Category Archives: postaday2011

God with Us – A Poem

I often ponder the wonder of “God with us,” but especially so at Christmas time. I am in awe of the fact that the God of the Universe, the Creator of all things, He who is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent, would desire to be with me. It is an amazing thing that Christ has seen fit to dwell in me, and the hearts of all believers, because of His great love for us. Of all the wonders of the world and the blessings in my life to be thankful for, it is this truth of God with us that I am most thankful for.

From a logical perspective, it all seems quite preposterous. If you were God, would you do such a thing? I’m not sure I would. I think I might leave sinful man to his own devices. But thankfully, I am not God; and God is faithful, merciful, and loving in a way I can scarcely comprehend. It is only when I seek Him with all my heart that I can even begin to fathom what He has done, and find hope in what He will do when He returns.

Do you know the Holy One, who longs to be with you? Are you in awe of His majesty? Do you ponder His great love? He is not some distant deity who desires to judge and punish you. He is “God with us.” He is God with you. He alone is the greatest gift you will ever receive.

God with Us

Glory of the Holy One, robed in majesty
Omnipresent King of kings, deserving pageantry
Deity incarnate be, because of love for you and me

Willingly He came to earth, left His throne behind
Immanuel, Son of God, seeking to redeem mankind
To leave mankind dead in sin was not what He designed
His love and mercy, on the cross, there with grace combined

Understanding His great love is for us what Christ desires
Sinners to trust in Him alone is all our God requires

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:22-23 (NIV).

12/10/13 Update: Decided to link this up for the final dVerse Poets Pub Open Link Night of 2013. No time to write a new one, but this is one of my favorite Christmas poems that I’ve written so I wanted to share it and the wonder of Christmas with the folks at the pub.

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Jesus Is the Reason, and Not Just for the Season

I’m reading a great book called Jesus Manifesto by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola. I bought it probably eight or nine months ago, and it just sat on my bookshelf with all my other not-yet-read books for a long time. Then about a month ago I decided to finally read it. It seemed appropriate for reading during the Advent season because it is all about the supremacy of Christ.

As I read this book, I thought of the apostle John’s warning to the church that the antichrist would deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. 1 John 4:1-3 (NIV). In the first century of the church, many people found it hard to believe in the incarnate God. They had no trouble believing in God, but they did have trouble believing in the humanity of Christ.

Today we have the opposite problem. People have no trouble believing that Jesus lived as a human being and walked this earth, but they do have trouble believing that He was God incarnate. The virgin birth is seen as a scientific impossibility, and the possibility of a miracle is discounted. Jesus has become for many just a good example to follow; and they seek to follow Him in their own power.

The problem with this view is that is strips the Christian faith of its real power, which lies solely in the incarnate Christ who died and rose again – literally. The Christian faith at its core is simply and wonderfully Jesus and the power of His Holy Spirit, which He imparts to those who believe.

In Jesus Manifesto, Sweet and Viola successfully argue that it is essential that the church return to a Christ-only mentality. Christ is the center of all things in heaven and earth. Jesus is the reason we believe, and not just for the season of Christmas but for every minute of every day. Jesus asked the question of Peter, “Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15 (NIV). Sweet and Viola argue that this is the question that every generation must answer.

Every revival and restoration in the church has been a rediscovery of some aspect of Christ in the process of answering this critical question. In fact, three features are present in every awakening in the history of the Christian church: (1) rediscovery of the “living Word,” or the Scriptures and its authority; (2) a rediscovery of the living Christ and His supremacy; and (3) a rediscovery of the living Spirit and the Spirit’s gifts and power to manifest Christ in the context of that culture. God has a history of taking seriously people who take the eternal Word seriously. (Jesus Manifesto, pg. xvii).

Throughout the book, Sweet and Viola point out some ways in which the church today fails to take the eternal Word made flesh seriously. This book is not for the faint-hearted who are happy with the status quo. This is a book for those who are willing to be challenged in their concept of church and of Christ. It is for those who are willing to believe in the miraculous and to trust in Christ alone.

The apostles and the first century church taught Christ and Him crucified – nothing more and nothing less. The church today teaches:

  • how to live a good, clean life
  • church multiplication strategies
  • the mark of the beast and end times prophecy
  • the 613 laws of Moses, exhorting them to obey each one of them
  • how to build a movement
  • divine healing
  • how to live by faith
  • how to save the lost
  • Creation versus evolution
  • social justice
    (Jesus Manifesto, pg. 12-13)

The focus of the church today is how we can be like Jesus, how we can help the poor, living good lives, recognize and survive the end times, and defeat the powers of darkness. But often we are taught how to do all of these things without any mention of reliance on His Holy Spirit to do so. The literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the hearts and minds of believers is relegated to a back burner, or not considered at all.

There is a pervasive theology of “likeness” — “O God, make me more Christlike” — that cheapens the gospel and depresses the spirit. Christlikeness is too small a dream, to shallow and ambition, for a Christian. The call to Christlikeness is also not “good news.”

* * * * *

Second, we want a “like-Christ” relationship with God on our terms. But a loving, living relationship with Christ begins on God’s terms. In other words, it begins with the cross, or more precisely, a “dying with Christ.” It begins with a “death” to all those parts of us that are damping and hampering the Spirit’s work and preventing us from being “liberated from the controlling powers of [the] world,”FN the destructive, dehumanizing, controlling forces, like addictions, selfism, consumerism, hedonism, and others.

Third, to be “like Christ” often implies that you don’t really need Christ, since you already have the ideas and teachings of Christ.

* * * * *

Fourth, as Martin Luther said, if you read the Law, you will see that you can never hope to keep it. Similarly, try to be like Christ, and you will quickly realize you don’t have a prayer of becoming like Him. (Jesus Manifesto, pg. 69-71).

Jesus is not just the “reason for the season.” He is the reason for everything. All things exist by Him, through Him, and for Him. He is the center of all and the only way for you and me to overcome this world. We must not strive to become like Christ. Rather, we must seek Christ dwelling in us and through us, surrendering our lives wholly over to Him who alone is worthy.

Although I still have two chapters to go to finish this book, I would highly recommend it. I also recommend keeping your Bible handy to allow for easy reference to the many Scriptures that the authors rely on to support their argument. I hope and pray that there will be a revival in the church today with a renewed focus on Christ alone as the source of our power to love and live a life pleasing to God.

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Give Just by Visiting, Again

Check out this post — Buck-a-Hit-Day — on the blog of one of my law school professors, Jack Bogdanski. Just visiting the blog will cause him to donate $1 to charity, up to $5,000. He also has links to 6 charities that readers are encouraged to donate to, with a matching promise! This is the 9th year he has done this on his blog.

Jack’s link to my blog back in Oct. 2009 was responsible for my busiest blog day ever, though I’ve come a long way and hope to one day have 677 hits in one day on my own. I’m certain my link to his blog won’t generate nearly that much traffic for him because I average only about 90 hits a day and many of those are to older posts. But Jack’s got a good thing going, so check it out.

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Remembering Why Christ Came

I can’t believe it is the last Monday before Christmas! That means it is my last Music Monday before Christmas Day. I thought it was going to be hard to pick just one more Christmas song that is in my one of my favorites to post about today, but a clear front runner has emerged over the past two weeks, as I heard it on one of the few Christmas CDs I have in my car and we sung it in church. It is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

I love this song because not only does it tell of the Christ child coming into our midst, but it tells us why He came. He was born “to save us all from Satan’s power when we had gone astray.” It echoes one of my favorite passages in the book of Isaiah, one that we usually meditate on during the Easter season, but which is just as appropriate to consider during this season of Advent.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:5-6 (NIV).

We are very much like sheep. For those who don’t know much about sheep, let me just say that they are pretty stupid creatures. They will go their own way into harm’s way without a second thought. They need a shepherd to keep them safe. We are no different. Without our Good Shepherd, we will do things and go places that are not in our best interest, often into harm’s way. Obviously we are much more intelligent than sheep, and yet when it comes to choosing among multiple options, some of which are in our best interests and some of which are not, we often seem just as stupid as sheep.

Just as sheep are easily fooled by the lure of greener pastures away from the shepherd, so we can be easily fooled by Satan into what appear to be greener pastures. We are lured by wealth and fame, by fun and games, by the easy way out. The sheep venturing away from the shepherd is often eaten by wolves. When we venture away from the Shepherd we often find a similar fate of pain and sorrow.

But Jesus, our Good Shepherd, came so that we would be able to see through the lies of Satan and choose the better way, that we might know the comfort and joy of our Lord.

Here is a video of the MercyMe version of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen that I have been listening to in my car. It is accompanied by a cool light show with someone’s Christmas lights.

 

I also like this instrumental version played on violin, piano, and ocarina, because my son plays the ocarina. (In fact, don’t tell him but I got him a new clay ocarina for Christmas).

 

As you listen to these beautiful renditions of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, or hear it somewhere else, or sing it in church, remember why Christ came. Remember that because He came, those who trust in Him have the power to overcome the lies and tricks of the evil one. We have the power to live a life that glorifies God.

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Psalm 84 – Joy Comes from the Lord

During my morning Bible reading through my Bible-in-a-year schedule this past week I read Psalm 84. I am reading through the New Living Translation, which I really like. It is very readable. Reading Psalm 84 made me smile because it reminded me of the joy that comes only from the Lord.

I love verse 10 because it reminds me that being in the court of the living God is better and more joyous than being anywhere else. This whole Psalm reminds me that if I trust in the Lord our God I will know great joy.

Psalm 84

For the choir director: A psalm of the descendants of Korah, to be accompanied by a stringed instrument.

 1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
      O Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
 2 I long, yes, I faint with longing
      to enter the courts of the Lord.
   With my whole being, body and soul,
      I will shout joyfully to the living God.
 3 Even the sparrow finds a home,
      and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young
   at a place near your altar,
      O Lord of Heaven’s Armies, my King and my God!
 4 What joy for those who can live in your house,
      always singing your praises.
                         Interlude

 5 What joy for those whose strength comes from the Lord,
      who have set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
 6 When they walk through the Valley of Weeping,
      it will become a place of refreshing springs.
      The autumn rains will clothe it with blessings.
 7 They will continue to grow stronger,
      and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.

 8 O Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, hear my prayer.
      Listen, O God of Jacob.
                         Interlude

 9 O God, look with favor upon the king, our shield!
      Show favor to the one you have anointed.

 10 A single day in your courts
      is better than a thousand anywhere else!
   I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God
      than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.
 11 For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.
      He gives us grace and glory.
   The Lord will withhold no good thing
      from those who do what is right.
 12 O Lord of Heaven’s Armies,
      what joy for those who trust in you.

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Advent Prayer

It’s going to be a busy day today hanging out with hubby and getting our Christmas shopping done. Since I don’t have time to write something original, I decided to post Martin Luther’s Advent prayer from my Lutheran Book of Prayer:

O Lord Jesus Christ, King of glory, King of kings and Lord of lords, the Son of the living God and Son of David, come. Come now to Your Church that You have purchased with Your blood. Come with Your gracious presence, that we may rejoice in You. Come and rule over us, that we may serve and follow You. Come with Your love, humility, and perfect obedience, and let Your lowliness become our glory. Come into the midst of Your people and bless us, for we are Your heritage. Forgive us our sin, and do not angrily cast away Your servants, for You are meek and gracious. Clothe us with the garment of Your righteousness, for You are the only righteous one and our helper. Satisfy us with the abundance of Your mercy, for You did become poor for our sakes, that by Your poverty we might be made rich. Hear us, Lord Jesus, for the sake of Your holy name. Amen.

May our Lord come into your life this Advent season and at Christmas time, blessing You with His grace and mercy.

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Sugar Cookies

I love sugar cookies! They are one of my favorite Christmas desserts. And in the last few years I have discovered an easy way to make the most delicious sugar cookies: Krusteaz sugar cookie mix.

Krusteaz makes a mix they call “Bakery Style Sugar Cookies.” I usually bought single batch boxes at my local grocery. Then a couple of weeks ago we went to Costco and found out they have a large bag that makes 7 batches! That’s a lot of sugar cookies – I’m going to have to share.

So here is how easy they are. You aren’t going to believe they are so easy. And once you taste them you’ll never want to make them from scratch again.

Krusteaz Sugar Cookies

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups Krusteaz sugar cookie mix
½ cup butter, softened
1 egg
Colored sugar sprinkles

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. In a large bowl, mix together softened butter and egg until blended. Add sugar cookie mix and combine until well blended. Hand-kneed if necessary. Scoop by teaspoonfuls, roll each spoonful into a ball, and roll the ball of dough in the colored sugar. Place cookie dough balls 2 inches apart on a silpat lined cookie sheet and press down to flatten slightly. Bake for 6 to 7 minutes or until slightly brown around the edges. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack. No need to frost – they are sweet enough just as is.

Now doesn’t that sound easy? I made a batch the other night at 9:00 and my family managed to polish them off in just a few days. I really need to find someone to share these with.

Merry Christmas!

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Hope in the Darkness – A Poem

As the winter days get shorter and colder, and darkness seems to overtake the light, I am thankful for the Light of Christ to give me hope. I am thankful for the faithfulness of God. I am thankful that He brings the sun up each morning, even if it is behind a cloud or only for a short while. I am thankful for the promise of spring and summer to follow the long dark winter, seasons in their turn without fail.

Last night as I was getting ready to bed, the idea for a poem came into my mind. Rather than hope it would still be there in the morning (as I often do), I got out my prayer notebook and wrote down the opening line and then the rest came. This poem has a bit more structure than many of my poems, with alternating 4 and 5 iambs per line and a rhyme scheme. What, you might be asking, is an “iamb”? Well, it is a two-syllable foot in poetry, where a short syllable is followed by a long syllable. I’m not sure if I got the short and long part right, but I do know I ended up with alternating 8 and 10 syllable lines.

Anyway, I hope you like my ode to God’s promise of hope and light that stands firm even in the darkness.

Hope in the Darkness

Sun sinks below the horizon
Darkness envelopes all life in my view
Each night the darkness comes sooner
Each morning the sun arises anew

This season, winter, brings darkness
It seems to engulf the light of my soul
Sometimes the darkness is deeper
And blacker than the blackest mine of coal

But winter does not last forever
Spring and summer bring sun ever near
Hope of a Light everlasting
Is all that my darkened soul needs to hear

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5 (NIV).

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The Lesson of the Fungus Gnats

I do not keep houseplants at home because they tend not to survive. I think I forget to water them or something. But at work I have several plants that I’ve had for over 7 years and that are thriving. Two of them are jades.

A few of months ago I decided to bring one of my jades home to repot it because it was sprouting roots all over and I thought it needed a bigger pot. I went to the nursery and bought some cactus potting soil and a large pot. Once it was transplanted into the new pot I took it back to work. (I didn’t want it to perish at home, after all).

About a week later I noticed a few little bugs flying around my newly repotted jade, but I didn’t do anything about it. The next thing I knew, I had twice as many of these little bugs, which I learned are called fungus gnats. But still I didn’t really do anything about them. I figured they would just go away, I guess.

Then one day one flew around my face and up my nose! That was the last straw. I decided I needed to do something about these stupid fungus gnats that had become almost a swarm around my poor jade.

So I consulted someone I know who knows a little about houseplants. She suggested two methods of getting rid of the gnats. One method was to use potato slices to attract them and then throw away the slices after the gnats laid their eggs on them and before they hatched. The other method was to put a thick layer of sand on top of the soil. I tried the first method, but I didn’t give it much of a try, and so it didn’t work.

Then I went to Home Depot and bought some bug spray for houseplants and covered my plants with it. The next week there were still gnats, so I sprayed on some more bug spray. A few days later, there were still gnats and my repotted jade was starting to lose leaves. I was not happy.

I finally went to Fred Meyer and bought two bags of white sand. I poured a thin layer in each of my plants. It seemed to diminish the number of gnats a bit, but not get rid of them entirely. I had to add sand several times before I had finally reduced the gnat population to only a few. I still check my jade every few days to make sure they haven’t come back. Sometimes I do find a gnat or two hiding in the sand and have to squish it.

Guide my steps by your word, so I will not be overcome by evil. Psalm 119:133 (NLT).

So what, you might be asking, is the point of this story? What is the lesson of the fungus gnats? Well, as I thought about it I realized these pesky little fungus gnats were analogous to many of the problems we face in life and the sins we struggle with.

If we ignore just one little problem or one little sin, before we know it there’s two, and then eight, and then a whole swarm. If we deal swiftly and surely with that first problem or sin, then we can stop a potential infestation. But if we ignore it, and keep ignoring the additional problems or sins, we will soon be dealing with a full-blown infestation.

Once you have a full-blown infestation, you have to select the right method of fighting the infestation and you have to employ that method patiently and consistently. It is possible to eliminate the problem or the sin, but even once it is gone you must be diligent to not let it get a foothold again.

We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.

Colossians 1:9-12 (NLT).  

Do you have a problem or are you struggling with a sin that has risen to the level of infestation? Seek wise counsel on how to deal with it and then patiently and diligently follow that counsel. The best place to start is in prayer, asking God to give you wisdom about what to do and to lead you to a fellow Christian who can help. And always remember to rely on the strength of our Lord, and the patience and self-control of the Holy Spirit to follow through.

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The Holy Spirit – My Tuesday Three

Once again I haven’t had time to really think about what to do for My Tuesday Three for today, and so I’m resorting to just posting three quotes that intrigued me and made me think. And I’m not going to feel bad about it because every time I’ve posted three quotes for My Tuesday Three someone has said that one or more of the quotes are exactly what they needed that day.

The first quote I want to share is:

You know how it is — you say the same words, yet they mean different things to those hearing them. you offer the same touch, yet it yields different results in different lives. Some people soak up your touch; others wipe it off. You might look at these situations and get discouraged: “Fine! I just won’t do anything nice for anyone!” Yet look back at the example of Jesus.”    – Amy Nappa

I don’t know about you, but I could so relate to this quote. I desire to have Christ live in me and to treat others with compassion, forgiveness, and love. But some people just don’t seem to respond to such kindness. Instead, they cling to their pride and arrogance. But it is at such times that I am reminded of Jesus’ example of One who loved, forgave, and offered compassion anyway. I am reminded of my post from last February titled “Appreciation Not Required.” This would have been a perfect quote to go with it.

The second quote I want to share is:

When purity is reduced to legalism, our hearts are no longer free; they are focused more on maintaining rituals and customs than on living out a genuine character change.   – David Edwards

I love this quote. It is so true that purity is so much more than legalistically following a set of rules. Purity is something that is created in the heart of the believer by the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we gain by our own efforts. It stems from a heart devoted in love to God; it grows from a simple belief in Jesus as Savior. I am reminded of a post I wrote in January titled “The Work of God Is to Believe.” This would have been a perfect quote to go with it.

The third quote I want to share is:

“The Word became flesh,” John said … He was touchable, approachable, reachable. And, what’s more, he was ordinary. If he were here today you probably wouldn’t notice him as he walked through a shopping mall. He wouldn’t turn heads by the clothes he wore or the jewelry he flashed. “Just call me Jesus,” you can almost hear him say.    – Max Lucado

This is the perfect quote for this time of year, as we approach the celebration of the Word made flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. I think Max is right that we might not even notice Jesus because He wouldn’t be all flashy and showy. He’d probably be hanging out with the wrong people. But if we stopped to take notice, I believe we would have been drawn to Him because of His kindness, compassion, and love, because of His desire to know us. These aren’t the traits that the world teaches us to look for in our leaders, but they the traits of the Savior. I am reminded of a post I wrote in August titled “Would You Recognize Jesus?” This would have been a great quote to go with it.

It’s funny how I got to the end of this post and I see a connection among these three random quotes that I chose from my Quotemeal emails in my inbox. The connection is the Holy Spirit − He reminds me to follow the example of Jesus to love anyway; He is the source of purity within the hearts of believers; and it is His work in the womb of a young virgin from Nazareth that made Emmanuel a reality.

Plus, who do you think reminded me of previous posts I had written that related to these quotes? This is just another example of how the Holy Spirit can fill a whole page with words when I sit down to the computer with absolutely nothing to write. Praise be to God.

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