The Mediator of Salvation

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Jesus intercedes for us as one who walked in the flesh among us – our compassionate mediator.

Scriptures of the Day:

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

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper 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.  When we feel like no one is on our side, Christ is our compassionate Mediator.

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 if we are His.  Even more amazing, He is on all sides, surveying and working all things together.  His purpose is that all might know and believe and He 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, too – I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee, worship leader . . . the list goes on and on.

Some roles I do better than others, and sometimes juggling all I have to be and do is hard. But Christ accomplishes multiple roles perfectly.  He is the Righteous Judge with Whom we will one day answer, our Savior, LORD, Comforter, Healer, the Mediator defending us, who ultimately paid our sin debt, too. The list of Who He is never ends.

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.

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

The only One who can set the standard for acceptance in all of life set it, fulfilled it and offered us.png
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.  

Truthful Tuesday: It Only Takes One

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The road of faithfulness is often a lonely road, but when it is paved with the love of God, our destination and hope are certain.

Scripture of the Day:

Ecclesiastes 9:18-10:1

“Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner can destroy much that is good.”  10:1 “One dead fly makes the perfumer’s ointment give off a rancid stench, so a little folly can outweigh much wisdom.”

It always astounds me that it can only take one dissenter to bring about chaos and destroy something good.  A small percentage of a population can speak louder and change what the majority voted on.  How is this able to happen?  Passion.  Activism.  Devotion.  Leadership . . . and pressing on despite it not being popular.

We admire when people accomplish great things when the odds are against them, but much more admirable are deeds done in righteousness than the wicked prevailing.  A liberal agenda will not bring about the freedom its followers desire, but they still passionately fight for what they believe is right.  Now more than ever the righteous must not let their voices be silenced.  Our nation needs us more now than ever.  It will not be popular to hold ground and try to turn the tide back, but it is possible.  Your voice matters.  Make it count for righteousness.  It only takes one to begin to make a change.

Only One could pay for the sin debt of all mankind.  He was not popular, but He knew His mission and completed it, despite much opposition.  He changed this world forever – not just for a generation.  This Christmas may we remember what Christ did for us and all mankind.  May we all honor God with our lives and affect this society for His glory.  It only takes one.  Shine brightly in this generation – there is no other voice just like yours – it is needed now.

Christ showed us what living for One looks like. Only one road leads to life with our Savior and this narrow road is often fraught with trials on every side. The road of faithfulness is often a lonely road, but when it is paved with the love of God, our destination and hope are certain.

The song, “This Little Child” by Scott Wesley Brown, written in the late 70’s is so very fitting in our times.  I end today’s post with lyrics contained within the second verse:

“And over half the world is starving While our banner of decency is torn;
Debating over disarmament, Killing children before they’re born.
And fools who march to win the right to justify their sin.
Oh ev’ry nation that has fallen Has fallen from within
Yet in the midst of this darkness There is a hope a light that burns
This little child the King of kings Some day will return.”

Hear and see the lyrics to the complete song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riSAYsLTQBs

Lord, help us to shine for You brighter and brighter.  May we not cover or hide the light You have placed in us and boldly stand for truth and for Your glory.  

Mundane Monday: The Calling of Christmas

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The same God Who came in the flesh is calling us to participate in the Christmas story, too.

Scriptures of the Day:

2 Peter 1:10

“Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble.”

2 Timothy 1:9-10

“He is the one who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not based on our works but on his own purpose and grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus before time began, 10 but now made visible through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. He has broken the power of death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel!”

We are doing a series at our church during this Christmas season on the calling of God on His people. The same God Who intervened in time and came in the flesh is calling us to participate in the Christmas story, too. Will we be like those who gathered around to adore Him, like those who proclaimed His birth, or will we miss this opportunity altogether?

As a mom, I can get focused on all of the details of buying gifts for my 5 children and all of the aspects of the holiday celebration that I begin to lose perspective. As a wife, I am thinking about how to honor my husband in the purchases and bless him, too. As a worship leader, I am focused on provoking my church to worship God passionately during this Holy season. So many things to be done and so many hearts to affect with the Gospel. But we can’t allow the busyness of the season to hinder the vision God wants us to have for His work and His people – at Christmas and for all of time.

As we remember what God did when he demonstrated His radical love by leaving His throne in Heaven to allow mankind to provide care for Him, God stirs our hearts to respond to this amazing show of His affection for us. To make Himself that vulnerable, entrusting Himself to a wicked people – what lengths God went to in order to reach us with His love – how can we share this love with those around us?

For years my children and I would bake cookies for our entire neighborhood, then go and carol while we gave them out. Violins and guitars were sometimes in tow. We were cold, it was a lot of work, but the joy it brought others as well as ourselves was unmatched. The classical children’s choir I directed would go to nursing homes, raise gifts for local orphanages and sing to encourage others. Sweet times, indeed.

New seasons bring new opportunities and new ways to serve. In all our roles that we serve in on this earth, the greatest is as a child of God. How can we be His vessel today? What mission has He given to us?

What lengths can we go to this Christmas to reach people with the love of God? This is our calling. It might be uncomfortable. It might mean laying down our agendas or doing something different than our tradition (ah, the sacred cow). But when we are motivated by the love of God and give selflessly, we get just a glimpse of what God did for us and our joy is complete.

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

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.