Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

Hope of all hopes, dream of our dreams,
a child is born, sweet-breathed; a son is given to us: a living gift.
And even now, with tiny features and dewy hair, He is great.
The power of leadership, and the
weight of authority, will rest on His shoulders.
His name? His name we’ll know in many ways
He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Dear Father everlasting, ever-present neverfailing,
Master of Wholeness, Prince of Peace.
His leadership will bring such prosperity as you’ve never seen before
sustainable peace for all time.
This child: God’s promise to David—
a throne forever, among us,
to restore sound leadership that cannot be perverted or shaken.
He will ensure justice without fail and absolute equity. Always.
The intense passion of the Eternal,
Commander of heavenly armies,
will carry this to completion.

~Isaiah 9:6-7 (From The Voice Bible)

The Voice is our newest Bible translation from Thomas Nelson Publishers. Admittedly, I’ve been working on the marketing for this campaign for a while now, so I am a little biased, but I personally love it. It reads so beautifully. You can download the book of John on the website here, if you’d like to check it out.

Let us celebrate this day the Anointed One, Our Liberating King! Merry Christmas everyone!

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Thoughts for the New Year

I’m not big on making New Year’s resolutions. Never really have been. But I do like to make some overarching goals. Last year I said I wanted to get my hands dirty – to get more involved in serving others, face-to-face, not from my safeguarded normal distance. I think I did an okay job at it, but really need to do that so much more. So that one will continue.

This year one of my goals is to really figure out how to, and make it a priority to, really bask in the Lord’s Presence. To study and memorize Scripture more, not just read it. To have a deeper, fuller prayer life. I want to walk closer with the Lord and be able to discern His voice in my daily life. I want a stronger sense of joy & peace that has nothing to do with my circumstances, that can only come from a close relationship with Him, and I want that to radiate out of me and be clearly evident to others. This is clearly more than just a one year process, but at least I can focus on getting better at it this year.

I am currently reading Crazy Love, by Francis Chan (finally!). It is an excellent book. I am only halfway through, but I already want to re-read it and do some serious underlining. I will have to write more about it later, in a separate post, but one of the chapters that really got to me talks about the “profile of the lukewarm” Christian. Reading it was like a serious punch to the gut. My friend Maegan Roper did an excellent job of recapping this chapter. So I’ll just link you over to her blog here if you’re interested in reading more. He goes through a series of characteristics that profile the lukewarm and here are just a couple that made me wince. Lukewarm people…:
-give money to charity and to the church, as long as it doesn’t impinge on their standard of living.
-are moved by stories about people who do radical things for Christ, yet they do not act. They assume such action is for “extreme” Christians, not average ones.
-rarely share their faith with their neighbors, coworkers, and friends. They do not want to be rejected, nor do they want to make people uncomfortable by talking about private issues like religion.
-will serve God and others, but there are limits to how far they will go or how much time, money, and energy they are willing to give.
-do not live by faith; their lives are structured so they never have to. They don’t have to trust God if something unexpected happens – they have their savings account… They don’t depend on God on a daily basis, their refrigerators are full and, for the most part, they are in good health…

I’m afraid I am far too lukewarm and I don’t like it.

I wrote a post in September (you can read it here) about one particular lesson I was learning: Before God reveals to us our grand life purpose, he has some testing and refining to do in us. I feel like I am in a season of testing and refining, and this is definitely part of that. I want to be ready when called upon… to be trusted with my grand life purpose. Much of that means that I need to be a better disciple.

So I have also decided to read Jesus Calling by Sarah Young this year. It is a 365 day devotional written from the perspective of Jesus talking directly to us. Each day there is a page long (or less) entry to read. January 1st started off with a bang. Just what I needed to read as encouragement to kick off this year of being a better disciple:

Come to Me with a teachable spirit, eager to be changed. A close walk with Me is a life of continual newness. Do not cling to old ways as you step into the new year. Instead, seek My Face with an open mind, knowing that your journey with Me involves being transformed by the renewing of your mind… I also know the plans I have for you: plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Give yourself fully to this adventure of increasing attentiveness to My Presence.” -From Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

I’m off to one good start at least. I told you in my “Craving Scripture” post how I started the challenge with my church to read through the New Testament from October 1st to the end of the year. I’m glad to report that I kept up and finished on time! First time I’ve ever gone straight through the New Testament in order, and that quickly. Now I want to go back and do it again, this time slower, so that I have time to soak in the words and really study them. I’m also going to work on picking out significant/favorite verses and committing them to memory.

To my family & friends – I give you full permission to check up on me this year. Ask me how I’m doing with this goal of basking in the  Lord’s Presence. It’s a lot to work on, but encouragement and accountability definitely helps.

What goals have you set for the new year?

Craving Scripture

On October 1st, my church kicked off the Daily Walk – a reading plan to read through the entire New Testament by the end of the year. They had promoted it for weeks & I think I always had just glazed past it as another announcement. Suddenly, a day or two before it was to start, I saw something talking about it again & got this overwhelming sense of conviction that I needed to do it. I grew up in the church. I accepted Jesus as my personal Lord & Savior when I was 10. I’ve been reading and hearing Bible stories as long as I can remember.

But I have never gone through the Bible or either the Old or New Testament, in order, all the way through. I felt something telling me that this was something I needed to do. It was about time.

So on October 1st I started my journey through the New Testament. We read just a couple of chapters per day. I am often finding it challenging to keep up. Luckily for me (& everyone else participating) there is one review day built in to each week that allows us a catch-up day.

Studying Scripture on my own and trying to memorize it are things I have never been good at, or have never put enough effort into being good at. Honestly, I have often found it difficult to keep up the motivation to be good at it.

But as I am staying accountable to this plan, and really reading through the different books, I’m discovering a newfound enjoyment of the Scriptures. I’m finding myself more interested in reading more at a time, into finding out what happens next (even though I already know the answer). I’m discovering all sorts of details and perspectives that I may never have noticed before, as well as getting a new view on how the books fit together (particularly the Gospels – the repetition between them, the passages that are unique to each, the differences in tone, etc). Understatement alert – Jesus really was radical!

I am craving Scripture more. I find myself really looking forward to getting to my daily time in the Word.

In our small group’s current study on Revelation (Beth Moore’s “Hear & Now, There & Then”) she talked about a passage one week from Psalm 81:10 that says, “Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” She said having your mouth open wide is like being eager to receive the Word from Him. Like a baby bird waiting to get food. In a spiritual sense, when we are excited to receive the Word, God will fill that desire and we want to keep coming back for more.

So speaking of Bible reading, we’re entering Romans today. I better go read Romans 1-3…