Archive for December, 2012

Christmas meditations

Posted: December 25, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Theology, Thoughts

I hope you are enjoying a day off with the family, around lots and lots of food . I love my family, I love getting gifts, I love seeing reactions to the gifts that I give away, but the most important gift we have all been given is the gift of Jesus Christ. It is so easy to lose sight of what this holiday is all about. We could have easily been left to our own ability to make things right with God, but God in His love for us moved toward us. Just think about that for a second…God, in His mercy, in the birth of Jesus, moves toward people who relentlessly run away from Him. How he moved towards us is easily the biggest moment in history. The curse of sin is being removed in the birth of Jesus. The effects of sin (sickness, death, and brokenness) is being restored to the way it should have been had we not broken God’s commands. Aslan is on the move! (for my Narnianites). The incarnation is the implementation of a plan that has cosmic implications.

Here are some quotes that have been helpful to meditate on:

At a time when men (Ceasars) were claiming to be god, God came as a man in Jesus. The Creator became creation, the Infinite as an infant, heaven’s Majesty in a manger. – Chris Gnanakan

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. – C.S Lewis

He became what we are that he might make us what he is. – Athanasius

Remaining what he was he became what he was not. – Gregory of Naziansen

Christmas is about faith, family and foreign missions: a promise-keeping God left heaven (His place of comfort) to be born into a human home to bring us his gracious salvation(through suffering). Let’s receive this Gift, share his love, and follow His example!-  Chris Gnanakan

Here is a spoken word on the incarnation.

Being amazed by the incarnation

Posted: December 24, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts

Here is a letter a friend shared with me written by a missionary in Cambodia.

As you will remember, last time we wrote to you traffic was horrendous as roads were blocked so that dignitaries and powerful people could go to and from meetings. Well, we’re happy to report that the hubbub is over, traffic is once again flowing freely and life has pretty much returned to business as usual. Well—almost. Since there is a 3-day holiday week, the streets are actually somewhat emptier than usual as people make their way out to the provinces. It was almost enjoyable to drive to church yesterday.There the speaker started out by saying that the earth holds a very privileged and unique position over all other places in the universe, and that of all life on earth, humanity is the most exalted. I waited in agreement, expecting a description of the many minute things about the earth that make it uniquely capable of supporting life. Or I thought they would go on explain the wonders of the human body, so complex that science has not yet unraveled all the mysteries of this amazing system.
But no. She simply stated that, of all the places in the universe, only here did the Lord and Creator of all choose to dwell in bodily, physical form. And the form He chose was that of a human. In our pursuit to plumb the theological depths of the incarnation, sometimes we forget to just stop and marvel at its wonder.

I thought back to last week. Monday was the absolutely worst day for travel, with roads closed for hours at a time. Do you know who arrived that day? None other than the President of the United States. Yes, Barack Obama was in Cambodia for just about 24 hours, and believe me, it was a BIG deal. Why? Well, for starters he is, as I understand, the first US president ever to visit Cambodian soil. And regardless of your politics, a visit from the leader of a super power gives a little place like Cambodia some status, some dignity, some credibility on the world stage.

How much more, then, that the King of the Universe chose to spend some time on this planet? What nobility and honor that act gives this little ball of water and dust! And what’s more, that He would stoop to contain His infinity within the confines of flesh and blood. Imagine the value and dignity that gives the human race! Not only were we made in His image, but He also chose to become one of us for a time. The more I stop to think of it, the more mind-boggling and awe-inspiring I find it.

But in spite of being the miracle of the ages, Jesus’ incarnation was not greeted with much fanfare. Sure, there was an angel choir, but nobody lined the streets (except for that one time…). There were no armed guards, no black limos, no photo ops or welcome banners. Nobody even stopped traffic when the Son of God came to earth. In fact, the world didn’t even recognize Him for Who He was. 

No, the sermon yesterday was not a Christmas message. It was actually on the first chapter of Colossians. But I was challenged to take a second look at the Christmas story because of it. What a shame that the words, the concepts, the plot of the most amazing act of all time has become so familiar that it ceases to take our breath away, fails to stir us deeply or blow our minds. As we draw near the Christmas season again, stop and think twice about the incarnation. Find it incredible once again. Marvel at the incredible honor He bestowed on our planet and our race.

1. Praise God for a good meeting of the Prayer Support Team, and that a number of people were ministered to in prayer this past Sunday. Pray that Deborah can find someone to step in and take her place as the coordinator of this ministry.

2. Pray for Steve as he keeps teaching Firm Foundations, and for both of us as we step back into coaching roles after stepping out of them briefly during our very busy weeks

3. Pray that we will have meaningful fellowship this week, as we meet with a few people to start the process of saying good-bye.

4. Ask God for safe travels and a good visit for Fenton McDonald, arriving on Thursday, November 29.

John 1:10–11, 14
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.  He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.…

I pray that this would make us stand in amazed with the incarnation. 

O Holy Night (My favorite rendition)

Posted: December 20, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leisure

I really like Anthony Evans vocal ability and his passion when performing. He was a contestant on the voice, my wife and I love this show. He normally brings the house down!

 

Exposed and Embraced by the Cross

Posted: December 19, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Reading, Thoughts

Gospel-Centerdness is something that is sort of a resurgence in Christian circles. What many are trying to recover is connecting the message of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to every aspect of Christianity. If I am made right with God by believing in all that Jesus has done for me, how does this message of salvation affect the way that I view giving, church membership, fighting to do what is right even when it doesn’t come easy.

I was reading a portion of Milton Vincent’s Gospel Primer today and thought I would share this entry. Under one of his headings titled Exposed by the Cross, Milton Vincent connects the death of Jesus to the death of fear. The life that Jesus lived as the basis for an honest, humble, and transparent life.He explains that because of the cross criticism shouldn’t scare us. We should embrace it and in some ways expect sin. We shouldn’t be surprised if people think bad of us. As Charles Spurgeon said, “Brothers, if any one thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.”

Here is what Milton Vincent writes:

The Cross exposes me before the eyes of other people, informing them of the depth of my depravity. If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved. But when I stand at the foot of the Cross and am seen by others under the light of that Cross, I am left uncomfortably exposed before their eyes. Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations. With the worst facts about me thus exposed to the view of others, I find myself feeling that I truly have nothing left to hide. Thankfully, the more exposed I see that I am by the Cross, the more I find myself opening up to others about issues of sin in my life. Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?And the more open I am in confessing my sins to fellow-Christians, the more I enjoy the healing of the Lord in response to their grace-filled counsel and prayers. Experiencing richer levels of Christ’s love in companionship with such saints, I thanks for the gospel’s role in forcing my hand toward self-discloser and the freedom that follows that.

This is amazing news isn’t it!! We can be honest about our deepest struggles, because we have been affirmed and approved in ways that cover any shame and guilt we would feel. We can face the ugliness of our hearts because Jesus is now changing our hearts and making them more like His. We have hope for change. We have the power that rose Jesus from the dead working in us. Let’s live lives that not only show how broken we are, but how Jesus through the good news of the cross is restoring all things in Himself.

Spending time with God

Posted: December 18, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Reading, Thoughts

Here is a convicting quote on making intentional time to pray and be with God. 

 

“If you are not praying, then you are quietly confident that time, money, and talent are all that you need in life. You’ll always be a little too tired, a little too busy. But if, like Jesus, you realize you can’t do life on your own, then no matter how busy, no matter how tired you are, you will find the time to pray. 

 

Time in prayer makes you even more dependent on God because you don’t have as much time to get things done. Every minute spent in prayer is one less minute where you could be doing something ‘productive’. So the act of praying means that you have to rely more on God.

 

…There is no one way to do this. Some people pray on their way to work. My one caution is that it is tough to be intimate when you are multitasking. It would weaken a marriage if talking to your spouse in the car was the only time you communicated. It will do the same to your relationship with God.” – Paul Miller,  A Praying Life pg 49-50

 

Here are some of the thoughts Paul Miller suggest and that I want to set in place

 

1) Get to bed on time so that I am able to spend time with God before my workday starts. 

2) Get a quiet place where no one can interrupt you.

3) Get going. Start small and build up to more time. 

4) Keep going. Some days are going to be busier and more difficult to pray through. Just keep going.

 

Create a reading plan

Posted: December 16, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Reading

Reading has be the most enjoyable, fruitful and possible when I create a reading plan. If I have a plan, I get it done. If I don’t have a plan, the busyness of life normally drowns out my reading goals and I am forced to fit reading into my schedule. I prefer to lock in times to read and even which books I will read on that particular day. 

I remember first reading about this in Tony Reinke’s blog, which is now a book called Lit!. I got away for a day and thought of my reading pace, the books I wanted to read, and made a plan. Most books that I read average about 12 chapters. If I read at a pace of a chapter a week- then I can finish the book in 3 months. I chose to be more ambitious than that and asked, how much could I read if I read for an hour a day? I could read about two chapters a day. 

After making a plan, I chose 7 categories of books that I would read during the week and named them(Theological Tuesdays, Wisdom Wednesdays, Fun Fridays). I had a plan, I chose the books, and I made a shelf. I shuffled through the shelf as the week went by, and my pace was doable. I go back and revisit the books I am reading, the categories, and pace. Sometimes I choose three books, when life is less busy. At times, I can barely get in a book a day. Sometimes, I can only read a couple of pages a day. Life varies…my plan has to be realistic and so I change it. 

Over the years I have found that it is more easy to plan and stick to it, than to fill extra time with reading. The more disciplined I have been, the more I have benefited from reading. If you plan out to read an hour in four 15 minute increments, you could get a lot of reading done. It is easy to find these times during your normal day. Your plan doesn’t have to look like my plan. I would even say that if you chose to follow my plan, you would probably read less. Make a plan that you think would work for your schedule, your lifestyle, and your reading habits. Following someone else’s plan can make what should be a delight, drudgery and duty. 

Make a plan, get the books, and let the reading begin. 

When books become movies…

Posted: December 13, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Leisure, Movies

I know that there are going to be differences of opinion on books becoming movies. Some directors do a good job. Others make you wish you could get your 14 dollars back. Peter Jackson introduced me to J.R Tolkien. I had never read fiction before. But after seeing The Lord of the Rings, I was convinced that reading fiction would be my next buy.

When I heard that Peter Jackson was going to be making the prequel, The Hobbit, I had to read it. My son and I have now read and anticipated this movie for the last couple of months. I was probably more excited about his LOTR lego set than he was. We bought games, bookmarks, sketch books, and even want to eat hobbit-like meals that we found here.

I thank my beautiful wife for encouraging me to read fiction. She pushed and I finally budged. She has only enhanced my reading. I look forward to making Dwarf outfits, shields, and the festivities this weekend. If you have not read The Hobbit, I recommend you read it for fun. Sitting down and letting your mind travel to middle earth has been relaxing and fun. All that to say, I am pumped about this weekend!!!