Monday, December 25, 2017

12.25.17 // Expecting the Messiah: Behold the Lamb

Our final Christmas thought is summed up in John the Baptist’s proclamation:

John 1:29
“The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,
Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

This is the reason the baby in the manger came. To take away the sins of the world. Your sins. My sins. He has done it. It is finished. It is complete. Salvation is ours! THIS is the whole point of the Christmas story, where God’s redemption plan began to unfold 2,000 years ago. And beyond all comprehension, we - you and I - can behold Him!!!

Take time to worship the Lord today because YOU HAVE BEHELD YOUR KING. God has allowed you to behold His Son. His Son endured so much for us because of God’s great love. What a mystery! What a great and undeserving gift! What a blessing! What an honor! Before the gifts are brought out and the Christmas dinner is baked, take time to sit with your Savior.

Enjoy your Savior today. Thank Him for your salvation. Praise Him for dying on your behalf. Tell someone about His goodness. Share His love with others. Enjoy the gifts He has so richly blessed you with. Enjoy your family and your friends. But most importantly, celebrate Christ, and give Him all of the glory! Let Christ be the center today and every day! Praise Him that you have beheld your Savior, and that one day, you will behold Him before your very eyes! What a thought! Have a great day, my friend!

Merry, merry, merry Christmas!!!

Always, Jacquelyn

Sunday, December 24, 2017

12.24.17 // Expecting the Messiah: The "Christmas Christian"

Proverbs 3:5-8
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.”

Christmas Christian = someone who attends church only on Christmas Day (and possibly Easter)

Sunday Christian = someone who attends church on Sunday, but the message of Christ doesn't impact their lives the rest of the week

Everyday Christian = someone whose relationship with Christ is true, vibrant, and growing; it is evident daily, not just on Sundays

Many Christmas services around the country have record attendance on Christmas Sunday. Why? Because there are many “Christmas Christians,” the people who only attend church on Christmas Sunday. Maybe because it’s a tradition. Maybe because its in their upbringing. Maybe because they sense something holy about the holiday. Maybe because they are seeking. But no doubt, there are many people who only darken the doors of a church building a few times a year, namely Christmas and Easter. Maybe you know a “Christmas Christian.” Maybe you are a “Christmas Christian.”

Proverbs 3:5-8 is a challenge for all of us. Today is Christmas Eve, and this is not really a Christmas blog. These verses kept coming to my mind when I pondered the people who don’t regularly attend church, but might attend on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. These verses apply to them, but they also certainly apply to the Christian who has perfect attendance at Sunday services. These commands and exhortations in these verses are timeless and relevant.

-    Trust in the Lord (that means not in yourself) with all of your heart.
-    Lean not on your own (finite, limited, short-sighted) understanding.
-    In all (not some) your ways acknowledge Him.
-    He (not you) will direct your path.

Basically, the message of verses 5-6 is that we should trust in God, not in ourselves. Many times, we may be struggling through life, trying to make the right choices, trying to make ends meet, trying to make people happy, and all the while, we have tried and tried and struggled and struggled because we are living in our own strength. We are calling the shots. We are using our limited wisdom to make life-altering decisions. Why? Because we like to be in control. We don’t fully submit to the Lord as we should. We still desire our agenda over the Lord’s. And so we struggle. Our lives would be much more at peace if we submitted to and rested in His will. Many times, Proverbs 3:5-6 are quoted without verses 7-8. Let’s look at the message of verses 7-8.

-    Don’t be wise in your own eyes; rather, look to the Lord’s wisdom.
-    Trusting in the Lord will bring healing and refreshment.

Who doesn’t want to be healed and refreshed?? These verses tell us exactly what will bring healing and refreshment…trusting in the Lord instead of in ourselves. Pretty straightforward! It’s not a mystery, and yet it’s really hard to do! Even though our lives are in shambles when we are (or when we think we are) in control, we still reach for that control anyways.

The reason these verses are brought to my mind when I consider the “Christmas Christian” is because I believe the Lord has so much more for us! The Lord desires for you to experience Him deeply every day of the year, not just merely receive a glimpse of His precious, life-giving, refreshing, and healing truths one Sunday out of the year! The devil will try to convince you that that’s enough, that the one Sunday a year can be checked off of your list as your good deed for Christmas. But that’s simply not true! The Lord wants so much more for you. He wants you to thrive in your walk with Him and with the fellowship of other believers. He wants you to go deeper with Him, and that can’t happen if you only pursue Him once a year. He wants you to go deeper with Him, and that won’t happen if you only check in with Him on Sundays. I am not writing this at all to condemn, but rather to encourage. I have been guilty many times of being a “Sunday Christian”, without being an “every-other-day-of-the-week Christian.” It's easy to get into a routine of doing what you think is right without having the right heart behind it. (And also, I know that attending church doesn't make you a Christian. There are many people who attend regularly who are still not "daily Christians.") I hope you see the truths in these verses as encouraging and refreshing, whether you are new in your walk with Christ, 10 or 20 years into your relationship, still seeking, or are far from Him. And if you’re someone who is a committed, born-again, Christ-follower, I pray that these verse also remind you of why its so awful to cling to your own control and why it’s so wonderful to relinquish control and trust the Lord. It is freeing, healing, and refreshing!

This Christmas Eve, I pray that you will celebrate the freedom and peace that you have because you can trust that the loving, good, sovereign God has redeemed you and is in control of your life. He can do a much better job than you, by the way! I pray that you reread Proverbs 3:5-6 and dwell on its truths. I pray that as you attend a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day service that you will be changed by Christ and challenged to take the next step in your walk with Him, whatever that may be. I pray that as we close out the Christmas season and enter the New Year, you will be encouraged to pursue God more passionately than you ever have before. I pray that you will plead with Him to help you give up all desire for control, and that you will live fully in His freedom to do His will, not your own.

Merry Christmas!

Always, Jacquelyn

Saturday, December 23, 2017

12.23.17 // Expecting the Messiah: Christmas Without Lights

As a child, one of my least favorite days of the year was December 26. Hands down, it felt like the most depressing day to a seven year old who loves the thrill of receiving more gifts. December 26 meant that presents were done. I remember feeling almost depressed that I didn’t have any more gifts to open. I would hope to open my eyes that morning and it magically be December 25th again so I can relive the moment of having my gifts revealed. Now that I’m an adult, December 26 isn’t all that exciting either because I have to take down all of my Christmas decorations. I just don’t enjoy un-decorating and putting it all away. It’s kind of depressing, and it’s a chore. Okay, enough whining. J  

Throughout the process of writing the entries for “Expecting the Messiah,” I kept coming back to the idea of December 26. What will we feel like on December 26? Exhausted now that we can finally relax from the chaotic season? Ready to sleep for three days straight? Stressed because we know the credit card bill is looming? Heavy-hearted because we miss the loved ones who aren’t here with us to celebrate anymore? Depressed that we have to undecorated and put all the Christmas stuff away until next year? Excited to see the children enjoy their new gifts? Happy that the kids are going back to school soon? Bloated from all of the holiday treats? Expectant about making and keeping New Year’s resolutions? Still busy catching after-Christmas sales? What will make up your December 26?

The main reason December 26 kept returning to my mind was the notion of forgetting Christmas. Now, of course we don’t forget Christmas, but we do pack up all of our wreaths and ornaments. We say goodbye to family and friends and return to work and school. The radio no longer plays “Santa Clause is Coming to Town” 20 times a day. Christmas, in the commercial sense of the word, is over.

But the joy of Christmas, the meaning of Christmas, should not cease to be celebrated. Think of it from Joseph and Mary’s point of view. The celebration was just getting started! Jesus had just entered into our world, and He was here to stay for a while! He had come to change hearts and lives. Christmas did not come and go in a rush. Christmas initiated a massive celebration that the Son of God had come to dwell with man.

Christmas is in two days, and then December 26 will come. Don’t stop celebrating the baby in the manger. Don’t stop offering Him your gift of worship, just as the wise men fell on their knees before the babe. Don’t cease to seek Him diligently like the wise men and shepherds. Don’t hesitate to tell everyone you know about the changing power of Jesus Christ, just as the shepherds proclaimed to anyone who had ears. Don’t forget God’s promises, but rather remember them over and over again like Simeon and Anna. Don't forget that God uses humble, wiling vessels like Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, and Elizabeth. Don't forget that the Lord can work through our doubts, insecurities, and disbelief like Zechariah. Don't forget that He can work miracles through unlikely servants like Mary and Elizabeth. Don’t forget about Christmas and how significant it is to those who believe in the Son of God Jesus Christ. Don’t be depressed on December 26. Rather be encouraged to continue on in the Christmas spirit as you fall more in love with your Savior every day! 

Continue to celebrate Jesus even though the Christmas lights are in the attic. He is worthy of our praise and focused attention every day of the year, not just on the anniversary of His birth, death, and resurrection. As you begin to ponder your New Year's Resolutions, think of all we've discussed this Christmas season, what we've learned about God and humanity and what we've learned from different characters in the Christmas story. Continue to study. Continue to grow. Continue to pursue Jesus Christ!

Merry Christmas!

Always, Jacquelyn

Friday, December 22, 2017

12.22.17 // Expecting the Messiah: Scarlet and Snow

Ok, so I apologize in advance, but I’m going to begin with a gross analogy.

My family recently moved to Iowa. My husband is studying at a university here, and we made our big move in August. The one thing I was most anxious about was winter. Yesterday was the first official day of winter. Coming from Louisiana, the first day of winter is not anything special. In fact, it may even be 80 degrees on December 21 in Louisiana! That’s not really Christmas-y, but it’s a fact for many southern states. However, the first day of winter is not really special in Iowa either because…it has been under 30 degrees for a month now! The cold weather begins in October! On Sunday, the wind chill was -33 and the high was -3! What?? That’s like 60 degrees colder than what Louisiana typically experiences. I was right to fear the winter.

However, that cold weather brings something beautiful…snow! Something that this Louisiana girl has experienced about twice (before moving to Iowa!). Louisiana snow is realllllly different than Iowa snow. Louisiana “snow” is heavy and wet and stays on the ground for about 30 minutes. Iowa snow is light, fluffy, beautiful, and stays on the ground for weeks! It’s cold, but it is really beautiful. The first night snow was in the forecast here, I stayed up until 1:20am just because I wanted to see the first flurries! In Louisiana, if a “wintry mix” is in the forecast, the whole state shuts down. In Iowa, snow in the forecast is common, and life, work, school, etc. continue during the downpour.

So, as I said, the snow is beautiful. It really looks like a fluffy white blanket across our apartment complex grounds. A beautiful fluffy white blanket all except for…the bright yellow dog pee. Sorry, that’s the gross part! Everyone in our complex owns a dog. Literally everyone. There are dogs everywhere! And while the snow is beautiful, the yellow spots of dog business are not! The first time I noticed it, I was appalled, but then quickly thought, well I guess the dogs still have to do their business, but it’s definitely highlighted in the snow!...

As I continue to think about why Jesus came, I’m reminded of this verse:

Isaiah 1:18
“Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”

As white as snow! What a beautiful picture! But then, the tainted picture of the Iowa snow comes to my mind. The nasty dog pee. Our disgusting sinfulness. No, our sin is not described as dog business like my analogy of the snow. Rather, it is something more staining and permanent. Blood. Our sin has stained our hearts over and over again. It is a stain that we can do absolutely nothing about. It is a stain that we have caused. It is stain that we can attempt to hide, but it is still there. Yet, it is a stain that CHRIST HAS REMOVED because of His bloody sacrifice on a cross that we deserved! It is a stain that can be washed as white and pure as snow if we will humble ourselves before the King of Kings and accept His offering of reconciliation with God. It is a stain that Jesus made a costly payment for! It is a stain that can be washed as white as snow! 

So, this Christmas season, with Christmas only days away. I pray that you will live in freedom, not shame. I pray that you will remember that Jesus truly paid it all and that your sinful stains have been washed clean! I pray that you will be an ambassador for Christ this Christmas season to someone who believes that their sinful stains will forever be a permanent cause of shame. We know that is a lie from the adversary. Tell the truth to someone who desperately needs to hear it! It is beautiful! It is incomprehensible! And it is for sinners like you and me! And I pray that you’ll remember the snow analogy because we need the reminder of how disgusting our sin is not to shame ourselves but rather to remind us that we don’t need to keep choosing the sins that so easily entangle us because while they may seem appealing, they are truly disgusting!

Praise the Lord that your sins have been washed as white as snow, and live a life of freedom, purity, and obedience!

Merry Christmas!

Always, Jacquelyn