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Warmed from the inside out

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(This post first appeared on the Three Rivers Grace blog, on January 16, 2014.)
What does it take to warm up around here?For three days last week, most of the country was in the grip of a polar vortex. At one point, we tried the “toss a cup of steaming water into the arctic air” experiment, then quickly hurried back inside before our toes fell off. Although we did a pretty good job of seeking out and attaining some degree of warmth, little evidences of the freezing temps outside would seep through – to our toes, to our achy joints, to our pipes, the cold sheets in our beds, to the chillier corners of the house. The chill couldn’t completely be avoided.

After his resurrection, Jesus visited a couple of his disciples as they were travelling to Emmaus, a village about seven miles outside of Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-35). As far as they were concerned, coming upon this man and conversing with him started off as just another encounter on the road – you see, they didn’t recognize him! Their Lord and King walked with them, but they were mostly taken up with the oddity that this traveler seemed not to be aware of the events that had taken place in Jerusalem the week before. Despite the absence of cable news or Twitter to spread the headlines, word was buzzing all over the region about Jesus, the words he spoke, and the death he endured.“We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel,” they said (v. 21). The stranger then, “beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, … interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (v. 27)

I have that happen to me, too, sometimes. The presence of the Lord is not so present to me. I am cold to him, and I need something to thaw the chill.

They invited him to join them for supper, which he did, continuing to converse with them and breaking bread with them. Imagine, dinner with Jesus! But their eyes were still closed to him.

Then he vanished, and their eyes were opened. “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (v. 32).

Here is what it is to be warmed from the inside out, despite how low the temperatures outside dip.  Drawing near to Christ by meditating on his and other biblical writers’ words to us about him, the coals in my heart are stirred by his divine hand, they begin to glow, and with his expert tending of the fire, my heart burns again, warmed by his presence.

Do you desire to have your heart burn within you? Do you desire your children to know what it is to have their hearts burn for Christ? Don’t look for it in the vast vault of feelings and emotions you carry around with you and which offer only temporary, surface warmth. Look for it in the words of Jesus and the Scriptures.

The lesson in systematic hermeneutics that Christ gave to the two on the road to Emmaus was drawn from the Wonderful Library of God, the same library that the children’s catechism class is learning about in Sunday School. Parents, draw near with us to the source of heat by reading and studying about him in his Word.


Written by mrsdkmiller

January 17, 2014 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Abiding

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Do you see that Branch?

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First appearing at Three Rivers Grace Church blog, 12/3/2013
There are few things Christian parents desire more than that their children would have right and godly attitudes about Christmas: appetites less fueled by materialism and hoarding gifts, hearts more focused on Christ, the Gift. It’s not a new wish. People have complained about the commercialism of the season for a long time, and wise parents recognize the temptations and traps laid all about their children by the marketplace.
As we enter these Advent weeks at Three Rivers Grace, we hope to encourage families in the making of Christ-centered memories, built around biblical foundations. This is one reason many of the Sunday School classes take a break from the regular curriculum for a couple or few weeks to focus on the birth of Christ and the remarkable and poignant truths that surround that most crucial event in history.

In the catechism class, the teachers are walking the children through the Story of Jesus’s Family, using illustrations of the stories of Jesus’s ancestors that give attention to the shadows that point toward the coming Messiah.

Do you realize that that is what makes retelling the account of the birth of Christ so thrilling, so edifying and worthwhile? We know the ending, but because we also know how far back in history the beginning was decreed, and we track the promises through the lives of the Old Covenant people and prophets and see how each shadow reveals more and more about the mystery of the coming Messiah, we can still imagine the suspense and the anticipation of the Advent of the Savior of the World. The result:  the Lord calls us to join with Him and the rest of the Body to reflect upon and savor the eternal work of God in bringing the Gift of the Ages to His people. And you’re right, it’s not just this season – we can do this all year ‘round!

advent image by piper

Jesus Family Tree

The foundation of the lesson is found in Isaiah 11: 1-3:

A Shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and He will delight in the fear of the Lord.

The Jesus Family Tree mounted in the classroom is a four-branched, 2-dimensional brown tree. As the redemptive HIStory is recounted, brightly colored and illustrated ornaments get hung on the branches, depicting episodes in the Old Testament where the Promise of a Savior is foretold. Wouldn’t it be a delight to share this anticipation and delight with your children during these next few weeks? Well, thanks to the Child Ministry International publishers, we can do that. A guide for parents to incorporate the readings and lessons at home includes cut-outs of the very same ornaments. All that’s needed to complete the activity is a tree, which could be formed from construction paper or brown paper bags, drawn on a whiteboard, or even fashioned from a large branch from nature!

Read together the passages from the Bible on the Advent Readings Schedule (on the Sunday School page) and discuss what the promises or shadows are that are represented by the symbol, giving special attention to any words that reference our Lord. Begin with the symbol of the scroll with the words from Isaiah, placing that ornament at the base of the “tree”.

Tracking the days leading up to Christmas is an activity many families enjoy doing, sometimes using Advent calendars or Jesse Trees, and if this a tradition your family already enjoys and grows from, then you know what a blessing it can be to take some time each day to center on Christ, and I hope it enriches your Advent season this year with the wonder and majesty of God’s incarnation and the satisfaction of the Hope of the Ages.

If you haven’t tried to incorporate this activity into your routine until now (believe me, I understand the busy schedules, the problem with consistency), I urge you to consider it. What a perfect opportunity to fulfill the Lord’s call to parents to talk of the truths and commandments to your children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”

Child Ministry International’s Advent Reading Schedule (at use in the 3RG catechism class)

Other Advent activities you may be interested in: Jesse Tree (website link not an endorsement, it simply contains a good list of links to printables and instructions) and The Messiah Vine (recommended by Jill Nelson at Children Desiring God)

Written by mrsdkmiller

December 5, 2013 at 11:33 am

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