The excellency of our God—Amid the cold of winter

Look what I found this morning!

A substantial snow—by Alabama standards—blanketed the Birmingham area yesterday. This morning, while there are icy road issues in some places, the snow is still powdery, white, and beautiful as it covers everything!

I have heard that the rose is considered the most “perfect” of all flowers. So, since Jesus is absolutely perfect in every way He is often referred to as a Rose.

Isaiah 35:1-2 came to mind:

The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them,
And the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose;
It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice,
Even with joy and singing.
… They shall see the glory of the Lord,
The excellency of our God.

While the snow in Birmingham has covered everything and it looks pure, white, and clean, the dirt is just covered up. That’s what we try to do sometimes, isn’t it? We try to clean up or cover up our sin, and fail. The Good News for Christ-followers is that Jesus Christ took our sin and the wrath we deserve upon Himself.

Look at the picture again and you will see the dirt showing throught the breaks in the snow.

The rose here, although a deep pink, seems to represent the shed blood of Christ through which we have been saved from our sin and futile attempts to get ourselves cleaned up.

The green stem represents the stem of Jesse (Isaiah11:1 KJV) which points to Jesus coming to earth and living as fully God and fully man. I’ve heard it said that leaves represent God’s truth, which is the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God that makes us a new creation—gives us new life in Christ!

A wonderful old by Robert Lowry comes to mind, Nothing But the Blood of Jesus

What can wash away my sin?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus;
What can make me whole again?
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

And, of course, one of my favorite Christmas Carols—and sadly not very well known by many Christ-followers today— also comes to mind, “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

Following are the first and second verse lyrics (go online to hear this beautiful carol):

*Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
From, tender stem hath spring!
Of Jesse’s lineage coming
As men of old have sun.
It came, a flower bright,
Amid the cold of winter,
When half-gone was the night.

This Flow’r, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor,
The darkness ev’ry where.
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death He saves us,
And lightens every load.

There is a beautiful arrangement “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming/The Rose**” by Craig Hella Johnson (find it online to listen). The ending combines this carol and song painting a beautiful image of Jesus Christ, our Savior!

Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows
     From sin and death he saves us,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose
     And lightens ev’ry load.

*Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming, Words: 15th Century German; st. 1, 2, translation Theodore Baker, 1851-1934; stanza 3 translation Harriet Krauth Spaeth, 1845-1925
**The Rose, Amanda McBroom, Lincoln Mayorga

New Devo on Prayer

I am excited to announce that the new devotional co-written with my dear sister-in-Christ and fellow Nigeria MK, Harriet E. Michael, has been released!

It is available on Amazon in print and Kindle versions.

Click here to find: Glimpses of Prayer

You may also be interested in these:

New Journaling Devotional

Hope for New Beginnings
Devotionals for the Adventure

I am so grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with my dear brother-in-Christ, friend, and mentor on this journaling devotional.

Stepping into any new beginning not knowing what is ahead, is exciting and unsettling at the same time. Our hope as Christ-followers rests in knowing that we do not move forward in our own strength, but in the strength of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Each day’s devotional has exercises that lead you to “Interact with Biblical Truths” presented in the devotional and provides space for you to journal your answers.

This devotional may be used as a daily or weekly devotional, and it may be used for individual or group devotions. Suggestions for these are provided in the devotional.

Biblical counselors, when you are ready to dismiss a counselee, this devotional makes a great assgnment for the next thirty-one days, then have the counselee come back for a final check-up.

Available on Amazon: Hope for New Beginnings

Did you miss it?

Each year it seems that the Christmas decorations go up and sales begin earlier and earlier. Summer is barely in full-swing and we are thinking about Christmas. I believe it was early July when I noticed the first Christmas items appear in a local store, giving shoppers a full six months to get all their shopping and decorating completed in plenty of time for Christmas. Decorations go up and Christmas music plays in stores and on the radio. TV commercials advertise items that we simply must have.

The recent trend is for the spectacular Black Friday sales to begin a week or so prior to Thanksgiving, and many stores are open on Thanksgiving Day. And, many stores are open on Christmas Day, so people do their “last minute” shopping, or spend money they received as gifts. The after-Christmas sales, lasting through around Valentine’s Day, give you the opportunity to purchase decorations for next year at greatly reduced prices. So basically, the Christmas retail season lasts eight months.

Amazingly, the extended shopping time-frame does not seem to have an affect on the busy-ness and frenzy that has become Christmas. There are decorations to unpack or purchase, so our homes and yards are well decorated. We begin shopping very early in the year for the best price on the items that those on our gift-giving list want. Endless phone calls, emails and text messages are exchanged in our attempt to get all of our family together at the same time and in the same place for our Christmas celebration. There are church, school, office, neighborhood and various organization programs and parties to attend, and the concomitant foods and goodies to prepare and share.

With all the hoopla surrounding Christmas decorating and shopping and football rivalry and championship games, we seem to have repurposed Thanksgiving.

Are you familiar with the term repurposed?

According to Merriam-Webster online, repurpose means “to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose.”

Sadly, Thanksgiving is no longer a day set aside to thank God for His bountiful gifts as the Pilgrim’s did, as our nation did in the past. Throughout our history, the United States of America has set aside national days for prayer, humbling ourselves before God, and giving thanks for His blessings and provision, and to ask for His continued blessings. Since 1942 that day has been the fourth Thursday of November.

… in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:18

We have repurposed Thanksgiving as the official starting line for the mad dash that we call Christmas.

Oftentimes, we skip over and miss our opportunity to give thanks to the Lord. Now, don’t misunderstand me. We are to give thanks to the Lord for everything in our lives, at all times, not just at Thanksgiving. But, Thanksgiving provides a unique opportunity to gather with family and friends to share with each other, and join together in giving thanks to Him.

As the crazy busy holiday season ramps up to warp speed, it is very easy to set aside your personal time in the Word of God. This holiday season, make your relationship with God your top priority.

Devotional for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year

If you don’t already have your copy of Glimpses of the Savior: 31 Meditations for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year get yours now!

This time of year we get busy preparing for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, and all too often we forget the real meanings of these celebrations. As Christ-followers, we can guard against this by focusing our hearts on God’s Word.

Thanksgiving is a time to give God thanks; Christmas is the celebration of the birth of the Savior; the New Year brings new beginnings. This devotional book contains thirty meditations for that purpose. Begin using the book the week before Thanksgiving and it will carry you through into the New Year.

 

Coming soon!

Harriet and I are excited to reveal the cover of our next devotional, Glimpses of Prayer.

This devotional has 50 meditations on prayer. It is the third book in our Prayer Series: Prayer: It’s Not About You (Harriet wrote) and Prayer Study Guide-A Companion to Prayer: It’s Not About You (I wrote).

 

Coming Soon!

I am excited to share the cover of a new devotional, Hope for New Beginnings: 31 Devotionals for the Adventure. It has been an an honor co-writing this devotional with my dear brother in Christ, Dr. Howard Eyrich.

Don’t you love the photograph: Sunrise in Miango, Nigeria, West Africa, taken by my missionary friend D’Anna Shotts?

We will be announcing the publication date and other “fun” things soon.

 

Killing Sin Habits

Today on Think on These Things, Charlotte and I will continue our discussion using Stuart & Zondra Scott’s book, Killing Sin Habits as a springboard for our discussion. Today we will be looking at the cycle of temptation.

Live-stream, listen, or watch at 2:00 p.m. Central.

Live-stream at: gleniris.net

Listen locally on WGIB 91.9 FM or:
92.3 FM – Springville
101.5 FM – Columbiana
106.1 FM – Moody / Odenville
106.1 FM – Jasper
107.9 FM – Tuscaloosa

Watch on WAY-TV Channel 47

“The emblem of the land I love …”

Today, June 14, is Flag Day. It marks the date in 1777 when the Continental Congress adopted the first American flag.

When I typed the title of this blog, “The emblem of the land I love …” I paused, for as a missionary kid, I consider Nigeria West Africa and the United States of America my “home” and I love both of them. They hold special places in my heart. I am grateful for the experiences, some very positive and some negative, that I had growing up in Nigeria. And, I am grateful that I live in the USA, with all of her faults and problems.

My dad loved America, the country for which he fought during World War II as a  Navy Corpsman attached to the 3rd Marine Division on Guam and Iwo Jima. And, he loved the US Flag, and taught us to love and respect it as a symbol of America, and a symbol of the freedoms we have because of the sacrifice of so many men and women throughout the years who have fought for those freedoms. The flag gave hope and spurred on those Marines on Iwo Jima as it was raised on the top of the volcano, Mt. Surabachi. After the first smaller flag was raised, Joe Rosenthal took the now-famous picture of the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.

Our nation has so many serious problems, and collectively we seem to have lost the ability to be civil. Yet, the flag still stands for our freedom!

George M. Cohan wrote, You’re a Grand Old Flag that says:

You’re a grand old flag,
You’re a high flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave.
You’re the emblem of the land I love.
The home of the free and the brave.

The final verse of our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, written by Francis Scott Key says:

O thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their lov’d home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with vict’ry and peace may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserv’d us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto – “In God is our trust,”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave,
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Many people today are trying to rewrite history and the future by removing anything that points to God and limiting our freedom as Americans to worship freely. Regardless of these things, our nation was founded by men and women, flawed and sinful as they were, who placed their trust and hope in God.

I pray that on this day, as the news is filled with the horrible account of the shooting in Alexandria VA, that we would all take a moment to reflect upon the events of today and the current state of our nation and world, and give thanks to God for His blessings, and commit ourselves anew to be beacons of the Light and Hope of God! The only HOPE for us individually, for our nation, and the world is in and through the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:1-19)!

NOTE: I commend to you  A Call to Christian Patriotism written by my friend and mentor Dr. Howard A. Eyrich.