They Will Know We Are Christians By…

I’ve just been thinking a lot lately about the image of Christianity, and the often misrepresentation of Christ.

I ask the question (along with many others)-what are we known for? I see all sorts of different answers posted on facebook walls and in online articles. However you might answer that-we are supposed to be known by our LOVE, living peaceably with those among us, having a good reputation with outsiders. We SHOULD be resting in the sovereignty, justice, and righteousness of God. We should be speaking truth in love, and showing the world that peace that (is supposed to!) passeth all understanding is available and found in Jesus Christ.

Charles H. Spurgeon has a great solution to this:

“There are times when solitude is better than society, and silence is wiser than speech. We should be better Christians if we were more alone, waiting upon God, and gathering through meditation on His Word spiritual strength for labour in his service. We ought to muse upon the things of God, because we thus get the real nutriment out of them. . . . Why is it that some Christians, although they hear many sermons, make but slow advances in the divine life? Because they neglect their closets, and do not thoughtfully meditate on God’s Word. They love the wheat, but they do not grind it; they would have the corn, but they will not go forth into the fields to gather it; the fruit hangs upon the tree, but they will not pluck it; the water flows at their feet, but they will not stoop to drink it. From such folly deliver us, O Lord. . . .”

Take It-It’s for Sinners Lassie

Last week at my church Grace Baptist Church of Millersville (where we are more Grace than Baptist! ;)) was a communion week.  Pastor Joel always says the same sort of thing-1.) Don’t take communion if you are not a believer 2.) If you are not a believer today would be a GREAT day to cross the line of faith! 3.) Don’t take communion if you are out of fellowship with another member of the congregation 4.) If you are out of fellowship-go make it right, and celebrate the Lord’s Supper with us next month with a renewed joy! But last Sunday he added a little story that I had never heard him say before, and it moved me to tears! It went something like this:

There once was an old Scottish professor of Bible attending an old stone church in Edinburgh. This particular communion Sunday he was feeling a very heavy weight of sin and guilt and was contemplating passing over the elements when they were sent around. Two rows ahead of him he saw a young woman painfully sobbing. He internally analyzed her pain and sorrow and realized that both of them were viewing communion incorrectly. Understanding and seeing her struggle in accepting the grace given, he leaned forward and whispered to her, “Take it! It’s for sinners lassie”.

I kept repeating this phrase to myself while I took the bread and the grape juice, and it was one of the most beautiful, joy-filled communions I have ever participated in. I felt a deeper understanding of God’s love and gift of salvation; I felt a enormous amount of gratitude and wonder. With this in mind a few nights later, I penned this poem:

Communion Cries

Take it, it’s for sinners

Redeemed like you and me.

Don’t drown and shame and guilt my friend

Turn, Repent, be Free.

 

You look so closely at your sin right now,

That good-He wants you to.

But do you see who’s bearing it?

Because it’s HIM not you.

 

You’re not condemned, hated, judged

Though thousand times you fail.

He knows you struggle day by day

Yet still His cross prevails.

 

Think of that love, that choice He made

To draw you unto Him.

Knowing just what your wrestle with

He choose to bring you in.

 

Forgiven, Righteous, and Secured

He calls you by these names.

The price is paid, so good or bad

His love for you remains.

 

So take this bread and take this cup

Declaring Christ as Lord.

See the tender sacrifice

In the blood that poured.

 

You’re reconciled to God my friend!

Have joy and seek His face.

Turn from your sin and worship Him

In His rightful place.

 

Taste the sweet forgiveness of

The Kind, Merciful, Good King

Remembering that to communion,

Like salvation, nothing do you bring.

 

The sacraments are holy, yes,

A somber joy to do.

Thanks to propitiation though

Holy you are too.

For those of you who like to hear it (some of the lyrics have been tweaked since I recorded this):

From an Angel’s Eye View

I’ll try and make this quick, because I know you all have a lot to do. A lot of shopping. A lot of wrapping. A lot of eating. But I want to tell you my version of the story-the Christmas story. But before I go to that beginning, let me start at another one.

I remember when the Trinity first made mankind. Guys it was amazing. Now God had always been perfectly whole, perfectly joyful, and perfect content-but oh my goodness, when he made man…what delight we saw in his eyes. He loved humans the way he loved himself-perfectly, and we as angels had never seen anything so beautiful before. We watched your relationship unfold. We were angry along with God when you betrayed him in the garden. We thought for sure He would give you what you justly deserved-banishment just like he gave to Lucifer. But instead, He showed you guys mercy. We didn’t really understand it. We didn’t get WHY He loved and forgave you guys time and time again but, He did…and well, you know He still does. Anyway, we watched history happen up close. We heard of His plan for redemption and rejoiced at His feet over His immense love for you all. For hundreds of years we both ministered and observed the human population. We saw kings and kingdoms rise and fall, we watched prophet’s hearts break right along with God’s as mankind rejected the abundant life that He offered them.

I’ll never forget the day that Michael called us all together for an announcement. He told us how he just spoken with Our Righteous Lord and soon He was going to send the Messiah and start the ball rolling on the salvific plan for his people. We cheered; all of heaven erupted in joy! Finally, after all this time, and at the perfect time, God was going to reconcile the people whom He loves so dearly to Himself. No longer will their sin get in the way. The Messiah would be a sacrifice for all their sins!

We read the Scriptures. We know them. We knew that the government would  be on his shoulders! We knew what the Chosen One would be called-Emmanuel, Prince of Peace, Mighty Counselor!  We knew he would be born in Bethlehem, and would spend a season of his life in Egypt, but, of course, we didn’t know HOW God was going bring all of this to fruition, or WHO would fulfill all of the prophesies. We had been watching David’s descendants, always wondering, “Is this who God will choose?” “Maybe this son will finally be the one!” We had been wondering how it will happen. A couple of us shouted out some of our thoughts.  “Can we all ride as an army announcing his arrival?” Some shouted words of praise “Glory to God in the Highest!” I asked if we could ride down in chariots of fire, because that would be awesome!  An angel beside me reminded us of some of the prophesies saying, “I’ll bet he’ll be just like David-that’s why they’ll call him King! Isaiah 53 says he’ll be buried with the rich-that probably means he’ll come from a rich family!” and on and on we went. We were giddy, to say the least.

Then Michael silenced us all.

He took a deep breath, and smiled at us. He reminded us how creative and loving and good our God is. We all knowingly agreed. We would never argue that fact; why was he reminding us of that?

“Our God’s plan, since the dawn of time is now being revealed. And that plan is…that the Messiah…is going to be…”

We were all on the edge of our celestial seats; just say it Michael!

“God the Son.”

Dead silence.

What?

God the Son?

Had we misheard Michael?

That can’t be! We all began shouting. “But Psalms says the Messiah will be forsaken by God! God cannot forsake himself!” “And Isaiah says that he’ll be crucified with criminals-that CANNOT HAPPEN TO OUR GOD. We can’t allow that!”  “ They will hate him! They will kill him! This can’t be! Why?”

Michael nodded in understanding. After all, not 24 hours earlier we were all worshiping that very God that now supposedly is going to be sent to earth. Ug. Earth. It’s a horrible place! I mean, I know it is incredible and God loves its inhabitants, and I do too…it’s just…here in Heaven-He is in all his glory. He is worshiped perfectly, He is adored rightfully, and He is honored ever single moment of eternity. How could He give this up to go to those people? Knowing what would happen? Choose someone else. Why him?!

Michael told us, “You shouldn’t be so surprised. Think about it. Think about how deep the Father’s love for mankind is. He is willing to give himself over to them. Think about what it will mean to them, for the Messiah to be God. To be perfect. To be willing to lay down his life so that they may live. There is no more beautiful, perfect plan of salvation. My friends, this way, God’s way, is the most brilliant pinnacle part of his story to redeem his beloved humans to himself. Rejoice in its beauty.”

We thought about it in silence for a few minutes, and quickly and clearly began to see the depth of beauty in God’s plan. We just couldn’t believe it. It’s almost too incredible for us to comprehend. But then again, that is our God.  He is unfathomably loving, and incomprehensibly perfect in his planning.

We asked if we could give him a proper entrance into earth when the time came for him to go. We knew that mankind, no offense, would not recognize the magnitude of this humility and beauty of this decision-but we would and we can.  Can we tell every king and ruler and philosopher to prepare their hearts for the Messiah is finally coming? Can we fill the sky telling every living creature that God has displayed His power and majesty and glory this night and command them to praise and worship Him? Michael told us that God was a few steps ahead of us (as always!) and that the Holy Spirit was already working on and in the hearts of a handful of kings in the east, but other than that, the only people we were to announce glory to as the multitude, were…wait for it…shepherds.

I almost, almost, laughed out loud-because, that is so wonderfully typical of God.  He has a legion of angels that specialize in worshipping him flawlessly and could spread the news of his plan in perfect glory, but he would rather the world of man be told of his entrance by…shepherds. Shepherds! Michael told us a few other quick snippets of God’s plan in using PEOPLE, ordinary HUMANS to worship and proclaim Him-old and young, rich and poor. His incredible love for people never ceases to amaze me.

So that night we left heaven and appeared in the sky to the shepherds and proclaimed God’s good news and glory. The Savior had been born. The long awaited Messiah had come. But he was far more than any of us could have ever thought or imagined. He was God himself. I had never experienced such full joy and love for my God. I didn’t know it was possible to think MORE highly of Him, or be MORE floored at his creative love, humility, and perfection. I think sometimes because you guys didn’t get to live the story like I did, you humans, forget the magnitude of WHO the Messiah is. When you look at that baby in the manger, please don’t forget that that baby, is the second part of the Godhead. Don’t forget that he who was once clothed in righteousness and splendor chose to shackle himself to the most limiting of earthly flesh-that of an infant. The God who formed the first tongue and created it to speak, now babbles and coos to demonstrate his great love for mankind. Please, I beg you, out of respect and adoration for your Savior and my creator, please do not minimize what he did for you. That night in the feeding trough was a long way from his throne in heaven and his first step to the cross. Never forget that. Worship him during Christmas because the beauty of the incarnation was a stepping stone to pay for your salvation. And He did it in the most beautiful, most humble, most glorious, glory-less, way.  Because for some reason or another, He loves mankind more deeply than any mind, including angelic ones, can comprehend. It is certainly an understatement to say he deserves your gratitude and your worship, but give Him all you’ve got this season. Merry Christmas.

How to Waste Your Christmas Break

With the long Christmas break upon us I am reminded of some of the difficulties I encountered as a college student when I would go home for a month or so.  It’s hard to all of a sudden have all this freedom of time, but also such a lack of freedom being back under your parent’s regime. It’s a challenge at times, for sure. If you want your break to be meaningful and productive and wise-DO NOT FOLLOW THIS ADVICE.  Here are the TOP 5 WAYS to WASTE YOUR BREAK:

  1. Don’t Get into a Routine –At school its pretty easy to schedule in time with the Lord-you do it the same time each day. But now that you are at home; just do your devotions whenever you remember. You might not do it every day, or every week…or the entire time you are home-but hey! It’s break! Who needs a schedule?
  2. Pay More Attention to your Friends than Your Family– It is so much more important to spend all your time hearing the latest gossip from high school than helping your mom around the house, and just being with your siblings. After all, your family probably doesn’t need your love and encouragement as much as your friends do!
  3. Spend A LOT of Time on Social Media– It’s important for you to know what all your friends are doing. Spend HOURS and HOURS making sure their break is going well, and being jealous of them if it’s going too well.
  4. Just Be Plain ol’ Lazy– Remember this break is for YOU to relax and have fun! Netflix is calling! Youtube too! If you spend a bunch of your time serving and investing in your family, church, or community-how will YOU recharge? You don’t want to return from your break still tired!
  5. Leave what you Learned on Campus– Imagine you are working Part-Time at Panera’s and somebody asks you how college is going-make sure to give them a generic response like, “It’s a lot of fun” or “I’m making lots of friends.” They don’t really need to hear the impact the gospel is making in your life. Bringing Jesus into the conversation would probably be uncomfortable. So just be sure that whatever God taught you over the past semester you keep to yourself. It’s not like there are souls at stake!

This is probably the snarkiest, most sarcastic thing I have ever written! I normally don’t use/like sarcasm!  But I hope I get my point across. College students whom I love dearly (and really this can apply to anyone at any stage of life) – be wise, be intentional, and DON’T WASTE your break! Schedule a consistent time to be with the Lord, invest in your family, do things that are worthwhile, and spread the good news.

Does this resonate with you? Are these things you struggle with, or are tempted by when you go home for such a long period of time? How do you combat it?

I’ll Be that Clingy Girl

With this unexpected Snow Day, I’m able to spend a little extra time today doing something I love to do-laundry! Just kidding, I mean writing! (But I am also doing laundry! *pats self on back*).  So I figured I would take this opportunity to share with you something God has been teaching me. Here goes:

I am not strong.

I used to think that I was, oh yes. On my own, me, Betty,  I used to think that I was a strong, naturally faith-filled woman, and that I could overcome anything that comes my way because I am just so forgiving/wise/kind/what have you. Now I would have never said that out loud! Heavens no! I can’t let my prideful arrogance rear its slightly-unattractive-because-i-wouldn’t-even-really-want-to-call-it-ugly head. I’ll tell people, and even try and convince myself that I am just depending on God for all my various trials in life. It’s not my strength-it’s His! But how could that be?  I clearly depended on myself for strength-because who’s happiness was I investing in? Mine. Whose wisdom was I seeking? Mine. Whose plan was I trying to follow? Mine. The way I lived (and sometimes still live) my daily life definitely reflected that I clearly depended on me.

The older I get, the more ridiculous I realize this is. The more I let myself down, and lead myself astray after I make a decision on my own-I realize, that actually…

i am very, very weak in mind, body, and spirit, and that left to my own devices, i make foolish, self-centered decisions.  i am not wise on my own. i am not naturally forgiving, insightful, or kind. When i turn to worldly “wisdom” or look into my heart (read: deceitful, wicked, foolish heart) I end up in a mess.

The truth is that THE ONLY TIME I HAVE ANY STRENGTH, ANY FAITH, OR CAN OVERCOME ANY OBSTACLE WITH GRACE, WISDOM, OR PEACE IS WHEN CHRIST IS RULING AND REIGNING IN MY LIFE.  I need Him to change my affections, my desires, and my outlook on life every single day. I literally can do nothing good apart from Him. I need Him every hour.

My pride keeps me from acknowledging this desperate need for God. I want to think that I can last a few days on my own-and then run to Him to have Him “fill up my tank” again, and then off I go until I need Him again next week. Realizing that I actually need Him every moment because I am so weak and unselfsustainable makes me uncomfortable at first-I feel like I’m this girl ———–>

…so dependent and needy! Can’t I be just fine on my own for a while? I want to be strong and independent! Need God every moment? Uh…isn’t that a bit much?

No. No it’s not. Because I am weak. When I don’t cling to Him-I fail. For I am so incredibly weak apart from my Savior. So I’ll admit my constant need for Him and I will boast in that, because HIS POWER is seen and rightfully worshipped as STRONG and BEAUTIFUL in my ridiculous weakness.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

I need Thee every hour, most Holy One;
O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessèd Son.

My dear friends, let’s not depend on our own strength. It will fail us. Let’s admit our dependence on Him and embrace our need to be clingy. He will never fail us.