When and Why Jesus Came

We often have an image of the first Christmas as a peaceful scene, beautiful stars shining on a quiet night, shepherds serenely watching their flocks in beautiful green moonlit pastures and the people going about their quiet lives. When in reality the scene of Israel at that time was nothing close to peaceful or serene.

Israel was under enemy occupation, the culture was in turmoil, and the people under oppression. There was political unrest and instability with new leaders coming and going. Those in authority feared assassination by those hungry for power. Laws were imposed upon the people. The enemy built fortresses throughout the land, providing a visual reminder of their bondage. Taxation oppressed the people. Fear of slavery, imprisonment, loss of property or even crucifixion was real for the people of Israel.

It was during these dark days that God chose to send His Son to earth.

However, God did not send His only Son to bring physical deliverance from Rome’s oppression, or to rid the land of its enemy occupants, or to provide stability for the country, or to bring in an era of peace.

The God of the universe had the power to do all of these things, but what He came to accomplish was far more profound. It was something spiritual, something that has the power to affect every living soul individually.

Jesus did not come to overthrow His enemies; He came to save His enemies.

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight. (Colossians 1:21-22)

Jesus did not come to avenge those who had died by the hands of their enemies; He came to die for those who deserved death.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. ( Romans 6:23)

Jesus did not come to free those in Roman dungeons; He came to free those who were slaves of their own sins.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.
(Romans 6:22)

Jesus did not come to break Roman control; He came to break the power of the law of sin and death.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2)

Jesus came to deliver sinners from eternal torment and separation from God.

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)

Jesus did not come to usher in an era of peace; He came to offer peace with God to those who had wronged Him with their sin.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Jesus came so those who were dead in sin could have abundant life.

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:10b)

Jesus came to make a way to enter God’s presence.

Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14, 16)

Jesus came to make a way for sinners to have fellowship with the King of kings and Lord of lords.

That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. (John 1:3)

Jesus came to offer rest to those who trust in Him.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your soul. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Jesus came to bring joy.

And now come I [Jesus] to thee [the Father]; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
(John 17:13)

The state of Israel during the era when Jesus came portrays a beautiful contrast to what He came to accomplish, not circumstantially, but in the hearts and lives of those who place their trust in Him!

We are often faced with trouble or hard circumstances that do not lend themselves to freedom, peace, rest or joy; but in Christ these things can be found no matter the situation!

This is why Jesus came!

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Why and For What Should We Give Thanks?

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. During this season, we are often asked the question “What are you thankful for?” and our brains scramble to find something to share. Today, we’ve compiled a list of Scriptural reasons for why we should give thanks, as well as some specific things for which Scripture tells us to give thanks.

Why should we give thanks?

Here are three reasons from Scripture:

1. Give thanks because it is God’s will.  

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 

2. Give thanks because it magnifies God. 

“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30 

“For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.”                2 Corinthians 4:15

3. Give thanks because it is good to give thanks. 

“It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High.” Psalm 92:1 

For what should we give thanks?  

1. Give thanks for His holiness. 

“Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” Psalm 30:4

2. Give thanks for God’s goodness.

“O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:1

3. Give thanks for He is the God of god and the Lord of lords. 

“O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:2-3

4. Give thanks for He does great wonders. 

“To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:4

5. Give thanks for He has created all things. 

 5 “To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
6 To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.
7 To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:
8 The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:
9 The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:5-9

6. Give thanks for how He has dealt with Israel. 

10 “To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:
11 And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:
12 With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.
13 To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:
14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:
15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever. 
16 To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.
17 To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
18 And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
19 Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:
20 And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:
21 And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:
22 Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:10-22

 7. Give thanks for He has remembered us and redeemed us. 

“Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:
And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:23-24

8. Give thanks because He provides. 

“Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:25

9. Give thanks because His mercy endures forever. 

“O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.” Psalm 136:26 

 10. Give thanks for our salvation. 

“But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” 2 Thessalonians 2:13 

This list is not at all exhaustive. As you spend time in the Word during this season of giving thanks, be looking for other specific areas for which Scripture instructs us to give thanks!

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Miscarriage: When You Have One

My last post on miscarriage, When Your Friend Has Onegave a few ideas on how to minister to your friend who has gone through a miscarriage. However, because of the statistics, it is likely that you yourself may have also had a miscarriage. In this post, I’d like to share a few practical things that ministered to my heart in a very specific way as I worked through the loss of our twins

1. Music

I don’t know about you, but music is a incredible balm for the soul. Shortly after our miscarriage, several songs became very special to me, for they reminded me of who my God is. Those songs, along with some select albums, are now part of a special playlist. I like to think of those songs as my go-to songs to help “lift my eyes to my Savior” when the emotions flood my soul or when I am tempted to wallow in a private pity party. This playlist has played so many times…and over and over, I’ve wept as the words remind me of who my God is. Through the tears, these songs have helped me worship my God who is forever good and faithful towards His children, even in the valley.

2. Special Memorabilia

Because our miscarriage was pretty early on in the pregnancy, we didn’t have any physical souvenirs to indicate that our twins had ever even existed: no ultrasound picture, no special outfits, no wristbands from a hospital stay, no indication of whether they were boys or girls, no names picked out. Nothing.

In some ways it felt like they had come and gone and it was all just a figment of our imagination.

But of course it wasn’t.

After months of struggling with this emptiness, I finally got to the point where I just really, really, really had to have something physical as my special reminder of the little ones God gave us for such a short little while: I decided to go with a simple heart necklace. It is the only necklace I ever wear and I love wearing it.

However, now that I think about it, there are other items scattered throughout our home that remind me that our twins have not been forgotten: dried roses in a vase from a bouquet that friends sent, that
small stack of cards from friends and family, a wall plaque my mother-in-law gave around the one-year anniversary of our miscarriage.

So perhaps you have a name ring, a Christmas ornament, a necklace, an ultrasound picture, a special onesie for a souvenir box, or something altogether different but it holds special meaning to you. Whatever it is, find something that reminds you of your little one. As strange as it sounds, there is an element of comfort in having something more than just a memory to remind you of your little one.

3. Topic-Specific Reading

While there is an abundance of articles and blog posts on the internet discussing personal experiences with miscarriage, be careful of those that are absorbed with all the emotions surrounding miscarriage, particularly if they come from a secular perspective. I agree that there is an element of encouragement in knowing that “you’re not the only one going through this,” but this encouragement is only temporary. As a believer, your ultimate comfort should not be in the warm emotions of fuzzy feelings and virtual group hugs from people you’ve never met or who may not even know Christ as their Savior. Rather, as a believer, you have access to a lasting comfort: the comfort that is found in your Savior.

With perfect timing, God brought along the book Inheritance of Tears by Jessalyn Hutto, as well as Courtney Reissig’s blog. Both of these ladies have gone through multiple miscarriages and have written on the subject to help point other ladies towards a gospel-centered comfort. The truths that these ladies have written were instrumental in refocusing my heart on my Savior in the midst of the sorrow.

Another resource that was highly influential in showing me more of the character of my God in the middle of my sorrow was the book Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. While not specifically about miscarriage, Trusting God deals with learning to trust Him in our sorrow, even when we don’t understand His ways (which is exactly what we struggle with, is it not?).

One last resource that I am currently reading is Suffering: Gospel Hope When Life Doesn’t Make Sense by Paul Tripp. This book is an incredibly down-to-earth look at how we are to view the suffering that God takes us through in this life. Even though it has been almost five years since our miscarriage, Suffering is beginning to unpack and shed new light on so many of the hard emotions of grief that filled my heart after our miscarriage.

If you are longing to make Biblical sense of why God has called you to walk down this road of losing a child too early, I believe these resources can help point you in the right direction. I highly recommend them!

4. Scripture

This is perhaps an obvious statement, but I cannot emphasize it enough. If you don’t remember anything else that I have written here, please do remember this: saturate—and I mean soak in, marinate in, drench, flood–your soul with God’s Word.

As emotional of a journey as a miscarriage may be, don’t get caught up in just the emotions. Fight the tendency to wallow in the emotions and offset it by rehearsing to yourself the unfailing truths from God’s Word.

God’s Word is true and living–the only source of lasting comfort–for it reveals the character of it’s author.

It the Word that reveals the one who created the little one you lost.

It the Word that reveals the very nature of the one who knows your every thought and emotion going through your heart during this time.

It is in the Word that you will begin to see more clearly the God who is sovereign over all things, even your miscarriage.

It is in the Word that you will begin to understand the reason for the sorrow and suffering that we have in this world.

And it is in the Word that you ultimately will find true comfort–because it will point you to finding your comfort in God.

So read the Word, listen to sermons, study the Word, read it some more, write out passages that God uses to cause your heart to worship Him, pray the Word back to God, read the Word some more.

If you’re at a loss as to how to saturate your soul with the Word, start reading the Psalms. Over and over again, the psalmist depicts a state of sorrow, despair, and anguish—all emotions we can identify with as we try to make Biblical sense of our sorrow. However, after sharing his heart’s state of despair and anguish, the psalmist points his reader to the specific character of God that upheld him in his darkest hours. And that is what our souls need: a rehearsing of who God is. The Psalms remind us that even though our world feels like it has just crumbled around us, we still have our unchanging God, good and faithful in all of His ways.

So cry out to God. Plead with Him to make His Word to be living waters for your parched soul to drink from so that your heart might rejoice in Him.

Pray that He would be true to His character and show you His goodness in the sorrow of your miscarriage.

Pray that He would cause you to again sing praise to Him and give thanks to Him forever (see Ps. 30:12).

Pray that you would experience that He is, indeed, good and that His steadfast love is everlasting (see Ps. 118:29).

Pray that you would be able to testify that it is His steadfast love that is the very thing that upholds you when you are about to slip (see Ps. 94:18).

Find your ultimate rest and comfort in the God who is sovereign over all of creation and who very purposefully and intentionally created your little one for His glory.

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To Rejoice and To Weep

The announcement that they were expecting was adorable. The added twist in saying that they were expecting twins made it even more delightful, for it is not every day that the Facebook algorithm brings up a “We’re expecting twins” announcement! I’m truly happy for the couple who now has two precious little girls in their family!

But along with the joy in my heart came a twinge of sadness, for I couldn’t help but think back to the time when we were also expecting twins. The thrill of finding out we were expecting was only heightened by the discovery that there were two! For close to twelve weeks, I carried our two little treasures, created in God’s image and precious in His sight.

But then mysteriously, there was no more growth; there was no more life. God had taken our twins from us.

Rejoicing with each other

In these bittersweet moments of genuine joy tarnished by aching sadness, Scripture’s words echo in my mind: “Rejoice with them that do rejoice…” (Rom. 12:15). It is amazing how God knows our tendencies to think only of ourselves. It is even more wonderful how He deals with that problem by providing a specific remedy for it: He has commanded us to rejoice with others! As hard as it can sometimes be, rejoicing with each other is a very tangible way of taking our eyes off of ourselves and focusing on the other person. It is so hard, but we must do it: rejoice with those who rejoice.

The struggle to rejoice with others was, oh so hard those first few years after our miscarriage. There were the newborns everyone oooh-ed and ahhh-ed over, the pregnancy announcements, the couple who seemed to be able to have kids without even trying, the couple who didn’t want to get pregnant but did, the baby showers. The tears often flowed freely…mostly at home, once I was finally was away from inquisitive looks. However, sometimes the hot tears came in public, unbidden, revealing my struggle to rejoice with those around me.

Each of these baby-related situations felt like a knife being jabbed deep into my aching heart, for they reminded me that my arms were empty when they should have been full. However, even in the midst of the pain, I also had the opportunity to rejoice with those around me.

As we walk alongside each other as sisters in Christ, we have the opportunity to walk with each other in the joyful times. Many times, this requires us to find genuine joy in each other’s rejoicing, despite our own sorrows that threaten to hold us back.

Weeping with each other

But we all know that life isn’t just about rejoicing–there are both happy times and there are sad times. And so I must mention the second part of Romans 12:15. Many of you probably have already finished it in your mind: “…and weep with them that weep.”

Yes, weep.

Weeping has the idea of the intense shedding of literal, physical tears. In this context, it is done on behalf of another because of the sorrow they are going through.

Walking with each other as sisters in Christ means coming alongside each other not only in the joyful times, but also in the difficult times–those times when nothing in life seems to make human sense, when our hearts cannot help but cry out “Why, Lord?”, when we walk through a valley and we emerge from it forever marked by that time spent in the valley. Sometimes the most significant encouragement and comfort is found in knowing that we’re not alone as we grieve.

And so we are commanded to weep with each other.

Giving the gift 

I’ve been on the receiving end of both of these commands: when we were first expecting our twins, I know there were those who rejoiced with us, despite their own sorrows that I know they had; I also know there were those who came alongside us and wept with us as we walked through the darkest days of our miscarriage.

By God’s grace, I am slowly learning what it means to also be on the giving end of this command: to rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.

I am reminded of the passage in Philippians 2 where we are called to think of others before ourselves, being motivated by Christ’s example of selfless and humble love. Rejoicing and weeping with each other often demands such an attitude of sacrificial love, for we tend to think that life revolves around us and what we are going through. If we allow ourselves to get caught up in our own needs, we will fail to see the needs of those around us. But we are called to step out and show love to the other person; we are called to come alongside each other–no matter what life’s circumstance may be–and walk together in it by rejoicing and weeping with each other.

Perhaps God has called you to walk down this road of infant loss or miscarriage. May He enable you to find true joy in how He has blessed others, despite your loss; may He also bring along those who will freely offer the gift of weeping with you.

Or perhaps you’re on the sidelines, watching a family member or friend go through the grief of experiencing an infant loss or miscarriage. Please take intentional steps to come alongside them and to “weep with them that weep.”

God has not called us to rejoice in His blessings all by ourselves; neither has He called us to walk through the deep valleys of life all alone. As sisters in Christ, we have the incredible privilege of extending the gift of coming alongside each other to rejoice and to weep with each other. By His grace, may we learn to do so freely and generously.

This post was originally posted on Angie’s private blog, In the Meantime.

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When Your Husband Fails To Be Your Savior

Marriage can be hard. 

You enter it thinking you know a person but then discover there are some unexpected challenges that this lovely person now brings into your life. You struggle to figure out a groove, but eventually you learn how to love one another well in the current season of life you are in.  It feels like you’ve made good progress, and then bam! Suddenly everything you’ve worked so hard to establish is shaken as you hit new life transitions like a change in job, a move, a new baby joining the family, a hard and unexpected life trial, etc. 

I fight this “shaking” of my marriage world every time it happens, but I’m beginning to realize that I don’t think it’s going to stop. And here’s why I believe this to be true: God hates idolatry and what I tend to idolize is my marriage. What do I mean by this?  I mean that I often find myself falling into the trap of looking to my husband for my source of worth, purpose and satisfaction in life. However, God is too good of a God to let me settle for anything less than Himself. He isn’t going to let me find satisfaction in my marriage if I’m not first finding my satisfaction in Him. 

He says in Exodus 20:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Most of us are familiar with this command, but because our idols don’t take on the form of a little golden statue that we pay reverence to at certain times of the day, we often fail to see them as idols. We simultaneously fail to realize that we often demonstrate this same devotion towards the daily things in life such as our phones, cars, homes, jobs, etc., These things that we give so much of our love and energy to can easily turn our hearts away from our Savior. 

Some people may recognize that these objects demand their attention more than they should. In turn, they set up boundaries in these areas to help them keep their affections in check. 

But what if our idol is a person? To be more specific: what about our husbands? God has called us to love them, right? Surely, we can’t turn them into an idol, can we? Alas…the answer is still yes! As Tim Keller says on page 17 of his book Counterfeit Gods, an idol “is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” And husbands can definitely fit under that category!

Over this past summer, I found I was really struggling with this area of idolatry. I had been messing up a lot and my normally gracious husband was struggling to extend grace to me. I seriously didn’t know how to handle it. As a child I was always extremely aware of my sin and had always struggled with feeling the weight of the law. Then I learned about this amazing thing called grace. God’s grace. So unmerited. So undeserving. And yet so free and available to me! As an adult I married this amazing man who also usually extended that same grace to me. He pursued me with unending love. He sought me out when I wanted to pull away. He reached over when I turned my back. Over and over he showed me Christ’s love and I thrived on it. I loved this man for the way he loved me; perhaps I loved him a little too much for it.

But then something began to change. He was getting tired of constantly forgiving me. He was getting tired of reaching out. He was getting tired of pulling me close. Instead, he found himself wanting to pull back. We both could tell he was starting to resent me for my struggles with anger, selfishness, pride, etc. He didn’t want to, but he did. Little by little, we could feel ourselves drifting further apart. I didn’t know how to handle a husband who didn’t forgive and it honestly crushed me to the very core. I was living in the fear of messing up and living in the guilt of past failures. And in his own strength, my husband struggled to extend love and grace to a person who just kept repeating the same mistakes.

We continued  to talk through the different issues we were struggling with and sought to love, but it felt like we were never making any progress. Every conversation we had only seemed to drive us further apart as we each focused on how our individual needs were being unmet by the other person.. 

As I sat alone on the couch one night, distraught over the fact that we no longer knew how to connect, I felt so abandoned. This wasn’t what I had thought marriage would look like. I thought my husband was going to endlessly serve me; make my life better. I had always thought we’d stay in love forever, thankful for the gift of the marriage. And for most of our marriage, it had felt like this; until recently. So why was everything falling apart all of a sudden? And what was I to do?

I began typing out my frustrations to God and as I did some of the following thoughts poured out onto my computer screen as I prayed.

God, teach me how to live in the freedom you intended for me. My husband isn’t my savior. You are. Help me to know how to forgive him before he even asks for forgiveness. Help me to find my security in You when he doesn’t forgive me. 

God, You have forgiven me. 
You love me. 
You accept me. 
You reach out. 
You pull me close. 
You never walk away. 
You continue to do a good work in me. 
Thank you!  
I know I don’t say it often enough.
Thank-you!

And that’s when it hit me. It couldn’t have been any clearer than if someone had taken a 2×4 and smacked me up-side the head with it. 

Lord, this is what You wanted me to realize, wasn’t it? I idolize having a wonderful marriage, don’t I? I idolize having a husband who loves me unconditionally. I idolize having a husband who reaches out and loves me even when I’m unlovely. I idolize a husband who pursues me. And God, while this is something You’ve called my husband to do, this is a role that only You will ever fulfill perfectly.

And so, as I continued to type that night, my prayer started to change.

God, please show me the next step. Show me one step at a time how I can best be loving my husband. Not so he will start loving me well again (though that was a deep desire of my heart!), nor so I can find my place of security in him once more, but so I can be reflecting Your amazing love to him–your faithful, never ending, never giving up, always and forever love.

And so, step by step, God has kindly been bringing me along in the realization that, as Gary Thomas says, “God is able to supply all our needs. We go to our God to receive and we go to our marriages to give.”

This realization is a good, good gift, because God alone brings lasting satisfaction and He alone will never ever fail. HE is the only one worthy of my worship!

God tells us in Isaiah 42:8 that “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”

So the next time we find ourselves struggling in our marriages, maybe it’s time to do a heart check and remind ourselves that as wonderful as our husbands may (or may not!) be, they will never, ever make good saviors. That role is reserved for Christ.

“But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

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