Month: December 2016

The Real Christmas

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35 – The Real Christmas

No one wants to be in a difficult place at Christmas time. We want to feel happy and enter into the spirit of the season. But is that really what the season is about? Or is the reality of Christmas far more reminiscent of the deep than of decorated trees and twinkling lights? Come into the deep to find the true meaning—and the deepest joy and hope—of Christmas.

Show Notes

We’re glad you’re here with us at Christmas time. But maybe this Christmas you don’t feel like celebrating. Maybe you’re going through trials, and maybe this Christmas you’re saying things like:

I HATE that this is happening at Christmas! This isn’t what Christmas is supposed to be. Everyone’s happy but me.

Or maybe things you’re hoping for haven’t come to pass. That’s an experience of loss.

Or maybe you’ve suffered the loss of a loved one, or a job, or a book contract, or a career.

Life intensifies around holidays, stress levels rise, we feel grief, depression, etc., more deeply. It all feels like loss, in so many ways. Loss of loved ones, loss of traditions, loss of things hoped for—the perfect job we were hoping for, or the life, or the spouse (if we’re single and don’t want to be). But those things happen all year round, so why are they so much more debilitating at Christmas time? Maybe it’s because we don’t really, in our heart of hearts, understand what Christmas was. And still is.


Isaiah 24:4-6

“The earth mourns and dries up, and the land wastes away and withers. Even the greatest people on earth waste away. The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin…”

This is not just talking about “those people over there” who’ve broken His covenant. We all have. We’re in a deep place. That’s our true condition.


But at Christmas, we have these expectations…

It’s a holly, jolly Christmas…It’s the most wonderful time of the year…Off to Grandma’s house we go…

Happy, happy, joy, joy—WHY AREN’T YOU SMILING???


For many, here’s the reality:

It’s a debt-filled, disappointing Christmas…It’s the most frustrating time of the year…

And then there are those who are not just disappointed or frustrated, but are devastated. Those who have no trouble believing the world is under a curse, because they feel as though their lives are cursed.

But none of this is the reality of Christmas, what it was and what it is. Rather, this is a perceived “reality” when we’re focused through the filter of what WE think or feel—based on traditions and expectations and so many other things—Christmas is. So today, let’s take a look at what God tells us Christmas is. And why being in the deep isn’t terrible at Christmas, but a place to experience the true intent of Christmas.


So what was Christmas?

Romans 8:20-23

“Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as His adopted children, including the new bodies He has promised us.”

The world was dark and troubled…and troubling. It was messy. With no answers. And no hope. And no way we could ever measure up to God’s righteousness.

And then…the Savior.

Not the angelic, halo-wearing pure baby we see on Christmas cards. God’s Son was born as a human, in a gush of blood and mess and helplessness. Into a world where those in power were determined to kill Him before He was past the toddler stage. His family had to run for their—and His—lives. Fear and danger waited around every corner.

And yet…the Savior.

We don’t know all the things that happened when Jesus was a baby and child, a teenager growing up, but we know so much happened that Mary kept these things in her heart and pondered them. And we know that, even when Jesus was grown and able to protect Himself, He was still in danger. Threatened. Plotted against.


And yet…the Savior.

The end, wasn’t the end. That Christmas, this Christmas…the end isn’t the end. And facing hard times at Christmas is, actually, perfect. Because it’s what He did. And what He helps us do. Every day. Even at Christmas.


Where are you this Christmas?

Maybe this year you’re not outwardly in a deep struggle or trial. Praise God for that. Maybe you’re not running for your life, or struggling to make rent, or whatever. Maybe you’re in a good place right now. That’s wonderful.

But don’t miss the chance this season…

  • To soak deeply in God
  • To be overwhelmed by a Savior that came into a messy, hurting, cursed world to sweat blood in Gethsemane
  • To look on every blessing as a joy for this moment in time, purchased by God’s only Son

Let it change the way you worship Him this Christmas. Let it be a deeper worship. An awe-filled acknowledgement of His glory.


Or maybe all this is resonating with your own feeling of desperation. Maybe you’re in the deepest hurt of your life right now. The deepest loss. You’re broken. Lonely. Tired.

Some solutions:

  • Realize God is present in our struggle, whether it’s grief, disappointment, rejection, or failure (to the outside world, His ministry was a bust). Whatever your struggle, He’s experienced it. And He’s with you in the midst of it.
  • Realize emotional turmoil takes time. We may know all the facts, but that doesn’t change the feelings. Feelings are slow to come around, like a mammoth ship as opposed to speedboat. So take the pressure off yourself to “feel” fine or even better. Realize how you feel is, well, how you feel. It’s neither right nor wrong. It just is. And God’s okay with your feelings. In fact, He’s right there, in the midst of them
  • Realize God has something for you in this season. Nobody wants to suffer, but when we do, don’t let it be in vain, because it’s never meant to be in vain. All the groaning, the walking in the effects of that curse, bring us to a greater understanding of our true home, what we were truly meant to be, and what God in His unfathomable love and great power has saved us from.
  • Receive God’s comfort. How? Like David did in Psalm 42:

“My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”…My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember You…Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life…Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”


Hope is our comfort when it’s based in what’s real.

Don’t let yourself be deceived. The glitter, the lights, the movies, the music, it’s all a wonderful part of the season – the celebrating side. Sure, let those things delight you. But it’s easy to lose sight under all that of what’s real:

God coming into our messy world, into our desperate need.

Hope is our comfort when it’s based in what’s real:

The real Christmas

The real Savior

Hope is our comfort when it’s based in God.

We want to hear from you!

Are you in the deep this Christmas? What is your favorite way to celebrate the coming of our Savior?


Believe it or not, there’s no better place to be for the holidays than in the deep!

Can You Hear God’s “I Love You”?

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34 – Can You Hear God’s “I Love You”?

Every day, in countless ways, God is saying to each of us, “I love you.” So why do so many people struggle with feeling His love? Why do we fall into doubt about the reality of God’s love for us? What if we can’t hear or feel it, no matter how hard we try? Come join us as we explore not just the reality of God’s love for us, but the need to understand how we receive and perceive love. Because more often than not, the problem isn’t listening, but learning and understanding God’s language of love.

Show Notes

Few occupations or vocations require the level of vulnerability and authenticity of writing. But the only way we can be vulnerable and authentic is if we’re secure in the knowledge that the One who gave us this task did so because of His love for us. Because He knows and loves us better than anyone else, and  because He seeks to speak through us, to use us to share truths that only we can share because of our individual relationships with Him.

The challenge comes when we start to doubt God’s love for us. When we start to wonder if God truly cherishes us. When we don’t “feel” His love as we think others do. Because without that grounding in the Father’s sure love for us, it’s so easy to lose our focus and voice, to lose our confidence not just in ourselves and our ability to write, but in the God about whom we write.

So, writers, here’s what we want to know today: Are you hearing God when He says, “I love you”?

How We Can Perceive and Receive God’s Love
  • Look at the evidence in God’s actions: That He sent Jesus to Give His life for us, that He takes care of us, that He gives us gifts.
  • Look at the evidence in God’s word: Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love…”
  • Look at the evidence in the way He loves us through others.
  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Receiving gifts
  3. Quality time
  4. Acts of service
  5. Physical touch
  • Choose to walk in trust even when you don’t “feel” it.
  • Look to your secondary love language as well. Most people have more than one.
Hosea 2:19-20

“I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me, in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy; I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord.”

God has acted on His love for each of us. He has betrothed us to Him because of His unending love for us. And as we learn to hear and see the ways He shows us that love, as we grow better acquainted with His love languages and His expressions of that love, we come to know Him. When we do that, we can rest secure in His love, and that will shine in our writing so that those who read our work will come to know Him too. Because, ultimately, that’s what draws people. Not our skill with words, but the powerful, all-encompassing love of God.

Books mentioned in this podcast

The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman


We want to hear from you!

What’s your love language? Are you hearing God’s “I Love You”?



Everyday, God is saying, “I love you.” Can’t hear it? Then don’t miss this podcast!