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THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS: CHRIST IN YOU, THE HOPE OF GLORY (Advent: Week 4)

CHRISTMAS IS THIS WEEK!

WHAT IS AT THE HEART OF CHRISTMAS?

A SAVIOR WAS BORN TO NOT ONLY RESCUE US FROM GOD’S WRATH,

BUT TO RESCUE US FROM OURSELVES.

christ_in_you,_the-92870

I have learned so much from the seekers and agnostics in our evangelistic Bible study. I have learned how unclear I can be, how important it is to really listen and understand what they are saying. They often stun me into silence. I remember the day when Debbie was so upset about a statement in the guide that said believers should not marry unbelievers. “Why, that’s so judgmental! That’s like saying you shouldn’t marry someone in a wheelchair!”

Another adamantly agreed. “Yes — it is healthy for people of different religions to marry because it teaches them tolerance. My daughter is an agnostic and her husband is a Catholic — and they made an agreement that the children could be Catholic but it was up to him to teach them. And it has worked out just fine.”

I pondered why they would have this reaction — so foreign to me. Why would you ever encourage a relationship bound for strife?

And then I realized — it was because they were thinking of religion rather than relationship. Religion can be compartmentalized, confined to a morning each week and a few special holidays. Relationship cannot. And yet to say that could so easily offend? How could I say it?

I find testimony is less offensive than making didactic statements. So I said, “When Christ came into my life, He turned my whole world around. His presence invaded my whole life and affected every decision — about sex, about money, about relationships, about everything. I would have been in constant disagreement with someone who didn’t have Christ invading his life.

Another way to turn the light on is with word pictures. Tim Keller uses a GREAT one in the sermon this week. He said that the Bible’s definition of a Christian is someone in whom God has come to live. (We will finish our memory passage next week with “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (or as KJV says, “tabernacled” among us) When God comes to live in you, when He invades your life, it is like you have brought an elephant into your apartment. There is no way you can ignore him or confine him.

elephant-in-room

 

LIKEWISE,

CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT MAKE GOOD MEN, BETTER MEN,

BUT RATHER, IT MAKES DEAD MEN LIVE.

WE ARE NOT TALKING ABOUT BECOMING ETHICAL

BY STUDYING AND APPLYING TRUTHS,

WE ARE TALKING ABOUT RADICAL HEART SURGERY,

WHEN GOD, AND ONLY GOD, QUICKENS US,

AND BEGINS TO CHANGE OUR HEARTS OF STONE

INTO HEARTS OF FLESH.

heart-of-stone

CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN US, QUICKENING US, FOR HE IS OUR

IMMANUEL, WHICH MEANS

GOD WITH US.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Xj45eJTXUM

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Suggestion for Christmas Eve. Put a large candle on a table and give participants small candles with a protective shield (you can make them out of paper or foil) for candle drippings. Say the opening five verses, and when you get to verse 4, light the big candle. Then say verses 6 through 9 and have each person, afterwards, light their candle and share a way Christ has been a light to them this year. If possible, e-mail them ahead of time so they can think about their answer.

SUNDAY: ICEBREAKER

1. What stands out to you from the above and why?

2. Is Christ invading all of your life this Advent? If so, share a specific.

We are continuing our memorization of the prologue. Print this off and put it in a plastic sleeve.

(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

(2) He was in the beginning with God. 

(3) All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 

(4) In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

(5)The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

(6) There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

(7) He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light,

that all might believe through him. 

(8) He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 

9. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 

10. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.

12. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

13. who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

MONDAY: Review 1-11.

3. Can you write it down without looking?

4. What new contemplations do you have on 1 to 11?

5. Take a verse from this section that quickens you and use it as a springboard for prayer.

TUESDAY: Review 1-11 and add 12.

6. C. S. Lewis talks about the difference between nice people and new men. Keller talks about the difference between being ethical and being born again. Before you listen to the sermon, see if you can come up with some contrasts:

     A nice “ethical” person                                                 A born-again person

7. What are some characteristics and privileges that a child of God has?  

WEDNESDAY: (Christmas Eve) Review 1-12 and add 13.

8. How has Christ been a light to you this year?

9. Will you be able to do the Christmas Eve exercise? If so, be sure to tell us how it went!

Thursday: (Christmas Day) Review 1-13.

new creation

 

10. What does it mean to not be born of:

A. Blood

B. Nor the will of flesh

C. Nor the will of man

11. What contemplations do you have on verses 12 and 13?

Friday: Keller Sermon and Review 1-13.

http://www.gospelinlife.com/new-life-5190.html?___SID=U

12. Share your notes and thoughts.

Saturday:

13. What is your take-a-way and why?

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121 comments

  1. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why? “Christianity does not make good men better men, but rather, it makes dead men live.”and “…And the Word became flesh and dwelt (tabernacled) among us.” A lie that Satan uses in my life is that I am not good enough to have “been changed.” He takes my failures and turns them into mocking points that I cannot really have let Christ into my life because if I had I would be “better.” But the truth is Psalm 16:2,4…5 “I said to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord, apart from you I have no good thing.’ The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods… Lord, you have assigned me my portion and my cup; you have made my lot secure.” I KNOW He has changed my inside and it has seeped to my behavior (inside out) but I also KNOW that I am still a sinner prone to run after other gods… He is gracious and brings me back and though my behavior and eyes may wander and flitter the very core of me is Him and does not change, He is so good to continually remind me, “You are Mine.”

  2. Jill these words bless me so much! I struggle here too. I have changed so much but my focus is on imperfections, making me feel hopeless at times. These verses are wonderful for speaking to this. He has made my lot and I am secure. Gaudette! That is the Latin word for rejoice that was in our song last week. So beautiful.

  3. Dee – I love your distinction between religion and relationship – a VERY timely reminder!  I think that this season presents incredible opportunities to testify to Immanuel.  Immanuel is the name of God that I have most often clung to.  To ponder Immanuel is to feel the presence of the Lord down to the very marrow of my bones- and the song you’ve shared with us is such a gem, reminding me that there is nothing in this old life of mine that Immanuel doesn’t inhabit!  That said, a sadness that I feel in this season is that many will be showing respect for the rituals of the religion, and missing Immanuel Himself.  Experiencing religion and missing relationship.  I love the words that the Lord gave to you to share with your study about how when Christ came into your life He invaded every corner!  Sometimes when I have used similar words to some of my beloved unbelievers, I’ve been accused of being so ARROGANT as to think that the living God actually inhabits my life!  When a Spirit filled believer testifies to the crucified and risen Christ, the “offense of the cross” that we spoke of on the blog recently can wax hot!  Still, I think that sharing our testimonies of the change Christ has brought into our lives DOES testify to God bringing the dead to life.  God can powerfully use our testimonies to spark a longing for LIFE (our memory verses!) in lonely, dead hearts.  
    JILL’S comments above are precious.  A great reminder that our “failures” can NEVER negate God’s truth of redemption in our lives!  

      1. 🙂

  4. I don’t think I will ever fathom the depths of how I have grown in this congregation Dee. 
     

      1. Thanks Dee 🙂

  5. We are not talking about becoming ethical by studying and applying truths. We are talking about radical heart surgery, when God and only God quickens us.
    This stands out to me. First because there is a great difference in who is making the change. Not us by what we can do, but God, by His power alone. What we do is important only in it’s obedience. 
     
    This is sort of a rabbit trail but also standing out is the picture of heart surgery. It is is so invasive. There is more to it than I ever want to see. It is bloody and traumaticc, yet done in a controlled environment that minimizes the trauma. People submit to it because it brings life in the face of death. So can I trust God with my heart? Absolutely! But I must not expect bloodless, painless surgery. 

  6. Good morning from Montana, Bible Study friends,
     
    1. What stood out and why?
    A Savior was born not only to rescue us from God’s wrath, but to rescue us from ourselves.   And also:  Christianity does not make good men, better men, but rather, it makes dead men live.     
     
    Jill and Anne, I too struggle with those mocking words.  It can be relentless.    I’m reminded of Romans 6:11 here this morning (so grateful  for fragments of the Word that were implanted in my mind and heart over the years, even as a child, that He brings to mind at times like this).   When Jesus died, he took sin down with him, but alive, He brings God down to us.  From now on, think of it this way: Sin speaks a dead language that speaks nothing to you; God speaks your mother tongue. and you hang on every word. You are dead to sin, and alive to God.  That’s what Jesus did.  (the Message version)   
     
    So, “dying to self” sometimes means not listening/believing the negative self-talk/enemy-condemnation……. but rather using it as a signal to run again to Jesus.    And not believing that He must certainly be weary of me and my sin.    
    Being Alive to Christ – allowing the gospel to wash over me continually.
     

    1. Nila I loved your Last paragraph here! So good! So true!

  7. Hi there I’m new to blog but love reading each week-Dee,your book idol Lies was introduced to me by a precious sister in Christ-I loved it-I need prayer because my daddy went to be with Jesus in Sept.-our family misses him so much even though we know He is in Heaven. Momma is a Godly woman. You know her journey so please pray for her. My sister also needs prayer too. We are thankful for Emmanuel-God is with us-Merry Christnas to all of you “prayer warriors”.

    1. Welcome Hope.   Love your name.    Understandably hard time for you this Christmas.

    2. Hope – this is a tender season for you and your family, for sure.  My heart goes out to you.  Mark Schultz’ song “A Different Kind of Christmas” might really resonate with you this year…….your name says it all, though.  We have HOPE that we will be together again one day.  Welcome to this gathering of sisters…..may you find your heart encouraged here.  Thank You for sharing.

    3. Welcome Hope. Idol Lies brought me here too. So much to glean in that book! Glad you are here and I too will lift up a prayer for your family. I pray The Lord fill your hearts as you miss your father. He is such a comforter.   

    4. Welcome Hope! I am so sorry about the loss of your Dad. Lord, I pray for You to speak Your Word to Hope, to her Mom, her sister–draw them ever closer to You. Amen

  8. OOH–I love this! LOVE the elephant! LOVE how He wants to come invade my heart–every area, He wants in. This point–“it was because they were thinking of religion rather than relationship” struck me, so rich. The other day I was talking with my oldest, who is still prone to see God has the ruling Judge shaking His finger…and I was trying to explain that when we really fall in love with Him, our desire is like that 5 year old child who longs to please her Daddy–it is no longer all about rules or restrictions (legalism, morality)…it is LOVE. And I fail every hour, but I do long to obey because my heart is full of love for Him! Keller says this in Gospel in Life about our heart view when it is changed by the Gospel–no longer trying to live up to our own standards, feeling “good” when we’re doing OK, bad when we’re not, he says “My self-view is not based on my moral achievement. In Christ I am simul iustus et peccator—simultaneously sinful and lost, yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad that he had to die for me, and I am so loved that he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deep humility and confidence at the same time.”
     
    I also had more thoughts this morning about Jesus as The Word. It is so simple, I don’t know why I’m sharing..but it was a bit of a light-bulb for me, if I can articulate it. He is the Word of God, God’s message, all that He wants to say to us (Word) is composed in Christ–that He loves us so much, He wants relationship with us, He pursues it and nothing, not even the Crucifixion of His only Son will stop God from making a way for us to be with Him–that is the Word! (sorry, feeling a little passionate today 😉

    1. Elizabeth – I happen to LOVE how passionate you are!  Your passions so often overflow onto the page like a picture – and often help clarify and add depth to the meaning I’ve seen in what you call the “simple” things!  You are such a gift to this little family of sisters!  As for the elephant…..isn’t he great?  So often that elephant in the living room is a negative things…..LOVE how Dee stood that one on it’s head and made CHRIST the elephant – joy!!!  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!!!

      1. Jackie–you are so missed when you aren’t “here”–been praying for you and all you are going through dear sister~

    2.  I love this, Elizabeth! “…He wants relationship with us, He pursues it and nothing, not even the Crucifixion of His only Son will stop God from making a way for us to be with Him–that is the Word! ” =)  

    3. Elizabeth, I tried to respond to this the other morning but was interrupted. I love hearing your conversations with your children. :)) One of my boys is like your oldest. He is hung up on seeing Christianity as morality-don’t do this, do that. Even telling me when he struggles with sin-that he feels God is going to reject him and he feels shame but I have encouraged him over and over with the Gospel. Sometimes I catch myself thinking-is this ever going to stick with him? I realize my faith is so small in those moments. That I too can forget the Gospel-but the Elephant is indeed in the room hallelujah! He will never leave or forsake us even when our faith is small.

  9.  
    1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
     
    “I find testimony is less offensive than making didactic statements.”     I liked that so much, and I really want to remember Dee’s example of her testimony.   I’m fairly certain that I have offended a few people in the past with remarks that could have been categorized as didactic statements.  
     
     
    Also I liked Dee’s description:  “When God comes to live in you, when He invades your life, it is like you have brought an elephant into your apartment. There is no way you can ignore him or confine him.”  This is soooo true!    Although sometimes I find myself wrestling with the situation — trying to ignore that which cannot be ignored.   And I must say,  it never works!    After Christ came into my life,  I  am developing this progressively annoying conscience  The active word in that sentence is progressively.   It seems as if, the more I upgrade my Christian standards, the more I am then allowed to see what needs to be accomplished to bring my life up closer to God’s wishes.  
     
    2. Is Christ invading all of your life this Advent? If so, share a specific.
     
    I have felt led to “give” in ways that I have not done before — and anonymously — which is an important improvement.   I had been holding some money aside for a few months, knowing it belonged to the Lord but not knowing where I should give it.    Then a need came along, and it was as if that elephant stood on its hind legs and trumpeted — it just flashed into my mind “this is it!”   So I didn’t let my shirt touch my back– I got it done immediately (and anonymously).    And  memorizing from John 1 has helped me this Advent.   When things don’t go right and I am starting to panic,  I recite that passage as far as I can go (vs. 1-10 now) and it helps me to calm down and put life into perspective better.   
     

    1. Deanna – I welcomed the laughter that just burst out of me when I read your sentence “”Then a need came along, and it was as if that elephant stood on its hind legs and trumpeted…”  !!  Everything about your answer to #2 blessed me!  🙂
       
       

      1. Thanks, Jackie!   Glad I gave you a chuckle!
         
         

    2. Deanna, so excited how He has calmed you through John 1:1-10! :))

  10. Welcome Hope…I am glad that you will be joining our bible study blog sisterhood…so sorry for your loss.
     
    1. What stood out and why?
    “Religion can be compartmentalized … Relationship cannot.”
    “relationship” is such a lovely word to ponder…to think that I am allowed relationship with my Lord…He loves me with a faithful, everlasting love…He provides for me always whether I recognize it or not…I am His beloved and He is mine.  There is sadness in my heart for those who settle for “religion”.
     
    2. Is Christ invading all of your life this Advent? If so, share a specific.
    This has been a different advent/Christmas preparation.  I have let go of many of the “oughts” and “shoulds,” and have been content with “good enough.  I think the memorization of John has been huge; it keeps the Lord front and center as my memorization card is with me pretty much always and I am frequently reviewing the verses.  On the other side of the card, I have “Keep Calm and Focus on Christ” (from Ann Voskamp’s printables).   

  11. Hi everyone, I haven’t been able to participate much recently. I have my family here from Nova Scotia and we are enjoying our two other grandsons. Lively and cute! 
     
    I have been appreciating memorizing John 1. I have found it comforting to recite and ponder it when I lay awake in the still of the night. To ponder profound concepts is great and so reassuring —  like “the Word was with God and the Word was God” and “all things were made by him”, “in him was life”, “the world knew him not”. I am really surprised how well I am doing at remembering, though I have not had a lot of time to commit to it.
     
    I resonate with others earlier comments about focusing on my imperfections. I fell flat-faced during this past week. I was totally caught by surprised; and in an area which I thought I had grown so much. Terrifically humbling! Oh, how we need a Savior! I’m working hard at focusing on my Redeemer, God WITH us! Memorizing John 1 really helps with the focusing!

    1. Diane–so glad to hear you have everyone with you to celebrate! Your humility always convicts me too–last night as I was falling asleep I began reciting my verses (what I have so far!) as you said you were doing–it does bring such peace

  12. Wanted to jump in and wish everyone a wonderful Christmas.  I’m not expecting to have any time on the blog this week, but I may be surprised.  All of my kids, 2 daughters in law, one boyfriend, one former exchange student who lived with us 3 years ago, twin foster grandsons, age 8, and our almost 2 year old grandson will be having our Christmas celebration Monday night, the 22nd, since we can all be together then.  Last week, it came to me that I want to recite John 1:1-14 while everyone is here.  I have practiced many times and know it.  I hope it is meaningful.  I have no idea what our daughter’s boyfriend thinks of our faith. He knows it, from the times he’s around us (2 years now) and I assume it is a topic of discussion with our daughter, but since she lives and follows other ideology, I really don’t know what his understanding is.  My daughter, one son and his wife are all choosing a spirituality that is void of Christianity BUT are also sentimental about the Christmases of their childhood.  I was touched to hear my son say a few months ago, that when we gather at Christmas, he looks forward to singing the carols because that is what his memory of Christmas includes.  So, I am praying that our evening together will have some breakthrough moments; whether I see them now or not.  I know there are others who have similar situations.  Sometimes, I just worry ahead of time that I will be disappointed.  I don’t want to do that.  I want to just be obedient and trust Him.   It isn’t as I thought or imagined and all has changed so much in the past dozen years.  But, I need to trust in the Redeemer.  I need to place my hope firmly in the Light that shines for every one and the Word that was made flesh.  Prayers for all of you.  May we all experience His truth and peace.  

    1. Praying with you Wanda. Merry Christmas!

    2. Wanda – You packed a LOT into a paragraph – I think we all can glean so much for our own family situations from your sharing!  I was especially taken by your idea of sharing the Scripture we have been memorizing with your family….I think that is a stupendous idea and I’m already plotting how to incorporate the same into my family gathering!  It does seem like my unbelieving family members will “tolerate” a certain amount of mom being mom (a weird believer in Christ!) during the Christmas season…..and what better to leave them with that the Living Word?  Great idea – thanks for sharing it!  Praying for your celebration with family tonight……and the seeds that are being planted…..and watered……:)  

    3. Thank you for praying and for your encouragement.  I DID recite John 1:1-14 with just one ‘prompt’ and really, I think it did speak to my kids of how important the Word (both the Word that I read from God and the WORD that became flesh) are to me.  We did sing a lot of carols accompanied by my oldest son on the piano.  And my daughter’s boyfriend sang heartily.  So much I wish I knew about each of them and what they really know and what they believe.  But it’s been a good week.  

  13. Dee I am most intrigued by hearing about your Bible studies and the conversations that take place. It is getting me thinking too of how I communicate things and wanting to be a better listener. I know everything I do I would want to be birthed in prayer,” Not by my might nor by my power but by your Spirit” Zech 4:6 Asking Him how to communicate. I also was thinking of the pondering of why they were not getting it and thought of the scripture. 
     Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4
    All the more need for prayer…… 
    So on to the question “Has The Lord invaded all areas of my life?” MY heart wants Him in all areas, that is my desire and I tell the Lord that. I often will venture out on my own or leaving Him behind running out ahead. I praise God I am seeing that. My thinking (unbelief) can often cripple His power in my life. Even reading of your suggestion of the lighting of the candles on Christmas Eve. “what If” What if I dared to do that??? My thinking says it would not be received well. But what if I pray and the Lord knowing my heart ask that He take the lead and show me How Lord How???? I want You to be a part of my Christmas. You know that is my desire. Show me How. Lord I believe You will answer that prayer.  Help me in my areas of unbelief or doubting. For Your word says…..  Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:20
    Yes Lord I believe. Show me Your Glory!
     

      1. Dee – I am touched that you would take the time to amplify your idea of the candle lighting together to better incorporate the unbelievers we may be sharing Christmas with!  REALLY helpful!

      2. Dee-another GREAT idea..I was hoping to start a tradition but wanted to include the unbelievers in our family. This idea is wonderful. We are hosting our family Christmas which is this Sunday. 

      3. Dee thank you for sharing. I am praying. A big hurdle is the fear and intimidation the enemy likes to hand me. Praying Gods perfect love will cast out ALL fear! Not being held back by my fears. God has not given me a spirit of fear but of power and of love and a sound mind!

      4. Update for me on this..I went out and bought the candles last night. EXCITED and so is Angie my sister in law. She said, “You always come up with great ideas Rebecca!” I told her, I didn’t come up with it, Dee did.  :))) Looking forward to it! The only thing I need ideas on is how to include my other brother and his two daughters along with his daughters significant other-they are lesbians and now engaged. My brother knows Jesus but I don’t think his daughters do. They will be here and I want to include them, but they are in high tide grief, grieving the loss of their mother who committed suicide this year. Right now we are planning on doing it after they leave. They usually leave our gatherings first. I am open to suggestions. 🙂

  14. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
    That I long to grow in my relationship with unbelievers. To listen better, and that I can’t wisely discern situations and conversations without Him.  
     
    What helps me with unbelievers is to remember He invaded my life-I didn’t invade His. I was once agnostic like them. Amazing Love how can it be? 
     
    This leads me to the second thing that stuck out: I find testimony is less offensive than making didactic statements.” “When Christ came into my life, He turned my whole world around. His presence invaded my whole life and affected every decision..”OH SO TRUE!! communicating relationship! This brought to memory His presence INVADING my brother- my first taste of His fragrance. He drew me in for I finally was beyond the point of arguing with Christians if there really was a heaven or hell. :))) and at this point I could care less about the answers to questions like that. I just knew there was a God and I wanted to know Him and so He came to me through my brother and showed me that HE IS PERSONABLE, HIS LOVE IS PATIENT, KIND AND LONGSUFFERING EVEN THROUGH MY HESITATIONS AND IDIOTIC QUESTIONS, HE WANTED ME-and to this day I still am humbled by the hugeness of that! My brother was so patient with me despite me-my prideful, strange questions, immoral lifestyle-yet He loved me and this wasn’t my brothers nature.

  15. Rebecca, so good that you are back with us. Missed you!

    1. Anne, thanks so much-love you too. It is wonderful to be ‘missed’ for I feel the same way about you whenever you can’t be with us. Isn’t His love wonderful? I so see and have experienced it here over and over again. :)))

  16. 5. Take a verse from this section that quickens you and use it as a springboard for prayer.
     
    Oh Father,  As I read these words just now, v.11, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him”, a pang of remorse stirred within me. How many times has this been true of my heart—You came to that which was Your own, my heart, but I shut the door with my defenses. You came today, and because Your patient waiting I finally heard. As I thought of several, 6 actually, relationships that are more than “frayed”, some close to broken, in my life right now—places where words have been said, some are very old wounds, but can still bring fresh tears if I linger on the memories. I brought them to You and You said “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times”—“ as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
    And I felt it. The weight of my sin of un-forgiveness once again.
    And then the overwhelming washing flood of Your forgiveness towards me. And so I give it. I do not know how things can all be healed—without the mutual honesty I long for but do not see. And yet, I stand behind Your shield, under Your covering. I lay down my defense.
    So that I can say, You came to that which is Your own, my heart, and I received You fully. Like an elephant in an apartment, Lord, Your crowd out all the arguments, the record of wrongs, the past mistakes. You overflow my cup. Thank You,  Amen. 
     

    1. Elizabeth, 
       
      Thank you for this:   You said “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times”—“ as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”  And I felt it. The weight of my sin of un-forgiveness once again.   And for this:  You crowd out all the arguments, the record of wrongs, the past mistakes. You overflow my cup. Thank You.       Amen.

      1. Nila, thank you for listening to (reading) my heart words. You bless with your encouragement.  Continuing prayers for you and Mark~

  17. 1. What stands out to you from the above and why?  I like how you (Dee) had the insight to understand why your non-Christian friends were offended about not marrying unbelievers (because they were thinking of religion, not relationship) and how you were able to frame it more as a testimony (this is what happened to me) because really you can’t argue with someone’s personal experience.  You can argue facts and interpretations but not personal experience!  I need to remember that.  As Rebecca said, I need the Lord’s help in my interactions with non-Christians for sure.  I pray that 2015 will be a years of planting, watering and harvesting.  

  18. 5. Take a verse from this section that quickens you and use it as a springboard for prayer.
    Lord I can’t imagine how you must feel. Your purpose in making us-to be with you, to be adored admired and loved to the sky by you yet your desire also is for us to adore, admire and love you to the sky. How beautiful! But we rejected you for worthless sticks even while you were in the flesh in the world you created among the people you created-and the world did not know you. You were rejected and despised by men yet you went to the cross despite us because you love us! Then even after the cross you were rejected by those who knew you and I have rejected you daily when I run to idols. I don’t want to hurt you but my flesh is so bent. I confess just yesterday and this morning I have hurt you with my thought life, help me draw nearer to you..come Lord Jesus Immanuel and invade my heart more-chisel the stones for I can’t chisel them. I am not sure I want the pain though. Lord, I have asked myself do I really, really love you??  I have failed miserably. I love Dee’s picture of the Elephant, for you are in me..You have imprisoned me and it is such a sweet confidence that regardless of my infidelity you are with me and your Grace leads me to repentance..and I confess right now I have to ask myself this question, do I love you, really???  The answer to that right now hurts..DO invade me deeper Lord. As John Donne said, “Take me to you, imprison me, for I except you enthrall me, never shall be free, nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.”

  19. 6. C. S. Lewis talks about the difference between nice people and new men. Keller talks about the difference between being ethical and being born again. Before you listen to the sermon, see if you can come up with some contrasts:
         A nice “ethical” person                                              A born-again person
    This is really very hard!  On the surface it can be really hard to tell.  I have known lots of nice, ethical people.  Honestly, some who seem to be better people than some I have met who name the name of Christ.  I guess one thing I would say is the lack of the Holy Spirit in the nice, ethical people.  Sometimes, when I very first meet someone, I know they are a Believer before they even tell me, because I can sense the Spirit in them.  It’s almost like the nice, ethical person is a flat book and the true Christian is a pop-up book…there is another dimension to them.  Aside from that, I think there is more of a tendency for needing recognition for good works in nice, ethical people verses Christians.  You see this on the news all the time and on talk shows featuring “good people” who do volunteer work, etc…  When they occasionally interview a Christian (like Dr. Kent Brantly) the Christian will deflect the glory and credit back to the Lord (which encourages my heart every time I see such an interview!)  Those are my thoughts on it.  Not much!  Hope to read some others here.
     
     

    1. Mary I like your description of the ethical person flat book vs  true Christian the pop up book. That is a keeper:)

        1. YES!  So often you really do not know.

      1. Ditto on the flat vs. pop up book!

  20. i skipped ahead a bit because I was a little stumped by this question and it came to me this morning.
     
    . How has Christ been a light to you this year?
    This light has been dawning into the darkness my whole life but this year, and especially this Christmas, has been a turning point. Memorizing these verses has been key. I am a child of God. I am a new creation, not because of anything I have done. Sure I repented and turned toward Him, but that was an act of obedience, not the power that changed me. Not of blood or the will of the flesh but of God. I am just in awe of this. I know we know it but do we really understand it? Not for all of eternity I think.
     

  21. This is my first day reading your posts.  I enjoyed it.  The message I received is that we are all created in God’s image and nothing God created is less than perfect. We worship a mighty God and all we have to do is seek him and all things will be given to us.  What a might God we serve!

  22. 6. C. S. Lewis talks about the difference between nice people and new men. Keller talks about the difference between being ethical and being born again. Before you listen to the sermon, see if you can come up with some contrasts:
        A nice “ethical” person vs. a born again person:
     An ethical person is kind and gives to others to get approval from others. If this person believes in God-with hopes to gain acceptance by God. A born again person gives herself away to others and obeys God because she loves God for God not for what God can give her.

    I found this great quote on Facebook from Keller last night: “In religion, you obey because God is useful. In Christianity, you obey because God is beautiful.”                                     
     
     

    1. Love your Keller quote, Rebecca!  (and I’m glad you are doing better.) 

  23. I sort of skipped #2, answered it in my head with how much I have felt His presence, His peace overwhelming us…and THEN a few days ago, that peace began to be challenged.The Enemy I believe–sent an email missile at me from extended family members, ripping open old wounds, and I felt so attacked. The Lord spoke to me to forgive, again, and I am really seeing a new layer, a new level of forgiveness finally begin in me. I keep thinking I am “there”, but times like this remind me it must be done again and again, seven times seven. Then I asked my husband last night to help me see more areas I need to “work on”–and in his honesty, he gave me an answer that was true but hard to hear of my own sinful tendency with one of my own. UGH. Cried myself to sleep, literally, wishing either for the Lord to come back or that I could at least run away to Ann Voskamp’s farm 😉 But this is a new morning, new mercies. I read this from Paul Tripp, “Jesus subjected himself to the fickle and failing love of his followers so that we will know the faithful and unfailing love of the father.” I am fickle and failing, but He is faithful and unfailing. Relationships are messy, but He comes in and cleans, restores, and when I see through tears how sinful I (still) really am, He holds me and whispers that He died for the sick. He is committed to making me new. He will not give up. So the Elephant squeezed His way in and squashes all the mess and smiles at me with open arms as He covers it all. I do like the elephant metaphor–squashing my mess, that helps 🙂

    1. Elizabeth, I agree with Dee…I love this too-God keeps coming. It really bothers me that someone keeps coming at you like this and hurting you. You are so precious-but in the same breath God is using this to chisel so that more of his fragrance can flow from you-and it is! 

  24. I have been enjoying this advent series even though I haven’t been posting much..
    The light continually reminds me of a beacon of hope, drawing me and others to my rescuer.

  25. Merry Christmas everyone!

  26. Merry Christmas!

  27. Yea, Lord, we greet thee,
    born this happy morning,
    Jesus, to thee be all glory given;
    Word of the Father,
    now in flesh appearing;
    O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
    ~Merry Christmas Sisters!

  28. Merry  Christmas and much love to everyone!

  29. The hopes and fears
    Of all the years
    Are met in Thee tonight ~

  30. A Merry and Blessed Christmas to each of you!    Right now we are just waiting for my older daughter to arrive so we can have Christmas  pancake breakfast  and open gifts.    Love to all of you!   

  31. Merry Christmas! God bless you! Merry Christmas to you!

  32. 6. …see if you can come up with some contrasts: 
    A nice “ethical” person      A born-again person
    While it is not objective observation, I think that the true difference is the heart – love. The parable of the unforgiving servant is brought to mind (Matt 18:23-35). One who has truly understood the love given him will then overflow that love onto others. This is seen, albeit subjectively, in this person’s actions. The born-again person will love because he is loved, the “ethical” person will love for approval or gain or even just a sense of being free from judgement? Also there is a confidence in the born-again person – to KNOW he is saved, to know his identity, to know he is loved is to be solid on the love of Christ, unmoveable. An ethical person has to temper the storm of ever-changing standards and opinions and interpretations.
     
    This most manifests when the person is pressed.  A born-again person will ooze love (though I know this is a process of sanctification), the ethical person will ooze whatever is at the heart of his intent (control, desire for approval, etc). This is why I so want to continue memorizing, I want to ooze scripture when pressed instead of just a vague “I know ___ is in the Bible somewhere… so I should ___” If that makes any sense. If the WORD is in my heart, by heart, then Christ will be what comes forth when pressed.

    1. Jill, wonderful post..Love IS the mark of a Christian..and I also liked how you defined love. 

  33. For unto us a child is born
    Unto us a Son is given…
    Merry Christmas to you all. =)
     
    Christ has been a light to me this year by continually drawing me to Him, opening my eyes and teaching me. He shines that light through His Word and here on the blog (as well as other places). Through Dee’s ability to ask probing, contemplative, scripture based questions and through each of you as you share of yourself in what God has shown you, your weaknesses, your desires, and His victories in your lives.
     
    And so I say THANK YOU (truly, truly) to each of you for the gift of unusual friendship, encouragement, exhortation, edification, challenge, prayer, and vulnerability. I thank my God each time of think of you.
     
    I am most struck with two areas of light shining – 1. He has given me a lot of tactile, hold in my hand, walk toward a choice, practical application for clinging to Him this year. and 2. He has calmed and softened my heart and given me eyes to see more clearly in parenting my 2 precious boys. I am grateful for His continued work in my life and teaching me to release and trust and walk with Him.

  34. Dee – FYI the link to the sermon doesn’t work. Is this the one (from the John series, Oct 1990)?
    http://www.gospelinlife.com/new-life-5190.html?___SID=U

  35. Hi everyone…..my family was all together for Christmas (minus our oldest son). I said the prayer for dinner tonight. I decided to recite John 1:1-13! It was nice 🙂 I actually said it all from memory! Although my kids aren’t very spiritual, they “put up with me” through the whole thing. I then decided to ask each person what the highs and lows were for their year. We had a nice conversation about our trials and successes. Thank you Dee for having us memorize this!

    1. Laura-dancer–wow. This so impressed and blessed me! I haven’t gotten all the way through on memorizing–but you’ve inspired me to keep at it. I LOVE picturing you recite it for your family at the table–wow. 

      1. Elizabeth, I told them I would say the prayer, and it would take me a few minutes because I was reciting something I memorized. I started to speak and they all BOWED THEIR HEADS! I was ready to stage a “performance” and THEY lead me to bow and close my eyes too 🙂 tears….after I spoke the entire passage, I read the last verse off my phone and then said, “Amen.” Sarah said to me, “That was only a minute mom, you said it would be a few minutes!” She is really so innocent inside that harsh exterior she presents! Thank You Jesus, for being so good to us. 

      2. =)

    2. Laura Dancer-WOW!!!!! :)))))))) 

    3. YEAH, Laura!  I did mine from memory, but only with my parents. My parents on Christmas eve.

      1. That is very nice too Mary!

    4. Tears, Laura. It’s so wonderful that you were able to prayerfully recite your memorized verses for your family and even Sarah was impressed. What a kiss from the King!

      1. 🙂

  36. This is one of my all time favorite Christmas songs.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrgwL5r7IcU
    It’s by Chris Rice and is called Welcome to Our World.  =)  “So wrap our injured flesh around You, breath our air and walk our sod, rob our sin and make us holy, perfect Son of God…perfect Son of God…Welcome to our world.”

    1. mary–that Christmas album is one of the CDs in our player tonight! Love it too 🙂

    2. What a beautiful Christmas song, Mary e.! Tears!

  37. I posted my Christmas greetings to everyone this morning about 9:20, and I saw it there, but now it is gone!    Should have been right after Nila.    Dee,  can you work your magic and find it?   

      1. Well, Dee,  somehow it showed up again.   It is right where I said it ought to be.   However, it wasn’t there last night.    I have no way of making it right after it has been wrong, so I don’t think it is at my end.   However, I will try to be less vocal about it.   Sorry!    

  38. Merry Christmas with love to all of you! I am so blessed in you.
    I did recieve a copy of Vanishing Grace for Christmas. It is riveting. Oh how we have failed as a church! I don’t know what to say about it. But I was thinking today about Christmas. Last night my husband and I watched the Nativity Story. He was very touched by it and I was thinking about the purity of the story. Just the facts about God coming to us. Though the world has hijacked Christmas to use for its own greedy purposes, it is still the pure light of God shining into the dark and lonely hearts on this earth. It is still a golden opportunity for the love of Christ to shine. My prayer is for His love to shine from each of our hearts to the love starved world around us. God, bless us each in this way.
     

    1. Anne, I received Yancy’s book for Christmas too! So far it is opening my eyes in regard to how others see us and he is spot on. 

      1. Dee, I am so glad we are going to look at this for I think it is the most important point made in evangelical thought in my lifetime. It has been niggling at me for years but I could never form it into a cohesive point. In other words I could not figure out what was wrong. I will pray for God to teach us and also to continue changing our hearts.
         
        Also, YAY Laura!!! You did what I wanted to do with the results that I imagined. 

  39. What does it mean to not be born of:
     
    A. Blood
    We are not children of God because of our pedigree. Not because of who our parents were. God is not a respecter of men.
     
    B. Nor the will of flesh
    We cannot earn our salvation or standing in God’s household. Not by work that we have done but by His Spirit.
     
    C. Nor the will of man
    Man cannot save others. Not even his own children.
     
     
     

    1. Thanks for this Anne, I wasn’t quite sure how to tackle this question….

  40. 10. What does it mean to not be born of:
     
    A. Blood
    When the Holy Spirit comes to live inside, our identity is no longer in our earthly family rather our identity is in Him. We are no longer dead men born of the world, but are alive in Him. 
    B. Nor the will of flesh
    We were dead in our flesh, slaves to our flesh but now we no longer are slaves to our flesh but are alive in Jesus-slaves to Him as he chisels our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.
    C. Nor the will of man
    In Jesus we are no longer bound by the will of man-living for what they think of us, whether or not they approve of us, and shaping our lives by how the world thinks we should live. Our world is completely upside down from theirs because, via the help of the Holy Spirit, we are bending to His will and not mans. 
     
     

  41. 2. Is Christ invading all of your life this Advent? If so, share a specific.
     
     
    Pretty sure this is happening to me…..I don’t know if I mentioned how I have been concerned about my injured hip hurting over the last few months being associated with my breast cancer? My mom’s cancer went into her bones and although it is not genetic in my family, I kept wondering. My oncologist and my radiologist both attributed my rib pain and hip pain (same side) to the radiation. They said I can heve these symptoms up to a year after treatment. They never ordered any type of imaging to be done, and it sat in the back of my head. Then, I injured my hip. I had an x-Ray to see if I damaged the bone. I told the orthopaedic nurse practitioner I saw the story of my fears with the cancer and she said she didn’t see anything that looked like a tumor on the bone. I wonder, my nurse friends, if what she said was true? I kinda was comforted by what she said, and wonder if my injury was “sent” by God to ease my fears?
     
     
    The second infiltration of God is with my Sarah. My husband has convinced her to come back home and save money by taking a job her friend (I like) can get her here. She will store her things near his sisters in NJ, and be here in March. It is amazing how she will listen to him and not me! I have had to let that control idol go a LONG time ago 🙂 This happening, is a direct answer to a prayer request I made over the past few weeks to the “prayer warriors” at my church! I asked them to pray that her heart would soften and she would see that she needed help. Help came in the form of her friend   here and in my husband. Thank You Lord Jesus for invading my life this advent!
     

    1. Laura,  So grateful for this news about Sarah 🙂

    2. Laura–praying about your concerns with your hip–and praising with you for this news about Sarah!

    3. Great news, Laura, about Sarah. Definitely an answer to prayer. And I truly hope that your hip injury is not related to the breast cancer. I am glad that the tests were comforting.

    4. Laura, what blessed invasion…thanks for sharing.  Love that you recited John 1:1-13…what a nice moment for you and yours.

    5. Laura that is such wonderful news about Sarah!   I’m sure that is a big relief to you.    It is interesting how we parents think our kids aren’t going to make it, but  somehow amazingly they do — because God doesn’t forget about them.   Of course, God doesn’t have a chance to forget because we mothers keep praying!!  🙂  Glad your fears about your hip are somewhat alleviated also!   So good that you can see God’s footprint in the removal of your fears!

  42. We had a beautiful, simple Christmas and I am thankful. The “darts” from my extended family from afar stirred up pain and some of my own mess in my heart–but by His grace He showed me such a beautiful new (for me) thought. We think and talk much of Jesus’ lowly birth…the stable, the ,manger…but what struck me as we read yesterday–is that not only does this show me the humility of my King–but it shows me He makes His home in the messiest of all places. The dirty, smelly manger scene-His birth room. And so my dirty, smelly heart is not too much for Him–He makes His home there too. He proves again I do not have to be “cleaned up” for Him, I do not have to perform for Him. His lowly birth scene reminds me He comes to the broken, dirty places, to restore and make all things new. 

    1. I loved this Elizabeth:
      “And so my dirty, smelly heart is not too much for Him–He makes His home there too.”
       
      Oh Yes! Thank You Jesus!

    2. Your thoughts about Jesus coming to be with us in our messiness are similar to how God helped me this Christmas, Elizabeth. Amen! We often want a “picture perfect Christmas” but my family and my Christmas is imperfect and messy. I am so thankful that God loves us in our messiness. We do not have to be perfect or “perform” for Him. He loves us anyway! He came into a messy stable and He has come into my messy heart and messy life.

    3. Elizabeth, I love this too: He makes his home in the messiest of places-the dirty, smelly manger. So my dirty smelly heart is not too much for Him-He makes his home there too..**GOLD.

  43. 11. What contemplations do you have on verses 12 and 13?
    We are born again, into the household of God through the blood of Christ. This is how we are born of God. How simple but we have made it so complex. I guess one could contemplate forever on why. There must be about as many reasons as there are people on this earth. Maybe I should ask, why do I do it. That is the only one I can really answer. For one, I feel responsible and that I am one sorry human being if I can’t be perfect. I know I am not perfect but often it looks like everyone else is (at least the ones who aren’t sorry), so I try to hide it. For another, I want to be independent. If I can save myself then I can create my own little world, make my own rules and essentially be God myself. And, I find it possible, very easy actually to live in denial of these heart motives. 

  44.  
    5. Take a verse from this section that quickens you and use it as a springboard for prayer.
    10. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
     
    Oh Lord it is amazing how you are present with us and we do not see, hear, or feel You. We allow our busyness to take over and we forget. We are like “Your people” in the verse…..who did not know You nor receive You. Help me to be better at recognizing Your presence. Help me to settle down, breathe, and listen for You when times are hectic. Help me be calm in these times and focus my attention to You. I want to keep You in my morning, noon, and night, Lord. Thank You for being my Savior.

    1. Laura, you don’t see the elephant but we do..oh boy is He invading your heart!! :)))) What joy.

  45. You all encouraged me so this week..reading how he is with you in your messy homes and lives this Christmas! :))) So as a mom and wife with a messy heart  I take away this encouragement from Elizabeth for I have been feeling a bit depressed due to all the business and the sickness this past month-my eyes haven’t been doves eyes, but my dirty smelly heart is not too much for Him..In this season where the smell of my heart is pretty bad-it isn’t too much for Him to make fragrant. He is my hope, Hallelujah! 

  46. Someone here asked about recommended daily devotionals.  (I think it was Liz.)    
    Streams in the Desert, by Mrs. Charles Cowman,  is one I have used off and on over the past 40 +  years.