Look Back and Remember

Some of you are probably thinking you’ve seen way too many “This is my year” albums on Facebook. Am I right?

Regardless of your thoughts on social media highlights, I encourage you to pause a little longer and go a little deeper. By nature we are forgetful people. And sometimes, this seems especially true when it comes to God’s provision—we are so quick to forget what he’s done for us.

To help me remember and to encourage you as well, I am looking back this week at a few of the many ways God has provided for us.

Tomorrow I’ll start with our journey to seminary…

Happy New Year!

clock

Looking back on 2014, we celebrated many things. Here are some of the major events (in chronological order):

  • Malachi turned one!
  • I graduated from seminary!
  • We celebrated 8 years of marriage!

I am not sure which of the above three items is the most shocking…perhaps being married for so long. And a lot sure has happened over the course of our 8 years together.

For instance:

  • We are on our 9th car (don’t ask).
  • Lived in 4 different apartments in 2 different states in 4 different cities/towns.
  • Worked at least 10 jobs between the two of us.
  • Had 2 kids.

Read more

A Christ for All Mankind

matt

The four different gospel writers designed their accounts with four different audiences in mind, but all emphasize that Christ came for all people.

Concerning Jesus’ birth, Luke records the angel saying, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (2:10).

In his first chapter, Matthew goes even further back to demonstrate this by using a genealogy. We don’t tend to bother as much with ancestral lists today, and many of us probably skip right over it. But for Matthew’s Jewish audience, genealogies were highly valued and read carefully. Read more

Anna: Proclaimer of Christ

familyAnd coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.— Luke 2:38 (ESV)

To Read: Luke 2:22–38

Biblical Synopsis: Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord in accordance with the Mosaic law. Simeon, a man in the temple, took the babe in his arms and blessed him. Afterward, they met the pious woman Anna, who gave thanks and spoke of the Redeemer to all who would listen.

Application for Today: Anna’s story, encompassing only three verses, doesn’t give many details to her life. We don’t hear how she met her husband, or if she had any children, or even what she said. Read more

What the Traditional Nativity often Gets Wrong

nativityWe sing about the babe born in the manger, and we decorate with beautiful nativity scenes commemorating the Christ child’s birth.

If you go to Bethlehem, you could visit the “Church of the Nativity,” a basilica erected by Constantine on top of the place traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Christ.

And, there’s certainly nothing wrong with reverent displays.

But as we celebrate tradition and the words of the Christ tale, we mustn’t forget that the lenses of our cultural glasses have the tendency to color the story. Or to put it another way, we often take our modern day notions and ideas and read them back into the text. Sometimes, this causes us to miss out on crucial parts of the story. Read more

Shepherds: First Guests to the Manger

shepherdAnd they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. — Luke 2:16 (ESV)

To Read: Luke 2:1–20

Biblical Synopsis: As shepherds watched their flocks, an angel appeared with news of great joy over the Savior’s birth and a multitude of angels sang glory to God. They made haste to see the newborn king making known the angel’s report.

Application for Today: Many in the ancient world despised these low men on the totem pole (cf. “every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians”; Gen. 46:34). But there is also a sense in which the term “shepherd” engenders great respect. Many of Israel’s revered forefathers—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David—claimed the trade of sheepherding. God himself is also described as a shepherd to his people (cf. Ps. 23) and Jesus as the “good shepherd” who “lays down his life” (John 10:11). Read more

Quiet and Simple Christmas Memories

presents(Note: This article was originally posted on blogs.bible.org.)

If you’ve watched “Jingle all the Way” with Arnold Schwarzenegger, you know it’s about a Dad who waits till the last minute to get a son his most desired Christmas present. But even if you haven’t seen it, you might identify with the urge to drool over the newest gizmos and gadgets.

And we don’t stop with gifts. We want the biggest tree, an Elf on the Shelf with creative pranks, memorable Jesus moments, and the award for brightest Christmas lights.

Read more

Two Ornaments that Will Enhance Your Family’s Faith

iStock_000007037542Small(Note: This article was originally written as content for EvanTell in 2011 and was also reposted on blogs.bible.org.)

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it can be hard to find a moment to breathe. Rush to the store to get more flour for a recipe. Hustle to a neighbor’s house with a plate of cookies. Drive to church for a hymn sing. Then somewhere in there you return home to find that the family dog knocked half of the ornaments off the tree. As you stand staring at the shards of glass, a million thoughts race through the mind: “Where’s the broom?” “How will I find time to go to the store for more ornaments?” “When will Christmas be over?!”

When we cave to the ceaseless hustle and bustle so prevalent in our society, we are prone to forget so much. The wonder of the incarnation. The splendor of God’s love. The joy of growing together as a family. Read more

Guest Post: Christmas Mourning

sharifa_fam_crop

The year 2011 was a particularly hard Christmas season for our family. One of the things God used to encourage me the most was the following post by my friend Sharifa Stevens, who has given me permission to repost it below. Read on:

Grandma smelled like comfort and cold cream when she hugged me. I can’t open a bottle of Pond’s in public because one whiff reminds me that she’s not here anymore. The slip-slip of her feet on linoleum in the morning, the perfectly crustless PB&J sandwiches that she made me, her church hats and bright suits. Gone.

The cadence of her voice when she scolded me, or, ninja-like under the strict eye of my mother, scored me some peppermints. Gone. Her faithful and tone-deaf hymn-singing morning and evening. She unwittingly taught me the words of great songs of the faith, even if I didn’t learn the melodies until later. Read more

What the Christmas Story Means for the Oppressed and the Oppressors

red_christmas_rejoiceThese recent days, I’ve struggled to express the words of my heart over the plight of my African American brothers and sisters in the United States.

I’ve found myself waking up in the middle of the night troubled over the callous words spoken verbally or spread across social media platforms by several conservative white evangelicals. Read more