A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes, does various unessential things, and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside is not a bad picture of Advent.
Sometimes finding favor with God makes life much harder. You know the story. Gabriel informed Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. Many thoughts ran through her mind, not the least of which was how she, a virgin, could conceive.
What’s more, Mary knew the social and biblical fallout that occurs for a pregnant woman without a husband. How could she possibly explain that her pregnancy was an of God and not an act of passion?
Finding favor with God meant that she faced disfavor from people. Maybe finding favor with God isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
Christmas usually causes us to marvel at the virgin conception—and at the love of our God who would become Man so that He could die for our sins. But there’s another part of the Christmas story that amazes me just as much.
It comes from this amazing young woman.
For many years, December showed up and I realized I had read very few books that year. This year, I thought I’d try to read more. I set a personal goal to read 50 books by December 31.
It was a crazy goal because I had “no time.” With a busy family, a full-time (plus) job, a demanding blogging and writing schedule, and lots of home projects on my plate, I held the goal loosely—but pursued it eagerly.
Amazingly, this week I completed the goal. (If you’re interested, I’ve listed the 50 books at the end of this post.)
But more importantly, I want to show you how I tackled the goal in order to encourage you that you can read more than you think you can.
You really can.
I would also love for you to tell me how you read books and what books you enjoyed this year.
Many people have never lived a day without knowing the name of Jesus. They grew up with the hymns and knowing the gospels. Others have taken their knowledge of the Savior further through intensive study, Bible school, or even seminary.
Although many years of knowing Christ often carry with them the danger of familiarity—i.e. complacency—not everyone falls prey to the threat. There is, in fact, another danger.
All of Jesus’ disciples grew up knowing their Bibles. They lived in anticipation of the Messiah. And finally, they had found Him.
- By the time Jesus brought His disciples to Bethsaida that day, they had followed Him for more than two years.
- They carried with them the admiration of the crowds.
- They were leaders, promised by Christ to reign with Him.
What else was there to gain? They had gone as high as they could. Many of us might slip into the same error of thinking.
For the faithful follower of Jesus, there is another danger beyond complacency.
Sometimes the best lessons come from the worst examples. Maybe you had a parent who disciplined out of anger. Or a pastor who wielded his Bible like a billy club. Or a boss who abused his or her authority.
It’s easy to dismiss lousy leaders as incompetent, arrogant, or uncaring—and unworthy of our attention. But it’s hard to examine their flaws and failures so as to apply their bad example to our own lives.
The Bible often makes good use of a bad example. Scripture records the failings of many—not like some grocery tabloid would—but to show us why we should make good choices (1 Cor. 10:6).
The Apostle John took up his pen and wrote for us 5 good lessons from a bad example.
Thankfully, these are 5 lessons we don’t have to learn the hard way.
In honor of Thanksgiving here in the United States, I thought I would share the video I took of some turkeys out for a morning jog.
Cathy and I saw this nutty flock as we drove to church a few months ago. Turn up the volume and watch them trot!
Thanksgiving always brings bittersweet flavors. My mother died ten years ago this week. The loss was huge. In fact, we got the phone call on Thanksgiving morning.
Mom’s untimely death was tough enough, but having the memory perpetually linked with Thanksgiving has forced some reflection I never would have considered otherwise.
I’ve come to understand how loss in life is one of God’s greatest ways to cultivate a grateful heart.
Thankfulness comes from one simple word.
Thanksgiving and Christmas. Birthdays and anniversaries. National and religious holidays. These special days circle around each year to do more than remind us we were born or that we got married or it’s time to go shopping.
These celebrations prompt us to think about a person and about marriage and about patriotism and about the Lord. It’s the why, not just the what.
These special days urge us to stop and consider life’s essentials—those important things we might otherwise neglect. Or worse, forget.
The spiritual life has its cues as well.
In fact, God built memory triggers into His plan for you.
I heard them board the airplane before I saw them. A mother was pushing one toddler in front of her and dragging another behind. The only available seats were the three right in front of me.
Before this week, I had never considered childproof locks on airline seatbelts. Now, I’m certain there’s a market for them. I would have bought one.
(Picture: Meet Theo.)
For more than two straight hours I watched the younger son—who reminded me of Bugs Bunny’s Tasmanian devil—jump, flail, thrash, flap, flop, hop, laugh—but mostly, scream. I don’t remember the name of the older son.
But I’ll never forget the Tasmanian devil’s name: “Theo.” I know because I heard it 863 times.
Absolutely undaunted, the mother used her large voice without embarrassment to correct Theo. She also informed the rest of us what was about to happen.
Once after Theo took his crayon and marked on the wall of the airplane (see the mark on the wall at left?), she jerked him from the window seat and announced to the rest of us, “Sorry about the screaming for the next 10 minutes, folks!” She was right. Little Theo let us have it.
First, Second, and Third Reactions
- My first reaction was to wonder why the mother hadn’t brought along a gallon of Tylenol PM. (If not for Theo, then for the rest of us.)
- My second reaction to this irritation was—I confess—frustration and resentment. After all, I paid just as much for my loud seat as the lucky people in the quiet part of the plane.
- But my third reaction took my attitude in a completely different direction.
God boarded the plane at that moment and somehow found room in my narrow heart.
Few choices last a lifetime. Most require daily, deliberate reminders. Joshua knew this well. Immediately after he and the young nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, they made a beeline to a particular valley between two mountains.
God had commanded half the people to stand before one mountain and the other half to position itself before the other. Each group was to shout either the blessings or the curses that Israel would experience as a result of their response to God’s Law (Deuteronomy 11:29).
As they shouted, their voices echoed in the city of Shechem, which lay in the valley between these hills. Before God’s people would conquer and settle the land, they affirmed their obedience to God in the very place where God had promised the land to Abraham (Genesis 12:7).
The significance of the place served to strengthen their commitment to God.
If we’ll listen, it can strengthen ours as well.