I love Jesus. I believe Jesus. Jesus changed my life.

IMG_7668Those words are embossed on three bracelets that O. wears.

On this very holy day, as you are tempted to rush around to buy one more, rush one more, stress over one more thing–just stop.  Contemplate the mystery.  Contemplate the gift.

Jesus changed my life. Have you given much thought to where you would be without the gift of that baby in the straw?  Any eternal hope or joy or love you have–simply blown away like a Christmas Eve candle.

So spend today breathing in the mystery of the Incarnation. And exhale the weight of the world that you were never meant to bear. He is here. God is with us. That’s all that matters. Today and always.

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said throughout he prophet, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel–which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

Lending to the Lord

As we anticipate the adventure of bringing two orphan boys from Eastern Europe to our home for the holidays, I am learning many things.  Maybe the biggest is gratitude.

I could go on and on about how freshly-aware and grateful I am for the big things: My savior, my family, my freedom in America. And I could go on and on about how grateful I’m becoming for the little things that many in O. and V.’s situation don’t have: dozens of sappy Hallmark channel movies, more amazing books than I can ever find time to read, and a fireplace beside which to enjoy it all.

But today I’m considering the generosity of God who shares all these things with us.  It all belongs to him.  God announces:

“Everything under heaven belongs to me.”  Job 41:11.

and Paul asks this rhetorical question:

“Who has ever given to God that God should repay him? For from him, and through him, and to him are all things.”  Romans 11:35-36.

But I’m grateful not only for the generosity of God, but of so many wonderful people who have partnered financially with us on this journey.  Donations have poured in to our fundraising website, by check to our home, and in the very useful and equally generous boxes and bags of clothing we’ve received.

I nearly wept when my son’s good friend gave a gift of $50.  That’s a lot of money for a high school senior!!!  The lady who came to our home to officially interview us and assess that our home is a safe place for a host child to stay brought a practically new winter coat for us to give to one of the boys.

I could go on and on. Everyone’s gift is equally valuable to us because every gift came from a heart willing to give to the poor.  Not that we are poor.  But the boys we are hosting are literally penniless.

And this is where the mystery of God comes in.  Remember how he owns it all.  How no one can ever give to God and expect repayment.  I think God makes one exception.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for what he has done.” Proverbs 19:17

God has a special place in his heart for the poor, downtrodden, forgotten, and friendless in our world. And he has a special place in his heart for those who offer kindness to help even one of this world’s “losers.”

I want to thank every single person who has given with generous hearts to help O. and V.  come to our home.  We are in your debt.  And miraculously, so is God.

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”  Matthew 25:37-40.

My favorite: God’s Promises

My 12-year-old daughter recently informed me that she was going to read through the whole Bible, start to finish.  Now maybe a Christian mom like me should have done a happy dance and praised her for this lofty goal. Instead I found myself offering words of caution…in fact, trying to talk her out of it.

Hey–I want to encourage my kids to set spiritual goals that will end in success.  So a daily plan that breaks up some of the blah of the Old Testament with some Psalms and New Testament passages seemed, to me, more doable.  But she was insistent and I remained concerned.

The reason is, I’m in the middle of that goal myself.  Just finished Day 253 out of 365 in my Bible app daily reading plan.  But I’m “stuck” in Ezekiel.  Just as I was stuck in the books of Jeremiah and Leviticus and Numbers and others.  There’s just pretty big chunks of what you wouldn’t  call “Happy Texts.”

It can get boring.  It can get bloody.  And in the case of most of the book of Ezekiel, in the modern context of our chaotic world, it can get terrifying.

God is going to judge Israel for her sins. And then God is going to judge the whole freaking world for their sins.  And he uses bloodthirsty people to do his bidding and bring about this judgment.  Not the most encouraging start to my day lately.

But this morning, just like that, it got awesome.  Happy-Text-in-the-middle-of-all-that-bloodshed-awesome.

Then they will know that I am the LORD.

Then they will know that I am the LORD.

God wants to be known for who He is: loving, compassionate, and very, very, very holy.  Do you know that in the book of Ezekiel the phrase, “Then they will know that I am the LORD” appears 43 times?  All that He is accomplishing in world events, terrifying as it may be, is done to cause people to know Him as LORD. He wants to forgive us and save us and to be known by us. But as the rest of the book of Ezekiel shows, we will never earn it or even ever want it.  So, he will just have to do it himself.

Promises in Ezekiel

Promises in Ezekiel

“I will sprinkle clean water on you; and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to obey my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ezekiel 36:25-28 NIV.

Oh my heart breaks at the lengths to which He will go just to be known by us.  And my typically-stony heart breaks at the realization that I am just as likely to turn to all my idols to save me today as the people in Ezekiel that God will judge in wrath.  “Prone to wander. Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love.”

But thanks be to God who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord. Who has given me a new heart and a new spirit and has cleansed me through His Son’s sacrifice.  No more condemnation.  No more fear of wrath. Forever and forever. That’s a promise I can cling to no matter what the nightly news is.

And now hopefully I will remember to encourage my daughter to look for the threads of God’s holiness and grace throughout her upcoming reading about skin diseases and army censuses and slaughter.  And those glimpses into God’s promises may see her through to accomplishing her goal after all.