The Scandal With Jesus: Four Things You Should Know

 

Read: Matt. 1:1-17

Family drama anyone?

Jesus’s genealogy is an important part of the Christmas story, yet many times never mentioned.  If we look closely, we can see family drama as early as the 1st patriarch, and it doesn’t get any better the farther down we travel.  Jesus’s family tree is sketchy at best; He comes from a line of cowards (Abraham, willing to give Sarah to a foreign kings to save his life), sell-outs (Esau, Jacob’s brother Gen. 25:27-34), attempted murderers (Judah and brothers Gen. 37:17-19), liars, womanizers (King David), a harlot (Rahab), idolators (Solomon), and men who completely turned away from God entirely (Josiah’s sons).

So why did God chose to send His one and only Son into the world to claim DNA, or, at least in part, amongst such colorful characters?  Why did Jesus chose to give up His throne to be part of a family tree of ancient, middle-eastern yeehaws?  What does it mean for you and me?

1. What He says is True, and He sticks to His Promises.

Only God can fulfill prophecy; no ordinary person can make miracles happen out of nothing, nor can they orchestrate circumstances in time to play out just right so ancient prophetic tales can come true. Here are a few prophecies that point to Jesus, spanning 2,000 years before He was delivered in the small, desert town of Bethlehem, in a dingy, lowly manger:

Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham: Gen. 12:3 – Matt.1

Messiah would be a descendent of David: 2 Sam. 7:12-16 – Matt.1:6

Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, fulfilled in Matt. 1:18)

Born in Bethlehem Micah 5:2 fulfilled in Matt. 2:3-6)

Here is an extensive list of many prophecies fulfilled by Jesus.

2. God loves real people.

Whether you’re crazy, weird, drama-filled, dumb, fearful, cowardly, mean, or just plain full of yourself, God came for you (and me)!  He came to break the chain of spiritual darkness of family ties to chaos, unrest, sadness, fear, selfishness, lust, sexual addictions, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, hate, pride, and conceit.

I have a “once was lost and now am found” story.  I was raised in a Christian home from the time I was 6. My family was heavily involved in church and we had an extensive Christian community we surrounded ourselves with.  However, by the time I entered high school I had decided that God was just not cool enough for me to identify with.  I called it religion.  I stuffed it in my back pocket and closed the door to the closeness I once had with Jesus.  I told my close friends if they asked but my lifestyle was contrary to living a life of obedience to God (more on that later;) He waited for me.  When I was 19 I married, someone I thought was the man of my dreams but he was not God’s dream for me.  Eleven months and 3 days shy of our 1 year anniversary he told me I wasn’t the one for him. He said I couldn’t possibility be all there is to offer in a wife. OUCH! I told him we needed Jesus (it had finally hit me a little too late) and he said that if we couldn’t fix us God couldn’t fix us. (HUH! little did he know).  By the time I was 22 I was already divorced. Not a very good track record for someone who really wanted to meet Mr. Right one day. I walked further from God.  I filled my heart and life with things that pleased me but never filled me.  I tried to satisfy a void in my soul that was insatiable by human effort.  It was a void that could only be filled by true love.  The love of a God that not only knew me, chased me for 12 long years, pursued me, but was relentless in not letting me go down a dark path (even if I didn’t really think it was dark at the time).

I prayed. I asked God to come back into my life. I surrendered my will. My pride. My way. My plans. Everything. I just didn’t want to carry around the ugly, black, lonely baggage of divorce, the baggage that screams you’ve just been rejected and you’re unlovable and damaged and good luck finding love again.   And the only way I knew to do that was to turn to the only One I had heard really loved me.

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”- Romans 5:8 ESV

3. God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things for Him.

Although almost everyone in His lineage has infamous claims to the “wall of shame”, God turned their lives around by using them to be part of His epic love story for humanity. If we let him, we too, can be the paragon of what He can do with you and me.

In my loneliest moment God touched an area of my heart that hadn’t been touched before.  He let me know I wasn’t alone.  I began walking in Him, surrendering moment by moment.  See, I had walked a God-less life for 12 years I had no reassurance of what a Christian’s walk should feel like; I hadn’t quite felt “Christian” in a long time.  It’s been 13 years since I made the decision to follow Jesus.  I get now that he uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.  He’s been using the simple life of a very ordinary girl to do great things for Him.  They might not seem big to anyone looking in but for me to know that a God so big can be so present, that a God so mighty can take one small little life and turn it into a victory dance for all to see is totally extraordinary.

4. He can forgive anything…ANY.THING. (Just read about King David and Rahab), and I mean ANYTHING.

Grace is a real thing. If you haven’t read my article on grace , you need to do that 😉

Christians love to give away: John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”) , but we forget to give away John 3:17, the proceeding verse:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17 NIV)

Jesus came to rescue us from our own depravity and fill the void within that only He can fill.  He wants to change us from within and make us new.

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” (John 12:46 NIV)

The scandal in Jesus’s family tree gives us proof that He can turn sad endings into (eternal) happily ever afters. It demonstrates that even though He is perfect, He loves imperfect people, even to the point of dropping His crown and coming to our muck and dwelling amongst us in order to give us a dose of heavenly love, so that one day we might chose to love Him back.  The scandal is this: how can anyone have the sense, the dignity, the logic to give someone a second chance when everything about the person calls for persecution not redemption.  The scandal starts with a King who gave humanity a chance based on true love not performance.  I love how He’s using this simple, once scandalous, girl to do things for Him here on this imperfect earth.

What’s He doing in your life that is extraordinary?

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Finding Rest in the Rush: Preparing your Heart for Christmas

mvhd5qvldww-anna-dziubinska How do you prepare your heart for Christmas?  Is it another holiday or is sacred?  How do you find rest in rushing during this season?

I have to admit sometimes I get caught up in the mix of commercialized Christmas.  My mind quickly shifts from Thanksgiving, thoughts of Pilgrims who came to this country on a hard journey, endured sickness, cold and death, forged friendships with strangers, shared a meal in gratitude and friendship with the ones who lent their hand of skill and survival to Christmas Crazy! All in one month. Christmas can quickly become distorted because of the rush and expectations of it all.  With a little rest I think we can regain the meaning of this season. {Jesus}

At this time of year I ask myself how can I slow-down with so many committments? How can I put Christ first when business distorts that and I wind up with more of a whole lotta things I didn’t bargain for like a ragged woman staring right back at me in the mirror.

And here’s what I came up with:

1. Prioritize

If it’s on my calendar I ask is this necessary right now, this month?  Is it dire? Will I die if it doesn’t get done, will someone else die if it doesn’t get done (and if so do I like that person, which might change your response to question 2…kidding;) Like dental and OBGYN appointments, necessary but maybe doesn’t have to be this month even if your due, as in due for an appointment, not due as in going into labor due. Cause by all means get yourself to the nearest hospital and have that baby and enjoy the little vacay. (If you have more than 1 kid you know what I am sayin;) The point: rid your calendar of all {un}necessaries, the goal: spend time with family, spend time with Jesus, after all isn’t He the one we celebrate.

Ultimately, what’s important this month? Minimize to make time for things that matter. The rush is only a rush if you’re in it.

2. Be Still. Be Quiet.

Can I say that? We’re friends right? If it’s not our mouths that are always running, it’s our minds.  And if you’re a woman reading this you have 1 or both of those problems goin on. Don’t even try to deny it. I am not judging; Let’s face it being busy wins us some sort of honorary place in society that labels us worthy of respect simply because we’re busy, we’re just like everyone else, we fit right in.  And we wear our badges of honor proudly as we gather round chatting about just how busy we are  and sighing our little sighs of disbelief as we add more and more to our already cramped calendar.

3. Go Less. Stop More.

Hectic starts with a capital G and ends with a big fat O.  In my opinion the rest begins at home, in the quiet moments (if you’re a stay-at-mom with littles running around those are far and few in between but there is still simple moments to be had in the crazy of home life with kids around).  It’s in the stillness of a sunrise peaking in the kitchen window before everyone arises, or the stalling of a head on the pillow before small feet hit the floor, or snuggling on a couch with a good book or the embrace of a loved one.  Rest isn’t found in r-u-s-h. If your stage of life beckons you to move, rush, go, run, walk faster, eat quicker, stay out later, than you need to fight for your rest more forcefully.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…for in 6 days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…but he rested on the seventh.” Exodus 20:8-11

Our choosing to rest sets us apart from the world.  The world doesn’t rest.  America      doesn’t rest. We work. We work hard. And we are very proud of it.  Rest (we think) is for sissies and we are not sissies! And yet God set an example for us to rest after a long week of work.  I wonder what our bodies would be like if we took His advice. Rest, ultimately, is found in s-t-o-p-p-i-n-g.  Do what you gotta do and don’t what ain’t gotta.

Challenge yourself to get your Christmas shopping done in 1 day, all online or one trip to the store. Let me know how you do?

4. Remember

In the old testament we see God always asking his people to remember.  He asks them to remember the good times and the bad times.  (Deut. 8:2, Joshua 4:1-7, Jeremiah 7:12) Why? Because remembering helps us focus on the One who brought us this far, who delievered us from darkness, from trials, and danger and the One who even, while we went through pain, heartache He was there.  Remembering is a powerful tool for putting perspective on a very busy season. On the other hand forgetting leads to complacency.  If this season is a mere holiday of stacking gifts under the tree, checking off lists, attending office parties and chruch events than we missed it.  If we remember, {Jesus} the reason we are so busy than this whole list makes sense.

Don’t let Christmas lose it’s luster for cheaper things like rushing around tyring to get it all done, gift giving and reciveing, and the other distractions this commerciallized month brings.  Be set apart.  Let the world see that the celebration of His birth is the reason we do this thing.  Let them see that He’s worth it. Let us be different.

5. Play

Let’s face it which mom has time to play?? As much as I dream and think about how I need to play more with my growing babies who are now 8,9 and 4 (and my awesome husband) I don’t.  I want this season to be a time when we play and spend more time together.  Here are things we do to slow down this season. This list if for grannies too and young couples with no kids, we all fall into the rush if we’re not careful.

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-Christmas Book picnic by a fire

-Bust out the Christmas china (garage sale finds) and have a fancy tea time over Advent verses

-Cuddle on a couch and watch a Christmas movie together (sounds easy but trying doing with a sink full of dishes and see how tempting it is to wash instead of watch)

-Take your man out

-Bake for your neighbors, and yourselves

-Make homemade gifts for each other (mom’s do it too;0)

-Chop wood together (a chore that needs to be done is a chore better done together;)

How do you find rest during this month?  How do you chill during the chaos? How do you play? Add to my list.

 

 

 

The Cure for Fear Lies in 2 Simple Antidotes

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We moved homes in 2010 from city-life to country -life and I was in for a big surprise.  Up until then I had been raised in a big city and never lived in any other type of environment except a big city.  The lights, the noise, the bustle, yes and even the pollution (that you don’t even realize you miss until you move to the middle of NO WHERE) were all craved luxuries.  I’ll preface that by mentioning we had lived in a rural town, rural as in it only had 5,000 people in the entire town, a Piggly Wiggly, and a Walmart. We moved right after college  due to my husband’s first job.  We tried to get out of there as fast as we got there. Because again, I am (at heart) a city-girl. Ain’t no shame in that.

But after moving back to the city we began to miss the quiet of the country, the stars ( I had no idea you could actually see them so close or at least they appear that way when smog is not invading the view) and the space, oh the space and need I mention the privacy.  Oh! the irony of hindsight!

So, naturally we decided to buy in the country, a beautiful home on 2 acres with wide open spaces and a little creek to boot in a small country town in Texas not too far from city life and yet definitely rural enough you could hear cows mooing and giving birth (as I’ve come to understand the noise to be).  Maybe we were growing up.  It was time to give this country thing a chance.

The first day of move in I excitedly began unpacking and putting my beautiful country kitchen together. As I opened our first box and reached in to grab a pot I suddenly jumped 10 feet back (yes, 10 feet people, ok, don’t argue!) I screamed and ran across the other side of the house and I would not come out of the room I ran to.  I saw a spider. The size of a shoe. Yes a shoe! Listen, size doesn’t really matter…in this situation.  It was a spider and I had never seen one like that before.  I called my dad (not sure why, he lived 8 hours away not sure what I thought he could actually do for me at that point) I was sure he had some reason I had to hear however.  He always does. He’s one of those dads.  He did manage to calm me down and did remind me that it wouldn’t kill me.  He also reminded me that it is probably more afraid of me (remember those annoying little talks when you were little and you were afraid of mice and roaches and they’d {the voice of reasons in your life} would tell you that they’re more afraid of you.  I wasn’t buying that one but it made logical sense. I eventually came out of the room and mustered up the will power to get some windex and windex him to death. Eventually they were EVERY WHERE. EVERY. WHERE. After an entire week of knots in my stomach and anxiety and missing the city,  I had to figure out who these spiders were and what they wanted with me.  Found out actually they aren’t poisonous at all, they weave the most beautiful webs and they actually help me out by killing and eating more gross things and pesky things.  So I decided we’d be distant friends. I overcame my fear. Her name? The Orb spider.

When I read the Apostle Paul’s story in Acts 21 I thought about fear in a very real way…not like my pathetic city-girl fear of spiders way.

Acts chronicles Paul’s journey from Christian slayer to Christian martyr.  His transformation is no doubt the invisible hand of God at work in a man whose purpose in life was to glorify God by telling ordinary people about the extraordinary love of Jesus, to give the European and Asian world a taste of the love of a Savior even unto death.  He faced shipwrecks, beatings, imprisonment, black-balling, stoning, hate and eventual death.  He always knew he was going to die for Christ.  One of those most astonishing things he says is in verse 12. His friends are crying because he tells them he might not see them anymore.  He’s headed to Jerusalem and the Jews want him dead.  Paul is forewarned of his imminent death and yet knows he has to face Jerusalem.

And he says, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? “

(Not sure bout you but I’d be weeping and bawling, wrapping myself in my friends arms, throwing myself on the floor, trying to escape reality, it would be an outright drama scene) but he continues,

“I am ready not only to bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I believe that Paul just like Jesus feared death.  But fear was overcome with 2 powerful weapons: knowledge and perspective

  1. Knowledge (of the “unknown”): he knew the “unknown” possibility because God prepared his heart for it.  I believe God wants to prepare our hearts for the bumps and bruises, sufferings of life and yes even death if we let him.  When fear grips us it’s usually because we have no knowledge of our purpose in Him.  Know your purpose and fearful situations won’t keep you from walking in {His} strength.
  2.   Perspective: Paul knew what was important.  He saw life as a gain and he saw death as a gain.  If death is the worse thing that could happen to us then the outcome is pretty victorious. I’d take one day in heaven over a million here. However if you are on the other side and you don’t know what the outcome of your death will be then fear can be crippling.

Let’s live like Paul!

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have complete boldness, so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. So what shall I choose? I do not know.…”

What is your hope in fearful situations?  What’s your biggest fear? Do you get crippled with fear?  How do you handle fear? What steps do you take?