Christmas is a magical time of year full of sparkle and anticipation. It’s easy to get distracted with the gifts and the carols and food and fun. With that in mind, how do we get quiet enough to really celebrate the birth of our Savior? What does it mean to experience God?
Join me this week for a conversation with the host of the podcast, Halfway There and author of “Jesus is Willing: An 8 Day Experience,” Eric Nevins as we dive into how to more fully experience God this Christmas holiday. You’ll learn a great way to spend meaningful time in scripture without feeling overwhelmed and pressured to ‘do it right.’
These are quick little stops along the way, as we go along on our journey of faith and understanding of who God is and who he says we are to Him. May they bless you as you meditate on God’s work throughout the week.
Special thanks to the 126ers for the use of their song “Rainy Days” as the intro and outro.
We all know what it’s like to be hungry and thirsty, longing for something to fill our bellies. But what about our souls? What if there was a way to fill up the mysterious void we all seem to have deep down inside us?
Join Brandy this week for a quick lesson on Beatitude #4 to learn how you, too can be satisfied to your deepest core.
In this week’s Lesson from the Road, Matt takes us on a little tour comparing the book of Exodus with the book of Revelation. He shows us a few brief ways we might find ourselves looking a lot like the Israelites as they were wandering through the desert and how we’re all striving for the Promised Land.
There is no specific scripture referenced this week. How about this…read your Bible. Front to back. Chronologically. Sideways. Upside down. Just read it. Get this Book of books in your heart because this is our heritage. We ought to know it.
One thing that Matt forgot to mention is this (his 3rd time recording…thank you technology!) is a Tenth Avenue North song that captures his thoughts particularly well. The song is called “Strangers Here” and is on their album ‘The Struggle’. You can listen to the song HERE
You can purchase the album HERE
Click HERE for the full transcript
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Matt and Brandy dive into many of the reasons people aren’t going to church and then talk about why it’s a good idea to be there. The goal here is not to make anyone feel guilty or shameful about not going to church. Hey…we’ve been there, too! There have been years where our church attendance was sparse at best.
So, come along and let’s talk about why it’s sometimes hard to get there on a Sunday morning and why it’s important to try.
Statistics that are listed:
* 4 out of 10 Americans have been to church in the last week.
* 59% of Millenials who grew up in a church have dropped out at some point.
* More than half of the Millennials haven’t been to church in the past 6 months.
* “Regular attenders used to be people who went to church 3 or more times a month or even several times a week. Now, people who show up once every 4 to 6 weeks consider themselves regular church attenders.”
* Three reasons Millenials cite as why they’re not going to church (split evenly): believe church is irrelevant, full of hypocrisy, sick of the moral failure of the church’s leaders.
* Of Millenials, 2 out of 10 feel that God is missing in church
* Of Millenials 1 out of 10 feel that legitimate doubt is prohibited
* Of adults that believe church is important they cite two major reasons: to be closer to God and to learn about God
* 22% go because it’s taught in the Bible
* One in 10 go to find community, despite a growing epidemic of loneliness
* Across age and denomination, 40% say they feel God elsewhere, outside of church.
* 35% say church isn’t relevant to them personally.
The following are just a few of the resources I found (and used) through the larger church we began attending. Churches have countless resources for you to address whatever needs you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask!
The Genesis Process (I’m not sure why the pricing on this is so steep. There are any number of churches that offer these Genesis groups and I highly recommend them. If you find a group through a church, I can assure you, it likely won’t cost this much!)
“I will meditate on Your precepts and regard Your ways.
I shall delight in Your statutes;
I shall not forget Your word.”
– Psalm 119:15-16
It’s safe to say we live in difficult times. No matter what side of the political fence you land on, no matter your socio-economic background, race, religion, gender or favorite ice cream flavor, it is clear that we are a nation in upheaval.
Because of all the turmoil that not only surrounds us but punches us in the face on a fairly consistent basis (anybody else suffering from a mild case of Facebook PTSD?), it’s the perfect time for us, as Christ followers, to keep a few things in perspective.
I admit that I’ve definitely voiced my own opinions on social media. Opinions that sometimes counter people I love deeply and admire greatly. I’ve felt my heart harden a little and heard a voice of judgement and condemnation, if not actually being spoken, certainly in my head. When I step back for a moment and take the time to self reflect, it’s pretty plain to see that I could easily become a part of the problem, and maybe already have.
So how do we counter this? How do we keep overwhelm and anxiety from taking over our minds, preventing us from being effective and joy-filled disciples of God?
I think the answer is pretty simple. Meditate on God’s word. Always.
Hey, I said the answer was simple. I didn’t say it was easy.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, and maybe even if you haven’t, what’s the first Bible verse or passage that comes to mind when you think of someone dying? I’d wager it’s Psalm 23, yeah? ‘The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me.’
Why is that the scripture we all think of? Because it’s the one we’ve heard time and again in that set of circumstances. Whether you’re standing bedside, keeping vigil over a loved one as they breathe their last breath or you’re standing graveside saying your final goodbye to their earthly presence, these are often the verses that are recited. They resonate with us. They remind us that our days are held in the hands of God.
Similarly, how quickly can most of us recite John 3:16? ‘For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. That whosever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’
Again, it’s written on our hearts because we’ve heard it so many times.
As we read and re-read scripture, as we hear it taught and as we apply it to our own lives, it grows in depth. It begins to penetrate in places that are secret, so that when our hearts begin to tremble because we hear of wars and rumors of wars we are reminded to ‘Be strong and courageous’ because the Lord will not forsake us (Deut. 31:6) and that ‘The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent’ (Ex. 14:14). Or, as we find ourselves struggling with the things of this world that strive to collapse us, we are reminded of Paul’s exhortation to the church in Galatia, “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary” (Gal. 6:9).
It’s important – vital – that God’s word be so etched into our hearts that if owning a copy of scripture should ever become a crime, we will not be shaken because His teaching is inextricably woven into the very core of who we are. Even if that possibility never comes to pass on American soil, and I pray it won’t, how much better off are we when we can call upon the word of God at a moments notice without having to flip to the concordance or hope the Wi-Fi connection is strong enough to access an app?
I want to know what God has to say. I want to know His heart. I want to be so in tune with His word that I always have a scripture at the tip of my lips.
I’m not there yet. But I’m closer today than I was a year ago. Walking with God is a journey of a thousand little steps. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There is sweet reward in deepening this relationship with the One who made me and knows me best. In the words of David, the man after God’s own heart, let us “taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed [are we] who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:8).
My life is littered with journals. Seriously…it’s kind of ridiculous.
A Love is Born
It started when I was about 10 and was given, as so many young girls are, my first diary. It was hard bound and featured Hello Kitty on the cover, in the classic red and white motif. I loved Hello Kitty, so I loved this diary. I wrote down everything: who I loved, who I hated, what horrible things my parents were making me do (the dishes…I mean, really!), the teachers I believed were secretly witches and those I adored. My diary held all my secrets, fears and hopes.
As well as the journals and diaries I’ve kept over the years I am also lucky enough to be the caregiver of the journals of both my grandmother and great-grandmother, both of whom were prolific writers and lovers of words.
But what is it that compels us to capture our lives in this way? What prompts us to put pen to paper and write down our hopes and dreams, fears, failures and deepest longings of the heart? We inscribe these knowing that one day they may well be reviewed by the very people we have written about. So why do we do it? And why should we?
A History Captured
Personally, I find it fascinating to read historical diaries. Looking at what the pioneer women wrote as they crossed the plains, as they buried their loved ones alongside the trail, as their cattle was stolen and their prized possessions were discarded to save weight as they climbed mountains and crossed rivers gives us a glimpse into the hardships they endured. My own great, great grandmother crossed the plains in 1851 as a young girl and wrote about one particular time that was especially harrowing, where-in a young man in their wagon train ‘jokingly’ sold one of the girls to an Indian chief they had crossed paths with. Needless to say, this joke ended horribly, with men on both sides dying and the pioneers having to abandon half of their possessions because they’d lost so much cattle in the showdown. She goes into great detail and as I read her account of it all, I am transported to that time and place and can almost taste the dust in my own mouth and feel the fear they experienced as arrows began to fly, guns were drawn and wagons were set on fire.
This account would be lost in our family history had Kate decided it wasn’t worth writing down for posterity sake. Fortunately for us, she took the time to write about this and other events, giving us a connection to her experience as a young woman over 150 years ago.
A Spiritual Legacy
Likewise, if we look to scripture we see something of a diary there too, when we read the Gospels or Paul’s letters to the many churches throughout the east. Consider what we would be missing had his disciples not written accounts of the events preceding Jesus’ arrest. We wouldn’t know of the emotional anguish that he suffered as he cried out for God, pleading for another way for man to be brought to salvation, a way that didn’t involve his torture and death and separation from his Father. We wouldn’t know of Jesus’ proclamation to Peter that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. We wouldn’t see the look of pain on Jesus’ face as that third denial was made and Peter cried out, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about! (Luke 22:60)”
We each have a different journey. The twelve disciples who were with Jesus day in and day out for three years all had a slightly different perspective of the events they were a part of. They each had a different relationship with Jesus because they each came to him with different experiences and desires and fears.
So we, too come to Christ. Each of us are different. We’ve got different upbringings and life experiences that shape how we perceive the world and our place in it. As we take note of the ways and times that God has met us individually in our needs, whether they be physical, emotional or spiritual, we begin to see how uniquely God approaches us. We realize that we are not cookies cut from the same form by a cookie-cutter God, but that we are uniquely and wonderfully made, being molded by God’s very hand.
Writing down our journey allows those who will come behind us to see the transformative power of God. Listen, nine years ago, my life was mess. It looked nothing like it looks now. The one thing that changed is my willingness to submit to God. Be sure, I am still a mess, but that mess looks a lot different than it used to. It’s a benefit to me to be able to look back at where I was, to remember what my pit of destruction looked like, and how God lifted me from that pit and set my feet on solid ground. It’s a lot like the memorials that the Israelites would erect whenever God did some thing that they wanted to be reminded of. Journals are a marker of sorts; this is where you were and this is where you are.
We can see God’s faithfulness in our lives only as we look back. We see the countless times he has proven himself trustworthy and compassionate. Without writing these markers down, we have a tendency to forget just what he’s brought us through.
Additionally, in the same way I treasure looking back over the written accounts of my ancestors in order to gain perspective on the lives they lived and the legacy they left behind, I hope that my children’s offspring will be able to look at my journals and see a life that was transformed by a loving and gracious God who knows me intimately and personally. I want them to see that while I struggled regularly with sin and worry, ultimately I have lived a life at the feet of Jesus.
Who Tells Your Story?
We each have a story that is uniquely our own. When we’re gone, that story will shared with those we leave behind. If we take the time now to journal, to write about the thoughts that consume us, the faith that frees us and the God we love, we leave behind a marker for the next generations to see and be reminded of our faithful God. It’s up to each of us to erect that memorial and we do it one word at a time.