The Real Miracle of Christmas

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Christ came in the flesh as a baby and Christ still comes today – manifest in our flesh as we yield our lives to Him.

Scriptures of the Day:

John 1:1-5

1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created by him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. 5 And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.”

Hebrews 2:14

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil.”

Movies abound today about the “magic” of Christmas.  Somewhere a child inside hopes it really is true that someone esoterically posing as Santa is the real deal.  Not so much.  But there is One Who really does know when we are sleeping and awake – One Who truly does provide for our needs and watches over us.  He certainly knows whether we have been good or bad and keeps a thorough record of it in His Book of Life.  Even more amazing, when we truly do deserve a boatload of lumps of coal, He gives us eternal life – freely.

But sometimes the miracle of Christmas can get lost in the simple fact that it is a well known story that has been told and retold and we forget just how amazing a reality the miracle of Christ’s birth is and what Christ accomplished in His birth.

Mankind was condemned to a fallen world, no thanks to Adam and Eve (well, we all would have done the same thing).  But right there in that moment, God knew we needed a Savior.

In His sovereignty He planned to come and Himself crush the head of our mortal enemy.  He did it as a baby.  Talk about the enemy being whipped.  

This baby was born miraculously, fulfilling prophecies, fulfilling perfectly the genealogy of Christ, born of a virgin.  A miracle indeed.  Holy.  Righteous.  Fully God and fully man.  How amazing.  Much more amazing to me than reindeer flying through the air – just sayin’. And this same Christ is now revealed through us, His people.

So if we are struggling to get that Christmas “spirit”, perhaps what we need is a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit.  Sometimes it is in the simplicity of stepping out of our ordinary routine to give that we have that “Christmas feeling”. How is God leading us now to give during this season? How can we help others around us? Christ modeled what it meant to serve by giving His all. May we do the same.

The miracle of Jesus is not confined to one day. We can search for opportunities to give and serve others not just when we feel celebratory or the calendar dictates the moment.  The miracle of Jesus lives on in the hearts of those who choose to accept Him.

Christ came in the flesh as a baby and Christ still comes today – manifest in our flesh as we yield our lives to Him.

What a miracle this is – Christ in us. When we operate in a manner just like our Father did – giving of Himself, we have the greatest joy, and it is a miracle indeed that He uses us at all.

Merry Christmas, all.  Be a part of the miracle in someone’s life this Christmas.

Lord, thank you for the miracle of Your birth.  I stand in awe of You.  Fill us with the wonder of what You did and Who You are.  Love you!

The Ruling Baby King

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Instead of conquering us and ruling over us ruthlessly, God conquered our hearts and saved us.

Scripture of the Day:

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, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness 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.”

Don’t be fooled – this King baby will reign.  Despite the enemy’s attempts to destroy Him, God’s plan stood firm.  Despite a supposed defeat by ultimately being crucified, He rose from the dead and is coming again, only this time to reign.  For spectators of a movie, this story is difficult to watch – the injustice of the wicked seemingly destroying the Holy One and His plan; the Almighty God coming in perceived weakness.

The Jewish people were looking for their King to come and rule – now – not in the future. But God’s ways are not our ways. In His wisdom, God came as a babe so we could understand His salvation more than a God far away.  Instead of conquering us and ruling over us ruthlessly, He conquered our hearts and saved us.  He is our LORD, our Wonderful Counselor, to Whom we can come daily and moment by moment.  His rule is righteous and just.  His rule trumps every other ruler or government in this world.

In those moments when the wise men, shepherds and onlookers gazed upon God as a babe, how filled with wonder they must have been.  How humbled to see their Creator coming in such a form.  The most hardened heart was surely softened by such a gift.  May we have this same awe in reflecting on our Jesus, coming as a babe to rule our hearts.

Lord, You are all-wise, all-knowing, Almighty God!  Holy and humble, perfect One!  I worship You and thank You for ruling in my heart and opening my eyes to see.

The Gift of Acceptance from the Unbiased Baby Jesus

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:
We could never meet someone’s definition well enough to be perfectly accepted by them, but we don’t have to.
Scripture of the Day:

1 My brothers and sistersdo not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. But if you show prejudice, you are committing sin and are convicted by the lawas violators.  

John 7:41

Others were saying, “This is the Christ.” Still others were saying, “Surely the Christ is not going to come from Galilee, is He?
Deep in our heart of hearts we long for acceptance, to know we are cherished. The familiar feeling of rejection stings as we clamor to meet the constantly shifting standards in our relevant world. Or not. Those two words bring peace to my soul as I know I could never meet anyone’s standards well enough to be perfectly accepted by them, but I don’t have to.
The only One who could set the standard for acceptance in all of life 
set it, fulfilled it and offered us acceptance that never ends.

With the current climate astir with racial accusations, the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ entrance to this world filled my mind.  Christ confused those Who thought He would come to just a certain race in just a certain way.  Jesus is not a snob. No, He came as a poor infant Jew to Galilee and Nazareth and confounded the supposed wisdom of this world.  He gave value and spoke with women, even letting them discover His resurrection first.  He demonstrated compassion to those of a different race and treated all as equals.

So many prejudices exist and have since the world began.  Gender, age, financial status, education, color of skin, culture, anything that can define one as unique can also be fodder for bias.  Not so with God.  He loves how each one of us is different, and it is beautiful in His eyes.  Christ came to abolish our sickening racism, prejudice, and preferences to show us what it means to truly love unconditionally.  His unbiased acceptance is absolutely amazing when we consider He had every right to look down on us.

Ethnic purity is not a new term.  The Samaritans were persecuted for not being a pure race, yet Jesus viewed them no differently than any other race or people.  It is, in fact, laughable and ridiculous that we should view any race as superior to another when we all consider that we came from Adam.

Why are we still so ignorant?  We should be able to learn from the atrocities that history has to offer, but instead we reinvent the insipid racism in a new fashion and repeat the same sins as our predecessors.  Perhaps it is insecurity – each person, each family, each race wants to be the best?  In reality, we are all chief of sinners, in need of a desperate Savior. Or it could be jealousy.  God did choose the Jewish people as His own, but then He shared this salvation with all.

If we are honest, we will admit we have all had moments of prejudice in some fashion; pride in which we thought we were better than another.  There is still hope.  We can turn the tide where we live.  Jesus came to set us free from discrimination, too.  May we look to the infant Savior this Christmas and how He grew in wisdom, always demonstrating loving kindness to all.  The irony is that Christ was sometimes the hardest on the Pharisees – may we not think too highly of ourselves, our denomination, our color, our culture, or anything else that is a part of who we are – and may we simply accept others as we were accepted.

LORD, thank You for accepting all Who would call on Your Name for Salvation.  Help us, God, to stop labeling and judging one another and to love as You did.

Do You Know Him?

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

God does not make us choose Him, but our Holy God bids the unholy to come, drawing us near with His forgiveness and mercy.

Scripture of the Day:

Luke 4:34

“Ha!  Leave us alone, Jesus the Nazarene!  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are – the Holy One of God.”

Such a small statement, and yet so profound.  Even the demons knew who Jesus was and shuddered – but that knowledge did not equate to salvation for them.  When confronted with the God of this universe this evil spirit did not want to be in His presence.  Evil cannot be in the presence of God without being consumed or having atonement for sin.  Fear and rejection of God was the only choice for this demon.  How do we respond to seeing this gift of God? Are we fearful, do we think He wants to harm us, like the demons, or do we recognize the gift of His goodness, embrace His acceptance and come to know Him?

When my kids were little, they would try and sneak a look at the gifts before I wrapped them.  As they got older, they might resort to peeling back the tape just enough to catch a glimpse, or to shaking the item to gauge what it was.  They could not wait to see what gifts were given to them.  It is that yearning that I want to keep fervent in my heart, when I think of seeing Jesus when He returns and when I meditate on what it must have been like to gaze at the King of kings as a baby.  A precious gift, bundled in swaddling clothes was the redemption of all mankind – if we accepted the gift.

Now all these years later we know what a gift that first Christmas was.  We can know that Jesus is God, but that is not the same as knowing Him.  Sin brings fear of sure condemnation, but perfect love casts out all fear.  When confronted with our sin by a Holy God, we have a choice – to bow down and worship Him, confessing our sins and receiving mercy, or to pridefully pretend we do not need His salvation.

Our Holy God does not make us know Him, but came to an unholy people as an infant to bid us to come and know Him, drawing us near with His forgiveness and mercy.

He established His law that we might see our need of Him, and He set the expectations for how we were to live for His glory. He wants us to know Him and how very much He loves us, for this is what we were made for. This Christmas, even though the story has been heard so many times, we can still with anticipation come to learn more of our living Savior and know Him more.  He truly is the gift that keeps on giving, long after other gifts have faded.

Lord, help us to understand what You accomplished when You came to this earth.  May we know You and not just know about you.

Worshipful Wednesday: Our Prince of Peace

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Search for peace, and you will not find it, but search for God and you will find peace.

Scripture of the Day:

Luke 2:13-14

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Peace. Just the word itself calms my soul. Tumult, troubles and protests are breaking out in multiple cities across our country and zealots threaten to wipe Jewish and Christian folk alike off the face of the earth.  How can we say peace?  Because He said it. In the verse above He gives it to those who are pleasing to God.

A serene scene by a still lake; a porch swing overlooking a sunny day; children laughing and playing, snow quietly falling on tree limbs.  An elderly couple walking hand in hand. All of these images evoke the idea of peace to me.  But stones create ripples in the water, sunny days give way to wilder weather, snow melts and we all eventually fade away.  Peace is not lasting as prescribed by the world, anyway.

No, Christ alone is our peace – our Prince of peace. We who have accepted the free gift of Jesus can have peace – not as the world gives, but as God can give.  A peace that brings security and hope, which are not dependent upon circumstances or emotions. Busy times, hard times, Christmas preparations, hardship, persecution – none of these things can rob us of peace unless we let them.  Right now, where you are at, quiet your mind and heart and focus on what Christ came to bring – peace to our souls. Reading His love letter to us brings a peace that no counsel on this earth ever could.

From the time he came as a baby, peacefully in the midst of chaos, to His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, Christ accomplished peace with God for us who were far away from Him.  Not perfect comfort on this earth, but complete peace.  Many will cry out for peace in this world, thinking that a leader or a country could bring lasting peace, but they will never achieve it.  True peace is only found in a relationship with God.  Search for peace, and you will not find it, but search for God and you will find peace.

Peace to you all this Christmas season.

Lord, quiet our souls and help us to rest in You at all times.  

Finding Joy at Christmas

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Sometimes we have to lose joy to find it.

Scripture of the Day:

Psalm 124:1

“If the Lord had not been on our side”— let Israel say this!— if the Lord had not been on our side, when men attacked us, they would have swallowed us alive, when their anger raged against us. The water would have overpowered us; the current would have overwhelmed us.  The raging water would have overwhelmed us. The Lord deserves praise, for he did not hand us over as prey to their teeth. We escaped with our lives, like a bird from a hunter’s snare. The snare broke, and we escaped. Our deliverer is the Lordthe Creator of heaven and earth.”

Christmas can be a difficult time for many.  The celebration of Christmas does not deliver what we hoped.  Painful memories echo in our minds of family members who left us or harmed us.  Thoughts of what should have been or could have been – regrets and longings can loom large and steal our joy.  Maybe you do not even want to read this or dare to hope that there could actually be real joy at Christmas – keep reading.

The world offers many solutions for this emptiness of our soul. Entertainment, satisfying the flesh, avoiding the pain.  God’s prescription is quite different – feel the pain in all of our humanity, but come to Him, Who can heal our souls.  It is not a “just be happy” or just “choose to be happy” solution, but it is a choice to come to God and a real answer in the face of real pain.

One of my favorite books of the bible to read from when I am bummed is the book of Psalms.  A songwriter myself, I cherish David’s songs – a heart cry to His LORD. If anyone understands what it is to have emotional torment, it is David.  He could have been diagnosed with many labels in his day – PTSD, panic and anxiety disorders, even depression.  He said as much in many of the Psalms.  But He was looking to One who he knew would resolve the battle within.  David demonstrated again and again what looking to God for help would do – give hope and peace – even joy again.

That is what Christ does for us.  He offers us hope through His trustworthy promises and deliverance.  Christ understands suffering, too, and when we look to the Christ child this Christmas, we see a God Who is our Master, but Who also walks beside us.  He chooses to call us friend – we are friends with a King!  Now a King can grant any request – so it is with our God.  Happiness at Christmas or any other time is not based on getting what we want, but on being content with what God has allowed.  We can trust Him and He can bring real lasting joy more than a day ever could.

Pain is real – what do we do with it?  The pain may not be absent and scars might last the rest of our days, but there is a healing balm in Jerusalem found in an infant Who changes our heart, understanding and perspective.  The compassion gained through our pain is a beautiful gift we lay at the feet of our baby King, and He is pleased.  May we lay down our idols as gifts much like Frankincense, gold and Myrrh, of what we wanted from life and Christmas and humbly accept the gift of life that God has given us.  This is when joy enters our soul and we are relieved of the burden we have been holding onto. Give it all to Him and ask Him to help deliver you.  He will do it and His grace is sufficient to all who call on His Name.  It is going to be a Merry Christmas, after all, friend.

Thank You, LORD, for the amazing gift of your baby Son.  What a treasure, what a delight!  We lay our burdens at Your feet and trust You with all of what life brings our way.  Amen.

#JesusIsTheCureForDepression

Christmas is Coming: Why We Celebrate

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The purpose of Christmas really is to reveal this Christ – this loving God to as many people who will receive Him.

Scripture of the Day:

Luke 1:1-3

1 “Now many have undertaken to compile an account  of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 like the accounts  passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. 3 So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know for certain the things you were taught.”

Each year Christmas comes and goes faster than I can truly grasp the significance of the day we celebrate.  For months, stores are donning their Christmas garb and retailers making money off of the many things tantalizing us with the prescribed necessities to properly celebrate the event.  Yet inwardly I wonder if I am missing it completely.  There are cultural icons we attribute to America’s celebration of Christmas, and some of them are not all that bad, but do they trivialize the most important date in the world, when God came in the flesh and revealed Himself to man?  Our calendars and our homes reflect the importance of this day year after year, but may our hearts never grow numb to the thrill of what His birth meant.

Luke’s account begins with a unique prologue which is different from the other synoptic Gospels.  Luke was the only gentile to pen a book in the new testament, and he is writing to the Gentiles and someone specifically – Theophilus – so that he would believe and know that the birth and life of Christ were true.  I confess that I forget at times what the purpose of Christmas really is – to reveal this Christ – this loving God to as many people who will receive Him.  That is the greatest gift I can truly ever give another soul.  It is this purpose that truly keeps the Christmas spirit alive – never growing weary of the amazing gift of God and sharing it in new ways to those who know God and some who maybe have not come to know Him yet.

So what about all of the traditions of Christmas?  I can get distracted by one tradition of Christmas in particular – the giving of gifts.  This tradition is of course embraced by me, since my love language is gift giving.  (Insert smile).  It is even considered a godly thing to do and more special when it is given thoughtfully and sacrificially.  Giving in such a manner reminds us of what Christ did when He lavishly gave His own life, leaving His comforts in Heaven and dwelling among men, instead.  It can also hinder my celebrating Christmas, though, if I become so stressed and hurried with all of the preparations.

Some might have a tree in their home, others like snowmen and stockings.  These have nothing to do with Christ, but they have come to be a part of what Christmas means in our culture.  There is no judgment in these things, but they can also serve to hinder our worship of the King, if that is what we are seeking to celebrate.  Ultimately, one man considers another day more special than another and the celebration of any holiday on this earth that is not mandated from Scripture is something that ought to be done in a way that honors God – thoughtfully.  There are not rules in Scripture governing do’s and dont’s of how to celebrate Christmas, but their are principles that govern each day we live.  Being cognizant of what we believe and why gives meaning to our lives.

Back to Luke.  It is not known for sure who this Theophilus is, but it is intriguing to me that his name literally means “friend or lover of God”. Luke wanted to make sure Theophilus knew the Gospel was trustworthy, and I wonder if it was he who called him a friend of God.  When a soul is saved, that soul cannot help but be compelled to share with others the amazing gift of salvation.  We must do so in the same vain as Luke did – share the story of Jesus and His impact on our lives like a friend would.  Luke knew the details well and was exact in his account, but He was driven by a passion that others might not miss this greatest gift of all.

Each of the four Gospels is a testimony of the events surrounding Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection – a witness of each of the author’s eyewitness of the life of Christ.  So we each have a testimony of how we, too, met Jesus.  What was it that first opened our eyes?  Do we tell our story passionately so others might know it to be true?  Personal testimony is far more convincing when that person experienced personally what they are telling you; they are not just talking about someone else.  Each testimony is unique to the individual, because each of us has our own relationship with God, and each story of our individual encounters with Christ need to be told.

This Christmas season, may we be ignited with a fresh passion to share Christ and what He accomplished in his birth, death and resurrection.  May we once again look with wonder on the god-man infant, cradled in a crude, rustic environment, prophesied from long ago.  As we look to the coming celebration of Christ’s initial coming, may we be equally stirred to look to His second coming and tell His story and share it with strangers, friends and families far and wide.  It is the greatest true story ever told.

Lord, we eagerly look to commemorate your coming to this earth as well as when You will come again.  Help us to remember what You did for each one of us and to never cease sharing your offering of Your life for our sins.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 30 – Faith

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The Christian faith is formed in a living faith based on grace and forgiveness.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 11:1

“Now faith is being confident of what we hope for, convinced about things we do not see.”

In concluding 30 days of gratitude, I realize there is vastly too much to be grateful for that could never be fully expressed. But today I am grateful for the gift of faith. How is it that I came to believe? That God would have mercy on me? It was God alone Who opened my eyes to see and understand His amazing salvation and God alone Who overcame my unbelief. And I am grateful beyond words.

This faith is a conviction deep within our souls despite not seeing fully what we hope for. Though it is tested, the confirmation in our souls is not swayed by the storms of this life. The storms of this life only serve to strengthen our faith as it is built on Christ.

When God first opened my eyes to understand His salvation, people around me said it was a crutch. I was mocked and persecuted and it only made me believe all the more. This lost world mocks faith yet has a faith, as well – in the creation rather than in the Creator.

This false faith formed in manmade, dead religion, is based on fleshly pursuits and good works that a fallen people could never fully achieve. The Christian faith is formed in a living faith based on grace and forgiveness by a God Who knew we could never be good enough to please a Holy God.

Each day God’s word is a love letter to His people, inviting them to go deeper with Him. Come be a “fool” alongside me and find the greatest joy of your life. Michael Card says it well in “God’s Own Fool” – Christ humbled Himself to reach His people with the message of the cross – foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, it is the power of God.

Lord, thank You for the gift of faith and enabling us to know You – Our God.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 29 – Health

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

It is in weakness that I sense His grace and in struggles that I appreciate the times when I am not.

Scripture of the Day:

3 John 1:2
Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”

On the 29th day of posting on Thankfulness, sickness hit several members of our household – BUT I still wanted to share how thankful I am for health, even if it is a day late.

There is a degree of conviction as I post about health and realize that I have not always been the best steward of the health that God has given. But even then, when we have not done our part, God amazingly designed our bodies to heal themselves.

Some illnesses or infirmities might be beyond our intervention, but God’s grace is sufficient for us. When I am sick I find I am ironically more grateful for my health. It is in weakness that I sense His grace and in struggles that I appreciate the times when I am not.

The challenge is whether we will praise Him when we are healthy and unhealthy, at all times. The God Who designed our bodies and sustains life is the One Who also heals us, physically and spiritually.

Lord, thank You for the gift of health. Help us to honor the life You have give and to die to self when our flesh is craving what is harmful to our bodies. May You be glorified in our beings and all of our lives.

30 Days of Cultivating Thankfulness: Day 28 – Freedom from Sin

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

In our misguided pursuit of freedom, we are rebels destined to selfish living apart from God’s kind intervention.

Scripture of the Day:

2 Peter 1:10

“Therefore, brothers and sisters, make every effort to be sure of your calling and election. For by doing this you will never stumble into sin.”

2 Peter 2:19

“Although these false teachers promise such people freedom, they themselves are enslaved to immorality. For whatever a person succumbs to, to that he is enslaved.”

Galatians 5:1

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Freedom has been the theme of man’s desire from day one. We don’t like to be boxed in, whether it is to an endless routine, someone’s definition of us, or someone else’s rules. In our misguided pursuit of freedom we are rebels destined to selfish living, apart from God’s kind intervention.

The inhabitants of this world long to be free, but don’t know what we really need to be free from. Freedom from authority, freedom to do whatever we want is not truly freedom at all. But freedom to abstain from sin – this is true freedom – and our loving God provides freedom within His perfect boundaries.

When my children were small I would purposely set a coveted object in front of them and tell them not to touch it. Sounds cruel, huh? But it was actually a desire to teach them self-control and to learn that we need to be able to master our desire for things that are not good for us. I still need work on this, myself, when it comes to chocolate.

Sometimes we fall short and can begin to wonder if God forgives us still. This is one of the greatest aspects of our freedom in Christ. We are free to live Holy lives by His grace, but we are also freely forgiven when we fall. This is not to be mistaken as an abuse of grace, but a humbling reminder that our freedom is not something we could ever achieve on our own and it cost our Savior His blood. What motivation to reach for His grace and to abandon sin and its empty promises!

I am grateful that Christ showed us how to live for God and die to self and gave us the Holy Spirit to strengthen us when we are tempted. Christ set us completely free. Though we are in cases of clay, we can overcome and live victorious, free lives.

Lord, thank You for setting us free from the bondage of sin so we could live worthy lives for Your glory!