Thursday, December 30, 2010
This study changed my life. I went through it for the first time last year in a women's study. The study, published by World Harvest Mission, consists of 36 lessons divided into 6 units. The topics include an introduction to the Gospel, enemies of the Gospel, believing the Gospel, the power of the Gospel, the fruit of the Gospel, and the Gospel in relationships. As you can see, it's all about the Gospel.
I love how it starts--with a reminder that the Gospel is far greater than you can imagine, and you are far worse than you think. Yes, this is actually good news because God's spirit is at work in our weakness and God's kingdom is more wonderful than imaginable.
After going through the first few lessons, I wanted to make my own version of the Biggest Loser t-shirt which instead would say "The Biggest Sinner"--because part of my transformation started in seeing myself first as the needy sinner rather than blaming others first, justifying myself, or seeing other people's sins as greater than my own. When I acknowledge my sin first, this produces humility and dependence on what Jesus has done for me in the Gospel. But that's not the whole story. I'm also a saint, and God smiles at me and sees my sin through the blood of Jesus. Thankfully, I am not defined by my sin. I am slowly learning what it means to be first created in God's image and also starting to understand my true identity in Christ.
Here's something else that impacted me. When I realize the depth of my struggle with sin and idolatry and when my awareness of God's holiness grows, the cross gets bigger and bigger in my life. But when I pretend and perform and act like I can live the Christian life on my own and that I'm doing pretty well compared to my neighbor, then the cross shrinks and there is no true joy, love, or peace left in my life. This is the sad direction I was going even as I was doing all the right things like going to church, participating in Bible Studies, and living what appeared to be a good Christian life. By God's grace, I am now learning that not only did I need the Gospel the first day that I entered the kingdom of God, but I need it every day and every moment to live in the kingdom of God. I can never outgrow the Gospel. And that is truly Good News!
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
On this theme of story...one of my favorite artists lately has been Andrew Peterson. If there's one Christmas album I would highly recommend, it's Behold the Lamb: The True Tall Tale of the Coming of Christ. This is not your traditional "Deck the Halls" or "Silent Night" kind of album, instead Peterson weaves the stories of the coming of Jesus so beautifully in each of his ballads. He truly does bridge the Old Testament to the New Testament and helps you to see the divine "Red Thread" that ties all of scripture together.
I Love to Tell the Story
I love to tell the story
of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory,
of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story,
because I know 'tis true;
it satisfies my longings
as nothing else can do.
I love to tell the story,
'twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story
of Jesus and his love.
2. I love to tell the story;
more wonderful it seems
than all the golden fancies
of all our golden dreams.
I love to tell the story,
it did so much for me;
and that is just the reason
I tell it now to thee.
3. I love to tell the story;
'tis pleasant to repeat
what seems, each time I tell it,
more wonderfully sweet.
I love to tell the story,
for some have never heard
the message of salvation
from God's own holy Word.
4. I love to tell the story,
for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting
to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory,
I sing the new, new song,
'twill be the old, old story
that I have loved so long.
I think I've only sung this in church a few times (I didn't grow up Baptist), and it's a bit cheesy, but the words are simple and true. Sing along with me...
We've A Story To Tell To The Nations
We’ve a story to tell to the nations,
That shall turn their hearts to the right,
A story of truth and mercy,
A story of peace and light,
A story of peace and light.
For the darkness shall turn to dawning,
And the dawning to noonday bright;
And Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth,
The kingdom of love and light.
We’ve a song to be sung to the nations,
That shall lift their hearts to the Lord,
A song that shall conquer evil
And shatter the spear and sword,
And shatter the spear and sword.
We’ve a message to give to the nations,
That the Lord who reigns up above
Has sent us His Son to save us,
And show us that God is love,
And show us that God is love.
We’ve a Savior to show to the nations,
Who the path of sorrow has trod,
That all of the world’s great peoples
Might come to the truth of God,
Might come to the truth of God.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
his love endures forever.
Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story—
those he redeemed from the hand of the foe,
those he gathered from the lands,
from east and west, from north and south.
This theme of story has been powerful in my life. Maybe because I love a good book or a compelling story. Maybe because I am drawn into characters, setting and plot. Or maybe because I just marvel at the creativity of the storyteller.
The Grand Story is the true story of the Gospel--that Jesus is God and became Emmanuel to be with us and for us in our yuck and filth and mess and incredible need. He became death for us to give us LIFE. It's a story that has unlikely characters, a surprising setting, and an unsettling plot--that God would really give us something we don't deserve, can't earn, and desperately need. A gift. The greatest gift that continually gives us what our hearts truly hunger and crave. A relationship with the Great Storyteller, love for His people, and new meaning and purpose in life--in His story.
Monday, December 20, 2010
In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.
Enough for Him, whom cherubim, worship night and day,
Breastful of milk, and a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels fall before,
The ox and ass and camel which adore.
Angels and archangels may have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His mother only, in her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the beloved with a kiss.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.
Have you ever noticed that there are so few truly Gospel-centered resources for kids these days? My latest trip to the local Christian bookstore left me more than disappointed. When I come across a great find, though, I just want to go and tell it on the mountain...like when I discovered the Jesus Storybook Bible.
Here's my latest find in the music department. Check out Seeds Family Worship or The Rizers.
What great ways to hide God's word in our hearts?! What resources are you using with your children that you love?
I love that one of my favorite Christmas memories from years ago was singing a sweet little tune to Jingle Bells--it was called Gospel Bells. It went something like this:
Gospel bells, gospel bells
Ring them all the day
Tell the news that Jesus came
To take my sins away!
I remember shaking my little handmade bell bracelet and loudly singing out these words. I love that this little song captured the heart of the Gospel message: Jesus died for me, a sinner, and this news is truly joyful all day, everyday!
Saturday, December 18, 2010
This Christmas I attended a party where each guest brought 5 of her favorite things. We had a little show and tell, gathered our items on the table, then drew numbers for picking 5 items to take home. It was great fun to see what little treasures or guilty pleasures everyone brought. I brought Trader Joe's mulling spices, peppermint tea, a striped kitchen towel, a peppermint chocolate bar, and a $5 gift card for Auntie Annie's pretzels. Yum!
We also shared what favorite "big" gift we would give everyone if we had all the money in the world. Lots of personal chefs, maids, vacations, new cars were gifted that night--if only in our dreams!
Honestly, though, if I could a gift to all little people in the world , I think I would give the Jesus Storybook Bible. It is the best, and it even comes in a deluxe edition with a narrated CD. It presents the Gospel so clearly and draws in even the young at heart.
The toy Velveteen Rabbit learns from the Skin Horse that a toy becomes real if its owner really and truly loves it. The Velveteen Rabbit eventually becomes the boy's dearest friend, and as he plays and loves the rabbit, it becomes worn and shabby. Later, the boy comes down with scarlet fever and just before the bedroom toys are burned to disinfect the room, the rabbit sheds a real tear and the Nursery Magic Fairy appears to turn him into a REAL rabbit, for indeed he was real to the boy and dearly loved.
And in some ways, that seems like the transformation that happens when a person dead in her sins awakens to the sweet, tender love of Jesus, and becomes the real, alive person that God has created her to be. And it lasts for always. This is "My Velveteen Life."
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Have you ever read the story of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams? This is how the story begins...
"There was once a velveteen rabbit, and in the beginning he was really splendid. He was fat and bunchy, as a rabbit should be; his coat was spotted brown and white, he had real thread whiskers, and his ears were lined with pink sateen. On Christmas morning, when he sat wedged in the top of the Boy's stocking, with a sprig of holly between his paws, the effect was charming.
There were other things in the stocking, nuts and oranges and a toy engine, and chocolate almonds and a clockwork mouse, but the Rabbit was quite the best of all. For at least two hours the Boy loved him, and then Aunts and Uncles came to dinner, and there was a great rustling of tissue paper and unwrapping of parcels, and in the excitement of looking at all the new presents the Velveteen Rabbit was forgotten."
Have you ever felt like this rabbit? Once loved, but forgotten? I have...