A Christmas verse in February

I’ll admit it. I’m a few weeks behind schedule.

My recent move (praise the Lord!) has me thinking that my year is just now starting.

My laundry is scattered to the four winds and my dishes may not be in the right spot.

I haven’t found a “place” for my vacuum cleaner yet, and because of something not connecting in the study, routers, wires, and our office printer is sitting in the living room.

I’m also not over Christmas much either. I keep finding decorations rolling out of places, and I feel like we barely got to celebrate this year.

But God is faithful… moving us to a place we FAR from deserve… giving us space to make a mess without a prospective home buyer coming in at any moment… making us rich in clothing, food, and dishes… and reminding me of the Christmas story.

Just a few short weeks ago I read this verse. You may have read it, too. It’s usually repeated during the Christmas season and often included in the Christmas story or December sermons.

Matthew 1:21 says, “…and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

And we dash right by it as we pass the candles, the turkey, and the presents.

However this one keeps resurfacing.

Sometimes we marvel at the wonder of a God who sent his Son to sacrifice himself for the sins of the world. We may even stop and remember the sacrifice being the price for our own salvation.

Often though, like a Christmas verses in February, we forget that “he came to save his people from their sins.” We read it like the verse says “he came to save sinners from their sin.” It’s easy to do when the verse is wrapped in the heart of the story of our salvation, but that’s not what it says.

It says, Jesus came to save HIS PEOPLE… those of us who follow him… from THEIR SIN… not the sins of the world.

So wrapped in the Christmas story is a very powerful message.

HE SAVED ME… The whole Christmas story fulfills the nature of a God who was Savior before there was sin.

I AM HIS… I surrendered. I got a new name, and a new people.

MY SIN IS BEATEN… He came to free me from the power of sin. Sin we think is relegated to a salvation experience, but he came to save me from the sins of today.

That means when I gossip. He wants to free me from that.

That means when I am unforgiving. He’s ready to handle that.

That means when I turn to food or caffeine for comfort instead of Him. He came for that.

If He came to save his Christina from her sins. He will save you, too.

Let’s keep turning to Jesus.

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Like Cornelius

I met Cornelius in a chapel in the North Carolina mountains.

Cornelius is who I hope to be one day.

Let me tell you exactly how we crossed paths.

This year for our 15th anniversary WK and headed to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had the “honeymoon” that we only could have dreamed of when we stayed in that condo in Hawaii.

We did all kinds of things and, after over a year of running off my feet, I relaxed.

For a whole week I enjoyed the days, the luxury, and the company. I inhaled deeply the grace and extravagance of God and my husband, and exhaled the feelings of unworthiness and idleness.

We hiked trails to see waterfalls. We toured our historical hotel. We drove in the rain for part of Blue Ridge parkway as the steam from the rain filled the valley. We drove with our (rented) top down through the tallest trees this Oklahoma girl has ever seen.

We explored the grounds of the Biltmore Estate thanks to a long time family friend’s generosity. We had several extra courses the night of our anniversary because another friend’s cousin owned a fabulous restaurant. We had cocktail hour (that I called “snackers” because I ain’t a cocktail girl) and spa time at our hotel each night.

I was in heaven.

But it was on the day that we went to the Billy Graham Conference Center that I met Cornelius.

The Cove in the Blue Ridge Mountains holds about 1200 acres used by Billy Graham as personal retreat and training for Christians across the nation.

We were touring the chapel there and met several volunteers along the way. They were all very knowledgable and helpful. As we went into the main chapel area that had a pulpit transplanted there that was hundreds of years old (complete with it’s original candelabra for evening sermons), Barbara and Cornelius met us to tell of the place.

They took their time telling us all about the influence Ruth Graham had on the design and construction of the chapel.

They were a sweet couple, but here’s what will always stick out to me.

Cornelius hobbled along with the aid of a walker. His body was extremely frail. He drooled a little when he talked.

Now… Why on earth would I want to be like that?

Because his eyes lit up when he talked (ok, yelled… he was pretty deaf too) about Jesus. His step seemed lighter as he quoted Ruth and Billy’s favorite verses respectively.

He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 4:16 when Paul says, “Though our outer self is wasting away, yet our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

Longevity runs in my family. By the time my race is run, I may find myself watching my outer body waste away.

But here is what I pray. I pray that my unstable legs will still follow Jesus. I pray that my eyes still light up when they see his work. I pray that my drooling mouth keeps speaking his praise.

I refuse to ask God for less than more of him when then there is less off me.

One day soon Cornelius will see Jesus face to face. He will stand straighter than he did as a boy. He will run faster than he has in years. He will have a new body, but he will have the same Jesus.

Until then I pray that both Cornelius and I grow closer to the only One who gives drooling lips the ability to praise.

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How they see Jesus

In the spring at BGCO Women’s retreat Lina Abujamra said something like this, “If they know your name, they should know your Jesus.”

It got me thinking as a churched person. A lot of people know I follow Jesus, but that’s because they are following him, too.

But how often do we give credit where credit is due?

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Be still and know

She is two and has never had the capacity to be still. Even when she wants to snuggle she is moving. Maybe she is rolling over the top of me or rubbing her hand up and down the inside of my arm (sometimes she pinches me there, and HEAVEN HELP ME).

The place where it also very noticeable is when I am trying to put her coat on her. I almost always start by saying something like, “Let’s put your coat on.”

She is very independent and it will not be long before she will no longer need my help. But for right now, I just want her to BE STILL.

It is only when she stills her will and her “help,” that I am able to get the coat on her tiny frame.

I don’t want her to stop getting ready. I don’t want her to go limp and go back to the days it was like trying to dress spaghetti. I just want her to trust me. I want her to rest in my hands.

I don’t her to stop. I want her to be.

She very often makes some little surprised “huh” sigh as her arm finally gets into their respective holes, and when the zipper finally comes to the close at the top. I’m not sure why she forgets. It happens over and over every week in winter time, and it’s like she finally sees what I can do. She finally knows. Mama is trying to get her coat on.

Sometimes I have read the verse “be still and know that I am God” as a command to stop, or even a command to go limp spiritually. But I honestly have started reading it more like my scenarios with Snickle.

It’s usually pretty obvious when God is trying to do something in me. More often than not the event begins with Him announcing or promising what He is about to do.

I am very independent, and He just wants me to be still.

God doesn’t want me to stop obeying or lose control of the position He is holding me in. He wants me to trust Him. He wants me to rest in His most capable hands.

He doesn’t want me to stop. He wants me to be.

And so many times when God comes through for me, I give a little surprised internal sigh that He actually accomplished what He promised he would do. I’m not sure why I forget how often His faithfulness comes through. But in that moment I look around and I see all that God can do. I finally KNOW that He can do and has done the work for me.

What would it look like, if every time God announced something He wanted to do in, for, or through me, I was just still? What if I didn’t “help,” but just was being the thing He wanted? How quickly could we get to the part where I was able to KNOW He was God?

I pray that each day I would be closer to being still and just letting God work. I pray that I won’t think of it as quitting, but as being.

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Jesus DID it all

I try too hard. I think too much is dependent on me.

We celebrate all that Jesus did for us. Our hearts are moved by the words “Jesus paid it all.” We would argue anyone to the ground who tried to make us think that we earned any part of our salvation.

We remember the gift that is eternal life. We sit in awe of the sacrifice that was made for us through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. We cannot believe a perfect Lamb stood in our sinful place.

But what if it was even bigger than that. What if the payment and even the victory wasn’t all there was to Jesus’s mission? What if this free gift wasn’t just an opportunity for us to better now? What if it wasn’t a restart but an absolute transformation?

Do you know that Matthew 5:17 also says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them?”

Did you know that fulfill means “do?”

Here’s the thing. Before Jesus died as payment and rose as victor, his whole existence was doing the law. The law was a covenant. Covenants don’t get cast aside… they get fulfilled. There were dire consequences when covenants were not kept. Almost always the cost of breaking the covenant was death (sound familiar).

As sinners, we are all just breathing in and out the breaking of the covenant. We’re meandering through life not caring about or trying to make up for the broken covenant. And God says I am going to come and meet both sides of the covenant (or the law).

He didn’t throw it away. The consequences were too great. Aside from that, He would never break a promise.

So here we are on the other side of the gift of salvation, but have we accepted the gift of a performed covenant?

What if the lyrics went: “Jesus DID it all, all to Him I give, my life had fallen short again, his perfection made me live.”

We’re not living with a God who needs our help. He doesn’t need our works to help repay the sin debt. He doesn’t need our good deeds to help with holiness.

There is a terror in loss of control, but it is calmed when someone greater holds the control. When I breathe in the absolute payment for my sin and complete fulfillment of the requirements, I can, like the Psalmist (119:32) says, “run in the way of his commandments.” Someone paid for my entry and already ran and won the race for me.

Friends, Jesus DID it all. Do you know it? Do you believe it? Do you live it?

If we did, it would transform the way we live, worship, and serve. Oh, that we may learn how to accept that wonderful gift of fulfillment.


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