Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Reason...

I know some people feel strongly in saying things like "Jesus is the reason for the season" or "Keep Christ in Christmas".  But to a world that's perishing, those just seem like semantics.

In this day when people are leaving the church by the droves and renouncing the faith of their parents and grandparents because it seems binding and irrelevant in the world that we live, sentiments like this just smack of religiosity to me.  

And when I think about how we "do" Christmas as we set holiday precedents and traditions with our young children...these really are not the points that I want to focus on with them. 

Instead of characterizing Christmas as a "religious" or "Holy-day", I characterize it more as a day that is generally accepted by most as a season of celebration, gathering together, feasting, and gift giving.  But for us, because we know Christ, He is always the reason we celebrate.  Every celebration, every good gift, every blessing, comes from Him.  Anything that is worth getting excited about points back to Him.

Christmas is a time when we often spend more time reflecting specifically on the miracle of Christ's birth and we celebrate His birthday with a special party just like we do for all those we love.  But it is not because of some religious obligation or duty.  We celebrate because we are thankful, because we are free, because we are blessed.

"Christmas" may mean a great many things to a great many people.  To some gifts and parties, to some pain and loss, and still others a consumer-driven holiday, but to those who have known the sweet taste of freedom in life with Christ, every time we celebrate we will always remember Christ, because He is the reason for every celebration.  He is the reason we are alive and we are free.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Wake Up Call!

Gosh, sometimes this walk of faith is humbling.  I find myself awkwardly making my way down the path, bumbling, stumbling over my own feet from time to time.  My walk of grace is not always so graceful.

I feel like I am a pendulum swinging back and forth from Grace and Truth, trying to find the right balance, often overcorrecting to reach middle ground and swinging too far the other way.  But God is faithful.  The thing I am reminded is that most come to Christ because of His grace.  He is forgiving, gentle, kind, and patient.  He is good.  And as we freely accept and bathe ourselves in His grace there comes a time of accountability, a time where we must accept also His Truth.  In those times we must look into the mirror of the Word of God and say, "Do I match up?"  And at each of these intersections we have a choice to press into Him to help us align with His Truth and Righteousness because we are thankful for His grace and we trust Him, or we can choose to reject or ignore the Truth.

If we choose the truth, and we seek to discipline our flesh to obey Him, sometimes we swing too far...thinking that somehow this obedience saves us or makes us righteous.  We become to stringent, we try to bind others, and we fall.  Because pride comes before destruction and a haughty spirit comes before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)  Then we must fall back again on His grace...another swing back on the pendulum.

It's sometimes hard for me to find this balance, but I saw this interview tonight with Carl Lentz, and he just articulated this balance sooo well.  Katie Couric asked him how he felt about tolerance and specifically on the issue of homosexuality.  He said that their principle is "Love everyone.  Have conversations about everything else."  Katie asked him if he felt a moral obligation to take a stance.  His answer shocked me.  He said (paraphrase): No, because we try to be like Jesus, and Jesus did not talk much about morality.  He looked at issues of the heart.  We are concerned about heart condition and souls, and there are conversations based on individual situations for everything else.

This comment pierced a dagger through my heart.  In the Old Testament, even in the law, you can find God looking at issues of the heart.  God is concerned about our hearts and about relationship with him.  This is how we love others, and how we let Him love us!  God is so good.  His burden is light.  We were never meant to be perfect so we could come to Him - we cannot be - we come to Him because we are broken and hurting, and let Him heal walking with Him, every second of every day we become perfect in that moment.  Ah...Jesus is so good.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My Father's Daughter

Growing up everyone always told me I looked just like my dad.  Well, I'm a girl, so I didn't really like that, but my mom told me that growing up everyone always told my dad that he would have been a pretty girl, then she would say, "and they were right"...that one always makes me smile.

And even now, I'll meet people who know my dad and as soon as they find out who I am they are shocked at our resemblance.

I love it when you can start to see traits of their family in kids.  Like my little Mason man - well he really is the spitting image of my dad at his age.  It's nuts!  But his personality, oh my gosh, just like Scott (my hubbie)!  That boy will talk your ear off, and he is quite the little ham.

It has me I look like my Father?  Not just my dad, but my Heavenly Father.  Do I sound like Him?  If you had seen Him or knew Him, would you be able to tell that I am His daughter?  See the thing is, like babies, we don't often look much like anyone at first (except a fat old man), but the older we get, the clearer our resemblance becomes.  And the more we spend time with our family, the more we catch their mannerisms and phrases, the more we sound like them and think like them.

I mean I was born with a head full of jet black hair and dark eyes - a year later my hair was white blonde and I had blue eyes, and by the time I was five you could pick me out of a crowd as Doug's daughter.  These days I find myself often wearing my hair like my mom without thinking about it, and picking styles that she likes.  My mom my sister and I sound sooo similar on the phone, and even though Kati and I are eight years apart some people would swear we are twins.

So my question is - Am I looking more like Jesus?  Am I talking with the Holy Spirit so much that I sound like Him?  Can you tell I am my Father's daughter?

Sunday, December 8, 2013

They will know we are Christians by...our rules???

In trying to draw nearer to God, I am often seeking - "What does He want from me?"  I find myself reading certain verses of the Bible, reading books, and searching the internet for answers to questions.  It's often here that I begin to find a lot of arguing over details of scripture and specific Jewish laws.

Can we get a tatoo?
Should we only eat certain types of foods?
Is it ok to celebrate Halloween?
Is it ok to wear makeup?
What kind of music and media can we consume?

Etc...and most people have their opinions...many strong convictions and scriptures to back them up.  I have strong convictions about a few of these things too...but they are areas that between God, myself, and my hubbie we have determined the best way for us to please God is...or what we feel He is calling us to in that season.

I see this on facebook, oh my goodness, every single day!

And the thing is - no good comes from it!  Jesus said that all the law and all the prophets hinge on these two commandments, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  And love your neighbor as yourself."
Paul says that those who attempt to be justified by the law live under a curse, because unless you can keep all of it, you are condemned by all of it.

And a very wise man once told me that he would rather be known by what he loves than what he hates.  Think about that - as do we want to be known?  How should we represent Christ?

You know what God wants?  Relationship with us!  Relationship with each person on this planet.  And it is through THAT RELATIONSHIP that God will transform us into who we need to become...not arguing over issues and trying to convict one another.

Titus 3:9-11 sums it up nicely

"But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned."

In John 13:35 Jesus says:

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”

This is how people are to know we are disciples of Christ - by our love.  They will know we are Christians by our love!