Tag: 2016

Silent Night 2016

How would you describe 2016? If you Google “2016”, you’ll see one of the top searches was “2016 the worst year ever.” Some of these articles go back to this July, not just the recent days of December. This year has been mired in social media arguments, political unrest, and a lack of empathy to say the least.

All of 2016 has led us to the December Christmas season. In a time of thoughtful and spiritual reflection, our minds can race through the anxiety and at times even anger from the last eleven months. The idea of Advent, Christ’s coming, seems so distant from the chaos of the world around us.

Recently, I sang “Silent Night.” Two lines of the song stopped me:

All is calm
All is bright

Questions emerged in my mind. Was it really all calm? Was it really bright? These questions seem fodder for theologians to debate late into the night. Part of the cynic in all of us asks these questions, because our current reality may not match the lyrics.

The Christmas story disarrays the characters. Mary has to explain the meeting with an angel and an unforeseen pregnancy. Joseph has the same problem. This couple then gets displaced from their current residence to Bethlehem. They find lodging in a stable as opposed to a room. They would later escape to Egypt because of an evil ruler. We could include the shepherds and the kings who got re-routed to see Jesus.

“Silent Night” offers us the radical message of hope. A hope based on Jesus, the Messiah, entering the world of chaos. Rather than elevating His heavenly power to become an earthly king, He steps into the disarray of the world as a powerless baby. That’s Good News because He has walked where we walked, especially in 2016.

What Mary and Joseph experienced and what 2016 has brought us is the Savior stepping into the darkness with us.

Celebrating Christmas in 2016 is much more than the presents, tinsel, holly, and feel good notions. It’s hope for people stuck in this year’s reality. Looking for the bright and the calm has less to do with the present circumstances, and more to do with the deeper significance and meaning of “God with us.”

Whatever 2016 has brought, let the Christmas season move you beyond the current chaos to the reality seen in the Gospel. The Savior born in an unexpected context brings us hope in His death and resurrection.

Photo credit by Ben White.

Faithfulness

How much happens without us realizing it? You can list the sun rising. Oxygen goes into our lungs. Electricity power our homes. Right now, our eyes process the words off this screen to our brain creating thoughts in a matter of seconds. It’s not that we don’t know these activities happen, rather we see these as commonplace or monotonous.

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New gives freshness. The romantic idea of starting energizes us. We find ourselves heading into mid-January. Some of us live in the winter reality where resolutions freeze. The change we so hoped to experience may have gone off track reverting to the old way of life.

Over and over again the Scriptures, Old and New Testament, express God’s faithfulness. Found in one of the most dismal book of the Bible, Lamentations, the author speaks of mercy coming “…new every morning…” (Lam. 2:22-24) Paul later teaches the Thessalonian church of about maturity saying of Jesus, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” (I Thes. 5:24)

Perhaps, somewhere we have lost a vision of faithfulness. The wonder of repetition gets lost. Our minds run a thousand thoughts a minute without the ability focus. People disappoint us. The characteristic of faithfulness seems archaic and old fashioned because we have never committed long enough to experience it.

G.K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy provides a glorious insight of God’s faithfulness in his book Orthodoxy. Just like a child who asks an adult in wonder to “Do it again,” Chesterton sees God repetition:

It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. The repetition in Nature may not be a mere recurrence; it may be a theatrical encore.

Faithfulness brings us wonder. It starts with our view of Christ’s grace in our lives. We never graduate from understanding the Good News of the Gospel. Because of His faithfulness in coming to earth, His death, and resurrection, you and I can experience new life. The sunrise becomes a repetitive reminder of His work in our lives.

Genuine growth and change happen in our lives by responding to Christ’s faithfulness. It requires faith in Christ to engage Scripture, pray and live in community with others on a daily and weekly basis. The transformation happens at varying rates. Sometimes we radically experience it in a moment and often it seems mundane. We never actually understand this faithfulness until we look back.

Friendships form out of faithfulness. The people who matter the most in your life show up. Extending faithfulness to another points them to the reality of Christ’s grace. Sometimes it means saying “yes” to the extra mile when every feeling in you says “no.” The wonder of faithfulness happens because trust develops. Not in perfection, but rather trust that points all of us to how we can see Christ in our lives.

May we never lose the wonder of Christ’s faithfulness, so that we might recognize faithfulness all around us. Do not lose heart in the midst of change, growth, and maturity. Today, you have the opportunity experience faithfulness in your life with God, others, and yourself. “Do it again.”

What faithfulness will you experience today?

Photo by Tom Sodoge.

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

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Four Faces of a Leader by Bob Rhoden

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

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The Good and Beautiful Life by James Bryan Smith

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Leap Over the Wall by Eugene Peterson

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

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.

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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.

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