The verses come to mind, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
That’s pretty much what it comes down to, isn’t it? Sure, it’s exactly the opposite from what the world screams, but isn’t that the way of the Kingdom?
Didn’t He choose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise?
When I think of what defines me, I’m tempted to think of external appearance and accomplishments — but all of those will fade away.
When all is said and done, my identity better be hinged to something far greater.
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This past weekend, I had the privilege of delivering a short message for a baby shower. I decided to share it here as well, in case somebody needs to read it:
Today I want to talk about the miracle of new life. About the wonder of God’s creation.
When I was 23 years old and living in a foreign country, I was nine months pregnant and had no idea what I had gotten myself into. My husband is a black South African, and I remember sitting on the edge of the bed about a week before my due date, sobbing.
My husband asked, “What’s wrong now?” (Because, pregnancy hormones.)
“What if it’s a girl?” I cried. “What will I do with her hair?!”
Well, it was a girl—and it took me nine years before I finally figured out what to do with her hair.
But let’s rewind to the day she was born. After an emergency C-section, they placed this unfamiliar bundle on my chest. She looked Chinese. Her face was pasty and wrinkly, her eyes were squinted closed, her lips were bright red. I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me.
Over the next few days in the hospital, we sat there staring at each other.
And I was utterly mesmerized by the creation I held in my lap. The straight, jet black hair. The black eyes. The tiniest fingernails and toes. And I thought to myself, “Who can look at a newborn baby and not be fully persuaded that the God of the universe must have created the world?” The intricacies and detail of a brand new human, fully formed, is remarkable.
In my mind at the time, she was perfect.
Fast forward just seven sleepless months, and my little bundle of perfection has learned how to army crawl. She’s squirming forward with determined intent, and her eyes are set on the outlet on the wall. She pauses and turns around to look at me. “No!” I say firmly, with my pointer finger extended like moms are supposed to do. I caught a hint of a smile in her eyes as she turned around and forged ahead, goal growing ever closer.
“No!” I said again, louder this time. She stopped crawling, turned around again, and smiled her charming smile. “I said, ‘No!’” I repeated. Fully aware of the meaning of the word, my precious angel resumed her mission, completely ignoring my command.
So I scooped her up, sat on the steps, laid her on her tummy across my lap, and was about to spank her for the first time. I pulled back her diaper—and got a hand full of poop.
Totally grossed out, all I could do was laugh, and my poor child was utterly confused.
Today she’s 11 years old and whenever she hears that story, she reminds me that she got the last laugh. She says, “Mom, you were trying to teach me a lesson, but I taught you a lesson instead!”
But the point of that whole story is to say that my innocent little newborn did not stay innocent for long—in fact, nobody had to teach her how to do wrong. Nobody had to teach her how to sin. She already had that capacity stored up within her.
Just like you and me.
In fact, in the book of Psalms in the Bible, David writes, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” David doesn’t say he became aware of his own sin when his mom told him a story about how he army crawled toward the outlet when he was seven months old. He doesn’t even say he became sinful after he was born—he says he was sinful from the time his mother conceived him.”
The Bible tells us that because Eve took the fruit in the Garden of Eden and gave some to her husband, who also ate it, sin entered the world, and as a result, every single one of us is a sinner. Without God’s intervention, we are all living in rebellion against Him and His Word. Without Jesus as Lord of our lives and without the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we’re not just army crawling toward the outlet on the wall – we’re running toward it. We’re sprinting head-on toward destruction.
So what are we supposed to do?
During Jesus’ lifetime, a man named Nicodemus had a similar question. In the Gospel of John, chapter three, it says:
“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
“How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’”
A few verses later in the same chapter, we read,
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
So how can we be born again?
By believing in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ, as the only way we can be saved from our sins, and by trusting in Him and His death and resurrection for our salvation.
I started by saying I wanted to talk about the miracle of new life. And while the birth of a baby is certainly a miraculous thing—it is not the most miraculous thing. The most miraculous thing is God coming in the form of a baby, being born of a human mother, so He could one day carry the sins of His people on the cross, take the punishment and die the death we deserve, defeat death and conquer sin by rising again on the third day so that those who put their faith in Him will have the gift of new life.
But here’s the catch—my daughter didn’t know how to be born. She had no part in the process, other than to gasp her first breath and let out a loud cry—and even that breath and that cry was placed in her by the God who created her.
In the same way, when we’re born again, it’s God’s doing. Before we accept Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, we are dead in our sins—and we all know that dead people can’t do anything, not even reach up a hand for help. There is nothing you or I can do to earn our way into heaven. No matter how good we think we are, it’s not good enough. God has to stir in our hearts by the power of His Holy Spirit, and He is the one who causes us to gasp that first breath of new life and cry out to Him, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!”
I encourage you today, as we celebrate a new baby about to be born for the first time, and the gift and miracle of new life, to ask yourself, “Have I been born again?”
If the answer is no, or even if you’re not sure, I’d love to talk with you.
Becoming a child of God is the best decision you could ever make, and the best way to celebrate and thank Him for the miraculous gift of this new baby.
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Here’s Kashoan from KraftyKash to share her five minute free write with us:
When I decided on the word embrace for 2017, it never crossed my mind that my 17 yr old daughter, Korby, would help me understand the meaning of the word.
This kid of mine does not care what she looks like in a photo. She wants to remember things exactly how they are happening at that very moment. Silly faces, eyes closed, messy hair, burger in your mouth, it doesn’t matter. She takes a photo to document whatever it is that we are doing.
This crazy burger photo was completely her idea. I have never laughed so hard! It will forever be one of my favorite memories.
Since I started working full-time in August, I don’t see my kids as much as I used to, even though I work from home. So tonight when I realized we were in desperate need of a grocery run, I asked my kids, “Who wants to come with me?” I thought I could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak — get the necessary chore of shopping done while still spending time with my kids.
Two out of three volunteered to join me. “But I need my book!” they both exclaimed as we climbed into the car.
“No you don’t!” I countered. “You’re supposed to talk to me, not come along so you can read a book!”
“Mom,” my nine-year-old replied. “Some people like the kind of friendship when a friend is just with you.”
“Live with abandon. Love with abandon. Laugh with abandon,” they say.
But what happens when you’ve boxed yourself in with that same life, that same love, that same laughter? What do you do when you’ve fenced yourself into a tight rectangle of commitments, promises, and “must-do’s”? When the mere thought of abandon would look more like neglect than freedom?
It’s borderline claustrophobic, living in that space. When deadlines loom over every dream until even your sleep is invaded.
And the temptation beckons, “throw it all off, break those chains, give it up …”
But what then? And for what?
So we close our eyes and take a deep breath and recalibrate our definitions ever so slightly until the main thing becomes the main thing and we remember that all will be okay