Christmas Has Its Cradle

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Christmas Has Its Cradle

by Rae E Whitney

Christmas has its cradle, where a Baby cried;

Did the lantern’s shadow show Him crucified?

Did He foresee darkly His life’s willing loss?

Christmas has its cradle and Easter has its cross.

Christmas has its cradle, shepherds came to see

Little Son of Mary Lamb of God to be;

Had His Father warned Him, none would grant Him room

Save in the Christmas cradle and in the Easter tomb?

Christmas has its cradle, Wise men came to bring

Myrrh and gold and incense, offerings for a King;

Myrrh alone stayed with Him, death’s balm for this Boy,

From the Christmas cradle and to His Easter joy.

Christmas has its cradle, where that Baby cried;

In the Easter garden, Christ lay, crucified;

When death’s power was conquered, God’s life through Him poured;

Christmas has its cradle and Easter has its Lord!

We celebrate Christmas in part for the manger, and in whole for the empty tomb. The One who came as the greatest gift wasn’t fully delivered until He finished the work He came to do: to seek and to save the lost. To take the punishment of mankind’s sins upon Himself then defeat death and conquer the grave. Hallelujah He is risen indeed makes provision for us to sing oh holy night and proclaim good tidings of great joy!

Christmas most likely finds many, if not most of us, weary of the sin-filled world where death temporarily stings and where Jesus’ rule has not yet been eternally established.

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Galatians 6:9

And so, even as we celebrate Jesus’ first coming, we look towards His coming again when God’s Kingdom will reign in the new Heaven and new earth. Where all will be full of truth, beauty, and good. Where we can be joy-filled forever and live holy as He is holy. Where we can see face to face and know Him even as we are fully known by Him. Where we can live at peace with men and nature. Where all is reestablished aright.

Even so, come Lord Jesus, come!

May we ever strain our eyes towards Jesus and Heaven. May we major on the people and the work that is important, and minor on the mirage of material possessions, status, and striving for fleeting pleasures. May we live as Christ. Lord Jesus, help us to do so!

Christmas has its cradle and Easter has its Lord…

Merry Christmas,

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Your Kids Slow You Down… and That’s a Good Thing

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We all know kids take time, but do you ever feel as if your kids are slowing you down? Maybe you long to shop alone without the help of little hands? Or perhaps you wrap all of your Christmas presents at bed time because you know you can do it faster without the assistance? You are not alone! Please join me over at iBelieve to see why it is a good thing that your kids are slowing you down and how this points to the Father. Read this slowly here.

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A Few of My Favorite Things

A Few of My Favorite Things

There are a few Christmas posts that have become my favorite over the years of blogging. I would love to share these with you as you remember Christ’s birth this Christmas Season. Several of these writings point to the reason for the season, and others, to hope for hurting hearts. May these words draw you closer to Christ.

Mary Christmas- A closer look at the mother of Jesus. (read)

Why Santa Doesn’t Deliver Presents to Our House (read)

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas (read)

Unpacking Christmas: The Empty Seat (read)

Unpacking Christmas: The Manger (read)

Of Christmas Without “Them” (read)

For When You Don’t Want to Trim the Tree (read)

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Being the Ten Percent- Gracious Gratitude

Thanksgiving Post 2015 Living the 10 Percent

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”  And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all your possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.

(Mark 10:17-22, NASB)

Gratitude is not greedy for power, possessions, or prestige. Gratitude graciously bows out when it is time.

Perfect peace is found not in trying to achieve power, but in using the power and platform God has given you for such a time as this. 

Only a few men in history have set themselves apart for the power they graciously relinquished. They knew when to walk away in order that the greater good would be served in their absence. Consider:

Moses, relinquished the rights of an adopted grandson of the Pharaoh in order to remember the plight of his people. In so doing, he hastened his humble service to rescue God’s people from slavery and captivity.

(Moses) considering the reproach of  Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

(Hebrews 11:26-27, NASB)

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, “a man who neither sought power nor held on to it when his duties had been fulfilled.” (The Cincinnatus Association) Cincinnatus, for whom the city in Ohio is named, was a Roman citizen who was offered endless power and, instead, returned to his farm after saving his country in battle.

George Washington, known as the American Cincinnatus, was not only America’s first president, the model for all who would hold the title after him to emulate, but a man who walked away from power twice so that the great American experiment would not falter under the unbearable weight of a king.

Who can imagine that the liberty of millions might depend on the character of one man? What was it that gave him the strength to do the right thing when the temptation to do something less noble must have been overwhelming?

More than two hundred years after Washington’s death, his willingness to relinquish power–twice–is the most remarkable thing that we remember about him. These refusals to seize power for himself were the greatest acts of one of history’s greatest men.

(7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness, Eric Metaxas)

Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, left the honor and majesty of heaven to come to the squalor and filth of earth. He left His throne in heaven to be laid in a cradle, and later hung on a cross before conquering the enemy of death and sin once and for all. (See Philippians 2) It is to Jesus that we owe all gratitude and praise. If it were not for His modeled call to lay down our lives, His example as He resisted the urging of even His closest friends and disciples to siege power over people before the appointed time, then we would not one day receive the power to be joint errs and rulers with Jesus in Heaven.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.

(1 Timothy 6:17, NASB)

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

(Philippians 2:3, NASB)

We, like the rich young ruler in the first passage above, may have choices in our future to posture ourselves in gracious gratitude and service to Christ, or to walk away with our possessions, power, or prestige in hand; heavy in heart and guilt. Being the gracious ten percent includes knowing when to walk away from the things of this earth in order to walk toward the person and mission of Christ. May we choose to follow Christ’s example.

 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.” (James 4:6, NLT)

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Being the 10 Percent-Humble Gratitude

Living the 10 Percent Thanksgiving 2015

 To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Luke 18:9-14, NIV

Last week, we determined that we want to be found giving thanks like the ten percent. Only one leper out of ten returned to thank Jesus for His miraculous healing. However, this week’s account in Luke informs us that mere words of thanks are not enough; it is the heart behind the words that matters most. In this parable about the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus is teaching that humility of heart is better than good deeds accompanied by a haughty spirit.

In fact, this parable teaches that there is a wrong way to give thanks.

If we are giving thanks because we are not like other sinners; that is, not bent towards certain less favorable sins. Or, if in order to elevate our filthy rags of righteousness (see Isaiah 64:6), we thankfully condemn more noticeable targets or outright sin, then we are missing grace all together. This isn’t but for the grace of God go I mentality, this is at least I’m not doing… What a dangerous predicament to enter into.

A vacuum of humility in our lives leads to the fertile soil of hypocrisy. Consider,

Hypocrites keep up the external performances of religion only to save or gain credit. There are many whom we see every day at the temple, whom, it is to be feared, we shall not see in the great day at Christ’s right hand. 

His giving God thanks for this, though in itself a good thing, yet seems to be a mere formality. He does not say, By the grace of God I am what I am, as Paul did, but turns it off with a slight, God, I thank thee, which is intended but for a plausible introduction to a proud vainglorious ostentation of himself.

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

God’s glory is to resist the proud but give grace to the humble. (James 4:6)

Consider the parable of the prodigal son. It was the brother who had done the work diligently and faithfully that had to flee the temptation to be angered at the wayward brother’s reward. The faithful must put off the garment of pride and assumption that God only gives mercy and grace to those who look the part or have played it the longest. It is God’s grace through Jesus Christ that brings our favor. That alone secures our salvation and no works we do on earth can equate the grace that Jesus provides. Works accompany faith, and restoration follows humble confession and repentance–be it in the early years of our life, or in the later years just before arriving Home.

Another lesson from this parable: We who have been in church and within God’s grace for anytime must resist the temptation and tendency to make God’s Kingdom on earth look like anything other than God’s Kingdom in Heaven. God’s Kingdom will consist of people from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Further, it will consist of the last being the first. The crippled, handicapped, poor, and cast aside populace of the present will be the rulers of the future Kingdom to come. We must not welcome the well dressed and successful among our places of worship to the detriment of the poor, the weak, and the plagued with sin who may stumble into our congregations by the saving grace of God. (See James 2:1-13)

Not everyone in church should look just like you…or me!

If thanksgiving towards God has become a mere formality for us as it was for the pharisee in Jesus’s parable, then it is time to repent in humility and recognize the saving grace of God in our own needy lives. There is always gratitude to be given for God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

If we have neglected to welcome those within our community of believers who don’t look like us, then we must repent and consider what God’s Kingdom will look like in eternity. We should make our churches welcoming congregations for every tribe, tongue, nation, and social status.

Be the ten percent. Give thanks with a humble heart.

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If you want to further explore the thoughts from this post, might I recommend two books that I have read in the past that most likely helped shape some of the thoughts written above?

Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges (see here)

Onward by Russell Moore (see here)

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Being the Ten Percent

Living the 10 Percent

Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.

One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.

Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

(Luke 17:11-19, NIV)

Jesus performed miracles for multitudes. Yet, this story of ten men healed of leprosy warranted spotlighting in the gospel of Luke. Ten men pleaded for mercy, only one thanked Jesus for the merciful act of cleansed skin.

Often times in life we petition for acts of mercy from the Father, family, and friends to be met with the granting of our requests. How often do we return the mercy with thanksgiving once it is granted? Are we living like this leaper and being the ten percent who express gratitude? Or, are we living among the ninety percent who grab the grace and keep on going?

November provides perfect practice for thanksgiving and grateful living. As we count our blessings and practice days of gratitude may it be more than a seasonal decor, a hashtag of 31 days of gratitude captioning our social media, or a reason to gather with family. May this month remind us to be the ten percent and thank God for the blessings and grace in all circumstances.

Thanks-giving opens the door to joy-filled living. The ungrateful can quickly become the greedy. The frenzied  who don’t pause to pleasure in what is, will exhaust themselves seeking the next thing.

This month we will further explore together the topic of being the ten percent and seeking to live a life of gratitude in a culture that values gain over saying grace. After all, it is Jesus’ saving grace which ushers in our saying grace.

You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.

G. K. Chesterton

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5 Lies Satan Wants You to Believe and Scriptures to Combat Them

Scriptures to Combat the Lies of Satan

He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)

Satan wants nothing more than to make you ineffective in ministry. He wants you to quit before you start, falter in all your attempts, stray from the truth, and feel isolated in your quest. Don’t fall for his lies. Here are five lies Satan wants you to believe and scriptures to combat them. If it worked for Jesus, certainly it is a model we should follow.

Your goal is impossible and will end in disappointment; quit while your ahead. Our generation is programmed to believe that if what we aim to achieve isn’t quickly given it must not be worth while. We hate the wait and the work that impactful endeavors require. Let’s face it, we are often tempted to quit. However, God urges us to keep going–one faithful step after another–to overcome and be rewarded.

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. (Galatians 6:9, NASB)

He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. (Revelation 21:7, NASB)

You are alone in your struggles. Recall the song, “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows my sorrows?” Satan would have you believe that you are all alone and nobody can empathize. Not so!

The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NLT)

So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you. (1 Peter 4:19, NLT)

If you make yourself your number one priority, everything else will fall in place. Selfishness never leads to serenity for yourself and certainly not for others. Yes, we should take care of our bodies, soul, and minds as they are a temple unto the Lord. However, our temple is not a shrine and our chief aim is not the satisfaction of ourselves but our sanctification.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:4-7, ESV)

…but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. (Romans 2:8, ESV)

Their is an end to your desires; therefore, obtain, achieve, or accumulate X, Y, or Z and you will be filled. We so easily fall for the lie time and time again that if we obtain this one thing we will be happy. If we achieve this one goal, then we will be enough.

Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NLT)

Death and Destruction are never satisfied, and neither are human eyes. (Proverbs 27:20, NIV)

What you can see, feel, taste, or smell is all there is. The devil would love to have us think that all we see is all there is, after all, according to him, you only live once.

He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. (Revelation 19:13-14, NIV)

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 
(John 20:29, ESV)

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17, ESV)

What would you add to these five? What scriptures do you use to combat the lies with the Sword of the Spirit?

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Why “You Only Live Once” Is No Way to Live- Post for iBelieve

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And just as it is appointed for people to die once — and after this, judgment — so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him. Hebrews 9:27-28

You only live once. This is a great lie of the evil antagonist of our souls. The enemy wants us to believe that this life is all there is and beyond that lays a great chasm of nothing—a cessation of existence with our final breath that commences into an eternal rest of mind and soul.

The famous and daring Bear Grylls enjoyed two successful seasons of Running Wild with celebrity guests. In each episode, the survivalist adventurer took a Hollywood star or a sports celebrity on a 48 hour adventure within the most dangerous and breathtaking landscapes around the globe. Their fears are pushed to the limit, and their wits and wills tested, as they faced dangerous terrain and death defying obstacles to get to a predetermined extraction point and the completion of their journey.

In one 2014 episode, guest adventurer rookie, Zac Efron is challenged by Bear to cross achasm by sliding on his belly on a single rope with no safety net to catch him should he plunge to a rocky death. A maneuver utilized by military personnel and taught in basic training is quickly tutored to Efron minutes before he braves this endeavor hundreds of feet above a rocky freefall. Upon completion, Efron and Grylls rest to reflect on the parallels of this accomplishment and life’s challenges. Efron looks at the beauty of the Appalachian Mountain Range then looks back at Bear Grylls and communicates what we have embraced as a culture paralyzed in the temporary, “this is all there is, you only live once you know?”

Hike on over to iBelieve to read the rest of this post!

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The Big Ask: Are You Pregnant?

When Someone Asks If You're Pregnant and the Answer is No

The above picture is a current one of me, NOT PREGNANT. Have you ever been asked if you were pregnant when, clearly, you were not? Me too! Travel over to iBelieve today to see how to respond to this question with grace and truth. Because, let’s face it, the big ask stinks if the answer is a big no.

Read more here.

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Of Mountain Grandeur Achieved with the Feet and in Faith

Mountain Grandeur

I grew up in a small Baptist church where hymn books were opened every Sunday morning and evening. When we were first dating, my husband often joked with me saying I knew every hymn by heart. Well, I may know the first and fourth stanzas, but the second and third ones are a little more of a reach.

Last year we went home to Alabama and attended my sister’s church. During the singing of one particular hymn, the second verse caught me by most pleasant surprise. The second verse to How Great Thou Art is probably one of the most skipped verses in all my hymn-singing upbringing.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

~How Great Thou Art, by Carl C. Boberg adapted by Stuart K. Hine

My soul feels most at peace when I am in awe of God’s creation.

I have sat at the base of a waterfall and heard the mighty rushing waters never ceasing. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful rock formations in America. I have paddled a kayak in the waters of the gulf and sat in observation of countless sunsets. In each of these settings the thoughts that are provoked are ones of worship of the Lord.

Ron Havasu Falls

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Family Hike

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Ukraine Pictures (64)

The last pictured mountain is part of the Carpathian Mountain Range in Ukraine; the same mountains that the writer Carl C. Boberg crossed while penning this famous hymn. Ron and I traveled there in 2006.

Today, as I think on this song and contemplate its meaning, I am reminded that not every day is a beautiful hike through the woods, a moment at the base of a waterfall, or a well worn, familiar path. Additionally, not ever journey is one we take with our feet; often our most perilous and life changing journeys are of the heart. 

In all surroundings, and all life’s seasons of wonder, wandering, and waiting, we have choices to make. On what will we focus? Will we choose contentment? Will we choose to approach the Father with gratitude, or grumbling? Will we look at things as they are and see the good, or will we look at situations as we want them to be and see only what is missing?

When considering my hiking memories, by far the fondest memories for me are those in which my inner worship matched the outer grandeur. I revel in the ones in which my thoughts were pure, prayer was on my spirit’s lips, my worship was vibrant, I was enjoying my companions or my solitude, and my thoughts were set on things above.

Certainly, my more favorable memories were when I was acting in the will of God. Faithfully trusting in His timing and abiding in His will. This is true on scaling the mountaintops, in the day in and day out of life’s demands, and  days spent in anticipation of dreams yet unrealized.

The difference in our singing lies with the heart and mind with which we approach the song. And so too how we live our lives: the difference lies with the heart and mind with which we approach all situations.

For myself, in the words of Robert Frost, I have “miles to go before I sleep.” A right attitude concerning patience in the face of uncertainty and long journeys of the heart presents a constant battle for me.

Today, if the battle for you seems like an insurmountable mountain vista, remember, every moutain has a peak and “that which is above knows that which is below, but that which is below does not know that which is above.” Keep climbing and worship with every step. And upon the descent remember this:

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.~ Rene Daumal

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