“Come and See What Love Has Done…”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” –Luke 2:13-14

“What shall I say to you; what shall I tell you? I behold a mother who has brought forth new life; I see a child come to this light by birth. The manner of his conception I cannot comprehend. Nature is overcome, the boundaries of the established order set aside, where God so wills. For not according to nature has this thing come to pass. Nature here has rested, while the will of God labored. O, ineffable grace! The only begotten One, who is before all ages, who cannot be touched or be perceived, who is simple, without body, has now put on my body, which is visible and liable to corruption. For what reason? That coming amongst us he may teach us, and teaching, lead us by the hand to the things that we mortals cannot see. For since we believe that the eyes are more trustworthy than the ears, we doubt that which they do not see, and so he has deigned to show himself in bodily presence, that he may remove all doubt…

What shall I say! And how shall I describe this birth to you? For this wonder fills me with astonishment. The Ancient of Days has become an infant. He who sits upon the sublime and heavenly throne now lies in a manger. And he who cannot be touched, who is without complexity, incorporeal, now lies subject to human hands. He who has broken the bonds of sinners is now bound by an infant’s bands. But he has decreed that ignominy shall become honor, infamy be clothed with glory, and abject humiliation the measure of his goodness. For this he assumed my body, that I may become capable of his word; taking my flesh, he gives me his spirit; and so bestowing and I receiving, he prepares for me the treasure of life. He takes my flesh to sanctify me; he gives me his Spirit, that he may save me.

Truly wondrous is the whole chronicle of the nativity. For this day the ancient slavery is ended, the devil confounded, the demons take to flight, the power of death is broken. For this day paradise is unlocked, the curse is taken away, sin is removed, error driven out, truth has been brought back, the speech of kindliness diffused and spread on every side – a heavenly way of life has been implanted on the earth…

Why is this? Because God is now on earth, and man in heaven; on every side all things commingle. He has come on earth, while being fully in heaven; and while complete in heaven, he is without diminution on earth. Though he was God, he became man, not denying himself to be God. Though being the unchanging Word, he became flesh that he might dwell amongst us.

What shall I say? What shall I utter?

‘Behold an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.'”

–St. John Chrysostom, from the essay ‘The Mystery’

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The Power to Redeem…(Scripture&Song for the days when we need a reminder of our freedom & hope)

Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of His strength? ‘It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.’…in His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.”-Is. 63:1b,9b

“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for My own sake, and remember your sins no more.” -Is. 43:25

“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoiced in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of His righteousness…” -Is.61 10

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here! -2 Cor.5:17

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. -Eph.1:7

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; He has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.-Col.2:13-15

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.-Heb.4:16

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I hope in Him!”-Lam.3:21-24

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“…it was a testament to how God truly sets us free from everything that the enemy has in store for us. I love the idea that the enemy thinks that he is trapping us, but God in turn flips it on its head and says – ‘Actually, that’s gonna’ be the thing that I get the most glory from. That’s gonna’ be the thing that I redeem them from…even though we all have moments of regret or shame or failure…His love that He so lavished on us, His power has nailed all that to the tree. It’s done, it was finished at the cross and now we can walk in true redemption.” -Lauren Daigle*

*quoted from the Relevant Magazine podcast, discussing the inspiration behind ‘The Power to Redeem’

Where We Stand

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
    For His mercy endures forever. (from Psalm 136)

{I will be taking a week-long break from blogging as I am going to spend a few days busy with family events…I will be back on Monday, May 11th, to continue our exploration of how life is free, abundant, and grace-full #becausejesusisalive!}

On Choosing to Believe

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed…John 20:29

Sometimes faith is close, natural like breathing. When His presence is sure and steady, fierce and joyful, we rest in knowing that He is near. Like the cloud and the fire that led the Israelites, we can see Him in the unfolding of our day…His love enveloping.  And when we’re standing before a burning bush, the heat of it comforts. We may not see His physical presence, but we can feel that He is there…without question, without trying…we know He is with us.

But sometimes faith isn’t easy.  On some days, we are less like Caleb (confident in our calling, sure of His guidance) and more like Thomas, in need of reassurance, or like the writer of Ecclesiastes…a little weary of life, wondering what it’s all about.  If we are honest and strip away what we think we should always feel…we can admit that, sometimes, choosing to believe is hard. When life is pressing in or maybe the presence of God isn’t quite so tangible…when our prayers feel hollow and our passion isn’t sparkling…this is the time when we must exercise our faith. It must not be about our emotion, but about Him. About what is True in and out of season. Our Rock and our foundation…knowledge that He is still the same. That our feelings don’t dictate who He is or His love for us.

Remember how people in the Old Testament were often making altars when they had significant encounters with God? They needed to be able to remember what He had done…how He had blessed…His faithfulness.  When a hard time came, they’d be able to see that altar and say–Yes. He Is.

He pours so much grace into our lives…will we remember the blessings if He lets us walk a while through a wilderness? Will we choose to love Him~with our hearts and with our actions– even if it’s hard to hear His voice? Even if we don’t immediately feel His pleasure in our offerings? Will we say ‘Yes. He is.’ no matter what?

I think that we are so accustomed to a pace of immediacy…so used to getting what we want in the blink of an eye…and God is above our time-frames. His time is limitless, His vision stretches backwards and forwards into forever…and so He is not bound by our frantic scheduling, striving, and I need this now (or by tomorrow, for sure!) perspectives.

Sometimes He asks us to wait on Him, to be of good courage. To trust that He will strengthen our hearts, that His grace is sufficient in all things.

So if this is a time when faith doesn’t come so easily…when His whisper is hard to hear amidst the hurricane and earthquake…please don’t quit. Remember the love that has comforted you in time of need. Remember His goodness. Remember His mercy. Look back at the altars of your life and worship.

Don’t stop praying, even if it feels like you’re not making a connection. He has not stopped listening. It’s time for you to trust that He is there, however you feel.

Don’t let discouragement close your eyes. Open them wider, keep seeking Him. Stop outside and look out how big, how wide, how endless the heavens seem to us…they are out of our reach but in His hands…those skies were spun by His Word and it is that same power that is working for your good.

Don’t stop reading His Word. He is still speaking to you through His revelation…and just like you don’t feel the benefit of vitamins at the moment you’re taking them, you might not always feel ignited by the Words you read. But the vitamins nourish your system and His Words are life to your soul…and this faith that we are exercising comes by hearing His Word.

Let your love be found steady, your surrender complete. Your willingness to follow when it’s time to dig deep and sacrifice…

Sometimes, just like a loving parent, He may take the training wheels off…He may see if we are steady enough for a bigger bike. For a new terrain. To teach someone else how to ride.

Abraham raised the knife over his only son. Noah started cutting lumber without a cloud in the sky. Esther walked into a King’s court with no guarantee of walking back out again. Our Savior felt forsaken on the cross, but He did not abandon His love-mission for us.

Sometimes faith is putting one foot in front of the other and choosing to trust that He is there, even if the weather is murky and there are no clear signals.

And if you keep walking, you’ll find that not one breadth of your road wasn’t upheld by His hand. Not one day of your life was overlooked. Not one word went unheard and not one tear went unnoticed.

He promised and so I say with confidence: He is with you.

These are the days when we look ahead to what is hoped for and we don’t grow weary in doing good, in being true to His heart, because He has been true to us in and out of our shaky faithfulness to Him.

And one day, we will remain in His presence and there will be no separation, no glass darkly through which to see Him. He will be our light and He will be our temple. We will hear His voice and He will say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

Fully restored, our communion with Him. Fully restored and never to be broken again.

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see…this trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children…God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the same time, discipline is not much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.

So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out.

And run for it!

Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander…

May God make us into what gives Him most pleasure, by means of the sacrifice of Jesus, the Messiah. All glory to Jesus forever and always! Oh, yes, yes, yes!

~from Hebrews 11,12, &13 (the MSG)


{text originally posted in October of 2011}

Scripture & Song (Once & For All)

Radical obedience to Christ is not easy…It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And He is more than enough for us. –David Platt

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. –Matthew 16:24-25

 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. –Galatians 2:20

Music Monday (an Advent edition)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined…The people will rejoice…For the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulder and the rod of their oppressor thou hast broken as on the day of Midian. For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle turmult and every garment rolled in blood will be burned as fuel for the fire. 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Hero, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over His kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. — from Isaiah 9

“The people in darkness sees the great light…The New Testament proclaims to us the person Himself. He is Jesus Christ, the child in the manger, the preacher on the mount, the tormented man on the cross, the risen liberator….He is already present and His power is already among us. We can follow Him, even today making visible something of the peace, liberty and righteousness of the kingdom that He will complete. It is no longer impossible. It is possible for us in fellowship with Him. Let us share in His new creation of the world and – born again to a living hope – live as new men and women.” -from ‘The Disarming Child’ by Jurgen Moltmann

Music Monday: the not-giving-up edition

I will stand my ground where hope can be found. Lauren Daigle

For the tired, for the discouraged, for the hearts that feel worn down…answer His call to come to Him, weary and burdened. (Matt.11:28)

Hear His reminder – be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) Surrender your weakness and your worry to Him, the God and Savior who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19)

In the middle of uncertainty, put your eyes on the One whose steadfast love never ceases. (Lam. 3:22) For our emotions may falter, but He does not grow weary. (Isaiah 40:28)

The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations – yes, His purpose – to love us, to bring us into His presence –  stands and so we, too,  can stand.  Our hope and promise is this: For those called according to His purpose, He works all things together for good.

So put on your God-given armor in the middle of whatever battle you are facing (Ephesians 6) and don’t give up. Whatever He has called you to do matters – even if you can’t see why right now. Your obedience and faithfulness to Him matters. If no one else sees it – He is the God who sees! And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Phil. 1:6)

He will give us the strength to keep standing, for He is the firm foundation we stand upon. He is our hope.

God doesn’t come and go. God lasts.
    He’s Creator of all you can see or imagine.
He doesn’t get tired out, doesn’t pause to catch His breath.
    And He knows everything, inside and out.
He energizes those who get tired,
    gives fresh strength to dropouts.
For even young people tire and drop out,
    young folk in their prime stumble and fall.
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. -from Isaiah 40, the MSG

 

We wait in hope for the Lord;
    He is our help and our shield.  In Him our hearts rejoice,
    for we trust in His holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us, Lord,
    even as we put our hope in you. -Psalm 33:20-22