Month: December 2018

Christmas Challenge Extended

I want to extend a challenge. Can you take one year and choose to strip down Christmas to the point it is ONLY about Christ? No gifts. No trees. No holiday decor. No Santa. Just Jesus.

Can you let it all go to simply drink in the simplicity of the entrance of the Messiah into the world? He had no pomp and circumstance. He had a stable and a manger. His fanfare were curious shepherds. Angels proclaimed his birth in song. Why can’t we just do the same? Yes, magi brought gifts to Him later, but not to each other. Let’s give Him the gift of selflessness and step out of traditions and follow Him.

Can you leave behind all the stuff? Perhaps participating in this challenge just one year may forever change the way you celebrate Christmas from now on. I admit, it’s hard. People, especially loved ones, are not going to understand. It was hard for us too, but we found something so much greater than all the holiday fun and traditional activities…we discovered the beauty of a simple Savior.

Love to all.

Versions of the Bible…

I remembered something from my stand this morning I wanted to share with standers out there…kinda like a public service announcement:

Not all modern translations of the Bible say God hates divorce.

Malachi 2:16 (NKJV) “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

I remember sharing this verse with my husband during our separation. It seemed to never make a dent. He kept pursuing a divorce, and I was baffled. It wasn’t until after he came back home, when he sincerely asked me about it. He said, “You kept saying the Bible says God hates divorce, but I never could find that.” (What!!??) So we looked it up together only to discover his Bible didn’t say it! He reads the English Standard Version (ESV) and it totally omits that part!

Yikes.

Since then, we’ve discovered other versions leave it out as well, like the updated New International Version (NIV). The 1984 version of NIV has it, but for some reason it was removed in 2011 and the 1984 version has virtually been erased from the internet.

We’re not the kind of people who believe there is only one authorized version of the Bible, but we do take issue with tampering with truth. We still utilize these versions for varying nuances of scripture, but we also feel it’s important others realize vital truth is removed.

Not sure why I felt compelled to write this. As always, I hope it helps someone.

Darkness

I haven’t known how to start this post. All I know is that I have been walking in darkness. It’s not the darkness of wickedness and sin; I don’t even know how to describe it other than darkness. My daughter’s diagnosis sent me on a journey surrounded by darkness. I looked around and saw nothing else. I couldn’t see which way was up. I couldn’t see anyone else. It was simply…dark.

Before this journey, I would say a child of God can’t walk in darkness, because darkness equates to despair and hopelessness. But, I wasn’t hopeless, nor despairing. Actually, if I didn’t have the promise from God my daughter was gonna be ok, I wouldn’t make it on the journey at all. The darkness would have consumed me. Period. End of discussion.

So, here I was in a paradox, walking in complete darkness, but clinging to hope. It was so dark, I was desperately looking in any direction for a kindness from others or anything that would give a moment’s reprieve from the darkness, like a simple cup of coffee. Yet, God was showing me something in the darkness: He was there too.

We seem to visualize God surrounded by light separate from us while we’re surrounded by darkness. But somehow that’s just not the case. He’s still light, but He’s in the darkness with us. It sounds crazy, but why should I be surprised that darkness doesn’t cancel out the light that surrounds Him? I just couldn’t understand why I was only catching fleeting shimmers of light when I knew He was there, kinda like fireflies on a summer evening. Then He showed me so much I never knew about darkness:

God acknowledged my darkness:

Job 23:17 (NLT) Darkness is all around me; thick, impenetrable darkness is everywhere.

Job 19:8 (NLT) God has blocked my way so I cannot move. He has plunged my path into darkness.

You really can feel darkness:

Exodus 10:21 (NLT) Then the LORD said to Moses, “Lift your hand toward heaven, and the land of Egypt will be covered with a darkness so thick you can feel it.”

God sees darkness different than we do:

Psalm 139:12 (NLT) but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you.

Even God is shrouded in deep darkness at times:

Deuteronomy 5:22 (NLT) “The LORD spoke these words to all of you assembled there at the foot of the mountain. He spoke with a loud voice from the heart of the fire, surrounded by clouds and deep darkness. This was all he said at that time, and he wrote his words on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

Although He can be shrouded in darkness, there’s no darkness (i.e. evil) found in Him:

1 John 1:5 (NLT) This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.

We can trust God knows what’s hidden in the darkness we just can’t see:

Daniel 2:22 (NLT) He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he is surrounded by light.

Job 12:22 (NLT) “He uncovers mysteries hidden in darkness; he brings light to the deepest gloom.

There’s also treasures in the form of lessons that, unfortunately, are only found in the darkness:

Isaiah 45:3 (NLT) And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness–secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.

When God so chooses, He’ll light up the darkness I am in:

2 Samuel 22:29 (NLT) O LORD, you are my lamp. The LORD lights up my darkness.

Isaiah 9:2 (NLT) The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Isaiah 45:7 (NLT) I create the light and make the darkness. I send good times and bad times. I, the LORD, am the one who does these things.

Isaiah 42:16 (NLT) I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them.

1 John 2:8 (NLT) Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

In all honesty, prior to all of this, I felt like God’s light should/would keep darkness at bay. But why wasn’t it? Why was I surrounded by it with no escape, yet with hope? That’s when He showed me there are treasures hidden in it. Was I willing to walk in the darkness to discover them? Well, I didn’t have much choice, did I? But I found comfort in purpose.

I’m thankful to say, I’m not walking in darkness anymore. Life is almost completely back to normal. Our daughter is doing so well. She still takes a lot of chemos and the treatment plan will last over 2 years, but it’s a journey we are on.

So, what did I learn in the darkness? In essence: God can shroud Himself in darkness, but darkness can’t be found in Him. Darkness can be so thick we can feel it, but He can always see through it. God makes the darkness, and even leads us to it. Yet, He reveals hidden things through it. I don’t think all the lessons He wants me to learn have been revealed yet, but I have picked up some treasure along the way: I have learned that every single kindness shown to a person in their darkest hour breathes life into them, giving them strength to take one more step. I’ve learned so many ways of bringing others comfort and demonstrating the love of Jesus. Most importantly, I’ve learned that God is our Light in the darkness, even when we can’t see the light in the darkness. It’s a head scratcher, I admit. What is pivotal, we MUST trust God in our darkness and not ourselves:

Isaiah 50:10-11 (NLT) 10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys his servant? If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the LORD and rely on your God. 11 But watch out, you who live in your own light and warm yourselves by your own fires. This is the reward you will receive from me: You will soon fall down in great torment.

And here I leave you with God’s promise:

Micah 7:8 (NLT) Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light.

John 1:5 (NLT) The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can NEVER extinguish it.

I don’t understand it all yet. God is very complex. But, I pray it brings someone comfort and hope.

Jenn