Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Stumbling and Shining + a free Christmas printable

I was privileged to participate in a Women's Christmas Tea at a local church. This is the essence of my talk. Thank you! to the ladies of Praise for seeing past my nerves to my heart. I so loved being a part of your gathering.
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“I had no idea you were a Christian.” 8 simple words spoken so innocently.

I was a senior in high school and a classmate stood there shocked. I don’t remember what we were talking about or how it came up, but that was her response. “I. had. no. idea. you. were. a. Christian.” 

You see, I’d transferred into the school as a junior. So here I was “the new girl” with no known history and I chose popularity over my faith. I chose parties over my relationship with Jesus. 

I took my light and hid it from my classmates. It’s not that I’d walked away from Jesus. At least not in my own mind. I still went to church and sang the worship songs. I knew the Word. And yet, the only thing this classmate knew of me was my reputation of running with the party crowd.

I’d love to tell you that everything changed after that conversation, but it didn’t. I went on living my double life. I attended a Christian college, and also knew the local bar owner by name. I called myself a Christian, but I was living in darkness.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

The Message puts it this way: Jesus once again addressed them: “I am the world’s Light. No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness.”

Darkness is defined as the absence of light and Jesus says He is the light of the world.

If darkness is the absence of light, and Jesus is the light of the world, then darkness is the absence of Jesus. And that’s how I was living - in darkness because of an absence of Jesus.



So how could this happen? How could I be living in darkness when I knew the truth. I knew that Jesus humbled himself and came into this broken, sinful world as an infant with the sole purpose of living a perfect life and becoming the atonement for our sin and giving us life.

I’d "accepted Jesus into my heart" as a really small girl and never questioned that decision, but I certainly wasn’t shining with the light of the world. Instead, I was stumbling around in darkness because I my all-day, every-day life didn't have Jesus.

There was a gap between my theology and my reality.

There were 3 fundamental truths from John 8:12 that I needed to better understand to close that gap.

Jesus spoke to the people

I grew up in church. I went to a Christian college, but with all that, mostly I read these familiar passages as past tense. Anybody else guilty of that or is it just me?

And while this verse is written in the past tense, the truth is that it is actually present tense. Throughout scripture we see the consistency of God.

Psalms 89:34 says My covenant I will not violate, Nor will I alter the utterance of My lips.

Hebrews 13:8 says Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Based on these verses, is it safe to say that if Jesus said it to the people then, He’s also saying it to us today? If that's the case, if we've moved from the past tense to the present tense, the beginning could read, ‘When Jesus speaks again to Heather, he says…” 

Take a moment and reread the verse, inserting your own name.

When Jesus speaks again to _______________, he says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus speaks to the people. Present tense. I needed to understand that Jesus speaks to me.

The Light of life

I like to tinker in the garden, and one of the terms that I’ve come across in my gardening books is phototropic. It’s a fun sounding word: Pho-to-trop-ic.

It means that plants seek the light because it gives them life.

I grew up in western NY where winters were long and we could go weeks without seeing the sun. 

People in Rochester endure more than 200 days a year of cloud cover. We’re not talking about passing wispy clouds. We’re talking steel gray skies for weeks at a time. 

When we’d had enough, my husband and I moved to Richmond, VA and I’ll never forget that first winter. I worked downtown and my building had this huge courtyard. I would stand outside in my coat with my face to sun. People looked at me strangely. But, it was so novel for me – this idea of daily winter sun.

While I like the sun on my face, plants actually need it. In fact, they obtain energy from sunlight to create nutrition. The light literally gives them life. And this is the beauty of the Gospel. 

Without Jesus the light of the world - without the sacrifice of His life - we have no eternal life. 

I need to follow him

Salvation is a gift freely given, but the gospel is more than the beginning of our faith journey. It’s an important part of our every day. God sent Jesus to pay for our sins – not just the sin I committed before I knew Him, but the sin I will commit later today.
  • That unkind thought. 
  • The responsibility left undone. 
  • That moment when God asks something of me and I put Him off. 

Jesus became flesh, died and rose again to pay for every one of those. My actions today required Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. 

When we begin to understand the magnitude of the debt He paid, the love He displayed for us, that’s when following Jesus becomes more than a phrase and becomes a way of life. And we further close that gap between our theology and our reality.

In talking about his book, Follow Me, David Platt says:

when someone becomes a follower of Jesus we begin to think differently. We begin to desire differently. We begin to want what God wants. We begin to live differently. And that's a good thing, because we believe Jesus knows what's best. Our relationships also begin to change. We see the importance of the community of faith and the church. And we become more intentional about sharing the gospel with people who don't know Christ.”

We live in a state where many people don't know Jesus. They may know about Him, but they don’t know Him. New England is consistently ranked as one of the least Christian places in the country. 

If there are 50 houses on your street, statistically, yours may be the only one who knows that Jesus speaks to us today, that He is the light of light and what it means to truly follow him.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heavenMatthew 5:14-16

I don’t want anyone to ever say of me again, “I had no idea you were a Christian.” Instead, I want the light of life to shine through me so that they can know the hope that is Jesus Christ.

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FREE PRINTABLE


 p.s. My church has created this free printable of Isaiah 9:6. Download your own copy today. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Promises of Rest

The words of that old hymn's been running through my head these last two weeks.


Standing on the promises that cannot fail, 

when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, 

by the living Word of God I shall prevail, 

standing on the promises of God. 

The promises that cannot fail. The promises of God.

As I've been w[rest]ling with this idea of rest, I've found myself seeking out and standing on the promises... specifically, the promise of rest.

In the version I memorized as a child (the one that I know by heart?), Jesus says, 
"COME unto me, ALL ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I WILL GIVE you rest." 
This translation with it's extra, unnecessary vowel brings to mind the image of one of those overloaded buses in Asia or Africa - the kind with the chicken coops strapped to the roof. Suit cases and trunks piled high. Bodies determined to get to where they're going by hanging on to the smallest hand hold - grasping to not fall off at every bump and turn.

And maybe that's what we do to ourselves. We think that this must be the only way to get where we're going so we keep piling things on until the only space left is the roof and the weight of it all is threatening collapse. 

As we desperately hold on, there He is looking kindly into your face, my face - all - and He says, "C'mon. Let me help. I WILL help." 


Can you hear Him gently urging, "Get off the overcrowded, overburdened bus. Get away with me. Let me teach you the unforced rhythms of grace. Learn to live freely and lightly."

The unforced rhythms of grace. The voluntary repeated pattern of mercy, goodwill, favor and pardon. This is the way of Jesus. He voluntarily, repeatedly extends grace.

He promises to give us real rest, and it takes the smallest of efforts on our part. We need only to walk down the road with Him a while to recover life. 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

w [rest] ling with rest

It's midnight.  I'm writing this post and honestly, for the love, I should NOT be writing about rest. It makes me anxious because seriously, this is NOT something I've mastered. I'm wrestling with rest.

I wrote about rest even in sleeplessness and then spent all of Thursday night tossing and turning. Friday, I felt like I'd been through a washing machine.

AND we have a foster puppy on the weekends which requires our undivided attention every second of every minute. (On a side note: isn't she the cutest thing ever?)




So, then. Where do we go from here?

For me, often when I'm confounded by a problem, I start with definitions (thank you Merriam Webster).

rest 

noun\ˈrest\
"repose, sleep; specifically:  a bodily state characterized by minimal functional and metabolic activities" Well, that's out. What's next?
"freedom from activity or labor, a state of motionlessness or inactivity, the repose of death." Uh. Hello? It's 2014. Who has freedom from activity? We've assigned 4-letter word status to the word rest. We've made busy the best thing, when really shouldn't rest be the best thing?
"a place for resting or lodging" hmmm. That one has potential, but let's face it. We can't always hang out a country manor in England and even when you do you're not guaranteed rest... More on that later.
"peace of mind or spirit,  free of anxieties." Doesn't that sound ideal?

How do you really find peace of mind and spirit? Can we really be free of anxiety? This is all a bit of midnight rambling, but maybe - just maybe - the rest (noun) we crave is a consequence of the rest (verb) we choose.