” And there it was. Those words. That phrase so often repeated to me at the grocery store, church, out for a walk, wherever I go! That phrase…again. Those five little words that pelt the deepest most secret spots of my heart with guilt.

“Enjoy it. It goes fast.” So I guess I’m a failure. Because I didn’t enjoy the last four days of ceaseless crying. I didn’t enjoy the unending cycle of vomit, diarrhea, and potty training accidents I’ve been knee deep in all week. I didn’t enjoy it at all. In fact I failed miserably at enjoying any of it. I longed to escape to some place warm and sunny and germ free where the only person I have to take potty is me. This past week was long and exhausting mentally and physically. Did I fail because I didn’t enjoy it? Where did I go wrong? Was it not enough that Iimage stuck it out and faithfully served my family this week, all while wading through muck and mess? Please don’t tell me to enjoy it. Not right now. Instead could you just tell me I’m doing a good job. Tell me to keep up the hard work that is good parenting. Tell me the reward is great. Tell me I can do it. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Remind me that I can clean the messes with a good attitude because Christ can and will enable me. Please just tell me I’m doing a good job.

“Enjoy it. It goes fast” says the gray haired lady at the grocery store. I smile and say thanks wondering if she heard the tantrum from Mr. Two Year Old because I wouldn’t buy him a donut. Was I supposed to enjoy that part? Because I didn’t. It was embarrassing and loud. I’m stressed, out of suckers, and tired of simple tasks being so hard. I want to enjoy it but right now…right imagenow I’m not enjoying it. Please don’t tell me to enjoy it. Instead could you tell me your kids threw tantrums too. Tell me it’s normal. Tell me I’m normal. Remind me to cast my anxiety on God because he cares for me. Tell me you remember how hard grocery shopping was with little ones. Tell me I’m not a failure. Tell me it’s ok to not enjoy every moment. Please just tell me I’m doing a good job.

“Enjoy it. It goes fast” says the cute couple at church. I want to I really really do. But do you have any idea what I went through to get here today? I got up three hours before service just so I could shower and dress four pairs of little legs and feed four hungry mouths only to hear them bicker all the way to church. I will go home to a pajama bomb all over the living room floor, a fruity pebble explosion in the kitchen, and little people ready to eat again with no lunch in the works because I didn’t have time. Enjoy it? Maybe by two o’clock I can enjoy a deep breath and a few minutes of quiet. But right now I’m thinking about what’s waiting for me when I get home and I imagedon’t find it enjoyable. Please don’t tell me to enjoy it. Instead could you tell me I look pretty today? Tell me motherhood suits me. Tell me you remember the days of getting little ones ready for church. Tell me it wasn’t easy for you either. Tell me you’re there for me. Tell me you’re praying because you remember the hard unending toil of raising little people right. Please just tell me I’m doing a good job.

“Enjoy it. It goes fast” says the mother two stages ahead of me in life. And the guilt pummels at my last bit of resolve. I look at how put together she is and place the unrealistic idealization upon her that she must have enjoyed all of it. The long nights of her husband working late. The fixing of dinner with little arms and legs clinging tearfully about her ankles. The endless parade of toys around the house. The public tantrums. The vomit. The endless amount of work without pay. And I wonder…did she really enjoy it? Did I some how miss the memo on how to enjoy those parts? No I don’t think I did. My tender heart squeezes at the realization. It’s not all fun. Parenting little people is hard sometimes…really hard. And some of it is amazing…really amazing. And enjoyable! But I don’t need to be told to enjoy those moments. It happens naturally. I enjoy the enjoyable! But what I need right now. What I need today is for the mother two stages ahead of me to look me in the eye and tell me I’m doing a good job.

To the mother at IHOP who told me my children are well behaved. Thank you. Your comment was a soothing melody I carried around and cherished all. day. long. Because your words, they told me, I was doing a good job.image