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TruthNotes

Timeless truth in a changing world

When You Don’t Get Anything out of Church

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“I didn’t get a thing out of that.”

These words were spoken by a resident of a nursing home some years ago when I was in college. A group of students went to a local nursing home every Tuesday evening to sing with the residents and lead them in a short devotional time. One week after the Bible message, a man who was hard of hearing turned to his neighbor and announced rather loudly, “I didn’t get a thing out of that!” We laughed about it then, and it still brings a smile to my face now. Clearly, he meant he couldn’t hear the message. But have you ever felt that way after church or a devotion? Like you didn’t get anything of substance out of it? And that begs the question, is it even worth it?

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Caution: Work in Progress

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Had anyone stopped by my house yesterday, they would have been greeted by complete chaos. The kids and I were taking down the Christmas tree, so ornaments, boxes, storage bins, and strings of lights were strewn about the living room. Branches of the artificial tree were tossed around haphazardly. My two-year-old’s blocks and wooden train track pieces were mixed in with the Christmas stuff. One could hardly walk through the room, it was so cluttered. It was a total disaster. But that was okay. It was, after all, only temporary. It was a work in progress. Continue reading “Caution: Work in Progress”

This is the Year

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This is the year I stick to my diet.

This year I’m gonna get into an exercise routine.

This is the year I finally lose those extra pounds.

Most people start a new year off with high hopes and good resolutions, and many resolutions center around one’s health. Gyms do their best business around the end of December and beginning of January, because so many people join as motivation for a New Year’s resolution. This is all fine and good. There’s nothing wrong with committing to a healthier lifestyle. But what if we took our spiritual health as seriously as we take our physical health? What would those resolutions look like?

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Less-than-Ideal Circumstances

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His circumstance were hardly ideal. He had been beaten, was falsely imprisoned, and there was a price on his head and a plot to kill him. Not the sort of situation In which I’d want to find myself. But the apostle Paul didn’t look at the unfairness of the situation or complain about it. Rather, he looked at the people God was placing in his path. These were people to whom he could witness: fellow prisoners, Roman soldiers, even the king. God used Paul’s circumstances to further the spread of the Gospel. In fact, one could say God even orchestrated those less-than-ideal circumstances.

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Perpetual Children

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I’m ready to be done with the toddler years. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I love my toddler like crazy, but I’ve had a baby or toddler in the house for nearly 14 years now, and it’s starting to wear on me. I’m over fun surprises like a fire starting in the bottom of the oven because my toddler thought it would be neat to stuff crayons into those nifty holes down there. I don’t particularly relish finding pins scattered across my carpet after my toddler got into my sewing kit. I’m not keen on finding hot chocolate powder scattered all over the bed and floor during so-called “nap” time. I’m done with temper tantrums and potty training and sippy cups and inane conversations. It sometimes feels like my kids will be children forever.
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Christmas isn’t about pomp and pageantry. It’s not about the gifts or the feast or how many people are in church. Christmas is all about God’s grace.

Sure, we get that, but what does that mean? To get a full picture of “grace,” join me in taking a look at the word in Greek. In this article I wrote for the Concordia Publishing House blog “The Word Endures,” I explore the nuances of God Extending Grace to us at Christmas and beyond.

 

Photo is A Blessed Birth by Carol VanHook

Christmas Wouldn’t be Christmas Without the Tree

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Whether you put yours up the day after Thanksgiving or wait until Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of Christmas. Nearly every household in America has at least one tree. We see them in yards, stores, schools, businesses, and town squares. There are tree lighting ceremonies in many towns. One might say that Christmas woudn’t be Christmas without the tree. And in a very real sense, that’s entirely true.

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Come, Lord Jesus

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Have you ever noticed that the Church year ends where it begins? We celebrated the Last Sunday of the Church Year yesterday, with an emphasis on the end times as we wait for Jesus’ coming. This flows naturally into Advent, with its emphasis on–you guessed it–waiting for Jesus’ coming. Even some of the hymns are interchangeable, equally acceptable for both occasions. “Savior of the Nations, Come,” “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and “Christ is Surely Coming,” show that we’re waiting for Jesus, whether His first advent at Christmas or His second advent when He returns. And let’s be honest. Waiting is hard for us.

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A Parent’s Love

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Our Saturday started out as a “normal” day, whatever that means in our household. My oldest was off with marching band, I gave the dogs a bath with the assistance of my sixth grader, and the girls were riding their bikes. Nothing unusual thus far. But while I was fixing lunch, my kindergartner burst in to inform me that my third grader had fallen off her bike and was bleeding. Okay, I’ve patched scraped knees before. I can handle this. But when I saw her, it wasn’t just her knees that were scraped. Her lip was bleeding too, and when I wiped the blood away I knew we were looking at a trip to the hospital for stitches. So much for a normal day. My entire afternoon was effectively wiped out by the hour-long trip to the children’s hospital and the time spent there, and I’m sure the bill from our ER visit will be exciting when it arrives, but it was totally worth it. After all, she’s my daughter.

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