12. BEHOLD: His Sacrifice

Little babies are one of the most precious blessings to behold in this world. We look on them with awe and wonder –their little hands and feet. Their tiny personalities. The miracle of new life in so small and fragile a package.

When Christ became a baby, new life was not born. He had long existed –longer than any man. More powerful, more perfect, than we can fathom, He gave all of that up to be one of us, and one of us at our most vulnerable –newborn.

For that to happen, there were miracles, and there were many sacrifices.

Mary’s conception was miraculous –and required the sacrifice of her reputation at very least. For Joseph to take Mary as his wife and raise Jesus as a son was a sacrifice to his pride and likely very costly in a number of ways. God, meanwhile, was sacrificing His only son. We know that later, Jesus also sacrificed Himself for us.

“But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins,

he sat down at the right hand of God”

Hebrews 10:12

Our modern celebration of Christmas comes with sacrifice too. We give up money to support the needy, contribute to celebrations, and get gifts for loved ones. Our time is certainly sacrificed to a number of things. For some of us, our talents are offered up, too. But to what end?

That newborn savior brought with Him a new birth into eternal life, for you and for me.

In our sacrifices, we have a model to follow after. His example is one of humility. He gave up that which was rightfully His –His place and person in heaven- to become like the least of us.

His sacrifice was made not to the altar of man and man’s demands, but to the Lord who so loved us. Can we say the same of our sacrifices this Christmas? Are they made out of love for the Lord?

“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise

–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”

Hebrews 13:15

Behold, His great name, always worthy of our praise.

Behold, the ultimate sacrifice that now allows us be living sacrifices.

Behold, new life by the newborn’s sacrifice.

11. BEHOLD: The Brave

Isn’t it silly which things require bravery? Saying “no” to a friend’s Christmas invitation seems scary because they might be offended. Choosing that particular gift can be frightening because it may not be what they wanted and it will hurt to see it rejected. Telling a co-worker about the Christmas Eve service carries risks.

These things aren’t even really threatening. Yet, we act in fear. Saying yes to everything, apologizing for gifts before we give them, and avoiding the most essential topic in the world.

Thank God Jesus was brave. More than brave- thank God Jesus was fearless.

His fearlessness made Him man, born a dependent baby to sinful people. His courage led through a life of persecution. Finally, His bravery brought Him to die on a cross and be separated from God Himself. And then…to rise again. It’s because of that that we truly live!

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.”
1 Cor 15:14
“Because I live, you also will live.”
John 14:19

And in all that, Jesus never shook. He never wavered. There was never a compromise to take a step back when threats arose –the very kind of threats we rarely hear but always fear: abandonment, rejection, and betrayal.

Why?

Jesus had no cause for fear. He was (and is!) so aligned with God and so fully accepting of God’s perfect sovereignty in all things that He has no cause for fear. For us to live that same way is brave.

Christ was beholding the truth. So fixed on it was He that nothing could stir up doubt or fear in Him. He was so complete and fulfilled in God that there was no room for fear.

We can follow that example. We can be bold like Christ is bold by beholding Him too.

“The LORD is my light and my salvation–so why should I be afraid? The LORD is my fortress, protecting me from danger, so why should I tremble?”Psalm 27:1

Behold, the one whose path is straight leaving us no cause to stray.

Behold, the one whose way is perfect, leaving us no need to be afraid of anything.

Behold, the one whose loving-kindness replaces all our fears with the bravery of Christ.

10. BEHOLD: The Adorner

Why do we decorate at Christmas time? Jesus was born in a manger, and yet many of us to celebrate his birth deck out our whole houses. It takes years to accumulate complete sets of decorations –from expensive pieces to enough simple lights to cover the trees, banisters, and yard. For some, it takes almost as long just to put the decorations up.

Despite the irony, it seems we do have a good reason for the adorning of our homes during this season: we’re symbolically welcoming the adorner.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the one who brings news of peace, who announces good things, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!’”

Isaiah 52:7

By decorating, we announce that the Lord is come. We announce that salvation is available to all, and that eternal life with Him is something to celebrate.

And doesn’t it seem like the Lord joins us in the effort? December is beautiful. The December sky is striking. Up north, here, we have this chilled air that wakes you up, opening your eyes. Driving around, we see lights and bright colors everywhere. We must not forget that the Lord made those, too.

Along with the beautiful we see, there is also the beauty He adorns the world with internally. Beauty like hope and love. The “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4.)

Scripture tells us that Christ was there in the beginning. The same Lord who became that little baby, born to save us from this ugly thing called sin, created us in the first place.

And now, He creates us anew. Rejoice in that beauty. Rejoice in the “new clothes” He adorns us with. Rejoice in the Word and Spirit, written on our hearts to turn us from cold stone to living testimonies of His –yes His, glory.

“Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”

–Psalm 29:2

Behold, the beauty of the good news.

Behold, the adornment of the world in light, living color, hope, and transformation.

Behold, the adorner who makes it so.

This post is being shared on: #DanceWithJesus and #LifeGivingLinkup.

9. BEHOLD: Our Treasurer

People tend to count often in December. Fastidious budgeters often check their bank accounts multiple times a day during December. Others tally what’s left in their wallets. Some people take the time to count their blessings. I know I’ve also counted the hours in the day and the tasks left to complete.

December is a month of spending, tracking, budgeting, and collecting. Whether our time, our money, our gifts, or our to-do’s, we have much to manage.

Fortunately, the Christ we celebrate this month is the best treasurer to ever exist.

“Does he not see my ways and count my every step?” Job 31:4

                        “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Luke 12:7

If He knows the number of the hairs on our heads and every step we take, He is certainly doing a better job of keeping track of our mess and our gifts than we could ever hope to. More than just tracking, though, Christ, on our behalf:

  • Has paid our debt
  • Has provided what we need
  • Has invested our lives in eternal things
  • Has given us everything we need, counted and tallied, to glorify Him
  • Has sacrificed to ensure that all our loved ones are covered too
  • Has secured for us a future with Him that is priceless –and that can’t be bought or sold

The Christmas lists of budget sheets, wants and needs, and plans to complete look a little different when we recognize the work that our treasurer is doing.

 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him,

so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13

Behold, the one who counts most (pun intended!)

Behold, the treasurer who exchanges for treasure in heaven.

Behold, the treasure Himself.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday

8. BEHOLD: The Healer

Along with the Christmas season comes the cold season. And the flu season. And the season for strep throat, pneumonia, exhaustion, etc. Those are just the physical illnesses that plague the holidays.

With Christmas, for many, comes disappointment. The heartache of loneliness and loss seems exacerbated by the twinkling lights and appearance that all is somehow well and right with the beautifully adorned (or masked) world around us.

“Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

-Luke 5:31

Let this be salve for your soul: the healer has come. The great physician was born in Bethlehem a couple of thousand years ago, and He is still at work today.

His healing comes as He did: vulnerably. Through faith. Mingled with the unexpected. Humbly. And with such compassion…

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.”

Psalm 103:13-14

Who better to trust with our pain, heartache, and illnesses than the very one who made us? We know that His care and provision are perfect. His way is better than ours, and His plan more complete than we can imagine –even when it doesn’t look that way.

Few thought, looking at the baby in a manger, the reviled wanderer, or the man on the cross, that it was through that relentless compassion and formidable humility that the healing of all mankind would come.

But it did.

More than just treating our ailments and our weariness, Christ’s healing relieves us of the burden of sin. He re-forms the disease of the human heart.

“Heal me, LORD, and I will be healed; save me and I will be saved, for you are the one I praise.”

Jeremiah 17:14

Behold, the one who became a baby to give us the cure!

Behold, the one who heals us of the most deadly disease.

Behold, the healer whose method is the most gentle, compassionate, and perfect.

This Post is being Shared on: #WomenWithIntention and #TellHiStory

4 Biblical Strategies for Honoring Your In Laws

You’re probably familiar with Exodus 20:12 –“honor your father and mother”. While fumbling over “Nan-uh, Mrs., uh, Mom?” it isn’t always obvious that this command applies to your relationship with your in laws too.

According to the current stereotype, in laws are common household enemies. There’s even the popular mantra “you don’t just marry him or her, you marry his or her family too!”

The Bible doesn’t gloss over this sort of relationship. In laws have been around from the beginning, and so has the awkwardness, difficulty, and blessing that comes with merging families. Biblical characters like Jacob and Ruth sought to honor their in laws, though difficulties abounded.

Jacob’s father in law, for example, tricked him into marrying the wrong girl and forced him into 20 years of manual labor. Ruth’s mother in law Naomi spent time in mourning telling everyone to call her “bitter”.

Though their relationships with their in laws were challenging, the way that our Biblical predecessors chose to relate to their in-laws sets an example for us.

  1. Jacob and Laban: Respectfully Leaving and Cleaving

                When you get married, you hear the phrase “leave and cleave” a lot. You might even cite it when your spouse calls Mom for the recipe that you aren’t making “quite right.”

This Biblical command defines marriage not only for the two who have become one flesh, but also for the parents. In laws should respectfully give you and your spouse space to become knit together and to form your own family. Some in laws have a harder time with that than others, and not just during your early years of marriage.

Laban, for example, loved his daughters Leah and Rachel –but he definitely had a hard time letting go. Jacob sought the wisdom of the Lord in the matter. When Laban confronted Jacob about running away as a family, Jacob pointed to God.

Respectfully, Jacob stood on the way of the Lord and relied on God to rebuke Laban in his unrighteous anger and battle for control. Choosing to respect Laban while also honoring God’s intentions for marriage, Jacob formed a covenant with Laban before the Lord that established his desire to have peaceful relationships and to do right by his wives through the leaving and cleaving process (Genesis 31).

  1. Moses and Jethro: Humbly Accepting Wisdom and Counsel

                People naturally enter marriage with pre-conceived notions of how life and relationships are done –and often each spouse is convinced that theirs and their parents’ way is the right way.

                It takes humility to set aside the notions that you’ve developed in order to accept the counsel of others, especially when you feel like you’re doing really well on your own. Listening to the counsel and wisdom of your in-laws when their way is so different?  That can be even harder.

                Yet that is exactly what Moses did. While leading the freed Israelites through the wilderness, Moses was visited by his father in law, Jethro. While sharing with Jethro about God’s victory and praising the Lord with him, Jethro gave Jacob some unsolicited advice.

                You can probably identify with that. Most of us can. What’s spectacular about Moses’ and Jethro’s exchange in Exodus 18 is that Moses actually listened. Jethro’s advice came from a place of wisdom, love, and humility before God. Recognizing his father in law’s Godly words, Moses responded in wisdom and humility as well.

  1. Ruth and Naomi: Being Compassionately Present

                Certainly the best known in-law in the Bible, Naomi is relatable. Like so many, she suffered loss in her life and became openly bitter about it. Outspoken about her grief and her hopeless situation, Naomi may not have been the most pleasant mother in law.

Imagine Ruth’s position as a young widow trying to care for a depressed in law while herself suffering. Ruth wasn’t in a familiar situation, she didn’t know anyone but Naomi. Yet her response to the trials of the family she married into was one of absolute compassion and commitment.

Ruth understood what it means to be present. Her famous words of “where you, if you…I’ll go, I will” evidence her devotion to actively participating in her mother in law’s life. She took on Naomi’s burdens as her own, just as she once took Naomi’s son as her own husband.

What’s more, Ruth wasn’t just committed to being present through Naomi’s trials like a “bad weather” friend. She rejoiced in sharing blessings with Naomi. We know about Naomi’s joyful reaction to holding her grandson –just imagine Ruth’s expression as she witnessed Naomi’s delight.

  1. Peter and His Mother in Law: Entrusting In-Laws to the Lord

                Mark 1:30 tells us that Simon (Peter) had a mother in law. When she got sick, Peter told Jesus and Jesus healed her. It’s a simple story, but it’s lovely. Peter entrusted his mother in law to the care of the Lord.

                The Hebrew word for honor in Exodus 20:12 is “kabad,” which means “weighty, heavy, burdensome” concerning importance. In Greek it is “timaó,” – “to assign value.” These words describe honor as valuing someone as important.

                For Peter, honoring his mother in law meant valuing her and her burdens enough to turn her over to the Lord for healing. You can do the same thing for your in laws in prayer, honoring their person by taking them on as people you love enough to lift up to the Lord, even if it has to be from afar.

In Conclusion….

                Not every controlling father in law will be rebuked by God like Laban was, and not every in law will have the wisdom and good advice of Jethro. Some mother in laws may, like Naomi, be bitter –and not want you involved or around.

                You can honor your in-laws anyway. Be respectful in doing what is right, like Jacob. Choose humility and listen to sound advice like Moses, while measuring it against the Scriptures like the Bereans (Acts 17:11). Remain compassionate in all circumstances like Ruth. And, like Peter, entrust your in-laws to the Lord.

7. BEHOLD: The Bearer

I have 60 people on my Christmas card list this year. There are more than 10 people to buy for. That’s just Christmas stuff. The Lord blessed me with a new job a few months ago. The more people I get to know there, the longer my prayer list grows. That’s on top of the huge to-do list that multiplies at Christmas time.

Sometimes, it seems the load the lord gives me (and you!) is too much to bear.

Picture a little donkey, with a pregnant woman on his back. And her possessions. And her husband’s. What a load he bore. Imagine a teenage girl, pure and righteous, pregnant out of wedlock, carrying God’s child. That’s a hefty load.

Here’s the truth: the more people we know, the more we have to bear. The little baby boy born in to the woman riding the donkey had the whole world in His hands…a load we cannot fathom.

Jesus knows EVERYONE. And, because He loves, He bears it ALL.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.”

-Isaiah 53:4

Christ came with the weight of our every burden upon Him. He carried that to the cross and down to the grave. Today, He continues to bear our loads, saying that we can cast all our cares upon Him.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient,

bearing with one another in love.”

Ephesians 4:2

The burdens and loads we do bear, given by the Lord, are light because He’s holding us.

Take on one more Christmas card to make that new friend’s day. Stop to pray with the loved one now. Cross something off of your to-do list to take time to praise the one who has taken the time to walk with you through it all.

Behold, the bearer of the world.

Behold, the bearer of the best news we all need to hear.

Behold, the bearer who is bearing you today!

2. BEHOLD: The Promise Keeper

There’s something about December that draws up the dreams in our hearts. Maybe it’s the sappy music and the happy advertising everywhere. The nostalgia of beloved traditions, fine decorations, and lights glowing everywhere stirs up joy -and hope.

In this season of dreaming, we’re apt to make promises and ask for them. “Promise you’ll come home in time for the party” we say over the phone. “I promise you’ll love the celebration this year,” we say to the loved one who is concerned with the memory of last year’s holiday drama. In the midst of the magic of Christmas, we mean it. But we’re only able to keep so many promises. And others can only keep so many that they make, too.

As it stands, for most of us, Christmas can also be a time of disappointment over the broken promises. The good news is this. During this time, we’re beholding the promise-keeper.

“The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” –Acts 2:39

That promise is the promise of salvation, realized in the very one we celebrate at Christmas. When Jesus came as a baby, He kept the promise God made thousands of years earlier. That promise is still being kept today.

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” –2 Peter 3:9

Through our many dreams, praise God for His patience and faithfulness. If He has begun it in you, He will bring it to completion. He will not leave any promise half-filled, nor make any promise that isn’t perfect.

If the Lord makes a promise, it is good, and He will make good on it!

Behold, the Lord whose promises are kept for eternity.

Behold, the Lord whose promises are kept in unexpected ways.

Behold, the Lord whose promise is the most important for everyone, in every way.

This post is being shared on: #Thought-Provoking Thursday

25 Days of Beholding the Lord

There’s a lot to be said (and done!) in December.

 

Comfort for the lonely during this time of constant reminders of family and togetherness.

Wise reflections on the arrival of Christ and His impact on our lives.

Advice for traditions, planning, and keeping up with the busy schedule.

Celebrating and preparing for winter as it forces its way in.

What strikes me this Christmas season is that even amongst the busy, the heightened emotions, the anticipation, we have the chance to be stayed. Fixed upon. Frozen still in awe. Because during this celebratory time, we have all the more frequent opportunity to BEHOLD.

behold

Behold –Christ has come. The lamb of God. The light of the world. The hope of nations, king of kings, and prince of peace.

What does that mean?

For the next 25 days, I’ll be writing shorter, daily posts about what we have to behold and what beholding is. Check back, please!

This post is being shared on: #LifeGivingLinkup #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkup, #Intentionally Pursuing, #WomenWithIntention, and #TellHiStory