Category: Bible

Joy to the World?

O Come Let Us Adore Him Christmas ornament on tree

Often when we think of Christmas and its meaning, we use words like joy, happiness, peace. It’s almost a knee-jerk reaction of what Christmas is supposed to be. But if we take a step back, we realize that isn’t always the experience for many people. We know many people have a hard time at Christmas, and we ourselves might find it disappointing if not downright painful.

In fact, if we go back to the first Christmas, it would be hard to see much joy, happiness, or peace for many of the people involved. Mary was a pregnant, teen mother surrounded by gossip about her infidelity to her finacé, Joseph. And it wasn’t just the painful words. She could have been killed for what the townspeople supposed she’d done if Joseph had wanted it.

She gave birth, without a mother or midwife, in a dirty, animal holding pen. And then shortly after, her new little family was fleeing for their lives from King Herod. The same Herod who ordered all of the babies in the surrounding area killed in an attempt to kill her baby. The immense sorrow of those families that first Christmas is unimaginable.

For the rest of her son’s life, Mary would hear the whispers about His illegitimacy and her character. And then the whispers became shouts as people questioned Jesus’ sanity and His audacity to say He was the Messiah. Even her other children mocked Him. And then He died a painful, humiliating criminal’s death.

In the quiet moments, when she reflected on the day the angel told her she would bear the Savior her people had been waiting thousands of years for, she must have questioned God’s purpose and her role. And when she said she was the Lord’s servant, she had no idea what she was getting into or the incredible pain that would accompany her obedience.

So who was celebrating that first Christmas? Who was joyful? Those with a heavenly perspective. The angels. The first angel, the messenger, said to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” And the host, the heavenly army, said, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

The angels had a different perspective than Mary, Joseph, the families who lost their babies, us. The angels knew that Jesus was born on a dirty floor, amongst animals and their food and waste because that’s what He came to save us from. He comes into our mess. He doesn’t wait for us to get cleaned up and get ready for Him, like we would have to if he had been born in a palace or a temple. He specializes in coming into dirty, painful situations to walk along side us, to provide us hope and deliverance. His name, Immanuel, means “the with us God.” He is truly with us in every situation.

We don’t have the perspective of the angels. We are in the middle of our messes, pain filled and hurting. Our messes have no tidy solution in sight. Our pain has no end. We can’t see the joy, peace, and hope that God has promised to His children. That takes an eternal perspective. But our God walks with us through it all. And that is where we find the true joy, peace, and hope of the season. Our God was born into a mess so He can walk with us through our messes and pain. And that’s why we can rejoice this season.

 

 

Shadows holding hands

Survival Skills for Moms, Part 3

BY JENNIFER VANDER KLIPP

Our first two parts (Part 1 and Part 2) discussed getting and cooking food, activities that take up a large part of our over-stretched calendars and budgets. But today we’re talking about you.

As moms, we’re so busy taking care of our families that we routinely put ourselves last on the list. And that’s a sure-fire recipe for burnout. So here are three areas you need to nurture if you want to avoid that.

Time for yourself

I hear you saying, “What’s that? I never have that.” True. You have to make time for yourself. Get out your calendar and block off time for yourself. Whether it’s to do a hobby you love, work out, read, or just be where no one is calling your name. You cannot serve your family out of an empty well. You have got to take time to refill your well.

Time with your spouse

For those of you who are married, I you have to have time alone with your spouse. Regular date nights will feed your marriage. Someday all those little birds will fly the nest. It would be nice to still know the person you’re married to when it’s just the two of you.

Dates don’t have to be expensive. A cup of coffee, an ice cream, a walk all count as dates. What matters is that the two of you have time to connect. A strong marriage reassures your children and gives them comfort and security.

Time with God

Being a mom to boys is exhausting and difficult, fun and crazy. They are quite different creatures from girls. Being a mom to girls brings its own challenges with emotions and identity. We need to regularly go to God with our hopes, fears, dreams, and questions. He is their Maker. He gave them to us. And He loves them more than we do. Let Him refresh your soul and guide you in raising your children.

Hopefully, you’ve found a few useful ideas to try out during this series. Raising young men and women is an adventure, and we need all the help we can get from each other!

 

 

 

Mountain in Sedona, Arizona

Don’t Waste Your Talents

BY JENNIFER VANDER KLIPP

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ Matthew 25:23 (NIV)

Imagine winning the lottery or the Publishers’ Clearing House Sweepstakes and then putting the money under your mattress or burying it in the back yard thinking it’s the safest thing to do. You don’t want to waste it or make a mistake spending it, so you hide it. Most of us would agree this kind of thinking is ridiculous. Of course we would spend the money, either putting it to good use or just for our pleasure. What good does money do if it’s buried under three feet of dirt?

The verse above is near the end of the Parable of the Talents. This servant used the talents the master had given him to create more talents. In biblical times a talent was a measure of weight used for precious metals.

The spiritual gifts or “talents” God has given us are precious. Yet like a bar of gold sitting in a bank vault, they do no good unless they are used. Every believer has a spiritual gift or “talent.” Spiritual gifts are those given to a person after receiving Christ. Their purpose is to build up the body of Christ.

When it comes to our spiritual gifts many
of us still have them buried in the backyard. We don’t think we’re good enough yet or we’re afraid of making a mistake. Yet we have to be faithful to use what He’s given us—the few things—before He will entrust us with greater responsibility.

Even though the servants received different talents, they both received the same reward. Many times we can look at others and see how God is using them. They seem to have so much more talent than we do. They have the “important” or visible gifts.

Yet God judges us on how we use what He has given us. And when we are faithful to use it, He will give us more. So start digging up your talents and dusting them off. If you don’t even know what they are, try serving in different areas until you find your fit. Remember, the servant didn’t get judged on how well he did, but on whether or not he used his talents. Are you using yours?

 

Living Leviticus

Most people who have studied the Bible would agree, I think, that Leviticus is one of the most difficult books for our era and culture to grasp. Many people simply dismiss it as not for our time. Yet, if we believe the Bible is God’s inspired Word, we can’t pick and choose which parts to pay attention to and which parts to ignore. Certainly Leviticus was written to the Jews living under the Law, but as Jesus said, He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it.

So where does that leave us 21st-century believers?

That is a question which Pastor Daniel Harrell of Park Street Church in Boston attempted to answer with a group of people from his congregation. After all, Leviticus was written to a community and the Law was meant to be lived in community.

Their journey is covered in this Christianity Today online article. It’s a fascinating article, discussing how different people chose to interpret Levitical laws today. But what I found most interesting was the conclusion many of the participants came to:

“Everyone was surprised on one level or another at how the practice of simply “doing what the Bible says” led to insights as to why some of the more obscure laws made it onto the books to begin with.”

It probably shouldn’t be surprising at all, but in our culture in particular, we almost flippantly use grace as our get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid doing hard things for God, to avoid practicing holiness.

“Leviticus isn’t in the Bible merely to show you your need for grace. It’s in the Bible to show you what grace is for.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about grace lately, giving and receiving it. But even more, I’ve been thinking about doing hard things for God, living out holiness when it costs us. As the participants in the Leviticus project found out, obedience, despite its cost, has an unmeasurable reward in growing closer to God.

And that is worth any cost.

If You Love Books…

. . .then you might find these things fascinating.

First of all, Crossway is coming out with the Literary Study Bible.

I love this idea. When I was in college and learning critical theory of literature, and we studied parts of the Bible in that way, it opened up a whole new way of looking at God’s Word and I was just fascinated by it. So I was thrilled to hear about this version of the Bible. Plus, it’s an ESV translation, which is even cooler.

And on a whole other coolness scale is a Bible you’ll never be able to own.

A scribe bends intently over a worktable in his scriptorium in Monmouth, Wales. The page before him is vellum—calfskin sanded to a velvety smoothness. His goose quill pen has been hardened in hot sand and cut with a knife to hold ink and to create a precise line. He dips the end into vermilion pigment mixed with egg yolk for luminosity and begins to shape the first capital letter of a new chapter of the Bible he is copying.

Finishing this page will take a day. If he makes a mistake, he will have to scrape the vellum and write the word or line over again. The pressure is greater because the other side has already been illuminated—biblical themes spun into a visual tapestry of brilliant colors, evocative imagery, and radiant gold.

But the scribe’s hand is guided by long experience and a clear idea of the words’ pattern on the page. The line length has already been worked out by computer to ensure a perfect fit. The accompanying illustrations are the result of months of e-mail messages between the scribe and those who have commissioned him, discussing theological interpretation and symbolism. Medieval artistry with a modern twist: That’s the achievement and the challenge of the Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten, illuminated Bible in 500 years.

Here’s a slide show of the process and some of the pages.

Wow.

If You Love Books…

. . .then you might find these things fascinating.

First of all, Crossway is coming out with the Literary Study Bible.

I love this idea. When I was in college and learning critical theory of literature, and we studied parts of the Bible in that way, it opened up a whole new way of looking at God’s Word and I was just fascinated by it. So I was thrilled to hear about this version of the Bible. Plus, it’s an ESV translation, which is even cooler.

And on a whole other coolness scale is a Bible you’ll never be able to own.

A scribe bends intently over a worktable in his scriptorium in Monmouth, Wales. The page before him is vellum—calfskin sanded to a velvety smoothness. His goose quill pen has been hardened in hot sand and cut with a knife to hold ink and to create a precise line. He dips the end into vermilion pigment mixed with egg yolk for luminosity and begins to shape the first capital letter of a new chapter of the Bible he is copying.

Finishing this page will take a day. If he makes a mistake, he will have to scrape the vellum and write the word or line over again. The pressure is greater because the other side has already been illuminated—biblical themes spun into a visual tapestry of brilliant colors, evocative imagery, and radiant gold.

But the scribe’s hand is guided by long experience and a clear idea of the words’ pattern on the page. The line length has already been worked out by computer to ensure a perfect fit. The accompanying illustrations are the result of months of e-mail messages between the scribe and those who have commissioned him, discussing theological interpretation and symbolism. Medieval artistry with a modern twist: That’s the achievement and the challenge of the Saint John’s Bible, the first handwritten, illuminated Bible in 500 years.

Here’s a slide show of the process and some of the pages.

Wow.

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