Tag: reformed theology

Same Page Summer part 1

I am so excited to share that a growing number of ladies are taking the challenge to read through the New Testament this summer!  We will be using the Same Page Summer plan put out by Bible Reading Challenge. That means our little group will be joining tens of thousands of other women around the world reading scripture each day in 15 different languages and we’ll all be on the same page. Yep. Even if you miss a day. Or 2. Or 10. You’re still on the same page because you’re going to jump right back in with everyone else as soon as you’re able.

Today, I just want to share a little bit about the challenge itself. Then in the week to come we’ll talk more details about goals and tools to help you succeed.  

Hebrews 11 gives the account of generations of faithful men and women who faced some of the most extreme challenges imaginable and they did so by the faith granted them by God. The very next chapter encourages a new generation of believers to place themselves among that same “cloud of witnesses” and run the race in the same way they did: by looking to Christ. Some ran looking ahead to what was promised. Some run looking back on what He has done. Together we are all witnesses to His glory. That’s our challenge this summer: to look to Christ.

The letter to the Hebrews begins with these words. 

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

The Bible isn’t just a collection of stories or a manual for how to live. It is the means God has chosen to reveal Himself to us through the glory of His Son, Jesus Christ. And Jesus Christ has spoken. The New Testament gives us the words that He spoke while He walked this earth and the teachings He commanded His disciples and then the apostles to spread to the ends of the earth.  

We are the recipients of that message concerning Himself. We hold it in our hands. We download it on our phones. We let it gather dust on our shelves. Far too often we neglect God’s Word and at the same time wonder why we can’t see Him in our situations.  We don’t see Him because we’re looking for Him everywhere but in the very place He has chosen to reveal Himself clearly to us — the Bible. 

This summer, your challenge is not to check off all days on your reading plan or have all your questions answered about current issues (although those things might happen). Your challenge is to take the first steps into a life-long habit of opening the pages of Scripture and seeing Jesus. 

It is to that end that for the next few months we will spur one another on. I can’t wait to be on the same page with all of you! 

Looking to Christ — together, 

Julie McEntee

PS. If you have not already done so please let me know by next week if you or someone you know are interested in joining the challenge. After next week email updates will only be sent out to those who have responded.

About That Star.

I have a lot of regrets as a parent. One thing I’ve never regretted though, is making the extra effort to experience things first hand rather than passively watching them on a screen as we are so trained to do today. They even want us to passively watch church on a screen! The advent of TV and internet has brought us a lot of things. But one thing it has taken away is real first-hand experience in God’s created world. Just like church on a screen is no substitute for the real thing, neither is observing the heavens that Psalm 19 describes as declaring the glory of God. Packing the kids up in the middle of the night to drive to the top of Hawaii’s highest mountain, Mauna Kea, just so we could see it cast it’s pyramid shaped shadow over the ocean as the sun rose over the Pacific– totally worth it. Driving out to the Kona airport to wait in line so the NASA folks could let us see the Venus transit of the sun through their fancy telescopes– totally worth it. Pulling everyone out of bed in the pre-dawn hours to wander sleepily out onto the golf course just to watch the ISS pass overhead– totally worth it. And yes, packing up our dinner and driving down the road to watch the last-seen-in-1226-conjunction-of-Jupiter-and-Saturn last night was also totally worth it.

Was this occurrence the reappearing of the “Christmas Star” followed by the Magi in Matthew 2 as some suggest? I don’t know. Does it’s appearing still declare a whole lot about the glory of God? Absolutely. You can’t look at the red striations of Jupiter as it’s flanked by 4 visible moons or Saturn all dressed up in her hoops through a telescope like we did and not see the glory of God. Unless you’re lying. But even without a telescope there’s still a lot to learn about His glory. Consider the following:

What looks like a tiny dot is actually 2 giant gas planets. The first and largest is Jupiter, about 318 times the size of Earth and nearly 500 million miles away from us. Saturn is another 450 million miles beyond Jupiter. Yet last night they looked like they were bumping right into each other!

And then we have that average sized star known as the Sun setting in the bottom right corner of the same picture. It’s a mere 91 million miles away from us but about 1.3 million times larger. And that’s just our little cul-de-sac in the sprawling cosmic metropolis of the Milky Way.

The distance from our sun to it’s nearest celestial neighbor, a binary star known as Alpha Centauri, is 25 trillion miles, or 4.2 light years. There are about 100-400 billion such stars in our galaxy which is 100,000 light-years across. The nearest galaxy to ours is the Andromeda Galaxy at a whopping 2.5 million light-years away. As far as astronomers can guess there are some 2 Trillion such galaxies in the known universe, which according to their calculations is expanding at about 50 miles per second.

Now let’s zoom way down into the visible matter composing a mere 5% of the universe. Most of that is empty space, too. In fact if you take one of the most common elements, the hydrogen atom, you’d find that besides the proton, neutrons, and electrons you’d have about 99.9999999999996% of practically nothing. To put the amount of space in an atom in perspective, if a hydrogen atom were the size of the earth, the proton at its center would be about 600 feet across.

So the question is: what’s stopping the whole thing from flying apart?

Answer: Jesus

I saw a manger scene recently where the baby Jesus was gripping Mary’s index finger the way we all love infants to do. Pretty profound considering He was in fact at that moment holding together every single atom that made up, not just Mary’s finger, but the rest of her as well. Truly the entire universe was in His infant grasp.

Just listen how Colossians 1:15-20 puts Christ’s incarnation and role in all of creation into a doxology,

“HE is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

May those words be in your heart and on your tongue next time you step outside and look up at the night sky or feel the grasp of a newborn babe.

Advent How-To’s and Hot Tips

Thanksgiving is going to be over (Thanksgiving–the holiday, not thanksgiving–the act) in a blink and Advent will be in our sights. Here are some tips for making this a tradition that sticks.

Zeroth tip. The most important tip that comes before all the others is to subscribe to my “Come, Lord Jesus” blog. During the month of December (and only then) daily Advent posts will magically appear in your email and will include everything you need for your celebration (except the snacks). 

  1. Don’t make Advent an add-on to an already busy holiday schedule. Make it a replacement. If you’re already in the habit of having daily family devotions, put them on hold and do the Advent celebration instead. Substitute celebrating Advent for a 1/2 hour of screen time. Scale back on the more stressful elements of the season (you know what those are for your family) and focus on something of lasting value.
  2. Prepare. If you’re doing the trinkets in the envelopes or jars or whatever, get them all ready by the weekend prior to Advent. If you’re doing the coloring pages from the “What’s In Those Jars” page print them out and bind them or put them in a folder. Make sure you have a plan in place for taking turns opening the envelopes, lighting the candles in the jars, blowing the candles out, reading the passages etc… to avoid unnecessary squabbles. 
  3. Download the songs from the “Advent Music” page links onto a playlist. If you’re planning on singing the hymns/carols together print out song sheets for each family member. I’ve included a page number from Hymns of Grace for most of them and they can be downloaded for 25 cents a song straight from that website
  4. Stock a secret Advent “pantry” with treats to serve each day. We have a simple treat (cookies or popcorn and hot chocolate or a candy cane etc…) set out on the table before we even start so the kids can enjoy it as soon as we’re done with the song and reading. We also play the day’s selection from Handel’s Messiah while they’re having their treats.
  5. Invite your friends and neighbors to join in. We usually do this on the 4 Advent Sundays but it also happens spontaneously at other times. This has been one of our favorite parts of this tradition. Neighbors that would never be open to reading the Bible and singing a hymn are suddenly willing to participate during the holidays. We even had my professors from the Philosophy department at a secular university join us for our Advent celebrations while I was still in school. 
  6. Take Advent on the road. If you’re traveling during the holidays, the daily blog posts have all the music and scripture links included so all you need is your phone. You can even hit the audio icon in the upper left hand corner of the ESV scripture reading links and it will read the passages to you! The coloring books and special Advent road treats can make this a truly memorable time.
  7. Remember Advent isn’t just about Christ’s first coming. It’s about His second coming. It’s a time to prepare our own hearts and the hearts of our children for that great and awesome day. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!