Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Time

Christmas time really is the most wonderful time of the year! Family, Friends, Gifts and the birth of Jesus Christ!

I heard someone say this and it made me happy: "We give gifts because God gave us the greatest gift...Christ, his son!" I know that is very juvenile, but it's true. I LOVE giving gifts! I believe so far I have participated in 5 gift exchanges and I love every minute of them! We had a white elephant gift exchange at both the Arlington and Bartlett campuses of Christ Church and had the most random gifts given! A box of two separate flip flops and some shoe laces ...batteries...a ham loaf or some kind of meat...ha! They were fun!

For our Thursday Night Bible Study, we did a tacky sweater party and ornament exchange. Hilarious!!!

I also visited with my friends from college at Mississippi College. We had our traditional Margarita's Mexican Restaurant lunch and then headed over to our friend Kristin's for our gift exchange!

And, last but not least, the most recent event for celebrating the Christmas season was last night! We took the Bartlett high school girls to see the "Zoo Lights" at the Memphis Zoo! Fun company! Cold, cooooold weather!

That's a whole lot of events and fun happenings summed up in a very short blog. More to come after the holidays!

Here is the written word on the birth of Christ (from the Message translation). Merry Christmas!!!!

The Birth of Jesus
Matthew 1:18 until end of Chapter 2

18-19The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant. (It was by the Holy Spirit, but he didn't know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
20-23While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—'God saves'—because he will save his people from their sins." This would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term:

Watch for this—a virgin will get pregnant and bear a son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for "God is with us").
24-25Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.

Matthew 2

Scholars from the East
1-2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem village, Judah territory— this was during Herod's kingship—a band of scholars arrived in Jerusalem from the East. They asked around, "Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We're on pilgrimage to worship him."
3-4When word of their inquiry got to Herod, he was terrified—and not Herod alone, but most of Jerusalem as well. Herod lost no time. He gathered all the high priests and religion scholars in the city together and asked, "Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?"
5-6They told him, "Bethlehem, Judah territory. The prophet Micah wrote it plainly:

It's you, Bethlehem, in Judah's land,
no longer bringing up the rear.
From you will come the leader
who will shepherd-rule my people, my Israel."
7-8Herod then arranged a secret meeting with the scholars from the East. Pretending to be as devout as they were, he got them to tell him exactly when the birth-announcement star appeared. Then he told them the prophecy about Bethlehem, and said, "Go find this child. Leave no stone unturned. As soon as you find him, send word and I'll join you at once in your worship."
9-10Instructed by the king, they set off. Then the star appeared again, the same star they had seen in the eastern skies. It led them on until it hovered over the place of the child. They could hardly contain themselves: They were in the right place! They had arrived at the right time!
11They entered the house and saw the child in the arms of Mary, his mother. Overcome, they kneeled and worshiped him. Then they opened their luggage and presented gifts: gold, frankincense, myrrh.
12In a dream, they were warned not to report back to Herod. So they worked out another route, left the territory without being seen, and returned to their own country.
13After the scholars were gone, God's angel showed up again in Joseph's dream and commanded, "Get up. Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Stay until further notice. Herod is on the hunt for this child, and wants to kill him."
14-15Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother under cover of darkness. They were out of town and well on their way by daylight. They lived in Egypt until Herod's death. This Egyptian exile fulfilled what Hosea had preached: "I called my son out of Egypt."
16-18Herod, when he realized that the scholars had tricked him, flew into a rage. He commanded the murder of every little boy two years old and under who lived in Bethlehem and its surrounding hills. (He determined that age from information he'd gotten from the scholars.) That's when Jeremiah's sermon was fulfilled:

A sound was heard in Ramah,
weeping and much lament.
Rachel weeping for her children,
Rachel refusing all solace,
Her children gone,
dead and buried.
19-20Later, when Herod died, God's angel appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt: "Up, take the child and his mother and return to Israel. All those out to murder the child are dead."
21-23Joseph obeyed. He got up, took the child and his mother, and reentered Israel. When he heard, though, that Archelaus had succeeded his father, Herod, as king in Judea, he was afraid to go there. But then Joseph was directed in a dream to go to the hills of Galilee. On arrival, he settled in the village of Nazareth. This move was a fulfillment of the prophetic words, "He shall be called a Nazarene."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Reading it Differently

Grant lead a discussion on the Beatitudes a while back but I like to read over this every once in a while. . Really eye opening. We concluded by Grant reading the beatitudes to us in a way that helped put the verses into focus for me.

The Beatitudes
Matthew 5: 2-11

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Reading it Differently:

Truly content are the people who realize they are nothing without God because they will be saved.
Truly happy are the people who agonize over their sin because God will restore them.
Content are the gentle ones who recognize Gods holiness for they are inheriting God's kingdom.
Happy are those who desire nothing else than to be like God because only they will truly be satisfied in this world.
Truly happy are those who see the weakness of others and act because God will act to meet their needs too.
Content are those undivided in their hearts and minds, who seek God's righteousness before all else for they will experience God constantly.
Truly happy are those in harmony with God's desire for righteousness in the world for they are in God's family.
Truly content and very, very happy for those beaten up, abused, slandered, gossiped about, and mistreated for me because all I have is theirs and they aren't alone.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's Not About Me.

Wake up call!

I don't think I have ever heard the Lord trying to tell me something as much as he has been this week. I mean that in all seriousness.

Most of you know that I have this newfound hobby of reading that I love. I know, I know, I am 25 and should have been reading for like 20 years already, but I recently have started to really have a passion for it. My problem is that I start SEVERAL books at one time and I get confused.

I KNOW that I am searching for the Lord to reveal himself to me more in my life...or for me to just notice him more. I think it's mostly the last part. Because of that I have been trying to learn more and reading is a great option for me. So, I will be referencing several different books here. One is "Forgotten God" that I talked a little bit about in a past post by Francis Chan, one is my "study" book I am doing called "The Living Room Series: No Other Gods" by Kelly Minter (I started this a LONG time ago and didn't follow through with it) and lastly is the book that our Thursday night bible study group is going over called "Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ" by John Piper.

So, Francis Chan in Forgotten God opens the book by giving us the definition of "EXEgesis" and "EISEgesis" (emphasis mine here throughout all of this. It helps me to distinguish the two if I capitalize the first parts...what can I say? It's how my brain works.)

EXEgisis= an attempt to discover the meaning of the text objectively, starting with the text and moving out from there

EISEgesis= to import a subjective, preconceived meaning into the text.

Dumbed down the words mean this (dumbed down is how I like it-these are Francis Chan's definitions...I wish I could claim them as my own, ha...): EXEgisis is when you start with the text and draw out its meaning. EISEgesis is when you start with an idea or conviction, then search for verses in the Bible to prove your point.

I am going to do a lot of "quoting" from the books and I don't mean to copyright anything...just putting that out there in case someone tries to sue me. Kind of joking and kind of not. Don't sue me :)

Francis Chan says: "The bottom line is that we can easily pursue just about any lifestyle we desire, then find Scriptures to show everyone it's all right to live that way. But what would it look like to live EXEgetically? If we were to start with Scripture and allow it to dictate our actions, how would we live?"

In my opinion, the Bible should be read from an EXEgisis standpoint. Grant and I were talking the other night about how you can pretty much take anything out of context to make yourself feel good or feel like your way of thinking is right. Especially the Bible. I don't know if I was TAUGHT this way or if I just learned this on my own, but forEVER up until now, I would go through something in my life and look in the back of the Bible and read all of the verses that applied to that "topic" but I don't think that's how the Bible should be read. I am NOT saying that you shouldn't search the Bible in your time of need. I am just saying to remember that the verses are in context. It's like looking at a owner's manual for a car and expecting it to tell you how to brush your teeth. That's not it's purpose. That Bible isn't about us. It's about Jesus Christ. Period. I will explain a little more to elaborate my point in
a bit.

There is more to Francis Chan's book and I highly recommend it. I think I am done referencing his book.

My whole point of writing this is not to convict anyone, it's to say that I am learning more and more that my life is not about me. Here I go explaining a little more.
So, like I said before, in our Thursday night bible study we are reading John Piper's book "Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ" and Grant leads that Bible study and my eyes were opened a TON last night. Here's some of the things the book and our group discussed...I might go off my original topic but hang in there...I will reign it back in.

John Piper introduces the book talking about how people can see but not see ("Seeing they do not see"). Matthew 13:13 says: "That is why I use these parables, For they look, but they don't really see. They hear, but they don't really listen or understand". We talked in our group about how often we, even as Christians, "see but don't really see". Meaning-how often do I go about my day without seeing God and how he's working. ALL THE TIME! It's pitiful...I am talking straight to myself here. John Piper says: "When we see with our spiritual eyes, we see the truth and beauty and value of Jesus Christ for what they really are....But not everyone see truth and beauty and infinite value. Some see only myth. Some see foolishness. Some see offense. "Seeing they do not see. It is as though a child should look at a Michelangelo and prefer a comic strip."

This verse helps a little more to understand the whole "Seeing they do not see" concept in my mind: 2 Corinthians 4:4: "Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don't believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News".

So, in our bible study, we are learning what it means to "savor" Jesus Christ. Hence the title of the book. Grant put it this way and it helped my simple mind understand better. It's like one of those word things on the ACT test we took in high school but it works:

Joy is to happiness as savoring is to emotion. This goes back to a lesson Grant taught on joy and happiness. The difference between joy and happiness is that joy is what we should have all of the time that comes from the Lord and our peace in our salvation and happiness is based on your emotions at that particular time. I can still have joy in Christ even though my family member just passed away but I am not happy. Savoring Jesus is something that we should live out in life and not just be something fleeting like emotion.

Chapter 1 starts out with this caption and Grant filled in the rest: "The Ultimate Aim of Jesus Christ" is to reveal the glory of God to us. This is where it brought me back to my thinking of "this isn't all about me".

"The universe was made to show the glory of God, and we were made to see it and savor it. Nothing less will do." John Piper goes on to talk about how the universe points to the fact that we as humans are infinitely small in the grand scheme of things and how it is further declared by our universe. "The heavens declare the glory of God"...yes, I have sang that in songs and heard that said all the time, but if you think about it, LITERALLY- THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD!!! Again, THE HEAVENS DECLARE THE GLORY OF GOD! Literally. I guess I should stop screaming it on paper and explain what John Piper is saying. He's saying-look at our universe and the earth in relation to that. Have you ever seen those posters in elementary school that line up all of the planets and you see that although we live on this earth and it is MASSIVE to us-we are one of the smallest in the universe. I like what J.P. (I am abbreviating John Piper here) says: "The reason for "wasting" so much space on a universe to house a speck of humanity is to make a point about our Maker, not us." NOT US.

Isaiah 40:26 says: "Look up into the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing." Wow. Louie Giglio has a talk called "Indescribable" that also talks about the universe and this same topic. Here's a link to it if you want to watch it: http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=17849695

WELL, so, if it's not about me-what is it about... J.P. says: "The deepest longing of the human heart is to know and enjoy the glory of God. We were made for this." WE WERE MADE FOR THIS. Grant said last night that we have a function. A cell phone isn't used as a door stop. If it was, it wouldn't work very well and visa versa. We have a function. We are made to know and enjoy the glory of God!

Grant and our discussion group elaborated on what J.P. said about how our lives have gotten so disordered. One person used the example of when her and her husband get into a fight about petty things (I could even put mine and Grant's name in there...it happens to everyone) one of them will stop and ask the other "How is your relationship with God right now?" and even though it makes that person so angry in that second-it's true. Things start to fall apart when you are a Christian but are not walking with the Lord. I am a first hand witness to that. I am also the first one to say that being a Christian doesn't mean your life is perfect...hard times are GUARANTEED in this fallen world. Grant used the word "splintered" last night and that stuck with me. Our world gets splintered when things get disorderly...when God is not the focus...the Number 1 focus.

J.P.'s words: " The point is this: We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things; and when we trade that treasure for images, everything is disordered. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self."

To sum this all up from J.P.'s book he says: "The Christian Gospel is about "the glory of Christ," not about me. And when it is-in some measure-about me, it is not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of him forever." It's still all about God even when you are used to exalt his name. Wow.

You didn't think you were getting a bible study, did you? Neither did I. This is just what's going on in my life and felt it should be shared. Not for my glory, but God's.

I had more to add but this is so super long and I am sorry. What the "more" I wanted to add it worthy of it, though so hang in there...

I wanted to share with you some options to "give back" this Christmas. I will just list them and go to make this short.

TOMS Shoes: http://www.tomsshoes.com/default.asp -With every pair you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. One for One.

Grant found this one called "Harvest of Hope": Give a gift that changes lives. http://www.harvestofhope.org/ -All around the world, people are in need, but you can help! Give the gift of Hope. There is a catalog on here that you can look through and give gifts on behalf of others or just to help.

Thanks for hangin' in there through this long message :) OH, and I know I didn't talk about the study book "No Other Gods"...I will save that for another post.