Dec 142015
 

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It’s hard to wait.

This is a truth we know all too well. Waiting for the weekend, waiting for the promotion, waiting for the wedding, waiting for dinner time, waiting for the test results, waiting for the next season, waiting for our kids to grow out of a hard stage, waiting for the baby to come, waiting in the checkout line, waiting in the waiting room, for our computer to power up, for life to slow down, for morning to come.

In all stages in life, it seems we are in a perpetual state of waiting. Whether life is flying by or the days pass slowly, we all know what it feels like to wait. The longing in our waiting hearts can feel exciting or feel more like a dull ache. This is because we live in an “almost, not yet, already” world. We are an in-between people. The waiting in every human heart reminds us we are hard wired to hope, to yearn, and to expect. More than anything, we long to be satisfied…satisfied in a deep, filled-up forever kind of way. We long, we wait, for Jesus.

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Dec 012015
 

I’ve seen posts all day about how today is called “Giving Tuesday”. It’s a day set aside on the calendar after we’ve spent all weekend shopping on ourselves and loved ones to think of others and “give”. In some ways this struck me as a little backwards.

But I was already convicted on Monday as I read this devotional below with my two teenage boys. We’ve been reading this book every day as I drive them to school throughout 2015 and there have been so many times where I kept thinking of God’s word to me in it all day long. This one in particular lasted more than a day.

Below is what we read in One Year of Dinner Table Devotions by Nancie Guthrie. (Yes, we are using a dinner devotional for the drive time, but it’s short and sweet and perfect for the time we have. Plus my boys like it.)

Getting and Giving

This is the season our mailboxes are filled with stacks of mail-order catalogs. Through their colorful pictures and creative words, they seek to convince us that we don’t have enough stuff – that we need more, newer, better. They go beyond supplying our needs; they appeal to our greed – the desire to get and keep more than we really need.

We have a choice. We can give in to greed and keep collecting more stuff and spending more money on ourselves. Or we can break out of the cycle of believing the lie that more will satisfy us. How? By giving. The only way to do battle with the greed in our hearts is to give – to become outrageous givers. God can turn greedy, grasping, fearful hoarders into generous, honest, trustworthy givers.

To become givers, we have to decide not to listen to the voice inside us that asks, “If I let this go, who will take care of me? What will satisfy me?” We have to face our fear that God will not be able to take care of us, protect us, or at least make sure we maintain the lifestyle we think we need to make us happy. We tell ourselves the truth about God – that because he has been so generous in giving us Jesus, we can be confident that he will give us everything we need. We take him at his word that he can satisfy us and that he will bless us as we give to others. We test his promise that it is “more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

“Some people are always greedy for more, but the godly love to give!” Proverbs 21:26

“Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” Luke 12;15

“You can be sure that no immoral, impure or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.” Ephesians 5:5

A few discussion starters:

What do you find yourself dreaming of getting? What do you find yourself dreaming of giving?

When have you experienced or observed someone else enjoying the happiness that comes from outrageous giving?

What does our green or generosity say about what we think of God?

So are you with me? Was your heart struck as mine was by how much I’ve been thinking about what to buy myself or my kids verses what can I give or who can I give to? The verses alone are enough to cut to the heart but then you add my answers to the questions and I’m done.

So what can we do to help our kids think more about giving than getting this Christmas?  One way you can fight this greed in your kids is to give them opportunities to give and learn about giving. Here are a few ideas but I’d love to hear any others you have.

Visit the tables in the foyer and help your kids pick out an organization and specific gift to give through Equipping the Saints.

Find a neighbor or friend who has a need and meet it.

Join us tomorrow night at our Family Christmas Celebration (December 2nd at 6:30 pm) we will be talking all about generosity as well as wrapping up a few gifts for others. We’ll also be sending you home with a Generosity Jar so your family can think more about how to “give” to others.

Ask your kids. I’m sure they have some ideas but just need help figuring out how to make it a reality.

For me personally, I just hear about a new book coming out soon called Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch. I plan to purchase, read and apply some of what I learn with my own kids. Click here for  a short write up about this book.

May God give us all a heart that wants to give more than we want to get. It is far more blessed to give than receive.

Dec 012014
 

I can think of many holiday seasons where the idea of baking cookies, watching snow fall, hanging lights, and listening to holiday music felt nothing but appropriate. I’ve also lived through holiday seasons and am currently experiencing one right now that doesn’t feel holly or jolly. The glitz and the glimmer at times feel like they are actively assaulting my soul, taunting me with triteness, reminding me of things I wish weren’t true of my life and circumstances. It’s true that grief doesn’t just surface in places like the doctor’s office or a cemetery. It can lay dormant waiting to pounce in the checkout isle of Target or during a seemingly benign conversation with a coworker. Christmas can trigger nostalgic joy and happy anticipation. It can also trigger a season of amplified loneliness and grief. It can remind us that our life doesn’t measure up to a Norman Rockwell Christmas card or even our own more realistic expectations.

My heart is heavy this holiday season. My days feel anything but merry and bright. I feel like decking my halls in sackcloth. Bearing the weight of deep sadness, disappointment, and fear my lips struggle to mouth the words of the songs my soul desperately needs on Sunday mornings. Sometimes it feels as though I expend more energy fighting tears than anything else right now.

In this season of giving thanks, I’m reminded that even in my pain there is much to be grateful for. Towards the top of my list is a season called Advent. Advent comes from a Latin word that means “coming.” It’s an opportunity to reflect on the humble birth of Christ and the anxious wait of His return in glory. It’s a reminder that we live in between the comings of Christ, the already, but the not yet. During this season, we are reminded that waiting, longing, and angst are very much a part of the Christian life. Just as God’s people and prophets groaned and ached for the Messiah hundreds of years ago, we too groan and ache for Christ to return and make everything sad come untrue.

In his book What Jesus Demands from the WorldJohn Piper writes,

When Jesus demands that we rejoice, he has not forgotten the kind of world we live in. It is filled with suffering…For Jesus the demand for joy is a way to live with suffering and to outlast suffering. Therefore, this joy is serious. It’s the kind you fight for by cutting off your hand (Matt. 5:30) and selling your possessions (Matt. 13:44) and carrying a cross with Jesus to Calvary (Matt. 10:38-39). It has scars. It sings happy songs with tears. It remembers the dark hours and knows that more are coming. The road to heaven is a hard road, but it is not joyless. 

Much of this quote reflects exactly what Advent means to me. Advent is about a deep, serious, abiding joy that doesn’t ignore the pain of life but doesn’t buckle underneath its weight either. It acknowledges the difficulty but continues to trust, hope, and rest in a faithful, loving God. Advent gives me permission to celebrate in the midst of all of my hurt this December. It reminds me that Christmas is at its core about a God who enters into our suffering and pain and keeps His promises. So I will light candles and hang lights and I will sing those happy songs with tears. Just like God’s people many years ago I will wait as they waited and I will long as they longed.

Come Lord Jesus, come redeem us, we will wait for You.

holly

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Dec 122013
 

“Praise the LORD for the glory that belongs to Him. Worship the LORD because of His beauty and holiness.” – Psalm 29:2

Worship comes in many different forms. We often think of worship as singing, prayer, scripture reading, and even community building with fellow believers.  All of these are ways we can worship God. But what does it mean to worship? You can think of it as “worth-ship”. When we worship God, we are acknowledging that He is worthy to be praised. The Bible talks about worship throughout both Old and New Testaments. In fact, the word worship is used 556 times in the Bible!

While there are several different forms of worship to God, there is truly something so tender and heart-changing about singing to the Lord. Many people throughout the Bible respond to God in song after He has done something great. After the Israelites are freed from Egypt , Moses responds by singing to the Lord (Exodus 15).  Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist. Scripture tells us the baby leaped in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. What did Mary do? She responded in song to God (Luke 1:46).  Worship is a response, a response to understanding who God is! He is our Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

This Christmas, your family has been given an advent devotional to prepare for this holiday season.  If you do not have one, you can pick one up at The Crossing Kids desk or download it here.  In this devotional, we are learning of the promise God made to send a Savior to the world and then see that promise fulfilled through the birth of Jesus. This holiday season, our prayer is that your family will come to understand who God is more fully and then respond to Him in worship, possibly singing praises to Him!

Below are some fun new versions of Christmas songs your family can sing together this Christmas as an act of worship and remembering who Jesus is! It is not a small thing that our Savior has been born and it is not a small thing that he came as a lowly baby, endured hardship throughout his life, and then died a horrible death so that we can receive the undeserved grace of God!

In the book Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin, he says “Anyone who seeks to encourage others to give praise and honor to God can be referred to broadly as a “worship leader””. So parents, lead your kids in worship this Christmas and every other day, encouraging them to recognize God the Father as the only One worthy of our praise! Spend some time listening to the words in these songs and singing along to the parts you know. May your words and raised voices bring Glory to Him!

Away in a Manger by Shane and Shane (Glory in the Highest Album)
Angels We Have Heard on High by Chris Tomlin (Glory in the Highest Album)
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing from the Jingle Jam CD
Go Tell it on the Mountain by Tenth Avenue North
Joy to the World by Francesca Battistelli
Silent Night by Mercy Me (Christmas Album)
My Soul Magnifies the Lord by Chris Tomlin (Glory in the Highest Album)
Here I am to Worship by Tim Hughes

 

 

 

 

 

Dec 102013
 

We are Christmas people,
not Advent.

Waiting feels
unnatural,
countercultural,
uncomfortable.

Yet waiting
is just as much a part
of our reality
as it was theirs.

We no longer wait
for his birth,
but His coming.

Eternity amnesia
blinds us to the reality
that this world isn’t all
there is.

Just like kids
tearing open presents
we ask,
“Is this it?”

Unrealistic expectations
that life
can’t deliver.
We ask too much
of other people.
We misplace priorities.
We misunderstand suffering.
Robbed of meaning
and purpose.

We are wired by God
for more.
Eternity set inside
of every human heart.

There is surely
a future hope
that will not be cut off.
A hope
on the other side
of the grave.
This world is
preparation,
not a destination.

A life of wisdom is dependent
on knowing this
isn’t all there is.
Don’t set your hope here
set your hope on the grace
to be brought to you.

We wait as they waited.
We long as they longed.
Come Lord Jesus, come redeem us
we will wait for You.

*A found poem from Keith Simon’s Sermon on November 27, 2011.

advent1

Dec 052013
 

Last night, over 700 children and their families joined us for Journey to Jesus, our Family Christmas Celebration.  At the end of the night, we passed out a copy of this year’s weekly Advent Devotional.  Additional copies are available to pick up this Sunday morning or you can download a printable version of the entire document here.

Family Christmas Celebration Devo

Each week, we’ll post a copy of this week’s focus on the blog as well.

introletter

week1

Nov 052013
 

As I ran errands yesterday, I heard two different radio stations play Christmas music.  While I have to admit, I’m not quite ready for this and don’t like that many skip right over Thanksgiving, it did cause me to pause and consider how to be intentional during the next two months of holiday season. Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience as you’ve noticed stores or other radio stations “decking the halls” prematurely.

In her book Treasuring God in Our Traditions, Noel Piper shares not just a rationale for why “everyday and especially traditions” are important, but practical ideas that help children and their families look to the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17) in the process.  Below are just a few favorite excerpts.

  • “Now although we cannot bequeath God to our children, we can help them know him and understand him in ways that prepare them to believe in his name.  ”Everyday” and “especially” traditions in a family are an important part of that teaching, of picturing who God is and what he’s done in our home and in the world.  Traditions are a vital way of displaying our greatest treasure, of showing what–Who–is most important to us.”
  • “In the book of Exodus, Moses displays his understanding of the nature of children and the responsibility of parents: “And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD’s Passover for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt’” (Exodus 12:26-27).  Moses assumes children will ask why. And he instructs parents to give an answer that speaks of reality.  The instruction is all in the context of laying out for children ceremonies that will portray the answer.  He is giving them the answer, both spoken and displayed.  And the answer is God–God saved us, and we honor him, worship him, thank him.  We and our children need this kind of yearly repetition to impress us with the weight of what God has done.”  
  • “Perhaps the greatest value of good traditions is that through them we learn about and recognize and experience the faithfulness of our God, who promises, ‘I will not leave you or forsake you” (Joshua 1:5)…We don’t know exactly what our children’s strongest, lasting memories will be.  But we do want to make sure that our daily, weekly, “regularly random” activities occur in a God-filled context–that we recognize him in all of our life and show him everywhere to our children.”
  • “God knows we need ‘especially’…God himself appointed special days, such as Passover, for his people and gave them ceremonies to set those days off from the others (Exodus 12:1-20).  December 25, for example, could pass like any other day in our week, except for the thought and preparation we give to it and the customs and traditions that surround it.  The ceremony of a special day keeps it from slipping away like an ordinary day.  We stop and recognize the specialness of an event in large part because of the traditions in which it’s wrapped.  Our “especially” celebrations anchor us and our children in the harbor of our family, reflecting our true refuge–God.  The way we observe these occasions–the focus of our observation–has great potential to show our children what we think is most important and to help them value what we hold most dear.”
  • “Through him we have birth and life and every thing and every person in our lives.  So God is the reason we have anything to celebrate.  He is the ultimate source of any of our celebrations…As my husband (John Piper) explains, “If created things are seen and handled as gifts of God and as mirrors of his glory, they need not be occasions of idolatry–if our delight in them is always also a delight in their Maker.’”  
  • My goal is that we evaluate our traditions.  It’s not enough to do things just because that’s the way we’ve always done them.  We must think about our traditions.  If an activity or custom says what we mean about God and our relationship with him, we keep it.  Some we’ll want to change, and some we’ll want to set aside to make place for something new…They should have God at the center.  Let’s just remember what we’re after:  Remembering what God did for his people, for us, and giving glory to God for what he’s done, so our children and their children will know him.
During the months of November and December, we plan to share some of our favorite traditions for Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas with you that go beyond what is temporary and point to what is lasting.
We also invite you to share some of your favorite traditions that have helped you and/or your family treasure God.  We’d love for you to comment either below or on Facebook.
treasure
Dec 102012
 

Last Wednesday evening, hundreds of Crossing Kids and their families gathered to worship our coming King during Family Christmas Celebration 2012: Heaven and Nature Sing.  Our evening started in the auditorium with a collection of different animals singing “Joy to the World” in their native tongues.

This was followed by a dramatic reading of Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones.  Each family in attendance was able to take a copy of this great book home at the end of the night.

Candace then lead us in a time of worship.  We took a closer look at the lyrics of “Joy to the World” and learned that this Christmas favorite is really about all of creation worshiping and longing for the day when Jesus returns and all things will be made new.

Families then left to participate in games that helped us understand what it means to wait in eager anticipation.  They also created paper chains to count down the days until Christmas and use with this year’s Family Advent Devotional.  If you weren’t able to make it, you can download a free downloadable version and order your own copy of Song of the Stars to use alongside it.

Dec 062012
 

A found poem based on Keith Simon’s sermon from Advent past.  You can listen to the entire thing here.

We are Christmas people,
not Advent.

Waiting feels
unnatural,
countercultural,
uncomfortable.

Yet waiting
is just as much a part
of our reality
as it was theirs.

We no longer wait
for his birth,
but His coming.

Eternity amnesia
blinds us to the reality
that this world isn’t all
there is.

Just like kids
tearing open presents
we ask,
“Is this it?”

Unrealistic expectations
that life
can’t deliver.
We ask too much
of other people.
We misplace priorities.
We misunderstand suffering.
Robbed of meaning
and purpose.

We are wired by God
for more.
Eternity set inside
of every human heart.

There is surely
a future hope
that will not be cut off.
A hope
on the other side
of the grave.
This world is
preparation,
not a destination.

A life of wisdom is dependent
on knowing this
isn’t all there is.
Don’t set your hope here
set your hope on the grace
to be brought to you.

We wait as they waited.
We long as they longed.
Come Lord Jesus, come redeem us
we will wait for You.