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PLEASE CHRISTMAS DON’T BE LATE

December 20, 2014

Psa. 27:14 Wait on the LORD;

Be of good courage,

And He shall strengthen your heart;

Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Do you remember counting the days until Christmas as a child? It seems like the Chipmunks captured that whole drama, “I can hardly stand to wait. Please Christmas don’t be late”. I wonder if there is something spiritual about that joyful anticipation for Christmas as a child? I think maybe there is. All of us are waiting, we are waiting for the unseen and the unknown. We are all waiting on God. Just as Israel had been waiting for a Savior for hundreds of years when Christ finally appeared, we are waiting again. We are waiting on the coming kingdom. We may not be totally in touch with that but inside of all of us is a longing; we are longing for the ‘kingdom come’. Here is an excerpt from Louie Giglio’s book on waiting for God. It is followed by one of our beloved Christmas hymns.

“God is not slow. He is merciful. He has come in the person of Christ, extending His open arms to all. Every day in which He waits to blast the final trumpet is a day of extended grace. It is a day for more people to hear of His love, for others to trust in His promise, for more people to forsake evil ways, for you to put your hope in Jesus.

The day is coming when sin will be done away with and the earth will be restored to its perfect fullness. But God is patient, waiting for all those He loves to find their way to Him. But, make no mistake. God is coming. The enemy will be cast out. All things will be made new.”

“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,

Who orderest all things mightily;

To us the path of knowledge show,

And teach us in her ways to go.

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel”

So like the Chipmunks, we are waiting. We are waiting for redemption to be on full display. We are waiting for the end of poverty, and sickness and loneliness. We are waiting for His promises to be fully realized. We are waiting for the promise of Christmas. “I can hardly stand to wait. Please Christmas don’t be late”.

CHRIST CAME TO SERVE

December 19, 2014

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’

MARK 10:45

All of us are desperately needy, some of us know it and some of us don’t. The Lord doesn’t need us, we need Him. He doesn’t need my money, my talents, my ideas, or my work. He is complete in Himself needing absolutely nothing. Me, on the other hand, I am in a state of constant need. I need His wisdom, His provision, His love and acceptance, I need Him. I need Him on my worst days and I need Him on my best days. This is why Christmas is such good news, He came because I need Him and He came looking to serve me and help me. Here is how John Piper describes it.

“Christmas is a call to learn how to be served by him. Don’t miss this. This is the heart of Christianity. This is what sets our faith off from all other major religions. Our God does not need our service, nor is he glorified by recruits who want to help him out. Our God is so full and so self-sufficient and so overflowing in power and life and joy that he glorifies himself by serving us.

He does this by taking on humanity and seeking us out and then telling us that he did not come to get our service, but to be our servant.

Here is a general truth to ponder and believe: every time Jesus commands something for us to do, it is his way of telling us how he wants to serve us. Let me say it another way: the path of obedience is the place where Christ meets us as our servant to carry our burdens and give us his power.”

Our world is in desperate need of God. The biggest problem is that many have shut Him out. They view Him as only necessary when crisis comes or as some genie to make you a better you. The truth is that we all need Him for everything. We need His forgiveness just to approach Him, we need His infusion of life to live as a Christian, and we need His power to live above the temptations in this world. Thankfully that’s why He came, He came to give me Himself, my greatest need.

THE SON OF GOD

December 18, 2014

John 1:1  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The mystery of Christmas is connected to the person  called Jesus Christ. Is He the unique Son of God or is He just another man? Most everyone has heard the story of the donkey ride, no room in the inn, angels singing and the virgin birth. The mystery actually started before this famous story, way before. Actually it’s hard to say that it started before because somehow this mystery has always been. As Micah the prophet said, “His goings forth were from the days of eternity”.

In today’s verse John declares that the word was from the beginning. John goes on to say that the word became flesh. This word that was from the beginning is actually a person. He is the Father’s idea of Himself vocalized. This word is actually a person that has the same essence as the Father. He is the eternal word of God. Here are some thoughts from Martin Luther about the Son of God.

“The following illustration is overly simplistic, but it makes the birth of the Son of God a little easier to understand. As a human son receives his body and his very being from his father, so the Son of God, born of the Father, receives his divine essence and nature from the eternal Father. But this or any other illustration can never adequately describe how the divine majesty can be given to another, as when the Father gives his entire divine essence to the Son. A human father can’t give his entire being to his son. This is where the comparison breaks down.

However, as far as the divine being is concerned, all of God’s divine essence and nature passes into the Son. Yet the Son, who remains in the divine being together with the Father, is one God together with the Father. Likewise, the Holy Spirit has the same divine nature and majesty as the Father and the Son.”

This is what the mystery of Christmas is all about; this eternal word Who is a person and Who is God became a man. He was born of the virgin Mary to become part of the human race to save us from our sins. So is He the Son of God? Is He a man, the son of Mary? Yes and yes. Great is the mystery of God. He has always existed as the Son of God, in Bethlehem He became the Son of Man. The Word became flesh at Christmas; the world has never been the same.

THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON

December 17, 2014

John 1:14 ¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Christmas is all about God’s only Son. Now I know some people will say that every person is God’s child but that is not what the Bible teaches. The scripture says that we are children of darkness until we are born again. When  someone is born again they become a child of God but still not in the same way that Jesus is God’s Son. You see Jesus did not come into existence when He was born in Bethlehem, He just became a human then. He has been the only begotten Son from eternity. He is the emanation of the Father, the radiance of His glory; He is the Father’s idea or expression of Himself. Jesus has been this only begotten from eternity, He has always been God the Son. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on the only begotten Son.

“The glory of the Word made flesh was such a glory as became the only begotten Son of God, and could not be the glory of any other. Jesus Christ is the only begotten of the Father. Believers are the children of God by the special favor of adoption and the special grace of regeneration. Angels are sons of God, but he never said to any of them, This day have I begotten thee. He was evidently declared to be the only begotten of the Father, by that which was seen of his glory when he dwelt among us. Though he was in the form of a servant, in respect of outward circumstances, yet, in respect of graces, his form was as that of the fourth in the fiery furnace, like the Son of God. His divine glory appeared in the holiness and heavenliness of his doctrine; in his miracles, which extorted from many this acknowledgment, that he was the Son of God; it appeared in the purity, goodness, and beneficence, of his whole conversation. God’s goodness is his glory, and he went about doing good; he spoke and acted in every thing as an incarnate Deity.”

So now the mystery of Christmas becomes even more mysterious. His humanity resulted from a virgin birth but that is not the beginning of Jesus Christ. He is the eternally begotten Son of the Father, He is also the son of Mary. Great is the mystery of godliness, in the fullness of time God was manifest in the flesh, the Son of God became the son of man.

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

December 16, 2014

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

Today’s verse could be the greatest verse in the Bible. This is the mystery of godliness that Paul spent a lifetime trying to describe. In the middle of all of the shopping and parties, church services and decorating it can become quite easy to miss the whole point of Christmas; God became a man, the Creator visited His creation, eternity broke into this realm of time and space that we live in. The Word became flesh, that’s why the angels were singing. They had known Christ in heaven from the day they were created but never like this. This shocking truth for the angels was the demonstration of love and humility when He took on a human body, Immanuel had come, God was really with us. Martin Luther preached often about this verse in his Christmas sermons, here is a small sample of Luther’s take on this verse.

“The Word became flesh.” We can never fully grasp this teaching concerning our salvation and eternal life using human reason. Nevertheless, we must believe it, and we must cling tightly to what Scripture says about it. The Bible says that Christ, our Lord, is true and natural God and true and natural man. The Bible says that in his divine essence and nature, Christ is coequal with the Father. The heretics have cast doubts on both the divine nature and the human nature of Christ. During the lifetime of the apostles, some heretics claimed that Christ was not God. Centuries later, others claimed that Christ was not human. Some of our contemporaries teach similar things. They claim that because he was conceived solely by the Holy Spirit, Christ could not have been a human being like we are. He could not have had the same kind of body that we do. They insist that because he was a man from heaven, his body must have been from heaven too.”

The whole Christmas story is a picture of this great verse. Christ was born in Bethlehem, had a human mother and a heavenly Father, was announced by the angels and born with the animals. The heavens declared His birth with a star but there was no room in the inn. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have beheld His glory.

CHANGED INTO ANOTHER MAN

December 15, 2014

MERRY MONDAY BY Parris Bailey

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.Gen 32:24

All of us at some point will be arrested by the Holy Spirit. We don’t set out in life to do so, but sooner or later we just get ahead of ourselves. The whole problem is we like Jacob, still maintain confidence in ourselves. But if we are to go forward things need changing. Real strength comes in divine weakness.
In Jacob’s nature his major propensity was to fight for what he desired and win what he aimed at. God shows us how utterly futile our skill and obstinacy are. How quickly he was mastered by the angel. It was this touch of the almighty one that Jacob asks for a blessing. Jacob’s whole nature goes down before God, as if he was thrown on his back. Like Jacob we pass from wrestling to praying to tears. Out of the supplanter comes a Prince! (Expositor Bible)
Face to face with God hanging helpless with his arms around him! We see Saul in the New Testament having this same encounter! Are you ready for the angel to grab a hold of you?
Jacob finds that just as his grandfather Abraham learned the simplicity of humble dependence, just as Isaac learned absolute resignation as he lay himself in the altar. Abraham had to give up all possessions to live off of the dependency of God. Isaac had to give up life itself, whereas Jacob had to give up his self and abandon all dependence on his ability. He enters the new land not as Jacob but as Israel. He wasn’t the same man that cheated Esau and outwitted Laban. He learned that the only way to receive from God is to just but ask. (Expositor Bible)
“As Jacob passed from Peniel the sun rose upon him and he halted upon his thigh”.
What do you see when the darkness comes? Jacob saw the world shadowed by his guilt. Old memories awakened, old fears rose up from the past in which he had tried to bury them. He was in the grip of power which his self assurance could not match. Never again would he walk in such a lofty manner. The shallow may ignore his sins, the cowardly many try to evade their consequences. But an encounter with God will change us into another man. That is the only way we can face our Esaus. My God grabbed a hold of your thigh and make you into another man.
Charles Wesley sang:
“Yield to me now, for I am weak,
But confident in self-despair
Speak to my heart in blessing seek
Be conquered by my instant prayer.”

CHARLES WESLEY’S ANGELS

December 14, 2014

But to you who fear My name, the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings;
and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. (Mal 4:2)
You can tell a lot about what is going on in a culture by the songs they sing. We have been affected more than we know by the songs written in special times of God’s awakenings throughout history. One of the special times was the 1740’s. One of God’s instruments in those days was a song writer and preacher by the name of Charles Wesley. Our churches still sing many of his songs, but the whole world sings one of his Christmas songs known as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. This song is filled with worship and great theology about the unveiling of God’s love to man. One of my favorite parts of the song goes like this:
“Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace! Hail the Sun of Righteousness! Light and life to all He brings, Ris’n with healing in His wings. Mild He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die. Born to raise the sons of earth, Born to give them second birth.”
What an incredible thing that today in malls, shopping centers, church services and Christmas programs around the world, this special message is being proclaimed. Hail the Sun of Righteousness who brings the revelation of God’s love and forgiveness to our hearts. Hail the Sun of Righteousness who is risen from the dead with healing for our bodies. Hail the Sun of Righteousness that has given us the second birth that men no more may die. Today the angels are singing, “preach it again Charles,” as his words are being sung amongst the nations. This Christmas, listen carefully to the old songs; you never know, you may hear the angels singing just like the shepherds from so long ago. As you do, your world will begin to change. Like the shepherds long ago, like Charles Wesley 250 years ago, the birth of Christ will become a living reality inside of you. When that happens, you will know what life is all about and you will know why you are alive, and you will know for yourself why the angels are singing!

CHRISTMAS VICTORY

December 13, 2014

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.

1 JOHN 3:8

Sometimes it seems like our lives will never change. We say we serve an all powerful God Who loves us and can do anything but in our day to day experience there are many frustrations that never seem to change. If we are honest, we would have to admit we really don’t see much of anything in our experience moving forward. It is so easy to become complacent but Christmas holds a promise of breaking out of our current circumstances. Like today’s verse promises, Christ came to destroy the works of the devil. So this Christmas I am going to go to the Lord with expectancy, expectant that He will bring me into a new place of blessing in the coming year. Here are some thoughts from John Piper on this very topic.

“…the coming of the Son of God into the world is so much more than a historical fact. It was a message of hope sent by God to teenagers and single parents and crabby husbands and sullen wives and overweight women and impotent men and disabled neighbors and people with same-sex attraction and preachers and lovers—and you.

And since the Son of God lived, died, rose, reigns, and is coming again, God’s message through him is more than a historical fact. It is a Christmas gift to you from the voice of the living God.

Thus says the Lord: the meaning of Christmas is that what is good and precious in your life need never be lost, and what is evil and undesirable in your life can be changed. The fears that the few good things that make you happy are slipping through your fingers, and the frustrations that the bad things you hate about yourself or your situation can’t be changed—these fears and these frustrations are what Christmas came to destroy.”

We are celebrating this Christmas, celebrating the fact that our lives are not stagnant. We don’t have to stay in the same condition of failure or lack or confusion drifting through life like the rest of the world who have no hope. We have a hope. Christ has come and He has destroyed the works of the devil. At Christmas, we celebrate the victory of His coming. He not only came, He is Immanuel, He is with us now and His victory is ours.

GOD IS WITH US

December 12, 2014

Is. 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

There is no greater promise than the one we see in this famous Christmas prophesy, the virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son, and shall call His name “God with us”. This promise is true no matter what. It is true when Katrina blows away our city, it is true when the doctor uses that dreaded ‘c-word’, it is true when death knocks at the door, or if you get laid off from your job. He is with us. He is with us to help us. He helps us with provision, healing, deliverance, guidance, counsel; He is with us to help us in all circumstances. He is also with us just to be with us. His abiding presence is the greatest of all Christmas gifts. This is the promise of the ages,God Himself has come to us in the person of His Son and in the person of the Holy Spirit. Here are some powerful comments from David Brainerd’s Journal on God with us.

“Longed with intense desire after God; my whole soul seemed impatient to be conformed to him, and to become ‘holy, as he is holy.’ In the afternoon, prayed with a dear friend privately, and had the presence of God with us; our souls united together to reach after a blessed immortality, to be unclothed of the body of sin and death, and to enter the blessed world, where no unclean thing enters. O, with what intense desire did our souls long for that blessed day, that we might be freed from sin, and for ever live to and in our God! In the evening, took leave of that house; but first kneeled down and prayed; the Lord was of a truth in the midst of us; it was a sweet parting season; felt in myself much sweetness and affection in the things of God. Blessed be God for every such divine gale of his Spirit, to speed me on in my way to the new Jerusalem! Felt some sweetness afterwards, and spent the evening in conversation with friends, and prayed with some life, and retired to rest very late.”

Brainerd is describing the sweet communion we share together in Christ. This  Christmas don’t forasake the assembling together with other Christians. This is often where that “divine gale” begins to blow and we experience God with us.

EVERYDAY CHRISTMAS

December 11, 2014

Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2

Thinking about my childhood experience of Christmas I have to say I was totally ungrateful. My mom and dad made a huge deal out of Christmas. We had it all; a Christmas tree totally engulfed in mountains of gifts. I can remember bicycles, telescopes, go carts, record albums, clothes, and a seemingly endless supply of goodies. The scary thing is how I expected to receive all of those gifts and really took them all for granted. Did I somehow think I deserved all of that? If you think about it, with the Lord everyday is kind of like Christmas. He daily loads us with His benefits. He supplies our food, our protection, our families, our church, our great nation. There is an endless supply of God’s gifts that come to us everyday that we often just take for granted. Here are some powerful observations by Martin Luther.

“The works of the Lord are great. But in this passage (today’s verse), the psalmist points out that only a few devout people notice what God has done. Most people don’t praise God or thank him. They never say, “Great are the works of the Lord.” Though they are completely surrounded by his gifts, they have gotten used to them. They take advantage of what God has given them, rooting around in God’s gifts like a hog in a bag of feed. They say, “What’s so special about the fact that the sun shines, fire gives warmth, the ocean provides fish, the earth yields grain, cows have calves, women give birth to children, and hens lay eggs? These things happen every day!”
Is something insignificant just because it happens every day? If the sun wouldn’t shine for ten days, suddenly it would be a great thing when it began shining again. If fire existed only in one place on the earth, I think it would be more precious than gold or silver. If there were only one well in the world, I would imagine that a drop of water would be worth more than a thousand dollars.’

Jesus had another way of looking at gifts, He said it was more blessed to give than to receive. Maybe, just maybe, He was on to something. If you find yourself stuck on ungrateful this Christmas try the giving thing. Maybe it just is more blessed to give than to receive.


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