Month: December 2015 (page 1 of 2)

5 Quotes from 2015

What will you remember from 2015? This season calls us to remember how we have grown in the last year.  We think about the certain moments and relationships that caused us to mature. Reflecting on 2015 gives us insight into the work of Christ in us. What we learned, recognized, and areas of our lives that Christ called us to grow.

As I thought about remembering 2015, I wanted to share the five most meaning quotes from this past year:

Aloof: Figuring Out Life with a God who Hides by Tony Kriz

20407_716553130851_7452712657410787100_n

Four Faces of a Leader by Bob Rhoden

12003919_724199732001_4879000684694684580_n

1 Peter (Two Horizons New Testament Commentary) by Joel B. Green

10517488_712568151781_7378179035911233934_n

The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith

10945563_693420423981_5459138895495674176_n

Leap Over the Wall by Eugene Peterson

10457162_711643769251_6557152143225842546_n

What will you remember from 2015? Share in the comment section below.

Why the Genealogies in the Bible Matter?

You want to begin to read the Christmas story. Turning to Matthew’s Gospel, you start with the first chapter. The first seventeen verses give a genealogy of Jesus’ family. A litany continues “So and so fathered so and so…” Though we can recognize some of the names such as Abraham, Jacob, and David, why would this ancient list of names matter to us?

picjumbo.com_HNCK9851

The scriptures do not hide from brokenness. Psalms record the candid prayers of people, often sharing frustrations with God. Historical books like Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, and 1 & 2 Kings, share do not shy away from human sinfulness. If anything, the scriptures paint us a reality of life marred by sin.

Jesus’ family tree includes the following…
Abraham lied about his wife Sarah to protect himself.
Jacob tricked his own blind and aging father.
Judah fathered a child in this lineage with the wife of one of his sons.
David killed a man to marry his wife.
Then you can follow the unkempt stories of Rehoboam and Manasseh.

Safe to safe, we will never compare Jesus’ relatives with the gravitas of British monarchy.

Matthew, the writer of the Gospel, has his past to reconcile. This genealogy reflects his life. He sold his Jewish soul to become a wealthy tax collector in the Roman government, enemies of his people. Later on in his Gospel, he will tell of Jesus calling him (Matt. 9-13). The people we would never think to belong to the line of a Savior become the people which God works through.

Michael J. Wilkins in his commentary on Matthew, says this about Jesus’ genealogy:

Thus, at the very start of his Gospel, Matthew points his readers beyond the personal qualifications of individuals who belong to the line of the Messiah. He focuses instead on the faithfulness of God to bring about his plan of salvation. As will be made clear throughout Matthew’s story of Jesus’ life and ministry, it was God’s overwhelming love for his people that energized his faithfulness… (pg. 66-67)

As we look at our lives, we do not have to hide from reality. We carry the guilt and shame of our past. Some of our families emulate far more dysfunction than consistency. Many of us still have scars from the pain and hurt in our lives.

The Good News of the Gospel shatters the lie having the right pedigree or credentials to follow Jesus. If we learn anything from Jesus, His greatest miracles happen through fractured individuals because they realize their need for His grace. Rather than human effort or accomplishment, Christ reveals his faithfulness to us despite our brokenness.

Do not skip over the genealogies of the Bible. It’s a part of our story. Let this passage of scripture remind you of God’s faithfulness in the midst of regular people. He has called us based on His overwhelming love. Thus, we can experience the peace of reconciliation with Him and invite others to do the same.

Photo credit by Viktor Hanacek.

Reads of the Week | 12/19/2015

fvD9myEgRued3zLne2GS__DSC0033-1

Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

Where Can You Turn When You Lack Purpose in Life? by Jeff Martin

We can suffer from restlessness and wondering our purpose. Martin does a phenomonally helps us to radically simplify our lives through God’s perspective.

The Light of the World by Bryan Marvel

Our homes and streets are filled with lights during Christmas. Marvel calls us to stop and remember the meaning behind the lights.

Advent Anxiety by Chuck DeGroat

“Anxiety is the enemy of Advent.” DeGroat provides us with a timely article for the week leading up to Christmas.

‘O Holy Night’: A Call to Fall to Your Knees by Emma Green

The Atlantic has featured the 12 Days of Christmas Songs. Green gives an insightful background to O Holy Night with a reference to Sufjan Stevens version.

How Beautiful Things are Built from Destruction by Melissa Camara Wilkins

Wilkins helps a have a fuller picture of beauty in the midst of ashes. We can see the reality of the disaster, but we can look to the next chapter.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

When You’re Tempted to Compare this Christmas

A week from today we celebrate Christmas Eve. Until then, many of us will experience a whirlwind of activities. Wrap the presents. Many of us still have to buy the gifts. Attend whatever party or function left in the schedule. Travel to our Christmas destination. Perhaps, clean the house and cook a meal.

photo-1421906375741-f6bda4abe433

In the midst of all the exhaustion, we will hear about our friend’s Christmas celebrations. Then you might see the pictures of the perfectly wrapped present under the tree or the neatly set table for dinner. One friend may get the Lexus with the bow on top. We will face the temptation to compare:
They create the greatest traditions for their family.
Why won’t my kids sit and smile during the pictures?
Their decorations far exceed my own.
They got invited to this party and I did not
Look at the gifts they gave their family.

Luke 1:39-45 depicts Mary and Elizabeth sharing their news of expecting children. It seems like one of the least talked about Christmas stories. Both women have a radical visitation from God. Elizabeth old years will have a son John, who will prepare the way for Jesus. Mary will have Jesus, the Savior of the world.

I think I have tended to focus on the fact, that John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrives (vs. 41). We consider the miracle and the celebration of each of their birth announcement. Leon Morris in his Luke Commentary makes this observation:

We should not miss the absence of all jealousy in Elizabeth’s attitude to Mary. The older woman, who had received a blessing from the Lord, might well have tried to guard her position jealously. But in genuine humility, she recognized the greater blessing God had given Mary (pg. 83).

In the midst of Elizabeth’s joy for her own child, she did not miss the coming of Jesus through Mary. She could have asserted her own position with God. Rather, through God’s presence, she could see that Immanuel was to come through Mary.

Through the next week, we will face the temptation to compare, envy, and think jealous thoughts. What would happen if we began to take the attitude of Elizabeth? We would then rejoice in other’s rejoicing. Even more so, you and I could see Christ at work in other people.

Contentment and gratitude oppose comparison because they remind us of the grace God has given us. In this season, the Good News of the Gospel communicates to us how Christ has given far more than we could ever deserve by coming to earth. Through His death and resurrection, we have received life.

Let’s consider Elizabeth in this season; recognizing how Christ blesses us and others. How will you guard against comparison this Christmas? How can you see Christ in others this Christmas?

Photo credit by Chelsea Francis.

2015 in Review

Have you reviewed 2015? You might have had a challenging year, and you want to turn the page towards 2016. You might have deemed this past year as one of the best. Most of us probably would label this year somewhere in the middle.

photo-1443453489887-98f56bc5bb38

I took time to review 2015. Taking time to reflect on the past helps us identify themes. We can begin to see patterns within our relationships, work, goals, and attitudes. As I looked back, I saw points where God was at work in me. Through certain situations and relationships, He brought me to areas where I needed to grow.

Here’s my review from 2015:

1. Humility.

Robyn and I practice choosing a word for the year. I chose humility. It came out of the realization of some pride in my life. This characteristic moves us from seeing ourselves and on to seeing God at work and noticing other people. I can tend to see through my own view. Humility challenged me to have another’s perspective. We can start by asking, “God, what you are doing in me? What are you doing in others?”

Humility is not just thinking of yourself less, but recognizing God and people. It’s the realization that we don’t have all the answers. Along the way, we experience grace from God because we find we need it.

2. Power Down the Defenses.

I saw a little the ugliness of my need to be right in 2015. You can be right for all the wrong reason. You can even win an argument but lose the relationship. Powering up our defenses causes us to miss out. We miss the opportunity to understand and the chance to hear feedback. Along the way, I found some things aren’t worth fighting.

Not every piece of criticism is a personal attack. Releasing our need to defend ourselves frees us. The Gospel moves us from seeing our value from people pleasing or rightness. We can begin to see our value coming from Jesus Christ in us.

3. Consistency and Faithfulness Matters.

Never underestimate the power of showing up. I found out this year over and over, how much it mattered for people when you show. It’s not just about saying, but following through. On top of that, people feel supported when you stay longer and help clean up. Every time take the opportunity to be consistent, we build trust in the people around us.

4. Hold the Jokes.

A few friends and my wife invited me not to use self-deprecating humor. Joking about yourself can become a defense mechanism. If I put myself down first, then others can’t do it. Perhaps at times, we try to connect with people with our flaws, yet it comes across awkwardly. Rather than pointing to ourselves, we can open the conversation for others. Instead of humoring ourselves, we can have a better discussion about growing.

You may want to take time to reflect on 2015. Consider the lessons you learned and where you have grown. Perhaps in reflection of the last year, you’ll find where you can grow for the next year.

What would you review from 2015? Share in the comment section below.

Photo by Joshua Jackson.

Advent | Second Chances

When did you last receive a second chance? Remember that moment. You could see your let down or failure. It might have caused you to question your ability or even think you might not deserve another shot. Then seemingly out of nowhere, you received a second chance. A person gave you the opportunity of grace. The opportunity you considered lost became regained.

picjumbo.com_HNCK0392

Perhaps, people have become disillusioned with second chances. They experience the let downs and the sometimes empty ritualistic ask for forgiveness. Along the way many are conditioned to ask, “Did they really mean it?” or “Are they really going to change?”

We find ourselves in the midst of a season of hope. Christmas invites to see the light of God’s goodness in spite of the darkness of evil. Somewhere between our messy relationships and chaotic world, December brings us back to grace. A new year signals an opportunity for redemption.

Jon Foreman wrote the lyrics, “Every breath is a second chance.” Maybe second chances happen more often than we realize. It’s not only the next breath, but the next minute, hour, day, and year.

Advent is about second chances. Jesus comes to earth as the Second Adam. Where the first Adam in Genesis failed, the Second Adam in Jesus Christ offers reconciliation. The Gospel gives us the Good News of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Paul would later say, Christ brought us near who were once far away (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Even when you consider the Christmas stories outside of Jesus, each of them points to the truth of a second chance. Scrooge recaptures the joy of life. George Bailey regains meaning to his life. The Grinch experiences belonging.

What if we allowed ourselves to see the second chances of this year? We would like back and see how people have offered us grace. At certain points during the year, we could recall how family, friends, and coworkers gave us grace. Then we could begin to see how God has offered us grace.

When you know the experience of a second chance, this leads you to extend this to others. Not out of blind naivety, but out of the recognition of the grace received from Christ and others. As you reflect on this season of Advent, Christ coming to earth reminds us of grace and reconciliation we experience with the people around us.

Who do you have the opportunity to offer a second chance? In what areas of your life have you experienced a second chance?

Photo credit by Viktor Hanacek.

The Warriors and Sixers

One question loomed early in the NBA season. What would happen first: a Warriors’ loss or Sixers’ win? The Philadelphia Sixers won their first game on December 1st against the Los Angeles Lakers. On Saturday night, the Golden State Warriors fell to the Milwaukee Bucks. One team has a 1-24 record while the other is 24-1.

These two teams traveled different paths. You can pinpoint the divergent paths to the 2012-2013 season. Both teams remained relatively in the middle level of the NBA; not the worst team or the best.

The Sixers decided to tank. They traded away or let go of the core players. In return, they accumulated draft picks. Following the 2012-13, the Sixers approached the season to receive the coveted number one draft pick. They would continue to lose until they found their future Michael Jordan or LeBron James.

Golden State took another path. Instead of tanking for talent, they began to build a team. Chemistry formed with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and an unheralded draft pick, Draymond Green. Steve Kerr started coaching the team last year, and they won the NBA Championship.

Beyond the statistics and numbers, you can observe the differences between these two teams. Stadiums fill up when the Warriors come to town. Each night of the winning streak ESPN highlighted this team. On the other hand, the NBA wants the Sixers to stop losing with the addition of basketball icon Jerry Colangelo (click here for the story).

Andy Stanley said, “What’s celebrated is repeated.” As I have observed the Warriors, you can see this wisdom expressed. The team celebrates not only the made baskets, but also the behind scenes rebounds, steals, and effort plays. Plain and simple, they have fun playing basketball and being on a team together.

Whether you follow basketball or not, we can learn from the Warriors. Fun has a place in our communities. Not just in what we do, but enjoying the people who are with us. We can begin to learn how to appreciate each other. I think watching the Sixers and Warriors cause us to ask two questions: What are we celebrating? Are we celebrating the right things?

What are your observations about the Warriors and/or Sixers? 

Reads of the Week | 12/12/2015

fvD9myEgRued3zLne2GS__DSC0033-1

These five reads from this past week challenged, encouraged, and provided perspective for me. Check them out for yourself.

C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent by Harry Lee Poe

The convergence of Lewis’ literary scholarship met a need for the British armed forces. Poe provides a fascinating insight into this little-known chapter of Narnia’s author.

18 Cool Christmas Gifts That Are Making a Difference by Jesse Carey

Are you a little lost for some last second Christmas gifts? Jesse Carey shares a number of gifts you can purchase from companies making a difference. The Lstn Headphones look intriguing.

Hopes Deferred But Not Forgotten by Bob Smietana

Smietana provides a needed reminder for us when it seems that our hopes have been deferred.

When Sitting Out is the Best Thing for Your Soul by Vicki Courtney

Commit to fewer activities. Leave more room for stillness. Courtney gives a needed perspective in this busy season of Christmas.

Reestablishing Rhythms of Remembering by Benjamin Mast

Mast makes a phenomenal correlation of how the church in tradition can help people with dementia. These practices help build and keep the community together.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

Loneliness in the Midst of Joy

What emotions do the holidays provoke in you? Nostalgia brings us back to the happiness of positive memories. Excitement bursts with every carol and Christmas commercial. For better or worse, we begin anxiously anticipating December 25th right after Thanksgiving. Our hustle and bustle within the shopping, decorating, and attending parties can exhaust us.

photo-1423477491197-ec2f29ac4d6b

Hidden among these external emotions includes loneliness. In the overwhelming polarities of this season, we find ourselves desiring deeper connectedness. Who can we share our joy? Who can understand us in our anxiety? Who can be present with us in our pain? The search to be known heightens.

The feeling of loneliness enters our lives in various contexts during the holidays:
It comes from actual physical separation from others.
It results from not feeling understood by others.
It happens when a person continually gives and serves without the feeling of appreciation.
It seems apparent because everyone else has an invitation to the party except you.

We can believe certain lies of loneliness. Somehow, feeling this emotion means neediness or ingratitude. To numb the pain, we often add to our activities, turn to entertainment, and look for distractions without ever dealing with this emotion. It’s not easy to share with others, let alone thinking they could understand us.

Christmas celebrates the miracle of Jesus coming down from heaven to earth; the Incarnation. In our reading of scripture, we can lose the human element of the story. The writers of the Gospels give us glimpses of Jesus alone. These writers account for times Jesus retreats alone to pray. His interactions with the disciples reveal how little they understood His pain. He walks alone in the wilderness of temptation.

The Incarnation reminds us that our Savior walked through the loneliness. When Hebrews describes Him as High Priest, identifying with us in our weakness (Hebrews 4:14-16). He has been where we are, not to tell us to get over the pain but provide His presence to us in those moments.

Loneliness reframed becomes an invitation. Not easy to receive, but a moment to recognize the content of our hearts and become more aware of God around us. I think sometimes our struggle with loneliness comes from distracting ourselves from it rather than entering into it. Thomas Merton in No Man is an Island says this:

The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God. Such a one is alone with God in all places and he truly enjoys the companionship of other men, because he loves them in God in Whom their presence is not tiresome…(pg. 229)

Whether you find yourself with people around or not, you may walk through loneliness in the midst of the joy of the holiday. Entering the invitation of loneliness does not dismiss the pain. Instead, we learn to create spaces of solitude and like so many in the pages of Scripture wait on God.

Then as we embark into of community, Christ’s grace makes us more aware of others. Just as Christ has provided His presence to us, we can help others who face loneliness sense His presence. Entering our loneliness helps humanize others and bring hope in the midst of the darkness.

How might loneliness invite you to find Jesus? Who around you is experiencing loneliness and how can you be present with them?

Photo credit by Nikola Jelenkovic.

An Advent Prayer for Peace

photo-1418506714344-2c0445654cdf

This Advent season feels further and further from Silent Night.
All seems far from calm.
All seems far from bright.
The darkness of tragedy engulfs us.
Our pain reminds us of the brokenness of the world.
Peace can be hard to come by.
Debates upon debates consume conversations.
You have seen and heard our infighting and arguments.
We worry about the future and anxiety fills our thoughts.

The Prophet Isaiah refers to You as the Prince of Peace.
The Gospel writers recount You calming the storms.
Paul describes you in Ephesians as One who preaches peace to those near and far away.
Lord, in this season of Advent, we ask for Your peace.

We ask You for the forgiveness of our sins.
We confess being strife-makers and not peacemakers.
At times, fear has motivated us more than the Good News of the Gospel.
Sometimes our words have lacked kindness and compassion.
Give us the grace to see others, even our enemies, as You do.

Let us experience Your peace this season.
Teach us how to reconcile with each other as You have reconciled us with Yourself.
May the Incarnation remind us that You are with us, and You know our pain and weaknesses.
During this Advent season, make us peacemakers embodying Your humility, generosity, and meekness.

You are our peace.
In You, we have experienced grace and mercy.
Darkness cannot overshadow Your light.
Like the shepherds, we still need the message of “Fear Not” and the Good News of the Savior.

Photo credit by Dakota Roos.

Older posts

© 2017

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑

%d bloggers like this: