10 Ideas para celebrar adviento

El año pasado escribí este artículo sobre el Adviento y lo que significa. Este año simplemente quiero ofrecer algunas ideas que espero que te inspiren para celebrar con tu familia la primera venida de Cristo y anticipar la segunda. La idea no es añadir algo más en esta época complicada, sino más bien hacer un espacio diario para preparar tu corazón para celebrar a Cristo. No te cargues con querer hacer algo super fancy. La simplicidad muchas veces es nuestro mejor aliado para disfrutar este tipo de tradiciones. Toma una o dos de estas ideas, ajústalas a las circunstancias de tu familia este año y que tengan un tiempo dulce maravillándose juntos del milagro de la Encarnación y de la increíble esperanza que tenemos en Cristo Jesús.

  • O, crea una guirnalda con los 25 nombres de Jesus y voltea cada un nuevo nombre.
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  • Memoricen juntos Lucas 1: 46- 55 durante estas próximas 4 semanas
  • Escoge himnos de navidad para aprender juntos de memoria.
  • Crea un calendario con actos de bondad y servicio (algunas ideas pueden ser hornear galletitas para una persona anciana de la iglesia, ayudar a mami en la cocina, escribir una tarjeta de aprecio a tu profesora, hacer una lista de cosas por la que estás agradecida por tu abuela o por tus padres, etc).
  • Sigue el plan de lectura de adviento con la Biblia de Historias de Jesús por Sally Lloyd Jones. Aunque el plan de lectura no está traducido, la Biblia está en español. El plan de lectura es super sencillo y creo que fácil de deducir cual es el pasaje para leer cada día. Incluye hojas de colorear que los niños pueden usar mientras te escuchan leer.
  • Las cuatro semanas que llevan hasta la Navidad tienen cada una un tema. La primera semana es Esperanza, la segunda Preparación, la tercera Gozo y la cuarta Amor. Toma tiempo para hablar con tus hijos sobre cada tema una vez a la semana. Busca pasajes relacionados con cada tema, y canten canciones de Navidad o de adoración que los ayuden a meditar en esas ideas.
  • Pon velas en el centro de la mesa, y a la hora de cenar, cenen a la luz de las velas. Cada noche de Diciembre añadan una vela más para que mientras más se acerquen a la celebración de la llegada del Señor Jesús, esté cada vez más brillante.
  • Cenen a la luz de las velas solo los domingos en la noche. Preparen una cena sencilla (¿sopa y pan? O ¿pan y chocolate caliente?) y lean una profecía acerca de la primera venida de Cristo. Canten juntos y oren.
  • Creen una guirnalda de oración. Escriban 24 nombres de miembros de familia, amigos y relacionados y tomen tiempo para orar por ellos cada día de Diciembre.
  • Celebren el cumpleaños de Jesús. Esta idea me gusta especialmente para los más pequeños, ya que les da algo tangible que los ayuda a entender qué estamos celebrando. Preparen cupcakes, y lean la historia de su nacimiento. Canten una canción de adoración a Jesús.

Si quieres entender mejor porque es una buena idea celebrar adviento, te invito a leer este artículo en Coalición por el Evangelio.

An Armor for the Holiday Season and Beyond

I recently heard someone quip that 2020 will soon become an adjective synonym of unexpected or unprecedented. As in, “I feel 2020” or, “That was very 2020 of him.” Someone else said it might be better to use it is as a verb: “Can you 2020 that?”

At this point in the year most of us are utterly exhausted and to some extent we feel more on survival mode than anything else. The holiday season is here with its joys and temptations but in 2020 these might have a heightened intensity. If you are like me, you long for fruitfulness and faithfulness but you feel your weakness.

I have found myself over the last few months going back often to Ephesians 6 and meditating on the armor of God, thankful for the gift that it is for God’s people. What I love about this armor is that it is the one Christ wore first.  Several passages in Isaiah describe the servant of the Lord and the messianic King donning this armor to bring salvation, and defeat death (Isaiah 52). Later in the New Testament we learn that Christ is that servant and king.

I am so grateful for the heart of Christ for us. He wore God’s armor and with it defeated the enemy of our souls. Now he hands it to us and guarantees with it our own victory against sin and the flesh. In Christ, we are actually really well equipped to glorify our Father in the middle of all the changes, challenges and maybe even devastation some of us have experienced this year.

With the whole armor of God, we are able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Our fight is not against our children, or against our spouse or our relative with different political convictions but against the cosmic powers over this present darkness. And yet we can stand in the presence of such darkness because we are in the Light. Literally. We live inside the one who is the Light (who also He lives in us).

Let’s consider briefly each piece of this armor that enables us to remain firm in the face of such kind of opposition.

  1. Belt of truth

Isaiah 11: 5 talks about the Messiah wearing the belt of faithfulness around his loins. In Greek faithfulness is actually the same word as truth. So by wearing truth Christ was able to fasten his clothes around him and run towards the goal without the weight and sin that clings closely.

Lies keep us from running faithfully. These past few months, I have encountered many:
“God does not see my needs.”
“No one understands the specific circumstances of my life”
“I am alone in this.”
“I have to take care of myself because no else will.”
“My strengths (or my weaknesses) determine the success of this long season.”
“I know how this part of the story ends and it is not well.”

The truth is the Lord is for us in Christ. Being able to say with conviction to every one of the above statements: “This I know… He is for me,” helps us to lay aside every obstacle and run freely in the way of righteousness.

2. Breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation.

Christ saw the disobedience of the people of God, their great injustice and rebellion. He also saw there was no one to do anything about it. So he put on the righteousness of God and the helmet of salvation and went about the work of saving his people from the enemy of their souls (Isaiah 59: 16-17).
Doing the Father’s will was the Son’s delight (Hebrews 10: 9). By faith we now possess His obedience and righteousness. In times of trouble this is our confidence: that Christ knows how to live in these polarized, grief-filled times in a way that honors our Father, and that he is able to do that in us and through us.

We need that confidence, because in this season, we may have a desire to see good results, but may seek those the wrong way. But friend, only one thing produces God’s righteousness: Christ’s righteousness. Not anger, not impatience, nor any other work of the flesh (James 1: 20).
So hold fast to this: Christ has outfitted you with his righteousness and is able to produce obedience in you. Trust His ability to do just that for God’s glory.

3. Put the shoes on of the readiness given by the gospel of grace

Isaiah 52 talks about the beautiful feet of those who proclaim peace to Zion, who tell her the good news that the Lord reigns! And there are no more beautiful feet than the ones of our Savior. He was sent by the Spirit of the Lord to proclaim good news to the poor and liberty to the captives (Luke 4: 18).

Like us this year, he faced death, sickness, hateful people and tragedy. And the middle of that, it was his joy to continually talk about the good news of the kingdom (Luke 4: 43).

These days we often feel that we are barely surviving. But through his oneness with us, Christ readies us in survival seasons to not only fight against our sin, but also to share the news of Christ’s complete salvation. The gospel literally moves us towards those who need to hear. Paul says we are people that believe and therefore speak (2 Corinthians 4: 13).

Who around you needs to hear this month the good news that God reigns? It might be either a believer or an unbeliever. Go tell them the news of Christ’s victory over sin, and how he has delivered slaves.

4. Shield of faith

The flaming darts of the devil question his words. From the beginning he has been asking, “Did God really say?” When that happens, faith shields us by taking hold of the promises of God and making us run to Him for refuge (Iain Duguid’s thoughts on this were especially helpful). Faith takes God at his word and knows him to be trustworthy.

Christ took the Father at his word. He believed his Father’s deliverance. When others said, “There is no salvation for him in God,” He set his face toward Jerusalem and death because he knew his Father wouldn’t leave him in Sheol (Acts 2: 28). He entrusted his Spirit to the Father’s safe keeping. The Father was the Son’s shield and his great reward.

Dear friend, in this season marked by change, chaos, uncertainty and death we feel vulnerable. It is easy for us to feel afraid. So we are tempted to hide in many things. But the Scriptures tell us repeatedly who alone is our shield – God. “[God] is a shield to those who take refuge in him” (Prov. 30: 5).

We are those who have fled to Jesus for refuge. Let’s keep going there when everything around us feels unstable. Only through Christ, we are 100% safe.

5. Sword of the Spirit

Finally, the last weapon in this armor is what Paul calls the sword of the Spirit – the Word of God. And if you are like me, you immediately think of Christ wielding the sword when he was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11). One by one, he answered to the devil with Scriptures. It was the only weapon he needed.

With the life of Christ in us, we too wield the sword in the face of temptation, knowing it is the Spirit who defeats the devil and makes him flee. We take God at his Word and He fights for us. What a humbling gift!

Sister, I know these are hard months. The holidays will bring up grief, unresolved conflict with loved ones, and, temptation to self pity and entitlement. But let’s take heart! We are not left to our own resources. We have Christ’s strength, and because of Him we are strong and able to stand firm. So, take hold of all that Christ is in you and for you. Wear the armor with confidence- you really are perfectly fit for battle in Christ your Savior.

On the Work of the Middle Years

I don’t hear a lot of people talking often about the middle years: those years between the little years and the teens years.

I’ve heard about (and lived through!) the physical exhaustion of diapers, nighttime feedings, running behind a toddler. I’ve also heard about the emotional exhaustion of staying late talking with your teens, the constant driving them around to extracurriculars and the tension of figuring out how to, slowly but surely, move from commands to counsel, equipping them to leave the home. But somehow I missed what to expect for the middle years.

I have been surprised by the emotional exhaustion I have found in them. I thought that somehow there would be some respite between littles and teens.

But we went straight from physical exhaustion to the emotional kind. Is it that our kids have gone through a lot of transition and change? Is it that they are little expats, feeling the feels of Those-Who Are-Far-From-Home? Is it that they are working hard to learn a new language? Maybe it is facing their own health challenges, or living in a majority culture with religious beliefs different than our own. It is probably a combination of these things plus a million other variables.

Whatever “it” is, for several years now, we have been navigating late night conversations initiated by our deep thinkers and big feelers, learning how to manage their anxiety, and working through waves of grief that come and go.

Our children have voiced doubts about God, as they try to make sense of the suffering in the world, and in their own lives. They are also trying to understand how so many around us worship another god. “Is God real? Why is he not answering my prayers? How do we know we are worshipping the true God? Maybe the Bible is not true…”

These middle years are demanding a lot of time and energy from us. Counseling them; talking for hours; lots of snuggling; having regular date times one on one with the girls; praying often; talking together as their parents about how to best engage with them; reading and learning about how to parent through their struggles, questions and doubts; seeking counsel from TCK consultants and people who have walked this road before.

I thought I’d write what I am learning about these years and what practices I am finding helpful as I navigate this stage of motherhood.

1. Pay attention. I want to be slow to speak, and quick to listen. Sometimes listening means listening to what they are saying with their whole selves: with their words and also their body. I am figuring out the answer to these questions:

·   What makes them really happy?

·   What makes them really sad?

·   What is their favorite kind of day? Why?

·   What makes them thrive?

·   What seems to sap energy from them?

·   How do they learn best?

I recently started a new journal, just for motherhood stuff. I think best by writing. So by slowing down to write and process conversations with them and reactions and attitudes I am observing in them as we go through our day, I can pray and think through how to love them well in it all.

But, I not only need to pay attention. I also need to make sense of what I am seeing, which leads me to my next point. In this season I am also learning to…

2. Discern. Our children, just like us, are embodied souls. What happens to their bodies affects their souls and whatever happens in their souls affects their bodies. So I am learning to discern what is happening to them and to care for them as a whole person (body and soul).

So I am evaluating my kids’ attitudes and responses throughout the week and trying to figure out what they need. I am asking questions like:

·   Is this a sinful response? Is there suffering at the root of this response? If so, how can I comfort them with the gospel while also training them in righteousness?

·   Are there real physical and personality limitations at the core of this meltdown? How do I help my child deal with these limitations in a way that honors the Lord while at the same time not shame them for having those limitations?

·   Are the kids’ nervous systems overloaded by input? Have they had enough time to recharge?

·   Is this a form of grief?

·   Have they had enough time in the sun and fresh air recently? How much physical activity have they had today?

·   Have I given them long hugs today? Have we laughed together?

·   Have they done things recently that bring them life?

·   Is there a daily balance between the things that sap their energy and the things that help them destress?

·   Have they eaten anything recently that may be contributing to this struggle? (Some foods actually set up the brain to feel more anxiety, despondency and depression).

·   What is at the heart of this outburst of anger? Is it anxiety? Grief? What is triggering it?

3. Outsource my parenting

One of the best pieces of advice from my husband has given me is to outsource my questions and inadequacy to the Lord. Every time I feel deeply my lack of wisdom, my need of grace, or my ignorance, he reminds me to outsource that to the Lord. My job is not to make myself a good mom – all sufficient and enough. My job is to let the Lord parent through me, and to parent by faith in his sufficiency.

Christ is my wisdom (1 Cor. 1: 30). He is patient, He is kind. Through my oneness with Christ, he is able to parent my children through me with His wisdom, patience, and kindness. 

He is mighty to save them, hold their faith, keep them hungry for Himself. And I cling to that. Because I can teach them that it is possible for faith and doubt to coexist, or that we are always living in the tension of joy and sorrow. I can teach them about God and everything He is for us in Christ. We can read the Scriptures and memorize them. But I can’t make them SEE unseen truth. I can’t make them discern spiritual realities. There is only One who can.

So my prayers are a combination of:  

“Jesus, help me.”

“Speak through me.”

“Love through me.”

“Be patient through me.”

“Open their eyes so they can see your beauty and long to follow you.”

Outsourcing my parenting to Christ has brought me great joy. Recently he was so gracious to show me how quickly he answered my prayers for help, when I didn’t know what to say. He worked directly in my child, moving her to apologize and have great insight into her heart, before I spoke a single word.

So yes, I didn’t realize this season would be a lot of work, but it is also here that my Father is meeting me, and parenting me in my own middle years – teaching me dependence, growing my faith, and, fueling my joy. To be trained by a Good Dad is such a gift and mercy . So bring on more of these middle years and beyond, Father… we want to know you.

Lessons on Marriage from Life Overseas

For half of our married life we have lived overseas. Recently as I reflected on our life together, I realized that learning to live in another country is like learning to live with your spouse. So here are some tips on marriage brought to you from our life as expats.

Become a fluent speaker and help your spouse become one, too.

Over the past two years I have dedicated many hours to learning Arabic. As I have done so, I have seen some similarities between the work of marriage and the work of language learning.

For starters, in both we have the goal of fluency. Just as we want to speak a new language clearly and gracefully, we also want to learn to speak fluently the language that communicates love and respect to our spouse. There are Biblical principles that apply to marriages everywhere, but there are also specific ways we love and honor our spouse that are unique to them.

To know those things about our spouse, we study them. We ask them lots of questions, we observe them, and we develop a delighted curiosity on what makes them, them. So, for the last 10 years since marrying my husband Ethan, I have been studying him to become fluent in Ethanese.

Another way marriage and language learning are similar is that just as we need native speakers to help us learn their language, we also each other to achieve fluency in marriage. Not only do I need Ethan to teach me about himself, but *I* also need to teach *him* how to speak Aylinese fluently by communicating with him.

I have hesitated often to speak about preferences that mean a lot to me because I don’t want to be a nagging wife, nor an entitled one. But over the years that hasn’t really helped my husband in knowing important parts of who I am. He can’t learn to care for those treasured pieces of my heart if I don’t give them to him.

God’s purpose for marriage is for us to be unashamedly naked – in both body and soul (Genesis 2: 5). So growing in intimacy with my husband, I bare my heart to him.

Love communicates truthfully (Ephesians 4: 15). I give Ethan a good gift when kindly, humbly and gratefully I share openly what I love, what hurts me, what brings me joy and how he can better serve me and care for me. In doing that, I am not demanding rights, but being the helper God made me to be for him.

I know this can be really vulnerable. That is where we need to know how safe we are in Christ’s love for us. Even if it takes a long time for our spouse to learn to love well everything we are, there is rest in believing Christ’s love for us is firm, fierce, unstoppable…and completely enough.

In baring our hearts to our spouse, we also need to trust we are humbly entrusting ourselves ultimately to the Lord, and not them. We can’t make our husbands see. We can’t change them. But the Lord can. So we wait on the Lord to work, because no one that waits on him is ever put to shame (Psalm 25: 3).

That is why both the work of language learning and the work of marriage is a work of faith. By faith we study both language and spouse, trusting Christ is gracious to enable our fluency…and theirs.

So be patient in the process. Just as it takes years for you to learn a new language well, it will take time for you and your spouse to learn each other well. It might be tempting to feel discouraged, and to think you will never make the progress you want. But trust the Lord’s faithfulness to you. He is committed to your marriage. Celebrate his grace in both big and small victories and be confident in how sufficient he is for you both.

  • Become a cultural learner not a cultural critic.

Language and culture are often very closely tied together. You learn language as you learn culture and you learn culture as you learn language. In the same way, a big way you learn your spouse is by understanding and learning the culture he comes from. Not only the country he comes from (if you are in a cross cultural marriage, like me), but his family’s culture and even his personality’s culture. 

If you think about it, each person has a culture of its own: s a strong set of values: a preference in how they do things; an idea of what life in community looks like; a definition for rest; a love or hate of risk, etc.

That is why my husband and I love to say that in a very real sense each marriage is cross cultural. But something really important in the process of learning your spouse’s culture is that you are really a learner, not a critic.

When we are learning a new culture that is different than ours, it is very easy to see all the ways that culture is not as good as ours. We see their flaws, their blind spots and want somehow to fix them.

The best expats I know are the ones that have learned to see beauty in the culture they live in. They truly learn from the people around them and see how their culture is strong in areas they are weak in. They are not filled with cynicism. They are grace-hunters – looking for and finding evidences of grace and goodness around them.

We need that spirit in marriage. The Lord has fit us for our spouse – not so that we can fix them, but so that we can learn from them and grow with them. Our spouse is God’s image and we will discover more of God’s glory as we enjoy the ways our spouse displays God’s beauty in the world and in our home.

  • Learn to live in paradox.

On this side of Eternity it serves us well to accept the paradox that a good thing can have hard things about it. When you don’t know how to do that, the hard things sometimes make you want to quit it, because you don’t have eyes for the good things.

Life overseas is filled with paradox. There are some really wonderful things about it and some really hard things. Marriage is like that. Even in the best of marriages.

You really do lose your life to gain another one.There may be the loss of dreams, the loss of yours or your spouse’s health, and the loss of relationships.

Circumstances are not the ones you expected when you married. There are patterns that are deeply ingrained that never seem to change. Your life is stressful and it feels like all the differences between you both contribute to the struggle.

In the day to day of life, it might be easy to lose sight of the joys and only see the hard. When that happens it is good for us to list God’s provisions and kindnesses to us, and all the gifts that have come with marriage.

But even as we do that, we also need to be honest and name the hard things – both to ourselves and to Christ. Doing that is not necessarily ungratefulness or discontent. It is learning to live in paradox – recognizing the joys and sorrows in your life.

There is a grieving that is appropriate in marriage. We can lament our sin, our spouses’ sin, any loss that has come. Sometimes we grieve the sin and trauma in our extended families and its impact on our own. Maybe our children have a chronic illness or disability and we are ships passing in the night as we care for them.

Lament postures our hearts toward God. We grieve with Him, and remember who He is in our grief. Lamenting really is the way to hope and joy in times of suffering.*

I think that is why we have the most hope in our marriages when we allow our hearts to feel both the gains and the losses that have come with them. Only then we can truly taste Christ’s sufficiency for us. He alone is our Savior and Redeemer.

  • Laugh.

Laughing keeps you sane when you live overseas. You learn to find the humor in your speaking mistakes, in the ridiculous expectations you had, in the unexpected situations you find yourself in. You smile at the beauty you never knew existed. You treasure the memories you made in the middle of hard things. You even laugh at things your passport culture doesn’t think it’s funny.

And oh man, laughing is quite the gift in marriage too. You learn to laugh at things that are hilarious to just the two of you. You find delight in your differences. You cherish the joy that your kids are. You look back on hilarious moments and somehow, laughing together makes you look forward with hope to what’s ahead.

Marriage is a beautiful shadow of something precious to come. Just as life overseas feeds our longing for our permanent Home, marriage sets our sights on the day when Christ will return and all things will be made new. Then, we will experience a glorious and satisfying consummation when we are wed to Christ.

So, friend, as you wait for that day, embrace the home you are to your spouse and the one he is to you. Through the life of Christ in you, hope in God fiercely, love steadfastly, and, with a trusted heart before the Lord – laugh! Laugh with your spouse, laugh at yourself, and laugh at the days to come.

*Read these Psalms to discover the pattern of lamenting, remembering, trusting: Psalms 13, 22, 44, 77.

On Going to the Word When We are Perplexed

Sometimes we are tempted to stay away from God’s Word when we are confused about an aspect of the character of God.

I experienced that this week. I have been really wrestling with a difficult relationship and not understanding how God is working through it. On top of that I was reading passages in Numbers and struggling to reconcile what I was seeing about God’s character and my present circumstances.

One morning I woke up early to read but found myself tempted not to do it. I was tempted to think it would only add to my confusion. And increase the questions in my heart. But I didn’t want more questions. I wanted answers.

I am so thankful the Spirit worked a greater thirst to be with God and took me to his word. As I read more about who the Lord is, he impressed on my heart how radically important it is for me to feed on God’s word precisely in times of confusion.

Yes it’s true. In God’s word, we encounter a God that exists in dimensions my brain cannot understand. He is eternal. He is a Spirit. He exists outside of time. He is a Trinity.

When I go to his Word, questions do multiply. But God’s Word works in such miraculous way in the believing heart, that those questions actually feed my faith.

It is precisely because I don’t fully understand the Lord that I need to draw near to God in his word, because His word feeds my humility. Pride is antithetical to faith. It is humility that keeps me trusting a God I cannot see but who is fully trustworthy.

So even when I can’t fit the Eternal God inside my limited brain – even when He hasn’t revealed what He is doing specifically in certain circumstances, and even when I have questions about the way He worked in certain situations in the Old Testament, and I feel a little lost in knowing what something means and how it impacts my present struggles– He has revealed enough in His word so that I can say with joy and confidence and deep gratefulness, “I know God.”

Because it is also in his word that I read the revelation that God Himself gives us – “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34: 6).

It is also there that he tells me:

His wisdom is so much higher than my microscopic intellect (Romans 11: 33-36).

He is good and does good (Psalm 119: 68).

His steadfast love is abundant (Numbers 14: 18). 

He draws near His people (Deuteronomy 4: 7). 

He is always working to accomplish his purposes (Ephesians 1: 21; Romans 8: 28-29).

So friend, let’s keep coming to the Word – especially in confusing seasons. Let’s come in faith and ask him to enable us to keep walking by faith. He will surely do it. 

Algunas preguntas & respuestas sobre el reto de leer la Biblia con nuestros hijos

¿En qué consiste el reto?

El reto de ZonderKids que estoy usando consiste en leer la Biblia (específicamente 100 capítulos) con nuestros hijos por 100 dias, pero dependiendo de la edad (y hábitos de tus hijos), yo lo adaptaría a simplemente leer cada día del verano.

¿Donde puedo encontrar el reto en español?

¿Para cuáles edades?

Creo que este reto se puede adaptar para niños de edades desde 5 a 12 ó 13 años

¿Por qué es importante?

El Señor nos ha llamado a enseñarles a nuestros hijos quién El es, su ley, y sus actos maravillosos (Salmo 78: 4-5). Encontramos quién Dios es en Su palabra, por lo que tomar tiempo para leer la Biblia junto a ellos, nos permite llevar a cabo esta labor.

Como padres tenemos la meta de que nuestros hijos cultiven el hábito de leer las Escrituras por sí mismos, y creo que es un acto de gracia cuando decidimos tomarles de la mano y ayudarlos a cultivar esto juntos.

Estudiar las Escrituras es un hábito que no tiene precio pero es parecido aprender a montar bicicleta. Inicialmente necesitamos rueditas, luego que alguien nos agarre la bicicleta hasta que ya podemos montarla solos.

  1. Al leer con nuestros hijos, y enseñarles herramientas de estudio bíblico le estamos proveyendo los andamios que necesitan – la estructura para permanecer firmes – cuando lo quieran hacer solos.
  2. Al leer juntos también modelamos a nuestros hijos qué hacemos cuando tenemos preguntas o cuando hay algo del carácter de Dios que no entendemos. Queremos mostrarles a ellos lo seguros que estamos en nuestro Padre para llevarles nuestras preguntas a El.

La cultura que vemos en el pueblo de Dios en las Escrituras, es una cultura de atesorar la Palabra de Dios: de leerla ( o escucharla) juntos, cantarla juntos (los salmos de ascenso gradual) y orarla juntos. Esa es una cultura que queremos cultivar cada vez más en nuestra familia, maravillándonos juntos de Dios en Su Palabra.

Así que ya sea que decidas hacer el reto de leer 100 días pero no de leer 100 capítulos, o de leer desde Génesis hasta Apocalipsis, o de leer un libro específico de la Biblia durante el verano, mi oración es que Dios obre en nosotros un mayor apetito por El mismo y una cultura en nuestros hogares de atesorar la Palabra.

Razones para leer de Genesis hasta Apocalipsis

Dios se ha revelado a nosotros en una historia que se desarrolla desde Genesis hasta Apocalipsis. Cuando leemos las Escrituras a “vuelo de pájaro” esto nos permite entender cada vez más quien Dios es, cómo ha lidiado con su pueblo por generaciones, cómo el lidia con sus enemigos, y, cómo juzga el pecado. Vemos su fidelidad a sus pactos y la historia de la salvación. Al leer la Biblia de principio a fin en un tiempo determinado, eso nos ayuda a conocer mejor cómo las Escrituras son acerca de Cristo. También nos guarda de tener una visión miópica.

Sugerencias para leer la Biblia con ellos

Clarifica tu meta:

Al asumir este reto, ¿qué quieres lograr?

Como padres, nosotros somos los responsables de trazar las metas que queremos lograr con nuestros hijos. Una de las cosas que tomamos en cuenta para determinar esto son las necesidades de nuestros hijos. Así que al asumir este reto de leer la Biblia con tus hijos este verano, es bueno que consideres qué necesitan tus hijos y qué quieres lograr.

  • ¿Cultivar el hábito de leer la Biblia junto a tus hijos todos los días?
  • ¿Enseñarles el método bíblico inductivo a profundidad o simplemente introducirlos al método?
  • ¿Desarrollar independencia en tus hijos al estudiar las Escrituras?
  • ¿Que tus hijos tengan una idea de la historia de la redención de Génesis hasta Apocalipsis?

Clarifica tu enfoque:

  • Si lo que quieres es cultivar el habito de leer la Biblia junto a ellos todos los días, entonces escoge una cosa en la que te vas a enfocar en esa lectura diaria: qué aprendemos de Dios, cómo apunta este pasaje a Cristo, nombres de Dios, qué dice Dios directamente aquí, cómo influencia este pasaje en circunstancias que tienen como familia, cómo podemos orarle a Dios a la luz de este pasaje, etc.
  • Si tu meta es enseñarles el método inductivo, enfócate en un paso a la vez. Quizás dedicando una semana a cada paso, o tomando un día del fin de semana cuando tengas más tiempo, para explicarles cómo hacerlo.
  • Si lo que quieres es que ellos desarrollen independencia al estudiar las Escrituras (porque ya tienen un buen fundamento para dar ese paso más profundo), piensa en cómo lo van hacer. Tendrán un diario donde ellos harán notas sobre lo que leen, ¿en qué momento del día o de la semana van a discutir lo que ellos están aprendiendo?

¿Qué hago si mis hijos no están emocionados con este reto?

Hermanos, siendo realistas, tus hijos probablemente no van a saltar de la emoción cada vez que les digas que es tiempo de sentarse a leer. Si sientes en ellos resistencia, reconóceles que a veces a ti también te pasa, y que no siempre sientes amor y deseo por la Palabra de Dios.

Oren juntos pidiendo la ayuda del Espíritu Santo. Y luego, lean con fe. La Palabra de Dios siempre cumple aquello para lo que el Señor la ha enviado. Confía en el poder del Espíritu de Dios para hacer una obra sobrenatural tanto en ti como en tus hijos al exponerse a la Palabra día tras día.

Toma en cuenta que tus hijos son niños, no adultos.

  • Dependiendo de la edad de tus hijos ellos pueden hacer varias actividades mientras escuchan la Palabra que los ayuden a enfocarse y no distraerse. Pueden hacer un dibujo, construir con legos la historia que escucharon, subrayar con código de colores a medida que leen contigo.
  • Quizás antes de leer ellos necesitan hacer ejercicios y “botar” energía.
  • La rutina es importante para los niños. Determinen una misma hora donde van a leer juntos (por ejemplo, a la hora de una comida -desayuno, etc; después de comida, antes de acostarse).
  • Al mismo tiempo, no lo subestimes porque son niños. Para mí ha sido un gozo escuchar a mis hijas y cómo van procesando lo que van leyendo acerca de Dios y su manera de tratar a su pueblo. A veces parecen estar distraídas, pero no están escuchando y tienen la capacidad de sentarse y escuchar (o leer) hasta los capítulos que son más largos.
  • Prepara algo especial que ellos puedan comer mientras leen la Biblia – una batida de frutas, chocolate caliente, helado. Queremos que ellos asocien estos momentos de lectura juntos, como algo deleitoso.

¿Qué pasa si no lo logramos o si nos pasan varios días sin leer?

¿Les confieso algo? Esto ya me ha pasado con mis hijas. Han habido días que no me he sentido bien, o que no me organicé bien con el tiempo y no leímos la Palabra. Pero hermanos, nosotros necesitamos comer. No te desanimes, ni lo tomes como un fracaso. Lo que deleita el corazón de nuestro Padre es que estemos cerca de El, no lejos — avergonzados. Tenemos el espíritu del Hijo en nosotros. El buscaba cada oportunidad que podía para hablar con su papá. El atesoró la Palabra en su corazón.

Así que ahora, nosotros también, con el mismo Espíritu, acérquemonos a nuestro Padre a través de la fuente inagotable de tesoros que es la Palabra de Dios, y llevemos a nuestros hijos a beber con nosotros. Si tenemos que arrepentirnos por nuestra propia apatía o porque nuestras prioridades no reflejan las de Dios, hagámoslo prontamente e inmediatamente recibamos el perdón que El está listo para darnos (1 Juan 1: 9). Con gozo, y con una conciencia limpia por la sangre de Cristo, volvamos una y otra vez a la presencia de nuestro Padre (Hebreos 10: 22). Miremos con expectativa cómo El va a obrar – porque aún cuando somos infieles, El es siempre fiel a sus promesas de hacernos bien a través de Su palabra (Jeremías 1: 12).

On Being a Woman of Color

I am a Dominican, married to an American, living in the Middle East. I have been a foreigner, an immigrant and an expat. 

Even though I come from a country where racial prejudice is quite prevalent, I was surprised when I moved to the US to discover an altogether different flavor of it. While it is a big problem in my country, it is not a systemic problem in the same way as it is in the US. Slavery and racial segregation are not part of our collective memory as a country. I moved to the US as an adult and while I am an American citizen now, I have never expected it to feel like my home country.

Seeking to understand the problem in the US, I asked a lot of questions over the last 10 years. I talked to black friends and read books by African American authors.

Even though I had become more familiar with racial prejudice in the US, when a dear friend asked me, “what is your experience as a woman writer of color?”, the question actually took me by surprise. It isn’t a category I am used to thinking about myself. 

Growing up in the DR I was not a minority. When I relocated to the US after my wedding, I mainly thought of myself as a foreigner in a cross-cultural marriage, and wasn’t focused on the color of my skin (though always proud of it). Later, living in the Middle East I have lived in both international and Arab communities. In neither one I’ve stood out color-wise because in the international world I was just one more nationality of many, and in the Arab world I actually look Arab (because I am half Palestinian by blood).

That is why her question has taken me on a deeper journey this past year. What circumstances and variables have played into my experience as a woman of color? How is my experience similar and how is it different from other people of color?

I have sat down and talked to Hispanic friends who moved to the US as adults, to Dominicans who grew up in the US, and Dominicans living abroad in European countries. I have talked to Asian American friends who experienced racial prejudice not only living in the US but also abroad. I have talked to black mamas and adoptive moms to black boys and listened to their experience. I have also asked questions to friends in interracial marriages like mine.

There’s two things that have struck me as I have listened, discussed and thought about my own experiences overseas and at home: 

  1.  Racial prejudice is so insidious that there is no race, age, or gender exempt from it.

Living in the Middle East the last 5 years I have seen the narrative “my race is better than your race” played out among all peoples. I have known African men and women exploited in labor camps, Philippina workers treated as slaves by other races, and Palestinians mistreated by people from other nationalities. 

I have also seen that narrative among my own people. We are by definition a mixed race- there is no such thing as a pure Dominican. We are a mix of Spanish, Native American and African blood. When someone had stronger European or Arab features, there was always great pride in that. But the truth is, as one of our poems says, “Todos tenemos el negro detras de la oreja” (black roots/ heritage behind our ears) 

And yet, even though we all have a black roots, we too struggle with racial prejudice. Every time each of my babies is born, fellow countrymen have “complimented” them for how light skinned they are. 

I remember hearing classmates laughing at others for the size of their nose, or the texture of their hair. If someone wanted to insult someone else, they used derogatory racial name-calling. While racism wasn’t tolerated in my Christian community in the DR and we were taught about Imago Dei, it definitely was a topic and struggle that came up often.

I have also seen racism closer to home. Even though my children live in a cross-cultural home in an Arab country, we have needed to engage with them on this topic. One of them was honest enough (praise the Lord) to share with me that they don’t always like how I look because my skin is darker. This, and several other comments of that nature, of course, have led us to many conversations, where we, together, go to our Father and ask him for his eyes to see. 

But racism isn’t just out there. It has been in my heart. I have had to repent many times over the years every time that in one way or another I have thought:

“My race is better than your race”

Or

 “This race over here is better than that race over there.”

I have sinned in judging people from other countries just because of how they look, without knowing them at all. There are times I have been more interested in getting to know people that are like me, looking down in my heart on those who are different. I have been more willing to sacrifice my time and my energy for those I deem worthy of that sacrifice than others, sometimes due to race. I haven’t repented quickly enough of prejudice but have nursed pride and superiority. This grieves the heart of my Father and is one of the sins that nailed my Jesus to the cross.

My friend, I suspect that just as I have seen abroad, among my people, my kids and myself, the insidious sin of prejudice shows up in a million ways and thoughts for you too. When we instinctively trust someone just because they are white or western looking; when we judge someone’s intelligence by their accent in English; when we reject or despise someone because they don’t meet our standards of beauty (texture of hair, size of their nose, color of their skin); when we decide not to adopt a biracial or African American baby because of race; when we are indifferent to the suffering of people of color; when we don’t want our daughter to marry a man of another country or race, we are sinning and we must repent.

Racial prejudice is not “a respectable sin.” It dehumanizes others and can lead to death (literally). It is  an attack against the image of God in every person; and also a distortion of the image of God in us because that is not Christ in us. It is actually demonic wisdom (James 3: 15-19) and it needs to die.

Thankfully there is so much hope for us, even as we lament both the state of the world and the sin in our hearts. Maybe as the Lord keeps opening your eyes to this sin in your heart, you are grieved. And rightly so. But friend, the amazing news for us in Christ is that racial prejudice is a crucified sin. 

It is not part of the new creation that we became as soon as we put our faith in Christ. Racial prejudice is the product of the life of the old man. Sorrowfully, we still have muscle memory of that life. But praise God, the old man was really left at the grave. So now, we kill sin by reckoning it dead (Romans 6: 4) and remembering it has no power over us.

As soon as the Spirit shines a light on our racial prejudice, by grace and by faith in the Son, we have the Spirit’s help to repent. When we pray, “Father, forgive me, I don’t want to sin this way” he loves to answer. We have the life of Christ in us to hate what He hates and love what he loves. 

 The hard labor of putting prejudice to death has to be laced with repentance. Ask the Lord to grant you ongoing repentance and to faithfully root out this form of pride. So Christian, through the life of the Son of God who lives in you: 

Pray for faith to see all peoples with the eyes of Christ. Repent. Engage. Read God’s Word so that He transforms you as you behold his glory and holiness more and more. Study African American history. Practice hospitality. Ask questions. Repent. Have hard conversations.  Listen. Confess. Befriend. Train your kids. Parent them through prayer. Labor in every way to not be part of a system and a generation that perpetuates racial prejudice. Repent and pray again. 

But friends, I have noticed something else. 

  1.  People of color all have a different story. 

Just because someone is “not white” that doesn’t mean they are like everyone else that is not white. They may or may not come from an affluent background. They may or may not have a good education. They may or may not come from a broken home. The differences are vast and keep going. 

The fact is, every single person is a story, a different story. We are shaped by a thousand of God-designed circumstances. Every story is part of the larger redemptive Story headed towards a Throne where people from every tongue and tribe will worship together. 

As a woman of color with a very different background as that of my friends’ of color, there is a lot I am learning. It has been profoundly helpful, insightful and painful to sit down and listen to them. 

Reading African American literature and talking to my friends has broadened my understanding and deepened my compassion. I know what it feels like not to belong. But I don’t know what that feels like living in your own country or having a history that many of your fellow countrymen don’t seem to know or care about. I don’t know what it is like to have my personal space continually violated because people want to touch my hair without asking me first. I don’t agonize about others rejecting my children because of their skin color. But the more I learn, the more my friends’ grief is becoming my own.

It has pained me to recognize racial prejudice everywhere is often mixed with other kinds of prejudice, especially socio economic prejudice. Many people I know – Dominicans and otherwise-  who have experienced racial discrimination have also experienced other kinds of suffering and loss from fellow human beings.

Many variables – cultural background, my family history, my country’s history – have played a role in the way I experience racial prejudice. While I have experienced mild forms of it, the brown color of my skin has not been a source of significant suffering for me. What I have felt (generally speaking) in evangelical American communities I have been a part of  is ignorance, sometimes indifference and moral superiority from other cultures. 

I have often heard Christian Americans talk about other cultures as somehow more flawed than their own. Even in people who are helping other cultures, I have sensed condescension and impatience towards them. 

On different occasions I have been treated as someone who has the same experiences and history as all people of color. Other times, I am simply the token minority they need, to show that there’s diversity in that community. But I haven’t often felt a personal interest in those particular elements of my story that contribute to that diversity they say they value and want so much. 

It has been a gift when American friends ask me questions and make space for all that I am, and for the way they communicate that all I am, matters. 

My point is, from my own experience as a woman of color and from my own need to learn about other people of colour, I am more and more convinced of this: we need to cultivate holy curiosity about people, a curiosity driven by radical love for God.

  • How much do you really know about your Asian neighbor? What is it like for her to live/work/study in the US? 
  • Have you sat down with a black friend and asked honest questions about her experience?
  • What was it like to grow up in your Muslim friend’s home? What did she love about it?
  • What are the hobbies of the foreign college student that comes to your church? Do you know?
  • How many people of color have you opened your home to?
  • Are you a cultural critic interacting with other cultures more aware of their faults than their strengths? Or are you engaging with these cultures, with wonder at their history and their suffering, with a heart to learn from them and really understand and know “what is the state of the gospel among your people?”

Friend, seek those different from you. Don’t assume you know them well just because you know them. God is writing a story with their lives, filled with twists, surprises, suffering and joy that is worth your time, your affections, and interest. Don’t dismiss their experience because it is not your experience. 

Learn the art of asking loving awkward questions. Yes, read books about black history and racial reconciliation, read about other faiths and cultures…but more importantly, sit down – face to face- and listen. Attend a culturally diverse solid church to rub shoulders and lock arms with fellow believers different from you. Move to a neighborhood where you are the minority. Pray for your blind spots to be revealed. 

Make this leaning in a way of life. It will help you see people for who they are more fully, it will breed compassion and a deeper love for the God who made us all in his very image.

My Brother, my sister – our Father has shown us what is good. So let’s do it by faith in our elder Brother, who acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with his God has enabled us to do the same by his Spirit in us.  

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Resources that have helped me so far:

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton

Becoming by Michelle Obama

United by Trillia Newbell

For kids:

Three Tips on Talking with Your Children About Racism

Let’s Talk about Race by Julius Lester

God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

This Instagram post

A Tool To Disciple our Kids in Reading and Studying God’s Word

Aqui esta el articulo en español, traducido y leido por mi

Many (many!) years ago, I learned to read. And as soon as I did, my dear parents gifted me a Bible, a Reina Valera 1960 edition (in Spanish). I still remember the excitement and wonder I felt, holding that book. I felt so grown up… amazed that I could read it for myself, all by myself. I remember sleeping with that Bible in my bed those first nights after I got it.

The kindness and compassion of the Lord astounds me now: that He, the Almighty, Infinite God would come near a 6 year old little girl and create in her delight in His words and in Himself.

In His grace my Father took that early love for His Word and has grown it over the years. Now I am a mom and one of my greatest joys is to teach my kids to read and study the Bible. My goal is for them to love God and His Word. I so long for God’s Word to be the food my kids crave, the treasure they seek, the place where they meet with their Father over and over again.

But I can’t work that love inside their hearts. I can’t pass on that love because I can’t create life. That is a work of the Spirit. I can, though, shape their loves and appetites. So my husband and I do the work we can: we make every effort to get them in front of God’s Word.

We do family devotions, reading through one book at a time. We sing God’s word through songs that are 100 % word for word Scripture. We memorize Scripture as we learn the New City Catechism. And as our kids have learned to read, we have also wanted them to create a personal habit of reading the Bible on their own. But I am finding that just asking my daughter to sit down and read the Bible can be a little frustrating to her. For one, she needs clear direction for her Bible reading (“honey, read through the Gospel of Mark, or a Proverb a day”). But she also needs tools to dig deep into the treasure of God’s Word.

So this summer I am excited to read through the Bible in a way that provides both direction and the tools they need. I will read with them using a Bible reading challenge from Zonderkids. I love that the selection of passages on this reading challenge takes the kids through the whole storyline of redemption from Genesis to Revelation.

The challenge will provide direction. And I created a tool to introduce them to inductive Bible study and teach them how to feed themselves from God’s Word.

My girls (ages 6 & 8) are normally more motivated to complete a task when they know I am down in the weeds with them…when I provide scaffolding and also teach them how to actually complete the task.

By being close, by coming down to their level, by snuggling together with hot tea for them and hot coffee for me (or maybe a fruit smoothie), I hope to create cozy memories around God’s Word. Just as reading aloud with our kids has the benefit of promoting bonding and creating a safe place to explore difficult themes, I am hoping that reading God’s Word together will help them associate safety, comfort and joy with being with our Father in His Word. Even when we don’t always understand the Bible or are more confused by it, I want them to know and experience with me the safety we have with our Father through Christ when we bring our questions and doubts to him.

As much as I hope to create cozy memories, I am 1000 % sure there will be interrupted times, we may not always be able to spend a lot of time studying or discussing a passage, and times when it will be everything but sweet. Some days we will read in between potty training brother, breaking up a fight, or right before bed because we never got to it in the day.

Yet I know God’s Word is life (Deuteronomy 32: 47). It is alive and always does the work the Lord sends it do (Isaiah 55: 11). So by faith I will embark on this journey with my girls and trust the Lord for the results in their lives and mine.

Below is the tool I created. I am sharing it here for those of you who might want to join us in doing this! Even if you wanted to read through the Bible with another plan, this tool simplifies the inductive bible study method for younger, elementary kids. I pray it is useful.

May we know and love the Lord more after summer of 2020! Yes, Lord, may it be so!

Mama, You Are Free To Apologize

I don’t want to sin against my kids. But I do. I don’t want to sin in front of my kids. But again, I do.

The Father in his kindness has provided a way for the mama who is in Christ to point her kids to His goodness, even as she sins in front of them: through the confession of her sins to her kids.

Apologizing to our kids isn’t always easy. There are many reasons for that. Some of them may even be rooted in suffering. Maybe you grew up in a home where that wasn’t modeled. Maybe when you apologized, it was used against you. Maybe your parents were never wrong and you were always considered as the one at fault. You learned to protect yourself from that hurt by never accepting that you could possibly be wrong. Or, because of abuse in your life, you have only experienced the dark side of being vulnerable. If that is your story, I am so sorry.

The truth is confessing sin doesn’t come naturally to anyone. Admitting we are wrong can make you feel unsafe. It can also be offensive to a proud heart. 

And yet the truth is even now as saints, we still sin. And when we do, not only are we to confess our sins to the Lord, but He also commands us to confess our sins to another (James 5: 16).

Forgiving one another is a mark of life in community (Ephesians 4: 32). People that belong to each other speak truth to one another (Eph. 4: 25), including the truth about our neediness, our sins and the deep joy of having a Savior that rescues us continually.

This truth-telling is an important part of our discipleship as parents. We can’t teach our kids to treasure the gospel, if they don’t see us treasuring it and confessing our own need of grace.

So where do we find help to become moms who regularly apologize to their kids? Well, as with every single part of our lives, our oneness with Christ has a decisive impact on the spiritual discipline of confessing our sins to our family. 

Here are three ways our union with Christ is both our hope and help in that:

First, our oneness with Christ is what actually enables us to apologize.

The old self can never humble himself in true repentance before the Lord because she is a slave to pride and self righteousness. The old self is constantly serving other masters: the idol of always being right, the idol of protecting her reputation and image in front of her kids, and the idol of demanding respect from her children. 

But, mama, I have the best news! You are not in the old man anymore. You are in Christ (Col. 3: 1-4). He has made you completely new and in doing that, He has given you a new default. Now, dear sister, you are free.

Even if asking for forgiveness is not natural to you, even if it is hard because of suffering and trauma in your life, your oneness with Christ gives you wild hope. You are not limited by what comes naturally to the old self or by how you learned to cope with hurt…because now, as a new creation, you live supernaturally by faith in the Son of God.

You live inside the humble Christ and He lives in you (Matthew 11: 28 cf Gal. 2: 20). Consider his humility for a moment. He who never sinned and who had all authority in heaven, submitted himself to do God’s will. He only did what the Father wanted, and spoke only the words His Father gave him (John 12: 49).

The one who never needed to apologize was made sin by God, so we could become His righteousness (2 Cor. 5: 21). And then He drank the scalding cup of the wrath of God on our behalf. 

In His humility, Christ didn’t justify or vindicate himself but trusted the Spirit to do it (2 Tim. 3: 16). He never sought his own glory, but lived and sacrificed for the glory of Another – the glory of His Father (Phil. 2: 11). 

The Spirit of that shockingly humble Christ is in you. In Him and through Him, by faith, you are free to apologize, free to confess, free to be unashamedly dependent. 

Second, our oneness with Christ provides the rest and safety we need to apologize.

When your Father rescued you, you tasted the sweetness of His forgiveness. And since then you continue to experience the depth of his forgiveness every time you come to him. You know your Father knows you perfectly, including all your sins. And yet, there is nothing scary about His having that kind of knowledge about you. Your Father placed you inside Jesus and His love forever. In Him, you are coming to your kids as a beloved daughter, in whom her Father is always deeply pleased. There is no judgement left, no punishment to fear (Rom. 8).

Christ is your master. But he doesn’t demand something from you that He didn’t first submit himself to. He has met his own demands and has provided for you through His own obedience. His humility has given you rest (Matt. 11: 28). You can humble yourself before your kids, not as a way to gain or prove anything to your Father. But as someone who has been given everything in Christ.  

Thirdly, our oneness with Christ enables us to apologize with hope.

The mama who is in Christ knows she never gets what she deserves, so she doesn’t despair when she fails. She doesn’t have to pretend (to herself or before others) that she has it all together, because that is not where her hope is. 

Her trust is in her Father’s character. She is able to not only say, “I am so sorry for my anger and how I was ruled by it,” but also, “Honey, I am so sorry I failed to show you how patient and slow to anger God is. He is so much better than me. He never fails us. He is always trustworthy. Let’s go to Him together for grace.”

She knows He works in her kids in spite of her. She doesn’t wallow in her sin nor cries hopelessly as someone who needs to make up for her faults. She trusts His grace to redeem all her efforts and work through them far more than anything she could do on her own.

The mama who is in Christ knows she is not stuck in her sin because Christ already made her new. She knows He always finishes what He starts, and so even when she seems to apologize for the same thing over and over again, she is confident. Moreover, she knows He has already sanctified her real lasting self even as he is still sanctifying her in time and space (Hebrews 10: 14).  

Dear mama, we sin every day. But praise God, our oneness with Christ enables us to be both supernaturally humble and supernaturally hopeful. In Christ we are free. Free to apologize. 

Photo by Amelie & Niklas Ohlrogge on Unsplash

On FIFA & Hebrews: some thoughts on not losing heart

Photo by Jimmy Conover on Unsplash

It is day 34 of lockdown/curfew and oh friends, I am TIRED. My guess is most of you are too. And maybe, if you are like me, you know there are some really hard things that will not change after all this is over. That thought – the thought that life won’t necessarily get easier once lockdown is over – has made me at times feel weak to my knees.

Over the last couple of weeks, I have felt like I am losing heart. The ground beneath my feet feels wobbly, I easily tear up and sometimes cry. I have been praying for a clearer sight of Christ that would renew my hope.

Today the Lord reminded me of a FIFA Club World Cup match my husband and I went to a few years ago. The teams, Mexico against Brazil, were competing for second place. The stadium was vibrant as the fans cheered the players on, especially the wonderful Brazilians with their drums and chants. I was struck by how invested they were in every play. Their energy was contagious. The players were on the field and the spectators were at the edge of their seats, excitedly watching their every move. It occurred to me then that this is how the witnesses of Hebrews 11 &12 must be.

The image that the author of Hebrews has in mind is exactly that of a race in a stadium. The witnesses from Hebrews 11 ran before us by faith. They are now surrounding us, cheering us on as we race on to the finish line. They see us facing temptation, difficulty, discouragement and all kind of opposition. They see our weariness, our impatience and the thoughts of giving up. And they whistle and shout and carry us on – “You can do it!! Keep going! The end is near! It is so worth it! And Jesus – oh man, Jesus is SO worthy!!”

What blows me away is to see Christ as the main witness in Hebrews. He is at the head of the trail since He blazed it for us as our forerunner. There is a Man in Heaven guaranteeing our victory, because as our Champion, He went there ahead of us (Heb. 6: 20). “You can do it, because I did it for you and in you!”

Hebrews 12: 1-2 opens my eyes to see Jesus and what I see there about Him renews my strength and endurance to run:

  1. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of my faith.

The word “founder” has the connotation of pioneer or the first in a long line. Christ is the Pioneer of our faith – authoring it by having faith Himself.  In the midst of incredible hardship, he lived his earthly, expat life with hope (Acts 2: 26). He trusted the Father and proved that he was right by rising from the dead. He defeated death, conquered sin, and did that for us, and in us, too. That’s my hope on days when my side aches and my legs feel like weights. He finished so we are finished. My hope is not in how well I am running but in how well He ran.

2. Jesus despised shame and endured for joy.

Christ could have used His power to get down from the cross. But it was on it that he bore the wrath of God for the sins that keep us from seeing His beauty. He despised the reproach and dishonor He experienced when he was beaten, mocked and put to death. The joy set before Him was worth it.

And yet, even as He despised shame, it wasn’t easy for him. He endured sorrows. He had no place to lay his head. He was indignant, troubled and wept at the tomb of a friend (John 11). Jesus felt this life. That gives me such affection and confidence that he really does see me well. It also gives me hope that Christ could feel victory (he really saw the joy!) even in what looked like defeat, and now he’s asking me to feel it today.

3. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

When Christ successfully finished his work of perfecting those He owns, He sat down at the right hand of God (Heb. 10:12). His work is complete. His enemies – including all the sins and temptations I face – have been conquered and will all be conquered. God has guaranteed it (Heb. 1: 13). Now He is serving me by praying for me from his place of honor at the right hand of the Father. He is committed to rescue me to the uttermost (Heb. 7: 25). When I feel discouraged by my unbelief, I am overcome with gratitude and relief to remember that Christ has both sanctified me for all time and is sanctifying me day by day. I can run because He is at work. He succeeded so His victory guarantees mine. He endured hostility and he received the reward. And because I am one with Him, so will I. Thank you, Lord!

Dear friend, lift your gaze from yourself and from these circumstances to the One who began your faith. The plot that the author of your faith has written will accomplish its goal – it will perfect your faith.

Let’s keep running by faith these days where we feel our weakness in our bones. We don’t know when the pressure will let up and when (or if) the suffering in our lives will go away. But we can press on. We can patiently endure by looking ahead to the finish line: our Anchor is already there (Hebrews 6: 19-20). He is holding on to us and He won’t let go until we arrive.