2014 Bestsellers: 15 Titles under $2

Vyrso's Best of 2014

Our Best of 2014 sale continues—there are over 75 titles marked down by 50% or more. You can get bestsellers like, Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman, 7 Ways to Be Her Hero by Doug Fields, and Pushing the Limits by Mike Calhoun and Mel Walker. View the whole list, browse our favorite discounts, or take advantage on of the following 15 titles on sale for $1.99:

1. Evangelism Handbook by Alvin Reid—get it for $1.99!

2. Passionate Conviction: Modern Discourses on Christian Apologetics edited by Paul Copan & William Lane Craig—get it for $1.99!

3. Truth Matters: Confident Faith in a Confusing World by Andreas J. Kostenberger, Darrell Bock, Josh Chatraw—get it for $1.99!

4. Perspectives on the Sabbath by Charles P. Arand, Craig L. Blomberg, Sikp MacCarty, and Joseph A Pipa Jr.—get for $1.99!

5. Perspectives on the Ending of Mark by David Alan Black, Darrell Bock, Keith Elliott, Maurice Robinson, Daniel Wallace—get for $1.99!

6. Contending with Christianity’s Critics: Answering New Atheists and Other Objectors by Paul Copan & William Lane Craig—get for $1.99!

7. Moral Apologetics for Contemporary Christians: Pushing Back Against Cultural and Religious Critics by Mark Coppenger—get for $1.99!

8. Israel: Ancient Kingdom or Late Invention? by Daniel I. Block—get for $1.99!

9. Spiritual Warfare and Missions by Jerry Rankin & Ed Stetzer—get for $1.99!

10. When Missions Shapes the Mission by David Horner—get for $1.99!

11. Preach: Theology Meets Practice by Mark Dever & Greg Gilbert—get for $1.99!

12. Perspectives on our Struggle with Sin: Three Views of Romans 7 by Terry L. Wilder, Chad Brand, Shephen Chester, Grant Osborne, Mark Seifrid—get for $1.99!

13. Subversive Kingdom: Living as Agents of Gospel Transformation by Ed Stetzer—get for $1.99!

14. Perspectives on Family Ministry: Three Views by Timothy Paul Jones, Paul Renfro, Brandon Shields, Jay Strother, Randy Stinson—get for $1.99!

15. The Everychurch Guide to Growth: How Any Plateaued Church Can Grow by C. Peter Wagner, Elmer L. Towns, & Thom S. Rainer—get for $1.99!

 

If you’re looking for huge savings, Everlasting Dominion by Eugene H. Merrill and The World and the Word by Eugene H. Merrill, Mark Rooker, Michael Grisanti are both $14.99—a savings of $15! Be sure to check back tomorrow for more highlights from our Best of 2014 Sale.

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Dashing Dish: A Simple Recipe From Katie Farrell

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Today we have a treat for you—literally. Katie Farrell has shared with us one of her authentic Dashing Dish recipes! Enjoy this this tasty treat straight from the recipe book, Dashing Dish: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating. If you havent read Katie’s guest post from yesterday, check out her simple four-step process for easy meal planning.

Mini Mexican Pizzas

Estimated time: 20 to 25 minutes

These mini pizzas make the perfect, well-balanced snack or meal! The refried beans serve as the “sauce” for these pizzas, which also make them high in fiber. They are also packed with protein, thanks to the ground turkey and cheese! They’re so tasty that you’ll never believe they’re actually good for you!

3 to 4 large whole-wheat tortillas, or enough to cut out 12 small circles (such as La Tortilla wraps)

1 1/2 cup lean ground turkey (or lean ground beef), cooked

1/2 cup salsa of choice

2 teaspoons dry taco seasoning

1/2 cup low-fat refried beans

1/2 cup low-fat shredded Mexican blend (or 2% cheddar cheese)

Optional toppings: salsa, sliced black olives, shredded lettuce, low-fat sour cream, chopped tomatoes

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a 12-count muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Start by laying each tortilla on a flat surface.  Using an empty can, glass cup, or cookie cutter, cut 3 to 4 medium circles out of each wrap. Press each wrap circle into muffin tin using your fingers. (Note: it doesn’t have to cover the entire side of the tin, it should just fit snug.)

In a small bowl, mix together the ground meat, salsa, taco seasoning, and refried beans. Stir until well combined. Scoop 1/8 cup of meat mixture into each wrap. Top with shredded cheese, dividing evenly between each pizza.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted. Wait for pizzas to cool and remove from muffin tin using a fork or knife. Pizzas should pop out with ease! Serve with a side of salsa, sliced black olives, shredded lettuce, low-fat sour cream, and/or chopped tomatoes.

Yields 12 servings (1 mini pizza per serving)

Nutritional information: 80 calories per serving; 3 grams fat; 8 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams fiber; 8 grams protein

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Get 99 more simple and delicious recipes from Katie when you pre-order her book today for just $17.99! Enjoy innovative recipes that are gluten free, sugar free, and abundant in whole grains.

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4 Easy Steps for Healthy Meal Planning by Katie Farrell

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Today’s guest post is by Katie Farrell, one of our top 15 authors to watch in 2015, and the author two new ebooks, Dashing Dish: 100 Simple and Delicious Recipes for Clean Eating and Devotions for a Healthier You. She is a registered nurse in Michigan, where she lives with her husband of five years.

I have found that meal planning is one of the best strategies for living a healthy lifestyle. The benefits to planning your meals every week will save you time, money, stress, and unwanted calories. If the thought of meal planning seems overwhelming to you, here are four tips to help you simplify the process:

Step 1: Plan and shop

Write out the meals and snacks you want for the week. You can use a calendar or just make a list. Make a grocery list for the ingredients you need and get to shopping!

Step 2: Prepare the food

Take everything out of the bags and organize groceries according to your recipes.

Step 3: Put everything together to make the recipe

Breakfast ideas: Many of the Dashing Dish breakfast recipes are quick and easy to make. For this reason, you don’t necessarily need to prepare your breakfasts ahead of time, but it never hurts to plan ahead! When planning ahead, you can make something such as protein muffins for the week and pack them in a ziplock bag for busy mornings, or make overnight oatmeal the night before.

Lunch ideas: Lunches can be easily be made ahead of time and put together in an assembly-line fashion. If you’re making salads or sandwiches, you can prepare for the entire week by making them all at once in a Tupperware container or by wrapping them individually in foil. You can also plan ahead by making a big batch of soup or chili and divide it into portions for the week.

Dinner ideas: You can either make a few different main dishes and a couple of side dishes, or you can just cook your meat and chop your vegetables ahead of time. This is helpful if your recipes call for cooked chicken—by preparing ahead of time, it will be ready to put right into your recipes for the week!

Step 4: Put everything away

After all the food is prepped and the recipes are made, I put everything in airtight containers and place it in the fridge. That way I have something to throw in a cooler if I am heading out for the day or to put in the microwave or oven to heat up and have a delicious dinner on the table in minutes! This whole process from start to finish takes anywhere from two to three hours. I typically pick a block of time on the weekend to get it done.

I hope this post helps show you how easy it can be to prepare meals for the week in just one day. It can take time to learn and get in the swing of things, but before you know it, it will become a part of your routine and you may even find yourself loving it!

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Get more tips on healthy, clean eating, and devotions for a healthier lifestyle in Katie’s new ebooks, Dashing Dish for $17.99 and Devotions for a Healthier You for $10.99. Pre-order both ebooks on Vyrso today!

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A Christmas Reflection: God with Us

Christmas Reflection

Today’s Christmas post is by Susie Larson, a radio host, national speaker and author of over 10 books. Some of her titles include, Your Beautiful Purpose, Blessings for the Morning, and The Mended Heart. Susie is madly in love with her husband of nearly 30 years, her 3 grown sons, her beautiful daughters-in-law, and her pit bull, Memphis. 

All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’.) (Isaiah 7:14 NLT)

Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. I love the sights, sounds, and smells of the season. I love the chance to give gifts to those I love and to some I have never met. I love moments by the tree to count my blessings, to remember God’s faithfulness throughout the year.

For me, this holiday—celebrating Christ’s birth—represents God’s infinite potential to save our souls, to fill our cup, to connect us with loved ones, and to restore what’s been stolen.

I must confess, though, for many years, I dealt with Christmas-envy, which surfaced while walking through one “not-yet” season after another.  I noticed others’ blessings in light of what I seemed to lack. I longed for a breakthrough—for life not to feel so hard, and for God’s provision to match our need. But during that time, those things were hard to find. Bed rest, sickness, disease, and more medical debt than we could pay, left me feeling like a have-not, like the girl who pressed her nose up against the window and longingly watched others celebrate this happy time of year.

Many years ago when the holidays were upon us, I remember specifically thinking, “this will be the year. The winds of adversity have shifted and a new season is in our midst. This will be my Merry Christmas year.”

My husband sat on the living room floor and untangled Christmas lights. Our three little boys sang Christmas songs and excitedly pulled ornaments from the box. Our in-laws had given us their big, beautiful Christmas tree to replace our puny, Charlie Brown one. Music filled the air. Cookies baked in the oven. The children celebrated with glee.

I peeked into the living room when I noticed a funny look on my husband’s face. “Is everything all right?” I asked. He rubbed his nose, looked this way then that, and faintly said, “Um, yes. Everything’s fine. Everything is going to be fine.” I startled and said, “Oh no! What’s wrong?”

Well, it seems, that last spring, while doing a little spring cleaning, my dear husband threw away half of our large, beautiful Christmas tree. And a portion of our Charlie Brown tree. Leaving us with exactly two halves of two trees that didn’t belong together.

In a moment’s time, the cookies overcooked and burned, the cassette tape (dating me, I know) got swallowed up in the recorder, and my husband’s tree-building endeavor came to a screeching halt. My heart sank and I wondered why—for the life of us—we couldn’t pull off the kind of Christmas scene you see on the holiday commercials. Or why that impossible dream mattered so to me.

My sweet husband was determined to make this right. He said, “Not to worry, honey. I just need a few of my tools.” Bless his heart.

With my hands in the sudsy water, I scraped the burnt cookie remnants from our only cookie sheet. I listened to the sounds of an electric drill in the living room. I heard the skill saw fire up a time or two. And I wondered, Does anybody else’s living room resemble a construction site?

Nighttime came and I put the kids to bed. My hubby still hard at work, I kissed the top of his head and said, “It’s okay, honey. We don’t need a tree this year. Thanks for a valiant effort.”

I crawled in bed and fell fast asleep only to wake in the middle of the night to find Kev’s side of the bed still untouched.

I walked in to the living room and gasped. My husband sat on the floor in front of the most perfect, beautiful, medium-sized Christmas tree I had ever seen. He held the control to the lights like they were the control to a racecar. I put my hands on his shoulders and kissed the top of his head. Without turning around he whispered, “I was going to make it a rotating tree but figured I should stop while I’m ahead.”

I chuckled and crawled in his lap. Together we stared at our very own Christmas blessing. Suddenly overcome with emotion, I realized how much my life, our life together, resembled this tree. Kev sat in the mess of our living room and envisioned the finished product. He knew what he was after and was committed to seeing it through to the very end.

Our lives were a mess in so many ways. We were still buried in medical debt. I still battled sickness. Our house was still falling apart. But we had Immanuel—God—With—Us. He was with us in the mess, committed to our story, and would see it through to its beautiful conclusion.

Jesus came to earth wrapped in human skin, was born into poverty, and walked the earth for us. He came to us, to our mess, and to our need.  Though we love a good Christmas holiday celebration, what we need is salvation. Jesus came to save us. [Click to tweet!] And he’s redeeming our story one step a time.

No matter what life season you’re in this Christmas, may your capacity to know Jesus, trust his love, and embrace his nearness grow by leaps and bounds. God is with you. And it’s impossible for him to fail you.

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Advent Reflections: A Visit from Heaven

Ray Beeson, "A Visit from Heaven"

Today’s advent reflection is by Ray Beeson, the founder of Overcomers Ministries, a teaching ministry with a special emphasis on spiritual warfare and prayer. Ray teaches seminars on spiritual warfare, prayer, and Christ-like living. He is the author of numerous books, including Signed in His Blood.

2,000 years ago God visited this planet in a way unlike he had at any other time in history. He descended unseen in the shelter of a woman’s womb and would not fully reveal himself for another 30 years. When he did, people would come to know that heaven had indeed touched earth.

In the glare of Christmas lights and the busyness of the season, the story did not become reality until I realized that this tiny baby had come to visit me—and you. He was on a mission to help us do business with heaven, not so much in a corporate sense but with every individual personally. The miracle that God performed in Mary was to become our miracle as well. The glory of heaven living in her would soon become the Christ who would live in us by his spirit. God would strengthen man in his weakness, and the fear of death would be destroyed by the presence of the Prince of Peace. Jesus didn’t come to start another religion; he came to introduce us to a spectacular personal bond with God. [Click to tweet!]

The task was quite different than anyone could have conceived, and he did not come as a conquering king as some had expected. For a deity to suddenly step down from heaven onto earth without first revealing his character would have been a disaster—for God to stand in a place where the world could see and proclaim that he loved people would have been met with further rebellion.

How could God show up now after so many years of suffering and sorrow and simply proclaim that he loved them? It would be necessary to prove that love before the reestablishment of the relationship. And he would start that proof with the advent of a baby, a baby who would introduce us to God’s love and grow to be recognized as God’s son.

Most of us have difficulty believing that we are candidates for God’s love. But in this Advent season we are encouraged to remember that God loves us so much, and he wants to perform a miracle in us just like he did in Mary. Are we worthy? Hardly! Good enough? Not even close! That’s why he sent Jesus. Are we able to establish an acceptable righteousness? Far from it! That’s why he sent that tiny baby.

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Advent Reflections: Do We Know the God We Wait For?

Advent prayer

Today’s advent reflection is by Emily T. Wierenga, an award-winning journalist, blogger, commissioned artist and columnist, and the author of five books, including the memoir Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look (Baker Books). All proceeds from Atlas Girl benefit Emily’s non-profit, The Lulu Tree. She lives in Alberta, Canada with her husband and two sons. You can find her on Twitter or Facebook.

We’re making cards from construction paper, gluing sparkly balls and pipe cleaner-bows, my hand cupping theirs as we trace out “Merry Christmas”—”Peace on Earth” playing over the speakers.

My sons are too little too know of Ferguson, of ISIS, of Ebola. They are three and five and their world consists of this oval kitchen table. It consists of mommy’s hands on theirs, strawberry milk in their sippy cups, and Christmas music and dancing in the living room. Their world smells like wood shavings from the logs daddy cuts to feed the stove; it smells like homemade bread and clean laundry.

But I know they see it all. They feel it all—a world waiting with bated breath for its Savior.

We feel it, don’t we? With every death. With every disappointment, every pink slip, every call from the hospital, every ache and every pain. This longing for home. For heaven. This need for a Savior.

And each year we put a word to it: Advent. But really, we’re waiting all year long, every day, for the return of a Christ whose birth we try to understand through crèches and candlelight services. For a Christ whose very life was a parable, whose Spirit dwells amongst us yet, do we know whom we wait for?

As my sons peer through the window, at the sunrise, at the sunset, I know their spirits are searching for the star: the one every wise man seeks, the one which leads us not 2,000 years into the past, but rather, into the now, into what it means to know the Christ child. This is eternal life, Scripture tells us—to know him. This, a life we can have right now. We wait for heaven, when in fact, heaven waits for us, here in this very moment, in the breath of Mary’s son.

The kingdom of heaven is here, in simple expressions of faith. In the grip of a small child’s hand. In the gasp of a beggar’s plea, in the prayer of a widow’s lips, in the tears of a lonely orphan. Oh, that we would see and respond, bringing God’s kingdom to earth.

The image of Christ, our creator, in each of us. In the Michael Browns. In the lost ISIS sons. In the faces wracked with Ebola. In those behind prison bars. The Christ who looks nothing like the shiny-haired figurine in the movies or the paintings, and everything like the stranger we ignore.

I was standing in church, one Sunday, my palm lifted, the other wrapped around my three-year-old who perched on my swollen five-month womb. I stood in worship, tears rolling down my cheeks and the song was, “I Surrender All.”

And in the excavation, I see him—my eyes still closed. Jesus. And he looks like a man without a home, dressed in rags, torn and dirty, his hair matted, his beard long and scraggly, his eyes—kind. The son of God, as a homeless man. “Would you worship me if I looked like this?” he said to me.

Whom do we wait for, friends? A babe wrapped in a fuzzy cloth, lying in a manger? Or the son of God—who takes every preconceived notion about the Savior and tosses it from the synagogue in righteous anger?

Father, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. This Advent season. Amen.

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Advent Reflections: A Gift with No Expiration Date

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Today’s advent reflection is by R. T. Kendall, who served as pastor of Westminster Chapel in London, England, for 25 years. Born in Ashland, Kentucky, he was educated at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (MDiv) and Oxford University (DPhil). Dr. Kendall is the author of more than 55 books, including Total Forgiveness, The Unfailing Love of Jesus, Grace, and The Anointing: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

Your heavenly father values you as much as anybody who has ever lived. Think about that! God loves you and wants to talk to you regularly. What better way to celebrate him this season than through prayer? He likes our company, and through prayer he gives us all equal access to him and his ultimate power. A big result for such a small feat.

Recognizing that you have this access could be one of the best gifts you receive this for Christmas, because it never goes out of style and it comes with no expiration date. However, it is not nearly as effective if we forget that we have access to this immeasurable favor year round, and not just during this Christmas season.

As we get to know God, we get to know ourselves. Like a loving, wise parent who does not tell us all he or she knows, so our heavenly father—who sees our flaws and defects long before he lets us see them—patiently leads us by the hand one day at a time. It is through prayer that the Bible comes alive, enabling us to see insights not only into Holy Scripture but also into ourselves. Prayer is truly a privilege.

I would, therefore, say to you, spend as much time in prayer as you can. Without prayer, the changing you need to do will be minimized. It is through prayer—time with God—that you get to know his ways, plus things you need to know about yourself. God could change you apart from prayer, yes. But he probably won’t. He likes your company. The reward for spending as much time with him as you possibly can is greater than you can imagine. But I must lovingly warn you, this ongoing changing of mind, heart, will, and life will not likely happen apart from faithful prayer.

Christ’s birth is perhaps the most central element to the Christmas story, and we must remember that he came not only to save us from our sins, but to have a real relationship with us. The most important thing prayer does for us, then, is to help us to know God and His ways.

As you reflect during this holiday, know that time with God will open up his ways. Reading books won’t do it. Reading theology won’t do it. Studying the creation won’t do it. Going to church won’t do it. Listening to religious music won’t do it. Listening to great preaching won’t do it. Even worshiping through hymns and songs won’t do it.

Seeking the Lord can be a lifestyle and a condition of the heart. I commend to you the importance of waiting before the Lord with just your Bible and perhaps a notepad. Make it something you do as regularly and often as you can. You will see the difference and thank God for every minute you gave Him.

Consider God’s bold move from heaven to earth as a baby in Bethlehem and be changed. Take advantage of the gift of prayer—do it now. Make it a habit to go to God in prayer with joyous anticipation and wait expectantly for him to move.

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Advent Reflections: The Deep Magic of Christmas

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Today’s advent reflection is by Barnabas Piper, an author who explores the connections between ideas, faith, and people. He writes weekly for WorldMag.com and The Blazing Center blog, and he has contributed to Leadership Journal, Tabletalk Magazine, RelevantMag.com, The Gospel Coalition blog, and DesiringGod.org. He is also the son of bestselling author and popular pastor John Piper. In his first book, The Pastor’s Kid: Finding Your Own Faith and Identity, Piper addresses the challenges of being a pastor’s kid (“PK”) first hand.

Christmas hurts. “The most wonderful time of the year” is not for many people. And all the sentiment and smiles we can muster do nothing to dull the pain; they merely mask it.

So many have pain in their families. A marriage is tied in knots leaving both spouses twisted and rung out. Children abandon parents and resent them. Parents abuse and harm children.

So many are ill and ailing. The cancer returned. The arthritis aches so constantly what room is left for happiness? They’ll never recover from the accident.

So many have lost so much: jobs or homes or life’s savings. Or maybe they never had it in the first place. Their whole life has been one of destitution, and they don’t know what it is like to buy and give gifts. They simply try to keep the lights on and food on the table.

So many face injustice. So many have been wronged by others: neighbors, family, friends, governments, employers. The injustices of racism and classism insidiously infect our country. Look around and see the injustice rampant in the world. More people are in slavery now than ever in hostory. Children are the toys of perverts. Poor people are exploited. Pain is everywhere.

So many have seen death take away one they love. From stillborn infants to beloved grandparents it is always too soon. Whether they have lived four breaths or four million their life was not full enough. Death is a thief and steals the happiness of millions.

It is no merry Christmas for these, and they are all around us. They are us. We mask it well because, after all, Christmas cheer is the name of the game. But our rote renditions of carols, festooned homes, softly lit trees, delightful baked goods offer no solace. They are reminders of happiness that the hurting cannot feel.

And yet. And yet . . .

His law is love and His gospel is peace

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother

And in His name all oppression shall cease

 

No more let sins and sorrows grow nor thorns infest the ground.

He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

And death’s dark shadows put to flight.

Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel

Shall come to thee, O Israel.

What promise is this? One of smiles and parties and lights and carols and gifts and festivities? Good will and giving? Tiny Tim’s magic of Christmas? No, something more, something deeper, something akin to the “deep magic” Aslan spoke of. The magic of Christmas is that of promise come and promise yet fulfilled. [Click to tweet!]

In Christmas there comes healing of hurts, retribution for wrongs, filling of emptiness, and reparation of brokenness. That which is indebted can be redeemed. That which is lost can be found. That is the magic of Christmas.

And his name is Jesus, that tiny one there, wrapped in rough cloth and lying in some hay. He is a king and a sacrifice, perfect at both. He knows all our pain for he lived our life, yet perfectly. He knows our pain because he died our death, yet innocently. And he promises life because death did not, could not, hold Him. And one day he will undo its bonds on us as well, along with all other pain. That is deep magic.

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” Revelation 21:1-7 HCSB

Christmas hurts because a time of celebration is tainted or stolen or unattainable, a reminder of what isn’t. But the magic, the deep magic, of Christmas is what it promises, that which has come and that which will come. That baby king will make all things new.

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Advent Reflections: A Less-Than-Perfect Family Advent

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Today’s advent reflection is by Rob Bentz, the author of The Unfinished Church: God’s Broken and Redeemed Work-In-ProgressRob and his wife Bonnie have been married for 17 years, have two children (Reid and Bethany) who like to laugh, and live in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

My two young children were giggling. They squirmed in their chairs on both sides of our big wooden table. One of them asked me a strange question that drew restrained laughter from the other sibling. Then, in the holiest of all family Christmas moments, full-on belly laughter burst forth from both kids!

This was my family’s recent experience at the lighting of the first candle in our holiday advent wreath (or crown) tradition.

Each year, beginning on the first Sunday of the Advent season, our family strives to light a candle, pray together, and sing at least one Christ-centered Christmas carol. On each subsequent Sunday, we light an additional candle until all four outside candles are lit. Finally, on Christmas day, we gather to light the center candle, commonly known as the Christ candle. This signifies that the Lord has come!

The giggles and unintended silliness have also become part of my family’s tradition. Not intentionally, mind you. This father is trying his hardest to help instill in his children a genuine anticipation for the coming of the Christ child on Christmas day.

Our family’s innocent, albeit less-than-perfect, candle-lighting scenario has helped me to think afresh about the very context of Jesus’s birth.

Let’s revisit the popular birth narrative for a moment: Mary a teenage virgin, and her husband Joseph, were traveling by donkey on government business. With zero of the comforts of home, or even a clean place to relax, she gave birth to the baby boy in a farmer’s stable. The baby was then wrapped in common cloths and given a place to rest in a feeding trough. (Luke 2:1-20)

This is how God himself entered our world. Nothing perfect about the environment. Nothing pristine about the backdrop. Nothing polished about the surroundings. Jesus, the Christ, burst into our world in a not-so-idealistic setting.

I know this. I’ve read the birth narrative hundreds of times. But, in spite of my head knowledge of this biblical reality, my heart still longs for the idealized image of what our family’s Christmas is “supposed” to be—perfect, pristine and polished. I have this mistaken expectation that our annual advent tradition will somehow represent at least one of those p-words. Curious isn’t it? Especially when you consider the one who’s leading his family in the Scripture reading is perhaps the one most in need of some “good news.”

The truth is, my desire for perfection is misplaced. Perfection cannot be found in the dutiful actions of my kids, the beautiful singing of my wife, or even in our tender family moments praying together around some warmly-lit candles. It was in my family’s less-than-perfect experience around our advent wreath that God revealed my own heart’s deepest longing—for someone to set our messy world aright.

You know, the very reason God chose to enter our world in the first place.

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Advent Reflections: The Paradox of Christmas

Don Nordin

Today’s advent reflection is by Don Nordin the pastor of CT Church Houston  (www.ctchurch.tv), a congregation with more than 2,000 people in weekly attendance. With a focus on training leaders, he travels extensively as a speaker to revivals, camp meetings, and conferences. He lives with his wife in Houston, TX.

Christians are people of faith. How else can we believe that God spoke the world into existence and created man from dust? How else can we make sense that an eternal God would take on flesh and walk among a sinful society for 33 years? If not by faith, how could we dare think that an all-powerful God would allow his sinless son to die for all humanity, then live again after three days in the grave and ascend to his father? It defies reason, but we believe, and our faith pleases God (Heb. 11:6). Nowhere does faith run headlong into reason more than in the Christmas story. That wonder-filled story is the essence of paradox— it defies explanation! The story of the nativity bring us face-to-face with four undeniable, irrational truths:

1. When we couldn’t find our way to God, he came looking for us.

“No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven.”

—John 3:13, NKJV

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

—John 3:17, NKJV

“for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

—Luke 19:10, NKJV

2. Jesus experienced a natural birth so we could experience a spiritual birth.

Here we see God’s “grand plan” for salvation made so simple that intellectual men often overlook it. When God took on flesh, he voluntarily accepted the weaknesses, restrictions, and limitations of mortal men. How could a God powerful enough to construct the world, create life, and spin the planets into place, condescend to become one of his own creatures? And yet Luke describes such an event with great detail. Why did he come?

“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the age of this world and according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among them we all also once lived in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and we were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and He raised us up and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”

—Ephesians 2:1–6, MEV

3. Jesus accepted an earthly mother so we could receive a heavenly father!

Jesus came to show us a way by adoption into an eternal family.

“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will.”

—Ephesians 1:4–5, NKJV

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”

—Hebrews 2:10–11, NKJV

4. Jesus occupied a stable so we could inherit a mansion!

If we were to write a script for God to become a man, we would likely begin the story in the most up-to-date hospital in the world, surrounded by well-to-do, educated parents. We would place the Christ child in a fine mansion, educated in the best schools available. God placed his Son within reach of everyone: he was born in a stable, his parents were poor, and even the most disadvantaged person can relate to him. Those who are desperate do not need to fear crying out to him.

To each of us he says:

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and received you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

—John 14:2–3, NKJV

What a paradox! That our God would search through space and time to bring back a people who had lost its way; that he would endure every humiliation, suffering and death to bring us near to himself. His goodness defies reason and demands our eternal praise. [Click to tweet!]

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