His Name Shall Be Called: An Advent Devotional

Sign-up to pre-reserve a digital copy of His Name Shall Be Called here.  Despite it only being October, we are nearing the season of Advent, of preparation for the coming of Christ. Little manger scenes and red ribbons are flooding the aisles of Target. Before we know it, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” will playing over the airwaves and everyone will be sharing the latest Pentatonix Christmas video. The beauty of Advent will be nearly overlooked for the beauty of the manger. Advent is called a time of, “already, not yet.” We will all wrestle through the already aspect by jumping straight ahead to His arrival without preparing our hearts and remembering the longing and preparation that all of creation undertook before His arrival. We leap right over the Advent season and land somewhere in the overwhelming busyness of Christmas. But we also mourn the world and yearn for His final coming. Longing for His final arrival, we wonder what is to come when Lord Jesus returns. Let’s tackle both of these problems head on by studying the names of our Lord. Join me this Advent as I journey through the names of Jesus and what they mean to us today, as we wait for Him to come again and prepare to celebrate His entry into the world through the womb of a virgin in the humble town of Bethlehem all those years ago. Even before His birth was announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel, the names of Jesus were whispered by the prophets. For centuries, His coming was foretold and we were given glimpses of the beauty and love that would appear in that manger in Bethlehem. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” -Isaiah 9:6, ESV Before we knew the Christ child, God revealed His name through the prophet Isaiah. And we trembled with anticipation. Throughout Biblical accounts of the birth of Christ, we are given glimpses over and over again of who He is through His names. The Light of the World.  The Prince of Peace.  The Way, the Truth, and the Life.  The Son of God.  The Word.  Each and every one of these names is infused with great meaning to us today, giving us…

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5 Ways to Practice Sabbath Rest

One of the most-neglected of the 10 Commandments is the fourth one. Most of us won’t murder someone (although we might hate them in our heart). We try to honor the Lord and not take His name in vain. Respecting our parents, while not always easy, is a commonly held value in our culture. But keeping the Sabbath holy is all but laughable in most circles. Even if we carve out time on Sunday to worship with other believers (an optional practice for many of us), that is where our obligation ends. We go to church, we make pleasant conversation with those in the hallway, then we get home and the rest of Sunday is just Saturday 2.0 as we begin prepping for the work week ahead. The Sabbath didn’t begin with the 10 Commandments, it was part of Creation from the very beginning. God set a pattern by resting on the 7th Day. He gazed over all of Creation and, pleased with His work, took a day to rest. Let’s stop and think about that, God, who never tires, took time to rest. In a culture absorbed with “self-care,” I wonder what would happen if we all took this commandment seriously? It’s important. It’s not just about going to worship, the Sabbath is a much needed break from the tedium of our other days. Our days should be filled so that on Sunday’s we can stop and look at what we have done with satisfaction. We should savor the goodness of God and enjoy the day He has given us free from labor. Here are 5 ways to practice enjoying Sabbath rest. 1) Make a Delicious Meal I know this sounds counter-productive to resting but seriously, what says rest like eating amazing food? You don’t have to spend hours laboring over a stove, although for some that can be a relaxing part of enjoying the Sabbath. If that’s not you, crockpots can be an amazing tool! Prep the day before and throw a roast in on Sunday morning before church. When you get back home, feast and remember the goodness of God. 2) Unplug from Technology How many of us are guilty of check our work email over the weekend? It is absurdly common and must stop on Sundays. The Sabbath is a day of rest, not a day of preparation. Read that again slowly, rest, not preparation. We…

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Where is Your Hope? – Finding Fulfillment in Christ

When the Apostle Peter wrote to the early Christians, he charged them to be ready to give an answer for their hope. As they walked through their days, they expected to have people question them because of the hope they displayed. This is an assumed part of their faith. It’s a remarkable assumption. Our faith is not meant to be hidden, it should permeate every aspect of our lives. The newness of our life in Christ should permeate all we do. So why have I only been asked a handful of times about my “odd” behavior? Where is my hope when I’m trudging through the work day or ordering my dark roast, no cream, from Starbucks? Where is my hope? Too often, it is buried under the frustrations of the day. Instead of hopeful, I’m annoyed with the puppies scratching at the door when I want to read. My future in Christ is overshadowed with the life of laundry, dishes, and grocery shopping. How do I reclaim it? What does it look like to align my days with the Living Hope? What if it looked like knowing I am blessed? The Beatitudes reclaim the narrative of what it means to be blessed from a world that desires easy living. The poor in spirit… the mourning… the meek… those persecuted for righteousness…These are the people Jesus said were blessed. If I’m going to live in my hope, I cannot let my mind fall prey to the world’s standard of blessings. Giving in to the idea that the rich, the well-loved, and the great hair day havers are the blessed, will quickly send my hope plummeting. My mind must be forced captive to the truth of God’s eternal perspective. When I am hungering for righteousness, when I am impoverished in spirit, then I am rich in blessings. My hope isn’t found in today. There isn’t much true hope in my day-to-day. My ambitions are nothing without the eternal perspective of the God who ordains time. But with that perspective, even my mundane tasks can be infused with deep hope. Daily life has little to inspire hope, but we are not called to focus on daily life. Others focus on the earthly things. As believers, we stand apart when from the world when our gaze is fixed on the living, breathing King. We are anchored firmly by His blood and through His intercession…

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Psalms: You Can Be Emotional With God

You may have picked up by now, that I am a people-pleaser. I want desperately to be liked and fear disappointing or upsetting people. For this reason, I tend to overlook offense. I hide it deep within myself and tend to assume that I am the problem. I fear confronting people and having them think lesser of me or worse, upsetting them. God doesn’t mind when I’m upset with Him. In fact, He has set a precedent in Scripture for me to pour out the whole slew of emotions I feel before Him. The Psalms, over and over again they express the heart of someone who is confused and upset with how God has allowed their lives to unfold. There’s a lot of asking God, “Hey! I’m a good person. Why is this happening to me?” Often, we all ask that. It might be because our lives have taken an unexpected, un-welcomed turn. That job we loved was ripped from our hands. The spouse we’ve dreamed about isn’t appearing. Our children aren’t what we expected or simply are never arriving in our arms. Or maybe it’s what we see around us as we journey with a friend who was in an accident or who had that spouse that hurt them. We don’t have to look far. Saints all around us are walking difficult roads fraught with pain. King David and the other psalmists poured their hearts out before the Lord again and again. Their precedent shows us that we can be honest with God about our hurt and confusion while still finding ultimate hope in Him. There is no place for Christian-ese niceties in the psalms. They are raw and they are real. Psalm 88 ends with a simple statement that darkness is the only companion the psalmist has. If that doesn’t show our ability to be honest with God, I don’t know what will. Because of who God is, we can cry out before Him. Because of the psalms, we know our experience is not unique. Even David, a man after God’s own heart, experienced deep disappointment and hurt. David’s pain validates our pain. It shows us that we are not alone or lesser than other believers because we experience trials or doubt if God sees us. While the psalms show expressions of deep pain, they do not leave us without hope for our condition. The endings often speak…

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Thin Stories: October Book Reviews

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared the words that have been flooding into my heart. This cozy coffee weather has me reading more and more than the last few years have allowed. I’ve cherished this time with my coffee cup and books. Unlike my Hawaii reading, this reading is usually mixed in with toddlers climbing up and wanting to snuggle. It is my hope that this example inspires a life-long love of reading. Because of that, I will be deviating a little bit and sharing a few of my favorite children’s books as well as an “adult” book. To make up for it, I will be sure to share lots of non-toddler books next month. Intentionality is something we all must seek in our lives. There are only so many minutes in a day, only so many stories we have time for. Little ones won’t be little forever. There will come a day when they will no longer sit on your lap and listen attentively to the words coming out of your mouth. So cherish these moments, and use them wisely. Don’t waste your books. Choose your library carefully and let the words you impress upon the hearts of the children in your life mold them into the kind of adult you want them to be. Here are a few intentionally chosen children’s books for the little people in your life: The Biggest Story This letter book by Kevin DeYoung captivates children with the bright colors and tale of The Story that transcends time. Starting with Adam and Eve in the Garden, the story is carefully crafted to tell the tale of our fall, God’s redemption, and our future home in Zion. You will want to read this modern classic again and again to the little ones in your circle. Bonus: There is also a movie version that is delightful. First Bible Basics: A Counting Primer Before I can tell you about this book, I have to give you a little backstory on the inspiring woman who wrote it. Danielle Hitchen was a mother who wasn’t satisfied to give her child books on counting puppies. She wanted the early, formative years in her child’s life to be filled with the truth’s of God. When she couldn’t find a satisfactory book, she decided to create one. This counting primer conveys deep truths in words simple enough for tiny believers to begin…

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