If you want to truly appreciate the New Testament you’ve got to begin in the Old.
Jesus is written on every page, revealed in increasing measure in every story.
From Genesis to Revelation, God the Father displays His purpose, plan and passion for His children.
The ultimate unveiling is Immanuel-God with us.
And so the Living Expression became a man and lived among us! And we gazed upon the splendor of his glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father overflowing with tender mercy and truth!
John 1:14 TPT
Ever since Eden, humankind was banished from unafraid, uninhibited communion with our Maker.
Sin separated us from His holy Presence.
When the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt He led them with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He had Moses construct a Tabernacle for His Presence to rest in the midst of His people but they still had to remain afar off.
Only Moses could come near. And when he left the Tabernacle, he wore a veil to hide God’s glory reflected on his own face.
And then came Jesus-His perfect life, sacrificial death and victorious resurrection-removed the veil.
He revealed God’s glory and holiness.
But He also revealed God’s mercy, grace and truth.
The Law teaches hearts that no one can measure up.
Christ teaches that because He fulfilled the Law, if we trust His finished work we don’t have to.
Our God who breathes stars, He breathed Bethlehem’s Star, then took on lungs and breathed in stable air.
Our God who formed and delivered the heavens, He waited patient like an embryo in a womb and delivered Himself to free all humanity. Our God who cradles whole galaxies in the palm of His hand, whom highest heavens cannot contain, He folds Himself into our skin and He curls His newborn fist in the cradle of a barn feed trough — and we are saved from ourselves.
We are saved from our hopelessness — because God came with infant fists and opened wide His hand to take the nail sharp edge of our sins.
We are saved from our pain — because God pierced the dark and came to the pinpoint of us in the universe and He took the nails.
We are saved from our loneliness — because God is love that can’t stand to leave us by ourselves, to ourselves. The entire cosmos sings it leading up to Christmas Eve:
We are not alone.
We are a pinpoint in the universe that is now nailed to eternity because of the wood of a manger, of a Tree, of a crowning wreath of thorns.
Before they sinned, Adam and Eve enjoyed open fellowship with God. They walked together in the cool of the evening. But disobedience and distrust ruined it. Jesus paid the price to restore fellowship. Have you thought recently about the great value of that gift? How have you felt His Presence this Advent season?
Jesus took on flesh and walked among men as the living, breathing embodiment of God. He wasn’t primarily an example (although He was the perfect example). He came to be a sacrifice. God’s holiness is beautiful but frightening. His grace and mercy are beautiful and inviting. How have you experienced the grace and mercy of the Lord?
Do you ever feel alone, abandoned or forgotten? Does it help your heart to meditate on Immanuel-God with us?
You could have started over and abandoned us. But your love compelled You to reach out and reach down to make a way.
Jesus is that Way.
He came to reveal more than your glory and holiness. He came to reveal your mercy, grace and truth.
He showed us your heart.
It’s a heart of love and good intentions toward me. Help me trust that heart when I can’t trace your hand. Give me assurance of your Presence no matter how dark the night or desperate the circumstance.
I’m so, so tired of navigating social media, regular media and personal conversations where one person claims to be morally superior because he or she is wearing/not wearing a mask, taking/not taking the vaccine, traveling to be with family for the holidays or staying home.
I’m worn out with memes and odd glances and offhand comments that make judgements about another human being without knowing one. single. thing. about the other person they claim to understand.
Here’s a warning: I’m often honest and open in this space but not often raw. I’m about to be very, very raw.
I wear a mask and am cautious about social exposure for extremely personal reasons.
My son died alone.
I was not there to hold his hand as he took his last breath. I have no way to know if he was frightened, comforted by angels or the Lord’s holy Presence. I don’t know if he called out for me or was senseless.
But all those questions haunt me every night before I finally fall asleep if I let them.
So the idea of being unable to be with a loved one when he or she leaves this world is more than my heart can bear. If something I can do, or they can do (like wear a mask or limit exposure or take a vaccine) means I won’t have to face that, I’m all for it!
My mother died from pneumonia following a stroke.
I wasn’t there but my father was and I heard his frantic voice on the other end of the phone line when I picked up in the middle of the night. We rushed to the hospital but it was too late.
So the idea of another loved one struggling for life-giving oxygen while nothing more can be done to give it to them breaks my heart. If wearing a mask or staying away or managing the number of social contacts is what it takes to minimize that risk, it’s a no brainer for me.
I’m not afraid of Covid.
I’m not afraid of death.
I’m afraid of loss.
I realize I fall squarely on the side of caution and you might fall on the other side.
I respect that.
All I ask is that you not judge me any more than I am judging you. Make space in your heart for someone who may, for very personal and very reasonable, reasons have come to a different conclusion.
Each of us walks in the world according to our experience and our convictions.
I promise not to impose mine on you.
And I promise not to make assumptions about yours.
“Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.” ~unknown
Do we treat each day as a gift from a loving God, a present wrapped up in His grace and goodness, to be opened with joy, used with care and set lovingly on the shelf of life when done?
Or do we bear it as a burden?
I’ll admit not all days are equal.
Some ARE burdens.
No one (I don’t think!) loves going to the dentist. Few of us are keen on doing taxes or taking tests or slogging through the rain to work or school.
Some of us have much heavier burdens as we wake to an empty bed, an empty heart or an empty bank account.
But even these awful days are a gift.
Because God’s mercies are new every morning. The rising sun brings fresh opportunity to rest in, rely on and relish God’s grace, goodness and promised strength.
And every new day means we have more time.
More time to love the people we love, more time to find new people to love, more time to do the good works which God in Christ has planned for us to do.
We wake each morning to the same 24 hours given every other soul on this planet. It’s ours to choose.
How will we spend it? Will we fill it with foolish things? With important things?
Here’s how I do it:
Put the significant and essential things in first. Time with the Lord, time with family, time with my own thoughts. (Orienting my heart and mind to what truly matters first thing makes the rest of the day so much better.)
Then the necessary. Work, school, chores, appointments, cooking and meals. (No way around having to do these things, but I can still choose to fit them in AFTER the most important and valuable ones.)
Finally, the incidental things. Facebook, television, window (internet) shopping, binge watching Netflix. (So hard to discipline my heart to focus on what will truly make a difference instead of distracting myself with the trivial.)
And surprisingly I manage most days to get it done(even checking social media).
Life is not an emergency, although I often live as if it is.
I careen around the corner of hour after hour like I’m driving a car out of control, begging someone to make it stop.
I can make it stop.
I can take my foot off the accelerator, park it and decide where and how fast I’m going to drive tomorrow.
Every single day is an opportunity to choose.
I can start fresh and make time for the things that are truly important.
If you find your heart limping through Scripture instead of gaining strength, may I suggest you try a different Bible translation for a bit? Sometimes familiar words-even the words of God or His prophets-just fall flat.
I can read them and not digest them at all.
So lately I’ve been reading and copying from the VOICE translation and it has helped me see old passages in a new light.
Here’s one of them. I think those of us walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death have a lot in common with Jeremiah.
I love to read familiar verses in different translations or paraphrases.
It helps my heart hear what I might otherwise miss because familiarity DOES breed a form a contempt even when considering the Word of God.
Recently, on my way through verses on HOPE I copied out Lamentations 3: 19-26.