A Charlie Brown Christmas

One of my favorite Christmas traditions in our home is watching Charles Schulz’ A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown, the beloved Peanuts character, appears in our newspapers every week and especially on TV with the rest of the Peanuts gang during the holidays. The Peanuts comic strip is the most famous and influential comic strip of all time. Each character of the Peanuts comic strip is unique, memorable, and precious. The strip is a microcosm of a group of children and their stories. [Side note: I had a good laugh when my 4 year old Godchild astutely observed and asked,”Tija, where are their parents?”] Charles Schulz brilliantly portrays through the stories, messages with social, economic, religious, moral, psychological and philosophical impact.

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I want to focus on two characters: Charlie Brown and Linus. The main character of Peanuts, Charlie Brown, is a boy who is moody most of the time with low self-esteem and someone who would likely see the glass as half-empty. Linus is depicted as a brainy child who is wise beyond his years, albeit, sucking his thumb with his blanket in his hands at all times.

Just like in every situation he finds himself in, Charlie Brown battles with more pessimism than optimism during the Christmas season. In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charlie is surrounded by his friends who are enjoying their holidays from school.  Meanwhile, a melancholy Charlie Brown, ponders and asks others what the real meaning of Christmas is.  Charlie shares with Linus, “I think there must be something wrong with me. I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I might be getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.” To which Linus, with his trusty blanket in hand, adorably answers, “Charlie Brown, you are the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy is right. Of all of the Charlie Browns in the world, you are the Charlie Brownest.”

To get Charlie into more of a Christmas spirit, one of his friends, Lucy, convinces him to be the director of their Christmas play. Hesitantly, Charlie agrees. As practice is under way, Charlie gets more and more frustrated by the disorder of it all and how Christmas seems to be centered around materialism. At one point, he gets fed up and yells, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

At that point, Linus enters and takes the spotlight. He starts reading from Luke 2.

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'”

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Something incredible which happens during the reading is that Linus drops his blanket. I believe Charles Schulz intentionally and brilliantly included it in the play.  In the past, several characters have tried to cajole Linus to drop his blanket, to no avail. But when he reads this passage from Luke 2, he drops his blanket. The timing is also perfect that he drops it when he says, “Do not be afraid.” The one security that Linus holds onto for dear life is dropped at that moment. I don’t know about you, but I find that to be an incredibly powerful message.

We all have different blankets that we hold onto for security, significance, safety. We all have habits that we pound into ourselves for 10, 20, 30 or more years which separate us from God and from our purpose. We all struggle with fears and insecurities of different proportions.

On this Christmas Eve I’m here to tell you that we no longer need to live in fear because God chose to come down to this earth as a baby for you and for me.

Because of Christmas, we have good tidings of great joy.

Not just little bit of joy or fleeting joy.

But great joy.

When I was reading ‘So Long, Insecurity,’ by Beth Moore, there’s this line which one of her daughters told her which really stuck with me, “He knows it’s scary to be us.

Because Jesus Christ came to this world—God became flesh and blood—he knows what it’s like to be us. Since his birth, he was labeled as an illegitimate child. He grew up as a child with brothers and sisters. He walked on this earth. He upheld mothers and hugged fathers. He welcomed children. He walked the streets and broke bread with young men and women. He had BFFs and he knew what it was like to be stabbed in the back. He partied with sinners and stood up for rejects. He saw suffering and healed the sick and comforted mourners. He suffered on a cross, between two criminals, dying, while his Father hid his face from him. God tasted death for you and me. And he rose victorious defeating death and sin, so that you and I will live with him forever.

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I am thankful that we have this precious cartoon from 1965 to remind us of what Christmas is all about and that we no longer have to live as slaves to fear and to sin because of this: Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Merry Christmas.

 

 

Celebrating Christmas for 4 Weeks

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I say that about this time every single year. From Thanksgiving weekend until Christmas Day is my most favorite time of the year. It’s that time when even strangers are nice to each other on the streets. Children are brimming with excitement about holidays from school and presents under the tree. Even in the midst of holiday parties, making lists, shopping, and wrapping gifts, parents get that second wind to make that time special and memorable for their families. If you are like me, by the time Christmas Eve and Day come and go, you wonder where the time went and how you could have made it last longer. Well you can, with following Advent.

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This is the time when Christians around the world celebrate Advent from the fourth Sunday before Christmas until Christmas Day. Advent began on November 28th of this year. Advent can be celebrated in many ways. Some create a calendar made up of 24 windows signifying 24 days until Christmas day. As each window opens, some light candles; some will give gifts.

I invite you to celebrate Advent with me this year. Along with putting up your tree and baking cookies with your kiddos, why not snuggle up with them by the fire with your Bible, a large, cozy blanket and a cup of cocoa.

Christmas is too special and too wonderful and too important to just celebrate for one day. As followers of Christ, we have the exceptional gift of having Christmas every single day. We know that Christ lives inside of us by faith and we are born again by faith. This way we celebrate Christmas every single day. Another way to make room for Christ in your hearts and in your home is by celebrating Christmas with your family these four weeks leading up to Christmas Day.

I wrote about two disciplines we can engage in during Advent, remembrance and waiting, here.

We can practice these disciplines by making a conscious decision to make room for the Lord and by concentrating on the significance of his birth into this world. For the next four weeks, I will suggest activities you and your family can engage in to follow Advent and to thus cultivate a richer Christmas experience this year.

Here are a few suggestions for this week/weekend:

  • Put up your Christmas tree if you haven’t already.
  • As time allows during family prayer, sing Christmas carols with your family.
    Hark the Herald Angels Sing
    O Come, O Come Emmanuel
  • Read Isaiah 9:2-7 with your family.

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.

  • Spend time memorizing verses: Isaiah 9:2-7 and make notecards to place around the house.
  • Reflect: Isaiah prophesied about Jesus and said He’s a, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” How has God been a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace to you in your walk with him? As you reflect back on his faithfulness in your life, are you more able to trust him for your future?

Remembering to Give Thanks…

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This is the time when the house overflows with the sounds of children enjoying the Macy’s thanksgiving parade and family and friends cooking together in the kitchen and the smells of savory sage and rosemary and sweet apple and cinnamon invite us to the table.

This is the time when we put more on the table and more around the table.

This is the time when we ooh and ahh at the magnificent display of comforting and delicious food before us.

This is the time when we eat until we can’t anymore and then we eat some more.

This is the time when we bow down to give thanks to the One who gave us life, love, and purpose.

I am thankful for a holiday which reminds us to be thankful.  If we were not able to reflect,  count our blessings and thus create a heart of gratitude, we would be left jaded, disillusioned, and craving for more.

I am thankful for my family.  Through the ups and downs, the good, bad, and unthinkable ugly, you are loyal to a fault. They root for you.  They are not only your loudest cheerleaders, but also the most sincere. I am thankful for their sound advice in the middle of the storms of chaos. I am thankful for their encouragement when you can’t think of a reason to believe in yourself. I am thankful for their prayers and their steadfast leading to the Cross and the message of the Gospel which reminds me that my intrinsic value is not in what’s temporal, but in what’s everlasting. I am thankful for the reminder that we are not one because of blood or marriage. It helps. But above and beyond that, we are one because God had a plan and purpose in bringing us as one to face all that life throws at us together. Thank you.

I am thankful for friends that last a lifetime. Those that become family. In spite of distance and time, those you can reach with a text in the middle of the night or a 15 minute FaceTime and you are caught up in no time as if no time was lost. Where no explanations are needed. Where they get you. Where they know you. Where awkward silences don’t exist. Not a day goes by when you are not missed and loved. Thank you.

I am thankful for being an American Indian. I am so proud of my Indian heritage and I hold it close to my heart. At the same time, I am incredibly proud of  having the privilege to grow up and live in the greatest country in the world, especially as a woman. I am thankful for my parents having the courage to leave all that they knew and loved and  taking the risk to cross oceans and come to a land they knew nothing of for my sister and me to have a better life, a better future. Thank you Mommy and Daddy. And thank you dear family members who made that possible.

I am thankful for all the valuable lessons God taught me this past year. It was a year of miracles. A year of waiting. A year of disappointments. A year of sorrow. A year of tremendous joy. A year of much needed reunions. A year of decisions. A year of learning to trust Jesus more. A year of going deeper into the Word.  A year of growing in faith. I am forever thankful.

Last but not least, I am thankful that I am the precious, darling daughter of my Father and the apple of his eye. Thankful that you not only love me, but you actually like me. Thankful that I will never get enough of knowing that your Presence is always with me and before me and nothing and no one in this world can separate me from the love you have for me. I have no words. Thank you.

Thank you again for everything…

Happy thanksgiving.

The Case for Following Lent

We are in the middle of a week where the Church calendar points Christians to the Lenten Season. For those who are not familiar with following Lent, it is a 40 day period—excluding Sundays—from Ash Wednesday to Maundy Thursday, which signifies the night of the Last Supper.

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“Experts have said that it takes roughly 21 days to form a good habit. In the Lenten season, you have double the time.”

The word, ‘Lent’ comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, which means, ‘Spring.’ So, in essence, we are looking forward to the budding of new life and growth after a season of winter.  For centuries, the Church has practiced the Lenten season with some form or another of fasting and also preparations to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Experts have said that it takes roughly 21 days to form a good habit. In the Lenten season, you have double the time. The Lenten season, however, is not a period to merely start a diet.  Moreover, it is a time for deep introspection with the help of the Holy Spirit, acknowledging that we can only survive with the mercy and grace of our Savior, forming new and strengthening already existing spiritual disciplines, and last but not least, looking forward to our Lord Jesus Christ who makes all things new.

Firstly, this is a time for deep introspection. This is a precious time to be open, bare, and utterly honest with yourself before God. This is a time to look into the deep recesses of our hearts and see where we have drifted away from our first love. In Revelations 2:4-5, we can see Jesus bringing this charge against the church in Ephesus, “You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.” In which areas of our lives have we fallen out of total love and submission to Jesus? Is he still the center of your life? Is he the center of your home? Is he the center of your decisions? Have we resorted to having God as a piece of the proverbial pie in the sky, instead of having him be in the center and penetrating every aspect of our lives?

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This is a time to examine and see what stands between you and God. Is it a habit? Is it a relationship? Is there someone you need to forgive? Have you replaced quiet time with the Lord and your family with your smartphone? Have you taken a good thing and made it into an idol? During the next 40 days, we have the time to say what David said in Psalm 19:12-14:

But who can discern their own errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then I will be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

But I caution you to approach introspection in the light of the Gospel. We are, by nature, sinful. We are wicked. Our thoughts, desires, and actions will never measure up to God’s standards of perfection. If you are honest with yourself, you will always reach a level of despondency concerning your sinful nature which is incurable. That is why you need to go through this examination in the light of the Gospel.

Know that you cannot achieve a good standing with God by what you do or not do. Also at the same time, the God of the Bible, is not someone who takes sin lightly. Father God is a God of justice and he hates sin. The first part of Habakkuk 1:13 says, “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.”  Paul agrees with our anguish in Romans 7: 21-25, when he says, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” But, look! Right when we are about to give up on ourselves, Paul gives us the solution in the next line, “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

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“Now, the reason to fast from something is not just to deny yourself. Rather, it is to engage with the Lord.”

Secondly, this is a time to look at our spiritual disciplines and see how we can grow. Do you look forward to your quiet time with the Lord each day? Are you excited about it? Or do you find yourself in a rut—bored and discontented with your routine?  During the next 40 days, you have a great opportunity to look over how you pray, read the Bible, engage in other spiritual practices, and see how you can bring more excitement and life into it.

Here are a few suggestions that has enriched my time with the Lord:

  1. The Lenten season beckons us to some form of fasting. It can be fasting from food by not eating a meal or by fasting for a whole day once a week. It can include abstaining from eating a certain food such as chocolate, desserts, or meat for the next 40 days. It can be a fast from watching TV or social media. Now, the reason to fast from something is not just to deny yourself. Rather, it is to engage with the Lord. For example, if you decide to fast from television, you would use that time to spend time with the Lord or in community with other Christians. It is a great reminder for us in 2016 that none of these things that we surround ourselves with—which necessarily are not bad things—can save us. It will remind you that only Jesus can satiate your hungry and thirsty heart, soul, and mind.
  2. During this Lenten season, you can make a commitment to read the whole Bible cover to cover. This is something that many Christians promise to do at the beginning of the calendar year. If you haven’t done so already, this is a great time to start it. I know it seems daunting at first. You can divide it into a one-year, two-year, or even three-year plan. After I’ve finished an entire chapter, I put a small check mark next to the chapter number. I feel a sense of accomplishment after I’ve done it and it motivates me to keep reading.
  3. This is a great time to be around other Christians in fellowship. Friends, the Christian life is not meant to be lived out in solitude. You need to be surrounded by people who love the Lord. I know it’s not easy to open up and be vulnerable with other people. Maybe you’ve been hurt and burned in the past by people you did church with. Maybe you didn’t fit in when you tried small groups before. I implore you to try again.  Why not step out of your comfort zone and try a ladies’ group or a couple’s group or attend a group where you are more comfortable with people who speak your native language like a Hindi service? How about getting together with other Christians to visit a nursing home and share God’s love with the residents there? The payoff will be huge.
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“We know what we believe to be is the truth, because Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. We know what will happen to us after we die, because Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.”

Lastly, following Lent for the next 40 days, will prepare us for Easter Sunday. Think about the life of Jesus Christ. Here was a man who claimed to be the Son of God. He claimed that God in heaven was his Father and that he sent him down to earth to save humanity and whoever would believe in him would have eternal life. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus talked about the reality of hell more than anyone else in the Bible. If you think about it, he made such preposterous statements. Friends, everything Jesus Christ said was the truth, because he rose from the dead. This is huge! Don’t live your entire life and miss this! Friends, hundreds of people were crucified before and after Jesus. What made Jesus’ death significant? He is the only one to prophesy his death and resurrection and actually accomplish it! History proves that Jesus Christ existed, he lived his life testifying that he is the Son of God, was crucified on the cross, and three days later, he rose from the dead! We know what we believe to be is the truth, because Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead. We know what will happen to us after we die, because Jesus Christ resurrected from the dead.

Following Lent for the next 40 days will help us to look inside our hearts and see if God is still the center of our lives. It will reveal the devastation of sin in our lives and in the world and that the only thing that can save us from a life of utter despair is a life with Jesus Christ.  Secondly, it will help us to foster spiritual disciplines in our lives to enrich our walk with the Lord and with others. Finally, it will build anticipation in us for Easter Sunday which is the cornerstone of our faith. I hope and pray the next 40 days will increase your love and devotion for Jesus Christ and for his extravagant heart in saving you and me from ourselves and from a life of emptiness.

  • Friend, if you are reading this and you don’t have a relationship with Jesus, would you please consider inviting him into your life? You may have climbed the stairs to success and achieved all you dreamt of and still find yourself empty, wondering if there’s more to life than accolades and awards. Valentine’s Day is around the corner. Some of you may be in romantic relationships with the partner of your dreams and still find yourself to be void and searching for something or someone who will satisfy you. Friend, there is nothing and no one who can satisfy our cravings other than the one who made us. We have a God-shaped hole in each of our hearts. That hole can only be filled by Jesus. God in heaven loved us—beyond our ability to conceive of love—and send his darling and only Son, Jesus Christ, to save us. Would you please consider asking Jesus Christ into your life? You don’t have to make any promises. You don’t have to appear more presentable than you are now for Jesus to come into your life. He loves you just as you are right now. He gave up his life for you. If you would like to ask Jesus to come into your life, please pray this prayer with me: Jesus, I need you. I am a mess without you. Would you please come into my heart? Would you please fill the God-shaped hole in my heart? Would you fill my life with peace and joy that only you can give? Thank you Jesus for loving me as I am and coming into my heart. Amen.
  • Scriptures to memorize:
    1. Revelations 2:4-5: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.
    2. Psalm 19: 12-14: But who can discern their own errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me.Then I will be blameless, innocent of great transgression. May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
      be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
    3. Habakkuk 1:13: Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrongdoing.
    4. Romans 7:21-25, “So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    5. John 14:6: I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

 

The Importance of Advent

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

I consider the period from Thanksgiving  until Christmas to be the most magical time of the year. If your home is like mine, you are putting up your Christmas tree  with Christmas music playing in the background, baking cookies with the kids, and planning to make Christmas as special as you can with your loved ones.

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“O Come Let Us Adore Him…”

This is also the time when many Christians follow Advent. The word, Advent, originates from the Latin word, Adventus, which means “coming” or “arrival.” Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and it ends on Christmas Eve.

Advent juxtaposes the arrival of Jesus into the world, more than 2000 years ago, and the second arrival of Jesus that is yet to come. As the Lenten season is observed to prepare for Easter, Advent is observed in anticipation for Christmas.

As we look at the practice of Advent, it beckons our hearts to two disciplines: remembrance and waiting.

We need a Savior. No amount of self-help books can help what’s innately wrong with us. We need God to step in and help us see life the way he sees it.

Firstly, Advent invites us to  remember. We call to memory the story of our redemption and how it all began in a manger with a couple who were still kids—scared and waiting on the arrival of the Savior of the world.

We remember that we are in desperate need for a Savior. We can’t help ourselves. We can’t fix our brokenness. We are bankrupt. We need a Savior. No amount of self-help books can help what’s innately wrong with us. We need God to step in and help us see life the way he sees it. It is at that moment—when we realize that we cannot do life without the help of God and we throw our hands in surrender and ask God to come and rescue us—we get overwhelmed with his grace and his mercy. It is at that moment when God the Father through his Son, Jesus Christ, reaches out to you and me and meets us where we are. This is the story of the gospel. As we read in 1 John 4:9-10, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” We live through Jesus. We thrive through Jesus. We become all that God has meant for us to be on this earth and in eternity through Jesus. We are reminded that the world doesn’t revolve around you and me. Everything in all of creation revolves around Jesus.

 Advent can be a season where we can examine our hearts and see where we are with God and with man.

We remember that we are meant to live out our Christian life with keeping Jesus in the center. Advent reminds us to keep Jesus in the center of our dreams, aspirations, home, career, family. Sometimes we get busy  being ‘religious’ for the sake of satisfying the need to check off a list. We can get into a routine of checking off a list, when we read our Bible in the morning or go to church on Sunday or do devotionals with our family. It is as if we are soothing ourselves by thinking we have met our spiritual quota for the day.  Advent can be a season where we can examine our hearts and see where we are with God and with man. Who are we trying to impress? What are we trying to prove? It’s a time to bare our souls and hearts before the One who sees us for who are and echo what David said in Psalm 139:23-24, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Secondly, Advent calls us to the discipline of waiting. The word, waiting, doesn’t have a particularly positive connotation for us in 21st century America.  I find myself getting impatient on the most trivial of matters. I have a tendency to throw my arms up and wonder what’s wrong with my computer or wifi, if a site takes longer than 15 seconds to load. In this season of Advent, we are called to be patient and to wait on the arrival of Jesus’ second coming and all the promises we have in the Word of God.

One of my favorite verses in 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.

As we wait on what is yet to come, we have to once again look back 1000s of years. Advent was a tradition which the Israelites kept in looking for the promised Messiah. In 1 Peter 1:10-12, we read, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” As Christians, we are the most blessed people on earth. We are at the receiving end of all of the promises and prophesies from long ago. The arrival of Jesus into this world fulfilled every one of those prophesies that anticipated the arrival of the Messiah.

One of my favorite verses in 1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” As we remember that God, in his mercy, was faithful in keeping his Word and giving us his darling Son, Jesus Christ, as our Messiah, we can rest assured while we wait on God’s promises for us and our families and for Jesus Christ’s glorious, second coming.

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“But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” – 1 Peter 3:15

While following Advent with my family, we have engaged in various practices throughout the years. We read and meditate on Jesus’ birth in the Gospels and also read the prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth. We enjoy meditating on devotionals that are written for Advent. Pastor John Piper wrote an excellent devotional book on Advent and it can be downloaded for free here. We also sing Christmas carols during family prayer. Advent culminates with the whole family attending Christmas Eve Service together.

With less than 20 days to Christmas, if you have never followed Advent, I encourage you to include it as one of your spiritual disciplines. Why not start your own tradition or join me and my family in one of our traditions of looking into the Word of God and build up your faith?  John Piper said it excellently, “’Is not my word like fire, says the Lord!’ (Jeremiah 23:29) Gather ‘round that fire this Advent season. It is warm. It is sparkling with colors of grace. It is healing for a thousand hurts. It is light for dark nights.”

  • If you read this blog post and you find yourself a million miles away from the God of the Bible, why not take this time to invite him into your heart? You see, the reason he came down into this earth as a baby and suffered and died on the cross, is because he loves you.  He has a plan and purpose for your life. You will never find the meaning of life until and unless you receive what Jesus wants to offer you: the gift of salvation. All you have to do is believe. Why not make this Christmas in 2015,  the most memorable one in your life, by inviting Jesus into your life? If you would like to do that, please pray this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, I need you in my life. I am lost without you. I want you to come into my life and fix me. I want to stop going through the motions. I want a personal relationship with the One who created me. Please come into my heart and change me. Amen.
  • Scriptures to memorize:
    1. 1 John 4:9-10: “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
    2. Psalm 139:23-24: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
    3. 1 Corinthians 1:9: “God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.”
    4. Jeremiah 23:29: “‘Is not my word like fire,’ declares the LORD, ‘and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?'”

You are not your own

A few weeks ago, I was particularly attracted to a verse that was chosen as ‘verse of  the day’ on the Bible Gateway app, which I have made a habit of visiting most mornings. The verse that was chosen was a rather familiar one. One that we may have encountered numerous times before. But in this instance, I was surprised by its novelty. I considered each word of the text intently. I decided to memorize it.

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‘You are not your own,’ seemed to stand out of the text.

I am not my own. You are not your own.

Let that sink in for a moment.

So, your life—thoughts, dreams, wishes, hopes, words, actions—is not yours. It is pretty radical. It can be alarming and downright offensive, if you don’t consider what flanks those life-changing words on both sides.

The Christian life is a walk: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. It’s not a pole vault or a long jump. Christ likeness comes slowly with much effort.- Rich Nathan.

Even though Apostle Paul used this cogent argument to persuade the Corinthians to flee from sexual immorality, I believe this verse has far greater significance than what Paul intended it for. To begin with, Paul poses a question,‘Do you not know that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?’ If you have entrusted your life to God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, then the Holy Spirit starts to live inside of you. Yes, we know it. But, do we understand its implications? One of the persons of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit—or the Advocate, the Counselor or the Comforter—lives inside of you and me. Lives inside our aging, weak, mortal bodies. The Triune God at work from the moment of salvation to the day we face Him! How remarkable! Embracing this truth will change the way you live your life. When you realize that the Holy Spirit is inside of your body, you can’t use your eyes to see what you once used to see. You can’t use your legs to go where you once used to go. You can’t use your mouth to speak what you once used to say. You can’t listen to the same music that you once danced to. You can’t laugh at jokes that you once thought were hilarious. You can’t pad your resume like you used to. You can’t cheat on your taxes like you used to. Well, you may be able to do all of this but you sure are not going to be comfortable for long. Long before self-help books were on people’s shelves, A.W. Tozer compiled a list of 7 rules for self discovery:

  1. What we want most
  2. What we think about most
  3. How we use our money
  4. What we do with our leisure time
  5. The company we enjoy
  6. Who and what we admire
  7. What we laugh at

I implore you to look at that list and to search your hearts. There is a restraint on you, which so many people around you are not struggling against. There is someone, it seems like, who is restricting you. Friend, that is the Holy Spirit. Some have mastered this more than others. Take heart! This is a journey and it’s not over yet.  Rich Nathan, the Senior Pastor of the Vineyard in Columbus, Ohio and the beloved Pastor whose sermons and teachings were instrumental in molding my faith, constantly encourages his congregation by saying,”The Christian life is a walk: right foot, left foot, right foot, left foot. It’s not a pole vault or a long jump. Christ likeness comes slowly with much effort.” Paul laments in Romans 7 and stands next to us in our daily struggle with sin and says, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.” But he doesn’t give up. He encourages us to keep walking this journey we are called into and exhorts us in Philippians 3:12-14, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” 

 The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. – Timothy Keller

Let’s look at what’s on the right side of ‘you are not your own.’ Paul supports his claim of God having ownership over those who have decided to trust in Him by saying that we were ‘bought at a price.’ The price of our sins were paid once and for all by Jesus Christ being crucified. It’s encouraging to see how Paul reaffirms us in Romans 5:6-8, by saying, ‘You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were powerless, Christ died for us. While we were of no worth to anyone and could do nothing to help ourselves or anyone else, God died for us. Timothy Keller, whom I like to refer to as the ‘C.S. Lewis’ of our day and the Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church,—the church my Husband and I attended while we lived in NYC—said this concerning God’s unconditional love for us, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.” Do you realize how powerful that is? We are far more wicked than we had feared, yet far more loved than we had hoped. Embracing this truth and living it out will do something indescribable to us. It assures us that we have all the worth in the world. While I was God’s enemy, he loved me! God in heaven sees me as worthy.

So we learned two truths that supported the statement, ‘You are not your own.’ Firstly, the Holy Spirit takes residence in our bodies when we, by faith, accept Jesus Christ into our hearts. Secondly, we were bought at a price; the Lamb of God was slain so that the wrath that was due us was put on Jesus. Because of that costly sacrifice, you and I are loved by God. We are the beloved of God. And because of this, we are not our own. We belong to Him who gave up everything to save us. Jesus gave up heaven and came down in the form of a helpless, crying baby so that we may become a royal priesthood. Jesus took on the role of a servant so that we may sit at the Lord’s table. Jesus hung on a cross —bleeding, naked, cold, humiliated— so that we may be adorned with His righteousness. Tell me who can possibly love you like this? You are not your own. I am not my own.

Know who you are. Know to whom you belong.

What should our response be? “Therefore honor God with your bodies.” Whatever it is that you face in your life, whether it be temptations or trials, know that you are not alone. The Advocate, the Comforter, the Counselor is inside of you. Involve Him in every single detail of your life. Your life belongs to Him. Walk this journey of life with Him. Take it one step at a time. Right-foot, left-foot, right-foot, left-foot. Know who you are. Know to whom you belong. This truth will change your life. It is changing my life.

  • If you have stumbled upon this blog and you find yourself far from God, why not take this time to invite Him into your life? You know the way you always do life is not working well. Why not ask God to come into your life and to take over? He created you. He died for you. He has a better plan for you. He has a purpose for your life. Why not trust Him? You don’t have to make any promises to Him now. Just release your life into His hands and trust Him. If you are willing to take the most important step of your life by inviting God, through Jesus Christ, to come into your heart, say this prayer with me: Dear Jesus, I am sick and tired of running my life. It’s not working. I need help. Would you come into my life and take over? Would you show me a better way? Would you help me to trust in you? I open the doors of my heart to you, Jesus. Please come in and change me. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
  • Reflect upon the truth that the Holy Spirit lives inside of your body. What are its implications? How would that change the way you live your life? Look at A.W. Tozer’s 7 rules for self discovery and see where you need the help of the Holy Spirit to walk your journey out.
  • Do you want to boost your self-esteem? Think about this and believe it: You were bought with the priceless, precious blood of Jesus Christ. How does that truth change the way you see yourself and others? How does that change the way you deal with your sin? How does that change the way you forgive others and yourself? Take 15 minutes, once a week to sit and think quietly or journal upon the fact that you are the delight of God.
  • Bible verses to memorize:
    1. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”
    2. Romans 5:6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
    3. Philippians 3:12-14: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

10,000 Reasons and Counting….

While going through one of the darkest times in my life, my heart was drawn to one of Matt Redman’s most popular songs, 10,000 reasons. In spite of unspeakable pain, I knew that God had never left me nor forsaken me. As I was worshipping God through this song, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness and faithfulness in my life and I knew I had more than 10,000 reasons for my heart to sing of His praises. And thus, this blog started.

God, revealed through his Son, Jesus Christ, is the same yesterday, today, and forever. This same God who has been carrying us from our mother’s wombs until now is faithful to carry us through each and every season we come face to face with.

In my mind’s eye, I can picture the Footprints illustration we are all familiar with. During seasons of spring and summer, when all is well and the sun is shining, we see two sets of footprints on the sand: one that belongs to a child of God and the other belonging to Jesus Christ. During times of winter when everything is dead with no sign of any life budding forth, you only notice one set of footprints in the sand. But, we know how this story ends, right? That set of footprints belong to our loving Father, who picks us up and carries us in his arms when He knows we are not able to walk on our own. Hallelujah! What a Savior we have!!

The One who called us is faithful to fulfill his purposes for us until the day of Jesus Christ. I’d like to share in this blog snippets of my life, truths I’ve learned along the way, joys and sorrows, hobbies and interests. My prayer is that this blog will always point myself and others to Jesus, who is the ONLY one who can fix us, wipe away our tears, and love us beyond what we deserve or hope.  Fix those pretty eyes on Jesus, the author, perfecter, and pioneer of our faith, and keep running.

xoxo,

L.