For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:38-39
Christmas is all about the name of Jesus–Immanuel, God with us.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
In his meditation on Isaiah 7:14, Spurgeon says “This is His name, “God with us”—God with us, by His Incarnation, for the august Creator of the world did walk upon this globe! He who made ten thousand orbs, each of them more mighty and more vast than this earth, became the inhabitant of this tiny atom! He who was from everlasting to everlasting, came to this world of time and stood upon the narrow neck of land betwixt the two unbounded seas! “God with us.” He has not lost that name—Jesus had that name on earth and He has it, now, in Heaven! He is now, “God with us.”
Check out the video below and rejoice in Immanuel!
Oh, may God teach you the meaning of that name, Immanuel, “God with us”!
It is wisdom’s mystery,
“God with us.”
Sages look at it and wonder.
Angels desire to see it.
The plumb-line of reason cannot reach half-way into its depths.
The eagle wings of science cannot fly so high
and the piercing eye of the vulture of research cannot see it!
“God with us.”
It is Hell’s terror!
Satan trembles at the sound of it.
His legions fly apace,
the black-winged dragon of the Pit quails before it!
Let Satan come to you suddenly and do you but whisper that word,
“God with us” —back he falls—confounded and confused!
Satan trembles when he hears that name,
“God with us.”
It is the labourer’s strength—
how could he preach the Gospel,
how could he bend his knees in prayer,
how could the missionary go into foreign lands,
how could the martyr stand at the stake,
how could the confessor acknowledge his Master,
how could men labour if that one word were taken away?
“God with us,”
is the sufferer’s comfort,
is the balm of his woe,
is the alleviation of his misery,
is the sleep which God gives to His beloved,
is their rest after exertion and toil.
“God with us”
is eternity’s sonnet,
is Heaven’s hallelujah,
is the shout of the glorified,
is the song of the redeemed,
is the chorus of angels,
and is the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky!
It’s interesting to see how many amateurs are trying to go pro. I’m not talking about sports. I’m talking about hobbies like writing, cooking, photography and so on. Lately, I’ve wondered why that’s the case nowadays. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with the tough economic times that we live in. Folks are using their interests to fill in the gaps in their budget. We enjoy certain hobbies, and see opportunity to turn that hobby into a business. We want to reap some material benefit to go along with the pleasure we derive from engaging in these activities. It’s a wise use of a hobby. I think it’s also partly out of passion. We enjoy these kinds of activities, and want to spend as much time and energy as we can perfecting our craft, honing our skills, and pursuing our passions. Maybe we also want others to share in our experiences. We have a penchant for seeing beauty and meaning in things that others may miss. So, our efforts to “go pro” provide a wider audience for shared appreciation of the details of life that many people often overlook. All our senses are engaged. We smell or hear something and it prompts a thought that we need to write down and want to share with others. Or, we see a unique moment and capture it on film or sd card or Instagram or Facebook or Tumblr so that others can see from our viewpoint.
However, as much as we attempt to communicate clearly so that others may appreciate or understand what was going on in our heads when we wrote or photographed something, many times our attempt to capture a thought or moment goes sour. We offend unintentionally with our words. We capture something in the background of a photo that should have been kept private. When it comes down to it, our viewpoint is not all we need to consider. We need to consider the other. What others think or see is just as important, actually more important than what we think or see. Not every thought needs to be publicized. Not every image needs to be captured. We should always be considering others in our writing, speech, and in our image capturing.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
It’s so easy to crank out words in the midst of intense emotion, or to whip out our phone or camera and click that scene or interaction without asking permission first, for the sake of “capturing the moment”. It’s so easy to speak our minds, forgetting that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. We need censorship, and the Holy Spirit should be our censor. May the Lord give us eyes to see, a mouth to speak, and hands to capture what would benefit others.
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
I have seen boys bathing in a river in the morning. One of them has just dipped his toes in the water, and he cries out, as he shivers, “Oh, it’s so cold!” Another has gone in up to his ankles, and he also declares that it is fearfully chilly. But see! another runs to the bank, and takes a header. He rises all in a glow. All his blood is circulating, and he cries “Delicious! What a beautiful morning! I am all in a glow. The water is splendid!” That is the boy for enjoying a bath! You Christian people who are paddling about in the shallows of religion, and just dipping your toes into it—you stand shivering in the cold air of the world which you are afraid to leave. Oh, that you would plunge into the river of life! How it would brace you! What tone it would give you! In for it, young man! In for it! Be a Christian, out and out. Serve the Lord with your whole being. Give yourself wholly to him who bought you with his blood. Plunge into the sacred flood by grace, and you will exclaim—
Oh, this is life! Oh, this is joy,
My God, to find thee so!
Thy face to see, thy voice to hear,
And all thy love to know.”
From Charles Spurgeon’s sermon, “Our Resurrection and Newness of Life”, preached Easter morning, March 29, 1891.
I’m so excited to share with you this announcement from The Gospel Coalition. Last year’s conference was filled with great teaching from women around the world and sweet fellowship with friends near and far. Please mark your calendars for June 27-29, 2014 and give me a shout out if you plan to attend. Hope to see many of you there as we learn from the Book of Nehemiah next year.
From The Gospel Coalition website:
We’re doing it again! The Gospel Coalition’s second National Women’s Conference will take place June 27 to 29, 2014, in Orlando, Florida. Registration will open August 1. We look forward to sharing this event with thousands of women from across the nation and around the world.
We’re excited about this conference for at least three reasons. First, there’s the momentum from our last women’s conference. What a joy last June to see 3,800 women gather (along with thousands more, from 67 countries, joining via livestream) for a conference that was “for women but not all about women.” The title “Here Is Our God!”summed it up: we saw and heard the Lord God more clearly together, through the expositional teaching of his Word. We not only took it in; we also considered together how to share it and live it out faithfully. There was a focused energy and a deep fellowship among the women filling those halls.
Gloria Furman is a dear sister and friend in Christ whose blog and encouragement have been a constant blessing to me. I had the joy of reading Gloria’s new book Glimpses of Grace, and offering this endorsement:
We need gospel fuel to joyfully serve our families, and that’s what Glimpses of Grace provides. Many days I unload a barrage of law upon my family, when what they need from me is grace, encouragement, and reminders of God’s faithfulness. I thank the Lord for using Gloria to point me to the glorious gospel of his grace so that I might extend the same grace to my husband and children. As homemakers we can be smothered by the ordinary, blinded by the mundane, living in a fog of routine and fatigue, unable to see how to clean messy noses or break up sibling squabbles for the glory of God. In Glimpses of Grace Gloria helps to lift the fog by showing us how the gospel can change our perspective as we serve and love our families.
“I am sure that almost every homemaker, every mother, every woman, has experienced the disconnect between what she knows and what she feels, between knowing that her calling is good and the reality that it can be exasperating and so often feels unfulfilling. In Glimpses of Grace Gloria Furman brings the gospel to bear on a woman’s distinct calling and calls her to treasure the gospel in her home.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom,
priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:5-6
If you are looking for motivation to forgive a spouse, a parent, a relative–anyone who’s hurt you deeply–find your place on the scarlet thread of Scripture. See your sins attached there in all their shame and selfishness. Try to fathom the distance His grace has bridged between you and the wrath of God. And with the rush of relief that floods your soul at the sight, realize what you owe to those who deserve forgiveness as little as you do. Follow the thread all the way home to the Father.
Marvel at God’s love and mercy toward you, and ask Him to make His love the source, substance, and measure of your dealings with others.
I have purposely been avoiding most of the press and debate surrounding the Gosnell trial. It’s too painful to think about, let alone watch on tv or read in print. I don’t want to drum up controversy. I’m just thinking about women I know who have had abortions and wondering how they are processing this. I want to offer hope to women who feel a sense of guilt over their abortion. To those women, I would like to say:
I know this must be painful. Reliving your own past, revisiting the circumstances that led to your abortion, telling yourself again and again that you did the right thing at the time for yourself and for your baby. Trying not to think about it too much for fear of the reality of your actions hitting and breaking your heart. Crying into your pillow at night, thinking about how old your baby would be right now, and the times you have missed caring for your own. Coming to the realization that the better life you hoped would result from not bringing a child into this world, is not that much better. Wondering if the better life would have been one in which you joyfully embraced motherhood and allowed family and friends to help you as you finished school and worked long hours. Imagining what it would have been like to hold your baby, cuddle him to sleep, watch her take those first steps, cheer him on in football, encourage her in academics. It must be painful to consider what actually happened in that abortion clinic—to you and to your baby.
My heart breaks for you. My heart longs for you to be free from guilt.
The great news is that God is willing to forgive you of this particular sin, but He is willing and able to forgive you of all your sin-past, present and future. In reality, there are many other sins for which we would stand before the Lord as guilty. Jesus died so that we would not have to pay the penalty that we deserve for our sins. When we repent, meaning turn away from a life of sin, and trust that Christ’s death satisfies God’s anger over our sins, then the Lord clears us from the debt of death we owe God for our sin, and makes us new and holy people.
If you’re already a Christian but struggle with the weight of guilt over your sin, remember what Christ has already done for you. Live in the freedom that He purchased for you. Remember that though your sins were like scarlet, Christ has made you white as snow. Pray on behalf of others who are considering the path you have walked. Pray that they would run the other way and trust in the Lord to care for them and their baby.
May this be your comfort, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter” (2 Corinthians 7:10-11).
You may wonder how you could “prove yourself innocent” when you feel so guilty. Three hundred years ago, a pastor named Matthew Henry offered this clarity and encouragement to you who feel the weight of guilt, and to us who don’t want to hold you in condemnation:
“Not that they were innocent, but that they were penitent, and therefore clear of guilt before God, who would pardon and not punish them; and they ought no longer to be reproved, much less to be reproached, by men, for what they had truly repented of.”
May the Lord give you a heart of repentance, and may He give us a heart to care for you in love.
I know I’m prone to this. I feel a certain way, and I just want to nurse the feeling. My heart is full of feelings, nothing more than feelings. Truth has to wedge its way into my deceptive heart as my feelings masquerade as truth.
We can’t stop with how we feel. Our feelings are not to rule over us. The Word of God is to rule and guide our feelings and actions. One of the most important truths for me to hold on to when my feelings vie for control of my heart is that I have One who is able to sympathize with my weaknesses, yet without sin. So, I need to draw near to the throne of GRACE with CONFIDENCE (not in what I can do, but confidence in what Christ can do through me, and in what He has already done for me) that I may receive mercy and find grace to help in my time of need.
Here’s some feelings that frequently invade my heart and how I’m learning to bring my feelings under the banner of truth.
We are all inadequate, that’s why we need Christ, depending on Him working in us, not on our own efforts. It’s easy to see my weaknesses and to tell myself that because I’m weak, I can’t ______. The truth is, “when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corin 12:10). Therefore, I must grab hold of the grace of Christ so that His strength might work powerfully in me to accomplish His purposes in my life. My strength runs out the moment I exert it. But Christ’s strength is always available and always enough for every task and every act of service.
Feeling No Peace
Sometimes, I try to apply God’s Word, but I just don’t get that peace that’s supposed to come when I immerse myself in the Word. What’s missing? Why doesn’t the peace of Christ rule in my heart? Peace often eludes me when:
I’m anxious, worried or fearful and not taking these things to the Lord in prayer. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
I’m blinded by ingratitude. Sometimes peace doesn’t come because I’m too focused on what I don’t have and can’t do, rather than being thankful for what I do have and for what the Lord has already done. Again “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
I have no desire. I can sulk with the best of ’em and throw crazy pity parties! If I want attention, approval or pity from others, I can gather up my pet peeve, stroke it, feed it, and cuddle it to rest in my heart. If I want peace instead, then there’s an important imperative that should not be ignored from Colossians 3:15 “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”. It’s the little word “let”. This is an act of will. I have to want it. I can allow worry, ingratitude, resentment, and discord to rule in my heart by nursing wounds. Or, I can let the peace of Christ to take rightful rule over my heart, casting its calming shadow of grace over my soul.
Feeling Weary With Works
Too often, I try to apply God’s Word through works rather than rely on the grace of the Lord. I have no strength of my own that is lasting and sufficient. The more I try to earn God’s favor and the favor of others through works, the tighter my rubber band is wound and it’s only a matter of time before it snaps. When I read God’s commands to me–be this, do that, work this way, love them, hate that, I can find myself frazzled and spiraling into a deep dark pit of despair. I KNOW I can’t do those things He commands, be who He wants me to be, love those He calls me to love if it’s left totally up to me. It’s just not in me. I have too much sin blocking my path. Sins of selfishness, entitlement, anger, lying, covetousness, and so on (see Col 3:5-9). But if I’m led by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will be evident in my life (Gal 5:18, 22-23). I know that I can do/endure/handle all things through Him who strengthens me (Phil 4:13).
Feeling Physical, Emotional or Psychological Strain
Here, I’m thinking of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who wrote Spiritual Depression. In it, he proposes some general causes of spiritual depression, which are helpful to think and pray through when I’m struggling spiritually. The 5 causes of spiritual depression that he outlines are excerpted by my husband, Thabiti, in his blog post on Spiritual Depression. They are:
“First and foremost I would not hesitate to put–temperament” (p. 14).
“Let us pass to the second big cause–physical conditions” (p. 18).
“Another frequent cause of spiritual depression is what we may describe as a reaction–a reaction after a blessing, a reaction after some unusual and exceptional experience” (p. 19).
“Then we come to the next cause. In a sense, and in the last analysis, that is the one and only cause of spiritual depression–it is the devil, the adversary of our souls” (p. 19).
“Indeed I can put it, finally, like this: the ultimate cause of all spiritual depression is unbelief” (p. 20).
For women, I think we can downplay the role of physical conditions on our spiritual health. We can be so busy caring for everyone else’s needs in our family and friendship networks, that we ignore physical signs that may be indicators to our overall spiritual health. Pay attention to changes in menstrual patterns, excessive weight gain/loss, big mood swings, recurring headaches, nagging discomfort or pain, and so on. When our bodies are not well, it really can affect us spiritually. If we take care of ourselves physically, it can have a positive effect on our spiritual lives.
Each of the above causes could be expanded on at length, so I would encourage you to read this book, gain an honest assessment of which areas typify you when you’re struggling spiritually, and seek the Lord’s aid through prayer and accountability with others in how to combat these issues.
Speak the TRUTH to yourself. Don’t be ruled by emotion. Feelings are nothing more than that, just feelings. Lloyd-Jones would say stop listening to yourself and start speaking the truth to yourself. Our God is good and wise and only does what is good for His people. He delights to do good to us (Jeremiah 32:41) and for us and for His glory. Don’t put words in God’s mouth by speaking lies about God, yourself, or those who have hurt you. The truth is, the Lord has called you to be faithful, to adorn the fruit of the Spirit, to be still and know that He is God, to cast all your cares upon Him, to trust Him, to depend upon Him for everything. What He does call you to do, He gives you the grace to do it, as you work by His strength which works powerfully in you (Col 1:29).
We need to get out of our own heads and start to live out of truth, not our feelings or our hearts. Our hearts are deceptive, and can jump ahead in the battle at any given moment. The war is already won. We just have to stand on the winning side. We’re not alone trying to accomplish His work in and for us. His Spirit is working in us, causing us to live and act according to His purpose, pleasure and will. The peace that too often escapes us comes from spiritual rest, not from human effort (Matt 11:28).
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30
Revive Our Hearts is a ministry dedicated to helping women find freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ. They have a wealth of helpful resources to help women grow in our relationship with Christ and for that growth to flow out in loving service to those around us.
One resource I’ve greatly benefited from has been their “30 Day Challenges”. I’ve completed several of these challenges over the years, some of them multiple times! They are always such a balm to my weary and wandering soul, and an encouragement to persevere in my trials and to pursue holiness with renewed passion. They are Scripture-saturated challenges that will encourage your heart. Give one a try for the next 30 days!
I can still smell his smoke-filled, alcohol-infused breath. I can feel the cactus-like prickles of his beard. One kiss was all he took, but it felt like much more was lost. And it was.
Mr. Piggy, as folks called him, was a scruffy old man, but seemingly harmless. He and his wife owned a makeshift dime store-basically they bought bulk candy and sold it from their kitchen to the neighborhood kids.
I remember the day I skipped down the road, pigtails flying, to buy some candy from Mr. Piggy. Usually there was a gang of us bombarding his back door, spending the change we found under seat cushions or had left over from lunch money. But this day I was alone. As I held out the coins to pay for a Mary Jane and some Dum Dums, Mr. Piggy pulled me to himself, smashed my face into his, and not only took the change, but what he called a kiss. As if to offer a bit of hush money, he placed a couple extra pieces of candy into my hands and told me not to tell anyone. I took the candy, and I didn’t tell anyone. Until now.
Mr. Piggy was a dirty old man. He was nasty, lewd, wicked. What he took from me was much more than a kiss from a little girl. He stole something from me–a bit of innocence, a load of trust, a lot of transparency. Years of guilt followed that 30 second exchange. I should have pulled back. I should have told someone. I should not have taken the hush money/candy. Instead of feeling like a victim, I felt like a participant because I said nothing and did nothing, I felt responsible and dirty.
It was through a tender conversation with my husband that the Lord finally freed me from guilt, shame and fear. As I unfolded my story and shared how dirty I felt for what happened, the Lord used him to uncloud my eyes and help me to see the truth. My experience was real. It was painful. It was haunting. It left scars. It was worse than I realized as a 10 year old, but not as bad as it could have been, and for that, I’m grateful. I know many women and young girls have suffered abuse far greater than what I’ve described here, and I by no means am equating my experience with theirs. My heart grieves for those who have suffered and lived in pain and in secret and in bondage to the sins of others.
God is just. I know He will not leave the guilty unpunished (Exod 34:7). I know He will judge the wicked (Ps 73:1-20). I know God is good and just and allows things to happen according to the counsel of His will and purpose, and for the good of those who love Him. I know that I am not guilty. What happened was not my fault. I understand that I was taken advantage of, and I praise God for freeing me from shame and guilt by exposing the evildoer for who he is.
Abuse comes from all ages and genders, to all ages and genders. None of us are immune to the possibility. Many of us are living with its effects, either through personal experience or through the lives of family and friends who have suffered varying degrees and forms of abuse. If you have been a victim of abuse, it’s not too late to tell someone. It’s not too late to get help. It’s not too late for justice to be done, and God promises that justice will be done (Ps 10).
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.