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So far Christina Fox has created 608 blog entries.

John 17: Lord, Make Us One

AMANDA PETERSON|GUEST “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:23 John 17 is a glimpse into the heart of Christ as we get to see His final prayer to the Father the night of His arrest. He is burdened for His disciples and for all who would believe in Him through their word, which includes us, His people! Jesus repeatedly prays to the Father that His people would be one. He is not just praying for comradery, but He is praying for all believers to be perfectly one as a witness to the world of the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the oneness of His people was so heavy on His heart and mind, we then should seek to rightly understand how we can live as one Body to the watching world...

John 17: Lord, Make Us One2022-05-04T14:44:59+00:00

When Life Feels Like Constructing a Puzzle

JESSICA ROAN|GUEST It happens every Christmas vacation. The anticipation, the buildup, the excitement. My boys can hardly stand it. They are so excited to sleep in, have time off, and do what they want to do.  Then reality sets in. They don’t sleep in but awake at 6:30 am and are bored to tears by 8:30. Then the pestering starts. “Mom, I’m bored. What should I do?” Now, I can’t translate in any language well, but I can read pre-teen and teen boy well. They don’t really want me to tell them what to do. They know the options. They want me to tell them they can have screen time and watch television or play video games. Ugh. Raising kids in a virtual world is a daunting task. So, this year, on a whim in the aisle at Barnes and Noble, I asked my son to pick out a puzzle. It was beautiful, a picture of an idyllic Mediterranean setting. So, hoping to provide some screenless family time, we broke open the bag and started putting together the puzzle’s boarder. We have completed a few larger puzzles a before this, usually with my mother’s expert help, but I’m sorry to say that two months later, our scene is missing more than a few pieces. We are getting there, and we will finish it, but our “holiday puzzle” has sadly outlasted the holidays. A Puzzling Life Life is a bit like an unfinished puzzle. Sure, we have the promise of “everything we need for life and godliness,” but that doesn’t mean each day doesn’t require trial and error, just like constructing a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle. For example, sometimes a piece simply doesn’t fit where I think it should. In our recent puzzle adventure, we complained that pieces didn’t fit in spaces where it seemed they ought to fit. This is true in our spiritual lives as well. I often have specific plans and expectations for the way God should do things. More specifically, I think I know who I ought to minister to and what that ministry should look like. Often, however, God brings me a person I wasn’t expecting with a ministry opportunity I didn’t plan for at all...

When Life Feels Like Constructing a Puzzle2022-05-03T21:39:29+00:00

John 13: A Glimpse into the Savior’s Heart and Mind

JUDIE PUCKETT|GUEST “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God, and was going back to God, rose from supper” (John 13:3-4a). Astronomy has always fascinated me. I remember being in elementary school when the mobile planetarium visited our class. We would sit in the dark on the floor and gaze up at the night sky, full of brilliant stars, trying to identify different constellations and distant planets. Still today, I will get up at 3:00 a.m., wrap up in lots of blankets, and venture outside to watch a winter meteor shower or catch a glimpse of a solar phenomenon. While all of these wonders always exist in our galaxy, there are only certain times of the year and specific times of the night when we actually get a glimpse of the magnificent. In John 13, the heart and mind of the Magnificent One can be glimpsed. It is a rare treasure when the Holy Spirit allows us to peek into the thoughts of our Savior. Jesus and his disciples are gathered for their last meal together before our Messiah goes to the cross. John tells us that Jesus knows, “…his hour has come to depart out of this world….” Let’s not pass too quickly over this phrase. Jesus is about to be betrayed by a dear friend, abandoned by all His followers, suffer under the hands of ruthless enemies, die a death He doesn’t deserve and be forsaken by His Father. This is a grave moment of deep and isolating sorrow. And yet, despite His own imminent suffering, the heart of Jesus is to move towards, and not away, from His disciples. He prepares to serve them by humbling Himself to the place of the lowest servant and washing their feet. “…Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper…poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet….” Here is where we catch a beautiful glimpse into the heart and mind of our Suffering Servant. The Spirit shows us His thoughts, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands….” In that moment, Jesus remembers God’s sovereignty. In His suffering and sorrow, God’s control over every detail and facet of creation was at the forefront of His mind. What a reminder for us! Wherever you are today, whether in the midst of broken relationships, deep grief, overwhelming anxiety or an apathy that seems paralyzing, remember God is perfectly sovereign. There is not one tiny detail of your life over which God is not ruling. Every single day of your life has been written in His book before even one of them came to be (Psalm 139:16). Like Jesus, it is good for us to remember our God is the uncontested King. Remember who He is...

John 13: A Glimpse into the Savior’s Heart and Mind2022-05-09T01:06:17+00:00

John 13: A New Commandment to Love One Another

TARA GIBBS|GUEST “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn.13:34-35). Good news: If you have read your Bible much before today, you can skip today’s devotional. You probably already know the foundational role of love in our Christian lives. Perhaps you have it on a t-shirt or a mug. It’s woven throughout the story of Scripture. It’s found in Leviticus, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD,” (Lev. 19:18). It’s found in the teaching of Jesus when he asserts that all the law and the prophets hang on loving God and loving our neighbor (Mt. 22:40). It’s in 1 John 4:8, “He who does not love, does not know God.” As a matter of fact, this is such a basic truth, Jesus says the whole world will be able to identify us by the extraordinary love we show to one another. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples…” Anyone in the world who has access to Christ’s people can testify to “love” being the first adjective that comes to mind when describing them, right? “Wait just a second,” you say. You and I both know this is not always the case.

John 13: A New Commandment to Love One Another2022-05-04T00:43:06+00:00

A Time to Mourn

JESSICA ROAN | GUEST She really was extraordinary—funny, loving, and firm when she needed to be. If a perfect teacher exists, she would be at the top of the list, in our house anyway. Thankfully for us, our younger son was in her class, not once, but twice. When we found out he would have his kindergarten teacher again for 5th grade, we were elated. The unpredictability of 2020 was especially difficult for him. While we couldn’t be sure which activities, even school itself, would go on, we could be sure about one thing: Mrs. W. And she delivered—suddenly breaking into song, encouraging dance-offs, dressing up in wild costumes. If there was anything an 11-year-old would love, she did it. Now that life has resumed some normalcy, we have tried to embrace change. My boys started new schools this year. While they were excited to move on to new adventures, the subtle dread of leaving this enjoyable relationship behind haunted us all. My son periodically says, “I miss Mrs. W.” After six great years under her tutelage, we all miss her. We mourn this transition in our lives. Mourning comes in all shapes and sizes. Not only has our family mourned transitions, we’ve mourned broken relationships, and the passing of dear family members. Life is filled with losses and each one brings us great grief.

A Time to Mourn2022-05-04T00:44:54+00:00

How Advent Transforms January

ELIZABETH SANTELMANN | GUEST It’s jarring to come off the worship of Advent season and land in January. A week after Christmas, we turn off the carols and snap on the workout track. We rush as quickly as possible toward productivity. We dream that our lofty goals will produce the perfect version of ourselves. Frantically, we scrawl habits that will make us as successful as possible in the shortest amount of time. If only we could turn over a new leaf, we would become as flawless as is humanly achievable! We attempt to shove down our own human frailties to claw our way to the pedestal of who we can become. Oh, but January is hard. Our resolutions are interrupted by sick babies in the flu season. Snow days force us into the stillness of hibernation. We attempt to refocus our sights on the sweaty-faced trainers screaming “don’t give up on yourself now!” on the screens of our tv. The package of kale goes bad in the refrigerator. As one grey January day dissolves into the next, the willpower we mustered in our hearts begins to melt. Don’t Forget Advent What if we allowed the truths we learned in December to transform our hearts in January?

How Advent Transforms January2022-05-04T23:32:28+00:00

Last Words to Live By in 2022

KAREN HODGE|CONTRIBUTOR Goodbyes can be excruciating. Over the years, I have said goodbye to my children at nursery doors, elementary bus stops, college parking lots, and airport departure lanes. Will it ever get easier? My recent parting on an airport sidewalk leans towards no. Goodbyes bring clarity and focus to our thoughts, actions, and words. We want the last thing that rings in a loved one's ear to be comforting. Goodbyes require us to keep short accounts. Farewell words should be filled with repentance and grace. I have also stood on sacred ground where last words and songs fill the air as a saint is ushered into glory. Last words draw us in and will profoundly shape us until we get Home. The disciples were privileged to sit and have one final meal with Jesus in the upper room. In less than 24 hours, their friend will willingly lay down His life for them on the cross. This poignant reality leaves them understandably frightened, overwhelmed, and insecure about the future. John 13-17 contains Jesus' farewell discourse. These last words give us His disciples' purpose and mission, and our own as well. As 2022 dawns, perhaps you can relate to the disciples’ troubled hearts. The pandemic has disorientated us. Relationships are dismantled through distance and disagreements. Jesus, our tender Father, has gone to prepare a place or Home for us. We must fixate on this trajectory as we walk each other Home. These words should not be addendums but central in our thoughts and actions. He already knows we will easily get distracted and discouraged, which is why He has not left us alone. We need a comforter, counselor, and Helper for each step of the journey.  Over the next several months, we will consider these last words at our annual Leadership Training and on the enCourage podcast and blog. You can download our free devotional, Abide in Me: 31 Days with Jesus in the Upper Room, to study with other fellow pilgrims. As you set off on this journey, you may want to pour yourself a hot beverage, grab your Bible, notebook, and a pen to consider these words and heart-penetrating questions as you prayerfully seek the Lord's face as you step into a new year...

Last Words to Live By in 20222022-05-04T23:29:27+00:00

They Saw, But They Forgot

MARLYS ROOS|GUEST Sometimes, no matter how many times we’ve read a Bible passage, it strikes us and sticks with us as a new revelation. It’s proof that “the word of God is living and active” (Heb. 4:12). God’s Word doesn’t change, but on occasion He opens our eyes, our minds, and our hearts in His timing when He has readied us to see a particular truth, to take it in, meditate on it, and perhaps share it. Seeing a passage anew is exciting; it’s like getting a tiny glimpse into heaven where “The time is coming when everything that is covered up will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all” (Luke 12:2, NLT). In fact, the passage I recently “discovered” is about Israelites who actually did see heaven: Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.  And He did not lay His hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank (Ex. 24:9-11, emphasis added). They Saw The first thing which stands out in this passage is the clear declarations: “and they saw the God of Israel” and “they beheld God.” It’s repeated, so there is no doubt those seventy-four men were clearly in the presence of God. Apparently, God had even set a table for them to eat and drink in His presence, reminiscent of Joseph’s feeding his brothers or, perhaps, a glimpse of the table to be set in the Upper Room, or even of the table to be set for believers at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb still to come. However, of particular interest in this passage, are its timing in Israel’s history and those who are named. After the feast, God called Moses up to the mountain to receive instructions for building the Tabernacle and the tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written, but what did the others do? Moses told them to wait until he returned. Did they? Or did they go down to the people and exclaim, “We saw God!!!” Did they tell of His glory, the glory of the Lord, like a “devouring fire,” which remained on the mountain for the people of Israel to see from a distance? The Scriptures don’t tell us what they did―until Chapter 32...

They Saw, But They Forgot2022-05-04T23:29:38+00:00

In the Darkest Night: Draw Near, Hold Fast, Consider Others

LEAH FARISH|GUEST In the darkest season of my life, I was lifted decisively out of the pit by a passage in the book of Hebrews. The three simple commands embedded in it made all the difference. Like many crises, mine was a wreck of multiple trains. My legal work on a case had provoked opposition that descended to the level of criminal threats against me and my client. Physically, I was dangerously fatigued and in pain. Travel upheavals had left me on a different continent from my husband and children. It was almost Christmas, and a snowstorm made even church attendance unlikely. I opened my Bible to Hebrews 10, and this is what I read: Therefore, brothers,] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (vv. 19-25) Three phrases stood out to me, leading me like flashing beacons in an icy night: Draw near With these two short words I was summoned into God’s presence. The fire in those words of Hebrews warmed me. I had been asking for so many things, and now I could see I was being welcomed not just to speak to the Lord, but to climb up in his lap and feel his embrace. My heart was broken and fearful, but I remembered, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Ps. 34:18), and that if I draw near to him, he will draw near to me (James 4:8)...

In the Darkest Night: Draw Near, Hold Fast, Consider Others2022-05-04T23:29:47+00:00

When the Holidays are Hard

ALICE KIM|GUEST It’s been several years now, but there was a time when I stared at the bright red poinsettias that adorned the stage and the luminescent lights that outlined an oak stained cross and asked, “What difference does the gospel make?” I had neither anticipated nor was prepared for the unraveling of trust in my marriage. It felt like someone had, without warning, yanked the rug from under my feet. I fell hard. I was angry, hurt, confused, grieved, and struggled to hope. I was desperate to know that Jesus invaded the not only the cosmos with the hope of the gospel, but also my life and my home. When the Holidays are Hard We often equate this holiday season with time spent with family. But some of us feel pressured to shelve somber feelings related to our families like grief, disappointment, anxiety, and fear for joy, excitement, and gratitude. Just as a department store wastes no time the day after a holiday to move outdated merchandise to the clearance aisle in the back corner, the expectation is that we need to move on and exhibit only emotions that fit the occasion. But strained relationships marked by resentment, hurt, blame, contempt, silence, and unforgiveness are only magnified against the backdrop of picturesque captions of smiling family portraits in coordinated outfits, highlighting proud moments and notable achievements from the past year. If this is our experience, how can we reimagine the hope, joy, and awe of the Christmas story without dismissing the tension of living in the already-not-yet with ruptured and failed relationships? How can we invite the gospel to break through and transform our lives?...

When the Holidays are Hard2022-05-04T23:29:56+00:00
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