The Secret Verse in one of Your Favorite Christmas Carols

Christmas is a time of joy and anticipation. We celebrate God coming to earth and bringing life. In the words of the Christmas song by Andy Williams, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!

But where does the joy come from? Does it come from the family time, the rest, or the candlelit services? Does it come from an eagerness to pull the wool over our eyes and pretend the world is perfect?

Do we sometimes oversimplify the disposition of the season? For many people, Christmas is a time when memories of loss and hurt come crashing in around.

True Christmas joy starts with the realization of pain. We have lost loved ones. Terrorists are attacking our world. Our wrong choices made it necessary not just for Jesus to come to earth, but for Him to die to save us.

I have sung the Christmas hymn “We Three Kings of Orient Are” my entire life. It was written by Rev. John Henry Hopkins in 1857. These words are probably familiar to you:

“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star.

“O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light.”

The first verse and chorus speak of Jesus’ perfect light. But have you ever seen or heard of the fifth verse?

“Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb.”

This verse acknowledges the pain. It celebrates Christ’s perfect light by remembering His sacrifice. It remembers that Jesus embraced pain and death so that joy and life could triumph in our hearts.

The reality that God became man and entered into our world so that He could save us from ourselves should make us ecstatic. We should party and be filled with joy.

But before the party can begin, we must take a real look at ourselves. We must see the loss, the brokenness, the sin. We must realize that we can’t change these things, and that is why we have Christmas.

Because Jesus came to take our pain and death and replace them with joy and life. “We Three Kings of Orient Are” is about joy, but the verse that remembers the pain is the reason the joy is so sweet.

We can’t ignore the darkness. We must remember the darkness so that when we celebrate the light, it glows even brighter.

So as you prepare to celebrate Christmas,
“Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Earth to heav’n replies.”

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I’m Becoming a God-Adrenaline Junkie

This summer I experienced roller coasters for the first time. I may have started out a bit energetically with the Fury – the tallest giga coaster in the world. My friends and I rode it four times in a row…

At first, I thought I was crazy to trust my life to a flying hunk of lime-green metal with waist straps. I glanced at the exit stairs. But I was already locked in.

The train started rolling up the 325 foot climb. Sitting near the back of the train, we had to watch each car in front drop off the edge before we did. I questioned my sanity as the car directly in front of us pitched down.

My lips and eyelids plastered back against my face. My head weighed 100 pounds as we careened upward again. I’m pretty sure some saliva went flying as we twisted through a loop. For a second, it looked like we would smash into the ground, but instead we swooped underground before coming out of a tunnel on the other side of a sidewalk.

Before I could catch my breath from the first drop, the train was sliding back into the loading dock. I couldn’t speak, but for some crazy reason all I wanted to do was go again.

That day at Carowinds is one of my favorite memories from the summer, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I realized my newfound love for roller coasters is just like my love for God.

Well, maybe not just like ;). But think about it. God is the roller coaster car. He takes us through the tracks of life. We can try to go slowly on our own, climbing up the coaster rung by rung without Him, but it’s a lot better to trust Him and ride in the car.

As we go, we will get a little bent out of shape, we will feel incapable of continuing, we will lose some things, and we might think we can’t survive, but God’s got us the whole time.

When we realize that God has us, faith sets us free to have a blast. Even though we’re scared of the 325 foot drop, nothing can touch us because our harnesses are secured up in heaven.

We get to throw our hands up and fly through the God-adrenaline rush! Every time we obey and step out in faith, even though we’re scared, we get to feel God catch us with His harnesses.

When I know I am following God’s will, and He is taking care of me, there is nothing like the rush from telling a stranger what God has done in my life, or flying across the world for a mission trip, or helping a friend even when I’m short on time.

So that’s why I’m becoming a God-adrenaline junkie. Life with God is a roller coaster, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
    you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
    in the night also my heart instructs me.
I have set the Lord always before me;
    because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices;
    my flesh also dwells secure.
For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol,
    or let your holy one see corruption.

You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”  Psalm 16:5-11

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Will I Remember?

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As I scroll through my newsfeed this afternoon, I wonder if my life will ever be the same. Will I remember 20 years from now that I was reading Billy Graham Library surveys and doing laundry on a Friday afternoon when I saw a post from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association about Paris?
Will this day be as significant as the day 14 years ago when I was in first grade, and my teacher turned on the TV-cart so we could see what was happening in New York? Will this be one of the formative moments for my generation?

No one knows the answer; it will probably work itself out of the shadows over the next several weeks. But one thing I do know: my God has promised me something that can never be blown apart by this world – even if World War III has begun.

In a promise named “The Eternal Covenant of Peace” my God says,

For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed.”  Isaiah 54:10

When I cling to this promise, even World War III doesn’t seem detrimental. God has placed me here, in this time for a reason, and you are here for a reason too.

Let’s stand bravely upon the Word of the sovereign God. Let’s bathe our every moment in prayer. Let’s live in the quiet direction of the Holy Spirit upon our lives. Let’s love the people around us with the love He has lavished upon us. Let’s be the best representatives of Jesus this world has ever seen.

God has more for us than average lives. God has more for us than natural lives. God has supernatural purposes for us. We can only fulfill God’s supernatural purpose through His supernatural power. With His arms wrapped tight around us, He whispers,

“Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
That’s right. Because I, your God,
    have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic.
    I’m right here to help you.’”  Isaiah 41:10,13 THE MESSAGE

When we give Jesus what we have, as inadequate as it is, His blessing performs miracles. Jesus fed the 5000 with the five loaves and two fish that a boy gave.

But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:9-10

God is in the business of taking our mess and making it His message.

He is enough.

We have the perfection of heaven to look forward to, but until God calls us home, it is our privilege to be His ambassadors to the world. In eternity we won’t get to suffer for Jesus anymore. It is our privilege to suffer for the Kingdom of the God who gave His life for us.

“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.”  1 Peter 4:13-14

Let the joy of the Lord fill your spirit today. Be encouraged in His sufficiency.

To learn more about peace with God, visit peacewithgod.net.

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Photo art by Rachel Hollis

7 Promises God has made You

God makes more than 3500 promises to us in the Bible. 3500! I wonder if I have even made 3500 promises over the course of my life?

I wish I could list all 3500 of God’s promises. If I were to post one of God’s promises everyday, I wouldn’t finish for the next 10 years. I can’t imagine how such an undertaking would help me to realize God’s truth in my life!

God’s promises should be the air by which we breathe. Today I’m going to share seven, one for each day this week. Let God’s truth seep into your heart. Search out the passages, study them, cling to them, live by them – they are God’s promises to you!

“I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed. I’ll put my Spirit in you and make it possible for you to do what I tell you and live by my commands.”  Ezekiel 36:26-27 THE MESSAGE

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  John 8:36 ESV

“So let God work his will in you. Yell a loud ‘no’ to the Devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet yes to God and he’ll be there in no time.”  James 4:7-8 THE MESSAGE

Is anyone crying for help? God is listening,
ready to rescue you.
 Psalm 34:17 THE MESSAGE

“But this I call to mind,
    and therefore I have hope:
 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;

    his mercies never come to an end;
 they are new every morning;

    great is your faithfulness.
 ‘The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,

    “therefore I will hope in him.'”  Lamentations 3:21-24 ESV

“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.'”  John 14:13-17 ESV

“Don’t panic. I’m with you.
    There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
    I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you.
That’s right. Because I, your God,
    have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go.
I’m telling you, ‘Don’t panic.
    I’m right here to help you.’”  Isaiah 41:10,13 THE MESSAGE

Jesus said yes to the cross so He could say yes to us for all eternity. Bask in God’s yesses to you. Be God’s yes to the world. If you want to learn more about God’s ultimate yes to you, check out: Peace with God.

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Two Girls on a Bench

Two Girls on a Bench

The leaves are crashing down and up again
while sunlight beats the burnished grass’s blades.
Two girls adventure, smiling now and then,
while crunching streams of fallen leaves. They would
be free to pause in summer’s soft embrace,
but bitter cold will soon descend un-stalled.
The warmth of time won’t stay within a place –
the gentle day will soon be dead and mauled.
Right now, the girls enjoy their laughing fun,
delaying time’s progressing, ticking tock
by lying backs against a bench. Then one
careening leaf invades their eyes with shock.
The day is lost. It raced away obscene.
In lieu of slow respite, it passed routine.

Writing poetry is like playing a game. Each word is a puzzle piece that must be discovered. Do you like to deconstruct the poetic puzzle? Or would you rather read for the words alone?

If you’re looking to read great poetry, take a look at the Psalms!

“Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
 The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
 I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
 I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

 “Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.
You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Psalm 16:5-11

Cozy fall evenings are a great time to read! Even if poetry isn’t your thing, grab a cup of tea and your favorite book and savor a few moments. 🙂

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God Didn’t Want Me to Go on a Mission Trip

Every year, hundreds of Colorado Christian University students go on short-term mission trips. In the 15 years since the CCU2theWorld initiative started, students have gone on more than 200 trips to 51 countries.

Last fall, I was stoked to have the opportunity to go serve Jesus somewhere around the world with my friends. I believe it is always God’s will for His children to fulfill Matthew 28:18-20: Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I completed the CCU2theWorld application on the first day it was available. In the application, I shared my heart for helping God’s children physically and spiritually and chose my top three trip destinations: Scotland, Fiji, and Poland.

Then I waited. I knew it would be several weeks before I heard if I was accepted or where I would be going. October passed, November rolled around. Just before Thanksgiving break, one of my roommates came home bubbling about being accepted to the India trip. I was ecstatic for her and felt sure I would be hearing which trip they wanted me to go on in the next few days.

Weeks passed. I still hadn’t heard a single word – not even an email to tell me I’d been rejected from the program. I was frustrated. I stopped thinking about it. If you went to college, you know how crazy life is in this season. I got busy with papers and exams and regular everyday things.

Then I heard some of my friends talking about how the CCU2theWorld application server had been down for the first few days of applications, and they had just realized the problem. Here was my answer! CCU2theWorld hadn’t even received my application! Of course, I should go talk to them and re-submit my app!

Except I didn’t. To this day I can’t give you a logical reason why I didn’t. I felt the Spirit of God staying my heart. I didn’t understand why. It seemed to be counterintuitive to everything I knew about God’s will. Why on earth wouldn’t He want me to serve Him on a short-term mission trip? But I just couldn’t find peace about trying again, so I decided to trust God. I let it go.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Proverbs 19:21

In December, one of my Communications professors shared info on Facebook about a Samaritan’s Purse internship. I didn’t read it. A few days later, I got an email from the CCU employment office about a Samaritan’s Purse internship. I deleted it. I was busy taking finals and finishing projects before Christmas break.

The day before I went home for break, I got another email, this time from the English department. The subject said, “Samaritan’s Purse Internship.” I realized maybe I should look into this Samaritan’s Purse thing that kept coming up everywhere. I opened the email.

One night over break I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t get the possibility of the Samaritan’s Purse internship off my mind. God often speaks to me when I am relaxed and undistracted at night. He showed me that he had been throwing Samaritan’s Purse in my path over and over again. It took me three times to notice.

The next morning, I sent an email to the CCU employment office and told them I wanted to apply for the Samaritan’s Purse internship. Back in Denver through January, February, and March, I filled out the Samaritan’s Purse application, polished my resume, completed phone interviews, attended personal interviews, and networked connections.

I didn’t hear anything for weeks. I didn’t think I would be accepted out of a pool of 900 of the best young Christian applicants. But God knew. On April 1st, I got a call. Samaritan’s Purse had sent my internship application to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Billy Graham Library. They wanted me to come intern as a writer with them.

I wanted to ask if they knew it was April Fool’s Day… But it was real. I left New Mexico at the end of May and flew to Charlotte, North Carolina, where I had the most incredible summer of my life. God worked in ways I can’t even describe. He blessed me immeasurably beyond my wildest imagination.

I have shared some of the specifics of my summer at the Billy Graham Library in I Saw God like the Book of Acts YesterdayThe Problem with Adventures, and The Prayer that is Changing My Life (the names are links even thought they’re not blue). If you haven’t read these, I promise the stories will bless you, encourage you, and bring you to wonder at God’s work.

If I had been accepted for a CCU2theWorld trip, I might never have applied to Samaritan’s Purse. If I had applied and been accepted to both, I would have been committed to a CCU2theWorld team and then had to pull out. Or, I would have stuck with CCU2theWorld and never gone to North Carolina.

God knew exactly what He was doing when He sent my CCU2theWorld application flying out into the abyss of cyberspace. He knew exactly what He was doing when He kept throwing Samaritan’s Purse at me. He knew exactly what He was doing when He took me to the Billy Graham Library.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.”  Proverbs 16:9

God did want me to fulfill the Great Commission, but not through CCU2theWorld. Even though I didn’t understand why, or what God was up to, I had to trust Him. In the end, all I had to do was gaze into His face as He grasped my hand and pulled me along.

Now, as I face life after college in a few months, I do not fear because I know He’s still grasping my hand. I do not worry because I have peace as I focus on His face. I do not doubt because I have faith in His wonder.

Let Him take your hand today. He loves you. He keeps you. He gently guides you. But the best part is, nothing else matters because you are living in the light of His countenance.

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The Words of a Man who has been Dead for 100 Years

This morning, I want to share some old words that have opened my eyes. I have clung to them at times and pushed them away at other times, but God has used them to make me grow. They were written 100 years ago by a man named Oswald Chambers.

Thanks for not naming me Oswald, Mom!

…Anyways…

Oswald Chambers lived for only 43 years. He was born in 1874 and died in 1917, but he gave his every breath for God’s work. He was born in Scotland, and after attending seminary, he traveled to England, America, Japan, and Egypt to share the Good News. His words have survived in his many writings, which always amaze me with their rare insight on all topics.

“Do Not Quench the Spirit” by Oswald Chambers

“The voice of the Spirit of God is as gentle as a summer breeze— so gentle that unless you are living in complete fellowship and oneness with God, you will never hear it. The sense of warning and restraint that the Spirit gives comes to us in the most amazingly gentle ways. And if you are not sensitive enough to detect His voice, you will quench it, and your spiritual life will be impaired. This sense of restraint will always come as a “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12), so faint that no one except a saint of God will notice it.

“Beware if in sharing your personal testimony you continually have to look back, saying, “Once, a number of years ago, I was saved.” If you have put your “hand to the plow” and are walking in the light, there is no “looking back”— the past is instilled into the present wonder of fellowship and oneness with God (Luke 9:62 ; also see 1 John 1:6-7). If you get out of the light, you become a sentimental Christian, and live only on your memories, and your testimony will have a hard metallic ring to it. Beware of trying to cover up your present refusal to “walk in the light” by recalling your past experiences when you did “walk in the light” (1 John 1:7). When-ever the Spirit gives you that sense of restraint, call a halt and make things right, or else you will go on quenching and grieving Him without even knowing it.

“Suppose God brings you to a crisis and you almost endure it, but not completely. He will engineer the crisis again, but this time some of the intensity will be lost. You will have less discernment and more humiliation at having disobeyed. If you continue to grieve His Spirit, there will come a time when that crisis cannot be repeated, because you have totally quenched Him. But if you will go on through the crisis, your life will become a hymn of praise to God. Never become attached to anything that continues to hurt God. For you to be free of it, God must be allowed to hurt whatever it may be.”

How can these words be so comforting, challenging, and frightening all at the same time? I never want to hinder the Spirit of God. But it’s so easy to get in the way with myself. God is in the quiet whisper, the stillness, the nothing, the inactivity.

What would our lives look like if we spent more time in His quiet stillness doing absolutely nothing? Would we begin to hear His voice like never before?

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