Tuesday, December 6, 2016

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 6

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee,  to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.  Gabriel appeared to her and said, ‘Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!’ Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.’” (Luke 1:26 – 31)

God just has this habit of choosing the least likely people to accomplish His work.  During that time of history, Jewish men would start their prayers by saying, “Thank You, God, that I have not been born a gentile or a woman.”  The only time I’ve ever prayed anything like that was when my wife was giving birth … “God, I am so thankful I am not a woman!  There’s no way I could do that!”  But, here is God, doing what He does best … choosing the least likely to accomplish His mission of bringing people far from Him back to Him.  He is about to change the course of all human history … the most important three decades in the history of mankind are about to begin and God has chosen the least likely person to set it all in motion … a teenage girl named Mary. Christmas is just one more reminder of the fact that this is how God works.  He chooses the least likely … He chooses the unwanted, the unloved, the unworthy, the ones no one else notices and He turns toward them and says, “I want you.  I choose you.”   

Monday, December 5, 2016

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 5

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.  When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  (Matthew 1:18 – 21)

Nine months before Jesus took on our injured flesh, the angel Gabriel told Joseph, “You are to give Him the name Jesus for He will save His people from their sins.”  Do you realize this was the very first time our Savior’s name was spoken since the beginning of time?  Jesus will always offer us what we need most and, more than anything, we need to be saved from our sin.  Jesus didn’t cross the expanse of the universe simply to tell us some good stories and be known as an amazing teacher.  He didn’t “breathe our air and walk our sod” in order to build our self-esteem.  He didn’t take up residence on this earth for 30-plus years to give us a list of rules to follow.  Jesus came to do what only He could possibly do … save us from our sin.   

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 4

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  (Galatians 4:4 – 5)

A Savior had been promised to God’s people for centuries. They longed and prayed for rescue. And then on the right day, in the right place, at the right time, Jesus was born. While God rarely comes at our appointed time, He always comes at the right time. All of us are waiting on something, often wondering if God has forgotten us. In your waiting, let the birth of Christ encourage you. Just because God hasn’t come through (as far as you can see), it doesn’t mean He has abandoned you. To Him a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day. This very minute He’s working for His glory and for your good. Though circumstances say otherwise, God is going to come through, on schedule, fulfilling His long-appointed plans for you. Don’t give up before the time is right. Take hope in the manger and know that you are loved and prized by the God who stepped down from heaven and arrived at the perfect time for you.

by Louie Giglio

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 3

Christmas shows you a God unlike the god of any other faith.  Have you been betrayed?  Have you been lonely?  Have you been destitute?  Have you faced death?  So has he!  Some say, “You don’t understand.  I have prayed to God for things, and God ignored my prayer.”  In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus cried out, “Father … may this cup be taken from me” (Matthew 23:39) and he was turned down.  Jesus knows the pain of unanswered prayer.  Some say, “I feel like God has abandoned me.”  What do you think Jesus was saying on the cross when he said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Matthew 27:46)?

Christianity says God has been all the places you have been; he has been in the darkness you are in now, and more.  And, therefore, you can trust him; you can rely on him, because he knows and has the power to comfort, strengthen, and bring you through.

by Tim Keller

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 2

There is a huge difference between knowing about someone's experience and truly entering in to their experience.  One of the fundamental characteristics of love is a willingness to enter in to the world of another person.  Christmas reminds us that Jesus was willing to enter in.  Hebrews 4:15 says, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.” 

Two very compelling words are used in that verse.  Jesus is able to empathize.  The original word used there literally means “to be touched by what has touched someone else.” This is more than pity.  This is more than “I feel really bad for you.”  This is a willingness to feel in to another person’s pain … to allow yourself to choose to take another person’s perspective and enter in to their situation.  It’s this sense of compassion that moves someone to action.

The word “weakness” is a word that can be best understood as “the human condition.”  What we see in Hebrews 4 is that Jesus really does understand what it means to live in a fallen world.  He understands the struggles. He knows the temptations we face.  He’s fully aware of the limitations of the human body and the difficulty of relationships and the complexity of family dynamics.  He knows what it’s like to be betrayed and abused and alone and in physical pain.   Isaiah 53 says that He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

When Jesus took on flesh and blood, He allowed Himself to become fully aware of the human condition.  He knows our struggles.  He is not moved to condemn us but rather to have compassion on us … He is touched by what has touched us.  Because of that, look at what we get to do:  “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)   

Thursday, December 1, 2016

25 Thoughts on Christmas # 1

John 1:14 tells us “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."  “Dwelt among us” … another version reads “made his dwelling among us” … another version reads “made his home among us” … another version reads “took up residence among us.”  Another version reads “He moved into the neighborhood.”  When Jesus was born, He wasn’t just wrapped in swaddling clothes, He was wrapped in flesh and blood and He "moved in to the neighborhood."  For Jesus to do that meant He willingly had to lay aside full access to all of His divine attributes and allow Himself to come face to face with all of the brokenness in our world … your brokenness and my brokenness, your sin and my sin, your hurt and my hurt, your shame and my shame.  

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