Day 4: My Redeemer Lives

Day 4:

One thing that is consistent in the holidays for most of us is family.  I see more family members during December than any other month.  We have a tradition in our family that we all show up in my hometown on the night of the Christmas parade.  Cousins come from Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and even Virginia or California.  It is great fun.  Some of these family members I know very well, some I barely know.  However, we are family.  Some of these family members look like me, act like me and think like me.  Some do not.  The holidays often have underlying joy and tension in dealing with family.  I am sure some of you can relate.

Jesus Himself had quite an interesting family.

Today I want to take a peek at some of the unique individuals who made up the family tree of the Savior of the world.  You would think that His family would be perfect.  You would think that His family would be problem-free.  You would think that His family would all get along and love each other and help each other and enjoy each other.

But the family line of Jesus was not unlike our own family lines and I want to take a look at a few of the individuals to see to whom we can relate.

Look at just a few of the Characters in the Sometimes-Dysfunctional-Family-Life of Jesus.

Tamar:  had a child by her father-in-law

Rahab: was a Canaanite prostitute

Ruth: a Moabite foreigner who came to Boaz in the cover of night

Bathsheba: the wife of Uriah who engaged in adultery with David

Mary: conceived a child while only engaged to Joseph

The family history of Jesus was not clean, scandal-free, or uncomplicated.  The people that God chose to bring about the reality of the Son of God, the Perfect Savior of the World, were not perfect themselves.  The lineage that brought about the Redeemer, needed to be Redeemed.  Somehow that is a comfort to my soul.  Imperfection does not disqualify us from being used of God.  Nothing in our past, no secret sin, no public scandal can keep us from the Redeeming Hand of the Lover of our Souls.  But we must surrender to Him.  We must believe that He IS able to keep us from falling.  He IS able to make straight the crooked mess of our lives.  The little baby born in a humble stable came to save us from ourselves.

For the next couple of days, we will take a closer look at some of the people who made up the family lineage of Jesus.  But today, I want you to praise God for your family, not matter how complicated and complex they are.  Today, know that our Redeemer lives.

As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth.           Job 19:25

 

Update 2014:

When we were in China, I had a dear friend text me this verse:  “God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.”  Psalm 68:6.  Though I had read this verse many times, it was so moving to read again as I held my newly adopted son.  I could only smile as I thought of what awaited him when we returned to the States.  What a fun, crazy, loud experience he was about to have.  A big, imperfect family who loved him with all of their hearts.  The orphanage, the loneliness, the neglect–all prisons of sorts–were behind him now.  God had set him free.  God had placed him in our family.  And I was filled with joy.  We can reach out to others and offer ourselves as family to them.  We don’t have to be perfect.  We just have to point them to the One who is.

Update 2017:

You may have heard me tell this story before, but I remember it every Christmas.

I was 8 ½ years old when my brother, Martin, was born.  I felt like he was my baby.  I bathed, dressed, and fed him.  I have always adored him.

I vividly remember that one Christmas, my dad wanted to give him a very, special present.  He wanted to build him a tree house.  He worked on it every night for weeks.  He would go outside after Martin had gone to bed and begin the difficult work of measuring, sawing, nailing, and sanding.  He very much wanted to keep the end result as a surprise, so each night he would tear down what he had built.

It was as if he were creating a giant puzzle.  He would create the pieces, make sure they all fit together, then take it apart until the next day when he would create more pieces, make sure they all fit together, and then take it apart again.  Over and over, night after night.

On Christmas Eve, he put all of the puzzle pieces in place, and then he put them together securely, one last time.  And then he added one more thing:  a very long string that tied to the tree house, traveled through the backyard, into the house, through the den, and attached on the other end to a wrapped gift.  This gift was set aside from the others, waiting for the perfect time to reveal its surprise.

On Christmas morning, we all enjoyed the chaos of opening presents, oohing and aahing over what we had received.  Finally, the time for the big reveal had come.  This was the last present to be opened, and though it was not for me, it is the only one I remember from that Christmas.

I can still clearly see in my mind’s eye, Martin’s face as he began following the string.   He was still in footie pajamas, and my mother had insisted that he add his big puffy coat on top.  We all followed behind as he followed the string to the tree house.  It was a little boy’s dream-come-true.

Sometimes there are seasons in our lives when we feel that we are being torn down over and over again.  It is a long, painful process.  But if we understand that God is our Everlasting Father, we will realize that each time we are torn down, He is using that as a puzzle piece in a great creation.  We must trust Him as the Perfect Father, knowing that He will never allow anything to happen to us that can’t be worked for our good.  He is creating a masterpiece out of the pieces of our lives.  We must trust the love of our Everlasting Father.


Day 3: Light of the World

Day 3:

A man sat in a room with many others, working diligently on his assigned job.  Hour after hour he sat, working and thinking.   He thought of his family far away from him.  He thought of his friends and all the memories they had made together.  He thought of his small, secret congregation and hoped that they would be protected from the punishment that he endured in this prison.

As he sat working and thinking, the irony of his job suddenly became clear.  He was in this place at this time because he dared to preach the truth.  In his country, the truth of Jesus was told in secrecy.  The government did not want the light of Christ to shine on the oppressed people.  But here he sat in prison, forced to work on exports that the government assigned him.

What was his particular job?  Making Christmas lights, which would be shipped all other the world, especially to countries that experienced freedom of religion, unlike he and his congregation.  He smiled as he realized that in his suffering he could actually send light to the world.  He could help others remember the birth of his Savior, he could help others celebrate the “good news of great joy” that the angel had announced to the shepherds so many years ago.

He sat in a room with many others, working diligently and thanking his Savior for the privilege of serving.

This is a true story, which I heard while visiting a spiritually oppressed country in Asia.  I heard it from the man himself, now released from prison, still preaching as before.  As he spoke, I saw joy.

When I returned to the States, I wasn’t sure I would be able to put up Christmas lights.  It made me sick to think that oppressed Christians may have assembled my own Christmas lights.  But then, I thought of the joy I saw on the man’s face.  And I decided that I would put up my lights and lots of them.  And I would use those lights as a reminder to pray for the oppressed Christians of the world and as a reminder of my First Love, the Light of the World.

Update 2014:

As many of you know, we just returned from China with our new son, Charlie.  He is 2 and 1/2 and full of joy and energy.  He could not be cuter.  And he is our Miracle Boy, too, in so many ways.  Last week, we took our two youngest, both adopted from China, to see the Christmas lights.  This will be Sally’s third Christmas with us, and though the lights were familiar to her, the excitement was still over the top.  Charlie, on the other hand, has never seen anything like it.  As Sally squealed and clapped, Charlie looked out the window with his tiny mouth hanging open, literally.  He barely moved.  He kept staring, with his mouth open and his eyes wide, as the lights twinkled in time to programmed music.  The owner of the house was adjusting a section that was not working properly and I could imagine the frustration he was feeling.  However, we rolled down the window to say thank you and to explain the joy that he had brought to my children.  I hope he realized that even if my two were the only ones to see his display, it was worth the effort, so great was their joy.  Make today count, my friends, even if it only affects a few.  Blessings!

Update 2017:

This week, as I hung the Christmas lights, I once again thought about the man  I met in China.  I always picture him in that dark, damp prison, working on those tiny lights.  I have had a particularly hard time this year with my lights.  Namely, them not working properly.  Several times I have had to deal with part of the string of lights not working, while the other part still does.  So, there have been several ways to fix that:

  1. Just hide the part that is not working.  I have tucked them deep in the tree and tried to cover them up with ribbon or ornaments.
  2. Jiggle it at just the right angle and sometimes they will miraculously come back on.
  3. Realize that it is time to pivot. Start fresh with a new set of lights.

As I tried these three strategies, I realized that we do the same sometimes with the Light inside of us.  We hide the parts that are dim; we cover that part up, hoping no one will notice.  Or we need a jiggle to get our Light to shine more brightly.  For me, that comes in the form of much-need time alone with the Lord.  Or sometimes He will use an aptly appointed sermon or word from a friend or even a worship song that revives my spirit and fans into a brighter flame the Light inside of me.  Or, sometimes I need to start fresh. I need to rid myself of the things that have snuffed out my Light…stress, people-pleasing, lack of rest, overt and covert sin…  In those times, I remember that He, the Light of the World. the Light that causes me to shine…He makes all things new.  Praise Him!


Day 2: Glorious and Beautiful

Day 2:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

                                                                                                2 Corinthians 8:9

 Yesterday we looked at the above scripture and discussed that the King of Kings became physically poor for our sakes.  And he did not leave it at that.  He left part of His glory and His beauty, as well.  When we read about Jesus in heaven, this is what we find:

On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet … I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. The hair on his head was white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and coming out of his mouth was a sharp, double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Revelation 1:9-17

 

When we read about Jesus on earth, we find this:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by mankind,
 a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces 
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain 
and bore our suffering,
 yet we considered him punished by God, 
stricken by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions,
 he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
 and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, 
each of us has turned to our own way;
 and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted,
 yet he did not open his mouth; 
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
 so he did not open his mouth.  By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested?
 For he was cut off from the land of the living; 
for the transgression of my people he was punished.  He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death, 
though he had done no violence,
 nor was any deceit in his mouth.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Isaiah 53:2-9

 

Of course, there were a few on the earth that recognized His beauty and His glory.  The Three Wise men did, Mary and Joseph did, Peter did, John did, Mary Magdeline did.  But would I have?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  But even now, sometimes I don’t recognize Him in my life and I KNOW who He is.

I, like many, like to watch the X Factor on TV.  There is a version of X Factor that takes place in England and I recently saw the clip from You Tube.  A man walked cautiously on the stage.  He was dressed shabbily and plainly.  He came with his mother, who seemed to be his only support.  He was shaking as he took the microphone.  My expectation was not very high, I assure you.  But then he opened his mouth, and what came forth was pure beauty.  A voice that was so unexpected, so powerful.  The camera scanned the crowd and people literally had their mouths wide open in surprise.  The skeptical look on Simon’s face slowly turned to a smile of realization.  The man can sing!  Amazing!

When I saw the video I cried.  For some reason, it reminded me of Jesus.  Only a select few recognized His greatness.  He didn’t look like what was expected.  There was nothing in the setting of His Birth that revealed to the world Who He was and What He could and would do.

When Jesus was born, most people did not recognize the glorious, beautiful event that had taken place.  People still do not recognize Him.  This season, let’s open our eyes.  Let’s look for Him.  Let’s remember how glorious and beautiful He is.  Let’s remember that He came to make something glorious and beautiful of us.

Update 2014:

Yesterday, I watched my beautiful niece come down the aisle in a long, white dress.  The day had finally come!  All the planning and dreaming and working had culminated in this glorious moment–she was finally meeting her groom at the altar.  A beautiful life awaits them.  I am reminded that we, the Church, all believers, are the bride of Christ.  One day soon we will finally see him face to face.  The waiting will be over and we will experience joy like never before.  Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Update 2017:

I now have experienced the wedding of two of my daughters.  They were so beautiful in their long white dresses, exuding purity and hope and love.  Both girls had dated these precious, godly young men for years.  They had waited a long time.  And finally the wedding day came, and now they are forever with the loves of their lives.  As a parent, it was the fulfillment of so much of what I had hoped and prayed for them throughout their lives.  And it gave me so much pleasure to see.  God the Father will also have that pleasure, as we the Bride of Christ, finally are united for eternity with our Bridegroom.  What a grand wedding that will be.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Day 1: Give and Receive

Day 1

Today, I want us to think of what it meant when scripture tells us that Jesus left his riches to become poor for our sakes.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.                                                               2 Corinthians 8:9

 The first time I ever read this verse, I was a senior in high school.  I was the president of the youth group and we had adopted a family for Christmas.  Ironically, this family lived only a few streets over from where I lived comfortably with my loving and stable family.  I was in charge of gathering the food, clothing and toys for this needy family.  I vividly remember searching for a Bible verse to write in the front of the Bible, which we were giving them.  And I found this verse.  It somehow seemed perfect and I quickly wrote it on the title page of the Bible.

I also had the privilege of delivering the offerings to the family.  I remember nervously knocking on the door, noticing the peeling paint on the front porch.  A woman, pitifully dressed, opened the door very sheepishly.  She invited me in and introduced me to her precious children as well as her husband whose presence in the middle of the day was evidence of the hard times on which they had fallen.  No work meant no Christmas for this family.

Except that a few self-centered teenagers had momentarily stepped out of their self-centeredness.

It was a simple thing that I did that day.  Deliver some food, a gift or two; play with the kids for just a minute; smile at the sweet lady; give them a Bible verse, which pointed out that Jesus chose poverty so we could be spiritually rich.  The experience moved me and was a greater blessing to me than to them.

Fast forward a year.  When I was home on Christmas break my freshman year of college, there was a knock at the door.  I opened it and there stood the same sweet lady.  I had not seen her in a year.  She smiled broadly, like one who had survived the difficult times and was now better, stronger.  She handed me a wrapped Christmas package.  She said, “You were kind to us when we needed it last year.  Things are better now.  We wanted to do something for you this year.”

I opened two precious figurines, picked out just for me.  I treasure them still.

It’s not too late.  Go do something for someone else.  You will be glad you did.

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

                                                                                                Luke 6:38

Update, 2014:

Two weeks ago I ventured out with my two toddlers to Hobby Lobby.  Having been home from China with our new son, Charlie, for only a few days, I felt brave just leaving the house.  It has been 15 years since I had two toddlers to care for.  It’s like riding a bike, though!  You never forget how, but the older you are, the more tired you are!  On this day, I did feel tired–very tired.  Jet lag, middle age, and seven children–I guess I have an excuse!  As I walked hand-in-hand with my two Asian cuties, I heard the familiar sound of the Salvation Army bell-ringers.  There they were faithfully calling out to remember the poor and needy during this holiday season.  As we approached the red bucket, I dug around in my purse for some change, all the while explaining to the kids (at least to Sally who can speak English!) that we needed to help the poor children.  As they both placed a quarter into the red bucket, I had a startling thought:  my children were no longer poor and needy.  They once were, recently were.  But now they were not.  And I was overwhelmed with God’s goodness.  Are you on the other side of poor and needy right now?  Then praise God for it and help someone who is not yet there.  Blessings to you, my friends!

 

Update, 2017:

Today, I found a study I wrote several years ago, about praying for your children.  This truth hit home once again for me and it is a timely truth for this season.

Generous Hearts

Lord, give each of these children a generous heart, for we know that You love a cheerful giver.  May their hearts be focused on all the abundant heavenly treasures that have eternal value, not in the passing earthly treasures of this world.                  2 Corinthians 9:7

                                                               In Jesus’ Name,  Amen

Our society today constantly sends the message that we need more, more, and more.  We need better, bigger, newest, latest.  I am very guilty of buying into the lie of more and better for me, me, and me.

And that is the same society that shouts these false messages to our children.  If I fall prey to this, and I know better, how much more easily will our children fall prey to this “More for Me” mentality?

The only way to counteract this constant message is to give.  We must model for our children a generous heart.  They should see us be generous with our treasures, our talents, and our time.  If we value heaven over earth, they will learn to do the same.  If we hold loosely to our earthly treasures, they too will hold loosely to theirs.  Let’s pray for generosity to be imbedded into our personalities and the personalities of our children.

In addition to praying for your children to have a generous heart, ask the Lord what you can do with your children to model that.  Is there a needy family you could help?  A neighbor for whom you could bake cookies?  Is there someone to whom you could offer food, clothes, or toys?  Let’s not wait until next Christmas to show our children what it means to be generous.

 


Thoroughly Equipped: Bible Reading Schedule for December

Hello, my friends!

Well, I feel like a marathon runner who trips and falls the last quarter mile of the race.  But, what do you do when you fall?  You get back up.  You start again.  So, here I am, 12 days late, posting the reading schedule for December.  I have been reading, and I hope you have been, too.  But I confess, I haven’t been studying.  I would love to say that I will finish strong with lots of commentary, but, well… the holidays…  I do have a few words to share in the next few days.  In addition, I am re-posting (with updates) my 12 Days of Christmas devotional, which first aired 4 years ago.  I hope this will give you encouragement during this hectic, but wonderful, Christmas season.  By the way, some of the devo will contain info you have studied during this Thoroughly Equipped study.  But, I’m a teacher, so review, review, review, right??

Do you, too, feel like you are limping across the finish line? No worries!  The point is to finish.  You may have missed some days, but for the most part, you can know you have read through the Bible in 2017!  So, who’s up for a repeat in 2018???

Love to you all and so very thankful you were willing to take this journey with me!

Blessings to you and Merry Christmas!

 

December 1: Daniel 8: 1-27, 1 John 2:1-17, Psalm 120:1-7, Proverbs 28:25-26.

December 2: Daniel 9:1-11:1, 1 John 2:18-3:6, Psalm 121:1-8, Proverbs 28:27-28.

December 3: Daniel 11:2-2:35, 1 John 3:7-24, Psalm 122:1-9, Proverbs 29:1.

December 4: Daniel 11:36-12:13, 1 John 4:1-21, Psalm 123:1-4, Proverbs 29:2-4.

December 5: Hosea 1:1-3:5, 1 John 5:1-21, Psalm 124:1-8, Proverbs 29:5-8.

December 6: Hosea 4:1-5:15, 2 John 1:1-13, Psalm 125:1-5, Proverbs 29:9-11.

December 7: Hosea 6:1-9:17, 3 John 1:1-15, Psalm126:1-6, Proverbs 29:12-14.

December 8: Hosea 10:1-14:9, Jude 1:1-25, Psalm 127:1-5, Proverbs 29:15-17.

December 9: Joel 1:1-3:21, Revelation 1:1-20, Psalm 128:1-6, Proverbs 29:18.

December 10: Amos 1:1-3:15, Revelation 2:1-17, Psalm 129:1-8, Proverbs 29:19-20.

December 11: Amos 4:1-6:14, Revelation 2:18-3:6, Psalm 130:1-8, Proverbs 29:21-22.

December 12: Amos 7:1-9:15, Revelation 3:7-22, Psalm 131:1-3, Proverbs 29:23.

December 13: Obadiah 1:1-21, Revelation 4:1-11, Psalm 132:1-18, Proverbs 29:24-25.

December 14: Jonah 1:1-4:11, Revelation 5:1-14, Psalm 133:1-3, Proverbs 29:26-27.

December 15: Micah 1:1-4:13, Revelation 6:1-17, Psalm 134:1-3, Proverbs 30:1-4.

December 16: Micah 5:1-7:20, Revelation 7:1-17, Psalm 135:1-21, Proverbs 30:5-6.

December 17: Nahum 1:1-3:19, Revelation 8:1-13, Psalm 136:1-26, Proverbs 30:7-9.

December 18: Habakkuk 1:1-3:19, Revelation 9:1-21, Psalm 137:1-9, Proverbs 30:10.

December 19: Zephaniah 1:1-3:20, Revelation 10:1-11, Psalm 138:1-8, Proverbs 30:11-14.

December 20: Haggai 1:1-2:23, Revelation 11:1-19, Psalm 139:1-24, Proverbs 30:15-16.

December 21: Zechariah 1:1-21, Revelation 12:1-17, Psalm 140:1-13, Proverbs 30:17.

December 22: Zechariah 2:1-3:10, Revelation 12:18-13:18, Psalm 141:1-10, Proverbs 30:18-20.

December 23: Zechariah 4:1-5:11, Revelation 14:1-20, Psalm 142:1-7, Proverbs 30:21-23.

December 24: Zechariah 6:1-7:14, Revelation 15:1-8, Psalm 143:1-12, Proverbs 30:24-28.

December 25: Zechariah 8:1-23, Revelation 16:1-21, Psalm 144:1-15, Proverbs 30:29-31.

December 26: Zechariah 9:1-17, Revelation 17:1-18, Psalm 45:1-21, Proverbs 30:32.

December 27: Zechariah 10:1-11:17, Revelation 18:1-24, Psalm 146:1-10, Proverbs 30:33.

December 28: Zechariah 12:1-13:9, Revelation 19:1-21, Psalm 147:1-20, Proverbs 31:1-7.

December 29: Zechariah 14:1-21, Revelation 20:1-15, Psalm 148:1-14, Proverbs 31:8-9.

December 30: Malachi 1:1-2:17, Revelation 21:1-27, Psalm 149:1-9, Proverbs 31:10-24.

December 31: Malachi 3:1-4:6, Revelation 22:1-21, Psalm 150:1-6, Proverbs 31:25-31.