Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Grace

This year has been a year of grace; a year of learning to give grace and to receive it. The theme for the new edition of SHINE is grace, so I spent a great amount of time editing articles from some very gifted writers on God’s grace. God’s grace is abundant in every area of life. If I may—I need some Christmas Grace from you.

I wrote back at the beginning of Advent, that I was on a journey to thankfulness, and I promised to post everyday a list of ten things that I am grateful for. I am still on that journey, I just didn’t post it on the blog. I had my last week of the term in school, which meant final papers and projects; my son broke his hand; and the same night I was in the ER with him, a very close family member was also in the ER, and after a trying week—was diagnosed with cancer. I regret not posting as events were unfolding, but I just couldn’t. I have so much to be grateful for, my son will not need surgery for his hand; the cancer is treatable. God is so good—even in the midst of some very trying circumstance. I love that through these hard times, the spirit of Christmas surrounds me. The Savior is before me wherever I turn and His grace sustains me. I still plan to keep writing on grace and thankfulness; keeping to my journey to thankfulness. Thank you for your grace.

I pray that you have a very Merry Christmas. May the Christ child be before you constantly, and the His peace abide with you. Remember, that wise men (and women) still seek Him. Seek for Him in every need you face, every trial to walk through. He is there. He was there for the Wise Kings who ardently sought for Him. The same Christmas gift available to them was also available to the shepherds—it is available for all who will receive.
The more we are proud that the Bethlehem story is plain enough to be understood by the shepherds, and almost by the sheep, the more do we let ourselves go, in dark and gorgeous imaginative frescoes or pageants about the mystery and majesty of the Three Magian Kings. ~ G.K. Chesterton, Christendom in Dublin

Seek Him. Prepare for Him. Make room for Him.

The great majority of people will go on observing forms that cannot be explained; they will keep Christmas Day with Christmas gifts and Christmas benedictions; they will continue to do it; and some day suddenly wake up and discover why. ~G.K. Chesterton, Generally Speaking

May the spirit of Christmas surround you and give you peace. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

Journey to Gratefulness Day 5: Draw Near

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you {James 4:8 NASB}.

Some days are hard. Today may have been for you. It was for me. It’s okay to have a hard day every now and then. Somedays it seems as though the world is passing us by; like everyone else has a plan, a dream, goals. Sometimes it seems like we just are stuck waiting. In the waiting, seek God. He uses these seasons so that we will turn to Him. He will not have us wait forever. Advent is certain. Not only on the calendar leading to Christmas; but when we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us {James 4:8}.
Ten things I am thankful for today:
1. Though it is hard, I am thankful for the times of waiting.
2. Thank You Lord for Your faithfulness in the waiting.
3. Thank You for drawing near to me.
4. Thank You for Your forgiveness.
5. Thank You for encouraging words from unlikely sources when I need to hear from You.
6. Thank You for helping me when I call.
7. Thank You for not giving up on me.
8. Thank You for Your unfailing love.
9. Thank You for Your unfailing mercy.
10. Thank You For Your grace; which empowers me when I can’t do it on my own.

“You keep us waiting. You, the God of all time, Want us to wait. For the right time in which to discover Who we are, where we are to go, Who will be with us, and what we must do. So thank you … for the waiting time.” John Bell, quoted in The Westminster Collection of Christian Prayers, compiled by Dorothy M. Stewart

To read all the posts in this series click here

Don't forget to subscribe to the blog...

1512193486948_facebook-icon_16x16.png 1512193529442_twitter-icon_16x16.png 1512193568660_instagram-icon_16x16.png 1512193600162_linkedin-icon_16x16.png 1512193650594_googleplus-icon_16x16.png 1512193679679_youtube-icon_16x16.png 1512193709155_pinterest-icon_16x16.png

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Journey to Gratefulness Day 4: Salvation Is Come

Thus says the Lord, “Preserve justice and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come
And My righteousness to be revealed” {Is. 56: 1 NASB}.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace {Isaiah 9:6 NASB}.
Grace. His grace is unfathomable. It is hard to grasp is it not? Imagine how Mary and Joseph felt. As the world slept; the Son of God became man; in all places a stable. They held Heaven’s perfect Lamb—the Great I AM. “Baby Jesus, Eternal Word of the One True and Living God.”[1] John, consciously building on Old Testament revelation in His wonderful Gospel, gave a glorious homily on Jesus—The Word—God Incarnate— who existed before time. He was not only with God, but was God. Yet He came as man to reconcile man to The Father. He came to offer salvation to a lost, dying world {John 1}. Christ. His Salvation. The greatest gift.

Ten things I am grateful for today:

1. How can I repay what the Lord has done for me? I will take the cup of Salvation and worship the Lord {Ps. 116:12-13 HCSB}.

2. The Lord is my strength and my song. He has become my salvation {Ps. 118:14 HCSB}.

3. I will give thanks to you because you have answered me and have become my salvation {Ps.  118: 21 HCSB}

4. This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it {Ps. 118: 24 HCSB}.

5. Thankful that my help comes from the Lord. The maker of heaven and earth {Ps 121: 2 HCSB}.

6. That Gods love is eternal {Ps. 136 :3 HCSB}.

7. He alone does great wonders {Ps. 136 :4 HCSB}.
8. He made the heavens skillfully
{Ps. 136 :5 HCSB}.

9. For Your constant love and faithfulness {Ps. 138: 2 HCSB}.

10. Your abundant greatness {Ps. 150: 2 HCSB}.

Advent, like its cousin Lent, is a season for prayer and reformation of our hearts. Since it comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent…If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time. Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac

To read all the posts in this series click here

1512193486948_facebook-icon_16x16.png 1512193529442_twitter-icon_16x16.png 1512193568660_instagram-icon_16x16.png 1512193600162_linkedin-icon_16x16.png 1512193650594_googleplus-icon_16x16.png 1512193679679_youtube-icon_16x16.png 1512193709155_pinterest-icon_16x16.png

[1] Bodie and Brock Thoene, Why A Manger? (Vista, CA: Parable, 2006), 3.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Journey to Gratefulness Day 3: Prince of Peace

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace {Isaiah 9:6 NASB}.

Peace is one of the most sought-after conditions in this, our chaotic world. But are we seeking the right peace? There is peace that the world gives; which is futile. It is a peace that keeps you hungry and thirsty.

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful {Jn. 14:27 NASB}.

The peace the world gives is concerned with only the body and time.[1]The peace that Christ gives are to enrich the soul; it is more valuable than anything the world has to offer. Christ is the Prince of Peace. He is the only one who can give lasting peace. It is one of the promises of His Messiahship; it was a sign that the babe born in Bethlehem was the promised Christ.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men {Luke 2:12-14 NASB}.

Ten things I am grateful for today:

1. The Peace the only Christ can give.

2. The Peace that is promised us for eternity when Christ—the Prince of Peace returns.

3. God Almighty, who is Faithful and True. He promised the Messiah and fulfilled that promise.

4. Thankful that God loved us so much, that He sent His Son to redeem us and reconcile us to the Father.

5. Thankful for the Christmas Story, to bring us Peace and joy each year.

6. Thankful for the Word that portrays the events of the birth of Christ.

7. Mary and Joseph who obeyed God, even when they faced horrific circumstances, to be an example for me when I face tough situations.

8. Thankful for the Incarnation; God became man and walked among us.

9. Thankful for the spiritual blessings that I don’t deserve, but am graced with regardless.

10. Thankful that I serve the Holy, beautiful, Wonderful, Great I AM. 

Christmas means that, through the Grace of God and the incarnation, peace with God is available; and if you make peace with God, then you can go out and make peace with everybody else. Tim Keller

To read all the posts in this series click here

[1] Leslie Church, ed., Matthew Henry’s Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1960), 1593.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Journey to Gratefulness Day 2: Thrive

Have you every had one of those seasons when things—life—doesn’t seem to be working? You are striving and working hard for things to work out a certain way, and it’s not working at all. Christmas is a season in which all the busyness, chores, and shopping seem to interrupt the things that are truly important. Preparing our hearts for advent, cultivating our prayer life, developing a life in the Word. These are the important things that we should be focusing on. That is why I am so thankful for His grace; which gives me the strength to do what I cannot do in my own power. He wants us to stop striving and to begin thriving. We thrive when we spend time with Him and in His Word, and communicating with Him in prayer. Stop striving and start thriving.

Ten things I am grateful for today:
1. His grace that empowers and strengthens me.

2. His provision—He always takes care of me and my family; a roof over my head, a car to drive; food on the table.

3. His sovereignty—no matter how much I strive, He helps to thrive instead when I abide in Him and focus on the things that I need to.

4. His calling and His gifting on my life, though I feel inadequate, His gifts and calling are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).

5. I am thankful for the Christmas season, that brings joy and anticipation in my heart for the things of God. This is a hard one for me.  

6. I am thankful for His Spirit who reveals to me habits and mindsets that I need to change.

7. I am thankful for a particular friend that the Lord graced me with years ago who faithfully prays for me.

8. I am thankful for an encouraging word at the right moment from someone I least expected to hear from.

9. I am thankful for another gift; someone who is praying and fasting for me until I see a breakthrough in my life, in obedience to His Spirit.

10. I am thankful for this cute little Christmas farmhouse that you see in the pictures. My sister brought it back from Texas for me, and when I see it, it makes me smile. 

God travels wonderful ways with human beings, but he does not comply with the views and opinions of people. God does not go the way that people want to prescribe for him; rather, his way is beyond all comprehension, free and self-determined beyond all proof. Where reason is indignant, where our nature rebels, where our piety anxiously keeps us away: that is precisely where God loves to be. There he confounds the reason of the reasonable; there he aggravates our nature, our piety—that is where he wants to be, and no one can keep him from it. Only the humble believe him and rejoice that God is so free and so marvelous that he does wonders where people despair, that he takes what is little and lowly and makes it marvelous. And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly…. God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and broken.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas

To read all the posts in this series click here

Monday, December 4, 2017

Journey to Gratefulness Day 1: But For Grace

I want to begin the journey to gratefulness today; to show the Lord that I am so thankful for all His gifts. I would not be who I am today if not for grace. I would have nothing if not for grace.
If He does nothing else for me but come to a lost, lonely, dying world to a manager—out of His love for me; that will be enough. He died for me. He rose again. If not for grace.

 Ten things I am grateful for today:
1. Thank You Lord that You love me; You loved me so much that You came to rescue and redeem me from the power of sin.    
2. Thank You Lord for my family.
3. Thank You for Your House (church) that You planted me in, and the opportunity and privilege of serving in that body.
4. Thank You for my Pastor and his wife, who You have placed as shepherds over my life.
5. Thank You for Your Word that feeds me and guides me to live.
6. Thank You for Your Salvation.
7. Thank You for Your Grace.
8. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit.
9. Thank You for Your faithfulness.
10. Thank You for blessing me and taking care of me and those I love.

For outlandish creatures like us, on our way to a heart, a brain, and courage, Bethlehem is not the end of our journey but only the beginning—not home but the place through which we must pass if ever we are to reach home at last. Frederick Buechner, The Magnificent Defeat

Will you prepare Him room? Join me on this journey to gratefulness.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Goodbye November

One would not know it from the unseasonably warm weather, that we waved goodbye to November today, and welcomed in December.

I know last week marked the beginning of Advent, but I am behind. If you followed my Advent Journal last year, you know I created a Theology of Thanksgiving that I desired to apply to my life all year—not just at Thanksgiving and Advent. Gratefulness is something we have to cultivate all year, and it is not always easy, to remember the sacred and forget the chaos. 

This Advent season, I really want to show the Lord how grateful I am for all that He has done in my life, and all that He is going to do in the future. He is so faithful…so beginning here on Monday, I am challenging myself to write down ten things I am grateful for every day. Will you come on the Journey to Gratefulness with me? I would love for you to come. Please share in the comments what you are grateful for. I would love to hear from you. 

O Wisdom, O holy word of God, you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care: Come and show your people the way to salvation.

O Sacred Lord of ancient Israel, who showed yourself to Moses in the burning bush, who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain: Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free.

O Flower of Jesse's stem, you have been raised up as a sign for all peoples; rulers stand silent in your presence; the nations bow down in worship before you. Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.

O Key of David, O royal power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: Come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and lead your captive people into freedom.

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: Come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Ruler of all the nations, the only joy of every human heart, O keystone of the mighty arch of humankind: Come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust.

O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people: Come and set us free, Lord our God. ~Advent in Church and Cultural Tradition, by Bobby Gross