Make a declaration…

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“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

“For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may about more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” –Philippians 1:2-11, ESV

Make a declaration. With your life, with your love. With your peace, bring calm. With your fire, bring a flame.

Make a declaration. Choose a scripture, a verse or a chapter or a testament. Write it on your heart. Proclaim it in your soul, in your home, from the hilltops.

Make a declaration.

“…choose this day whom you will serve…” –Joshua 24:15, ESV

As Joshua declared to the people, declare to your very soul.

Make a declaration.

“…I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God…” –Deuteronomy 30:19-20, ESV

God called the people to choose. He declared two sides: blessing or cursing. And He declared that they should choose life.

Receive Jesus’ very declaration:

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.” –John 15:16-17, ESV

Make a declaration. Make a choice. Because you have already been chosen.

Why remember…

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A cousin doing some cleaning, sending old family photos. From junior high makeovers circa early 90s to the “line up” shown above, we laughed through different family eras.

And something else happened when the photo hit Facebook. Reminiscing extended beyond the traditional “how were we ever that small?!”

One of the age gaps in our nearly-30-cousins generation showed its presence, as the middle group of cousins remembered a particular game played in the back yard with the uncles. The older group hadn’t heard of the game. Remembering isn’t always about sharing the same memory–many times it is about sharing different experiences from the same time.

We wondered, guessing, on where the cousins were who had to have been in the world, but maybe were infants at the time. Remembering isn’t always about who was there–sometimes it is also about who was to come.

An employee of my older brother commented, enjoying seeing him at such a young age. Remembering publicly draws others in–those who weren’t in the picture 30 years ago get to live vicariously through our family memories.

One subset of cousins remembers putting on plays in the basement while another remembers tap dancing on a wood cutting board so grandma could see the results of dance classes. Another builds on the memory, reminiscing that her father had the new video camera running 24/7–there must be video of the tap dancing somewhere. Another chimes in that he has witnessed said video, and it is in his mom’s basement. Remembering often branches–one memory stirs another. And another family member draws out more evidence.

In all the differences and branches and gaps and the joining of others in the remembering, we all remember the yard, the house, and the grandparents who lived there.

It strikes me how often God instructs us to remember. Throughout the Old Testament, He tells His people to build an altar so that they can remember for generations to come. The New Testament brings communion–and the command that whenever the family partakes, they remember.

Remembering God’s work is about more than remembering His deeds. The family reminiscing above included declarations of a need for a reunion. Remembering brings the family of God together. Remembering both bridges the age gaps while sharing and learning from the different experiences of each group. It is remembering the One Who always was and Who also is to come. It is about drawing others into our memories, into our remembrances of God. And it is about bringing out branches of memories–from one story to evidence of the story.

Remembering God’s hand, His actions, His love does so much  more than remind us of His faithfulness. It just may be that in remembering, He is drawing us closer together as family.

Don’t hate the guy healing you…

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New Year’s day broke clear and bright two years ago. With a pantry of groceries and plans for new recipes, I started dicing a raw yam. Not too long later, I sat in urgent care, keeping my thumbnail on with a clean rag and pressure.

The doctor would need to look at the laceration. His poking, prodding, and pulling came before he numbed me. My tolerance for pain is high, but even I needed deep breaths as he explored the wound. I declined his repeated offer to look at it for myself. As I declined, he commented how fascinating it was. I appreciated his fascination, and his obvious enjoyment in his job, but I had to remind myself: don’t hate the guy healing you.

After the first nerve blocker injection, he massaged my thumb to get the blocker moving. Don’t hate the guy healing you.

My body, traditionally stubborn toward numbing agents, didn’t spread the nerve blocker to the wound, and neither did the second. As someone who doesn’t like seeing skin pierced (it really should remain intact), it was a mistake for me to watch the the third injection. “Who knew needles were so bendy,” I thought as he moved the needle in and around the joint to find the right place for the injection. Don’t hate the guy healing you.

Soon the appointment was over, and I walked away with a rather large pressure bandage and progressive instructions for care.

Life is like that. We mess up and consequences come. We seek out healing, but the healing process itself can be painful. But for those in the household of faith, we can trust the Great Physician that each and every poke, prod, and injection is necessary for healing. And though it may take several weeks before the bandages come off, and the lingering tinge where the cut touched a nerve may last years, the Guy healing you did, in fact, heal you.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” –1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, ESV

 

Emmanuel

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Mary’s day, like any other
Her dreams of the future,
Her hand promised to another.
Little did she know,
her future was about to be shattered.

When God drew near

Joseph’s plans for the future.
His betrothed, blameless before God.
Shattered.
He never would have guessed,
and here he sat,
considering how to show her respect
while divorcing her.

But God drew near

Her growing child,
her loneliness
as nobody could ever, would ever
know exactly what she experienced.
A trip to her aunt Elizabeth’s
also carrying a miraculous conception.
A leaping, pre-birth John the Baptist
And a song from her family.

As God drew near

Politics.
A census,
a very pregnant belly,
and a tromping donkey.
The poor couple trudged the path
to Bethlehem.
No room for them

Yet God drew near

Bending low to the manger,
the mewls of a newborn King
receiving gifts from wise men
and honor amid the barn

When God drew near

An apple in the garden,
sin came in.
A need for eternal sacrifice,
a plan in place to bring us home.
And it all came to pass

because God wanted us near

The conundrum of gentleness…

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In a world seeking to exalt everything but Christ, it can seem that the only way to fight fire is with fire. Yet gentleness makes the exact opposite claim.

“but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” –1 Peter 3:15, ESV

Because gentleness stands out against the screaming crowds. The constantly offended will be muted in the face of a calm, gentle retort. Gentleness, after all, is the great draw God uses to bring people to Himself:

“correcting His opponents with gentleness, God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” –2 Timothy 2:25, ESV

If God’s tool for correction is gentleness, who are we to choose differently? Which is a bold statement to make. It remains far easier said that done, but take these encouragements. We can stand in gentleness because we are protected by far greater things than any defense we can fashion.

“You have given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your gentleness made me great.” –2 Samuel 22:36, ESV

“You have given me the shield of Your salvation, and Your right hand supported me, and Your gentleness made me great.” –Psalm 18:35, ESV

We are protected, not by our inflammatory words, but by the very shield of God. His salvation seals us, protects us, and will be our joy. As we rely on it, we can stand boldly with a gentle spirit, knowing the Savior of our soul has our back.

And more than that, the passage in Psalm takes this support one step further. Not only does our shield of salvation protect us from damaging onslaughts, God’s very right hand supports us. It is no small thing to be at the right hand of the King. And that right hand moves, and points, and makes things happen, many of which we will never see or realize.

Standing in the protection of salvation, with our God moving His right hand on our behalf, we can strip away the fear, pride, anger, jealousy, and offense that can express itself in so many ways other than gentleness. We can allow the chains of those negative perspectives to clank powerless to the floor, as we allow the Spirit of God to change our own spirit into one like Christ:

“…by the meekness and gentleness of Christ…” –2 Corinthians 10:1, ESV

For gentleness is not an action. gentleness is a very way of being. It roots from the spirit and extends through every action, every thought, and every defense. It is that gentleness, from the Spirit of God, described in the 2 Samuel and Psalms passages above the lead to greatness.

Greatness in the eyes of men may come with a quick wit and a burning retort. Greatness in the eyes of God comes through a gentle spirit.