Monday Morning Meditation: Hark The Herald Angels Sing

Having a death in the family right before Christmas can certainly put a damper on the festivities. I’ve been asking God to help me find the joy of the season. I know I am certainly glad that Jesus came! But the feelings of missing my father are strong and ever-present. We now live in the town where he lived for the last 8 years, and where he died. I’m driving his car. There are many constant reminders that he is not here.

I just miss him.

The world also has constant reminders that Jesus has come, but not yet returned. Thus, it’s difficult to put myself in the shoes of those 2,000 years ago who experienced Jesus’ birth and coming firsthand.

One thing that is helpful to me are Christmas carols.

I’ve been especially struck by Hark The Herald Angels Sing this season. You likely know the first verse:

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th’angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


The profoundness of Jesus’ coming, the joy of His arrival, is continually touched upon in subsequent verses. Here are some of my favorite parts.

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.


Emmanuel – God with us. He was pleased to come here, to become a man with all the challenges and weaknesses of humanity.


Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.


He became flesh so that we may have life, and spiritual healing (and even physical healing if His power is present to heal, Luke 5:17).


Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die.
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.

New life. Eternal life. I keep telling myself that my dear father is having his best Christmas ever.


Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.


Jesus, make Your home in me. Let the enemy have no place there.


Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.
Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the Life, the inner man:
O, to all Thyself impart,
Formed in each believing heart.


Help us become like You, Lord.

I hope you are able to take some time to focus on all that Jesus came to give. That is by far the best Christmas present ever.

You are deeply loved. Worth knowing, worth loving and worth creating.


Angel in The Jesus Storybook Bible

If you’re looking for a slightly different mp3 version of this hymn, I love the Take 6 version from the “He Is Christmas” album: Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Freedom Friday: Avoiding Moral Failure

This is a topic that has been brewing in my mind for a while. This is due in part to things I’ve been reading in the Bible (Isaiah, Acts & James right now, with a little of Hezekiah’s story mixed in), assignments I’ve been working on for grad school (a big essay on plagiarism), and partly because of life events I see occurring around me.

I also just needed to write this for me. It’s a timely reminder that we don’t just “fall into” sin. We will sin. Otherwise, we’d be perfect like Jesus 🙂 But there is a difference in the way various sins impact your faith and your life. I may lose my temper with my spouse today, and that may break trust a little momentarily (especially if it’s a pattern of mine), but if I were to have an affair, that changes our relationship in a different way.  All sin may be equal in the eyes of God (in the sense that there aren’t particular sins that are more difficult for Him to forgive or required Him to hang from the cross longer), but some sins are inherently different because of the way they impact our lives.

There are things we can do to actively avoid finding ourselves in major situations of compromise. Here are some suggestions.

1. Be watchful over your thoughts
Your thoughts matter. Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinks within himself, so he is.”

In the article 5 Lies that Lead to an Affair, author Julie Ferwerda shares her experiences about how she ended up choosing to have an affair. She writes, “Few people fall into adultery overnight. As with other ‘big’ sins, having an affair is usually the result of a series of small compromises in our thoughts, choices, and behaviors.” And the place it began for her was in her thoughts.

It begins with a thought, a temptation. Temptation isn’t sin, as I’ve written before. It’s our choice to nurture that temptation that can become sin, rather than choosing to lay it before the Lord.

One of the Freedom Steps is Think Like a Free Person. I share there how God commands us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. The battle of freedom is a battle that begins in our minds.  “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV1984)

Be watchful over your thoughts.

2. Be honest with your intentions
James says that we have “evil desires at war within you” James 4:1 (NLT). Believers are not immune from this. James writes earlier in his letter, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15 (NIV1984)We need to dig deep inside of ourselves and pray that God would help us be honest about our intentions in every challenging situation.Toward the end of 1999, I had been a Christian less than a year when I met a girl who had been raised in a Christian home but whose family had walked away from God. I couldn’t fathom how anyone could do that, and I desperately wanted to help her. I do believe that initially, my intentions were pure; however, my resolve for purity quickly faded, and we entered into a physical relationship.

Jeremiah writes (17:9 NLT), “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?”

I wanted this woman to know Jesus, but I was still deeply broken beyond my own understanding. This is why I wrote Who’s Got Your Back? The disciples went out two by two for a reason. This is why we need community, to lay ourselves as honestly as we can before others, and trust the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth (John 16:13), including truth about ourselves.

Be honest with your intentions.

3. Be upfront about your actions
I don’t like the phrase we often use in Christianity to describe our sinful actions. We say we “had a fall” or we “stumbled.” To me, those phrases do not take responsibility for the choices and compromises that led to that “fall.” It’s not as if we are walking down a path and all of a sudden, sin jumps out and grabs us! No. That’s in direct contradiction to the end of 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT): “When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”

In the relationship mentioned above, I didn’t simply “fall” into it. I made a series of questionable choices (not all of them sinful) that ultimately led to grave sin. This is why we need to, once again, stay connected to believers, honestly sharing about our choices and actions, and even the things we are thinking of doing.

Be upfront about your actions.

4. Be desperate for the Lord
God is able. Really. He is able. He is strong enough, He is big enough, He is loving enough. He is enough. Say it with me: He is enough.
So often we live our lives, making our plans, living as we wish (and not even in a sinful way, necessarily), inviting God in occasionally. We simply forget to include God in every decision, every thought, every actions.

We need to cling to God as if our lives depended on it – because they do. “Apart from me, you can do nothing,” Jesus said (John 15:5).

Later in James 4:4b-5 (NLT), James writes, for emphasis, “I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God. What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful? He gives us more and more strength to stand against such evil desires.”

Sin is crouching at our doors, always (Gen. 4:7). Through God’s strength and power, we can subdue it and be its master.

“Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be dismayed. Therefore, I have set my face like a stone, determined to do his will. And I know that I will triumph.” Isaiah 50:7

Satan deceives; that’s his nature. Sin is always crouching at the door, desirous of us. Yet we can receive God’s help, determine to do His will, and know we will triumph.

Lord, help us.

Freedom Friday: The Reality of Freedom

Yesterday, I read this, God’s Word through Isaiah (44:21-22):

“Pay attention, O Jacob,
for you are my servant, O Israel.
I, the Lord, made you,
and I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud.
I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist.
Oh, return to me,
for I have paid the price to set you free.”

The price has been paid. The cross is empty.

I keep telling you all that this season has been so challenging. I’m starting to think maybe all seasons are challenging, in their own way.

So many things are uncertain. No steady jobs, our home back in Boston still unsold, my father passing away, no beds or dressers or couches (but we do have a kitchen table!).

I’ve taken my father dying especially hard. I suppose that’s within the realm of normal. I’m not even sure during this time I’ve had the faith of Mary or Martha, as shared in one of my favorite Biblical stories (John 11). They struggled to see God’s power and promises through their tears of grief. While Martha stated that she believed Jesus could do anything, her words showed the unbelief that still lived in her heart.

When Martha first saw Jesus:

“If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

When Jesus said Lazarus would rise again:

“I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

And when Jesus asked that the stone be moved:

“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”

And yet, she believed in the midst of her unbelief.
******
I am Martha lately. I believe, yet often I act or think as if I don’t. I have lots of good excuses as well. I’ll spare you the details.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted:

Freedom is not a dream I made up; freedom is a reality Jesus created.

Freedom is real. It’s possible. It’s within reach.

Martha wanted to believe that freedom for her brother was possible, yet she focused on the appearance of what she could see.

I know freedom is possible. I’ve seen it, felt it, tasted it.

It’s time to get back to basics folks.

As I shared at a recent conference, a free person actively overcomes life-controlling issues through grace-inspired, spirit-empowered choices.

Spend time with the Freedom Giver.

Spend time with Freedom Seekers.

Embrace grace.

Think like a free person.

Act like a free person.

The reality of freedom is simple a series of good choices. One foot in front of the other, with God’s help.