Christmas Count “Up” Day 21: Jesus our Sovereign LORD

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1 Peter 1:19-20

“He paid for you with the precious lifeblood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. 20 God chose Him for this purpose long before the world began, but now in these final days, He was sent to the earth for all to see. And He did this for you.”

Isaiah 46:10

Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’.”
1 Timothy 6:14b-16
“…Until the appearing of our LORD Jesus Christ 15 whose appearing the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and LORD of lords, will reveal at the right time. 16 He alone possesses immortality and lives in unapproachable light, whom no human has ever seen or is able to see.  To him be honor and eternal power!  Amen.
It is difficult to fathom – a father choosing His own son to die for people who hated him.  But wrapping our minds around the sovereignty of God is also not possible for us to completely comprehend.  Christ’s birth was preordained before the earth ever was.  God completely knew our need for His redemption before we even sinned.  Mind blowing.
Completely God, completely man.  Completely in control over all of the world, and yet placed himself at the world’s whim. Unheard of.  What a radical love.  He is LORD and every knee will bow before Him – whether of their own will or not.  Yet He in His sovereignty knew we could never have fellowship and know our God if the LORD of Lords did not first come in a way that we could understand.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me!  We, the sinful, wretched enemies of God, now united with the LORD of the universe through a baby.  Not just any baby – the sovereign LORD – God Himself, Who knows everything and yet does not give us what our sins deserve.  This Christmas, when we picture this babe in a manger and remember what God did for us, may we also recall that He is LORD.
Thank You, all-wise, all-knowing, Almighty God, our LORD, for coming in frailty and drawing us near to You.

Christmas Count “Up” Day 20: The Baby Prophet

Deuteronomy 18:15

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites, and you must listen to that prophet.”

Matthew 21:11

“And the crowds were saying, ‘This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.'”

John 7:40-42

“When the crowds heard Him say this, some of them declared, ‘This man surely is the Prophet.’ Others said, ‘He is the Messiah.’ 

Acts 3:20-23

“Then wonderful times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord, and He will send Jesus your Messiah to you again. For He must remain in heaven until the time for the final restoration of all things, as God promised long ago through His prophets. Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up a Prophet like me from among your own people. Listen carefully to everything He tells you.’ Then Moses said, ‘Anyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be cut off from God’s people and utterly destroyed.’”

The baby Who rocked the world by coming as God in the flesh was not only our Savior, our Comforter and our King, but also a prophet.  He came humbly and humbled us, as well.  He spoke truth that pierced our hearts and set us free.  Even as a twelve year old, He was capable of preaching in the synagogue and had authority from God His Father.  Authority to convict us of our sins, but He chose not to condemn, but to deliver us from the sin which held us captive.

This aspect of God being all-knowing and yet choosing to humble Himself in the shell of a man to walk beside us amazes me.  Nothing was hidden from Him and yet He placed Himself in human flesh to learn obedience and ultimately be the atonement for the very sins He saw in each of us.  He is the One to Whom we are accountable to and yet in the very moment when our sin is illuminated by our prophet, He carries it away.

Being confronted with our sin is never comfortable, But it is in fact love that is willing to risk acceptance by sharing a difficult truth with someone.  Jesus was not seeking a popularity award, but our hearts.  His role as a prophet is another precious aspect of Who Jesus was in the flesh.  He still sees us completely and knows our inner thoughts and motives.  Where is the hope in that revelation?  He knows our weaknesses and loves and accepts us anyway.

Thank You, LORD, for seeing our iniquity and loving us enough to open our eyes to see our fallen nature.

Christmas Count “Up” Day 19: Compassion in the Flesh

Luke 7:12-16

“As He approached the town gate, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother (who was a widow), and a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the LORD saw her, he had compassion for her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’  14 Then he came up and touched the bier, and those who carried it stood still.  He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ 15 So the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  16 Fear seized them all, and they began to glorify God, saying, “A great prophet has appeared among us!” and “God has come to help his people!’

Jesus came to demonstrate the compassion God has on all He has made.  Often people can associate God as being far off and uncompassionate.  Why is sin in the world?  We chose it.  Why does God allow man to hurt other men?  Free will.  Because God gave us freedom to choose righteousness does not mean He does not care.  He demonstrated this lavishly by coming all the way from Heaven.

He counts every tear and knows every hair on our head.  He weeps when we weep.  Surely no one has the kind of compassion our LORD has, Who seeing us choosing willfully to disregard His ways and bearing the consequences, He chose to suffer for our iniquity and have compassion on us, even while we were still cloaked in our sin.

Just as our Savior embodied compassion, He has placed that same seed of kindness in us.  It overwhelms us when we see someone in need.  We must not shut that impulse down.  Maybe it is prayer for another soul, provision or care that another human being made in the image of God needs.  It might not be comfortable, which Christ certainly understands, but we were made to demonstrate compassion just like our Creator.  This Christmas season, who can we demonstrate compassion toward, just as Christ did for us?

Jesus, thank You for having compassion on us and for Your faithful longsuffering toward us.

Christmas Count “Up” Day 18: Thoughtful Thursday – A Holy Gift

Matthew 1:18

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way.  While his mother Mary was engaged to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price.  Therefor glorify God with your body.”

1 Peter 2:9

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may proclaim the virtues of the one who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 You once were not a people, but now you are God’s people.  You were shown mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Even though we have all received some ordinary and amazing gifts in our lifetime, no gift could ever be considered Holy before Christ.  Holy.  The word is foreign to us, difficult to wrap our minds around.  Holiness is not something we can completely understand because our every inclination, apart from God’s grace, is of the flesh.  It is a purity of heart, integrity, sacredness, being consecrated or set apart for God, wholly devoted, free from sin.  Something so precious was lovingly given to those who are willing to accept and choose it.

I always love to marvel at how children reflect their parents in appearance, personality or vocation.  It is obvious that an offspring would have similarities with his or her parents, but it still never ceases to amaze me.  So we, too, who are the offspring of Jesus, have inherited His righteousness, His Holiness, His perfection.  How utterly amazing.

Our Messiah had to partake of our nature to be able to save us.  He needed to be perfect and not partake of our sin nature.  Conceived of the Holy Spirit, unblemished by the sin stain of mankind, Christ was born.  Jesus perfectly met the righteous demands of God’s law, but bore our transgressions as a violator would.  Christ was born in righteousness and now this holiness is imputed to us.

Our world views children born of a king or queen as having “royal blood”.  Not so.  But we who are in Christ are truly royalty – adopted and cherished as God, the King of kings, His precious own – and He regards us as Holy.

Holy LORD, thank You for being the sinless Lamb Who took away our sins.  We do not deserve to be called Holy, but You willingly chose to do so.  No words could ever suffice to give You the praise You are due.

Christmas Count “up” Day 17: Our Healer is Born!

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Isaiah 53:4-5

“Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

Psalm 147:3

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

Psalm 41:2-3

“The LORD will protect him and preserve his life; he will bless him in the land and not surrender him to the desire of his foes. 3 The LORD will sustain him on his sickbed and restore him from his bed of illness.”

Psalm 30:2

“O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me.”

I know well what it means to be sick, diagnosed with multiple autoimmune diseases.  I also know what it is to be healed and what it is to not be.  In all these occasions, I praise His Name.  He is my Jehovah Rapha, (The Lord our Healer).  He heals our hearts from emotional pain, our bodies from physical pain, whether it be on this earth or ultimately in Heaven, and our souls from the pain of sin.

Healing is sometimes a difficult subject to discuss.  Some Christians believe that God always heals, some believe He does not.  Either way, all who are in Christ are healed spiritually for eternity, which is the most significant healing there could ever be.  We are all destined to perish on this earth, and sickness is often one of the vessels which might bring us to eternal bliss with our Creator.  Our bodies were not designed to live forever and our limit is 120 years.  This is not Heaven.  We cannot avoid the fact that we all have an end, but the sting has been removed!  Praise His Holy Name!

Sometimes the most difficult thing to heal is our broken hearts.  The effects of sin are profound and can leave one limping through life, but Jesus came to not only take away the burden of sin, but the effects of it, as well.  The scar of sin may long be remembered, but its crippling effect can be changed into a divine tool of healing instead.  That’s our gift this Christmas and for all of life – Christ our Healer.

Lord, thank You for healing us and for the hope of a complete healing in Heaven with You.  Help us to be content and worship You in whatever thorn you have permitted into our lives, knowing full well that our future hope with You is to be completely restored!

Christmas Count”Up” Day 16: He Showed us How to Give

Hebrews 10:4-7

For the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sins.  5 So when he came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me. 6 Whole burnt offerings and sin-offerings you took no delight in. 7 “Then I said, ‘Here I am: I have come – it is written of me in the scroll of the book – to do your will, O God.’” 

Hebrews 10:11-14

11 And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again – sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand  of God, 13 where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy.

Giving gifts comes naturally for some and is more difficult for others.  We ponder what it is that will bless the other person’s socks off, but also have to consider other variables, like cost and availability.  Christ demonstrated so much in His giving that we all can seek to aspire to.

He gave willingly.  Sacrificially.  Selflessly.  Humbly. His gift was costly – beyond measure.  He gave to those who were His enemies.  His gift was so profound, He only had to give it once and it supplied our need for all eternity.  He did so out of obedience.  There is no comparison between a gift like that and anything we could ever give, but there are aspects of His gift giving that we can aspire to.

I take delight in buying gifts for those I love and for those I do not know.  Bringing joy to someone else makes me happy; especially if I can discover something that their heart has been secretly yearning for.  Sometimes, though, Christmas can be a let-down in our material world.  Maybe we don’t get what we are wanting or others we give gifts to feel less than thrilled with what they have received.  What then?

We can pull out the argument that starving children would be thankful, or contemplate what Jesus gave us, but ultimately, it all comes back to gratitude in the recognition that we never deserved a gift in the first place.  It is not even our birthday – it is His.  And He chose to give Himself away on that day.

What does He want us to give in return?  Our hearts to Him.  He has pursued us with a relentless, unconditional love.  May we give of ourselves in such a manner, all for His glory.

Lord, thank You for showing us how to give.  Help us to have Your heart of giving this Christmas and every day of the year.

Christmas Count”up” Day 15 – Worshipful Wednesday: VIP Status

Psalm 138:6

Though the LORD is exalted, he takes note of the lowly, and recognizes the proud from far away.”

Psalm 140:12

“I know the LORD defends the cause of the oppressed and vindicates the poor.”

Psalm 143:3

“O LORD, of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them?  Of what importance is mankind, that you should be concerned about them?

Psalm 145:8-9

“The LORD is merciful and compassionate.  He is patient and demonstrates great loyal love. 9 The LORD is good to all, and has compassion on all he has made.”

Truth be told, mankind is preferential and biased.  We often favor those who are already favored.  But the least of us, well, we feel uncomfortable around someone if they are either really needy or oppressed.  That is the condition of our fallen flesh, but not how it has to be.  I remember as a child being threatened because of the color of my skin and my status.  I was not cool – a total band geek.  That feeling of being unpopular is incredibly painful.  But when someone popular notices you – well, suddenly you are important.  That, on a small scale, is what Christ did for us.

When Christ came at Christmas, He did not come for the favored among men, for the popular, for the righteous.  No, He , being God, came all the way from Heaven and suffered just like man and loved all equally.  He came for the downtrodden, for the ones who saw their need of Him.  He elevated their position to favored status and considered us all precious in His sight.

Dirty, filthy in our sin, He regarded us as worthy of His own life.  Made in His image but tarnished with iniquity, He gave us the greatest gifts of all – His righteousness for our unrighteousness, His life for ours; restored fellowship with our Creator. What an amazing Savior – considering us, fallen sinners, as more important than Himself, Who is King of kings, to be worshiped forever.  So undeserved, so lavish a gift.  He is so very worthy of our praise!

Maybe you are feeling unloved or insignificant in your current station in this life.  Instead of despising that shame, remember that Christ chose that treatment.  He did not sin or deserve such treatment.  May the pain and sting of rejection or minimization draw us closer to Christ, Who identifies and understands what that feels like to be mistreated.  He loves us so very much and what He thinks about us far surpasses anyone else’s perception.

Lord, thank you for coming to earth and restoring our relationship with You.  Thank you that You considered us precious in Your sight and demonstrated Your love for us in elevating our worth in Your sight.  Only a Holy God like You could do that.

Christmas Count “up” Day 14 – The Baby Highpriest

Hebrews 8:1-6

1 “Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We have such a high priest, one who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 a minister in the sanctuary and the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up. 3 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. So this one too had to have something to offer. 4 Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest, since there are already priests who offer the gifts prescribed by the law. 5 The place where they serve is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary, just as Moses was warned by God as he was about to complete the tabernacle. For he says, “See that you make everything according to the design shown to you on the mountain.” 6 But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises.”

Hebrews 5:10

“And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, and he was designated by God as high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

Hebrews 7:3

Without father, without mother, without genealogy, he has neither beginning of days nor end of life but is like the son of God, and he remains a priest for all time.

Psalm 110:4

4 The Lord makes this promise on oath and will not revoke it: “You are an eternal priest after the pattern of Melchizedek.” 

Yesterday I was thanking God that Christ is our mediator.  Today I reflect on the fact that He is not just a go-between – He is a high priest.  I love when something miraculous happens where there is no explanation.  There is a mystery surrounding this high priest who showed up out of nowhere, who was the high priest of God and to whom Abraham tithed to.  The fact that this name means “King of Righteousness” in Hebrew makes me smile.  Not only that, He is from Salem, which means peace.  Our Prince of peace made an appearance as high priest to the father of our faith, Abraham.  How amazing.  His next entrance as a priest would be as a baby.  Christ is our high priest who lives forever in the order of Melchizedek.

We do not just celebrate God coming in the flesh as our Savior, our Redeemer, our Deliverer, and our King.  He is our high priest.  He is able to make atonement for all of our sins and He forever intercedes for His sheep.  Many times in our lives we will have people come in and out of our lives.  If we are blessed to have some with us for most of our journey here on earth, we are blessed indeed (unless they are a thorn in our flesh, ha!)  But Jesus as our high priest forever means He didn’t just leave us when He left this earth.  He remains our pastor, caring for our souls – for all eternity!

He is forever faithful in His duties as our priest and never forsakes His children.  I am completely overcome with this reality. Christ coming as our high priest means we are never rejected, never without His leadership in our lives.  Never abandoned, always with Him.  Always.

Thank you, sweet Jesus, for being our everything!  I worship You, my high priest!

Christmas Count “Up” Day 13: Christ the Mediator

Hebrews 9:15, 24

15 And so he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the eternal inheritance he has promised, since he died to set them free from the violations committed under the first covenant.  24  For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands – the representation of the true sanctuarybut into heaven itself, and he appears now in God’s presence for us. 25 And he did not enter to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the sanctuary year after year with blood that is not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages to put away sin by his sacrifice.

1 Timothy 2:5-6

5 For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time.

Job 16:19-21

19 Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. 20 My intercessor is my friend as my eyes pour out tears to God; 21 and he contends with God on behalf of man as a man pleads for his friend.  

Countless are the feats Christ accomplished in coming in the flesh.  Each facet of His work on earth becomes more precious to me, when I consider them!  Having endured through a painful court process, the word, mediator has a special significance to me.  Sometimes in life we feel there is no hope, no end to our turmoil.  We feel that no one is on our side.  But we can never underestimate the one Who owns the thousand cattle on a hill, Who is completely knowledgeable of all things, and by the way, is on our side.  Even more amazing, He is on all sides.  His purpose is that all might know and believe and uses everything to draw us nearer to Him.

I have a funny image in my head now – of someone playing multiple roles vicariously.  An airline representative checks in your baggage and sells you a ticket.  The same individual guides you onto the plane.  Now if this person said they were the pilot, I might rethink hopping on that flight.  We might have various roles simultaneously – I am a wife, mother, sister, friend, but these are all about relationship.  Christ accomplishes multiple roles effectively.  He is the Righteous Judge with Whom we will one day answer, He is also the Mediator defending us, and ultimately pays our debt with His own life.  Why?  The righteous demands have to be met, and He was willing to pay them Himself.

When Christ came as the bridge between man and God and ascended to Heaven after completing His work on earth, He did not abdicate His role as mediator.  He still intercedes for His children and does so as one who walked in the flesh among us – He is a compassionate mediator.  This Christmas may we reflect on Christ, our Mediator.  Without His willingly choosing to represent us before our Father, Almighty God, we could not have fellowship with Him.

Lord, thank you for coming not just as a perfect babe, but as a peacemaker, mediating our relationship with God.  Only You could fulfill that role.

Christmas Countdown Day 12: Love is Born

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1 John 4:7-12

7 Dear friends, let us love one another, because love is from God, and everyone who loves has been fathered by God and knows God. 8 The person who does not love does not know Godbecause God is love. 9 By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  11 Dear friends, if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any timeIf we love one another, God resides in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Love can be so complicated here on earth.  Defining love even more so.  We freely say we “love this or that”, or love someone, but often do not know what love requires.  For Christ, it required His very life, offered freely.  Love can be messy with imperfect beings and demand a persistence and long suffering which are of divine origin. We are truly incapable of real love apart from Jesus.  Christ demonstrated a radical love which is unparalleled.  He did not see if we would return it first, or give it conditionally.  He lavishly poured His love out on all who would receive it.

How do we access this kind of love if we are not capable of it on our own?  By asking Love Himself.  We can come to Him in our deficiency and ask Him to help us love like He did.  That is a prayer He hears and answers with a “yes”!  But we must be willing to lay down the grievances and understand that real love is completely unselfish.  We cannot go into it wanting something from the other person.  Christ certainly modeled that kind of love for us.

How much this world needs to see this kind of love lived out in each of us who have placed our faith in Jesus.  Even more, the world needs to see us loving one another – truly loving one another.  This means setting aside our judgments, even when we might be accurate in them.  It means choosing to love unconditionally, despite someone not deserving it.  Love considers the other one as more important and believes the best.  It is not without healthy boundaries and is not a doormat.  Sometimes it might be tough and seem uncaring, but real love always hopes and perseveres.  Just as love was revealed in Christ, in can be revealed in us.

Lord, this Christmas season, thank for your showing us what it means to really love one another.  Forgive us when we do not love and help us to learn more of what love looks like through Your eyes.