Friday, December 23, 2016

A Season of Sorrow

Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi. Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled:

      “A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH,
            WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING,
            RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN;
            AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED,
            BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.”


Christmas is a season of joy- “children laughing, people passing, dressed in holiday style.”

Christmas is a season of sorrow.  Mother’s weep under shining trees over flat bellies-babies lost or never conceived.  Tables heavy with holiday goodies have empty seats where spouses, parents, children, siblings passed or estranged used to sit.



There is a carol for a mourning Christmas-Coventry Carol.  If you’ve never heard it, the carol commemorates the massacre of the innocents, when the enraged Herod slaughtered every son of Bethlehem two and under.  With a lullaby of lamentation, the carol weeps with Rachel.

Think today of someone you know that may not be celebrating this Christmas.  Take a moment of compassion and let them know that you and Rachel join them in their tears.

Monday, December 19, 2016

A New Star

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

 All creation held its breath.  The Savior was being born.  That spring day was so momentous that a new star appeared in the heavens.  I don’t understand the science of it exactly.  Did the wise men witness the birth of a star or its death?  
When did God put things in motion so that the light hit the earth at just that moment?  Where was it positioned in the night sky?  Was it visible in every hemisphere?

I understand this: creation knows its Creator!  When Christ rode into Jerusalem, he told us that if the people hadn’t praised God in this the day of His visitation the rocks themselves would have done the job (Luke 19:40).  Just a week later when He hung outside the city, the earth shook and the sun refused to shine (Matthew 27:45-53).

If the universe itself shines on the Savior can we do less?  

“Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:3).

Ready for more Christmas Posts?

A New Nativity Scene

Shining as Lights

Friday, December 16, 2016

Learning to Wait

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLDTHE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SONAND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.


Self-denial is at an ebb as a virtue. We are a society drive by self, desire, even whim. Thus we betray our future selves.  We have forgotten how to wait.

Waiting was something Joseph excelled at.  He waited to bed his betrothed until they were married.  When the angel told him to wait further until his wife’s son was born, Joseph live with her chastely.  

Self-denial at its best.  He chose to do what was right over whim, desire, and self.

Is it any wonder that God chose this man to help Mary to raise his son?  Joseph’s stepson grew up to become the expression of self-denial.  Jesus calls us all to follow Him in this hard virtue.  “Take up your cross and follow me.”

In this Christmas season of excess find a moment everyday to put yourself aside.  With self out of the way,  we can wait on God--a quiet servant ready to work her master’s will.

Ready for more Christmas posts?

Building a home for God
Pregnancy Announcements


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Complex Gifts

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. “And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.



God’s gifts are complex.  Mary’s gift, a child conceived by the Holy Spirit came, with such complications: nearly being divorced from her betrothed, birthing her firstborn in a stable, living as a political refugee in Egypt.  Mary’s gift brought joy and sorrow.  Mary’s gift was a sword piercing her own heart.

Our gifts are often similarly complicated.  An ill and aging parent comes to live with us.  Joy and suffering in a single cup.  We reach out to friends with the gospel; some receive glady, more turn awkwardly away.  

For Mary her answer to the gift was simple, “behold the bondslave of the Lord”. May we be her daughter’s in this.  When joy and suffering come wrapped up together as a complex gift from our Lord, may we say simple, “I too am your servant Lord.  Speak and I obey.”

Ready for more Christmas Posts?


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Declaring His Generations

The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:
      
So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

(Matthew 1:1 and 17)

Matthew opens his gospel by declaring the generations of Jesus Christ. Fourteen recorded ancestors starting from the covenant with Abraham to bless the world through his seed.  Fourteen generations later the promise to David that he would have a son to sit on his throne for all eternity.  Fourteen generations since the shame of Israel when the presence of God left his temple.

And now Matthew declares that God has brought the fulfillment in his generation of all those generations of waiting.  The seed that will bless all mankind has come into the world.  The king who will reign forever has come to take His throne.  The presence of God has returned to Israel.  

Let us join Matthew in a shout of song.  Joy to the world!  The Lord is come!  In our day, in our generation as in theirs, the world is blessed, the King reigns, and God is come!  




Ready for more Christmas Posts?


Jesus' Wish List

Friday, December 9, 2016

All We Like Sheep


    Surely our griefs He Himself bore,


            And our sorrows He carried;

            Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

            Smitten of God, and afflicted.
      But He was pierced through for our transgressions,


            He was crushed for our iniquities;

            The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

            And by His scourging we are healed.
      All of us like sheep have gone astray,


            Each of us has turned to his own way;

            But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

            To fall on Him.
      He was oppressed and He was afflicted,


            Yet He did not open His mouth;

            Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

            And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
            So He did not open His mouth.

     By oppression and judgment He was taken away;


            And as for His generation, who considered

            That He was cut off out of the land of the living

            For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
(Isaiah 53:4-8)



I love this part of Handel’s Messiah!  One year as a kid I checked the record of the whole thing out of the library and listened to it.  I was old enough to enjoy being different maybe not old enough to really appreciate the lyrics.  But I remember the chorus swelling “all we like sheep-have gone astray.”

And I remember being that sheep.  Not some cute and fluffy lamb from a Christmas pageant but a panicked matted sheep caught in the brambles wondering where the shepherd went.  

The last part of the song drops the frenzied primary melody into a sad slow fade.  “He has laid on Him the inquiry of us all."


In Christmas and every other season we have this precious gift: our Shepherd became a sheep.  He left the glory of heaven to be a broken and bloody lamb.  

Ready for more Christmas posts?

Jesus the Lamb of God

Families are the best   

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

His Heart's Desire

      And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth...

      Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” 

      The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. “And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

      The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 

I have long wondered why Gabriel struck Zacharias mute.  Mary asked a similar question.  And given their age and years of infertility is a little disbelief so inexcusable?

Perhaps in Zacharias, it was.  What Gabriel was announcing was the answer to prayer.  For who knows how many years or even decades Zacharias had been begging God for a child. As an answer God sends Gabriel, the angel that came to Daniel, to tell Zacharias that he was to receive a miracle the likes of which had not been seen since the days of Abraham. 

Zacharias isn’t ignorant; he was an observant Jewish male, a priest in active service described by Luke as both righteous and blameless. Yet faced with his heart’s desire, his dearest prayer answered-he doesn't believe.


Perhaps under your Christmas tree is a bounty of gifts or a single lonely box but either way I wish for you better gifts: answered prayers and the power to believe in them.  

Ready for more Christmas posts?

All I want for Christmas

A Good Guest


Sunday, December 4, 2016

The God Who Sees-A Book Review

As a Christian I believe in supporting the good rather than complaining about the bad (Philippians 4:8).  That's why I am not going to waste your time telling you how I HATE fluffy condescending Bible class material for women and teens. 

Instead let's talk about a new book I love.

Recently I got a copy (for free in exchange for my honest review) of the 
The God Who Sees: Lessons from Another Perspective by J.A. Busick.  This is the second of her books I have reviewed.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

God gave to me: (A Song and a Free Printable)



As I was brainstorming posts for Christmas, my teenager spontaneously came up with the first couple of verses to this song.  Impressed with her creativity, I told her if she'd finish it, I'd post it.  When it was done, I stunned by the breadth of God's gifts!  I hope you enjoy the song and I'd love for you to share it with your kids as a short hand to remind them that the baby in the manger was the seed that so many amazing gifts spring from.  At the bottom of this post you'll find links to a fun Bible search (like a scavenger hunt through scripture) based on the song and suggestions on how use it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What your minister's wife wants for Christmas

I am blessed to be the wife of a minister.  Don't get me wrong, life doesn't always go the way we plan and of course there are downsides but let me tell you about an upside in my life.  

My church.

We are a part of the most amazing congregation of people.  It's not that they are famous, or rich, or enormous.  We'll leave that to others.  What they are is welcoming, kind, interested, supportive, patient and loving.  What they are is the image of Christ.

Since our earliest days here I have know that I wasn't just the wife of the minister, I was their sister.

But it's not always that way.  Sometimes minister's wives feel excluded, out of place, far from home, and alone.    

I'd like to encourage you today to think about the perfect Christmas gift, something that will let her know that you love here and appreciate all that she does.  Need a suggestion? 

Well glad you asked!  I am guest posting today with Pat and Candy follow the link for some practical suggestions.


Monday, November 28, 2016

The Grinch

One of the awesome things happening in my congregation is a Sunday Night group Bible study.  Each week we take a question asked by a member of our church, study all week, and then work on it as a class.  A few weeks ago we studied the Grinch.


Confused?  The actual topic was bitterness.  And there is no better Christmas season example than the Grinch.  If bitterness is a disease, he has every symptom.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Mediations on Christmas

As you munch one more turkey sandwich, I invite you to turn your mind to Christmas.  

What?

You have been bombarded by EVERYTHING Holiday for the last 6 weeks?  There is still a month till Christmas, there are presents to buy, the tree is not up, gifts need wrapped and no one is allowed to mention the Black Friday hangover?


This holiday season on Maidservants of Christ, we will be celebrating a quiet kind of Christmas.  I invite you to join us for a series of meditations.  We’ll work our way slowly through the “nativity" scriptures, savoring carols and pondering prophecies.  

So from now until Christmas, grab a cup of coffee (or an eggnog if that’s your jam) and meditate with us on the story of how God brought a Savior to our world!

Helene


PS I understand that Jesus was not born on December 25th (even in Palestine it’s too cold for shepherds to be sleeping out with their sheep and for Ceasars to be turning out the populace for a census).  I also understand that God gave us no commandment to celebrate Jesus’ birth.  Yet this is the only time of year that the world speaks His name except as a curse.  So I encourage you to take the opportunity with me to share His story while people are listening (if in no other way you can share these mediations on your social media feed!).

Ready for more Christmas posts? Try these!

Revisiting the Nativity

Imaginary Judges


Party Pooper


Monday, November 21, 2016

The DIY disaster

My daughter and I came across this picture.  It was the kind of recipe that inspires dinners, dieters and DIY chefs alike.  A huge piece of cake lay artfully under two scoops of ice cream.  The caption proclaimed it would make its own caramel sauce in the pan.  One look and she proclaimed, "That's what sin looks like."  

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Lie: You are Good Enough

This post, which appeared in a slightly different form some years ago, is part of a list of posts about the lies that sin tells us hosted by Bethany Mcllrath.  I hope you will click over and read more of these articles!

Who would you die for?  Not risk your life for, like heroic police officers, soldiers, and others do.  I mean for whom would you deliberately step forward and offer to die in his/her place?

For me, the answer's easy. I would die for my daughters, my nieces.  I might die for my husband if he didn't beat me to it.  Or perhaps for other adult family members.  But that's it.  Short list.

Why do I ask? 

 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him (Romans 5:7-9).  

Because these verses haunt me. Because left to myself, I know I am neither righteous nor good.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Entertained not Enslaved: Resources for Dealing with Media


On a Facebook group I am a part of, I saw a very intriguing post go by.  A minister's wife  was gathering resources to teach a lesson on how to deal with the media coming into your home.  I was intrigued.  I contacted her to ask to share the completed list and convinced her to guest post for us instead.  Joanne Desmartin is a stay-at-home mom, a minister's wife, a Bible class teacher and an altogether Godly lady.  You can find her and her congregation online. You might find her traveling, enjoying art, or getting ready for the holidays!



While preparing for a recent ladies’ devotional, from Nancy Eichman’s Seasoning Your Words:  God’s Recipe for Controlling Your Tongue, on offensive words, I had the opportunity to compile a list of valuable censorship resources.  The chapter I was covering from Nancy’s book talked about how we have gradually allowed vulgar language to creep into our society and our individual homes.  She encouraged us to avoid this sneaking advance by evading even a hint of foul, vulgar language.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Daniel: What God Can Do - A Book Review

There are few books better suited to Halloween then Daniel with its giant statues, near misses with furnaces and lions, strange beasts, mysterious angels and cryptic prophecies.  


All that mystery leads us to sometimes ignore the end of the book for the more comprehensible beginning.  But getting clarity and application out of mystery is what Stafford North excels at.  

Monday, October 24, 2016

6 weeks of devotionals from Daniel

6 weeks of devotionals to share with your
kids about the book of Daniel.

I hope that you have enjoyed the devotionals but even more I hope you have had the opportunity to share them with your kids. You could share them all in one week, one per night at bedtime or once a week for the next 6 weeks.  The important thing is that you help your kids stay in the word of God.

Below you'll find a list not only of all the stories but also of each character trait that is emphasized. Don't forget to check back next week for a review of a great book to help you and your children understand Daniel 7-12.

If you have a favorite devotional book, or series online (or if you wrote one!) we'd love to hear about it and feature it on our Facebook page.

Happy and Holy Parenting!

Helene



Introduction to the Daniel Devotionals

Daniel and his friends refuse the King's food: Fairness

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream: Wisdom

The Fiery Furnace: Defiance

Nebuchadnezzar's fall: Humility

The Writing on the Wall: Blasphemy

Daniel and the Lion's Den: Spiritual Discipline




Sunday, October 16, 2016

In age as in youth

Daniel was more than eighty years old, elderly for our modern age and ancient for the pre-industrial world. Yet the gifts that had twinkled in his youth were in full bloom in age.  

Do you remember the boy who prayed believing that the God of fallen Israel and Judah could miraculously reveal the answer to him in far off Babylon (Daniel 2)? He became the aging man who foresaw the coming of Alexander the Great, the Ptolemies and Seleucids, the rise of Antiochus Epiphanes and the coming in power of the Son of Man.  While Belshazzar was forgetting who Daniel was, Daniel was seeing the throne room of God (Daniel 7).

Monday, October 10, 2016

Who do you think you are dealing with?

Belshazzar threw a party with a thousand guests.  In a bid to impress the nobles, because he was drunk, or simply because the bouquet of the wine demanded superior vessels, he called for the temple ware. Years before when the aging Daniel was a boy, Nebuchadnezzar had looted God's temple when he sacked the city of Jerusalem.  So in a dusty storehouse somewhere the holy vessels of gold and silver sat waiting.  When these sacred artifacts were brought forth and filled with wine, Belshazzar raise his glass and praised the "gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone."

What on earth did he think he was doing?

Monday, October 3, 2016

Gifts from the Giver

He believed in American values.  He was hard-working and understood that this was the only path to wealth and power.  He told it like it is, and he never understated his achievements.  He knew how to get ahead, how to self-promote and how to be a world class administrator.  He built an empire; he was the envy of all.

Who was this mysterious powerhouse?

Monday, September 26, 2016

What god can rescue you out of my hand?

Daniel was a fast-talker.  He could effortlessly convince kings, Captians of the King's bodyguards, and chief officials to do everything from let him switch to a vegetarian diet to put off an order of execution.  Daniel was smooth.

And if we read the first two chapters in isolation, we might imagine that quick thinking and a silver tongue can get a servant of God out of any bind.  However the third chapter of Daniel quickly puts that idea to rest. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Honor in Exile

When I realized that we'd be spending some time in Daniel, I remembered this post from the mid-term elections about a Christian response to living in under a passive hostile government.  What could be more appropriate as we face these upcoming elections than to model our public life on Daniel's! 




I voted. 

It was the first time in more than a decade.  I'm not lazy, honest.  For most of those years I was abroad, and for all of them I was deeply conflicted about the candidates, finding them all so distasteful that I couldn't bring myself to endorse any of them.

I'm trying again.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Wisdom of School-Boys


"What were you thinking?"  Every parent has uttered these words.  My husband often follows it up with the frustrated growl, "You WEREN"T thinking!"  The hallmark of maturity is the ability to guard both our actions and our words in terms of their consequences.  But our grandparents wouldn't wouldn't have called this "maturity," they would have called it wisdom and it's this characteristic that is highlighted in the second chapter of Daniel.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Bible Study for the Public School kid

Although this post is from several years ago, the curriculum it reviews still stands as one of the best series we've found to help busy moms learn the Bible with their public school kids. Melissa's kids have all switched to homeschooling but I know that she still recommends this resources.   We hope you are enjoying our series of devotionals from Daniel but you'll need to keep going when we finish! So consider checking out this or other curriculums! 

My two oldest kids go to public school, but in the end, their education is my responsibility.  In fact, the most important subject they have is not one they learn about at school at all.  It is vital that my children learn the Bible, and they aren't getting that between 7:30 and 2:30 every day. Sunday Bible class simply can't make up for daily teaching of the Word in our home.  In the past, I've tried to create my own "curriculum," with varying degrees of success.  I'm not an educator, though, and I knew our time could be more productive.  I was so glad when I found the "Growing Up in God's Word" series from Pryor Convictions media because it gave me the structure I needed to teach my children well. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

But That's Not FAIR!



My daughter had to write an essay about injustice last school year.  She is a third culture kid, a child who has spent so much time outside of her "home" culture that she no longer truly belongs to either her home or adopted culture. Writing that essay was hard for her.  Abandoned babies, starving children, bribery and persecution aren't abstract concepts but the stories of people she knows. More than most 15 year olds, she understands how useless complaining about life's injustices is. 

She has that in common with Daniel.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Digging through Daniel

At the end of my kitchen table, an old friend sat with her 3 year old daughter.  It was breakfast time and the little one picked at her food.  Her mom turned to the next page in a  book of animal stories from the Bible, a hand-me-down from our years abroad.  After reading several stories, my friend pulled out a book of virtues and reminded her little girl of yesterday's misbehavior and today's practical ways to show God's character.  

Does three seem young to you for daily Bible study and application?  Does vacation seem like an odd time to be focused on helping a little one come to know God?  Or like me do you see here the pattern of a life of service and discipline being laid down?  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Long Absence

We've been gone a while.

There are all kinds of good reasons.  Melissa is now a homeschooling mom of 3 children after years of public school-a transition that has required her full attention.  I was finishing up the manuscript on a book (insert school girl squee here), auditing a grad class with my husband, and enjoying an entire summer filed with guests.

However there is no good excuse for the fact that we left all of you, our dear readers, without so much as an explanation.

So please except our apologies for not at least letting you know where we were going!

Right now, Melissa is deeply embroiled in homeschooling with its new schedules, new demands, new problems and new joys. I, on the other hand, woke up the other day, looked around and realized things were back to normal.  My schedule was bumping along with only one problem: the hole where blogging used to be.

So I am back.  If all goes well I will be posting once a week beginning with a series of devotionals that you can share with your kids from the book of Daniel.

Again, please accept my apologies for our long absence from the blogging world and join us again as we dive into what it means to be a woman in God's service!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dividing Lines

Evangelism is like having a much longed for child.  All your sisters should be excited, encouraging, and enthusiastic. And to some degree it’s true.  If you announce to your ladies Bible class that you talked to your best friend about coming to church with you, they’ll all give you a little pat on the back and promise to pray.  If you tell them that you signed up to grade correspondence courses or that you are going to teach a community Bible class at the Library, you’ll get proud smiles and offers to help with anything they can do.  

But when you joyfully announce something like, “One of the ladies from our prison bible class was baptized this week.  She’ll be out next month and she and her kids will get to be a real part of our congregation.”  

Do you think you’ll get that pat on the back?  

Maybe. Maybe not.