The Stain of Sin

I have been sinning since the beginning of my time. I still sin. It is a part of my human condition but I have been working on my stuff. I can say “I am sorry”. I can ask for forgiveness. I can work on not sinning, and yet, I still sin. I know God forgives me for the large and small sins and wipes it clean away but, in this world, the stain of sin can remain, for a lifetime.

And that can be a lifetime of me being needled by satan. He loves to try to condemn, particularly those who have been forgiven. The devil wants to wrestle away my peace that passes all human understanding and convince me that I am stained and unusable, that His healing work can’t possibly work through this mess.

This mess of me.

But God can and He does. He can do it for you too! Lord, let me focus on Your work of healing. Let me trust You to work on the stains of my sin. I know you see me through the beauty and perfection of Jesus, but sometimes the world can see my stains and I feel condemned all over again!

Thank you for your gift of Jesus and His sacrifice on my behalf! Amen.

From God the Father, virgin-born

From God the Father, virgin-born
To us the only Son came down;
By death the font to consecrate,
The faithful to regenerate.

Beginning from His home on high,
In human flesh He came to die;
Creation by His death restored,
And shed new joys of life abroad.

Glide on, O glorious Sun, and bring
The gift of healing on Your wing;
To eve’ry dull and clouded sense
The clearness of Your light dispense.

Abide with us, O Lord, we pray;
The gloom of darkness chase away;
Your work of healing, Lord, begin,
And take away the stain of sin.

Lord, once You came to earth’s domain
And, we believe, shall come again;
Be with us on the battlefield,
From ev’ry harm Your people shield.

To You, O Lord, all glory be
For this Your blest epiphany;
To God, whom all His hosts adore,
And Holy Spirit evermore.

Translated by John Mason Neale, 1818-66

Hark! The herald angels sing

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris’n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”
*

We don’t use the word hark so much these days. But I could benefit from listening more. One of the things I love about this time of year is that there are so many reminders, mainly through song, of the Prince of Peace.

Even those who are struggling with their faith.

They hear the songs all over the radio. They might catch a line here or there that gives them something to ponder. These hymns have some great messages tucked inside.

Hark!

There are so many amazing Christmas hymns that are broadcast all over the radio and in stores. I love that it is the background music but I also need to let the messages come to the forefront and penetrate my heart. Thinking about some of these hymns, verse by verse, helps them sink in just a little more. I love to read a verse and then find one thing that strikes me in that verse and ruminate on it.

Do you have a favorite Christmas hymn?

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

* Words written by Charles Wesley 1707-88

Veiled in Flesh

Christ, by highest heav’n adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see,
Hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as Man with man to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel!
*

I love how God works! He often takes the ordinary and does something amazing with it.

Our Redeemer was veiled in flesh.

And He dwelt among us. Who would have thought to look in a stable, amongst the animals?

When I ponder this plan it is both simple and complex:

  • So very rich and yet, so very poor.
  • So very dirty and yet, so very pure.
  • So very quiet and yet, so very loud.
  • So very vulnerable and yet, so very protected.
  • So very loved and yet, so very pursued.

As I think about the events that led up to the birth of Jesus, it is hard not to consider my own culture and experiences and make my own applications. I relate as I can but it doesn’t mean I have an accurate picture. Of course these things happened so long ago that it is hard to imagine the circumstances.

And so I trust that the One who has created the earth and all stars was able to execute the delivery of the Christ Child.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

* Words written by Charles Wesley 1707-88

God and Sinners Reconciled

Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

Hark! The herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!”
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim,
“Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
*

I enjoy listening to Christmas hymns and songs. When I hear Christmas music “out of season” (for me that is before Halloween), it is unusual, but not offensive. I love the familiarity of the songs and the reminders of what we are celebrating: the best songs call attention to the newborn King!

We are desperate for peace on Earth. Sometimes we are even desperate for peace in our homes. I think it is safe to say we all have something that is out of place or causes our heart to ache. It could be a strained relationship or a hope that is unfulfilled. And we seek peace — sometimes in places where peace cannot be found. Our peace can be compromised by what we have done and by what we have left undone. And yet God desires for us to be reconciled to Him so much that He has made the way, through Jesus. He is our Peace.

God providing a way for our peace and for sinners to be reconciled to Him is a pretty big deal. And singing the words (even if your heart struggles) feeds your spirit.

Thank you, Father, for providing peace and mercy through Christ. His birth ushers in our path for reconciliation to You. Let us make space for Your work to be done in and through us.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

* Words written by Charles Wesley 1707-88

Close the path to misery

Oh, come, O Key of David, come,
And open wide our heav’nly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel
Translated: John Neal, 1818-66

There is a path to misery.

Sometimes I have been railroaded down it by circumstances mixed with the company I kept. Sometimes a bout with depression can send me on the path to misery, but it’s not a journey I wish on anyone. Sometimes, our life isn’t actually very miserable but we find ourselves feeling miserable and that is a often a choice. It would be important to get to the root of the misery.

I am not a psychologist. I know I have a positive temperament and I don’t know whether it is a nature or nurture thing. I watched my mom deal with difficult things and it was rare for her to show she was discouraged. Others I know take a tiny negative thing (yes, a very insignificant happening) and it triggers them to an outburst that makes it seem like their world is collapsing.

I do not get it.

I pray that God closes that path to misery for me. But He doesn’t promise that at all.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. [James 1:2-3. ESV]

Joy in the midst of devastating circumstances is not something I have perfected. God’s Word says to count it all joy but I think the best I can wrap my head around is give me peace in these circumstances. We do all have different definitions of trials but I look at the difficult things in my life and it pales in comparison to the difficulties of others.

Lead me to the path that leads on high!

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Mighty power to save

Oh, come O Rod of Jesse’s stem,
From ev’ry foe deliver them
That trust your mighty pow’r to save;
Bring them in vict’ry through the grave.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel
Translated: John Neal, 1818-66

Heavenly Father,

My heart is heavy knowing so many who do not trust in Your mighty power to save. I cling to the knowledge that You do care for the unbelievers — that you seek those lost sheep. I pray for hearts to be open to hearing Your call. May the barriers to faith be removed. May there be a growing self-awareness of the need for Your Son, the Savior. Thank You for providing The Way, The Truth, and The Life in Jesus!

… he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. [Luke 15:3-7, ESV]

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Our Wisdom from on High

Oh, come, our Wisdom from on high,
Who ordered all things mightily;
To us the path of knowledge show,
and teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to you, O Israel!

How often do I forget that I don’t have to know everything myself?

God is my wisdom!

Do I see His face in the decisions that are ahead of me? Do I remember that He who created the Earth and everything in it can see the way through my struggles? Can I rely on Him for provision and strength?

God always has the bigger picture in mind and He is working to prepare my heart and mind for what is to come while providing for all I need today. He is the one who knows it all — from the past to the future and intricately weaves it all together. I pray that I always seek His path of knowledge and not what the world deems “wise”.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel
Translated: John Neal, 1818-66

The Essentials

I have been traveling quite a bit the last few years and I love exploring and learning about the world around me. But that also means I have to pack and unpack a lot. Unfortunately, sometimes I forget the “essentials”.

My essentials change from time to time. That seems weird to say but, depending on my hair situation, I either need mousse or gel. And, recently, I have taken to wearing a hat when I plan to shower a little later in the day. I guess you can say that some of my essentials are seasonal, at least for traveling.

But my core essentials — the things that make me me — continue to make their presence known. These are the elements of me that are difficult for me to suppress. Try as I might, they sort of erupt and are undeniable. It’s almost as if God said, “These are the foundational elements to Liz and watch me as I grow them and use them through the course of her life!”

Writing has always been, and continues to be, an important part of my life. While I still like the physical act of putting pen to paper, these days I do most of my writing on the computer. How I write as well as how consistently I write has changed and adapted with the tools available to me. I even utilize old envelopes and scribble all kinds of ideas on them! That will never change.

Listening to others is a part of my core. I even considered being a counselor at one point. Most often, people just need to know they have been heard. I have a lot to learn from others — and they don’t always share it verbally!

Encouraging others is also important me. I think providing consolation, comfort, and inspiration is sorely lacking in today’s world. The way people can talk to one another, especially when they are not face-to-face, astounds me. I make every effort to love people where the are, give them encouragement for forward progress if that is what they are looking for, and I pray for them. I can’t be the one to do what they need to do but I can pray for them as they take the next step.

Sharing my faith is one of those things that I cannot, nor do I want, to squelch. I certainly consider the receptivity of those around me and am open to where and how the conversation goes. I am called to share my faith. But this faith stuff is entirely God’s business. God’s work in my life is amazing. The details He has covered before I even knew they needed to be addressed, the opportunities He has created out of ugly situations, the gift of Jesus, the comfort and conviction of the Holy Spirit, and the forgiveness of my sins — my ugly and selfish sins. Sharing my faith is about what God has done for me but also what He has done for the sea of humanity. The sharing of my faith isn’t always through words.

What are your essentials — those core elements God has been developing in you over the course of your life?

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Emmanuel

God is with us!

Recently, I was in Hungary. The focus of the trip was the Christmas Markets and we were there just as Advent was beginning. We had great traveling companions and wonderful foods. All of the photos I am using for the PrayerPoints for Advent are from this trip. Actually, the idea of what to use for the photos came from being on the trip.

Advent is a thing in Hungary.

I have never seen so many different Advent candle configurations! In the city center — 3 feet in diameter — along with a lighting ceremony for the 1st candle, in the village center made out of large painted trash cans (3 pink and 1 purple), in wineries, and in gift shops, large and small. The countdown to Christmas is on by way of the Advent wreath! And while we were there to experience the Christmas Markets and some other fun seasonal opportunities, it did not feel quite as crazy commercial to me. I was a little disappointed that there were some Black Friday specials — I wish they wouldn’t embrace that concept or McDonald’s, Burger King, or Starbucks either.

As I was traveling, it was lovely to have so many reminders that God was, indeed, with me! Of course I know it. He always is. But, it was so refreshing to see that others knew it too! Having the Advent wreaths everywhere I went was an unanticipated blessing.

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 ESV

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz

Dwelling

I have dwelled on things I have said or done (or left undone) a time or two. These situations weigh on me and the inner dialogue might go something like this:

I cannot even believe you said that.

Why are you being so petty?

Why didn’t you pay closer attention?

That was a stupid thing to say!

I work on remaining silent when frustrated because blurting things out in a moment of aggravation typically only escalates a situation. I also mentally work through things that are mistakes I have made. I first “right” what I can and then I lift the rest to God. Some things are not in my control. No amount of money or time can resolve some situations. I have learned to be ok with that.

But this dwelling can drive me crazy! It can create sleepless nights. I might dream of all of the possible solutions that could have worked if only I would have _________________________!!! [You fill in the blank!]

What is worth dwelling over? Where should my energies go?

These days leading up to Advent have something worth dwelling over. God’s gift to humankind. God’s gift of redemption. God’s gift of love. The Prince of Peace. My Redeemer. Emmanuel.

Come, Lord Jesus!
Liz