Advent Devotions: the WITH-ness of our God {from nearness to oneness}

star over bethlehem
star over bethlehem

Jesus Christ the Son of God became one with us, so that we could be one with Him! 

This glorious truth is at the heart of the Incarnation.  God became one of us!  One with us!  Why?  So that we could experience union with God.

And that takes us back to our 3 Greek prepositions for with:  (see previous post:  The WITH-ness of our God (prepositions):

  • para, meaning beside, nearby, in the immediate vicinity or proximity, alongside
  • meta, meaning with, in close association with, in companionship with
  • sun, meaning together in intimate union, inseparable from

We have been celebrating all month the glorious truth of Emmanuel, God with (meta) us, the Incarnation, God made Man -- in scripture, story, and song.  Last time, we saw that, during Old Testament times, God was certainly with His people, but in a temporary, transcendent, external way.  He was para, alongside, nearby so to speak.

But then Emmanuel came and everything changed!  Now God was in close association with (meta) His people.  But HOW?  That is today's question.

Let's look at the answer in 3 ways (and I promise we will finally see our last preposition sun).  Jesus is our Emmanuel, God WITH us:

  • In His Person
  • In His Passion (suffering)
  • In His Abiding Presence

1.  We've already talked about how God and man are united in Jesus Christ.  In His very Person deity and humanity are united:

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images

 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.Colossians 2:9 NLT

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! John 14:9 NLT

And then a significant verse tucked away in John 1:1-18 (you may want to look at the entire passage):

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling ("pitched his tent") among (our word meta, in close association with) us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NIV

2.  But not only is Jesus our Emmanuel in His very Person, but also in His Passion (suffering).  It's a great mystery that God would deign to suffer and die... beyond our comprehension!  But suffer and die He certainly did, to pay for our sins and bring us to God.  In theological terms, we call that substitutionary atonement.**

Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. 1 Peter 3:18 NLT

No passage says it more clearly and poignantly than Isaiah 53, the Old Testament prophecy of the Suffering Savior.  An in-depth study of this passage reveals treasures.  However, it doesn't just spell out in detail the sufferings of our Savior in dying as an atonement for sin (see vss 5-12).  It also describes Jesus' sufferings as a righteous human growing up in a fallen world with sinful men.  Let's look briefly at verses 2-4:

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

Jesus wasn't one of the "beautiful people." He was ordinary...not attractive physically.  He was rejected, despised because of his "illegitimate" status. (It was no secret that his mom had gotten pregnant before marriage.) Our Savior suffered grief and pain.  Perhaps He was thought to be "unspiritual, ungodly," because He didn't play by the "religious rules."

Does any of that sound familiar?  Well, Jesus our "God meta us" identified with us in the sufferings of our daily life on planet earth.  And because He is both God and Man, He can not only empathize, He can and does help!

...he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted [tried or tested], he is able to help those who are being tempted....For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted [tried, tested] in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.  Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15-16

3.  As if all of this hasn't been exciting enough, hear this glorious truth:  Jesus Christ is our Emmanuel, God meta Us in His Abiding Presence...today!  Right now!  This is where our last with preposition comes in -- sun, together in intimate union, inseparable from.

biscuits for Jesus ingredients
biscuits for Jesus ingredients

In order to show the incredible depth of this preposition, I want to use an illustration that I've borrowed from a favorite Bible teacher, Wayne Barber.  He calls it "Biscuits for Jesus."  I've adapted it a bit to illustrate how all 3 of our with prepositions relate to each other.

There are certain ingredients that go into making biscuits:  flour, salt, baking powder, milk, sugar (if you’re Polish like me), and shortening (namely butter, if you’re Polish like me).  Anyway, as you gather the ingredients and place them next to each other on the kitchen counter, you could say that they are with each other (para, in the Greek), meaning alongside.

Then if you take them and place them in a bowl one by one, you might say that the ingredients are with each other (meta, in the Greek), meaning closely associated with.  At this point, each of the ingredients is still somewhat separate from each other.  Even in the bowl, you could skillfully separate the ingredients from each other to some extent.

biscuits for Jesus biscuits
biscuits for Jesus biscuits

BUT once you mix those ingredients together, roll them out and cut them, place them on the cookie sheet and bake them, there is no way you can separate those ingredients from each other.  There is a mysterious union of ingredients called “biscuits.”     That’s the Greek word sun, meaning united together with, inseparable from.  And this little word is our word with found in these significant Scriptures (and many more):

Since you have been raised with Christ, keep seeking the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God… For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God… Colossians 3:1-3

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.  For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him…. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-11 ESV

That's right!  All of the highlighted with's in these verses are our 3rd with preposition sun, united with, inseparable from.   Now we've really plunged the depths of mystery...we are united to the Living God through our Emmanuel, God with Us.

Do you remember our summary statement from John 14?

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another [of the same kind as Himself] Helper, to be with [meta] you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with [para, in Old Testament times] you and will be IN you [in New Testament times]. John 14:16-17 ESV

How would the Helper be with us forever?  By being IN us!  United in life union...

I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

Did you see that?  With (sun) and in!  You and I are united to the Living God.  We died united to Him, and now He lives His resurrection life in and through us...as us!  What glory!

...Christ in you, the hope of glory! Colossians 1:27

Take a few moments as this Advent season is coming to a close to reflect on Emmanuel Jesus, God with us.  Use the scriptures and songs in these posts and others that come to mind.  If you need a little nudge, explore these questions:

  • Are you experiencing the joy & comfort of your Emmanuel’s presence in the midst of your “everyday”?
  • Is there anything that you could take out of your life or put into your life that will “make more room” to enjoy the presence of your Emmanuel?
  • Write out in your journal your own expressions of love and gratitude to the ONE with whom you are forever united.

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**To further explore the mystery of the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, click on Lenten Meditations: a Word of Abandonment  View the entire Lenten Passion series

Rejoice with exuberance in the Amazing Grace of our Emmanuel!  Click here:

A Christmas light display :)

3rd Week of Advent: EMMANUEL, Our God is WITH Us...

If ever we needed to know God is WITH us in every possible way, it's NOW, after another year of the unanswerable "why's" of life.  We struggle to make sense of all the suffering and injustices we see all around us.  Though we can't know the answers, we can turn afresh to the One Who has us in the palm of His Hand. The God Who became One of us...flesh and bone and joint and sinew...who experienced every emotion possible, raw and gripping, tender and affectionate!  He felt it all!  And He feels our current struggle with us too!

Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested... This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do... So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16 NLT

This is what we want to explore this week in our Advent devotions...God WITH us!  All the levels of God's WITH-ness!  But first, a song and our Advent readings for the week.

I love this song by Michael Card.  Michael is a Bible scholar as well as a musician, and it shows up in his music.  In this glorious song, there are several Scriptures expressed musically.  What a celebration of the amazing truth of God's WITH-ness!  The verses of Immanuel reference two beautiful prophecies in the Old Testament book of Isaiah:

The Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). Isaiah 7:14 NLT

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. Isaiah 9:2 NLT

The song continues with, comes back to, and ends with this glorious truth in the repeated chorus:

If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? ...Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? ...No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow —not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love... —indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39 NLT

Sing, rejoice, celebrate our Immanuel!

IMMANUEL Michael Card Album: Joy In The Journey

A sign shall be given A virgin will conceive A human baby bearing Undiminished deity The glory of the nations A light for all to see That hope for all who will embrace His warm reality

Chorus: Immanuel Our God is with us And if God is with us Who could stand against us Our God is with us Immanuel

For all those who live in the shadow of death A glorious light has dawned For all those who stumble in the darkness Behold your light has come

Chorus: Immanuel Our God is with us And if God is with us Who could stand against us Our God is with us Immanuel

So what will be your answer? Will you hear the call? Of Him who did not spare His son But gave him for us all On earth there is no power There is no depth or height That could ever separate us From the love of God in Christ

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSEqXbnOrQU[/youtube]

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Readings for the 3rd Week of Advent:

Sunday -- Luke 12:49-53 Monday -- 1 John 2:24-29 Tuesday -- Luke 1:8-23 Wednesday -- Matthew 1:18-23 Thursday -- Luke 1:24-38 Friday -- Luke 1:39-56 Saturday -- Luke 1:57-80

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We recently viewed again The NATIVITY STORY.  It is one hour and forty minutes well-spent...very moving!  You will be blessed! Here's a link to the entire movie:

 [youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meIDz98MFBs[/youtube]

Advent Devotions: Hail, the Incarnate Deity!

We would give up everything we've ever written to have penned this one verse, a stanza that comes as close as is humanly possible to capturing the splendor of who Jesus is.Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ, by Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola, p. 173-174

Hark the Heral Angels

Hark the Heral Angels

What is that one verse? that one stanza?  Authors Sweet & Viola are referring to the last stanza of the well-known carol,Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.

In my opinion, however, it isn't just the last stanza that is all glorious with the splendor of Christ...it's the entire song.  In fact, even the stanzas that were removed* from the older version are splendid indeed.  But I'm getting ahead of the story.

The creation of this classic hymn was not without some conflict and "cut and paste."  Apparently, according to my sources (Wikipedia and Christianity Today), there were at least four people involved in its composition:

  • Charles Wesley (the original writer, 1739, and founder of Methodism),

  • George Whitfield (a fellow student and colleague with Wesley and a Calvinist, who did some of the "cutting and pasting," much to Wesley's chagrin),

  • Felix Mendelssohn (a composer who didn't think this piece of music fit for sacred lyrics),

  • William H. Cummings (an English musician who in 1855 put the lyrics to Mendelssohn's piece).

But despite all that this piece of sacred music had gone through in its 100+ years of "evolution," it was regarded as one of the Great Four Anglican Hymns and was published in The Church Hymn Book in 1872.

Gordon Giles in his excerpt in Christianity Today, Dec 2007 asserts,

"Hark! the herald angels sing" has become part of the institution of Christmas, and ... it also sounds out some wonderful theology, musically reminding us that Jesus, the "newborn King," is "Prince of Peace," "Sun of Righteousness," "Everlasting Lord," "Incarnate Deity," and, best of all, "Emmanuel" — "God with us." Whatever its creators would have thought about the hymn as it currently stands, it endures as a reminder of the great gift that our Father God has given us in his Son Jesus Christ... Excerpted from O Come Emmanuel: A Musical Tour of Daily Readings for Advent and Christmas. Copyright ©2006 Gordon Giles.

Take a look at this hymn from the Biblical/theological viewpoint.  The following is a Bible study my husband, John, developed  a few years ago for a small group study.  May you be blessed as you meditate and rejoice in Jesus, our Emmanuel, God Incarnate.

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Hark!  The Herald Angels Sing!

Hark!  The herald angels sing,Luke 2:13 “Glory to the newborn King! Luke 2:14 Peace on earth and mercy mild, Luke 2:14 God and sinners reconciled.”Luke 2 :14; Rom 5:8-11; II Cor 5:18-19 Joyful, all ye nations rise,  Luke 2:10; Luke 2:32 Join the triumph of the skies; With angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.Luke 2:11 Hark!  The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heaven adored;John 17:23-26; 15:9; 3:35; Matthew 3:17Christ the everlasting Lord! Luke 2:11 Late in time behold Him come, Galatians 4:4Offspring of a Virgin’s womb. Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:34,35; Galatians 4:4 Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hebrews 10:20; Romans 8:3; John 1:14Hail the incarnate Deity.Colossians 2:9 Pleased as man with man to dwell,Philippians 2:5-8Jesus, our EmmanuelIsaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Matthew 1:21,25 Hark!  The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!John 1:14; Isaiah 9:6 Hail the Son of Righteousness!Malachi 4:2 Light and life to all He brings,    John 6:35, 8:12, 10:2, 10:11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:5 Ris’n with healing in His wings.Malachi 4:2 Mild He lays His glory by,  Philippians 2:5-8 Born that man no more may dieJohn 3:16; 1John 4:9, 3:2 Born to raise the sons of earth;I Corinthians 15:20-28, 35-49; Philippians 3:20-21 Born to give them second birth. Hark!  The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Words: Charles Wesley (1707-88), George Whitfield (1714-70), Music: Mendelssohn, from a chorus by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-47), adapted by William H. Cummings

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Two versions of this glorious carol...take your pick or enjoy both :)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19w0IHPL4X0[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TiP6HtIaJ70[/youtube]

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*Stanzas removed by George Whitfield:

Come, desire of nations, come, Fix in us thy humble home; Rise, the woman's conquering seed, Bruise in us the serpent's head.

Now display thy saving power, Ruin'd nature now restore; Now in mystic union join Thine to ours, and ours to thine.

Adam's likeness, Lord, efface, Stamp thy 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, Form'd in each believing heart.

An added tidbit:

George Whitfield changed Wesley's line, "Hark, the herald angels sing!  Glory to the King of Kings!" to the current "...Glory to the Newborn King!" What do you think of the change as well as the removed verses (above)?

2nd Week of Advent: the Really Good News -- GOD with US!

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.Luke 2:10 NIV

adventwreath_2c
adventwreath_2c

"The Good News isn't just that Jesus died for our sins.  The Good News is EMMANUEL...GOD WITH US!"  So declared Deb at the end of our Bible Study.

As John and I drove home that evening, we reflected on her statement.  We recalled a conversation we had had years before when we were discussing what the heart of the gospel ("Good News") is.   The Good News isn't just that our sins are forgiven so we can go to heaven someday (and now we just do the best we can in the meantime).

The heart of it all is GOD is with US!  In Christ's own Person, heaven and earth meet and kiss, so to speak!  In His very own Self, God and Man are forever joined.

Michelangelo's Adam
Michelangelo's Adam

Because of His Person and His Work, Jesus Christ, the Eternal Son of God, joins those of us who were once enemies, alone and without hope, to the Living God.  Now we are friends of God, His children...dare we even say it? in union with Him! GOD with US!  And that is truly News that is GOOD!  And there's a Bible word for that -- reconciliation.

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. Colossians 1:21-22 NIV

This week, rejoice in the truly Good News:  GOD with US!  No more chasm* between God and us...Emmanuel has come!  (Romans 5:1-11 and 2 Cor 5:16-21) Enjoy singing and meditating on this rich carol.  We'll explore it more next time:

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

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 angelic host proclaim, “Christ is born in Bethlehem Hark!  The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Christ by highest heaven adored; Christ the everlasting Lord! Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of a Virgin’s womb. Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate Deity. Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel! Hark!  The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings. 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. Hark!  The herald angels sing, “Glory to the newborn King!”

 

Readings for the 2nd Week of Advent:

Sunday -- John 5:17-24

Monday --John 5:25-47

Tuesday -- Matt 9:32-38

Wednesday -- Mark 8:27-38

Thursday -- Mark 9:33-37

Friday -- Mark 10:13-31

Saturday -- Luke 19:28-40

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Connect to the Voice blog for a free download of The Voice translation and a video of the Christmas story from The Voice.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_sQohBF0Kk&utm_medium=email&utm_source=voicenewsletter&utm_term=20121205&utm_campaign=thevoice&utm_content=[/youtube]

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*Navigator Bridge illustration  This diagram is very familiar to many Christians.  But whether it's familiar or new to you, why not click on the link and rehearse afresh the glory of our reconciliation through the Incarnate Christ, our Emmanuel.

bridge illustration
bridge illustration

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Thank you to Ann Voskamp for sharing this awesome story...the Truly GOOD NEWS.  It's a MUST SEE!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNDtHdG5mVk&feature=em-share_video_user[/youtube]

christmas trees at honey run 2011
christmas trees at honey run 2011

Advent Devotions: The Mega-JOY of Emmanuel

London_Trooping_the_Color_02

London_Trooping_the_Color_02

Joy is the flag that flies over the soul when the King is in residence!Chuck Swindoll

Several years ago, I was leading a small group of ladies through Paul's letter to the Galatians.  In chapter 5, we came to a familiar passage:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,and self control. Galatians 5:22-23

Julie was in that small group that year, and Julie was from Great Britain.  I asked her about Chuck's metaphor.  She assured me that it was true.  When royalty is in residence at the palace, the flag flies. It's the signal to the "subjects" that their monarch is present.

Julie, Robin and me at BE

Julie, Robin and me at BE

How fitting a metaphor this is!  When the Lord is present to believing hearts, JOY results!

A few years later, this really hit home again!  We were celebrating Christmas in my home school moms Bible study group that year by sharing our favorite Christmas song/carol.  In almost every case, the over-riding response to the coming of our Lord, our Monarch, the Promised One was...JOY!

We found this to be especially true in the Scriptures surrounding the coming of our Emmanuel, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Look for yourself:

It begins with the coming of John the Baptist, Messiah's forerunner:

Luke 1:12-64 -- promise to John's father Zacharias When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.  But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.  He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth...When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.

Luke 1:44-45 -- John in Elizabeth's womb encountering Jesus in Mary's womb! "...As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!"

Luke 1:46-55-- Mary's response to Elizabeth “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior...."

And continues with the angels and shepherds:

Luke 2:10-20 And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”...The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

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And even extends to the foreign Magi [my favorite!!!]

Matthew 2: 1-10Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”... they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. [literally, they rejoiced vehemently with MEGA-gladness!]

These are just a few instances.  Why not search out for yourself, in your favorite Christmas songs & Scriptures, the amazing response of JOY to the presence of Emmanuel, our King Jesus, in a believing heart?

Then let's turn away from the glitz and glitter of the season and focus on HIM, the true cause of our JOY and delight!

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Two awesome songs for your time of worship:

[youtuber youtube='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wz5_g80q_NM']

JOY Selah

Every breath of air Was a silent prayer I was longing for Your face

And I wondered why All the years went by Without a single trace

Anticipating, Lord, we've been waiting Just watching the days come and go But now we know

Joy and the angels sang There was joy Let the whole world know this Joy, our King has finally come Joy, here is the Promised One

Set the captives free Tell the broken reed Hope has been restored And the one who cries For a wandering child Her tears are not ignored

Father in heaven, You gave us reason to see past the pain of today We celebrate

Chorus

Unending hope for all time When the King of the ages arrived

Chorus

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pn8dW_p-j0[/youtube]

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Kaden the student

Kaden the student

Bible Study Here are a few more passages to take a look at:

Nehemiah 8:10

Psalm 16:11

Luke 24:36-53 -- encountering the Risen Christ

Overflowing with Gratitude

fall trees

fall trees

It's not the happy person who is thankful but the thankful person who is happy. Anonymous A few years ago, I started teaching language and writing to GED students.  Every Wednesday, we would do an exercise together as a class to practice writing a five paragraph essay.

As the end of November approached, I chose the topic of Thanksgiving.  I thought that in this age of entitlement it might be a double "win" for the students to count their blessings and practice their writing.

So to prepare for my lesson, I sent out an email to friends and colleagues for quotes about being thankful.  I received some great ones!

Some were fun:

What we're really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets.  I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving? Erma Bombeck

pilgrim family

pilgrim family

May your stuffing be tasty May your turkey plump May your potatoes and gravy Have nary a lump May your yams be delicious And may your pies take the prize And may you Thanksgiving dinner Stay off your thighs! Anonymous

Others, really profound:

Gratitude is the least of the virtues, but ingratitude is the worst of the vices. Thomas Fuller

The pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts....nevertheless, they set aside a day of thanksgiving.  H.W. Westermayer

A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the others. Cicero

And my favorite:

It's not the happy person who is thankful but the thankful person who is happy. Anonymous

But as always, God's Word takes the prize for the most profoundly sublime quote on being thankful.

Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Col 2:6-7

Let's meditate for a few moments on this beautiful phrase, overflowing with gratitude:

What does it mean to overflow?

roosevelt dam overflow

roosevelt dam overflow

A reservoir holds water.  When it rains too much or the snows in the mountains melt, the water flows over the edge.  When my husband John was a child he lived near the Roosevelt Dam.  When the dam spilled over, it was quite an event...a wonder to behold!

And that's what this word in the original language means:  to be in excess, to have more than enough, to super-abound...to overflow!

What is gratitude?

This word means appreciation, thanksgiving and and praise to God...and to others who have enriched our lives. After all, ...what do you have that you did not receive? 1Cor 4:7

communion set

communion set

The original word in Greek is eucharistia. In Christian liturgical traditions,

Eucharist is used in modern language for Holy Communion, embodying the highest act of thanksgiving for the greatest gift from God, the sacrifice of Jesus.  It is the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies. Spiro Zodiates

In fact, Jesus Himselfgave thanks to the Father as He broke the bread and blessed the cup at the Last Supper with His disciples.  He acknowledged His Father as the Giver of every good gift and every perfect gift.James 1:17

So let us also, dear brothers and sisters, be a people overflowing with gratitude...not just at this season, but all year long!

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Thanksgivng Exercises:

  1. What 5 things can you thank God for right now? In your journal list them. Then chose one of the 5 and list 5 more. Keep going if you'd like. :) If you're having a hard time getting started, take a peek at this link and thank God for the gift of sight

  2. Have a time of family or personal communion, thanking the Father for the gift of His precious Son.

  3. Do this Bible study exercise:

Kaden the student

Kaden the student

Read through the book of Colossians and find at least one verse in each chapter about giving thanks. Be sure to read the context to get the complete message.

Only one prayer? Give thanks!

garage sale

garage sale

Early one fall, I had a few moments in between errands, so I decided to follow the "garage sale" signs into a neighborhood off the main road I was traveling on. It was at the end of the day...and the house I stopped at looked a bit bare and disheveled.  But I got out of my car anyway.  And by the time I got back in my car, I was so glad I had stopped.

No, I didn't buy any treasures....in fact, I didn't spend a cent.  But I did leave with the treasure of a truth etched in my mind.  It was from a somewhat banged up looking plaque:

If you only have one prayer...give thanks!

I wrote the words down in my little notebook, and I've been mulling them over ever since:  Just one prayer...thank you!

I've thought of the words that we love to hear from our babies...ma-ma, da-da, wuv oo...  Wouldn't tah-too {thank you} be in that early list?  How lovely as a mom or dad to be appreciated!  And when those kind words just tumble forth from a toddlers mouth...oh, sweetness and delight!

So then it makes sense that the primary characteristic of a child of God would be gratitude.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2:6-7 ESV

In fact, the first words of affection coming from a baby believer may very well be "Thank you, Father God!"

give thanks

give thanks

Our modern culture has lost the art of "thank you"...no more "thank you notes"...more about entitlement, I guess.  But I suppose that it's not just our modern culture.  In the epistle to the Romans, Paul points out that one of the main characteristics of the pagan was not giving God thanks, despite knowing and seeing Him in creation.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened... Romans 1:20-21 NIV

{If you want a real eye-opener, read the surrounding verses in Romans.  It sounds more like modern day America than we might like to think!}

I wonder if that's why our own minds, though believing, may at times be plagued by dark and depressing thoughts.

Give thanks, O child of God!  Abba, our Creator, is worthy!

So as we approach our very American holiday of Thanksgiving, start your list...and never stop!  Thank God and others every day.  What a great way to prepare for the language of heaven...where we will thank our Savior face to face...and perhaps thank those He used in our earthly lives to draw us to our great God!

...since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God... Hebrews 12:28 NIV

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Don't miss this -- For an amazing story and video of modern day pagans spontaneously bursting into thanksgiving at the moment of salvation, view Rich & Karen Brown's account.  Click on picture to read their story and view the video at the end of the post:

6-brown_family

6-brown_family

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Are you overflowing with gratitude?  For some fun, as well as profound, thoughts about Thanksgiving, click on picture:

pilgrims dancing

pilgrims dancing

The Gift of Pain? {two Non-negotiables}

Tears
Tears

Surely goodness and steadfast love shall follow me all the days of my life... Psalm 23:8 PAIN!

Bloody! Cutting! Unrelenting! and Soul-numbing...or is it? 

For me, pain has a way of sifting through the non-essentials of life!

And I find my soul awakened abruptly from its numbing slumber to longing, loss, grief, confusion, perspective...

...but most importantly, the presence of GOD.

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.   C.S. Lewis

In pain as in joy, I'm learning to hold onto two truths that are my "Unchangeables," my non-negotiables:

GOD IS GOODThe LORD is good...

I AM LOVED...and His steadfast love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

And it seems the enemy of our souls always assails at those two points with hislies.  It happened in the Garden, and it happens every day in my life and in yours.  We are just dull to recognize it.

But I'm hear to affirm by faith...

God is GOOD!

God's character is often bought into question when we face the "hard things" in life, like sickness, death, broken relationships, financial reversals, and so on.

reflections on Christ - crucifixion
reflections on Christ - crucifixion

When our son and daughter went through serious health problems (cancer and what turned out to be benign tumors) within months of each other, it threw me into incredible pain and confusion: "How could this be happening to my children!?  What kind of toxic waste dump have we been living in!?" 

And I struggled on...for a long time!  Finally, it was Jesus' words to His disciples, the night before He died, that stabilized me:

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

But why all the suffering?  God's Word tells us that because of the Fall, everything and everyone has been suffering:

We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.  Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:21-23

God's plan hasn't been stymied because of man's fall into rebellion.  God is weaving all things in our lives into His eternal plan in Christ.

tapestry, front & back
tapestry, front & back

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  For those

God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Romans 8:28-29

As Bible teacher Kay Arthur says,

Everything in our lives is filtered through fingers of Love!

And that brings me to my second "Unchangeable"...

I am LOVED and you are too!

We all are seeking perfect love...loving and being loved in a real and deep way.  This is God-given.  But I get myself into trouble when I expect perfect love from another person, or I try to live up to others' expectations simply so that they will love and accept me.

The realization that I am loved with an everlasting love by the Lover of my Soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, enables me to let others off the hook.  It also frees me to admit and repent of my failures to love...and then forgive myself.

house
house

Maybe this is part of what we each must go through in adulthood in coming to grips with our "parent issues." 

In a perfect world, all of us would have been parented by perfect parents who met all our needs.  But in reality, none of us has...though some of us have had some pretty darn good ones!

But in finally coming to grips with our grief and loss, we can forgive others for not loving us as only God can.

It's at that moment that you and I can fully embrace God's incredible, perfect love for us...and embrace our life, choosing to love with the love with which we have been loved by God.

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Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ's love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing,... None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I'm absolutely convinced that nothing— nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable —absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:35-39 MSG

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Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 107:1 ESV

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Walking in Present Risenness

mom & me walking
mom & me walking

When I was at the University of Arizona in the late 60's & early 70's, the "Jesus movement" was in full swing.  A song that we always sang during praise time at our Christian student meetings in those days was "He Lives". This song grabbed me!  The concept of a living Christ who intimately related to me on a daily basis was just beginning to dawn on me.  Look at the words to this glorious song:

I serve a risen Saviour He's in the world today; I know that He is living, Whatever men may say; I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer, And just the time I need Him He's always near.

Chorus: He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! He walks with me and He talks with me Along life's narrow way. He lives, He live, salvation to impart! You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.

In all the world around me I see His loving care, And tho my heart grows weary I never will despair; I know that He is leading Thro' all the stormy blast, The day of His appearing Will come at last.

Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, Lift up your voice and sing Eternal hallelujahs To Jesus Christ the King! The hope of all who seek Him, The help of all who find, None other is so loving, So good and kind.

road to emmaus
road to emmaus

Brennan Manning has a phrase that I love...living in Present Risenness.  In his precious book The Rabbi's Heartbeat, he says:

We are not cowed into timidity by death and life.  Were we forced to rely on our own shabby resources we would be pitiful people indeed.  But the awareness of Christ's present risenness persuades us that we are buoyed up and carried on by a life greater than our own.

The Christ within who is our hope of glory is not a matter of theological debate or philosophical speculation.  He is not a hobby, a part-time project, a good theme for a book, or a last resort when all human effort fails.  He is our life, the most real fact about us.  He is the power and wisdom of God dwelling within us.

Meditate on this glorious thought:  The Resurrected Christ is alive in your world right now.  The Living Christ lives in you today.  And this same Lord Jesus Christ lives His resurrection life through you as you walk in Present Risenness...every day!

Christ in you, the hope of glory. Col 1:27

...you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory. Col 3:3-4

...to those who are the called,...Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1Cor 124

Now enjoy this simple, sincere rendition of "HE LIVES"...


The 'Mysterious' Will of God

The will of God is a mystery (in Bible terms),...but is it really mysterious?  I love these thoughts from Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest:

Him shall He teach in the way He chooses. (Psalm 25:12). At first, we want the awareness of being guided by God. But then as we grow spiritually,we live so fully aware of God that we do not even need to ask what His will is, because the thought of choosing another way will never occur to us. If we are saved and sanctified, God guides us by our everyday choices. And if we are about to choose what He does not want, He will give us a sense of doubt or restraint, which we must heed. Whenever there is doubt, stop at once. Never try to reason it out, saying, “I wonder why I shouldn’t do this?” God instructs us in what we choose; that is, He actually guides our common sense. And when we yield to His teachings and guidance, we no longer hinder His Spirit by continually asking, “Now, Lord, what is Your will?” (June 3)

The disciple who abides in Jesus is the will of God, and what appears to be his free choices are actually God’s foreordained decrees. Is this mysterious? Does it appear to contradict sound logic or seem totally absurd? Yes, but what a glorious truth it is to a saint of God. (June 7)

So it seems we make it mysterious because of our struggle and confusion, doesn't it?

When we were studying Paul's epistle to the Colossians, we found that the will of God is a much more glorious thing than we usually think.  And we are one with His will through our union with Christ.

In a post from that study, I tell a little bit of my own struggle and search.  Maybe you'll see some of yours there.

Let's take a look and rejoice in our God who enables us to "get it" about His will in His Son:

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When I was a young child, my mom would sit me next to her on our couch and "read" to me from our family Bible.  You know the one:  leather, thick, heavy with gold-gilded edges and red and black print.

I knew this was an important book, because it had pages that recorded births, baptisms, marriages, and deaths of family members.  But more than that, I knew it was important because of the full-page, glossy, color "holy pictures."  I remember how Mommy would tell me "God's stories" from God's book using those beautiful pictures.

It was during those times, that I fell in love with God and Jesus and heaven and spiritual things...and something else...the Will of God!  My mom would constantly say that the most important thing in life was to do the Will of God.  So this became my my goal...my paradigm...my mantra, at a very early age -- to do the Will of God!

What a mysterious thing, the Will of GodMY journey (and at times, search) took me through obeying the rules of my church (as God's will), to several years in a convent (believing it was the best thing to do for love of God), to searching the Scriptures to see what GOD (not man) said, to exchanging one to do list for another until finally the burden was so hard and heavy, I gave up!  Really!

And you know what?  That's when I discovered the True Will of God...Christ Jesus my Lord -- WHO He is and WHAT He has done!  Oh, I already knew Him...but I needed to KNOW Him truly!  And in knowing HIM truly, I came to realize that HE is the Will of God!

If you've been following along with us in the letter to the Colossians, you've discovered the heart of Paul's prayer in the first chapter.  His main request is that the believers would be filled with (be controlled by and absorbed with) a true, deep, accurate knowledge of God's Will:

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives... Col 1:9 NIV

This Will of God is a much bigger thing than what we think.  We usually assume it refers to what we do today or tomorrow, who we marry, where we go on vacation, what car we should buy, etc.  Now these all may be affected by our knowing the Will of God.

But primarily the Will of God has to do with His good pleasure in His Son Jesus Christ and the Father's Plan carried out in and through HIM!  That's good news, because it's all about HIM!  I reap the benefits, but I'm I also empowered (through His indwelling) to make my choices according to this HUGE, AWESOME WILL of GOD!  What a privilege to be part of something bigger than myself!

OK, you say...chapter and verse, please!  The cool thing is that Paul wrote another letter to a church not far from Colossae.  In fact, he wrote it at the same time and sent it by the same messenger.  So we would naturally assume Paul would have the same thing in mind when he wrote to the church in Ephesus,

With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment —to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. Ephesians 1:8-10 NIV

That's it!  His pleasure and purpose in Christ!  Did you notice as you read and looked for the references to prayer in Colossians, that Paul wasn't the only one who prayed this way.  Paul says of Epaphras, the young pastor of the Colossian church,

He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Col 4:12 NIV

Why did Paul and Epaphras pray for the believers to really "get it" about God's Will in Christ?  Paul prays on...

...so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. Col 1:10-12 NIV

Paul knew that getting it about Christ is the only paradigm that can produce a God-pleasing, fruitful Christian walkNo Christian "to do list" can produce this!  It's a work of illumination/revelation by the Spirit of God.  Thus Paul's prayer!

And so, dear friends, when we pray for ourselves or for someone we love, why not start out with the heart of all prayer?  Our deepest need is to be filled with (and so controlled by) a true, heart knowledge of God's Will in the Person and Work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This absorption, this getting it about Christ will then have an explosive and expulsive effect*-- changing our thinking, our attitudes, our affections, our choices, and thus our behavior.  And it will result in a life worthy of and pleasing to the Lord!

THE PERFECT WISDOM OF OUR GOD

Revealed in all the universe: All things created by His hand, And held together at His command. He knows the mysteries of the seas, The secrets of the stars are His; He guides the planets on their way, And turns the earth through another day.

The matchless wisdom of His ways That mark the path of righteousness His word a lamp unto my feet His Spirit teaching and guiding me And O the mystery of the cross That God should suffer for the lost So that the fool might shame the wise And all the glory might go to Christ!

O grant me wisdom from above, To pray for peace and cling to love, And teach me humbly to receive The sun and rain of Your sovereignty. Each strand of sorrow has a place Within this tapestry of grace; So through the trials I choose to say: “Your perfect will in Your perfect way.”

Stuart Townend & Keith Getty Copyright © 2011 Thankyou Music & Getty Music

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL3MabWr5cM[/youtube]

 

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A challenge for those who want to go deeper:

Read this sermon by Thomas Chalmers (19th century):  The Expulsive Power of a New Affection This is really long, and it's not for the faint of heart.  But it's right on target!

Here's a short synopsis:

The best way of casting out an impure affection is to admit a pure one; and by the love of what is good, to expel the love of what is evil. We know of no other way by which to keep the love of the world out of our heart, than to keep in our hearts the love of God - and no other way by which to keep our hearts in the love of God, than building ourselves up on our most holy faith. Dr Ray Pritchard

Jesus, I am resting, resting...

Ah! REST...what a glorious word!  I inhale and exhale deeply at just the sound of it!  And oh, how we humans need deep, glorious rest... Moms especially need it...as do dads.  Single folk need it; workers need it; retirees do too...even kids need it (although they would protest most loudly...especially after no-sleep sleepovers!)

This is the time of the year that I begin to really drag, needing my rest!  I'm a teacher, not really looking forward to the beginning of the new school-year. But I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, friend, sister, etc.   And right now, as an author, I'm hitting Blogger's Block/ Writer's Block -- that brain-draining fatigue that hits everyone (including students) who has put pen to paper regularly.

So let me say it again -- we humans ALL need deep, gloriousrest...no matter what our role in life.  And we need rest, not just for our bodies, but for our souls most of all!

I don't know about you, but I am going to the only Place I know to go for the rest I need...and that place is my Lord Jesus Christ!  HE is Rest!  I'm responding to His gracious invitation, 

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

We who are burdened and work to exhaustion can find anapausis (RESTin Greek). But this is not just the "take a nap" kind of rest...it goes much deeper:

In Matthew 11:28-29, the Lord promises "anapausis" (inner tranquility) to the weary and heavy laden who come to HIM while they are engaged in necessary labor. Spiro Zodiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament, p. 156

Isn't that good news, dear friend? Even when we cannot take a break from our duties, we can have inner tranquility because of our relationship with our Lord Christ.

And there's an interesting emphasis in that short phrase, Come to Me, in the original Greek.  Literally, Jesus says,

HERE (Hither, KJV)...to ME!

That's right, the word COME isn't found in the original!  It's just implied...and I think, for a reason.

I picture Jesus Himself beckoning to the battered and beleaguered crowd of ordinary people following Him.  He points to HIMSELF as the source of spiritual rest:  HERE...to ME...for rest!

The religious rulers, who hounded them, burdened them with duties above and beyond what God required.  Jesus, on the other hand, joins (yokes) Himself to His people to give them rest on every level.  So in a sense, He says,

Don't go to THEM! HERE...to ME!

And the same is true for you and me, dear friend.  What is hounding and harassing you?

Is it the pressures of mothering? ...the stress of financial needs? ...the guilt of not being spiritual enough: reading the Bible, praying enough? ...the confusion and grief of relational rifts? ...the concern for struggling/straying loved ones? ...the fatigue/uncertainties of your job? ...struggles with ill health? ______[fill in the blank]______?

In every situation and in every stage of life on this earth, He Himself is our Rest. Join me in responding to His invitation:   HERE...to ME!

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly. Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

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Suggestions for your COMING...from the mundane to the sublime [and I am practicing what I preach :) ]

Play instrumental hymns/praise/classical music softly in the background all day.  It's amazing how the music sets a peaceful atmosphere.  This is one of my favorite things to do when I'm home...keeping my music softly playing all day!

Memorize and recite often Psalm 23.  This is especially good when falling asleep or waking in the middle of the night! Visualize the scene, and let the peace of your Shepherd wash over you!

Take a break from social media for a period of time...however the Lord leads.  Call it a fast if you like and slow down the inner craziness to focus on the Lord.  Maybe just fast from it each day until after you meet with the Lord :) And if you are a blogger and hit bloggers block, let it be for awhile until the Lord breaks through with something fresh :)

Moms...get up earlier than your children, even if that means putting the coffee pot in the garage to brew (my son as a toddler/preschooler would wake up within 15 minutes of brewing my morning Joe).  Have your Bible, journal, devotional, &/or hymnbook in a handy spot.  And commune with your God...COME to HIM for your anapausis (rest while you go about your needful work)for your day! If little people do interrupt your time, let them join you...with their own Bible and journal :)

Home-school moms...when I was homeschooling and hit exhaustion, I would "take to my bed" for a whole day... homeschooling my son and daughter from the place of rest (my bed!).  They were a bit older and worked well on their own.  So I'd give them assignments, read with them, checked work (or have them check their own) etc. with them sitting next to me on the bed.  Then they would go off to complete assignments on their own.  Trust me, it really worked.  Then I'd be refreshed to continue on normally the next school-day!

Sing this wonderful hymn...focusing on the words to help in focusing on the Lord:

Jesus! I am resting, resting In the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness Of Thy loving heart.

Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee, And Thy beauty fills my soul, For, by Thy transforming power, Thou hast made me whole.

Jesus! I am resting, resting In the joy of what Thou art; I am finding out the greatness Of Thy loving heart.

Oh, how great Thy loving kindness, Vaster, broader than the sea: Oh, how marvelous Thy goodness, Lavished all on me!

Yes, I rest in Thee, Beloved, Know what wealth of grace is Thine, Know Thy certainty of promise, And have made it mine.

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus, I behold Thee as Thou art, And Thy love, so pure, so changeless, Satisfies my heart,

Satisfies its deepest longings, Meets, supplies its every need, Compasseth me round with blessings, Thine is love indeed.

Ever lift Thy face upon me, As I work and wait for Thee; Resting 'neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus, Earth's dark shadows flee.

Brightness of my Father's glory, Sunshine of my Father's face, Keep me ever trusting, resting, Fill me with Thy grace.

The Rest of the Gospel: Entering God's Rest (Chapter 25)

Chapter 25  Entering God's Rest Key Verses:

So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. Heb 4:9-11 ESV

Read Chapter 25:  Entering God's Rest

1. Is your life characterized by an inner rest? What does your answer tell you about the degree to which you are trusting Christ as your life?

2. Does being at rest mean that we will cease having any soul fluctuations? Explain.

3. According to Hebrews, what is they key to entering God’s rest? What might that look like in your life? Use a specific example from your life this past week in your answer.

4. What is the prerequisite for entering God’s rest? Give some examples of how this operates in our lives.

5. What does Dan mean when he says to turn your spiritual eye inward? Is this a self focus or a God focus? Explain.

6. What role does communion with God play in experiencing God’s rest?

7. What happens to the externals on the path to God’s rest? How is God making this happen in your life now?

8. In what ways are you seeking for God to give you something beyond Himself? In what way is He insufficient for all your needs? What is God saying to you about this right now?

9. What did Barbara mean when she told Dan to only talk about the unseen? What message is there in that for us?

The Rest of the Gospel: Loving God (Chapter 24)

CHAPTER 24: LOVING GOD Key Verse:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27 ESV

Key Question:

Who is my point of reference, God or myself?

Read CHAPTER 24: LOVING GOD

1. What did the story Dan told about his daily experience in South Carolina have to do with loving God?

2. Your life is probably quite different than Dan’s was then. Nevertheless, what might God want to say to you through Dan’s experience?

3. What does it mean to love God in the way that He loves us? How might that look in your life?

4. What does the fact that God has already poured His love into our hearts (Rom. 5:5) have to do with loving Him back?

5. What role might suffering play in this process of purifying our love for God? How has God used suffering in your life this way already?

6. How would it change our lives if our main objective was simply to love God?

7. Write a summary statement about God, the One who loves. How does keeping the object of our love in constant focus affect our love toward that person? What does that mean for you personally?

The Rest of the Gospel: Poured Out (Chapter 23)

CHAPTER 23: POURED OUT Key Verse:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:6-7 ESV

Key Question:

How is God's love manifested through us?

Read Chapter 23: Poured Out and answer the following:

1. What is the difference between God’s kind of love and human love?

2. How has God’s love come to us? What does this say about how we will live out His love?

3. In what ways does the flesh deceive us into thinking that fulfilling selfish desires will bring us life? What does God say will bring us life? What is God saying to you concerning this truth now?

4. Why is it vital for us to know that Jesus is our need-meeter?

5. How does seeing ourselves as God’s asset, not His liability, release us to be poured out for others?

6. How has God individually made you as His vessel, to manifest His life to others in ways different from other believers?

7. How do Dan’s comments about operating in your own world affect the way you think about Christ living through you? In what ways have you thought differently before? How did these different views affect your Christian life?

8. As He lives through you, what is Jesus most interested in? What does God have to say to you through this truth now?

9. What does it mean to be expendable for the kingdom? How was Jesus expendable? How does God want you to be expendable?

10. In the sense that Dan uses the word, what does it mean to be an intercessor on someone’s behalf? Is there someone Jesus wants to intercede for through you?

11. Reread the last paragraph of the chapter. Why is it so important that we know we are loved?

The Rest of the Gospel: The Gift of Misery (Chapter 22)

Chapter 22  The Gift of Misery Key Verse:

...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death... Philippians 3: 10 ESV

Key Question:

How has misery been a gift from God in your life?

Read chapter 22 and answer the following:

1. How does God use misery in our lives? Give an example of how God has used misery in your life.

2. How does Genesis 50:20 apply to our lives? Is there a situation in your life right now in which you need 50:20 vision?

3. What does the story of Moses tell you personally about God’s use of misery?

4. The story of David?

5. The story of Peter?

6. In what ways are you still seeking a fix for your problems, instead of God Himself?

7. How can you look at a past episode in your life differently as a result of this chapter?

8. How can you look at a present episode differently?

9. What does God want you to trust Him for concerning the topic of this chapter?

The Rest of the Gospel: Detached Living (Chapter 21)

Chapter 21  Detached Living Key Verses:

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21 ESV

Key Question:

Are you wholly attached to Christ or is He just "a piece of the pie"? Read Chapter 21: Detached Living

1. In what ways have you tried to make Jesus part of your life pie, instead of Him being the entire pie?

2. When you look at your life, how have you resembled the seed sown among the thorns, letting the worries of the world, the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things crowd out God?

3. How are these ways of living (from #2) antithetical to living the reality of Christ in you?

4. Ask God what aspects of your life He says subtract from true life, rather than add to it?

5. How might God be calling you to reorient your life, so that “Christ in you” is a lifestyle, not just another piece of the pie? What in your life, from God’s perspective, may not be necessary?

6. If we truly give ourselves to our passion, what does our life as we currently live it say about what our passion is? How can we make God more our passion?

7. How does Dan define detached living (bottom of page 217 and top of page 218)? How did Christ’s life demonstrate detached living?

8. What struck you about what Dan said about the desert fathers?

9. At this point in your walk, how could you press right in on Jesus? What would that look like?

The Rest of the Gospel: Making Decisions (Chapter 20)

CHAPTER 20: MAKING DECISIONS Key Verse:

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. Proverbs 16:33 ESV

Key Question:

How do we know the "will of God?"

Read Chapter 20: Making Decisions and answer the following:

1. Through his own personal story, how does Dan challenge the notion of trying to find “the perfect will of God”?

2. In your own life, how have you thought you missed God’s will, only to find out the route you took was the route He used for His own purposes? Give an example.

3. Look up Romans 11:33. How does the knowledge that God is in everything affect our perspective on making decisions?

4. How does living out of a sense of separation adversely affect our ability to make decisions?

5. How does living out of our union with Christ help us have confidence in making decisions?

6. What is a decision you are facing in which you are living out of a sense of separation, not union? How could that change?

7. What does it mean to “trust Him to live His life spontaneously through us?” How might that look in your life right now?

8. Think about Dan’s illustration of the baby learning to walk. In what sense is this chapter taking a long-term view of Christian growth? What does that mean for you?

The Rest of the Gospel: Hearing God (Chapter 19)

CHAPTER 19: HEARING GOD

Key Verses

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers... My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:3-5,27 ESV

Key Question:

How do we hear God?

Read Chapter 19: Hearing God and answer the following:

1. What does it mean to us personally that Jesus said, “My sheep hear My voice?”

2. What does it take for us to live in the reality of that statement?

3. How do we learn to hear God? Where are you in the process? How does God want you to learn to hear Him more?

4. What does hearing God have to do with Christ living in us? How has God set up the Christian life to be led by the Spirit?

5. How can we give both the written Word of God and the voice of the Spirit their rightful place in our lives?

6. How do you distinguish between the Spirit’s voice and your own thoughts?

7. What role do external results in our lives play in validating whether we heard from God?

8. What are three practical things that Dan mentions concerning hearing God? How might these work out right now in your life?

The Rest of the Gospel: Temptation, a Faith Opportunity (Chapter 18)

Chapter 18  Temptation: a Faith Opportunity Key Verse:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:2-5 ESV

Key Question:

How do temptation and faith interact?

Read chapter 18 and answer the following:

1. Why are we inclined to confuse temptation with sin?

2. What does Jesus’ experience in the garden tell us about temptation in our life?

3. How do you experience your swing being over on the “evil” side? When that happens, according to James 1:13-14, is that temptation or sin?

4. What does it take for temptation to turn into sin?

5. How does the Holy But come into play in this matter of dealing with temptation?

6. How will it affect our ability to handle temptation if soul is the deepest reality to us?

7. Why is temptation a necessary prerequisite for the operation of our faith? How does God want to use temptation in our lives?

8. How can you avoid putting yourself under condemnation for having tempting thoughts and feelings?

9. What does hearing the Spirit within you have to do with living in the freedom of Christ?

The Rest of the Gospel: The Holy But (Chapter 17)

Chapter 17  The Holy But Key Verse:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 ESV

Key Question:

How does the "holy but" cause us to see our circumstances, good and bad?

Read chapter 17 and answer the following:

1. What are some negatives in your life that God wants to use to teach you to exercise faith in a certain area? How does your soul feel about each of these negatives?

2. For each of these negatives, what truth is God asking you to believe?

3. Write out each of these areas as a Holy But sentence (e.g., “I . . ., but God . . .”).

4. How do these Holy Buts “allow Christ to respond to situations through you with His life”?

5. Have you tried to escape the external situation in each of these instances? What has been the result?

6. Think of an example when you operated the Holy But in your life. What was the negative? What was God’s truth? What internal shift did the Holy But produce in you?

7. Rewrite Galatians 2:20, substituting your name in the verse. Read it out loud. Consider posting it someplace and reading it aloud daily.

8. Is there someone you could partner with to speak aloud God’s truth about you? Consider doing it regularly.