Choosing Substance: The Whole Story (Day 12)

A person of substance understands the whole story. 

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Thank you for being part of these advent devotionals over the past 12 days. What acts, what traits, do you think are important for one who desires to choose substance?

On the twelfth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me a perspective bigger than my own story.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

…*Joy to the world, the Lord is come!


photo source 1 | Matthew Wiebe
photo source 2 | Guillaume

photo source 3 | Guillaume
photo source 4 | Avel Chuklanov
photo source 5 | Jake Melara

*song excerpt | Joy to the World

Choosing Substance: Going Global (Day 11)

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After I heard about these who would be sealed, I looked and saw a huge crowd of people, which no one could even begin to count, representing every nation and tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. Revelation 7:9

A person of substance is a global citizen. She knows there’s a world beyond her own backyard.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in my own story that I forget I’m a mere line in a novel that’s much, much bigger. Have you been there?

I mean, trust me, you have significance. You are known, and cherished, and loved, but you are one of billions. And with over 7 billion people come a myriad of cultures and worldviews and perspectives.

There’s comfort in knowing how big the world is. Last summer I drove through beauty and stood at the edge of greatness and remembered how small I was. In a good way. It’s freeing to know how teeny tiny your drama is… you don’t feel quite as captive to it.

If you’re reading this today, and you’re of the dominant race represented in your community, you understand how easy it is to forget this. Until we believe we’re looking at society and headlines and our relationships and our faith and even God through cultural lenses, our world stays very, very small. Even our view of the Gospel is impacted by our cultural perspective.

But God is bigger than our culture and customs. He’s bigger than what our corner of the world values. He’s bigger than our way of doing church. Thank goodness.

He descended into the mess to reconcile us to Himself… He came for those who are bound by oppression and poverty and those enslaved to consumerism and greed. He came for those who can’t find food for today and for those who are on another diet. He came for beggars and workaholics. He came for those who don’t have shoes and for fashionistas.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my True Love gave to me an awareness of how big His world is… how big He is… and how worthy He is of worship.

I know you’re busy. I know you’re doing last-minute Christmas preparations — there’s shopping, baking, cleaning, and wrapping (and more wrapping!). But give yourself six more minutes of solitude and be reminded of how small you are. And how big He is. (And if it’s impossible to find time today, promise yourself to come back tomorrow when there’s a moment of calm. It will be worth it.)

…*That hath made heaven and earth of naught,
And with his blood mankind hath bought…


photo source | Avel Chuklanov

*song excerpt | The First Noel

Choosing Substance: Fear (Day 10)

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As for me, I will wait for the Eternal, even though He feels absent, even though He has hidden His face from the family of Jacob. I will put all hope in Him. Isaiah 8:17

A Person of Substance knows who her real enemy is.

Oh, the irony.

When I’m scared, I withdraw deeper into myself, farther away from the mystery. My heart can’t bear the heaviness of the unknown or the weight of the worst-imagined brought to fruition.

I may be smiling if you see me out and about. Or, I may become more controlling with my kids and look anything other than fearful. But the smile and the ugly garb of bullying power — those are really just masks disguising my fear. I may look engaged, but I’m really hiding. Reality is just a little too scary, a little too unknown, so I hesitate to “go there” and put more distance between myself and the Prince of Peace.

And Satan is laughing and celebrating. It’s exactly what he wants.

Are you my companion in this? I see you and your scared eyes buried under smiles. I see you trying to control those around you.

And as I attempt to ignore reality, or control it a little too much, I wrap the chains of fear around me and my precious gift of life. I chain worry and anxiety around my friends and loved ones, too, for rarely does my sin only affect me. The enslavement to fear — oh, the bondage can last a lifetime. Fear of never rising from the past into a new identity. Fear of the spinning present that taunts with confusion.  Fear of what is not yet seen but distorted in our imaginations.

Since we, the children, are all creatures of flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood, so that by dying He could destroy the one who held power over death—the devil— and destroy the fear of death that has always held people captive.  Heb 2:14-16

And Christ descended into this mess with the plan of destroying not only our biggest fear – death – but the very source of this fear – Satan himself. Satan, the owner of doubt. Satan, the originator of confusion. Satan, the distorter of what’s real. Are you letting him have mini-victories in your life? His very purpose is to destroy you, but he’s oh, so very subtle.

My Redeemer, though, He comes and speaks truth louder than the lies that try to paralyze. He became flesh centuries ago to battle my fear in 2015. His Forever Story more powerful than the finite is my gift this Christmas. It’s your gift, too.

A person of substance knows who her enemy is. She knows who her Rescuer from fear is, too.

On the tenth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me deliverance from my chains of fear. He gave me truth that speaks louder than lies.

…*Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb…
…Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice…


Choosing Substance

  • How do you respond when you’re scared? Do you withdraw? Fight to control? A little of both?
  • When has your fear and sin hurt those around you?
  • Read Hebrews 2:7-17.
  • What fears are you needing to be released from this Christmas?

photo source | Andrew Pons

*song excerpt | We Three Kings

Choosing Substance: Surrender (Day 9)

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My intentions are not always yours,
        and I do not go about things as you do.
     My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you,
        just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth. Isaiah 55:8-9

A woman of substance rests in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty even when she doesn’t understand. Especially when she doesn’t understand.

She steps on the path of faith — even though it’s unknown. For faith is not seeing what’s at the end. Faith is knowing Who is at the end.

She doesn’t have to know because she doesn’t have to control. She smashed that idol of control long ago. And even though it still whispers to her when she’s scared, and even though she may temporarily weaken and heed it’s ugly advice — she no longer bows down to it. No, her life and relationships and worldview are no longer slaves to it.

She doesn’t have to understand those around her, for her eyes are fixed on the One who created them all. Because she knows the Source, she doesn’t get all tangled up in the unraveling fragments here on earth. She heeds Peter’s dare and chooses sympathy and compassion and humility. She pays back the bad with a blessing. She pays back the hurt and the insult with more grace. (I Peter 3:8-9)

She doesn’t have to know what the future holds. Her spirit of peace and strength and calm transcends the uncomfortable mysteries because she knows the Author of her story.  She breathes deep, accepting her role as character instead of writer. She doesn’t fight for rank. Instead, she clings to the cross, the dying to self, on those days when Satan woos her to value this world instead of what she knows to be true. (Luke 9:23)

My intentions are not always yours…
     For as rain and snow can’t go back once they’ve fallen,
        but soak into the ground
    And nourish the plants that grow…
     So it is when I declare something.
        My word will go out and not return to Me empty…
        it will accomplish what I determined. Isaiah 55:8,10-11

Atypical weather patterns, warmer-than-normal December afternoons — it’s what we’re seeing out our window in Saint Louis these days. If you’re used to snow, or used to hoping for snow at Christmas, rain is an unwelcome replacement.

But whether you see the Artist blanketing the earth with snow, or you see Him choosing a gray palette and rain, both the pristine and the gray soak into the ground and nourish. His words, whether they’re what we want to hear or not, whether they’re tender whispers or shouts of strength, whether they’re promises that we happen to value here on earth or they’re mysteries we won’t understand until Heaven — His words will never return empty to Him. All of His words will accomplish what He determined.

Yes, a woman of substance rests in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty especially when she doesn’t understand.

On the ninth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me the courage to trust.

…He rules the world with truth and grace*…


Choosing Substance

  • Read again Isaiah 55:8-11.
  • What circumstance is clashing with your desire to “have faith”?
  • Do you fight the tendency to define faith as “everything works out the way we want it to”? Where did this worldview or doctrine come from?
  • Ask God to reveal how He has changed you, transformed you, sanctified you by not giving you what you want. How has He “renewed” your inner self?
  • How are you defining a Person of Substance?

photo source | Aaron Wilson
*song excerpt | Joy to the World

Choosing Substance: Winter Solstice (Day 8)

(Winter solstice is the day with the fewest hours of sunlight during the whole year. In the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs around December 21 or 22. – Farmer’s Almanac)


Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
– King David of ancient Israel, Psalm 30:5 nkjv

It’s a painful reality for some—even at Christmastime—when winter’s lifeless trees are sprinkled with light and society boasts an uncommon goodwill toward others.

We clothe ourselves, our homes, our communities with beauty, genuinely trying to grasp the hope Advent holds in its open palms. Yet, our wounds still shout, or sometimes just whisper, when we hide them with holiday bliss.

The Winter Solstice. The ache of a forever night. It’s deepened in midnight’s silence when rest and daily healing should be at work. The sun hides, causing the shadows to linger on earth’s face and even deeper onto human hearts. And the restless mind replays scene after scene, watching the clash of circumstance with what we hold to be true in our souls. Yes, weeping endures for many through a night so heavy it’s almost hard to breathe.

But a long, dark night is a mere shadow compared to 400 years of silence in ancient history. Between our record of Malachi and the book of Matthew, God seemed silent, painfully silent, until He woke the world’s soul. The timeless Restorer brought morning after four centuries.

Out of the darkness, He set His plan in motion to win back the hearts of people believing a lie that He did not love them. He’d woo back those running from the very One who could heal their hearts forever.

Zechariah, he boldly pointed toward the Sunrise, promising their spiritual winter solstice was not as powerful as imagined.The morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,” he proclaimed, “to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” Luke 1:78, 79 esv

And I know He’s light eternal, but I’ve never called Him my Sunrise. Prince of Peace? Yes. Wonderful Counselor? Of course. Mighty God? Yep. Everlasting Father? Yes, that too.

But my Sunrise? My hope fulfilled? My beginning? Yes, all that—over and over and over again.

A person of substance turns her face from the dark and dares to look for the Sunrise.

Friend, should you be one who’s scorning reality when the world is deep in holiday bliss, know the Song is yours, too. He rescues those weeping in the dark and those painfully hiding in the shadow of death. He reaches for the very ones who must be guided back to the path of peace. Guided back to all we were created for.

He lifts us out of the mocking winter solstice. And the longing to understand is swallowed up with His greatness. And the darkness so heavy it taunts, births hope. And the tears in the night find their Promise, their Sunrise.

On the eighth day of Christmas my True Love gave to me a Forever Sunrise. In a few days, we’ll welcome December 25… May the joy of Christmas morning hold new meaning this year. Choose substance.

…With the dawn of redeeming grace…


Choosing Substance

  • Read through the short passage of Psalm 30. This is King David’s song when they were dedicating the temple.
  • Verse 2 – What shattered pieces of your life seem to resurface with the holiday season?
  • Zechariah (in Luke 1:78-79) described Christ as the One who would “guide us to the path of peace.” In what areas of your life do you need to be guided back, pulled toward, peace? Why is avoidance, or even strife, often easier than peace?
  • What will it look like for you, in your specific circumstances, to turn your face from the dark and search for the Sunrise?

photo source