20 Years of Valentines

Photo Credit: desireux via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: desireux via Compfight cc

Last summer, Brandie and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary by taking a trip to Charleston. On the drive down we reflected on our twenty years together, thanking God for His grace and guidance in our lives. We decided to take stock of the things that we have learned about marriage and would want to pass on to others. For Valentine’s Day, our twentieth in marriage, here is our list of 20 for 20:

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The Cure for Spiritual Depression

13947234681_94a051e9daDear Christian,

Today, you will be tempted to live to meet someone’s expectations. And you’re liable to disappoint. It may be your boss, your spouse, your kids, your client, your friend, but most likely it will be yourself. Maybe you’ve already blown that New Year’s resolution to eat less, exercise more, or be more patient with people. Perhaps you just can’t shake the regret over past failures that continue to haunt you.

Don’t forget Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” I have often called this the most neglected verse in the Bible. We are programmed by our emotions and that liar, the devil, that this truth from God’s Word is too good to be true! Maybe even worse than that, sometimes our own well-meaning religious friends become an obstacle to believing what God has written. [Read more…]

My New Christmas Tradition

Whether it’s ugly sweaters, epic outdoor light displays, Christmas baking (yes, please),watching “Elf,” “Home Alone,” “A Christmas Story,” or (for you traditionalists) “It’s a Wonderful Life,” everybody has some holiday traditions.Jimmie-Johnson-in-Ugly-Christmas-Sweater

The consistency of doing something the same way or in the same location with the same people year after year embeds memories of what is important to a family. My family has lots of Christmas traditions, but for some reason, celebrating Advent has not been one of them. I don’t know why, but it was never a part of my church or family experience. A few of the churches we attended while I was growing up lit an “Advent Candle” every Sunday in December, but I don’t remember them ever explaining what they meant. (Read more about making sure our memorials have meaning here).

We have always done something to prepare for Christmas. When the kids were younger we had a countdown calendar that told the story of the birth of Jesus by adding one character to a nativity scene every day until Jesus was added on Christmas morning. We also used the great resource “What God Wants for Christmas” to share with the kids about the birth of Jesus during the week of Christmas.

But, I have never intentionally set aside the month of December to contemplate the coming of Jesus and prepare my heart in worship of him…until this year. Now my question is, “Why haven’t I done this before?” This year, at the encouragement of my awesome wife we are using John Piper’s free eBook, “The Dawning of Indestructible Joy” to lead our family through Advent devotions. I am reading the daily entry in the morning during my quiet time and then we are reading them together as a family at night.

Here’s why I think Advent will become one of my traditions:

1. Priorities – It is easy to get sucked into the materialism of Christmas. Focusing on daily worship of Jesus has kept me from putting too much emphasis on the wish list side of Christmas.
2. Connection – Reading the same devotion daily and then sharing with one another at night unites our family around our faith.
3. Perspective – Advent devotions help me to not just focus on the Bible stories centered on the event of the birth of Jesus (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2, etc.) but to see how every part of the Scripture points to the coming of the Messiah or looks back to his coming.

So, if you’re feeling as uptight as Clark Griswald when cousin Eddie shows up for dinner, relax! It’s not too late for you, either. Here are a few Advent resources you can use with your family.

The Dawning Of Indestructible Joy by John Piper

The Expected One by Scott James (Great for young families)

Multiple Advent Reading Plans available on the YouVersion Bible App.