‘Tis the Season for…Humility

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I had just spent about an hour of my time making dinner for my three siblings, and I saw that the dishwasher needed to be emptied.  Huffing a little bit, since it seems like my work would never end, I began to empty the dishwasher, tempted to use my “chef” status as an excuse to make my siblings do it instead.  In this attitude of selfish, unhappy servitude, I was nudged by the Holy Spirit.  I took a deep breath as He brought to mind a sermon I recently heard about the humility of Christ at Christmas.

The Almighty God of the Universe, who according to Revelation 4, has “the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around [His] throne a rainbow that [has ]  the appearance of an emerald,” who commands the sea and the dry land, who rules from everlasting to everlasting, gave up everything for us.  I literally mean everything.  Phillipians 2 tells us that  Jesus, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant.”  Jesus became a child born in the dirtiest of conditions, a stable, because his family could not find room in Bethlehem.  No one came to celebrate the birth of the King of kings, the only onlookers were the animals.  Then, the Lord sent angels to announce Christ’s coming….to a field full of shepherds.  They could have been sent to Rome itself, or to the king of Judea to announce the birth of Jesus and make many fall in awe, but God sent the angels to the shepherds.  Then, those shepherds came to Mary and Joseph and worshipped Jesus.  He deserved so much more, but he chose humble himself.

In light of what Jesus did by even coming to earth, and not only that but being born in a low class in a dirty stable, how could I justify my pride?  I had no more reason to be proud of my little bit of service than a two-year old does for picking a twig up off the ground.  The Christmas story of humility goes farther than Jesus’ birth, Phillipians 2 continues in verse 8, “and being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  We in the 21st century United States of America cannot understand the shame of the cross.  It was an execution and public mocking rolled into one, and it lasted for hours, usually a whole day.  Jesus did not deserve to die that way, he did not deserve to die at all, yet he chose the cross for us.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).  I am a sinner, we all are, and deserving of death, but Christ took our sin upon himself so that we could be made right with God.  That is amazing.  It blows me away.

When I thought about all of that, I realized that any service I could do cannot compare to Christ’s humility, and it made me thankful.  Christmas time is a time, for me at least, to reflect on Christ’s humility, and how undeserving I am, and how thankful that should make me.  I do not deserve the gifts I get or the special moments I have any more than I deserved for the King of the universe to die in my place, unrecognized and unknown.

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What Love is This?

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I write this as I mourn for the heart of a lost friend.  I am in the first semester of my freshman year of college and I have learned more about God and my faith than in my whole life.

This summer, I went on a mission trip which opened my eyes to the scope of God’s unconditional love.  I fell in love with kids I had only known for a few days and really bore their struggles with them and desired for them to have relationships with Jesus.  I cried for joy when I saw two of the girls come to salvation and wept after I left the camp with my family.  I remember thinking that if my love for these kids could be so great after being with them for a few days, how great is God’s love.  He created us and knows us intimately and desires a relationship with us.

I was hit by this truth later at summer camp, when the Spirit made me truly believe that God cares about every little detail in our life.  “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”  God created the stars and put the earth in motion.  He knew exactly which stars we would see and when we would live.  He puts each person and event, even the small moments, like a hug from a friend or a beautiful ray of sunshine in the afternoon, in our lives purposely.  Nothing escapes his notice.  “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:3-5)  It is amazing to think that he made each of us differently, with unique lives and circumstances, and yet he is ultimately in control.  I cannot wrap my mind around it.

Flash forward to my third month in college.  I have just finished a conversation with a friend I have been praying for from the first day I met.  I have been waiting on the Lord, trusting for his promised salvation.  I crave the faith that Abraham had, “when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance.  And he went out, not knowing where he was going…For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:8, 10)  He waited for the promised son for twenty five years.  I have been waiting to see my friend’s salvation for three months, and I wrestle with discouragement.  But God has been showing me something greater.

I thought I had learned a lot about God’s love on my missions trip, but I have learned even more in the three months that I have been in college.  God calls us to love the people that will never love us back, or who cannot love us the way we love them.  Even when those people hurt us when we are trying to be an example of Christ to them, we are still to love them.  I have found that while it is hard to love those people, it is nearly impossible not to.  This is a supernatural love from the Spirit.  I have felt such a burden as this for several people, but three stand out in my memory.  One of those, and the one I am closest to has never really experienced unconditional love.

For the past two days I have felt a greater pain because of the sin of someone else and a greater burden for that person’s salvation than I have ever felt in my life.  It hurts, but it is a hurt filled with hope.  My efforts will not save this person, but God is still using me.  As he is using me, he is revealing to me his love.  Not only does he love this person more than I do, he loves everyone with this type of love.  I am astounded at the love Christ felt when he went to the cross.  Did he cry when he was being nailed to the tree?  I believe he did, not just because of the physical pain, but because his heart was broken for the people he saw.  In the garden of Gethsemane, he prayed for those who would come to know him.  In the darkest moment on the cross, Jesus cried, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)  He was not just asking for those mocking him at the cross, but for every person who mocks the love of the Savior.  For every person who has let their heart be hardened to God’s unconditional love, Jesus asks forgiveness.  That is incredible love, and it brings me to my knees.  It comforts me and strengthens my faith.

At a time in my life, especially in my faith, where it looks like I should be under extreme pressure in stress, I feel more peace and love than I have ever known.  Yes, I struggle.  Yes, I feel pain, but hallelujah!  I feel the love of my Savior.  This is how I know that though my circumstances look bleak and the future is uncertain, I can rest in my God.  He is my rock and my refuge.  He is my ever-present help in time of need.

“I believe

that I shall look upon

the goodness of the Lord

in the land of the living.”

-Psalm 27:13

 

A Day of Ultimates

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The most intense twenty-four hour period in history.  To many in the Roman empire at that time, it was just an ordinary Thursday and Friday.  To the Jews that day it was one of many celebrations of the Passover.  To the world and history, it was the day of ultimate salvation.

A man, ultimately humble, yet ultimately powerful.  A simple carpenter from Nazareth who was the Son of God.  Fully God and fully man.  Tempted, yet without sin.  This was Jesus, the Christ.  “No form or majesty that we should look at him,” yet his name shall be called, “Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father,” “Emmanuel,” meaning “God with us.”

Jesus’ disciples did not know what was going to happen after that Passover meal, though they had been told by Jesus himself many times.  Their teacher, whom they respected above all men, got up from their feast and served them by washing their feet.  It was a day that they would never forget.

Then Jesus took them to the Mount of Olives to pray.  This was leading up to the moment of destiny, told about since the beginning of time, “he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  However, Jesus still prayed that the cup be taken from him.  When the mob came to arrest him, Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to slay them, but he did not.  This was the moment where the ultimate predestined event met the ultimate act of freewill.

With Jesus’ crucifixion, the cross, which was the ultimate symbol of torture, punishment, and death, became the ultimate symbol of grace, freedom, and life.  The perfect man, completely without sin, bore the punishment for the sins of the world.

In that moment, irreconcilable paradoxes were reconciled.  The greatest measure of God’s wrath, and the greatest measure of God’s love were poured out.  Wrath and grace were poured out on those undeserving of it.  No moment was more terrible, and no moment was more beautiful.

In that hour, the Trinity was broken, the Son cut off from the father, and man was restored to his Creator.  On that Passover day, a day on which the Jews remembered that they were set apart by God, the door of salvation swung open wide to the whole of humanity.  The curtain was torn.

Jesus cry, “It is finished,” was the ultimate cry of surrender, and the ultimate cry of victory.  He died, and in his physical death, man was saved from eternal death.  The world mourned and the sky grew dark, and all was still.  The earth held it’s breath as its savior, for the glory set before him, endured the cross, despising its shame, and died.

But the story wasn’t over….Sunday was coming.

To the Real Men

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I was talking with one of my friends recently, and I realized, when she was telling me about some of the boys at her school, how blessed I am.  I have grown up surrounded by men of character, who love the Lord and others.  This post is for you, to recognize you and thank you.  My life would be so different without you, and I do not always realize that fact.

Thank you first to my daddy, who has always treated me like a princess.  You taught me to love God and what a man of God looks like.

Thank you to my brother, who works to grow in his relationship with Christ and encourage his friends to do so.  Thanks for showing me how other young men should treat me.

Thank you to my gradfathers, who have always freely given me their love, time, and energy.  You all demonstrate unconditional love.

Thank you to other male relatives, cousins, uncles, and others who have always treated me with love and kindness.  You have made a difference in my life.  To my young cousins: look to these older men who have walked with the Lord as an example for you.

Also, thank you to my many awesome guy friends.  I don’t always express how much I appreciate you.  Thanks for:

-Treating me with respect

-Letting me hangout with you guys

-Buying me food when I don’t have money or just because you’re that cool

-Helping me with bags, backpacks, etc, that I can’t carry

-Lending me a jacket/coat/sweatshirt when I need one

-Letting me beat you at any sports/games or at least letting me play

-Swingdancing with me even if you really want to dance with Hannah 😉

-Loving God

I would also like to thank all the men who serve at my church. Pastors, elders, deacons, volunteers, and even those who participate in corporate worship.  Thank you for loving the Lord.

Finally, to all the fahters (and mothers) who have raised such great men.  You did it right, good job.

You godly men are a blessing and a rarity.  You have had such a great impact on my life even if you don’t know it.  Our world needs more men like you.  Thank you.

It’s Not About Who You Are

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After reading part of Max Lucado’s No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, I was bothered by this phrase which I hear so often in the world around me, “God loves you for who you are.”  While I understand why people say this, I disagree with the wording of this phrase.  If God truly loved us for who we are, He wouldn’t love us at all, since we betrayed and rebelled against Him.  Furthermore, if God loved us for who we are, then sin would be no big deal.  By saying that God loves someone for who that person is, one is saying that God’s love is conditional.  All three of these things are false, therefore, God does not love us for who we are.

God created man in His image, and He created man perfectly.  God loves His creation, and man is included in that love.  God loves man because He created man.  At that point in time, man, Adam and Eve, had a perfect, whole relationship with God.  Nothing came between the first two people and God, they completely loved, trusted, and shared with one another.

Sadly, this perfect world ended with the entrance of sin.  When God created man, He gave man the ability to choose to love Him.  Adam and Eve chose to sin.  Sin is rebellion against God.  God hates sin because it is everything that He is not, evil, twisted, and deadly.  When Adam and Eve sinned, they were no longer able to experience God’s perfect love.  God had to force Adam and Eve out of the garden, because a holy and perfect God cannot be near sin.

Every human being since Adam and Eve has sinned, we are all sinners.  People are defined by their actions.  All one has to do to look into another man’s heart is to observe his actions.  Thus, anyone who sins can be defined as a sinner.  Because God is holy and we are sinners, He could have and should have destroyed us.  However, God is a loving, and merciful God.

God did not want the story of the world to end with the destruction of man, so He provided a way of restoration in the sacrifice of Christ.  Romans 5:8 says, “but God shows his love for us in that we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  God loves us, not for who we are, but because of who He is.  He is love, as 1 John 4:8 points out, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  God loves man unconditionally because it is a part of His very nature.

Finally, if God loved us for who we are, i.e. what we do, then there would be no reason for anyone to repent of his sin.  God, because he is holy, hates sin.  God judges sin, because sin is fundamentally evil.  Over and over in history, individuals and nations have fallen because of their sin.  Sin is a problem.  Thankfully, God has provided us a way to turn from our sin and back to Him.

In conclusion, we should praise God that He does not love us for who we are, that He does not treat us as we deserve.  Thus, I think that we should amend, “God loves you for who you are,” to a much more beautiful statement, “God loves you because of who He is.”

Why Christians Can’t Reject Genesis

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Some Christians today believe that the Bible is fallible, at least some of it.  A particular book that several Christians think can be rejected is the book of Genesis.  Because modern “science” argues that the Earth is more than six thousand years old and that the world was formed by macro-evolution, some Christians reject the idea of a six-day creation.

I would argue that all scripture is inspired by God and is therefore infallible.  I would also argue that the book of Genesis, especially the first three chapters, is essential to the Christian faith and therefore cannot be rejected by Christians.

Herbert Spencer, a brilliant philosopher and proponent of Evolution of the late 19th/early 20th century, stated that all matter could be divided into five categories: time, force, action, space, matter.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”-Genesis 1:1

In the first verse of Genesis, all elements of reality are introduced.  Time: “In the beginning,” when time was first created.  Force: “God,” the greatest force in the universe.  Action: “created.”  Space: “the heavens,” the cosmos and all they contain, as well as literal space.  Matter: “and the earth,” the first matter discovered by man.  Men have tried but cannot deny what stands obviously before them, truth.

Genesis is a book of origins, and it starts with the origin of the universe.  God spoke everything into existence.  What I do not understand is why people do not want to believe that God created everything in six days.  God is God, and as God, he can do incomprehensible, amazing things that only God can do, like creating the entire cosmos in six literal days.  In six literal days, the universe and all life was created.  First light and night and day, then water in heaven and in the seas, then the land and plants, then the planets and heavenly bodies, then sea creatures and birds, then land creatures and man.  Six days.

Not only does Genesis talk about the origin of creation, but it also talks about the origins of order and complexity, man’s love for beauty, marriage, culture, government, nations, and much more.  Genesis 3, all the way at the beginning of scripture, tells of the origins of evil, judgement, and salvation.

The man and the woman were tempted and succumbed to temptation, doubting God and allowing sin to enter their hearts.  Knowing that they had sinned, they hid from the God with whom they had been able to directly communicate and have a relationship.  Adam and Eve were punished and  sent from the garden, knowing that they were mortal and doomed to death.  However, God spared them from death that day and gave them hope for a savior.

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head; and you will strike his heel.”

-Genesis 3:15 

The “he” referred to in this passage is the savior, Jesus Christ, who was not due to come for four thousand years.  This gave Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, hope that someday, their relationship with God would be restored, that the savior would crush sin and death, bringing humanity back to its God.

The reason Genesis is so important is that it gives us the story of where we came from and why things are the way that they are.  In it is the story of a holy but loving God and his relationship with man.  I will not tell the whole story, because the believer must read it for himself.

If the Church tries to fit its faith to the world by twisting it and taking away fundamentals, nothing will be left of Christianity.  Thus, we must hold fast to the word of God, the inerrant scriptures.

My Pathetic Mother’s Day Card

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Hi mom.  I love you.  I love you a lot.  You are my favorite mom and because today is Mother’s Day, this is my pathetic mother’s day card for you.

It’s pathetic, because it doesn’t thank you enough for the hours you spent up at night with me as a baby.  You carried me for nine months, went through labor, and sacrificed hours of precious sleep just for me.  I don’t deserve that kind of love.  You loved me when I gave you nothing.

This card is pathetic, because it is nowhere as cool as you doing tons of science projects with me and my siblings, taking us to the zoo and Children’s Museum many many times.  You let us have huge birthday parties, a privilege a lot of kids don’t get.  You love having people over, our house is never empty.  We might as well install a revolving door.  The coolest part is, that you love it.

I can’t believe you put up with homeschooling me for ten years, and teaching English at our little homeschool tutelage on top of that.  I am not sure how you have all the energy necessary for not only taking care of, but teaching four kids.  That’s a lot of work, and I am so thankful for all of it.

I’m sorry for the days when I’m difficult, those days when I would cry and harden my heart, those days when you were probably ready to quit.  I’m sorry if you don’t feel appreciated enough because I don’t cuddle with you like my siblings do, don’t give you enough hugs, don’t tell you that I love you enough.

Thank you for loving me, for buying my clothes, for making my meals, for hanging out with me, for hosting big birthday parties, for cleaning the house, for giving me education when I was little and for helping me with my schoolwork now, for putting up with my temper tantrums, for listening to me, for encouraging me.  Thank you for loving dad, for being a good example of what a wife is.  Thank you for loving your parents and parents-in-law.  Most of all, thank you for showing me Jesus, for leading me to him when I needed him.  You have been an example of Christ to me for sixteen years, and will continue to be so.

So here is my pathetic Mother’s Day card, I hope you like it.  I love you so so so so so times a billion so much.  Thank you for being my mom.

Love,

Emma

The Emerging Church

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The emerging church is attempting to live in this post-modern culture by asking questions and changing the way the church worships, evangelizes, and sees community.  While some elements of this movement are positive, I believe that it is important for the emergent church to stay firm on the foundation of the Bible and salvation.

The emerging church is fond of challenging theology and basic doctrine, and the people within the “conversation” are fine with not knowing all the answers.  While it is important to question and deepen one’s faith, it is also important for one to stay within the limits of scripture in answering those questions, something that I am not sure all emerging churches do.  We cannot look to the world for answers, since it is fundamentally broken by sin.

What I appreciate about the emergent church is their emphasis on Christ being both transformational and relational, our Savior and friend.  I also love the ideas of transforming secular society and imitating Christ, which are two of the core doctrines of the emerging church.

Overall, I think that there are many good things about the emerging church, but I also think that those within this movement need to make sure that they are holding to scriptural authority and Biblically accurate theology.

My Impression of TBN

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For my worldview class, our teacher had us watch one hour of the Trinity Broadcasting Network.  Surprisingly, I had never seen any of the shows on TBN.  I say surprisingly because it is the most watched faith network on television.  As with most Christian movies and television, I had a few presuppositions about the quality of the production and message, and was not disappointed.

What I first saw was a message high on emotionalism, low on scriptural context, with verses about giving scrolling across the bottom of the screen.  The message itself would have been better if it was more about teaching on the blind beggars’ experience with Jesus and less about the prospect of giving to TBN and receiving a reward.  Yes, it is good to give to ministries that help others, such as TBN’s second chance ministry, but was that message necessary?

TBN’s message to me today seemed to say, “give and you will be blessed by God.  Are you getting what you want?  By the way, our mission is to reach everyone on earth with the gospel.”  Now, I do not think that there is anything wrong with wanting to reach the world with the gospel, in fact, I think that it is one of the best things Christians can strive for.  However, I think that the Trinity Broadcasting Network could feature a little bit more meat in their channels.  I watched a message on why I should give to TBN, the history of TBN, the prison ministry of TBN, and heard a couple testimonies about the power of TBN.  TBN really likes itself.  I am sure that everyone who works there also really likes Jesus too.  I am sorry I do not know more about TBN, so my impression may be off quite a bit, but that is what I saw.

It does encourage me that there are people trying to reach the world  through television.  My only request is that those who do really bring hard theology into their messages, teach on apologetics, and encourage people to go out into the world to serve Christ.

Too Modest?

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I once asked a few of my girl friends, “Can you be too modest?”  All the girls agreed that yes, one can be too modest.  They thought that one could be too modest by being covered up from head to toe.  This, they explained, was too modest because at that point a girl is drawing attention to herself, at least in American culture, by being so covered up.  However, by drawing attention to herself, is a girl being truly modest? I disagreed with my friends, I believe that one can never be too modest.

Dictionary.com defines modesty as, “the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.”  The definition that I want to focus on is “freedom from vanity.”  True modesty is humility. Typically when people think of modesty, they think about girls who wear full-length, hideous dresses.  This is sad because it distracts from the fact that true modesty is undenyingly beautiful. Modesty is beautiful first in a person’s heart.

The only human being who was truly modest was Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  Though no other human beings are perfect, when a Christian is following hard after Christ, he or she can lose herself and be humble. When that Christ-like humility flows out of one’s heart and into one’s words and actions, people notice.  When a boy or girl talks to others in a humble manner, others are attracted to Christ.  Denying oneself for someone else is another expression of that modesty.

Finally, our clothing should be modest.  If a person is truly humble, he or she will want to glorify God in his or her dress.  This means dressing beautifully and modestly.  Do not sell yourself short, but do not purposely dress to impress either.  Think of your brothers and sisters in Christ when you dress, because honoring Christ should be your first thought and honoring your Christian brothers and sisters your second.

There is my opinion on modesty, hope it made you think!

Emma