Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Real Peace

I started this post on the 23rd and time just got away from me.... and although Christmas Day is over it's message doesn't end.

This past Sunday at church my pastor preached a message out of Luke 2 and since then, I've been thinking about all that he shared in his message. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the birth story of Christ. We all know the songs about baby Jesus being born in a manger. So, even if you've never read the birth story from the Bible, you know the jest of how He was born. If you've never taken the time to read it out of Luke, take the time now. (Luke 2:1-21) What an amazing story it is.

Luke 2 begins with Mary and Joseph making their trek to Bethlehem. Joseph was of the lineage of David (Is 16:5) so they had to travel to Bethlehem to register. And we all know that while in Bethlehem, Mary went into labor and Jesus was born in a stable. Have you ever thought why God chose to have Jesus brought in the world this way? What an inconvenient way for Him to be born! Right in the middle of a census.. having to travel so far on a donkey! And finding no room in the inn, they were left to birth God Himself in a stable... But aren't God's plans often inconvenient? Don't get me wrong.. His plan is perfect. But often God makes our lives inconvenient to get our attention. I can tell you that over the past year there have been some inconveniences. And although in the beginning it all was very unclear, I am beginning to make a little sense of what He wants me to learn.

Then there are the shepherds who are attending their flocks. What an amazing gift to be granted the news of the birth of the Savior! And not only that, they were lead to Him by that glorious star. It's a mystery as to why they were chosen to welcome Christ. I see it as a glimpse of the goodness and grace of God.

If we back track just a little we see that when they met the angel who came to them in their fields, they had great fear. And rightly so.. I don't have time to go into the wrong ideas that most have about angels. Just FYI, they don't look like precious moments figurines. Anyway, after the angels had given the shepherds their instructions on where to find Jesus, there with the angels was a multitude of heavenly host praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!"

This might strike you as a little different than how you've heard this verse before. Most have heard quoted "peace and goodwill toward men." But a more correct translation of that verse is "peace among those with whom he is pleased".

The reason I share this is because not everyone is at peace with God. I was thinking about this driving home Christmas Eve. The Hubs and I were talking and tears just welled up in my eyes thinking about all of the family and friends I know who aren't true believers. So many of them had a fantastic Christmas. They had great food and great fellowship with friends and family. There was such excitement as their kids and grand kids opened presents. Maybe they even felt warm and fuzzy inside when they thought of baby Jesus lying in a manger or heard Silent Night playing on the radio. I'm sure some looked back on the past few days and smiled because they felt such happiness and joy and peace. So, why does my heart break? Because without Christ, all of those things are just temporal. They are a mere vapor. And when they die or Christ returns, Hell is their eternity. I know that seems like such a harsh statement, but it is reality. I'd rather share the truth in the chance that God uses it in some one's life than just pretend all is well.

So, how do we have peace with God? Through His son. That is what Christmas is about! Christ has come!!! How do we know we have peace with God? Through repentance, faith and belief in Christ. We treasure Him as Mary did. We hold on to Christ tightly with one hand and the other we hold open with everything else, our spouse.. our children.. success.. friends... money.. our very life, willing to give it up to keep Him. He must be our treasure above all else.

Is Christ your treasure?

1 John 1:5-10
"This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us."

1 John 2:15-17; 28-29
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him."

1 John 3:4-10
"Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother."

1 John 5:12 "Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Traditions

I am having a rough day. I'm going to pretend that I'm not though and go ahead and post what I had planned on posting about today. I'm just really struggling with Luke. Many of you know the issues we've been having but his behavior has me stressing out big time too. Everything is a struggle right now. I'm praying.. praying.. and praying some more. I know that we have to establish discipline and correction NOW but it is so hard! I'll talk more about this later though.... I'm hoping that blogging about Christmas will get me out of this yucky mood!

Last week I played along with The Preacher's Wife Christmas Blog Party. I didn't play along with the first week which was about Christmas Traditions. So, I thought I'd share a few old and new ones with you.

1. Christmas Pajamas. For as long as I can remember my mom and dad have given me and my sister Christmas PJ's on the night of Christmas Eve. Even after the Hubs and I got married we headed over to my mom and dad's Christmas Eve night to open our PJ's.. the Hubs included!! My mom and dad even get some now! Then we all go put them on and just hang out in our new PJ's! Now the tradition continues with my boys. This year my sister comes home on Christmas Eve night so it will just be the four of us opening our PJ's at home since mom and dad will be going to the airport! I know this is a tradition that will continue for many, many generations!

2. Christmas Day. When the Hubs and I got married we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (and much of the weekends surrounding) hopping from one family members home to the other. When we started a family we knew that we wanted to start some of our own traditions. One thing that I definitely wanted was for us all to be home on Christmas morning. I just didn't want all of that rushing around. So, since Luke's first Christmas we've hosted a brunch with all of the grandparents and great grandparents invited. We keep things really simple. I always make this eggnog coffee cake (btw, I do not like eggnog! My hubby loves the stuff so I found this recipe for him and it's actually really good). I usually make something like sausage balls or pigs and a blanket to go with it. And then ask everyone else to add to the spread. We usually stay in our PJ's and just enjoy the time together and the kids get to play with their toys. After we eat someone reads the Christmas story out of Luke 2. I plan on this year having a birthday cake for Jesus. I actually wanted to start this last year (in years past Luke just hasn't been old enough to understand the concept of Jesus' birthday) but last year was a mess. So, it just didn't happen.

3. Presents. Last year was ridiculous at the presents my children got. The hubs had just gotten fired and my parents just went overboard. I'm thankful, very thankful. But looking back it was just out of control. Maybe they were trying to compensate for all that we had been through the previous two weeks. So, we talked this year and the Hubs and I agreed on three gifts each for the boys and one big gift for them together from Santa (I may blog about him later.. but until this go here and read this and this after you finish here of course! .. it shares a lot of my feelings on the subject..). Jesus received three gifts.. so why not just stick with that number? We also asked the grandparents (3 sets) to only give the boys one gift each. Just in case your worried, that is still SIX gifts each.. TWELVE total. That's a lot. More than enough. I was talking to some friends of mine about this and they said they wanted to know how that came out (thinking that it was not going to work!! Ha). Well, they were partly right.. because the grandparents are sneaking in gifts. Just this week Luke and Eli both got 'just because' gifts from each set of grandparents. So, I am on to you.. I know exactly what you're doing! Next year we'll just make the rule one gift for the whole month of December. ;) Sigh.. believe you me, I would give them everything they wanted if I could and knew it wouldn't ruin them. But there is better use of money.. and in the end it is the best for them. We truly desire for God to be glorified in our family and what we teach our children about 'stuff' is a huge part of that. I would like to say THANK YOU to our Santa's though. We could not do it without you. We are truly blessed.

4. Something new. This year we are doing something new on Christmas Day as a family. While reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan the fabulous group of ladies I was doing the study with began thinking of something radical we could do to put what we had read to action. If we're going to live what we read.. if we desire to be biblical believers then let's start living like it. So, many of the ladies who were a part of that study are going to be serving lunch and providing dessert, along with their families, at the Salvation Army on Christmas Day. I have a feeling this is going to be a new family tradition! We also plan on serving with the Salvation Army in the future. Our pastor spoke with someone there and said that they have no church involvement/volunteer work at all. And while the Salvation Army is considered a church in itself, they have a great need for volunteers to partner with them to help them meet the needs (both physical and spiritual) of those in our community. Christmas Day is a busy day for most. We have obligations.. family to visit... gifts to open. I think each one of us has a deep desire to honor Christ and what better way than to serve others on the day we celebrate His birth. May He be glorified. Matthew 25:40 - And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.

Well, it's time to do some laundry.. my mind is brewing so I'm sure I'll be back with something soon.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

This is How We Christmas: Decorations

Lisa, over at The Preacher's Wife is having a Christmas blog party. I missed out on last week but I decided to jump in this week! This week we're sharing all about our Christmas decorations. I was really excited to get to decorate this year since last year everything was packed up and sent to storage! I have to warn you.. I just uploaded A LOT of pictures. I couldn't help myself!

First to start us off is our tree. It's a skinny little thing but I really do like it. I love real trees to so maybe we'll start a tradition of getting a real one once this one wears out.. or I just get too many ornaments.. the latter is a greater possibility! It's packed already!

Here are a few (haha!) of my favorite ornaments:

A wedding gift... First Christmas Together!


Another wedding gift with our anniversary engraved:

This one if my new one this year. My mom got it for me last week at the Cracker Barrel (love that place at Christmastime! The Lion and the Lamb:

This is my sweet Luke's foot print turned into a snowman! This was his second Christmas. He was 18 mths old. We had two made this year of the boy's hand prints but I haven't gotten them yet!

This is also a new one. If you read my last post you know I just finished a book study with a great group of girls from church. We read Crazy Love by Francis Chan. One of the girls (thanks Jami) made everyone a crazy love ornament! Cute! (Can you see me?? Haha!)

Here is the book shelf corner of the living room. I'm not finished here. I'd like to get a few strands of lights to weave through the greenery. And.. I'm not sure what else. Can you see Larry the fish, on the left of the desk?

Here is one of my nativity sets. This shelf/ledge is right above the love seat and my monkey of a 15 month old loves to climb up on the back of the couch and play with this. So far the only accident is that one of the wise men's toes were broken off... oops! I really need to get a set that the kids can play with.

Here is my hutch in the kitchen.
A little closer look... that stocking is one of the Hub's handmade stockings from childhood.

The only thing else I may do is put Luke up some of the pieces of the Christmas village. I'm thinking about clearing off the top of his chest of drawers and putting a few there. I have a huge set but I don't want to fool with it this year! He loves them though, so he may get a mini village in his room!
If you'd like to see more decorations or play along in the Christmas blog party, hop over to Lisa's and join in!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Crazy Love

I have been meaning to post about the book study that a group of ladies from my church have been doing on Wednesday nights. We went through he book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. I wish I would have done a week by week post just because each week has been so good! And, since the book is something that I will likely... ok, most definitely go back and read again, I may do that in the future. If you haven't read this book I highly recommend it. I would challenge you to get a couple of friends together and do it as a group because I think that accountability and discussion is really important for this type of book. It's the kind of book that takes thought, you can't just skim through.. if you do there is no point in reading it. It's not a gushy, feel good kind of book. Chan takes a biblical look at what it looks like to love God. It wasn't always easy to read.. but I am so glad I did it. I'll be honest, I'm always leery of 'study books' and 'devotionals'. I think most of those books are worthless. They rarely take you deep into Scripture and challenge you. Crazy Love is not that kind of book. It's no joke.

God has really used this book study to chip (or SMASH) away at things in my life. It's challenged my thinking on how I'm living out my life as a follower of Christ. It's convicted and tried me in many ways... and honestly it still is. I believe this book will continue to do so, as long as I'm willing. I'm continuously praying that I will be teachable. Lord, give me a teachable heart.

Next Wednesday is our last meeting (sniff, sniff) and I'd just like to share some things that have really stuck out to me. Like I said, while reading Crazy Love, I've taken a hard look at the way I'm living my life. God is abundantly clear in Scripture what is looks like to be a Christian. But it seems that in America we've lowered the standards and made our own rules. Just take some time reading the Gospels, as Chan suggests, and you'll see that the call Jesus gives is clear. Chan says,

"He wants all or nothing. The thought of a person calling himself a 'Christian' without being a devout follower of Christ is absurd."

More importantly, Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command." (John 14:15)

I find a paragraph in Chapter 5, Serving Leftovers to a Holy God, perfectly represents the attitude of American Christianity today. After quoting Matthew 16:24-25 (Jesus speaking) "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" and Luke 14:33, "Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple" Chan says,

Some people claim that we can be Christians without necessarily becoming disciples. I wonder, then, why the last things Jesus told us was to go into the world, making disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey all that he commanded? You'll notice that He didn't add, "But hey, if that's too much to ask, tell them to just become Christians-- you know, the people who get to go to heaven without having to commit to anything."

I don't want to live a complacent and comfortable life. My flesh does. But the amazing work that God has done and is doing in me wants to live this 'crazy love' kind of life. I'm trying to figure out what that means. What does that mean for me? Right now, I'm just pursuing Him. And I pray that my actions will flow from my pursuit to love God, to know Jesus, to be in communion with the Holy Spirit.

How could we think for even a second that something on this puny little earth compares to the Creator and Sustainer and Savior of it all?? We disgust God when we weigh and compare Him against the things of this world. It makes Him sick when we actually decide those things are better for us than God Himself. (Francis Chan)

How is it that we think we're doing pretty good to read a one page devotional that barely mentions Scripture and throwing up a five minute prayer when Christ calls us to give all of ourselves, every ounce, every second? I'm not saying we are suppose to be perfect after salvation. But should we not press, suffer and strive for the prize? Is Christ worth it? Or do we continue to offer Him 'token praise' as Chan says? Does the King of Glory not deserve our life, our words, our deeds, our thoughts? I know He does, but my life often does not reflect that. Now, do I say, well.. that's just the way it is and go on living a complacent Christian life. Do I look at people in the Bible who lived that crazy kind of life (or at those examples that Chan gives in chapter 9, WOW!) and say, I can't live like that. God calls some to be radical.. and some to be 'normal Christians'. No, I don't think so. How about the truth? Biblical Christians are radical. And I want to be one.

The first page in Chapter 6, Chan quotes a piece of A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God and this is my prayer as well...

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, The Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.