Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Another reading from Charles Spurgeon's Morning & Evening... I thought this would be a nice reading as we end the year and begin a new one. May this new year be filled with peace for you - the peace that God gives us, His children, with the knowledge of being saved through His Son. That is true peace... and I pray that we all cherish it and grow in it in 2009, and always! :)
A Benediction of Peace
Beloved friends, as you go to your families, as you go through life, as you go into eternity, I pray that you “go in peace.” It is heaven here on earth to possess “the peace of God which passeth all understanding.” Peace should be the continual portion of all believers. This is what the angels sang when our Lord Jesus appeared on earth: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” And as it was at the beginning of our Saviour’s life, it was also at the end, for this was our Lord’s legacy to all His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” He who is called “the God of peace” should be very precious to your soul.Peace is the result of what the Saviour has done for you. Has He forgiven you? Then you have peace. Has He saved you? Then feel an inward peace that no one can take from you! Did He die for you? Then you can never die in the full meaning of the word. Has He risen for you? Then because He lives, you will live, also; so do not let your heart be troubled, but be at peace. Will He come again to receive you to Himself? Then let your peace be like a river flowing from the very throne of God!
Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Dear ____________ (please fill in your name),
I am writing this because I want to remind you of the great future God has for you. I know this because He said so. He says you have not seen, nor heard, nor have even imagined anything as great as what He has prepared for you (1 Corinthians 2:9). You have no idea how great your future is. He says that what He has for you is so great that if you truly understood it, you would feel “that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed” in you (Romans 8:18). That means whatever you envision for your life right now is already too small.
Although God promises you a future full of hope and blessing, it’s not going to happen automatically. There are some things you have to do. One of them is pray about it (Jeremiah 29:11-13). Another is obey God. But don’t worry, God will help you with both of those if you ask Him. The Holy Spirit is God’s guarantee to you that He will help you do what you need to do and bring to pass everything He promised (Ephesians 1:13-14). Just know that every time you pray and obey, you are investing in your future.
Although we live in a world where everything in our lives can change in an instant, and we can’t be certain what tomorrow will bring, God is unchanging. You may have already lost your false sense of security, and this is good because God wants you to know that your only real security is found in Him. Although you may not know the specific details about what is ahead, you can trust that God knows. And He will get you safely where you need to go. In fact, the way to get to the future God has for you is to walk with Him today.
Remember that walking with God doesn’t mean there won’t be obstacles. Satan will see to it that there are. While God has a plan for your future that is good, the devil has one too and it’s not good. But the devil’s plan for your life cannot succeed as long as you are walking with God, living in obedience to His ways, worshiping only Him, standing strong in His Word, and praying without ceasing. God’s plan for your life won’t happen without a struggle, however, so don’t give up when times get tough. Just keep on doing what’s right and resist the temptation to quit. Ask God to give you the strength and endurance you need to do what you have to do.
Don’t judge your future by what you read in the newspaper or the words someone spoke over you one time. Your future is in God’s hands. The only thing that is important is what He says about it. He doesn’t want you to be concerned about your future anyway. He wants you to be concerned with Him, because He is your future.
Remember that you are God’s child and He loves you. As you walk with Him, you will become more like Him every day (1 John 3:1-3). As you look to Him, you will be “transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As you live with Him, He will take you from strength to strength. So even though your “outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16).
Don’t become discouraged if things don’t happen as fast as you would like them to. They never do. God wants you to learn patience. Our perspective is temporal. His is eternal. So don’t be concerned if you are not seeing all that you want in response to your prayers. You will.
If you start being consumed by the details of life, and it feels as if your future won’t ever be any different than it is at this moment, please know the truth is quite the opposite. It’s at these very times, when you feel as though you’re not getting anywhere, or you’re missing the future God has for you, that God is actually preparing you for your future. And when the time is right, He has been known to do a very quick work. While it’s good to set goals, don’t look so far ahead that you become overwhelmed. Look to the Lord instead. Remember that “the Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them” (Psalm 145:18-19).
One day you will be with God in heaven. And He will wipe away every tear from your eyes and “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). You want to be able to reach the end of your life and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Jesus said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
In the meantime I know that you want to do something significant for the Lord and move into new areas of service for Him. God is looking for those who will be committed to living His way and stepping into the purposes He has for their lives…
Remember, God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20). He has more for you than you can imagine. And now may “the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Stay focused on God, and He will keep you in perfect peace as He moves you into the future He has for you.
Your sister in Christ,
Monday, December 29, 2008
Unknown By Men, But Known By God
Observe how the angel begins, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy… for unto you is born this day…” So then the joy began with the first who heard it, the shepherds. “To you,” He says; “for unto you is born.” Shall the joy begin with you today? – for it profits you little that Christ was born or that Christ died, unless unto you a child is born, and for you Jesus bled. A personal interest is the main point. “But I am poor,” one says. So were the shepherds. You poor, to you this mysterious child is born. “But I am obscure and unknown,” says another. So were the watchers on the midnight plain. Who knew the men who endured hard toil and kept their flocks by night? But you, unknown by men, are known to God: Shall it not be said that “unto you a child is born?” The Lord does not regard the greatness of men but as respect to the lowly. …Receive gladly the simple truth as it is in Jesus.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
The word new carries an element of hope, doesn’t it? Well, New Year’s is coming. How about making this a year of lasting newness, of continual hope? What might happen if your life, beginning today, centered not on the world’s newest or latest great things but on reveling in all that is new to us because we belong to Christ?
There’s the new self – what you became when you received the Christ of Christmas. “[You] have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). This new self “has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24). The new self also includes a new mind, a mind tuned to truth. You’re able to appraise things to see if they’re true because you “have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).
Colossians tells us to “set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (3:2). Why not make it your goal this year to study some portions of the Bible that you’ve never really studied before? Discover new insights, new precepts, new promises as you study book by book. It will give you a new appreciation of what it means to be His and will keep you from being caught up in the world.
- Kay Arthur
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
What Child Is This? (William C. Dix, 1865)
What Child is this who, laid to rest
This, this is Christ the King,
Why lies He in such mean estate,
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh,
Come peasant, king to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
To Us a Child Is Born
Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.
In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
but in the future he will honour Galilee of the Gentiles,
by the way of the sea, along the Jordan-
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest,
as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian's defeat,
you have shattered the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior's boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
- Isaiah 9:1-6
The Birth of Jesus
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
- Luke 2:1-20
The Word Became Flesh
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
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 testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' " From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.
- John 1:1-18
Monday, December 22, 2008
Yet, were someone to chance upon the sheep stable on the outskirts of Bethlehem that morning, what a peculiar scene they would behold.
The stable stinks like all stables do. The stench of urine, dung, and sheep reeks pungently in the air. The ground is hard, the hay scarce. Cobwebs cling to the ceiling and a mouse scurries across the dirt floor.
A more lowly place of birth could not exist.
Off to one side sit a group of shepherds. They sit silently on the floor; perhaps perplexed, perhaps in awe, no doubt in amazement. Their night watch had been interrupted by an explosion of light from heaven and a symphony of angels. God goes to those who have time to hear him – so on this cloudless night he went to simple shepherds.
Near the young mother sits the weary father. If anyone is dozing, he is. He can’t remember the last time he sat down. And now that the excitement has subsided a bit, now that Mary and the baby are comfortable, he leans against the wall of the stable and feels his eyes grow heavy. He still hasn’t figured it all out. The mystery of the event puzzles him. But he hasn’t the energy to wrestle with the questions. What’s important is that the baby is fine and that Mary is safe. As sleep comes he remembers the name the angel told him to use… Jesus. “We will call him Jesus.”
Wide awake is Mary. My, how young she looks! Her head rests on the soft leather of Joseph’s saddle. The pain has been eclipsed by wonder. She looks into the face of the baby. Her son. Her Lord. His Majesty. At this point in history, the human being who best understands who God is and what he is doing is a teenage girl in a smelly stable. She can’t take her eyes off him. Somehow Mary knows she is holding God. So this is he. She remembers the words of the angel. “His kingdom will never end.”
He looks like anything but a king. His face is prunish and red. His cry, though strong and healthy, is still the helpless and piercing cry of a baby. And he is absolutely dependent upon Mary for his well-being.
Majesty in the midst of the mundane. Holiness in the filth of sheep manure and sweat. Divinity entering the world on the floor of a stable, through the womb of a teenager and in the presence of a carpenter.
She touches the face of the infant-God. How long was your journey! This baby had overlooked the universe. These rags keeping him warm were the robes of eternity. His golden throne room had been abandoned in favour of a dirty sheep pen. And worshiping angels had been replaced with kind but bewildered shepherds.
- Max Lucado (God Came Near)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
On this fourth Sunday of Advent (with the candle representing Love), I wanted to share two excerpts from books that I felt portrayed the circumstances surrounding Jesus' birth quite well. They show realistically how the stable would have been... dirty and smelly - not a picture-perfect stable as we see depicted in almost every Christmas painting out there. They show the commonness of Jesus' parents, and the humility of His birth. I think it's important to remember that Jesus' birth didn't happen in a way that we 'romanticize' and think of as merely a story. It was real, and we can relate to how real it was... and most importantly, we relate to Him because of His humanness. I hope you enjoy these two sections of reading...
Joseph carried Mary down the hill and across a flat stretch. He saw the mouth of a small cave above him and headed for it. He wrinkled his nose as he entered the dark recesses, for the air was dank and fetid from the odours of dung and smoke. The donkey followed him into the cave and headed straight for the manger near the back.
Fear washed over Joseph as he looked at the filthy floor of the cave. Is this the place where the Messiah will be born? Tears filled his eyes. Here, Lord?
(Unafraid, by Francine Rivers)
He came, not as a flash of light or as an unapproachable conqueror, but as one whose first cries were heard by a peasant girl and a sleepy carpenter. The hands that first held him were unmanicured, calloused and dirty.
No silk. No ivory. No hype. No party. No hoopla.
Were it not for the shepherds, there would have been no reception.
… The universe watched with wonder as The Almighty learned to walk. Children played in the street with him. And had the synagogue leader in Nazareth known who was listening to his sermons…
Jesus may have been tone-deaf. It could be that his knees were bony. One thing’s for sure: He was, while completely divine, completely human.
For thirty-three years he would feel everything you and I have ever felt. He felt weak. He grew weary. He got colds. His feelings got hurt. His feet got tired. And his head ached.
To think of Jesus in such a light is – well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it? It’s not something we like to do; it’s uncomfortable. It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation. Clean the manure from around the manger. Wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Pretend he never snored or blew his nose or hit his thumb with a hammer.
He’s easier to stomach that way. There is something about keeping him divine…
But don’t do it. Don’t. Let him be as human as he intended to be. Let him into the mire and muck of our world. For only if we let him in can he pull us out.
Listen to him.
“Love your neighbour” was spoken by a man whose neighbours tried to kill him.
The challenge to leave family for the gospel was issued by one who kissed his mother goodbye in the doorway.
“Pray for those that persecute you” came from the lips that would soon be begging God to forgive his murderers.
“I am with you always” are the words of a God who in one instant did the impossible to make it all possible for you and me.
It all happened in a moment. In one moment… a most remarkable moment. The Word became flesh.
(God Came Near, by Max Lucado)
Saturday, December 20, 2008
O Holy Night (Placide Cappeau, 1847)
O holy night, the stars are brightly shining;
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope, the weary soul rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees, O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born!
O night, O holy night, O night divine!
Led by the light of faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here came the wise men from Orient land.
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger,
In all our trials born to be our Friend!
He knows our need—to our weakness is no stranger.
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend!
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His Name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy Name!
Christ is the Lord! O praise His name forever!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
His pow’r and glory evermore proclaim!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Today I want to look at one simple phrase found in Luke 2:19 – “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I had always been curious about that statement… why was it included? What is the significance of her “pondering them in her heart”? What does this tell us about Mary?
There’s no earth-shattering answer to those questions, but different commentaries about this verse did point out some interesting observations I’d like to share.
First, in McGarvey and Pendleton’s commentary, it is pointed out that “the silence of Mary contrasts with the talkativeness of the shepherds. But it is the duty of Christians both to ponder and to publish.” This commentary also notes an interesting thing that is that only Mary could have known the fact stated here (that she pondered these things in her heart) – therefore, the statement indicates that Luke got these parts of his gospel from Mary herself.
Mary had much to think about. “The angelic messages to Zacharias, to herself, and to the shepherds were full of significance, and her mind would search diligently to comprehend the fullness of their meaning.” It was pointed out that she said nothing of these things to others, “lest she should be thought an enthusiast, or a vain boaster; and therefore left things, till time should make a discovery of them in a proper way, and in the best season.” One commentator said that “in her quiet thoughtfulness the beauty of the virgin’s character shines forth.”
Another point drawn out was the fact that Mary’s name was most likely quite “smeared” at that time… living in a small town and showing to be pregnant before she was allowed to be with Joseph, there’s no doubt that people talked and gossiped about this. And yet she “silently left it to God to clear up her virtue, when that was suspected, so she silently leaves it to him to publish her honour, now when it was veiled; and it is satisfaction enough to find that, if no one else takes notice of the birth of her child, angels do.”
Matthew Henry also notes a point of application to be found in this, which is that “the truths of Christ are worth keeping; and the way to keep them safe is to ponder them. Meditation is the best help to memory.”
Thursday, December 18, 2008
As you picture the original nativity scene, place two spikes in the baby’s soft pink fists and lay another at His squirming feet. Jarring though it may be, that’s the message of God’s gift to the world, a message to all who long for healing of the spirit, healing from the ravages of sin.
The Promised One from God became a human being like you and me so He might not only die for us but also represent us before God. He experienced all the flesh-and-blood realities of life, including temptation and suffering, so that as our high priest He could sympathize with our weaknesses.
Isaiah 53:4-5 says, “Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitted of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.”
Healed of what? Of the consequences of sin, which is death. “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
What is Christmas? Christmas is God’s sending His Son to become flesh and blood, to experience our sufferings, and to be “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Christmas is Jesus’ being nailed to a cross where He paid for your sins and mine once for all!Christmas is the promise of healing from sin for all who believe.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
A dear friend and sister, whom I've mentioned on my blog before, also has a blog where she shares different things that have impacted her and things she has reflected on (Lindsey's Reflections). She recently posted a great little story that I want to share here also. It's a great reminder of our true focus at this time of year...
Who Started This Christmas Stuff?
A woman was out Christmas shopping with her two children. After many hours of looking at row after row of toys and everything else imaginable, and after hours of hearing both her children asking for everything they saw on those many shelves, she finally made it to the elevator with her two kids.
She was feeling what so many of us feel during the holiday season time of the year - overwhelming pressure to go to every party, every housewarming, taste all the holiday food and treats, getting that perfect gift for every single person on our shopping list, making sure we don't forget anyone on our card list, and the pressure of making sure we respond to everyone who sent us a card.
Finally the elevator doors opened, and there was already a crowd in the car. She pushed her way into the car and dragged her two kids in with her and all the bags of stuff. When the doors closed, she couldn't take it anymore and she stated, "Whoever started this whole Christmas thing should be found, strung up and shot."
From the back of the car, everyone heard a quiet, calm voice respond, "Don't worry, we already crucified Him."
For the rest of the trip down in the elevator, it was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. This year, don't forget to keep "the One who started this whole Christmas thing" in your every thought, deed, purchase and words.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The candle that is lit today represents JOY. A verse that is usually read with this third candle is Isaiah 9:6-7...
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government
and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The lyrics echo a number of prophetic themes. The title comes from the well known Isaiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The “Rod of Jesse” refers to Isaiah 11:1: “There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse.” “Day-Spring” comes from Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, in Luke 1:78: “The dayspring from on high has visited us.” “Thou Key of David” is in Isaiah 22:22: “The key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder,” which in turn refers to Isaiah 9:6 “The government shall be upon His shoulder.”
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.
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.
O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave.
O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
O come, O come, great Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times once gave the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Friday, December 12, 2008
“The first Christmas was a blessing and a time of rejoicing for mankind. The Saviour was born! However, in heaven a different story was unfolding. The first Christmas represents a loss for heaven as one of the Godhead came to Earth. Heaven’s Loss dramatically depicts that while mankind was celebrating the birth of a King, the angels were weeping for they knew what man did not. They knew Jesus was not born for Christmas – He was born for Easter.”
What a beautiful picture to think of as Christmas approaches.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
John opened his gospel with a description of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). Do you see the truth revealed here? John tells us that the Word – Jesus – was with God and the Word was God. Jesus is a member of the triune Godhead!
But John has more to tell us about the Word: “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). The Word begotten – born of God – became the Son of Man. Because you and I are flesh and blod, Jesus became the same: a human being. Yet He remained God. It’s the mystery of the incarnation. The Christ of Christmas was – is – God in the flesh. Every bit God and every bit man.
And what was the purpose of His becoming flesh? Hebrews 2:17 tells us that “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might… make propitiation for the sins of the people.” The Word became flesh to die in your place, because even when you were yet a sinner, you were beloved of God!
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
We see next, that there are three things brought out by the presence of Jesus born as a child on the earth. First, glory to God in the highest. The love of God - His wisdom - His power - the fulfilment of His eternal counsels - the perfection of His ways where evil had come in - the manifestation of Himself amidst the evil in such a manner as to glorify Himself before the angels: in a word, God had so manifested Himself by the birth of Jesus, that the hosts of heaven, long familiar with His power, could raise their chorus, "Glory to God in the highest!" and every voice unites in sounding forth these praises. What love is like this love? What a purely divine thought, that God has become man! What supremacy of good over evil! What wisdom in drawing nigh to the heart of man and the heart of man back to Him! What fitness in addressing man! What maintenance of the holiness of God! What nearness to the heart of man, what participation in his wants, what experience of his condition! But beyond all, God above the evil in grace, and in that grace visiting this defiled world to make Himself known as He had never yet been known!
The second effect of the presence of Him who manifested God on the earth is that peace should be there. Rejected - His name should be an occasion of strife; but the heavenly choir are occupied with the fact of His presence… All was wrapped up in Him. The state of blessing was born in the birth of that child. Jesus was their surety. He was come into the world. The presence of the Son of God in the midst of sinners said to all spiritual intelligence, "Peace on the earth."
The third thing was the good pleasure - the affection of God in men. Nothing more simple, since Jesus was a man. He had not taken hold of angels. It was a glorious testimony that the affection, the good pleasure, of God was centred in this poor race, now far from Him, but in which He was pleased to accomplish all His glorious counsels. In a word, it was the power of God present in grace in the Person of the Son of God taking part in the nature, and interesting Himself in the lot, of a being who had departed from Him, and making him the sphere of the accomplishment of all His counsels, and of the manifestation of His grace and His nature to all His creatures. What a position for man! for it is indeed in man that all this is accomplished. The whole universe was to learn in man, and in what God therein was for man, that which God was in Himself, and the fruit of all His glorious counsels, as well as its complete rest in His presence, according to His nature of love. All this was implied in the birth of that child of whom the world took no notice. Natural and marvellous subject of praise to the holy inhabitants of heaven, unto whom God had made it known! It was glory to God in the highest.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
He starts by talking of the census, and the revealing of God's plan through it (Luke 2:1):
The emperor will have all the world registered, and every one goes to his own city. But this act only accomplishes the marvellous purpose of God, causing the Saviour-king to be born in the village where, according to the testimony of God, that event was to take place. And, more than that, the divine Person, who was to excite the joy and the praises of heaven, is born among men, Himself a child in this world.
Darby then discusses Christ's coming into this world - a world that "knew Him not" (Luke 2:4-7):
The state of things in Israel and in the world, is the supremacy of the Gentiles and the absence of the throne of God. The Son of man, the Saviour, God manifested in the flesh, comes to take His place - a place which grace alone could find or take in a world that knew Him not.
The Son of God is born in this world, but He finds no place there. The world is at home, or at least by its resources it finds a place, in the inn; it becomes a kind of measure of man's place in, and reception by, the world; the Son of God finds none, save in the manger. Is it for nothing that the Holy Ghost records this circumstance? No. There is no room for God, and that which is of God, in this world. So much the more perfect therefore is the love that brought Him down to earth. But He began in a manger and ended on the cross, and along the way had not where to lay His head. The Son of God - a child, partaking in all the weakness and all the circumstances of human life, thus manifested-appears in the world. But if God comes into this world, and if a manger receives Him, in the nature He had taken in grace, the angels are occupied with the event on which depends the fate of the whole universe, and the accomplishment of all the counsels of God; for He has chosen weak things to confound things that are mighty. This poor infant is the object of all the counsels of God, the upholder and heir of the whole creation, the Saviour of all who shall inherit glory and eternal life.
He then talks of the shepherds (Luke 2:8-9):
Some poor men who were faithfully performing their toilsome labours, afar from the restless activity of an ambitious and sinful world, receive the first tidings of the Lord's presence on earth. The God of Israel did not seek for the great among His people, but had respect to the poor of the flock. Two things here present themselves. The angel who comes to the shepherds of Judea announces to them the fulfilment of the promises of God to Israel. The choir of angels celebrate in their heavenly chorus of praise all the real import of this wondrous event.
And then the angelic proclamation (Luke 2:10-14):
"Unto you," says the heavenly messenger who visits the poor shepherds, "is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord." This was proclaiming good tidings to them and to all the people. But in the birth of the Son of man, God manifest in the flesh, the accomplishment of the incarnation had far deeper importance than this. The fact that this poor infant was there, disallowed and left (humanly speaking) to its fate by the world, was (as understood by the heavenly intelligences, the multitude of the heavenly host, whose praises resounded at the angel's message to the shepherds) "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good pleasure [of God] in men." These few words embrace such widely extended thoughts, that it is difficult to speak suitably of them in a work like this; but some remarks are necessary. First, it is deeply blessed to see that the thought of Jesus excludes all that could oppress the heart in the scene which surrounded His presence on earth. Sin, alas! was there. It was manifested by the position in which this wondrous infant was found. But if sin had placed Him there, grace had placed Him there. Grace superabounds; and in thinking of Him, blessing, grace, the mind of God respecting sin, that which God is, as manifested by the presence of Christ, absorb the mind and possess the heart, and are the heart's true relief in a world like this. We see grace alone; and sin does but magnify the fullness, the sovereignty, the perfection of that grace. God, in His glorious dealings, blots out the sin with respect to which He acts, and which He thus exhibits in all its deformity; but there is that which "much more aboundeth." Jesus, come in grace, fills the heart. It is the same thing in all the details of Christian life. It is the true source of moral power, of sanctification, and of joy.
Tomorrow we will continue to look at Darby's synopsis and focus on three things brought out by the presence of Jesus born as a child on the earth.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Sunday, December 7, 2008
The second candle lit today represents PEACE. Scripture verses that are usually looked at with this candle include Micah 5:2, Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11, and Isaiah 2:1-5.
"But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."
- Micah 5:2
The Visit of the Magi
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."
… After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.
- Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11
The Mountain of the Lord
This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem:
In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.
Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.
Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the LORD.
- Isaiah 2:1-5
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Today I simply want to look at different commentary quotes about Luke 2:13-14. The angelic proclamation is so powerful and such a beautiful thing to envision, so I couldn’t help but look up what is all said about these verses…
First of all, looking at the words “great company” – or as some translations word it, “a multitude” – we see, as McGarvey and Pendleton’s commentary says, “the event was too important to be heralded by any one angel. All heaven was interested in the departure of its Prince, and marvelled at the grace of the Father who sent him.”
John Gill points out that it is “said here to be a multitude, for the angels are innumerable; there are thousands, ten thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand of them: it may be rendered "the multitude," and may intend the whole company of angels, who were all of them together to sing the praises of God, and glorify him at the birth of the incarnate Saviour, as well as to adore him.” What a picture!
Then, looking at the words “heavenly host” there are a couple of descriptions that give further explanations of who these “heavenly hosts” were:
First, they are called simply, “God’s army” – but, though an army, they have come to announce and celebrate the coming of eternal peace! Another wording is “the militia of heaven” or “the ministers of God.” As “ministers of God” they wait upon Him, and do His pleasure; and are sent forth here to minister to His people.
As mentioned above, the angels announced peace… and there was also more to that – for they were “praising God on account of the birth of Christ, and the redemption that was to be obtained by him, for elect men; which shows their friendly disposition to them, and how much they rejoice at their spiritual and eternal welfare. And thus, as at the laying of the foundation of the earth, these "morning stars sang together, and all these sons of God shouted for joy," they did the same when the foundation of man's salvation was laid in the incarnation of the Son of God.”
John Welsey points out that “with the Redeemer’s birth, peace, and all kind of happiness, come down to dwell on earth: the overflowing of Divine good will and favour are now exercised toward men.”
What a reason to praise God and glorify Him! And what a perfect way to welcome the Saviour!
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It started out quite innocently. The man who came to be known as Saint Nicholas was born around AD 280 in what is now Turkey. As a follower of Christ, this dear man gave away his inherited wealth to help the poor. Centuries later, the day of his death, December 6, became a feast day that included the giving of gifts to children and the poor.
By the time of the Renaissance, Saint Nicholas was the most popular saint in Europe. In the Netherlands, Sinterklaas, as he was called, brought presents to good children. In Germany and elsewhere, Saint Nicholas was believed to be accompanied in his gift giving by the Christ Child or “Christkindl,” from where we get the name “Kriss Kringle.”
Eventually immigrants brought their various traditions to America, where writers and illustrators added new details to the character of Saint Nicholas until our modern Santa Claus gradually emerged in the late 1800s. Then it happened: the marketing of Christmas without the Christ.
“The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The shift came subtly, as often happens when we don’t evaluate everything against the plumb line of God’s Word. We veer slightly off center, and we soon lose track of the center altogether.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Once In Royal David’s City (Cecil F. Alexander, 1848)
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little Child.
He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.
And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle
Is our Lord in heav’n above,
And He leads His children on
To the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable,
With the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven,
Set at God’s right hand on high;
Where like stars His children crowned
All in white shall wait around.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
Lord of the Winter
Begin this wintry month with your God. The cold snows and the piercing winds all remind you that He keeps His covenant with day and night, and tend to assure you that He will also keep that glorious covenant which He has made with you in the person of Christ Jesus. He who is true to His Word in the revolutions of the seasons of this poor, sin-polluted world will not prove unfaithful in His dealings with His own well-beloved Son.
Winter in the soul is by no means a comfortable season, and if it be upon you just now, it will be very painful to you: but there is this comfort, namely that the Lord makes it. He is the great Winter King and rules in the realms of frost, and therefore you cannot murmur. Losses, crosses, heaviness, sickness, poverty, and a thousand other ills are of the Lord’s sending and come to us with wise design. Frost kills the noxious insects and put a bound to raging diseases. Oh, that such good results would always follow our winters of affliction!How we prize the fire just now! How pleasant is its cheerful glow! Let us in the same manner prize our Lord, who is the constant source of warmth and comfort in every time of trouble. Let us draw near to Him, and in Him find joy and peace in believing. Let us wrap ourselves in the warm garments of His promises and go forth to labours which benefit the season.
Monday, December 1, 2008
First off, Advent begins on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, which is the Sunday nearest November 30, and ends on Christmas Eve (Dec 24). Churchyear.net explains Advent, introducing it the following way: “The word "advent," from the Latin adventus (Greek parousia), means "coming" or "arrival" and the season of Advent is focused on the "coming" of Jesus as Messiah (Christ or King). Our worship, scripture readings, and prayers not only prepare us spiritually for Christmas (his first coming), but also for his eventual second coming. This is why the Scripture readings during Advent include both Old Testament prophecies predicting the Messiah and New Testament passages concerning Jesus' second coming as Judge of all people.”
Each week a candle is lit. The light of the candles itself is an important symbol as it reminds us that Jesus is the light of the world, who comes into the darkness of our lives and brings newness, life, and hope. The light also reminds us that we are called to be a light to the world as we reflect the light of God’s grace to others.
The candles each represent something specific (and each week I will explain each one).
The first candle is called the candle of Expectation or Hope. This draws attention to the anticipation of the coming of a Messiah, which is a theme that weaves itself through Old Testament history. Scripture verses that are usually looked at with the first candle include Isaiah 11:1-10, Luke: 1:26-38, Isaiah 7:10-14, and Matthew 1:18-24.
The Branch From Jesse
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.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra,
and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples;
the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious.
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you."
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."
"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"
The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, "Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights."
But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test."
Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
The Birth of Jesus Christ
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, "God with us." When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
After we’ve been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ from an evil conscience (Hebrews 10:22), how do we stay pure? How do we keep our hearts from being stained all over again?
Listen to the answer from Psalm 119:9: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” We keep our hearts cleansed through the Word of God. When the Word cleanses us, it cleanses from wrong thinking, wrong doctrine, and wrong behaviour. This is why Jesus prayed to the Father on behalf of His followers, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).
How often do you think such sanctification, such cleansing by the Word, is necessary? How much do you think it takes to make or keep you clean?
I’ve heard some people say, “Just spend three minutes a day alone with God.”
I can understand where they’re coming from. Some believers go through their days without spending any time with the Lord. And three minutes with God is better than none!
But the question is, are we selling God short? Are we selling God’s Word short? Is Deuteronomy 8:3 true when it says that “man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD”? In three minutes a day can I really present myself “approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15)?
Prayerfully evaluate how much time you are spending in God’s Word. If you’ve been short-changing God, ask Him to show you how to reprioritize your schedule.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
"When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."
- James 3:3-12
Friday, November 28, 2008
I Surrender All
All to Jesus, I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel the Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus, I surrender;
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power;
Let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessèd Savior,
I surrender all.
All to Jesus I surrender;
Now I feel the sacred flame.
O the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory, to His Name!
Thursday, November 27, 2008
with a passion that will not pass away.
Now torch it with Thy holy fire
that nevermore shall earth’s desire
invade or quench the heaven born power.
I would be trapped within Thy holy will,
Thine every holy purpose to fulfill,
that every effort of my life
shall bring rapturous praise to my eternal King.
I pledge from this day to the grave
to be Thine own, unquestioning slave.”
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low by thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.”
(Tomorrow – pt. 5: I Surrender All)