Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Sacrificial Gift

And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11 (ESV)

Every Christmas for the first few years of our courtship and marriage, my husband would give me a dead cow.

Sometimes the gift would take on the form of a purse, other years it would be a jacket . . . wallets, gloves and even scarves too. But regardless to the shape, there was bloodshed to bless me – an ultimate sacrifice was made.

I don’t know if my man was just really into symbolism, or if he just found it convenient to shop at the leather store near his house, but he blessed me this way for several years. Then, we put an end to the slaughter. We agreed to tone down the Christmas gifts and make them smaller and more sentimental.

But the awkward tradition does stay with me. I still have all the leather goods he gave me. Leather tends to hold up well and stands the test of time (thankfully it also stretches a bit as I am no longer my petit pre-wedding size). God made hide tough and resilient.

Unlike my husband who traveled an hour to see me, the magi gave months of their life to take a treacherous journey. And then, upon arrival, before they even unpacked their treasures, they fell down and worshipped Him.

The Magi were not just delivery boys. It was not about the gifts. They had risked all that they had to come and worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, saying “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

Christmas should not be about what we are giving or what we’ll receive. It’s about bowing before the One who left his throne in glory to walk amongst his sin-filled creation and in love-filled obedience, laid down his life as the ultimate sacrifice. An eternal gift that is one-size-fits-all. Let’s bow before Him and lay down our gift of time. Oh Worship the King!

Father, we are so thankful that You gave us examples of worship from those who held earthly status and education. Lord, may we too find time this season to fall on our knees in humble adoration and awe of Your Gift. Help us to shine the Light and Truth into the lives of those who are seeking this Christmas. Amen. 

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

Friday, 19 December 2014

Tip-toeing Thru Temptation

And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 1:22-23 ESV)

When I got to the top of the stairs, I saw it . . . a trail of pieces of thin mint wrappers that had fallen from the tall sofa table that sat next to our couch. The singing Christmas Mickey Mouse was knocked over and the nativity scene looked like Godzilla had marched through it.

Which she had.

Our little terrier, Mona, had managed to jump onto the table from the arm of the couch and snuck across to the box of mints, helping herself to a few, (all the while terrorizing the tiny Bethlehem village).

And then I saw it.

A slightly chewed and regurgitated pile of chocolate, minty goodness. Clearly she had been deceived by the chocolate scent – not knowing that a sharp, strong mint taste hid underneath. We all knew that Mona’s weakness is chocolate and that is exactly why we placed it – we thought – out of her reach. We weren’t trying to tempt her or put her at risk! Chocolate can be fatal to canines!

I saw Mona’s mess as a result of her weakness and was more upset with myself for having not protected her properly.  My daughter Tia, on the other hand, considered the dog’s actions as willful and wanted to punish her, to fill her with fear in order to protect her from ever trying the dangerous Evel Knievel stunt again.

Just like Mona, we Christians can be deceived and find ourselves in dangerous messes! Which is why Jude commanded that we watch over each other.

Matthew Henry in his commentary of Jude had an interesting thought:
We must watch over one another; faithfully, yet prudently reprove each other, and set a good example to all about us. This must be done with compassion, making a difference between the weak and the wilful. Some we must treat with tenderness. Others save with fear; urging the terrors of the Lord.

It’s important when we approach struggling sisters that we do so carefully and with discernment. Only the Lord knows their heart. First, we should go the tender route, assuming that their actions are a result of weakness. But, if it’s apparent that they are in flat-out, willful rebellion, then it’s time to turn up the heat and attempt to save them with the fear of the Lord. Because deception can be deadly.

Father, we thank You that you designed us to be in community and to care for each other. Help us to be tender towards one another, yet brave enough to know when to be strong and instill godly fear into the lives and hearts of those who are tiptoeing through dangerous territory.  In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Not Alone

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

I’ve always been a ‘why’ girl. When being trained on a new job, it’s fine to show me how and I kind of get it, but explain the why and I can usually run with it. Understanding the logic behind something has always been key for me.

I love how Mary did not ask the angel, ‘why’ but was more interested in the how. My mind races trying to figure out what she meant by that statement. As women, we can all probably imagine the thoughts and fears that ran through that young girl’s mind.

So willing to be used by God, Mary let go and trusted the Lord in all the details. She humbled herself and submitted to His will. The Bible says she had found favor with God. From that, we can surmise she was walking a holy life and knew the law. She must have known then the shame and punishment that could have fallen on her once others discovered she was pregnant and unmarried, yet she never argued or asked the ‘why’ but basically said, ‘bring it on!’

What about you? Are you approaching this season with a heart full of questions? Has the last year been so brutal you are having a hard time even getting into the spirit of Christmas? I know the first Christmas after my mother passed away I struggled with both ‘Why did you take her’ and ‘How can I fake any holiday cheer?’ 

Life doesn’t always roll the way we had planned. It sure didn’t for Mary – you just know she shed both happy and sad tears during her journey raising the Son of God. It’s okay to feel ‘different’ this Christmas if you’ve lost someone close to you. There are questions in our hearts and wounds that are still healing. Lay down your ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ at his feet. Let the Lord meet you right where you are and be kind to yourself. He is Emanuel, God with us . . . you are not alone in your loneliness.

Father, we thank you for the gift of your Son! Oh how much we can learn from Mary’s obedient heart. Help us to remember that you are God with us and that we – no matter how we’re feeling – are not alone this season. Fill us with your Holy Spirit that we would be free to embrace all that you have for us this Christmas. Amen!

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Written on Our Hearts . . . and Jeans

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 1 John 4:16 (ESV)

We’ve all had days where we feel completely alone and unloved. Even when my mother was alive (and I know she loved me deeply), there would be days when I felt rejected. So many are driven to despair and suicide by accepting a lie that there is no love or hope for them – yet the Word tells us the truth.

God is Love.

In the seventies, hippies would embroider that declaration on their jeans and use it as a mantra. Perhaps that is why we saw such revival back then – at least God was being acknowledged.

Satan hates this truth. And he hates God’s creation. He’s been bent on destroying everything God designed. Enemies do that. They live to find something of value, beauty or purpose and render it useless.

What has happened in your life to rob you of the truth of God’s love? The truth that He created you, designed you, and purposed in you great things to be done for His kingdom? For me, people – both well-meaning and not – have often attempted to blow out my candle in order to make theirs burn brighter. Sometimes with words, other times with actions, their desire was to see my destruction. Thankfully, even when knocked down, the truth of God’s love for me resonated deep within and I would recall all his faithfulness in times past – proof of his love for me.

Don’t let the lies win. Don’t let Satan destroy God’s plans. Jesus loves you, chose to die for you, and desires to have the most amazing love relationship with you. Celebrate this truth – write it upon your heart (your jeans are cool too) and live it out.