A Whisper in a Manger

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1, NIV).

This is the very Word that spoke the universe, and all of creation, into existence. For some reason, I have a difficult time picturing that moment as being anything other than loud and explosive and filled with majesty. I imagine God’s voice booming and things coming into existence almost as quickly as He speaks. It is the voice of God thundering throughout an empty void while creation obeys His words. The Word shouted and creation bowed in worship.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14a).

The same Word that once echoed throughout creation now quietly, in the still of the night, made His way down to earth and became Immanuel—God with us. The Word that once shouted everything into being came to earth as a human being, and I imagine this time was more of a whisper. The Son of God came quietly in the night, swaddled in cloth, and whimpered the soft cries of an infant. The Christ child made an entrance into the very world He had spoken into existence, and His entrance was anything other than mighty and majestic. It was meek and humble, where the only room for Him to even lay His head was in a stable manger. God leaned down from His throne in Heaven and whispered intimately to earth. God whispered salvation to all of humanity through a baby—Jesus, the Son of God.

Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all of His love into the womb of a young girl? —Madeleine L’Engle

“We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14b).

The thing about whispering is that it requires intimacy. It requires one to be up close and personal with another. When the Father sent His Son to earth, He chose the most intimate way—through the whisper of a baby born in Bethlehem. This shows just how intimate and close God was willing to bring His creation to Him. Or, rather, how God so yearned for intimacy with His creation that He left His heavenly throne, took on flesh, and went to earth to dwell among them as one of them.

One might expect a king to come with horse and chariot and trumpets heralding; with his full majesty on display. However, our King chose to come lowly, humbly, and quietly. All of His glory and majesty was tucked away—covered by flesh—blending Him in with sinful humanity. God came down to earth, to an insignificant city called Bethlehem, to a manger in a stable; and to the baby lying there, God whispered salvation’s name: Jesus. He is the One who will save His people from their sins (Matt 1:21).

When someone speaks in a whisper, you have to get very close to hear. In fact, you have to put your ear near the person’s mouth. We lean toward a whisper, and that’s what God wants. The goal of hearing the heavenly Father’s voice isn’t just hearing His voice; it’s intimacy with Him. That’s why He speaks in a whisper. He wants to be as close to us as is divinely possible! He loves us, likes us, that much. —Mark Batterson

Still today, I believe that God is more interested in whispering to us rather than shouting at us. God wants to have the kind of intimate relationship with us that allows Him to lean in closely and whisper softly into our hearts. We should yearn for a relationship with God that allows us to feel that still, small voice and know that it is from our heavenly Father. It is a connection between His love and our hearts. After all, this is the entire reason for the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us—to allow us a connection with God like never before.

Merry Christmas!

I May be Sinking, but I’m Not Drowning

Originally published by Kaylyn Reneé on October 13, 2014.

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

-From “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail),” Hillsong UNITED

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I think we all get to a point in our lives, at some time or another, when we simply feel like we are drowning beneath the weight of life. One wave after another, of life’s trials, slam us over and over again until we are left feeling battered, bruised, defeated, and not knowing what to do with ourselves. I think the worst part of it, for me, is that I thought I was doing life for Jesus the best I knew how; yet, even in the midst of trying to fulfill my calling, I have not been spared the pounding waves of life. Not by any stretch of the imagination. As of this semester of school–my senior year of college, the year that was supposed to be the best yet–I have been hit with what literally seems like one disaster after another.

I could swear, I have been drowning beneath the weight of life and life’s circumstances. Then I remembered, there’s a Bible guy who thought he was drowning too; literally. His name’s Peter. Remember him? Here’s some of his story:

Jesus Walks on the Water (Matt. 14:22-33; NIV)

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

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When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he started sinking, but I think there is one thing worth noting before even getting to Peter walking on the water. How many disciples were in the boat? All of them; so twelve. Pastor Steven Furtick, of Elevation Church, preached a fantastic sermon about this story from Peter’s life, and he preached from a perspective that I had never heard before, but it forever changed the way I now read the story. Furtick pointed out that, typically, the point made about this story is that Peter doubted Jesus, and we should never doubt Jesus. End of sermon. However, maybe we are not exegeting (pulling meaning out of the text) the main point. What if the main point is not that we should never doubt Jesus? After all, we are only human, and humans tend to doubt quite a bit; even if our goal should be to trust in our God. What if the main point of this text is that, out of all twelve disciples, Peter was the only one who exercised the necessary faith to get out of the boat to begin with!

  Now, back to Peter actually on the water: Peter got out of the boat and started walking on the water. He seems to be doing just fine…until he takes his focus off of Jesus. He took his eyes off of Jesus and began to focus on the wind and storm, and he became afraid; as the Scripture tells us. Is that not exactly what happens to us? In life, we begin to sink beneath our circumstances when we take our focus off of Jesus, the One who is our sustainer, and begin to focus on the storms in our lives. What is promising about this passage is that it never says that Peter is drowning; it says he was “beginning to sink.” Verse 31 begins with, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.” Immediately. Do not miss that. Jesus took no time at all to reach down, grab Peter, and pull him back to the safety of Himself. I can’t help but wonder if that is why the verse says “sink” and not “drown.” Jesus seems to have acted so fast to save Peter, who was in distress, that my guess is Peter’s head never even grazed beneath the surface of the water; because the Bible never says he started to drown.

Like the song “Oceans” says, God will call us to tread some deep waters. God never called us to an easy walk with Him, but He did promise to be there with us through every step of our journey. Sometimes, we will be out in these deep waters not knowing where we are being lead, and being constantly hit by waves will shake our faith and make us turn our focus off of the One leading us and on to our trials and circumstances. That’s when we will find ourselves beginning to sink; because we temporarily have lost sight of our Guide. However, like Peter, all we have to do is cry out, “Lord, save me!” and immediately He will grab us up and continue to lead us through the storm and onward to safety.

The last thing worth mentioning is how the story concludes. Peter had the initial faith to get out of the boat; however, because Peter was only human, his faith waivered while in the middle of the Sea. Thus, he started to sink. But Jesus reached out to save him. After Jesus saves Peter, Jesus asks, “Why did you doubt?” From there, Jesus guides Peter back to the safety of the boat. The story concludes with all the disciples in the boat worshipping Jesus saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Notice how, even in the midst of trials, storms, doubt, and circumstances; Jesus still saves the one who waivers, and, in the end, He gets all of the glory. Had the disciples not been in a storm, had Peter never exercised the faith to walk on the uncertainty of water, had Peter never doubted once he was in the middle of the Sea, and had Jesus not carried Peter back to the boat; Jesus never would have received the glory that He did in this moment. In this moment, the disciples acknowledged Him as the Son of God. This is, or should be, what happens in our lives. God promised us trials in our Christian walk; however, He also promised that He would be there every step of the way. We cannot save ourselves from drowning beneath the weight of the world, but if we are holding onto Jesus—or maybe it’s more accurate to say that He’s holding on to us—we will never have to worry about drowning. Christians do not drown; but, at times, we may begin to sink a bit. Jesus is there, hand in hand with us, making sure that our eyes stay above the waves; that way, we always have a clear view of Him leading us through the storm and into safety.

God never promised that our feet wouldn’t fail; He promised that His wouldn’t.

God never promised that we wouldn’t have moments of fear; He promised to be with us in those moments.

God never promised that we would never feel lost in our lives; He promised that He would guide us as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him; not the things of this world.

We may sink a bit, but, with Jesus, we can never drown!

**Originally published by Kaylyn Reneé on October 13, 2014**

Are We Happy or Holy?

God doesn’t concern Himself with happy people; He concerns Himself with holy people.

The problem with culture today is that everyone is too concerned with happiness. Just be happy. Do whatever makes you happy. As long as you’re happy. But happiness really isn’t the problem. The problem is how we, as a culture, have elevated our happiness to our highest priority. We gage whether or not we should or shouldn’t do something or engage in something based on whether or not it will bring us happiness.

Where is our concern for holiness? When are we going to start striving for a standard of holiness? God doesn’t concern Himself with happy people; He concerns Himself with holy people. Does God want His children to be happy? Yes, I believe so. However, make no mistake, God will never elevate our happiness above our holiness; because it is our holiness that sets us apart as Christ-followers.

Holiness, not happiness, is the chief end of man. —Oswald Chambers

Happiness is an emotion. Like all emotions, it can easily change and it certainly doesn’t last. What may have made us happy at one point may now be the cause of great sadness and regret. Happiness is fleeting. Holiness, on the other hand, is a state of being. Translated from the Greek word hágios, holiness is defined as “set apart, holy, sacred.” As Christians, we are meant to be set apart for the purposes of God; different from those who belong to the world. We are not to compromise our holiness, our sacred purpose, for a taste of the fleeting happiness this world has to offer.

If you want to be popular, preach happiness. If you want to unpopular, preach holiness. —Vance Havner

Sure, sin is fun and you’re happy in it…until it takes you to a place where you don’t want to be, never thought you would be, and can’t get out of. Thankfully, there is a God who is able and willing to reach into the deepest and darkest of places and pull out anyone who is ready to leave and pursue a higher calling—a call to live holy. Living a holy life doesn’t guarantee a life of happiness, but God has promised His followers something better in return: Joy. Joy is just one fruit resulting from living a holy life (Gal. 5:22-23). Joy trumps happiness because joy is a state of mind and being; not a mere, ever-changing emotion.

As children of God, we are called to be conformed to His image. He is a holy God and tells us to “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 20:71 Pet. 1:16). We, in our justification as Christians, are to be sanctified into the holy image of God; striving to be blameless before Him. We, as believers are even told that our holiness will sometimes be at the expense of our happiness (Heb. 12:7-11), but we are also assured that it will be worth it in the end.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. —1 Thess. 4:7

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” —1 Peter 1:14-16

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