Tag Archives: salvation

The Passion of Christmas

24 Dec

I love listening to Christmas music – not just because it puts me in the Christmas mood, but also because it floods my heart with the meaning of Christmas. This year, I am captivated by the passion behind historical Christmas hymns. The authors of these songs exhort us to adore Christ, fall on our knees before Him, and praise His name forever. They write of a world, weary under the burden of sin and guilt, that sees a new day, filled with hope, dawn with the birth of a simple babe. The Savior has come, the catalyst of God’s plan of redemption.

I like to imagine what it would have been like the night Jesus was born. Four hundred years had passed since God has spoken to His people. But God had promised a Messiah, a Redeemer. All of Israel was waiting for the Christ. And on that night in a little town of Bethlehem, a town “too little to be among the clans of Judah,” the long-awaited Messiah was born. Humble shepherds were at work in the field, watching their flocks in the moonlight, straining to stay awake. All of a sudden, they are blinded by “the glory of the Lord” and an angel tells them,

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…”

So what did they do? They went “with haste” to where the angel had indicated – to Bethlehem to find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. This is what I find interesting: the Bible doesn’t say anything about them locking their sheep up first, or arranging for their care, or one of them staying behind. It seems that they just leave their flocks in the open field because they are so amazed and excited about what they were just told.

Does that go against common sense? Do I doubt that’s what actually happened?

Yes, because it seems so impractical, so irresponsible. I am challenged – what would I have done in that situation? Would I have been so consumed with responsibilities and practical concerns that I would think it foolish to abandon all and sit at my Savior’s feet? Would I be so captivated by Christ’s coming that I’d be willing to drop everything – abandon even my livelihood – and seek Him?

It’s easy to rest when there’s nothing pressing, nothing urgent. It’s easy to take a moment to breath when life’s tight grip on your schedule relaxes for an hour. But what about resting and breathing in the midst of the chaos? That’s what Christ came to bring us – His rest, a deep soul rest that can’t be touched by circumstances. What does it mean to have a deep soul rest in Christ?

Embracing the messiness of being human. Jesus Himself was born in a stinky stable surrounded by loud animals (not the serene night of perfect harmony pictured above). He slept on itchy, pokey hay and grew up as a pretty normal kid. Christ didn’t just experience what it meant to be human during His ministry. He lived his whole life as a human. He grew up with brothers and sisters as a human. He learned to walk, to talk, to laugh. He loved, he cried, he gave. “In every way he was tempted just as we are, yet without sin.” I love how Jesus embraced humanity – not just by becoming a baby (though that was big enough) but by also engaging in life. He wasn’t just alive – He lived. He didn’t view the basics of human existence as beneath Him – rather, He embraced those constraints. Instead of them getting in His way, He turned them into a source of blessing.

And all this, when He was the Son of God, the Most High, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, Author of Creation.

Pondering these truths, how can your heart not fill to bursting with the truth of Christmas? Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!

These wonderful songs celebrate that truth:

“O Holy Night”

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
O’er the world a star is sweetly gleaming,
Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.
He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

“What Child is This?”

What child is this who, laid to rest,
on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
while shepherds watch are keeping?

Chorus:

This, this is Christ the King,
whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
haste, haste to bring him laud,
the babe, the son of Mary.

Why lies he in such mean estate
where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
the silent Word is pleading.

So bring him incense, gold, and myrrh,
come, peasant, king, to own him;
the King of kings salvation brings,
let loving hearts enthrone him.

“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King,
peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
join the triumph of the skies;
with th’ angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
late in time behold him come,
offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’ incarnate Deity,
pleased as Man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the new born King!”

Have a blessed Christmas!

At the foot of the Cross

12 Oct

The past few days have been hard. I’ve been frustrated with/depressed about my job again and let it throw a gloomy cloud over everything. It becomes all I can think about and I just dwell in that place, wondering why I struggle so much with things other people seem to be fine with and how God and the gospel just don’t seem to be revelant in my situation.

Praise the Lord that He never lets me stay in that place! I re-read We Would See Jesus last night and this morning – took me about 6 hours. What an amazing book – definitely one of the best books ever written! It was exactly what I needed to hear and be reminded of. When I had felt stressed out about my job, and in turn life in general, I knew I wasn’t trusting God. I knew that my distrust was sin. But instead of just confessing it at the Cross and resting there in Jesus’ perfect atonement, I skipped ahead to trying to trust God and His plan for my life. The Hessions say it perfectly:

“A mere attempt to trust Him more completely and to rest in Him, without an acknowledgment of the sin there is, never brings victory, His victory. He is only the Vine to me as I repent of trying to be the vine myself. It is only as I repent of my unlove that I have His love; only as I confess my worry and lack of peace that I have His peace; only as I confess my impatience that I have His long-suffering; only as I confess my resentment that I have His meekness, and so on.”

Earlier, they wrote, “So it is that victory ever comes by repentance — coupled with a simple trusting Him to be to us what He promises.”

Repentance. That’s what I have been missing. I have known that I was a sinner, void of anything good in myself, and incapable of living the Christian life on my own. But I never came to the foot of the Cross and said that. Instead, that acknowledgment turned me to striving. When I felt anxious, I knew that I was sinning by not trusting in God but instead of confessing my sin, I just tried to trust God. I even prayed about it, a lot! But I constantly felt defeated. And no wonder why – I was trying to be the vine, to produce trust in God by myself.

“This, then, is the reason for our failure, too. It is simply that we have been trying to be the vine; we have been trying to find a holiness and a love for others in ourselves and from ourselves which Scripture never encourages us to expect to find there… God no longer expects us to be the vine. We need not even try. The responsibility for producing fruit is no longer ours. God has His own true Vine, the risen Lord Jesus, who is well able to produce all the fruit that God requires for others, and to fulfill all the purposes of His grace for men… We do not produce the fruit, but simply bear what He produces, as we permit Him to live in us.”

It is amazing to know that in response to my sin, all I have to do is bring it to the foot of the Cross, where Christ has paid for it once for all, and to rest there – in full acknowledgment of my failure, need, and insufficiency. And I don’t have to leave the foot of the Cross. I don’t have to go out and try better. I don’t have to draw strength from Christ to set out on my own until I fail again. I can stay there. I can rest there, knowing the reality of my condition but trusting the completion of Christ’s work on the cross. What’s more, that’s exactly where Christ works in me to produce all the things I lack.

I had been feeling hopeless and depressed. I had believed the lie that life would never get better, I would always feel this way, and I was beyond help, even God’s. But coming to the foot of the Cross, I find hope again and all the lies I had believed are destroyed – and while I still am the wretched, pathetic soul I ever was, I don’t have to grieve that fact eternally.

Because I have a Savior.

Renewed

17 Jun

Physically, I had a splitting headache yesterday afternoon and evening. I had a hard time falling asleep, it hurt so bad. I tried drinking lots of fluids and taking aspirin but to no avail. Luckily, I woke up this morning feeling much better. I definitely need to drink more water, to prevent it from happening again.

Spiritually, this week I have been lethargic and indifferent. Getting in the Word has been on my “To-Do List” since Monday – yet, I just “checked it off” today (it’s not really something to be checked off but lately. I’ve had so much stuff running through my head that I want to get done, that I had to create a list. Getting in the Word was one of the things I wanted to do, but just hadn’t done. No excuses.)

This morning, I woke up with a desire to spend time with God. A devotion by Oswald Chambers led me into thinking about my life before I was a Christian and I was reminded of how different my life is from then, even when I don’t pursue the Lord. God continues to bless me, seemingly regardless of my commitment and devotion to Him. Even when I am faithless, He remains faithful. In church on Sunday, we sang “Jesus Paid It All.” The one lyric of that song that really gets to me is “Jesus died my soul to save.” Thinking about standing in front of God after my life here on earth and having that be my only claim, my only boast, humbles me in a very profound way. Despite anything I may accomplish here on earth (or in spite of the things I don’t accomplish here), despite anything I may boast in now, that will still be the only reason why I should be allowed into heaven. “Jesus died my soul to save.”

One of the huge blessings in my life lately has been my marriage. Back in April, Travis had 2 levee inspections lasting 10 days each, with a 5 day break in between. I was going to leave for Las Vegas for a race before he got back from the first and not return until he had left for the second. So we weren’t going to see each other for about 3 weeks straight. To Travis, that was unacceptable. To me, it was just part of my job. Travis was really bothered by my lack of concern and God used that to show me how I hadn’t been paying attention to or appreciating Travis – I was so consumed by my own issues and concerns that I was no longer caring for him.

Since then, our marriage has been amazing. My affection for Travis has increased something like 400% and our arguments have all but stopped. We still get on each other’s nerves at times but on the whole, we have a lot of fun together and are very much in love. The fourth year of marriage, so far, has been better than either of the first 3!

That has been unexpected one perk of my job – when we have days off together, we are intentional about spending time with each other. Memorial Day, we planted flowers and went biking. We go on walks together, play Scrabble, go shopping, and talk. It has been great!

I do miss the summer weekends with Travis – we have yet to go camping or hiking together and won’t get a chance until the end of July. But last summer, we had plenty of opportunities to go and didn’t take them – because our weekends together weren’t as precious as they are now.There’s definitely something to be said for spending some time apart (but not too much time!)

I have gone through such a range of emotions in 3 years of marriage that I know anything good that happens with Travis and me is from the Lord. He is the One who gives me love for my husband; who allows me to respect him, appreciate him, and enjoy him; who shows me when I am in the wrong and need to repent. I fail so miserably on my own that I can truly say I owe my marriage to God and Him alone. Despite my sinfulness and seeming determination to destroy a good thing, God continues to renew it and change it into something that glorifies Him.

I especially like the verse from “Jesus, My Only Hope” that goes:

Though I am poor and naked

Your prodigal come home

You place your robe upon me

Your holiness alone

Though I be dry and barren,

By grace this love springs forth

Love for you and your kingdom,

Joy in your glory Lord

Before I knew Christ, I was heartless and empty – and can still be that way when left to myself. But God, ever faithful and ever blessing, renews my heart and gives me affections, emotions – love for Himself, love for my husband, and joy in knowing Him.

What an amazing God!

Can we give anything to Christ?

6 Apr

In light of my revelation the other day, I found this article by John Piper (you can find it here and I have pasted it below). He says it so much better than me, but these have been my realizations the other day and this morning while reading Romans 8:33-34.

Can we give anything to Christ?

When the psalmist cried out, “What shall I render to the Lord for all of his benefits to me?” the reply was, “I will lift the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord” (Psalm 116:12-13). So, translating that into Christmas: Jesus gives us the gift of himself and we ask, “Now what can I render to Jesus for all the benefits of his fellowship?” Answer: Ask him for his help. That’s the gift he wants.

The reason Christ wants this is because he always wants to get the glory while we get the benefit. Glory comes to him when we depend on him rather than try to enrich him. If we come to him with gifts—as though he needed something—then we put him in the position of a needy person, and we’re the benefactors. He always wants to be the one who is infinitely self-sufficient. Therefore the only gifts that we can bring Jesus are gifts of praise, thanks, longing, and neediness.

A fountain is not glorified by us hauling buckets of dirty water up the mountain and pouring them in. A fountain—a spring in a mountain—is glorified, rather, by us lying down at the edge of the stream, putting our face in, drinking our fill, and getting up and saying, “Ah!” That’s called worship. Then we take a bucket, dip it in, walk down the hill to the people in the valley who don’t know that the spring exists, and we say, “Taste this! It’s right up there, and his name is Jesus!” The kind of gift that the fountain wants is drinkers, because then he looks truly overflowing, rich, and self-sufficient. And that’s exactly what he wants to look like.

______________

Hebrews 4:14-16 says, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Together with Romans 8:33-34, this verse shows that our response to having the Father on our side and the Son interceding for us should be…asking for more grace and mercy! Not service, sacrifice, or payment but lifting up the cup of salvation and calling upon the name of the Lord.

In my quest to overcome my sins and failures, I have been striving for self-sufficiency. I thought I should be able to get to a point where I felt like I finally had it all together. I am realizing more and more that I will NEVER get to that point–and that itself is a mercy from God. For if I did get to that point, I would have no need for God. Like Piper writes in his article, “Glory comes to him when we depend on him rather than try to enrich him. If we come to him with gifts—as though he needed something—then we put him in the position of a needy person, and we’re the benefactors. He always wants to be the one who is infinitely self-sufficient. Therefore the only gifts that we can bring Jesus are gifts of praise, thanks, longing, and neediness.” I only have to bring Jesus praise, thanks, longing and neediness.

I can do that.

Finally, a revelation.

2 Apr

As I sat in bed last night, propped up by 2 pillows, my ESV Bible and journal on my lap, my NIV study Bible and the dictionary within reach, I was discouraged, confused and desperate as usual. Reading Romans 8:26-27 about how the Holy Spirit helps us pray, I felt my usual cynicism and doubt. Why didn’t I see the evidence of that power in my life? Why didn’t I feel the strength and empowerment of the Spirit like the Bible said believers do? I just feel so…ordinary. Like I always have.

I silently asked God when He was going to answer my prayers and give me some answers. Was He ever going to? I was beginning to lose hope. This has been the state of my heart for so long that it’s hard to remember a time I didn’t feel this way.

I wanted specifics. But there are no specifics in the Bible. And I realized that the reason for that is because God doesn’t care (ultimately) about the specifics, the circumstances, the situations, locations, details. He cares about attitude, character, and relationship.

I thought of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24: “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”

But what really caught my eye was the next passage:

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

When I read the last part of verse 24, I started to cry. God was telling me, “Kathy, I will give you a revelation, I will lead you in a Christ-like life, but it will be in My way and in My timing.”

“Ok, ok, ok,” was all I could say as the tears rolled down my face.

I kept looking for specifics, for tangible examples, for the one unique purpose for my life to be revealed. But here’s the thing: maybe there isn’t one. Maybe God intends for me to glorify Him through a normal, everyday life. Maybe it’s my reactions, actions and attitudes that are supposed to be the radical thing about me, instead of my lifestyle.

I realized that instead of defining my life by what Christ has done for me, I have been defining my life by what I can do for Him.

And what I can do for Him will always be flawed, imperfect, incomplete, subpar. I can’t even live up to my own standards through my own efforts, much less live up to His. 

This lie snuck into my mind without my knowledge because I didn’t think I could earn salvation through works. But I thought that it was up to me to live the Christian life out. I am now in charge of what happens. Sure, God has an overall plan but I’m the one who has to execute it.

Galatians 3:3 could have been written to me: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

I had a conversation with God about this this morning.

“But God, I still want my life to matter,” I said.

“My child, it already matters. I was willing to send my only Son to die for you and your life,” God replied.

“But I still want to do big things for you.”

“I know, Kathy, I know you do. Just be patient. I’ll open the doors for you.”

“So what do I do in the meantime?”

“Live your life for me and for others.”

“What does that look like?”

“Draw close to me and you’ll see.”

He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.