Images of Advent

Most years when December hits and the Christmas season gets underway our family scrambles to prepare well. We don’t want to lose the hope and longing for Christ in the midst of a commercialized cultural moment. So to that end, we have tried a number of different books, guides, and calendars to get our hearts fully engaged in Advent (the month-long reminder and celebration of the arrival of Jesus and expectation of his return). But each year we feel like we have to start over with materials more appropriate for our season of life and worthwhile for our kids.

This year, instead of hunting for and ordering what might work, Stacy set out to write a devotional for our family that would make much of Jesus and instill an increasing sense of hope in our hearts. The result is our Images of Advent Family Devotional.

Image 11-29-18 at 3.43 PMImages of Advent shares Scripture and a simple devotional with questions for the days leading to Christmas. There is also a paper ornament families get to decorate for each day as a reminder of the good news of Jesus at Christmas.

We are excited to freely give print copies to our friends at Reservoir Church this Sunday but for those of you far off we are glad to make the pdf of the devotional available to you to download.

Please feel free to print, share, and enjoy Jesus in the Images of Advent Family Devotional. Click the links to download:

Images of Advent.

Advent Ornaments.

Union with Christ

418yhfsumyl-_sy344_bo1204203200_Having just finished Rankin Wilbourne’s Union with Christ, I wanted to share some highlights with you. It is a splendid and accessible book on what is vitally important for the Christian to understand; that in faith you are united with Christ, joined to him for all of eternity, secure, empowered, loved and approved. Among Wilbourne’s goals in writing is to see the church reclaim this important doctrine and believer living in its power.

Be encouraged Saints, you are in union with Christ. May you know and enjoy God.

“One way to think about the Christian life—not the only way, but a powerful and too-little-used way—is that believing the gospel means having your imagination taken captive and reshaped by a new story.”

“Could anything about the Christian life be more precious than this? This is what God has saved you for—communion, relationship, and intimacy with himself. This is what Christ suffered for, “that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).”

“You can rest. In Christ. You don’t have to be intimidated by anyone, ever. Who are you? You are in Christ! And you no longer need to fear the judgment of God (1 John 4:18). When God looks at you, he sees you hidden in Christ. This is freedom. This is confidence. This is good, good news.”

“Being a Christian is not about absorbing certain doctrines about God. Nor is it about being a better or different kind of person. The goal is having a personal, vital, profoundly real relationship with God through Christ by the Holy Spirit. The goal is enjoying communion with God himself. Union with Christ is not an idea to be understood, but a new reality to be lived, through faith.”

‘“Only those who believe obey” … and “only those who obey believe” … If the first half of the proposition stands alone, the believer is exposed to the danger of cheap grace, which is another word for damnation. If the second half stands alone, the believer is exposed to the danger of salvation through works, which is also another word for damnation.… It is all-important that the pastor should be ready with both sides of the proposition: “Only those who obey can believe, and only those who believe can obey.”’

“The work of Christ sets you free from sin’s penalty. So rather than turning away from God, you can turn toward Christ precisely when you might be tempted to hide from him. You can boldly approach his throne with confidence because you remember you are completely covered by Christ’s righteousness. Only those who believe can obey.”

“To be sure, we should strive to proclaim the gospel clearly (Col. 4:4). But sometimes our desire for clarity ends up narrowing our view of the gospel, even to the point of placing us at the center of it. But we are not the center of the gospel because we are not the center of the universe. When we make the gospel primarily about us, we make it small.”

“Union with Christ gives us permission to rest. We don’t have to be burdened by the weight of the possible. We do have so many choices. But union with Christ says there is one choice more important than any other choice you will make: Thy will be done or my will be done? As long as your will is set on following Christ, you can rest in the choices you make. You don’t have to be frozen in fear because your life is no longer in your own hands. You can surrender your plans to Christ, who has joined his life to yours.”

“Where is your life headed? Now you have an answer. Jesus is your horizon. And because he deigns to make us one with himself, this horizon is not only beautiful but also accessible. Jesus already went the distance, and now he takes hold of you to bring you there. One day, you will see him face to face, and that face will have a form you recognize. But you will not only see him. On that day, “when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). This glorious destiny is where you are headed.”

 

Diving into the Depths of the Gospel

depthsLast year I wrote a daily devotional following the Robert Murray M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. In each post I attempted to see Jesus and the richness of the gospel in all of the Bible. It is now my joy to share the complete devotional with you.

While February is not a good time to make a daily devotional available, you really can jump on any day and hopefully be encouraged. Download the PDF here.

Open your Bible and dive into the goodness of Christ!

Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel

41ocxno-hol-_sx326_bo1204203200_I have just finished this brief but beautiful book on the the biblical theology of marriage and how we can look at it as more than a mere institution but something meant to convey so much more than what we typically settle for. This is an important topic and not because of political realities at play but because the church is called to live in response to the gospel letting our marriages point back to it.

Ray Ortlund Jr. is responsible for this entry into Crossway’s Short Studies in Biblical Theology series and as can be expected from Ray it is wise, direct and full of the grace of the gospel. Marriage and the Mystery of the Gospel is a journey through the Bible, seeing marriage as presented in Genesis, Law, Wisdom and Prophetic books and in the New Testament. All along the way Ortlund makes clear how God’s love for his people is artistically foreshadowed and a mystery revealed in marriage.

Because Christ worked to save and claim his bride, the church, we have a picture of how husband and wife relate, cherish and desire one another not only for their benefit but for the glory of the gospel.

The book lands with a discussion of modern issues surrounding marriage and how we can live our relationships faithfully and as designed. Not everything is covered here, this isn’t a marriage help book, but it is an accessible introduction to marriage in the Bible and it is well worth the read.

Below are some choice quotes from the book:

“Nowhere else does the creation account of Genesis 1 refer explicitly to sexuality. Animal reproduction is assumed, but human sexuality is celebrated, though its deeper meaning is not yet explained.”

“When we trust God enough to accept his account of manhood and womanhood, the relational quality of our marriages today can open up to deeper possibilities than we could ever create out of our own personal or cultural narratives.”

“He let us keep his priceless gift, though we sometimes misuse it. But what every married couple needs to know is that their marriage is a remnant of Eden. This is why every marriage is worth working at, worth fighting for. A marriage filled with hope in God is nothing less than an afterglow of the garden of Eden, radiant with hope until perfection is finally restored.”

“Everything the people of God failed to be and do, Jesus was and did for us all. He, not the law, is the defining center of how God relates to us. So the Bible has a forward tilt built in, with all aspects of the Old Testament leaning toward Christ: “And the Scripture, foreseeing . . .” (Gal. 3:8).”

“Your imperfect marriage in the world of today is as sacred in the sight of God as was the perfect marriage between Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. Your marriage is a grace from above. Your marriage is a miracle. Your marriage came to you with the touch of God upon it, and it remains dear to him. Your marriage has the potential, by his grace, to bring redemption into the broken world we all live in now. Your imperfect marriage is, therefore, worth celebrating. Jesus thought so.”

“After every societal failure of mankind litters the course of human history—with brief flashes of brilliance here and there, but all of them eventually slipping into decline—the holy city, the sacred society, the new Jerusalem created by the miracle of God’s grace will endure as the refuge of God’s people. This city will not weary us with noise and stress; it will not defile us with corruption and pollution. This holy city will be an experience of romance, prepared as a bride, adorned in her wedding dress for her husband, suggesting intimacy and warmth and softness and joy and love and bliss as our constant experience there. Isaiah prophesied to Jerusalem, “As the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you” (Isa. 62:5). Even so, it shall be—and forever.”

“If the Bible is telling us the truth about reality, then the time has come for all Christians and churches to pray for power, to think with clarity, to confess with humility, and to shout with joy on behalf of God’s priceless, blood-bought gift of marriage. And to God alone be all the glory forever.”