Christmas is one of my favorite times. Our family has been fortunate enough to find a way to carve out meaningful traditions while maintaining some sense of calm and peace. This year was full of lots of things. I was able to preach on Matthew 1-2, we had tons of family in town, and J is at that fun age where Christmas is full of wonder. It is nice when a pair of shoes and sunglasses is enough to evoke awe (such is the life of a 2 year old).
One of the things I wasn’t quite prepared for was J’s lack of compartmentalizing Christmas. We have (for better or worse) boundaries for our Christmas celebration. There’s a time when we start listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies (you can see some of my favorites here). Everyone gets all flustered when Christmas displays appear in the store too soon. We also try hard to get our tree and lights down close to New Year’s day.
Our 2 year old does not understand these boundaries. When Christmas and New Year’s came and went he still wanted to watch his favorite Christmas movie (for those wondering I’ve seen “Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas” a gazillion times). Not to mention the “Mickey Mouse and Friends Christmas Favorites” CD is on repeat in the car (surprisingly the music quality is very nice). As he’s going to bed at night, I’m still likely to hear him softly sing Jingle Bells, Joy to the World, or Happy Birthday Jesus over the baby monitor.
The more I think about it, the more I’m okay with extending our Christmas celebration. One of the great frustrations of nominal Christianity is attendance at a worship service that has no bearing on the ins and outs of every day life. The truths of Christmas (e.g., the incarnation of God, the glory and truth of Christ, the worship and adoration of those who first met the newborn King, etc.) should permeate every day of our lives. God becoming flesh is not an occasional or seasonal event to be acknowledged but a world-altering, life-changing, paradigm shift that changes everything. Every decision, every relationship, every day has been forever touched by Christmas, so maybe it’s okay that Christmas isn’t over at our house.
One of the best decisions we have made since Jackson was born was making reading the Bible as a family a priority every night. Even when he was an infant, we started reading the Bible every night. We first used My First Messagebut as soon as we were given the Jesus Storybook Bible (thanks Aunt Kara!) we were hooked. I think Whitney and I look forward to this time every night even more than Jackson. The stories are Biblically accurate, theologically sound, and convicting. The gospel is always in view whether the story is an Old Testament Narrative or a New Testament epistle. Take this excerpt from 1 Samuel 16 when God chose David to be Israel’s King:
God chose David to be king because God was getting his people ready for an even greater King who was coming. Once again, God would say, “Go to Bethlehem. You’ll find the new King there.” And there, one starry night in Bethlehem, in the town of David, three Wise Men would find him.
I’d dare to recommend that everyone (kids or not) get this wonderful book and read it. You could use it as a daily devotional or just to help focus you on the central focus of Scripture.
It’s been quite some time since I’ve blogged regularly. I think things have slowed down just enough for me to get back into it.
This past year has been quite an adjustment in many ways. I’ve been adjusting to the demands of being back in school. This is the first time I’ve gone to school while working “full-time.” I always thought I worked a lot in college and seminary but the increased level of responsibilities at the church in combination with the higher academic expectations of PhD courses has been daunting at times.
I’ve enjoyed teaching more regularly at Nansemond River Baptist Church. In fact, I just uploaded a recent series on “Discipleship” under the resources tab. I’ve been very happy to watch our church embrace a vision of shared leadership. I must say that I pastor alongside some of the most talented and godly men on the planet. In addition, the church has been very receptive to the Scriptures. I believe NRBC has a bright future as a church that embraces the Great Commission in every area of life.
This summer has been busy as we took the teenagers at NRBC to camp. Also, we’ve been using Dare2Share’s “Gospel Journey Maui” curriculum on Wednesdays. The thoughtfulness and openness of the discussion among our students has been an encouragement. I sense a desire among them to embrace a radical vision of obedience to the call of Christ.
On a personal note, Whitney and I have also been adjusting to a lot of things. Whitney will be starting classes at William and Mary this fall to pursue a Master’s of Higher Education. In addition, she starts a new job at W&M on August 18. She is very excited about all of these changes but they are changes nonetheless. In addition, God has been teaching Whitney and I a lot about risk, obedience, faith, and contentment. We are wrestling with what it means to leverage our marriage for the cause of Christ. It is scary to ask such questions but we are convinced that whatever we must sacrifice is well worth the reward.
I hope this fall will allow me time to post my musings on life, culture, mission, and miscellany. I know I have some music and book recommendations and I am rarely want for an over-the-top rant.
While watching the ESPY’s I was particularly moved by the story of Ed Thomas.
After watching this story I did a little more online research and found that the depths of character in the Thomas family run deep. You can read for yourself a moving account that describes Ed Thomas as a man of sincere Christian commitment; continuing his dad’s legacy, Aaron Thomas has tried to forgive in the face of conflicting emotions and overwhelming doubt.
We had the pleasure of spending the Memorial Day weekend with Whitney’s brother (Kris), sister-in-law (Brie), and their daughter (Grace). It was so fun to see our family. Grace is growing up quickly. It is fun to see how verbal she is; she talks non-stop (like her aunt!). We did some walking, swimming, and went down to the beach. We had fun cruising the ocean front and eating some delicious BBQ. My favorite part was laughing together every night. We weren’t very good at taking pictures, but here are a few we did manage to snap.
Whitney and I love to take Freckles (our adorable Border Collie mutt) for walks. Today we took her out to play a protracted round of fetch. Besides a few distractions she proved again to be intelligent and agile.
I’d like to say a very deserving “Happy Birthday” to my lovely mom. On Friday we were able to enjoy a wonderful day of festivities. Whitney and I ‘surprised’ mom at work with a bouquet of balloons and a Starbucks Frappaccino. Later that evening we all ventured out to Downtown Norfolk for a celebratory dinner and a time of gift-giving.
I am so thankful for a wonderful mother. Not only is she responsible for my Armenian good looks but she has been a consistent, godly influence in my life. As I get older I realize how rare it is to have a mom who devoted her time and energy into raising her children to know and love Jesus. She has demonstrated herself to be faithful and caring, a woman of prayer and love. In many American churches the accolades of service and ministry are often directed to the “Christian celebrities” when, in reality, faithful parents (such as mom) deserve the credit.
For many it might be hard to see how the tedious day-to-day activities of motherhood relate closely to the gospel, but the two are intertwine. A few years ago I sang a song to my mom on Mother’s Day. A particular verse from that song seems appropriate at this point:
My wife and I have no kids. Until we do, we plan on showering an inordinate amount of affection on our puppy (we call her a puppy even though she’s two years old). Here is a nice slideshow of our little girl.
Her name, by the way, is Freckles and she is a Border Collie (i.e., too smart for her own good) mutt. We got her from an animal rescue agency in North Carolina.
This will be my turn to brag a little about my dad. He is the most talented musician I have ever met. However, I have watched him sacrifice personal acclaim for the service of Jesus. This past Sunday night he taught from Psalm 118 at his church. If you are familiar with SBC churches you might understand how rare it is to find a “Music Minister” who is genuinely qualified and gifted to be a pastor.
When I was in high school I was tired of “church.” I was sick of people who called themselves Christians and demonstrated the opposite in their living. It was only the consistent example of my parents at home and in public that reassured me that Christianity was for more than just “show.” My dad has always modeled a servant’s heart, a scholar’s mind, and genuine commitment to the Lordship of Christ in all things.
The Bible is clear that the home is an essential component in the discipleship of children. I once heard a youth pastor say about the role of the church, “we can’t fix in four hours what you screw up in seven days.” Maybe not the most sensitive statement, but definitely true. Parents provide the framework for Christianity and the way they live and parent will either affirm or deny the legitimacy of the gospel in the life of their children.