“Thus the Lord has done for me…”

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[I meant to get this posted last week ahead of Christmas day, but I think it still applies. So, here’s something to mull over as we enter the new year.]

The Christmas story has deep roots in the Old Testament. The “seed” of the Woman, Eve, whom God promised would crush the work of the Serpent, was promised to come through the lineage of Abraham the patriarch and David the king. The promised descendant would be Himself a King forever, with an eternal inheritance. Through the house of Abraham and the lineage of David, the glory of God would be proclaimed to all the earth, and all the peoples of the earth would be blessed. This “seed,” this king, would be God’s messiah, His anointed one.

And so, prophet after prophet, century after century, the people of God waited for this sign, this Seed, to be revealed, bringing their deliverance with Him. Curiously, the last prophecy by the last prophet of the Old Testament wasn’t about the Messiah, but about His herald, a forerunner who would prepare the way for Him. After the prophet Malachi’s last word, there was silence for 4 centuries. No new word from the Lord. No new proclamations to the people of Israel. Just waiting.

Expecting.

My friend Edhiel, a native Spanish-speaker, made a beautiful observation after lunch one time:

“There is something beautiful about how you describe a pregnant woman in English. You say she’s ‘expecting.’ In Spanish, we don’t use that word in this way. But I just love that idea of expecting. The husband and wife prepare a place for the child, pick out the name and the colors of the room and the toys and everything. They are looking forward to when the baby arrives…That’s how I want to be with the next year. My expectations are high that I will grow closer to God and know more of His goodness. That’s how I want to live.”

Isn’t that awesome? The idea of “expecting.” And it reminded me of the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were faithful followers of Yahweh. Zechariah was a priest from the family of Aaron in the tribe of Levi, and his wife was also of the priestly tribe. Luke’s account described them as “walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.” By all accounts, you would assume this faithful couple to be blessed and highly favored by God.

And yet, God had decided, in His purposes, not to give them children. Remember, this is a day in which children were considered the greatest legacy one could have, and to be childless was to bear the reproach of the community (and perhaps, some thought, the curse of God). In such a time and culture in which children were considered the greatest legacy one could have, Zechariah and Elizabeth had none. A faithful minister, a faithful wife, an empty home, a barren womb. And though this disappointment could easily become bitterness–and for a time, it may have, we don’t know–what Scripture records is that Zechariah and Elizabeth remained steadfast, even as the years passed and the idea of ever having children became a lost cause.

Even when they had passed their child-bearing years and still had no offspring, this faithful couple continued to trust God. Then, one day, as Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the temple and burn incense, an angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him that his prayer has been answered.

Which prayer of Zechariah’s was the angel referring to? Deliverance from Rome? The coming of the Messiah? A child (which at this point was practically an impossibility)?  The answer turned out to be all three.

Days of Elijah

Consider the message of Gabriel to the past-his-fathering-prime Zechariah:

And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Luke 1:11-17

Gabriel’s announcement is first that Zechariah and Elizabeth will finally have a child, a son on whom God’s favor and Spirit will rest. The angel includes an allusion to Malachi 4:5-6, the last prophecy given to God’s people before the four-century silence–a prophecy of “Elijah the prophet” being sent ahead of his Lord to prepare the way for Him.

The expectations of a faithful minister and his wife–for their Savior, for their deliverance, for their own household–all bound up in this unexpected birth announcement. The announcement of the “second Elijah” meant that the promises of God for the redemption of man were finally coming to fruition, and the faithful couple with an empty crib were going to be part of that story.

Promises, Promises

Today, it’s not hard to find people making promises on God’s behalf, tossing out “prophetic words” over the coming year like so many Mardi Gras beads. We should be extremely careful not to put words in God’s mouth, or assign promises to Him that He has not made to us directly.

But I wanted to bring up this part of the Christmas story to encourage you that God is faithful to keep His promises to you. They may not come to pass in the way we expect or the timing we desire, but He is always faithful and He is always on time. The past year has been challenging in numerous ways, but through it all, God has still remained faithful. If you are a follower of Jesus, I hope you can see that and hold on to that truth.

If you do not follow Jesus, then I invite you to think about your life: what, if anything, has been sure and certain this year? In what do you have your hope? Because I’m here to tell you that trusting in anything outside of Jesus Christ is like building a house on so many fistfuls of sand that slip away with a gust of wind. If you do not “build your house” on the firm foundation of Jesus and His words, the final storm of God’s judgment will come and blow and beat upon your house, and great will be the fall of it. Your only hope, your only peace, can be found by turning away from your sin and selfish rebellion and trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice to give you peace and right standing with God.

This is a promise you can know for certain God will keep: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is the promise of Christmas! The baby in the manger one day became the Savior on the cross, dying like a criminal in the place of sinners like you and me, to rescue us from the wrath and judgment we deserve for our sin and offering us forgiveness and grace, and then rising from the dead in victory over death itself. If we turn to Jesus in humility and repentance, He will in no way cast us out. We can be redeemed, made new, born again with a living hope and the promise of eternal life in Heaven with Jesus.

For all who know Jesus, who have tasted this forgiveness and mercy, it should have been a merry Christmas indeed, and we can look forward to a happy, joyful, blessed new year!

Grace and peace to all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen!

2020 Reading List

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Happy “New Year’s Adam” (a.k.a NYE-eve), readers!

Sorry for the unexpected radio silence. December has included a few curveballs, but I definitely wanted to get in here before the end of the year and log my annual reading list!

It’s curious to me that in a year where I had more free time due to a change in work habits and less time in transit, I didn’t seem to read as much. Honestly, I really struggled to read much at all during the middle part of the year. It just seemed easier to vege out and watch movies or TV (or my recent addiction: video game playthroughs on Youtube… don’t judge me).

Nevertheless, I was able to complete 26 books this year (thanks in part to a prolific and comics-filled December!), and most of them were pretty short reads (fewer than 300 pages). If you’re looking for something quick to burn through, you might like some of these:

  • The Whole Christ – Sinclair Ferguson
  • A Great and Glorious Game – A. Bartlett Giamatti
  • The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa
  • The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down – Al Mohler
  • Budgeting for a Healthy Church – Jamie Dunlop
  • State of the Union – Nick Hornby (novella)
  • Susie – Ray Rhodes, Jr.
  • The Final Days of Jesus  – Andreas Kostenberger
  • Reset – David Murray
  • re:raptured – Bartels/Kluck
  • 5 Minutes in Church History – Steve Nichols
  • re:raptured again – Kluck/Bartels
  • Church Elders – Jeramie Rinne
  • The ONE Thing – Gary Keller
  • We Cannot Be Silent – Al Mohler
  • A Way With Words – Dan Darling
  • Leadership Strategies and Tactics – Jocko Willink
  • Superman Smashes the Klan – Gene Luen Yang / Gurihiru
  • American Carnage – Tim Alberta
  • The End of October – Lawrence Wright
  • Daredevil: The Man without Fear – Frank Miller / John Romita Jr.
  • Batman: White Knight – Sean Gordon Murphy
  • Live Not By Lies – Rod Dreher
  • Superman: The Man of Steel (vol. 1) – John Byrne / Marv Wolfman / Jerry Oroway / Dick Giordano
  • Daredevil: Yellow – Jeph Loeb / Tim Sale
  • Daredevil: Born Again – Frank Miller / David Mazzucchelli

It’s been a weird year, and my reading has been a bit less rigorous as a result (for example, 7 of my last 10 titles are graphic novels and/or trade paperbacks of comic-book runs). But here are 4 books that I thought were excellent and certainly worth your time:

The Whole Christ, by Sinclair Ferguson — As I mentioned during #Booktober, Ferguson’s study of the Marrow Controversy was both theologically challenging and soul-stirring. The volume will be referenced fondly by theologians for decades to come. A perfect blend of pastoral and theological prose.

American Carnage, by Tim Alberta — Tim Alberta’s meticulously researched analysis of the Republican Party in the decade leading up to the Trump presidency was both insightful and frustrating. It’s hard to argue that many of the trends he described and warnings he gave have played out in the last few months. While it seems clear Alberta is pretty critical of the GOP in general, his analysis is spot-on and shouldn’t be discounted.

Susie, by Ray Rhodes, Jr. — I adored this biographical look at Susannah Spurgeon, the perservering and long-suffering helpmeet of the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon. Rhodes does a masterful job balancing the focus between Susie’s life as the wife of the era’s most important theologian and as a woman with a long-lasting and meaningful ministry of her own. Rhodes has a follow-up coming out in February, and I’m eagerly looking forward to more like this.

Live Not By Lies, by Rod Dreher — I noted on Twitter a week or so ago that the ideas and themes of this book “rang in my head and my heart like a struck bell.” Dreher sounds the call for Christians to stand against a culture that believes and perpetuates lies, and he gives several examples from Christian dissidents under Soviet rule to describe how we can resist “soft totalitarianism” by choosing to reject lies and live in truth. This book is a must-read, and I look forward to working through it again sometime in the coming year. There was a lot to glean from these pages.

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There’s my list. What’s yours? Did you have a favorite read from 2020? I’d love to hear about it. Comment below!

Kotter-posting to start off 2020.

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Welcome back!

After a [checks] month-long break [seriously?], I’m back in the saddle and ready to re-engage.

December was…full. Good–but full. Work demands were high, church demands were a bit high, and honestly, I really wanted to reconnect with my family more. That was my “theme” of the month that I wrote down in my snazzy “Monk Manual” journal (I’ll have an update post on that sometime this month): the theme of “Connection.” So I focused on connecting with my family and friends.

This month’s theme? “Restart.” So here I am, readers!

I passed the 1-year boundary on the #52Stories project, but I do want to finish that, so I’ll try to round that out in the coming weeks. I may or may not continue the Minor Prophets series. Let me know if you want to see more of those.

Coming Up: Later on today, I’ll toss up my 2019 Reading List because, by golly, some traditions must not be abandoned. On Friday, I’ll post a Friday Five with some podcast recommendations, so keep your eyes peeled. That’s all the blog planning I have in me at the moment. (Have you subscribed to email updates? That makes things much simpler. Check out the widget to the right or below the posts, depending upon the device you’re using to read this.)

Happy New Year! Take a walk, drink some water, do something nice for yourself, and we’ll see you in a bit.

Happy New Year! Here’s What’s Next.

Hey, y’all!

I only have a few minutes left on my lunch break, but I wanted to check in and say hi!

Programming Note: On Friday, I’ll share something a little more personal, instead of my usual #FridayFive. Next week, I’ll talk a little bit more about my 2019 reading challenge (which my very wise wife suggested I cut down from a very ambitious #100Stories to a more realistic #50Stories–but hey, no reason to stop at 50 if I make it, right?). We may also chat a bit about internet outrage, in light of my 2019 goal to use social media for the good of others. We’ll jump back in with the weekly #FridayFive next weekend. I’ve also got some pretty fun news to share in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that.

In other words, I’m excited about upcoming posts this month, and I hope you are, too!

But for now, I just wanted to kick off 2019 by saying thanks again for reading, and I look forward to sharing ideas and interacting with you this year!

What are you most looking forward to in 2019? Let me know in the comments!

Wait a minute–I have a blog, don’t I?

[No posts for more than 3 weeks? Wowsa.]

A few words to update you on what’s been going on with me:

At the moment, I’m at the tail end of a pernicious head cold. So I’m a little foggy-headed today, but I wanted to post something new.

Honestly, things are pretty good. December was a good month for me. Some exciting things are happening in my offline life that I can’t quite talk about yet. Work is keeping me busy. A few weeks ago, I took a roadtrip with my wife up to my old college town to pick up my sister at the end of her first college semester. We enjoyed Christmas in-town with the family. It was a good end to a challenging year.

As for the radio silence: I honestly just haven’t had much to say, or at least much that was worth saying. I hit a point when I just didn’t care enough to write regular posts. Part of that blogging drought may be that I also haven’t been reading regularly this month (so as you will see soon, I only added one more “reading challenge” title to my final count).

The end of the year is always a time of introspection and reflection, and a reassessment of where I am and where I want to go. Maybe that’s a cliched approach, but there it is. The point is, I’m taking some time this week to take stock of my priorities and agenda, so that I’m spending my life on things that I care about most. (No, that doesn’t mean we’re breaking up–but I do want to consider how much time I’m ready to invest into this project.)

Here’s the deal, gang: My blogging mojo is in a bit of a trough, and I don’t just want to blather for the sake of posting new content. If you’re taking the time to read what I write, then what I write should be worth your time. I have had a few ideas in the past couple of weeks, but I wasn’t sure if I had enough new to say to justify 700 or so words about it.

What does that mean, moving forward into 2017? It means that when I have something new that’s worth saying, I’ll say it. I may adapt some of my Sunday School materials into short posts here, if I think it would be profitable. If I gather enough items for a Friday Five, I’ll post that here on Fridays.

The next Federalist post will go up on the “4thDavePapers” blog next Tuesday, and I hope to throw some new content up there once or twice a week, because the read-and-respond approach will keep me thinking and producing material.

But I’m not going to post just for posting’s sake, out of some sense of obligation to vomit up internet content. I’m not going to offer up half-baked hot takes on current events because everyone else is doing it. There’s enough of that going around.

The best way for you to keep up with my blogging in 2017 is to subscribe. You can subscribe by email at the bottom of the page, or follow my blog through WordPress, so that you get notifications when I have new content available. And I’ll do my best to make sure that any new content is worth your while.

Thanks for subscribing, thanks for reading, thanks for sticking around. My hope is that my 2017 writing, however inconsistent, will become more and more beneficial to you.

Happy New Year, friends!
–d.

 

Let’s Try That Again: Day 1 of Month 2.

[I wrote this entire post last night, only to delete it accidentally, because I was using a tablet instead of my laptop and I switched apps without thinking. So here’s my best approximation of last night’s post.]

One month ago, I wrote about how I was going to treat the first day of the month like a new year, and start working on a new habit of daily Bible reading. How did that work out?

It went pretty well…for about 2 weeks.

Sometime around my birthday celebration, it all kind of fell apart. I stopped reading the Word regularly. I stopped tracking my food intake (resulting in my gaining back the little bit of weight I had lost in the previous month). I stopped working on my 2016 reading list. I just let up for some reason. My normal schedule was disrupted by parties and travel and family activities, and rather than leaning into the daily habits I had been developing, I fell back into bad patterns.

So now, here we are, a month later, and I’m sorry to say that my adherence on last month’s goal was about 50%, if not a tad less. That’s just sad. So you know what that means… Happy New Year! I’m starting over. But not just starting over–I’m adding a new element. (I know, it’s crazy. Just roll with it.)

Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo for a few weeks (hmm–starting to see a pattern) before realizing it wasn’t quite the right time for me. I got about 15,000 words of a novel written, with notes and random scraps of text to carry through the rest of the book and into the next two. Over the last year, the story has been pressing into my consciousness at various times, and I’ve been keeping a record of ideas and insights that have resulted. It’s a project I am determined to get back to, because I think it will be worth doing.

While I’m not going to go full-NaNo this year, I have decided to add something writing-related to Month 2 of this “new-year” approach.  For the month of November, in addition to continuing to increase my Bible intake, I will try to write 300 words a day of something. You will sometimes see the results of this on the blog (like this post!), and other times these words will only be for my own purposes–writing prompts to sharpen my skills, poetry for my wife, incremental work on my novel. 300 words a day–a modest amount. Nothing to go crazy over. But if I do that, at the end of November, I’ll have produced at least 9,000 more words of creative content, which will be a good thing for me, no matter what.

So, welcome to Month 2. I’m looking forward to keeping you up to date on my progress.

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Your Turn: Are you working on any new habits? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? How can I encourage you or help you in that?