Celebrating THE Baby

Three weeks after Christmas, on a day we were putting away some Christmas decorations, our family was studying Hebrews 8. As I was listening to the verses being read, I was overcome with joy of the Good News being described. At the conclusion of the chapter, I shouted HALLELUJAH!, leading to a surprised and puzzled six year old.

This chapter describes Jesus as the new, better, eternal covenant for God’s people! Hallelujah – to God be praised!! As best I could, I explained to my son why this is amazing news for us. God is so merciful!

When we look at Luke 2, our passage for today’s journal entry focuses on Jesus as a baby. He’s born in Bethlehem and the very next thing is the angel and heavenly hosts appear to the shepherds, share the news, and proclaim Glory to God! The shepherds went and found baby Jesus and then they shared this with others and praised God!

Christmas is a season that draws our hearts to the Lord and closer to one another, and is an opportunity to celebrate the Good News of who Jesus is, and how he came to save us. In general, babies represent hope for the future, newness and freshness, the miracle of life. And Jesus as a baby brings us so much more than that. Each year I’m challenged to keep Christmas in our hearts a bit longer, and not let the excitement of the good news be put away when the nativity is carefully packaged back up, when we take down the tree, and all the celebrations are over.

I love the example that the angels and shepherds gave us at the birth of Jesus – they wasted no time in telling others and praising the Lord!  In a few months we will celebrate and remember this perfect and complete gift from God, as Jesus becomes our sacrifice and then defeats the grave. Between now and then, will you join me in keeping the excitement and gratitude of this gift alive? What are some practical ways we can continue to share and worship like the angels and shepherds did? I’d love some ideas from others!

 

 

Savior Baby

Nineteen years ago, Adam Nash was born. His birth was meticulously planned and while his parents always wanted another child, he was brought into the world with an additional purpose: to provide cord blood to his older sister, dying of Fanconi Anaemia. It was a medical success, and since then there have been more children conceived through IVF, carrying specific genetic makeup to provide for sick siblings. Isn’t science mind-blowing? As you can imagine, this brought up a lot of ethical and moral questions. News articles, interviews, books and movies have all followed these cases and told their stories. They’ve coined these genetically designed children as Savior Siblings and Savior Babies.

I’ve only read a few articles, am not an expert or speaking from a specific position. I am so grateful that I’ve never had to weigh options like this to save my child. The articles I’ve read span in language, from “win-win” to “commoditizing children”.

When we come to Luke 1:31-33 we find Mary, being informed that she will give birth to the Son of the Lord God. We don’t know exactly when it was revealed to Mary that this meant he was the Messiah and Savior (Hebrews 10 gives some additional insight). God came to earth, in perfect flesh with a body to make atonement for our sins. The planned Redeemer was born to walk with us, teach us, and die for us.

As we enjoy our Christmas celebrations and see the nativity sets with baby Jesus in the Manger, host Jesus Birthday parties, and rejoice with song and be merry… let’s also remember that He came for one purpose. For you and for me.

Our family has been doing a daily devotion together of the Names of Jesus. He’s the Way, the Root of David, the Good Shepard, the Alpha and Omega, to name a few of the twenty-nine name. As we’ve been reading about each of these, I’m humbled at the fullness of Jesus as a human and all the while coming with the purpose to reunite me with God. To secure my eternity in heaven through the redemption of my sins. The picture of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, praying to his Father to take the cup from him shows his flesh. The fully human side of Jesus knew the suffering he would endure on the cross. He was born that night in the stable, completely aware of the physical and emotional anguish he would go through.

Baby Jesus in the manger, is our Guide, our Friend, our Healer, He was born to be our Savior and our Sacrifice.

Plot Twist

There’s a man I know, and from early on in childhood he loved to learn. He was so fascinated by facts and figuring things out, that his parents couldn’t keep up with him. For his 5thbirthday, he asked for notebooks and pencils so he could take notes about his favorite topics. He was one of those kids that asked endless  why and how questions. In adolescence, he became especially curious about science and the human body. As he got older, he studied and learned as much as he could, eventually going to medical school and becoming a physician. He was a well-respected doctor in his field, when suddenly his life took an unexpected turn.

Plot twist – he becomes an author!

And I don’t even know if he wanted to make this change, but one thing led to another and he found himself meticulously documenting, describing, and getting everything written down that he could. His love for medicine didn’t wain, but he was so pre-occupied with this project, that practicing medicine became secondary.  He went from saving lives to writing about people’s lives, becoming a biographer and historian. He wasn’t sure why he, a doctor, was supposed to walk away from his practice and become an author, nor did he know the impact this change in direction would have. Nonetheless, he went.

He became one of the most successful, sought after authors in the world. EVER. There’s only two other authors that are more successful than him, by the world’s standards.

Meet Luke.

Biographer of Jesus and also the Apostles of the early church. His ‘project’ was advancing the gospel through truth-telling. Facts, documentation, historical accounts of salvation through Jesus.

We really know so little about Luke, and the first two paragraphs above describe my guess of what his life may have been like. Since he was such a humble servant, he kept the focus where the Holy Spirit led him: the gospel of Jesus. While we don’t have the details on his background or conversion, we do know the most important thing about him – he was a follower of Jesus. He was highly educated and trained as a physician, with great attention to detail and fact gathering. Christian tradition holds that he also drew and painted to go along with the books he wrote. He is also the largest contributor to the New Testament (Gospel of Luke and Acts of the Apostles), only surpassed in the Old Testament by Moses and Ezra. The Bible was written by God, and these writers were called to get the words on the page. What an amazing testimony through his faith and obedience, Luke influenced generations and generations to come.  The Bible is the most read, purchased, or copied book ever in history, and Luke was one of the top three leading writers!

One of the few and final pieces of information we have recorded about Luke is from Paul’s second and final letter to Timothy. In Chapter four he notes that only Luke is still with him in the ministry, as all of his other ministry partners have scattered. This is believed to be the last letter that Paul wrote, and he was killed shortly after.

Luke seemed so focused and impassioned to advance the gospel, that his own life, career, desires were in the background. From the outside looking in, it seems like a major life change and plot twist, and Luke doesn’t even mention it!

This is so inspiring to me, someone who likes to be on a path and moving toward a certain direction. When the “plot twists” in my life come, I usually make my thoughts on it pretty well-known. Why??? When I break it all down, the goals are the same, no matter how God decides to get me there: Salvation and glorifying God. Whether that’s through motherhood, being a physician or author, being a friend, sharing the gospel with a stranger… what may feel like a plot twist in my world, is just God’s way of accomplishing his ultimate goal. Is God calling you to something that feels like a big plot twist?

If you have time this week, do some digging and get inspired by Luke. I loved reading in my study Bible about his writing style, where he’s mentioned, etc. You can find Paul’s two other brief mentions of him in Colossians 4 and Philemon 1. It was also special to read how Luke and Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’s birth come together and bring the real event to life.

The Fear of Letting Go

Jesus shared approximately forty parables with his followers, and it’s no wonder that almost half of them included a message on wealth. He knows our hearts, what we hold on to, and what trips us up.  Money is definitely one of those things.

I know how money makes me feel – more powerful and more in control. Which is exactly when I start to get in trouble and rely less on the Lord and more on myself. While the world is focused on wealth accumulation, God calls us to wealth distribution through reduction. Can you think of anything that is asked of us, that isn’t ultimately for our own good? I love the scripture that says “lay aside every weight” – and our wealth can become a heavy, burdensome weight that slows us down.

More money, more problems… it’s so true! The more stuff we buy, the more it requires. We need space and time for all of the upkeep, repairs, updates, and maintenance, for the THINGS we accumulate through our wealth.

When you read in Mark 10:17-31 about the Rich Young Man, you find that he is seeking eternity. He has followed the letter of the law, and now he is seeking surety of eternity. How cool that Jesus’ love for this man is called out. Right before he gives him this very direct admonition, he “looks at him and loves him”. God’s grace for us is so amazing, leading us with love.

Because Jesus knew his heart, he drew his attention to the one thing that was getting in the way of his relationship with God. His stuff. He was told by Jesus to give away all he had, and come and follow him. Instead of heeding the instructions, the man left, sad at the thought of losing his stuff. I wonder what specifically was most hard for him. Did he cling to the security he believed his money  represented? Were there family heirlooms that he didn’t want to give away? Maybe he was accustomed to the conveniences that he saw his wealth provide.

Another thing that strikes me is that time and time again in scripture we have examples of people being called to sell or give their stuff. It’s not just “give your extra money”, but it’s a call to simplification through reduction. Idolatry has been a challenge for thousands of years, and while we may not be making golden calves, I think we all could think of things that get in the way of our relationship with the Lord.

I don’t want to be captive to my possessions. I can think of a few areas I need to “clean house” and let go. Along with an abundance of stuff, I also have a bunch of justifications for it all. Seriously! One big category for me is in all things ‘serving and hosting’. At some point in time, I started accumulating things for celebrations. Decorations, dinnerware, linens, and on and on. You know, for the next dinner party, birthday gathering, etc. I’ve collected and then kept all these things, justifying it with some scripture about the gift of hospitality. Serve well. Oh, and I will use it all again someday, so I should really be a good steward and save it. WHAT?!! Okay, who is going to check in with me in a couple of months to see if I’ve cleaned out my storage area?

As God loves us, he sanctifies us. I don’t know what God has for you today… maybe it’s a release of your money, stuff, time, or something else. Ask him, and I know he will lovingly reveal it to you, just as he did the Rich Young Man. He perfectly knows what we need, and what we don’t need.

This passage wraps up with the disciples questioning the difficulty of a wealthy man entering heaven. And Jesus reminds them of God’s power: With man it is not possible, but with God, all things are possible. Be encouraged – God will equip you to do whatever he calls you to.  And when he helps us to unclench our fists, and truly let go of the things we so tightly hold on to, it is then that our hands are open. Open to receive more of his love, grace, and blessing. He promises that we will receive so much more in eternity than we can imagine.

Exclusive Way to an Inclusive Kingdom

Jesus broke down barriers between male and female, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, young and old. And while he was a living example of inclusion, he also instructed us to follow him, exclusively:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Christianity: All are invited to follow an exclusive God.

And while this “exclusivity” feels really counter to modern politics and modern religion, 2 John and 3 John show us it was also contrary even in the early church.

Today’s focus on tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and inclusion are some of the same focuses of the early church. How do we love everyone, include all people groups, and also maintain the truth of who Jesus is, what he did, and that he is the only way to the Father?

1 John 2:21-22 No one who denies the Son has the Father.

As a Christ-follower, have you ever been asked that question of “so you’re telling me that you believe that the millions of Hindus, Muslims, etc, aren’t going to heaven”?

How do we handle that, without sounding unloving, self-righteous, or intolerant? The same way we can handle all questions of Christianity:

      1. On the majors, have conviction.
      2. On the minors, have tolerance
      3. In all things, have love. (John 13:35)

A pastor shared this in a sermon years ago and it stuck with me. I’ve tried to apply this approach to tough questions, debating conversations, or discipling new believers. And wouldn’t you agree, that belief in the saving blood of Jesus is a major? So we can (should!) approach those questions with conviction, with passion, and most of all, with love.

Jesus is my only rescue and he brought me beautiful salvation! I want to shout it from the rooftops that HE is the way to God – the best way, and THE ONLY way!

My earliest memories of my Grandpa Jerry include him wearing this belt buckle – and still the one he wears today. It doesn’t proclaim Jesus to be a smart prophet, kind human, or a good person. HE SAVES! Jesus alone SAVES! Like my Grandpa, I pray my life can be one that demonstrates the saving power of Jesus!

I love to share some of these additional scriptures with those questioning the exclusivity of Christ:

Acts 4:12 There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Matthew 7:13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Romans 3:22-26 The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, for there is no distinction:for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 10:9 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that we must believe in Jesus as our only hope for salvation. God’s ways are far beyond ours, and He will reveal all things in his time. Until then, lets heed John’s warnings in 2 & 3 John –  letters to specific congregations and people, warning them to hold tight to the teaching of Christ.  Don’t be deceived. Support the missionaries that are preaching the name of Christ. Continue walking in the truth. John was addressing this in the early church, just like it needs to be addressed today. Yes, still today, the exclusivity of Jesus’s saving blood is under attack.

2 John 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Holy Spirit, help us to be bold in proclaiming the name of Jesus! Give us opportunities to share your plan of salvation for all. Fill our hearts with an outpouring of love to cover our words. Thank you God, for including me and inviting me into an exclusive relationship with your Son. Amen.  

Superhero!

Last week, our church hosted kids 9-11 years old at a Superhero themed camp in the great outdoors. Truth be told, superheroes in modern culture aren’t my forte. While they’re all the rage right now, I could maybe identify two superheroes by name in a 3-man lineup. EEEEK – stick with me, all you Marvel fans out there – yes, I googled that.

 

So what’s a dork mom to do when she’s trying to hang with the cool kids all excited about superheroes? I don’t know, put on a mask and cape, and give yourself a cool super hero name! Double EEEEK! I couldn’t even think of a cool superpower!

But here was the cool thing about this camp – you know where this is going, right? JESUS is the ultimate, matchless, most powerful superhero EVER!!! And HE is a superhero I do know something about and has come to my rescue. I could write the never ending sequels to all the times He has saved the day and saved me.

 

While we swapped stories, sang songs, swam, hiked; we also learned about our Superhero Jesus! These kids just melted me and brought my heart to a much needed child-like place of faith. During one evening of devotions we shared in our small groups who some of the superheroes are in our life. I had one camper share that her parents were her superheroes because she was adopted from St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and born with medical problems. Her mom couldn’t take care of her, so her parents stepped in and adopted her and gave her a better life. Another one of my campers shared that her mom was a veteran and served in the military protecting people, and she was her superhero. These girls get it – they recognized at an early age how they had superheroes in their life. People that protected them, defended them, cared for them, even at their own risk or loss. These are people that are following Jesus and showing His sacrificial love. We learned an awesome song at camp with this verse: Jesus, You’re my Superhero, You swooped down and You rescued me”.

 

Jesus is our first and best Superhero, perfectly demonstrating how to love the unlovely, grace the sinner, and protect the weak. And while we can never perfectly mirror Jesus, we sure can strive for excellence! 1 Peter 1:16 encourages us to “Be Holy, for I am Holy”.

 

And as we open up to our reading for today – the entire book of Philemon (one chapter), we see Paul following in Jesus’ footsteps. He serves as a superhero to Onesimus, standing in the gap between Onesimus & Philemon, the recipient of this letter. Onesimus (I’ve heard it pronounced oh-NESS-i-muss) was a slave that ran away from Philemon, and while on the run he became a Christ follower, taught by Paul and loved by Paul. Paul sends him back to Philemon with this letter, vouching for Onesimus, building up his character, taking on his debt, and asking for him to be received how Philemon would receive Paul himself. He asks all these things in love, rather than requiring it from Philemon, as his superior in the early church.

 

This is a really cool letter to study with so many little glimpses of Jesus shining through. Paul humbles himself when he doesn’t have to. He has a heart for reconciliation between people he cares deeply for. Paul is willing to assume the debt or restitution of Onesimus – interceding for the people he is leading.

 

While we never know exactly how this situation ends, we do know that Paul was very confident that Philemon would respond favorable to Paul’s request of reconciliation (vs. 21). And at the very end of this letter we get one more little clue of reconciliation in Paul’s world. He sends greetings from Mark – who he was separated from in the ministry for a period of time due to a disagreement (Acts 13 & 15) and yet here we see that they have reconciled and Paul is sending greetings on Mark’s behalf. I love this picture of how the Holy Spirit leads people to reconciliation, and sometimes uses one another in the process.

 

Have you had someone stand in the gap for you, vouch for you, take on your debt when they weren’t responsible? Maybe someone backed you in the workplace, or stuck up for you in school. We are surrounded by superheroes that are following Jesus’ footsteps – from organ donors to foster parents, teachers and firemen. Take a moment and reflect on and thank God for the superheroes He has sent your way. These people are the gospel message in action – standing in the gap and interceding for us just like Jesus did at Calvary. Our perfect Superhero took on our sin debt, vouched for us, pleaded for our forgiveness, all while we were still sinners. Jesus is our Superhero!

Be On Guard

Last weekend, my husband and I discovered a beautiful trail outside of Nashville, at Percy Warner Park. The trail is called Mossy Ridge Trail, and it lives up to its name, with elevation changes, streams and mini waterfalls, and lots of moss covered limestone.

We followed the map of the 4.5 mile loop, the first day running it counter clockwise and having more of the steep climbs during the ascension. Temperatures were climbing up in the 80s and we were thankful for the forested shade during most of the trail. So much to see as we were running up and down, over and back, across the rocks, logs, and tree roots. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and prayers when you’re out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by such natural beauty. We had about 3/4 of a mile left when Tim warns “SNAKE”.

I freeze and see where he is pointing and back up a bit. Wow, he’s a big one! We guessed between 4-5 ft long, but it was hard to tell because he was so curled up. He looked mostly black and of course I asked Tim to dig his phone out and snap some pics of him (her?) so we could later identify him. There were some markings, but not as much as a bull snake usually has… so maybe he is a rat snake. He wasn’t in a hurry to move from the middle of the trail… so with a stick I was able to get him to slither off into the woods so I could pass.

The rest of the run, my eyes were much more wide open, my senses were more alert, and I was definitely looking for the next creature we may encounter. While I don’t have a huge snake phobia, I also don’t love their slithering sneaky creepy ways. Yuck! We live in the country and they are good for mice – I just prefer them to be out of sight in the woods 🙂

The next day we went back for another trail run, and it’s really cool how the opposite direction of the exact same trail can feel different. The climbs are from the opposite direction, the slick downhills are now easier to get up, and while it’s familiar from the day before, it has a newness to it when you experience it from a new vantage point. We are a mile in and I happen to be leading this section (we alternate) and it’s my turn to warn “SNAKE”. Same coloring, but not as big. Again, this guy came out of nowhere and was hard to see at first. He was half in the grassy edge and half on the trail – looking SO SIMILAR to the tree roots around him that were also sprawled across the trail. As soon as he heard me he darted off, and we went on our way.

The next couple of miles I thought about snakes. What makes them creepy, how camouflaged they can be to their surroundings, what they’re good for, why they freak us out, etc. I kept my eyes peeled the rest of the run looking out for more snakes. I was much more alert after seeing this second snake on the second day, than after the first snake on the first day. Every tree root sprawling across the path was the next snake 🙂

If snakes give you the heebie jeebies and freak you out, I am sorry!! I will get us to the scripture (stay with me).  In Mark 13, we find Jesus explaining to his disciples about end times and his return. One thing that really stands out to me is there are five different times that Jesus warns them to stay alert and be on guard (verses 5, 9, 26):

See that no one leads you astray, many will come in my name…And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, But be on guard.

After studying this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about our snake encounter, and how we almost ran right into him the first time, not expecting it. We ARE in the woods. We ARE in this snake’s home. Why was it a surprise? And Day Two? Don’t you think I would have been extra aware? But once again I’m running along, taking in the sights, and this snake looked so much like a dark tree root that I almost missed him. These snakes are no dummies… they know how to get a meal, and it’s not with a big flashing sign saying “SNAKE RIGHT HERE”… they’re trying to creep up on their lunch with the art of surprise. And while I know this about snakes, both times I was caught off guard.

The disciples were asking Jesus for a big sign of when these end days of tribulation will come. But Jesus tells them that no one knows the hour of when, but to stay alert and be on guard. He tells them how they will be persecuted and how to handle it. He tells them how there will be false prophets claiming to be coming in Jesus’ name and to not be fooled.

Who me? Fooled by a false prophet? After Jesus specifically warns me? Surely not!

Hello self, you just ran right into a snake, the day after encountering a snake in the same location. Ummm…

Leading up to this journal entry I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to show me false prophets in my life. Specifically, I’ve asked for a spirit of discernment of people, books, pastors, groups, studies, etc, all claiming to be in the name of Christ, but are deceiving and not aligned with the Lord. I need to be more aware, alert, on guard and ready! False prophets aren’t going to be easy to spot, they will be one tiny detail away from truth… or one shade off of white. False prophets will normalize sin, justify the unjust, and try to rationalize the irrational. If they were obvious to see and recognize, Jesus wouldn’t give such a strong warning.

Like I’ve said in many of my posts – I CAN’T WAIT for heaven!! Wonder if there will be snakes there?

Awestruck

Can you see the wonder across her face? The complete joy and splendor… about pancakes with sprinkles and candles? The flame flickering and twinkling in her eyes. Mesmerized by the beauty. Anticipating the deliciousness. Can you hear the squealing with delight? Absolutely awestruck.

Do you receive the kingdom of God like a child? Luke 18 commands this – and it’s left me pondering what exactly that would look like. What would it feel like if we approached our Creator and eternity, like a child?

Curiosity

        • Hey Mommy, how do birds fly?
        • Who teaches them to flap their wings?
        • Where do their parents take them?
        • Why do they fly south for the winter?
        • How do they know it’s warmer in the south?
        • What’s instinct mean?
        • But how do you just know?
        • Do you have any instincts, Mommy?

If you’ve spent any time with young children, you’ve probably found yourself in one of these never-ending question cycles of why, what, how, when, where, or who. A hunger for knowledge and understanding is part of childhood and maturing. It’s not just the hunger, but also the confidence to seek the answers. When I hear the term “child-like faith”, I don’t take it to mean blindly believing what you’ve been told, without asking questions.. I think it’s more of a willing and humble heart to explore who God is.

What questions do we have about God or salvation that we need to get to the bottom of? Are we ashamed to admit we don’t understand something? Are we so busy with our to-do lists that we haven’t allowed time for curiosity?

Reliance

From sun up to sun down children rely on their parents for so much. This chapter actually uses the word infants – and wow, babies require even more than children, to keep them alive. Feeding, bathing, clothing, diapers, transportation, safety, medical attention, etc. They cry to communicate and eventually we figure out what they are asking for. They learn that we will comfort them, feed them, help them, when they’re in distress.

God has never let me down, has never left me to figure it out alone. He has always comforted me, directed me, and loved me, through every distress. Yet each time I can see a storm coming, I begin to worry. And isn’t worrying a sign that I’m not trusting and willing to rely solely on the Lord? Complete surrender to God is so beautiful, and this level of trust comes from experiencing patterns of His faithfulness.

This weekend, let’s ask God to show us which qualities of children we need to embrace and emulate as we grow in our faith. I know I can approach the throne of God with an awestruck heart, more curiosity, or greater reliance and trust. What child-like qualities do you need more of in your life?

Show me Your Glory

A few years ago I was part of a women’s bible study called Seamless. This study guides you through the entire Bible, start to finish, showing the connections of God’s plan for us, from Creation to Jesus, to the Early Church, and everything in between. It showed the seamlessness of the Bible, and how it all fits together when you look at the bigger plan of salvation. I absolutely LOVED this study! For so many years I felt like the Old Testament was a bunch of separate Sunday School stories that were anything but seamless. I didn’t understand the timelines or eras, and while I knew some of the main characters and plots, I didn’t have it “mapped out” and how it all points to Jesus.

In the last month of Bible Journal entries we have moved from Kings to Prophets. Thanks for following along with us as we uncover these early leaders in the Old Testament. If you take a step back, you can see that God’s people have been led by Priests, Judges, Kings, and Prophets, each role spanning different time periods and for different reasons. God used the prophets to guide His people back to him. Stick with us – it really does all come together and point to Jesus!

Today I get to introduce you to Ezekiel. He (and other Israelites) have been living in exile for five years in Babylon, at the hand of King Jehoiachin. The next few days we will cover more scripture from Ezekiel – and heads up, it gets pretty interesting.

Chapter 1 he leads right off with a vision that God gave him, of the glory of God. Take a few minutes and read it. Do you need a pen and paper to draw out what he is describing, to keep it all straight? All the features, and body parts and animals? I’m not a bible scholar or dream interpreter…and it’s hard to know what to make of all of this! I read this several times and I thought and prayed… Okay Lord, what do you want me to learn from this?

I’d truly be guessing if I tried to share some big theological explanation of what his vision could symbolize and mean. When I was studying and digging deeper into this chapter, I found a lot of smart opinions and guesses out there. If you’re into that kind of stuff, your bible may have a lot of cool footnotes, or google and dig around the web. When I did an image search for ‘Ezekiel 1 Vision Picture of God’s Glory’ it was crazy to see all of the different ways artists interpreted Ezekiel’s description – the picture in my mind was completely different! I also found it fascinating how one source compared verse ten’s four faces (man, lion, ox, eagle) to Jesus. Jesus is fully man, he is king and victorious like a lion, he is a servant and sacrifice like an ox, and he transcends and is spiritually sovereign like the eagle. Chapters like this leave me curious and hungry to understand more – heaven, come quick!

There were also two things I learned about Ezekiel that really encouraged me:

First, Ezekiel is BOLD. And like I said – STAY TUNED – there’s more coming. He’s clearly being directed by the Lord, and has no qualms about telling the Israelites every detail of what he just saw. They’re living in exile, and God is using Ezekiel to share His message with His people. What message does God have for you to share? Maybe it’s not an indescribable being from a vision, maybe it’s your own life experiences. Maybe it’s not a message for a people group living in exile.. maybe it’s something God has for you to share with your family, a group of teens at your church, or some co-workers. I’m encouraged to be BOLD, even at the risk of sounding a little loony.

Second, Ezekiel is reverent. Verse 28 tells us that when he sees all of this he falls on his face. He didn’t run and hide in fear. He didn’t look the creature in the eye or give him a high five. He went to the ground, face down, to show his humility, awe, worship, and adoration. Have you had those fall to your knees or go face down moments in your faith journey? Those deeply spiritual moments you can always go back to, that can draw your heart to worship and praise? Whether the circumstances were tragic or triumphant – your only response was one of complete surrender?

I can go back to some of those moments in time in my life, like when I first made a commitment to follow Christ, or when my daughter came out of spinal cord surgery at five and a half months old. Remembering and reliving those moments of complete praise and surrender draw my heart closer to the Lord.  Third Day has a song called Show Me Your Glory, and I love this part of the chorus:

Show me your glory
Send down your presence
I wanna see your face
Show me your glory
Majesty shines about you
I can’t go on with you Lord

We don’t have to wait for heaven to experience the glory of God – what a gift! Let’s ask God to help us see His glory today!

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.