Tag Archives: repentance

The Language of Crying

As is customary for me on Christmas Eve, I can’t sleep. It used to be caused by the anticipation of Santa Claus stopping by to fill up the area underneath the Christmas tree. Let’s be honest: I was 22 or 23 before I stopped getting absolutely giddy about Christmas morning for that very reason, Santa or not. :)

For the past few years I’ve been unable to sleep for a very different reason (and thankfully a much better one). The story of God coming to earth in the form of a baby has gripped my heart in a new way (and a different way each year) over the past few years.

I began a bible study on the book of Malachi on Monday. One of the very first subjects the author of the study covers is this idea of “rhetorical disputation.” To quote the Grinch, “Holiday hooby whatty?!” It’s the concept of God saying something to his people, and his people automatically respond with something along the lines of a ‘prove it!’ mentality (in other words, they question it), to which God gives them one heck of an answer that more than proves his original point. The book of Malachi starts with God saying, “I have loved you,” and his people responding with, “How have you loved us?” Go read Malachi 1 for God’s pretty poignant response. The beauty of the statement is the verb form of “have.” It lends itself to meaning that he has loved them – period. Not, “I have loved you because you got your act together,” or “I have loved you as a result of the good works you do,” or “I have loved you because you’ve followed the rules.” If there was ever a nation that didn’t do what God said, it was his own people Israel! But the “have” there implies that God has already loved them before they straightened things out, before they walked the straight & narrow, and outside their efforts as humans. Way cool.

Malachi has had me thinking about the 400 year silence between the end of his book and the beginning of the New Testament time period, which begins with the birth of Jesus. And here’s what has struck me this year that I’ve never thought about before: The first time God speaks in 400 years, he uses cries and whimpers instead of intelligible words. A newborn baby’s first screams and shrieks outside the womb are the very first sounds to come from Heaven in 400 years! One moment God hasn’t spoken for four centuries, and the very next moment the silence is broken by childbirth. By this point, Israel wouldn’t have necessarily known what to even listen for when trying to hear Yahweh. They’d never experienced it. They were 400 years removed from the last time a prophet brought the Word of the Lord to the people. Who would have expected to listen for God to speak through one of our most common reactions to life, heartache, struggle, overwhelming joy, death, victory, a baptism, conviction, repentance, loosed chains of addiction, music, love, lost love, burning anger, sadness, life-altering news, and a host of other situations? It’s crying. He cries. Think about it: What better way to communicate to the world than with the reaction that is so common in so many circumstances that every human experiences at some time? It’s a universal language! The first time God ‘speaks,’ he uses a language that anyone could have understood: the cry of a newborn baby. John 1:4 – “In him was life (emphasis mine), and that life was the light of all mankind.” Life is never more apparent than the first few moments after a mother gives birth! It’s never more anticipated than then! And it’s marked with a cry.

If we need to know and see how personal, how real, how raw, how relatable, how tender, heck – even how forceful and strong (have you heard a newborn cry recently?! The little dudes don’t hold back!) our God is, we need to look no further than the manger and hear the first sounds that rang out from Heaven in over 400 years. Jesus’ cries were, in that moment, heard only by those who surrounded his manger that night, but they have echoed in eternity as the most relatable speech he could have brought to earth to begin his life.

And that life is full circle. He both begins and ends his life crying. One cry brought about the newness of life and the beginning of a 33-year-long journey that led to his final cries on the cross as a grown man, battling all of hell’s forces to save the wretches like you and me.

Our God truly is amazing, and he is so, so good even when our lives or situations are not. I hope you’ll take time this Christmas Day to consider Jesus’ cries, and to express to him the cries of your heart. He knows it. He gets it. Lay your heart’s cry at the manger, and listen for his. What a beautiful way to break 400 years’ worth of silence: the cry of newborn life.

Merry Christmas.

..Hannah

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Daniel

Descriptive title, hm? :)

I read through the opening chapters of Daniel last night, and it made me change my view on worship a little bit. Typically I’m someone who isn’t much of a supporter of music in worship sounding like that of society today. In fact, when I hear worship that more or less resembles a parody of a popular song, I want to ralph. I’m not necessarily talking about parodies in worship, but this whole crappy singer-songwriter style. Let’s be real here folks. I’m talking about the people who dress like hobos, don’t comb their hair when they wake up, wear glasses that have no prescription, etc., and walk on stage with just an acoustic guitar. THAT style of music. Have you ever listened to the lyrics of those songs? Half of them are so dumb lyrically-speaking. Honestly. It proves how little our generation thinks. Just because words rhyme, doesn’t mean they should be used. I’m not being prejudiced against their music. I call it they way I see it. I described their appearance in honest detail and gave a pretty accurate assessment of the music. Now, back to worship…

This is showing up more and more in worship music. Artists are sounding exactly like the world. Quite frankly, some of the lyrics are just as ridiculous as a secular song. Not all, but some. Let’s leave the “some” out of this for the sake of the point I’m trying to make.

Let’s talk about Daniel. In chapter one, Nebuchadnezzar (king of Babylon) besieges Judah and orders Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility (young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace) and teach them the Babylonian language and literature. The king, in turn, gave them a daily amount of food and wine from his own table. They were to train for three years, and after that enter the king’s service. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the men chosen. Ashpenaz gave them new names – Belteshazzar (Daniel), Shadrach (Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael) and Abednego (Azariah).

Daniel had resolved not to eat the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to eat this food. The word specifically used in the NIV is ‘defiled.’ This could have meant that the food was forbidden by Jewish law (such as pork) or because accepting the king’s food and drink was, really, the first step in following the king and relying on him. Daniel was in the middle of a culture that didn’t obey God’s laws at all, but he was still determined to follow them himself. After asking if he could skip out on eating the food, the official said he was afraid that Daniel would begin to look sickly in comparison to the other men. If this were to happen, the official would have been put to death. Daniel said to the chief official, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us (Daniel (Belteshazzar), Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego)) nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” (Daniel 1:11-14)

As many of us know, at the end of the ten days they looked way better than the other guys who were piggin’ out on the king’s buffet. The Babylonians were trying to change the thinking of these men by giving them a Babylonian education, their loyalty by changing their names, and the lifestyle by changing their diet. Without compromising, Daniel found a way to live by God’s standards in a culture that had chosen to not honor God. He chose to negotiate instead of rebel. Daniel suggested an experiment. What we see is we may adjust to our culture as long as we do not compromise the commands of God.

For those of you who are like myself and don’t enjoy worship or even contemporary Christian music that heavily resembles music of our culture, perhaps we should all think again. If it isn’t blatantly going against God, then maybe we need to lighten up.

 

Now look at life. The Babylonians were doing everything possible to try to break down the Jews line of thinking. They were completely immersing them in Babylonian culture, yet four men were standing up to it and refusing to be swayed by their attempts. For me, this is also a story that enforces my desire to, IF and I mean IIIIIF I ever have children, put them in public schooling. Right now the only factor that would seriously sway my opinion is if the education at the closest public school wasn’t up to par. THEN I would homeschool. I refuse to keep my children (um..my ‘pretend’ children) from culture just because it doesn’t follow Christ. If my husband and I are doing our jobs as parents, then I shouldn’t have much fear for whether or not my children are going to stand up for Truth. Quite honestly, from what I see on this campus, MOST (not all) of the time I cannot believe the naivete of kids who were homeschooled for the entirety of their high school careers. Many of these kids don’t have a clue what problems the real world has. Many haven’t experienced spiritual warfare, family members who are addicts to something, homosexual friends, etc. They’ve been kept in a bubble. I will not do that to my kids. I’m so against parents who remove their children from a public school just because of the risk of sin. Eventually we have to cut the umbilical cord, folks. Why do parents fear the path their child will take? If they DISCIPLINED their children (as in, spanking. Yes, that’s completely acceptable, liberals. Get over it.), showed them adequate amounts of love, grace, and mercy, and also spoke the Truth and nothing BUT the Truth, then why worry? I have to wonder if homeschooling covers up the mistakes the parents made and not ones the child made.

Okay, I’ll get off the soapbox.

Back to my point. Get involved in culture and stand up for godly lifestyles and principles. Don’t compromise, but be sneaky. It’s possible to be a Christian in today’s world and not worry about whether or not King Nebuchadnezzar will kill you for it. ;) Unless you’re like me and have a tendency to speak your mind the minute something enters it. Plan on getting killed socially-speaking for that one. =P Or, hey, physically, depending on where you are! You never know!

 

Pray on, friends. :)
…especially for Japan.

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My 5-Year Wedding Anniversary

For the past two days, I’ve been pretty bogged down. Not in a depressed sort of mood, but times like right now, when the rest of the house is silent and all I’m doing is thinking about a lot, I’ve come to realize that I truly have not let go of some of the stupid decisions I’ve made in my life. I still beat myself up over them constantly. The past two days have been no exception. At one point last night when I was working, I literally became sick to my stomach. Guilt had never quite hit me like that before. I kept thinking about how I’ve ruined future experiences for myself.. How I’ve resisted God.. How I’ve run away as fast as I could.. How I’ve wasted SO much time.. It’s a lot for a person to carry around, y’know?

We’re all aware that God’s grace is enough to cover all of that, so please, no Sunday school answers needed. But after we’ve swiped the credit card of grace, we go on with our lives like nothing happened, but are we truly changed? I know a relationship with Christ isn’t about a feeling at all, but do we really have a heart-felt feeling of being forgiven? This has been my struggle ever since I started my walk with Christ; I never “feel” forgiven. I think I’ve finally figured out why..

The feeling of forgiveness isn’t meant to just come on its own. Hold on, stay with me. I know we don’t have to work for the grace of God, I know he gives it freely. However, I also believe that if you want that “feeling” of forgiveness, then you have to truly know the definition of repentance. Part of the definition of repent is “to turn,” as in, to turn in another direction. We can’t know forgiveness unless we turn from what we’re seeking forgiveness for. You can’t understand forgiveness until you learn to live in God’s grace. Forgiveness is far more than a feeling; it’s a release from being held captive by something that will consume and ruin your life. I’m starting to see that you can’t know forgiveness until you see the importance of living in God’s light and following his will. The importance can’t be seen unless you recognize that your life would literally be hell without his forgiveness and mercy. You’ve been trapped in Hell long enough; isn’t it time to walk away.. “to turn” away and walk the other direction and learn the depth of forgiveness?

I’ve started slipping back into some old habits again. I know the root of the issue, but my problem lies in the fact that I’m not sure how to fix it. Right now, I can do nothing about the true issue, but I CAN change how I deal with it.. It’s just very difficult right now, unfortunately. =/

A few mights ago, on July 23, it was an anniversary. The anniversary of my first re-baptism. (There’s actually been a third baptism in my life, but it’s more of a personal thing) My first year of CIY, I was re-baptized. I was baptized on Easter Sunday 2001, long before I understood the depth and importance of following Christ. I assumed that this just enabled me to take communion. Thus, I was re-baptized by a good friend at the time, Matt Shamp. I walked away with the assumption I knew what I was doing. I did, yes, but the understanding still wasn’t there, hence the third time. I can assure you the third time truly was the charm. Anyway. Back to the story. On July 23, you could say that was my re-committment to Christ. I’ve considered this the first of, hopefully, two weddings of my life. My 5 year anniversary with Christ. We’ve been “married” for 5 years. From the ups & downs, to me running away, to me ignoring him, to me coming full-circle and weeping at his feet for forgiveness. That’s what I did. What did he do? He waited patiently while I lived a sin-soaked life. He cried while I was crying because I was so numb to his love. He watched intently while I teetered on the edge of choosing our relationship against the world.. and furrowed his brow when I chose the world. He wept when I became so hardened to how to feel. He reached out to me when I was at the end of my robes begging for help, for something to change this. And finally, after May term, after nearly five long years of running and running fast, I was pushed over the edge and realized I’d missed out on five years of true love, true companionship, true relationship. It’s funny that some people consider the day they’re baptized their “spiritual birthday.” Indeed, it’s true.. birth into a new life.. but I like to think of it as something much more significant, something much deeper that truly displays Christ’s love for us.

The other night I did something a little out of character, but it was actually really good for me. I wrote a love note to my Savior. As I read back over it, I couldn’t help but notice how PERFECT of an example Christ is for today’s marriage. Obviously I already knew this, but it was one of those moments that it truly hits you as to how much men should be modeling themselves after Christ in order to be a godly husband. Granted, women, we need to model ourselves after Christ as well, but I was viewing this in the light of who I marry. I know I’ve been talking about marriage/relationships a lot lately and I feel as if it’s completely uncalled for almost, but I suppose it’s just been on my mind a lot lately, especially July 23. I was amazed at the close relation between what I’ve been looking for and what I’ve had the whole time! It also put sin in a whole new perspective. Every time I sin, I cheat against my Husband. Every time I choose the world over him, I choose promiscuity. Ouch. Dwell on that one for a while…

But there’s grace.. and repentance..

Lesson I’ve learned for the past week: Never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop searching the depths of Christ’ love for his bride, the church, and for his children.

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