Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Reflections

Well Christmas celebrations came and went this year. In reflecting, I have several observations about what transpired in our home over the past 4 weeks, and I thought I'd share them. Maybe you too have been able to enjoy, celebrate and re-evaluate your "christmas traditions".

First, I am grateful that my boys received very few presents this year. It sure made them appreciate what they did receive, plus it made the whole "gift thing" a smaller part of our Christmas season. If I can help them understand the rightful emphasis of gifting in the years to come, I will be grateful to God for help in this regard.

One thing that I particularly enjoyed for Christmas 2006 was reading a collection of 24 verses from Luke and Matthew during the advent weeks. It was great to read and re-read these verses with the boys, since the meaning grew with every passage over those precious words. My goal for next year (should we be granted another Christmas season) would be to have a dedicated time each evening for a "vesper" service -where we read God's word and sing carols. We tried this a few times - snuggled in mom's bed with the Christmas lights twinkling -and it was a special time. The only obstacle were the nights of christmas choir practice and Boys' Brigade. Maybe I can figure a way to have these services despite the later nights for the children.

Anyway, another thing that I relished this past season, was contemplating Christ's second coming as part of my Christmas "mind-travel". I would love to do a deeper study of eschatology in conjunction with an Advent preparation. Maybe the Lord will allow me that next year.

Finally, I was grateful that we were holed up in bed with the flu the week prior to Christmas. This afforded me a lot of time to read scripture, listen to John Piper, John MacArthur, etc. It was a special "treat" that was forced upon us in the midst of the Christmas flurry. One side benefit was that I realized that sometimes stepping back can give a lot of clarity to the whole "holiday" time. There can be great joy for our families in preparing for December 25th, but in the midst of our society's perversion of the holiday, we need to be vigilent in keeping our eyes glued to the truth of the incarnation.

These past weeks, I have been so thankful for the many reminders that God came to earth because of the dirty sinners that populate this planet. This includes you and me. We all deserve God's wrath. It is reasonable for law-breakers to be punished, and since we have broken the holy Creator's sacred laws, we deserve His pure and justifiable wrath, with judgement.

Thanks be to God for sending Jesus to walk this earth, next to sinful creature. Thanks be to Jesus for being faithful in purity, obedience and sacrifice. Had the incarnation not happened, we would all be destined to hell, BUT... praise God for His gift of a Savior.

Interestingly, Jesus' role as a Savior permeated all the Christmas events I attended this year, and it reflected the joy in my soul. He is my Savior!! I would have no hope... and now my future is completely changed. Already I experience the wonderful blessings of this changed heart, but I anticipate with even greater hope my final glory - when I will be face to face in God's presence... worshiping forever without distraction. Now that's a reason to celebrate - and not just on December 25th, but for the whole year!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

"S is for the Saviour"

The Saviour (from The Valley of Vision)

Thou God of All Grace,
Thou has given me a saviour,
produce in me a faith to live by him,
to make him all my desire,
all my hope,
all my glory.

May I enter him as my refuge,
build on him as my foundation,
walking in him as my way,
follow him as my guide,
conform to him as my example,
receive his instructions as my prophet,
rely on his intercession as my high priest,
obey him as my king.

May I never me ashamed of him or his words,
but joyfully bear his reproach,
never displease him by unholy or imprudent conduct,
never count it a glory if I take it patiently
when buffeted for a fault,
never make the multitude my model,
never delay when thy Word invites me to advance.

May thy dear Son preserve me from this present evil world,
so that its smiles never allure,
nor its frowns terrify,
nor its vices defile,
nor its errors delude me.

May I feel that I am a stranger and a pilgrim on earth,
declaring plainly that I seek a country,
my title to it becoming daily more clear,
my meetness for it more perfect,
my foretastes of it more abundant;
and whatsoever I do may it be done in the Saviour's name.

Coffee Cup Verse

Philippians 2:6-7
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made Himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Have a "Truly-Confused" Christmas!

We received several Christmas cards this week. Generally, I am not one to check the back of cards to see if my sender has "sent the very best". Somehow one card did get a backward glance and now has become the focus of a blog posting.

The front of the card says, "HIS STAR STILL SHINES IN EVERY heart THAT KNOWS HIM AND BELIEVES." The inside inscription says "MAY GOD BLESS YOU AND HOLD YOU CLOSE AT Christmastime AND ALWAYS."

I've been careful to mark the capitalization as Hallmark intended it, because I am sure they choose capitalization and font as part of the message on each card.

Naturally, I was glad to receive a card pointing to GOD and I was encouraged by the suggestion that people believe HIM.

The hand-written words from our friends affirmed the faith that we share in Jesus Christ. Up to this point, my heart was warmed -spiritually and emotionally. And then... the fateful back-side of the card. Here Hallmark lets us know what they meant by this card. This card is a "Mahogany" card... and Hallmark has even included a write-up for us:

The Hallmark Keepsake Ornament featured on this card is the first in A Celebration of Angels Collector's Series that began in 1995. During the holiday season, African-American families celebrate Christmas as well as Kwanzaa. Therefore, each year a new African-American angel dressed in a festive robe will symbolize the gift giving, reflection and reunion of this special time of the year.

I was kind of sad that I had caught these words. Here I was thinking that the card was about Jesus. You know, the "I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes unto the Father but by me", Jesus (Jn14:6). And I suppose in one way it is about that Jesus... except for the but by me part... 'cause I guess that would eliminate the Kwanzaa part of the write-up....(Kwanzaa's definition of faith is " To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.) Plus, if they were honestly talking about Jesus, the symbolism of this "special time of year" would surely include worship, sacrifice, and incarnation.

Ladies, this kind of careful "word-crafting", which sounds very "christian" until we listen alertly, will most likely become one of the hallmarks of 2007 (no pun intended:)). May we all set our minds on Christ so that if "any man (or card company) is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received", we will not be swayed, but rather recognize the fake.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

"Think Like A Server" Link

To continue with the topic of serving our King, consider Titus 2:3-5 "Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be dishonored. "

This is another part of our job description and I came upon a helpful perspective fix at Holy Experience: Think Like A Server. Often I can find myself becoming complacent in my "working at home"... and this was a reminder to work diligently, as serving the Lord.

As the festivities get busier, may we all do our work - as to the Lord... not because Aunt Jane will check behind our toilet to see if it's clean, not because we want to receive praise for our gingerbread pie recipe, not even for our families... but as a service to our King. I suspect this will make the broom a little lighter, the days less stressful, and our joy... overflowing.

Blessings, my fellow homemakers, as you work for your King!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Go Serve Your King

Being an ex-radio-host, I'm intrigued with sign-offs. Todd Friel, Way of the Master Radio, signs off every day with the line, "Go serve your King!"

These words remind me that I have a new job and a new employer... God Himself!

I have a new "job"... a new "calling"... since I have been made into a new "creation". 2 Corinthians 5:20a gives me my job description: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us."

Ladies, God is entreating people through US! The King has sent us, as ambassadors into this land of temporary residence. Oh yes, we used to call this land, home. But now we are aliens. We have received a new citizenship. And when that citizenship became "official" with the Holy Spirit's seal on our heart, we were employed in the King's work.

We are now ambassadors, cleverly disguised as university students, mothers, nurses, teachers, etc. We have a job to do and are even "thoroughly equipped" to do our work.

So today, with all our strength, let us go and serve our King!!

Coffee Cup Verse

In keeping with the Christmas thoughts... God come to earth, Christ living and dying, these verses in Romans give me great insight into the WHY of Christmas. I pray pondering this verse will make this week of advent even dearer.

Romans 5:17-18
For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness
there resulted justification of life to all men.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

God's Sovereignty - Debate-able?

My husband received The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions for his birthday, and I've been blessed by the eloquent expressions of theology found in this book.

Tonight, on the way to church, we caught ~5 minutes of a preacher on the radio. He was very specifically arguing against Calvinism. One of the big issues he had with the teaching of Calvinism was the sovereignty of God. Since the sovereignty of God is a biblical thought (Ps.103:19, 1 Tim.6:15), the attacks he was mounting were pathetic. Nonetheless, the conviction and passion with which he spoke was disturbing to me, since he was speaking from a "pulpit" (radio or otherwise).

Oh what a blessing to have words such as the following prayer from The Valley of Vision, which resonate with the power, authority and might that God has and is.

God the All

O God whose will conquers all,
There is no comfort in anything
apart from enjoying thee
and being engaged in thy service;
Thou art All in all, and all enjoyments are what to me
thou makest them, and no more.
I am well pleased with thy will, whatever it is,
or should be in all respects.
And if thou bidst me decide for myself in any affair
I would choose to refer all to thee,
for thou art infinitely wise and cannot do amiss,
as I am in danger of doing.
I rejoice to think that all things are at thy disposal,
and it delights me to leave them there.
Then prayer turns wholly into praise,
and all I can do is to adore and bless thee.
What shall I give thee for all thy benefits?
I am in a strait betwixt two, knowing not what to do;
I long to make some return, but have nothing to offer,
and can only rejoice that thou doest all,
that none in heaven or on earth shares thy honour;
I can of myself do nothing to glorify thy blessed name,
but I can through grace cheerfully surrender soul and body to thee,
I know that thou art the author and finisher of faith,
that the whole work of redemption is thine alone,
that every good work or thought found in me
is the effect of thy power and grace,
that thy sole motive in working in me to will and to do
is for thy good pleasure.
O God, it is amazing that men can talk so much
about man's creaturely power and goodness,
when, if thou didst not hold us back every moment,
we should be devils incarnate.
This, by bitter experience, thou hast taught me concerning myself.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Movie Night

We went to see The Nativity Story last night. Had an absolutely delightful time with friends. This was the first time hubby and I had been to the theatres since Jonah Veggie Tales was released. I found last night's venture to be a worthwhile time!

I was struck by the long journey they made from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the height of Mary's pregnancy. What a purifying and refining time that would have been for both of them. I was reminded of Romans 5:3-4 "...we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. "

The movie was also pleasantly surprising in it interpretation of the scriptural account of Christ's birth. Of course, there were artistic choices made to help us imagine the incarnation, but I found they were bearable, at times even imaginable (eg. Joseph's comment to Mary, "will I actually teach Him anything?")

More than anything, I found I was left sitting at the end of the movie wanting it to continue. My mind went on a mental journey to the cross, and ultimately it made me long for the 2nd coming of my King.

I've been contemplating Christ's return whilst decorating my home for Christmas this past week, as well.

We have a long railing that spans our front entrance area, and while putting up garland the other day, I was dreaming in my heart that I was hanging out bunting to welcome my King to my home. I was even pondering a way to hang a banner of sorts with the words King of Kings.

Wouldn't that be wonderful... our Savior and King returning for His bride. Come Lord Jesus... quickly... come!!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Back In The Blogosphere

Well, we have hooked up our wireless internet connection... and I'm loving it!! (as much as I can love anything related to megabytes and pixels and kps:)

My first thought is to share a quote from Robert Murray M'Cheyne, thanks to our latest Sunday School teacher, Clint Humfrey. Here is a thought from M'Cheyne...

The greatest need of my people (for all us moms, insert...my children) is my personal holiness.

M'Cheyne was talking about his personal relation to his parishioners... and yet it is so poignant of the high calling all of us face as teachers of someone.

For this week-end, instead of a coffee cup verse (set to come on Monday morning:), I'm suggesting we mull over the need for our own personal holiness and pursue this with all our hearts. Might I suggest some time beseeching our God, who has ordained our sanctification from before time. Wow!!