Why is this happening…

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Why is this happening to me? Why me? Everyone of us at some point has asked “why”? When I think of someone crying why I for some reason always picture Nancy Kerrigan grabbing her knee after it was hit by a thug with a club as she was leaving an ice skating rink in 1994. The camera crew covering the event showed Kerrigan grabbed her knee and saying over and over again “Why,Why, Why…?” You don’t have to be a Christian to know this world is not as it should be. There is something inside of us that sees the the injustice, pain and inequality of this world and knows that we were made for so much more. We instinctively know that this world is broken and falling apart. As Christians we are not immune from the effects of this pain and the brokenness of this world. What we do have is living hope. We have a light that shines in the darkness of our darkest days. We have a hope that whispers to us in the beauty of a perfect day and screams at us in the darkness of our worst “Behold I make all things new.”

Christmas hope no matter how dark the darkness

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Christmas is a paradoxical holiday it is filled with such joy and at the same time reminds us of great losses. When studying the other night, I came across a message by Tim Keller that talks about how the light of Christmas dispels the shadow of death. I found it convicting and encouraging. I hope that each of you who feel overwhelmed this Christmas can find your hope in the light the gospel provides. We have much to be hopeful for and rejoice about. We celebrate at Christmas how Jesus came close.

“As silent as snow falling, he came in. And when no one was looking into the darkness, he came.” – Sally Lloyd-Jones

Just before Bonhoeffer was executed, he wrote this to a friend: “Death is the supreme festival on the road to freedom.”

“Death used to be an executioner, but because of the gospel, Jesus has made death just a gardener. All death can do is plant me in his love and make me come up in ways I’ve never been before.” George Herbert

What is Bonhoeffer saying? What is that? A light dawned on Bonhoeffer. In spite of the fact that there was darkness all around him, the shadow of the fear of death, because he believed Jesus Christ was from that other world, born into this world, Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the debt the human race owed to justice, so when we died believing in him we can have no fear of anything we have done somehow stymying us or drawing us down so we don’t have to be afraid of death in any way, what did that mean?

Because Bonhoeffer wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Because Bonhoeffer was afraid of death, he didn’t care about comfort. He didn’t care about affluence. He didn’t care about power or pleasure or sex or money. He didn’t care. That’s why his people said, “You have it made. You can be a successful professor out here away from Germany. You don’t have to go back in there.”

He didn’t want to not go back. Why not? The shadow of death did not fall on him. He lived in a dark world, but because he believed in Jesus, a light dawned. Because Jesus was born in a manger, that means this world is not all there is.

If you let the knowledge of what Jesus Christ is and has done dawn in your life like Bonhoeffer, you can walk around in any part of the world, any century, any situation without fear.

Bonhoeffer is the exact opposite of the kind of person western Civilization according to Ernest Becker is producing. He wasn’t obsessed with romance and love. He wasn’t obsessed with money. He wasn’t being driven to be successful. There was nothing frantic about him. Because he wasn’t afraid of death, he wasn’t afraid of anything. Christmas means fear no darkness. Christmas means fear not. The angels are always showing up in all the Christmas stories saying, “Fear not, Mary. Fear not, Zechariah. Fear not. Fear no darkness.”

Powerful profound truths to ponder this Christmas season. Thank you, Tim Keller. May the light of Christmas dispel the shadow of death in your life. May the hope and joy of Advent fill your heart as you seek him!

Parents don’t miss Christmas

Have spiritual conversations with your kids

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I am a huge fan of C. S. Lewis in general and the Narnia series in particular. I read through the Naria series with each of my kids and have stumbled onto something by accident that Lewis did on purpose. Lewis used the imaginary world of Narnia to tell us about the world we live in. He was so brilliant because his imaginary world creates context for things that are hard for kids (and adults for that matter) to grapple with.

Lewis through his series talks about greed, God’s sovereignty, Heaven, Redemption and many more topics. Each of these is difficult because young kids are such concrete thinkers so abstract ideas are difficult to convey. Lewis through the world that he made for us in Narnia gives us what we as parents are so desperately looking for, concrete metaphors for abstract realities.

One of the more profound illustrations of this is found in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Here is what Lewis says

“The White Witch?” said Edmund; “who’s she?”

“She is a perfectly terrible person,” said Lucy. “She calls herself the Queen of Narnia thought she has no right to be queen at all, and all the Fauns and Dryands and Naiads and Dwarfs and Animals—at least all the good ones—simply hate her. And she can turn people into stone and do all kinds of horrible things. And she has made a magic so that it is always winter in Narnia—always winter, but it never gets to Christmas. And she drives about on a sledge, drawn by reindeer, with her wand in her hand and a crown on her head.”

Living in upstate New York, where last winter it didn’t get above 32 degrees for over 9 weeks straight, this illustration hits home. To suffer through a perpetual winter without the joy, hope and life that Christmas brings would be unbearable. I can’t think of a better illustration for life without the advent of Christ. Our life without the joy and hope that Christ brings is cold, lifeless and hopeless. So parents this Christmas use Lewis’ particularly vivid illustration of what life is like without Christ to bring to life the true meaning of Christmas for your kids. To think of life without Christmas for any child is utterly unthinkable. To think of life without Christ should be equally unthinkable.

Merry Christmas.

The blessings in suffering

Update from Sandra

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I want to start by sincerely thanking everyone for all you have done for my family and me. I will not forget your kindness. Every card, prayer, donation and helping hand has helped us more than you know. Thank you.

This time has been challenging for me and my family. It has been the hardest thing we have faced together. I have not felt as weak and as helpless as I do right now. Every day I have to trust God for his help and strength to take things one day at a time.

But even at this time I see the blessings in the midst of my pain. I see my oldest son so strong and stable like we have never seen him before. I see the heart of my second son willing to drop everything to make me toast or simply pick up toys laying in the living room. I hear my oldest daughter pray for me and tell me she loves so much and my youngest who is two, turns to me and says “your going to be fine mom, don’t be scared” then hands me her favorite blankie. I can’t help but see that as God at work in the lives of my kids. That is a blessing to me. It’s a blessing that has to come through hardship that wouldn’t have been seen any other way, and I’m thankful. There is blessing in suffering, I see it and I feel it.

Things you can pray for with me:

  • That my nausea will subside that my strength would increase daily.
  • During Christmas, my blood counts will be at their lowest pray that I will be healthy and strong.
  • Health for my kids.
  • I have to take shots to increase my white blood cell counts – They produce achy bones and flu-like symptoms
  • Most of all pray that at the end of these three months I won’t need any more treatments or radiation.

Merry Christmas,
Sandra

Never Waste A Crisis

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Machiavelli first said, “Never waste the opportunity offered by a good crisis.” Winston Churchill popularized Machiavelli by saying “Never let a good crisis go to waste” Republicans and Democrats differ on many things one thing they both agree on is more power and more influence is better than less. A crisis therefore, allows politicians to consolidate power and expand influence. To use their strength to grow stronger by preying on the weaknesses of others. A crisis is an opportunity for them to boast in their strength.

For the Christian the idea of not wasting a crisis is altogether different, rather than projecting strength at the expense of others you boast in your weakness. Paul says in 2 Corinthians that as Christians, servants of God we commend ourselves not in our self-confidence not in our success but actually in our weakness.