Is He Your King?

By Monica Gill, MBC Loudoun Attendee

The music is one of my favorite parts of the Christmas season. Gracie, my daughter, has decided her favorites are Three Ships and Go Tell it on the Mountain. For me it’s Joy to the World! I think we’ve had those three songs on a continuous loop in the car for the last three weeks… and I love it! Do you ever really listen to the words of Christmas carols? One of the things I love to do at Christmas is try to chew on the verses of the classic carols and unpack their meaning. That’s probably why Joy to the World is my favorite!

“Joy to the World! The Lord is come. Let Earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room.”

Just in that verse we see in the season leading up to Christmas we are supposed to prepare room in our hearts for Him, room to receive the King. Christmas a few years ago, Doug, my husband, decorated the pergola leading to our garden with a lighted star. One evening as we pulled in the driveway Gracie shouted: “Oooo! The star! Mama, let’s be wise men and follow the star to Bethlehem to find Jesus!” Such true words! One of my favorite Christmastime sayings is, “Wise men still seek Him.” But, in order to be wise men (or women) we have to be honest with our hearts and confront the reality of Jesus’ claim to be The King. When you seek Him, you are not just looking for a little peaceful baby in a manger. Remember, the wise men (3 kings) were looking for a King greater than themselves to bow down to and welcome. The challenge for us is to do the same.

As we approach Christmas we focus a lot on the birth of the “baby Jesus” on that sweet tranquil “silent night.” Why? Because a baby seems so non-threatening, right? But, you know King Herod didn’t find sweet baby Jesus to be so non-threatening. In fact he was so threatened by this baby that he ordered the murder of all boys under the age of two in the town of Bethlehem. What’s so threatening about a baby? It was His claim to be The King. You see Herod was lashing out at that claim. Herod was saying, “No! I am the king!”

If it is true that Jesus is The King, what does that mean? What do kings claim a right to? They claim the right to rule. They claim authority. They claim a right to allegiance and the submission of others to that authority. Hmmm… Am I living like He is my King, the King with complete authority and rights to reign over my life? Are you? This isn’t just the sweet baby Jesus—this is the man who claims to be The King and the right to rule in your life, the right to authority over you, the right to have your submission and allegiance above everything and everyone else in this world. And though He claims the right to all this, Jesus is the only King who does not demand and require your allegiance. The choice is yours.

Jesus is the only King who does not demand and require your allegiance. The choice is yours. 

I don’t know about you, but there are a lot of times when I don’t want to give up that kind of power and authority over “my life.” I want to sit on the throne! I want to be the King. As Mel Brooks’ portrayal of Louie the XIV says in the parody film The History of the World Part II, “It’s good to be the King!”

On a serious note though, in his sermon “The Fear of King Herod”, pastor Tim Keller says if we are honest with ourselves, deep down inside we all have a “Little King Herod” in our hearts. The part of us that rejects Jesus’ right to be King over our lives and says: “No! ME! I’m the king!” Maybe he’s getting smaller and less powerful as we allow the Lord more territory to reign over our hearts, but your “Little King Herod” is still there gasping, trying to kill Jesus’ claims to be The King—Your King. It is more than just celebrating the birth of a baby, it is celebrating the rightful King taking His throne and His rightful rule in the world and receiving Him in your heart. I challenge you to do more than celebrate and worship the sweet baby Jesus, but to let Him be your King. Realize this Christmas celebration is not just a feast of “arrival” but marks a looking forward to the ultimate victory and reign of the One True King. Christmas is a reminder of who our King is and what His priorities are.

Real Stories of God’s Work Through Multiply

By Emily Franklin, MBC Tysons Operations Manager for Discipleship

One of the highlights of my role at MBC Tysons is helping people get connected to small groups. Then, once they are connected, it is a joy hearing updates on how their group is going, and what the Lord is teaching them. I recently received emails from sisters Brittany and Caitlin, telling me about their experience with Multiply in their new small group, as well as an encouraging call from Tim.

Caitlin shared that “for the first time in my life, I am really beginning to understand what being a disciple really means and the value/responsibility God places on being one. I truly look forward to the opportunities I know I will have to share my faith with others and follow God’s command to go out and make disciples of fellow believers in Christ. Multiply is making me realize that I want to be a disciple, and I truly want to follow Christ’s command to go out and make disciples of others as well.”

Brittany also wrote, “I really feel that for the first time…I am really beginning to understand what it means to be a disciple. I can thank God & Multiply for that!”

Then there’s the story of Tim, a former football player suffering from chronic pain due to five herniated discs. He called me a few weeks ago to talk about getting involved with Multiply. I was so encouraged by his story, and hopefully you will be as well!

One day in September, Tim was in line at a local DMV, when a group of men from the church came up and started sharing the Gospel. When the men were finished, they walked along the line engaging people in conversation. When they got to Tim, he shared that he had been a Christian for many years, but due to the constant pain he experiences, he had stopped going to church.

In that time he became isolated and alone, and began to lose hope. As he listened to the men share the Gospel he felt the Lord telling him that He still had more for him to do, and more ways for him to give. He said there was “a little fire rekindling again in my spirit”, and for the first time in a long time he had a renewed desire to connect with God and get involved in church again. Living with chronic pain is a constant challenge and it has been hard for Tim to find a schedule that fits his needs, but he is thankful for the men who came and shared the Gospel with boldness that day at the DMV, and for the way the Lord is working in his life through MBC.

These are just a glimpse of how God is working in the hearts of so many at McLean Bible Church. Praise God that He who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6)!

Not So Happy Holidays

By Enoch Haven, MBC Arlington Director of Men’s Ministries

Christmas cheer is here; at least that’s what the billboards say. For weeks now we have been bombarded with advertisements featuring smiling families gathering around filling meals, jewelry boxes being opened, and new cars adorned with big red bows. The Christmas season is, after all, primarily about candy canes, cuddling, and getting gifts, right? But what are we supposed to do when we just don’t feel all the peace and love?

For many of us, the holidays bring something other than happiness. Sometimes it’s hard to have joy when…

…all you can think about during Christmas dinner is the one who is no longer there.

…your positive emotional health is largely due to the fact that you HAVE NOT been around your family in months.

…you want to feel happy for your cousin (and her new ring) but can only manage to fake a smile.

…your grades slide as seasonal depression sets in.

…you just don’t know what to say anymore to your brother who turned away from God.

…you don’t have someone special to go ice skating with.

…you can’t afford to pay your bills let alone buy presents for those you care about.

…the gift you really want is one that God seems unwilling to give.

The seasonal images of happiness and comfort are especially disturbing when you can’t share in their pictured perfection. Even if you are generally a fan of the Christmas season, sometimes it’s just tough to watch. Perhaps you have found yourself wishing it was already over. If only we could just fast forward to February. Sure, you want to remember Jesus’ birth, but you could do without the rest of it.

Often, during this time of year we resist expressing our hurt in effort to avoid putting a damper on the seasonal mood. After all, who wants to hang out with a downer at Christmas? But is this suppression of emotion, and the isolation that results, really the best way to deal with our pain? Perhaps our decision to remain silent actually serves to prop up the holiday perfection narrative.

Wouldn’t our friends and churches be better served if we humbly chose to shatter the illusion? The truth is, most of the people in those pictures are not as happy as they look anyway. Even an average image looks amazing with an Instagram filter thrown on top. Somehow we need to find the freedom to say: No, I am not alright, and all this “holiday spirit” isn’t helping matters.

Christianity has a rich tradition of honestly expressing deep pain. This practice, called lament, flows through Scripture from the Prophets and Psalms in the Old Testament to the cries of Jesus in the New. When we refuse to acknowledge our pain we turn against our own history and stunt our spiritual growth. Painting an artificial portrait of unlimited happiness is unchristian no matter what season it happens to be. Though we desperately long to return to Eden, we cannot do so, even for a few days.

The church needs to rediscover the practice of lament, and I can’t think of a better time to do this than Christmas. Joy and sorrow have always been hauntingly intertwined in this celebration. Just days after the birth of Jesus, Mary his mother was told: “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Luke 2:35) It was a harsh prophecy for a new mother to receive, but, in time, the truth of these words was clearly shown. Jesus is the biggest gift this world will ever receive, yet His birth and life meant great pain for the person closest to Him.

So let’s resolve to be honest about our pain this Christmas, first with God, and then also with others. And let’s not think our intense emotions are too much for God to handle. He created us with the ability to experience each of them. He can take it, really He can, and He won’t be mad at you for spoiling His birthday celebration either.

This doesn’t mean Christmas has to be depressing. I believe that when we truly weep over our enduring sorrows it becomes easier to genuinely rejoice with others. When we stop denying it hurts and start being honest we can experience a deeper joy. The birth of Jesus is good news not because our lives are perfect; it is good news because they are clearly not. The more we remember this truth the more beautiful Christmas will be to us.

Follow Enoch on Twitter @EnochHaven

A Merry Mess

By Jenny Barker, MBC Prince William Attendee

The Christmas season has begun and though I would like to say I’m ready for it, fabulously organized and on top of things, finished with my shopping, and completely decorated with my home looking exactly like my Christmas board on Pinterest, I cannot. Sadly, that would be far, far from the truth. The truth instead looks more like this…

…boxes upon boxes of Christmas decorations scattered around my home.
…a Christmas tree put up a week ago that begs for at least a single ornament to adorn its lovely branches.
…tiny little pine needles scattered here, there and everywhere, all throughout our home.
…last night’s dirty dishes in the kitchen sink including the pan of brownies I burnt before rushing out the door to our first holiday party of the season.
…clean laundry waiting to be folded and dirty laundry piled high waiting to be washed.
…craft and decorating projects started that wait to be completed and take up almost every inch of my kitchen and dining room tables, not to mention the kid’s air hockey table.
…a storage closet I can hardly step inside because I’ve crammed it full of gifts and Christmas packages the UPS man delivered so my children won’t see them.

Bathrooms need cleaned. Floors need swept. Furniture needs dusted. Gifts need bought and gifts need wrapped. Cookies need baked. Christmas cards need addressed… and it’s all just too much. My home is an absolute, out-of-control mess.

And yet it’s simply the most wonderful thing.

Wonderful because it reminds me of what is most important, and it isn’t a perfect home, a perfect Christmas, or a perfect me.  And wonderful because there’s something incredibly liberating about things falling apart and coming undone… of letting go and letting be.

I woke up early this morning, and as I maneuvered around boxes and piles to head to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee,

I took in the crazy mess of my home and had to laugh.

I laughed at the magnitude and sheer size of the disaster I’d created, and laughed at the glorious disruption of being completely disorganized and overwhelmed and of losing control. I marveled at how far I’ve come… at how much God has and is healing me from needing and striving to be perfect, from having to have it all together and be in control. And after I had a good laugh, I didn’t quickly set about cleaning up the mess, but instead snuggled up in a cozy chair with a steaming cup of coffee and thanked Jesus for all He has done and is doing in my heart. I thanked Him for the beautiful, liberating, redemptive, merry mess because it’s oh so very good for my heart.

As I move into the hectic and sometimes stressful Christmas season, there are a few thoughts I’m hanging on to and keeping before me. They help me keep perspective and help to loosen my grasp on creating and being responsible for the perfect Christmas. They alone are a gift to my heart, and I hope they will be to yours as well…

Let it go.

Let it be.

Lay it down.

It can’t be done.

Be and keep being…

Seek First His Kingdom and His Righteousness

Watch this video to find out how David Han, a Friendship Club member at MBC Tysons, makes time to read his Bible five times a day!

God’s Word for All Seasons

By AnnieLaurie Walters, MBC Loudoun Attendee

Ever since becoming a mom, I have had a really hard time staying engaged in Bible study. Before my second child was born, I had found a good rhythm for Bible study during my first child’s naptime. But even as I enjoyed being in the Word during those two glorious afternoon hours, I knew that as soon as my new baby arrived, two hours of uninterrupted study time would be a lost luxury.

My baby boy is now 6 months old, and I still have not fallen into a consistent rhythm for Bible study. I did get some good feedback from other more experienced moms on how to incorporate “God time” into the busy days of mothering; including a great insight that, despite what I may think now, it won’t get easier. Life will always be busy, and it’s up to us to decide what gets our attention and how much attention we will devote to various things.

Not long ago, a close friend and mother to three boys encouraged me with the following advice: “Don’t try to work through an in-depth, daily Bible study with lots of homework right now. Pick a few verses that are meaningful to you to meditate on whenever you get a moment. Write them on sticky notes, tape them to your mirror or on your fridge… places where you tarry as you wait for the next thing to happen… and let these verses sustain you throughout the day.”

So I took my friend’s advice. Now when I find myself with unexpected free time, like when both kids are napping at the same time (Hallelujah), I know exactly which verses to turn to. For me, I chose to focus on Psalm 91. I struggle with fear, so this Psalm is a great encouragement to me. The amazing thing is that, as I continually return to this passage of Scripture, the Holy Spirit continually shows me more and more. It is amazing to me how much I have learned, simply by focusing on this one passage for a long period of time.

I think this is a great way to stay connected to Bible study when life is unusually busy. But I also firmly believe that when life adjusts and things are not as hectic it is important to return to a more in-depth form of study. I have always really enjoyed the “workbook” type of Bible study guides and have found that spending that kind of in-depth time in God’s Word is kind of like digging a well. As I study for extended periods of time, storing up the richness of God’s Word in my heart, I find that I draw from that well in future seasons where I don’t have time to spend long hours in study. So when I have time to focus on a more intense study, I need to make sure I take advantage of that time!

For me, it’s been an ebb and flow. There are seasons where study is long, rich and rewarding. Then there are other seasons that are so hectic that I barely have time to catch my breath; and it’s during those times that focusing on one section of Scripture and parking there for a period of time keeps me connect to the vine.

A few other Bible study strategies I find helpful during busy seasons of life are daily devotions and smart phone apps. I have hard copies of “Experiencing God Day by Day” and “My Utmost for His Highest” in different places around the house so that if I find I have a few minutes I can pick up the book for some added devotional time. I have also found many smartphone apps that have proven to be extremely helpful tools to aid in my study time, especially the Blue Letter Bible app; the You Version app; the Daily Audio Bible app; and the Desiring God Fighter Verses app. If you spend a lot of time on your tablet or smart phone I highly encourage you to investigate these apps and try them out for yourself.

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8

 

At the end of the day, it really comes down to priorities. There is never, ever a time or season of life where any believer should fall into the trap of believing we get a “free pass” to ignoring our time in God’s Word. If we really believe God, and if we really believe his Word, how foolish we would be to go out into this dark and depraved world apart from the life-giving, sustaining, all encompassing fuel that comes from the power of God’s Word? So often we pray, “Lord speak to us!” when he has already spoken so much to us in his Word. It’s up to us to tune in and listen.

Make a Good Deal Out of Black Friday

By Joe Henriques, MBC Tysons Campus Pastor

Word on the Google street is that Black Friday began with a sinister motivation: Retailers make an early profit off of Christmas so they can go into the next year in the black. And all this time you thought it was about you!

Making big bucks off of values

Commercialization overshadows every holiday of American and Christian history that’s rooted in noble thoughts of significant events. Valiant efforts to emphasize the values of gratitude at Thanksgiving, celebration at Easter, and wonder at Christmas have stiff competition from the allure of sirens beckoning at the doors of major retailers.

Go for good deals

We understand that’s how it is and we fight it with minimal success. I say if you can’t beat it, use it for good! Here are some ways to make a good deal out of Black Friday:

  1. Cash in on great deals. Buy your presents and needs for the house now. That’s not only good stewardship of God’s money, but it stimulates the economy.
  2. Don’t overspend. Overspending is a signal that some other spirit—like greed and coveting—is controlling you, not the Holy Spirit.
  3. Get gifts for others in need. You were created for doing good works, so look for people who can’t get deals on Black Friday because they’re out of cash. Like a refugee family, a single parent, a family with a spouse on deployment, a homeless person…. The list is endless. Surprise them with a good deal you got on Black Friday.

Talk about Good Friday

Here’s the best deal of all: Tell someone on Black Friday about Good Friday. Share with a family member, colleague, friend, an enemy or stranger about the out-of-this-world “deal” God gave us in Christ. Forgiveness of sins, freedom to live a life of meaning, restored honor, adoption in God’s family…and, Christ paid the price for us to have all this for free. You don’t have to stand in line and pay the cashier; you kneel at the cross and say thank you to Jesus.

How to Be Thankful When Life’s Not a Fairytale

By Bethany Goodman, MBC Tysons Attendee

A few Novembers ago, Pastor Lon preached a sermon entitled “Biblical Thanksgiving is NOT a Feeling.”  I remember being profoundly impacted by this message, and have listened to it multiple times since then. The truth that he preached was this: If there is a sovereign omnipotent personal God, and if He is in total control of His universe, and if He has a perfect plan for my life, and if He allows every circumstance to touch my life to work towards achieving this good and a beneficial plan; then there isn’t a single circumstance in our lives about which we should not be able to give thanks.

There isn’t a single circumstance in our lives about which we should not be able to give thanks.

However, as a millennial, I’ve grown up in the world that has told me that all of my decisions should be based on my feelings, following my heart, and what brings about the most happiness for me. Once you start to realize you’re not a Disney princess, the emptiness and destructiveness of that mindset becomes evident pretty quick.

But we’re all sinners and selfish at heart, so even as committed disciples, that mentality can creep into our thoughts and actions. That’s why we have to constantly ask God to examine our heart and study His word so that our gratitude, peace, love, joy, and other fruits of the spirit, are not based on our feelings, but rather rooted in the promises of God.

Is this a counter-cultural message, even to cultural Christianity? Yes. But God has given us the Bible to study and delight in, so that our lives are transformed by the Scriptures and not conformed to the narcissism of our world. In Psalm 119, the psalmist extols his love for God’s law, describing it as more precious to him than thousands of pieces of silver and gold, and as a lamp to his feet and a light to his path. His joy makes me wonder, “Do I have this mindset each and every day when I approach the Lord’s commands?” Or am I ignoring the cost of discipleship and settling for the “me” centered world, in which a thankful heart is only based on my external circumstances.

When my heart and mind are transformed by God’s truth, then biblical thanksgiving becomes a way of life. Francis Chan reminds us in Multiply that studying the Bible is not about using it to justify our lifestyle or to selectively apply, but rather to know the heart of God and let him “change and redefine who we are” and our thinking. When I study the Bible—prayerfully and obediently—then my soul is consumed with longing for God’s law at all times. My life becomes less about me and more about the One I follow. My heart is full of joy and thanksgiving as I take up my cross each day as a disciple.

This Thanksgiving, let’s mediate on 1 Thessalonians 5:18, in which Paul instructs his fellow believers to “give thanks in all circumstances, because this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” And let’s be thankful for God’s Word with a heart like this: “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103). May we crave God’s Word and teachings each and every day even more than the turkey and pumpkin pie this Thursday!

Clinging to the Word of God Amidst Persecution – Indonesia

McLean Bible Church supports missionaries around the world. Many of them are serving in locations in which the Gospel is vehemently opposed. For security reasons, we cannot share names, locations or other specifics. These brothers and sisters are living their daily lives sharing the Gospel with men, women and children who have virtually no other chance to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.

This week in our house church, a heartfelt testimony was shared about how often believers must endure persecution. It is very common in the lives of those with whom we serve. Working more openly with believers in recent years has caused our own family to begin, in small ways, to experience it firsthand. The Apostle Paul’s letters reveal that he was quite familiar with persecution. In the last of his inspired writings, sent shortly before he was martyred for Christ, he reminds Timothy that, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).

Paul, loving Timothy like a son, does not encourage him to run, hide or even avoid persecution. Instead he instructs, “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings” (3:14,15a).

So how can we prepare to stand firm in the face of persecution? Study, meditate upon, and hold tightly to the precious treasure of God’s Word so that when persecuted, we also will be able to “continue in what [we] have learned and firmly believed.”

Did you notice how important it was to Paul that Timothy knew the Word from childhood, remembering from whom he learned it? As a child, Timothy learned the Scriptures from his mother and grandmother whom Paul commends for their faith (1:5). As an adult he was taught by Paul through discipleship (2:2; 3:10). We can’t stress enough the importance of pouring God’s Word into our children and grandchildren, and the importance of Christ-centered, discipleing relationships focused on learning the truth of God’s Word. We could never start too young (our children) or to early (new believers) in modeling and teaching how to love God and to know Him through His Word.

To we who are among the “all” of verse 12, embrace Christ-honoring persecution by holding firmly to the precious, transforming truth of His Word! Express to God your deep love and desire to know Him by also loving and knowing His Word!

Please pray for this family. They have encountered a myriad of health concerns, most recently their son being diagnosed with scarlet fever, along with the difficulty of being in a high risk area. We are grateful for their service to the Lord.

An Unexpected Disciple

By Enoch Haven, MBC Arlington Director of Men’s Ministries

The scent spread rapidly as he peeled back the lid from another can of sardines. I tried hard to avoid showing my disgust as the smell of oily fish quickly saturated the air surrounding our table. Sitting across from me was a man I had only just met. For weeks I had heard rumors of a Bible study group at my college, but I was hardly prepared for my encounter with the leader of this band of believers. Josiah was a cheerful man with a powerful smile–and many eccentricities. A nursing student, he had recently started college in his mid-twenties.

Josiah listened as I shared my story, his large beard parting frequently to let his lunch swim through. During that first meeting we talked about our current classes, our families, and a lot about Jesus. While our interests and upbringings were quite different, there was something fascinating about this man. After all, not many of my classmates wore combat boots to school. I didn’t know it at the time, but this man would soon become a meaningful mentor to me.

In the nine years since that meeting, Josiah and I have shared a lot of experiences. Together we baked pies, collected honey from his bees, and even built a bear cage. But more than just doing things together, Josiah invited me into his life. I have watched him deal with romantic rejection, process career moves, and navigate difficult family situations. In each of these scenarios I saw him put Christ at the center of his decision making process.

Josiah and I now live more than two hours apart, so I don’t get to see him as often as I would like. But a couple times a year I still make the drive and spend the weekend with Josiah, his wife Jenny, and their three kids. Both of our lives have changed a lot since we first met, but I am still watching his life and learning what it means to be a man of God. While I have yet to develop a love for sardines, I have gained more from our friendship than I ever could have ever imagined.

My hope for you today is that you would be open to forming friendships with godly men and women around you, even if they don’t look like the kind of mentor you want. You may be surprised how God shapes your life through unexpected people.

Follow Enoch on Twitter @EnochHaven