Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel {Is. 7:14}.

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this {Is. 9:6-7 NASB}.

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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, good will toward men. {Lk. 2: 1-14 KJV}.


A weary world rejoices......

The promised Redeemer is here

An Advent Poem

The season is upon us Advent is here
I hope for the day that You will appear
You came to earth to dwell among
Immanuel, God with us, Heaven’s Song

Lord we prepare our hearts to receive You
You are the hope of Israel, and our hope too
God our Savior, the promised One from old
The Word from the beginning, arrival foretold

We will go out with joy, and be led forth with peace 
The angels deliver the message, our joy will never cease
The Christ Child has arrived goodwill toward all men
Shout for joy to God, all the earth! Our joy is full amen!

For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son
We were all sinners, lost, gone astray, undone
A stable in Bethlehem received the Holy Child
Not in pomp and circumstance, but meek and mild

Behold the Lamb of God who takes away our sin
The radiance of God's glory and the image of His being, 
The sinless Servant and redeemer wrapped as a baby boy
Glory to God in the highest, it is good news of great joy
in the city of David, born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Piper Green © 2016

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Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Advent: Seeking Christ Day 24

We made it through all twenty-four chapters! Thank you for walking through Luke’s wonderful Gospel with me. I pray that these little devotions blessed you and helped make your Advent season one of reflection and dedication to the Lord Jesus Christ.

They said to one another, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?’” (v. 32 NASB).

This is one of my favorite passages in all of Scripture. I pray this prayer every day: May my heart burn within me as you open the Scriptures to me. If I had a time machine, the road to Emmaus would be my first choice so that I could eavesdrop on the Lord’s conversation with these two disciples.  
This account is the first of three post-resurrection appearances Christ made in the New Testament. Two men are walking to Emmaus just a few days after the crucifixion of the Lord. Jesus came upon them, though they did not recognize Him through their sorrow. He came to comfort them in their grief. I love the rendering of the KJV and the NKJV and the ESV which says that Jesus drew near to them.

Together these three men walked together and they listened as He encouraged them that what the women had reported could possibly be true. Yet another glimmer of hope, that the injustice from just a few short days before could be made right. Jesus opened their spiritual eyes so they could understand all that the Scripture spoke about Christ—His sufferings, death, and resurrection. He began with the Old Testament—Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms. He was exactly who He claimed to be—the Christ, the Son of God, the promised Redeemer. There was no one more worthy or qualified to explain the Scripture to them but the Prince of Peace—the very Word Himself. His words were so full of power and life that their hearts burned within them; they were like burning fire in them like many others who came before them who heard with joy the Words of the Lord:

My heart was hot within me, While I was musing the fire burned {Ps. 39:3 NASB}.

But if I say, ‘I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,’ Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it’” {Jer. 20:9 NASB}.

They had a taste of what John the Baptist declared about Jesus, that He would baptize with fire.

I cannot escape the language of drawing near. For that is just what God did in sending His Son, He drew near to us because we could not draw near to Him. He came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. There was no way for us to draw close to Him because of our sin. But the Lord of Glory, not only drew near, but He also communed so that He could have a relationship with His fallen, human creation. Jesus walked the road to Emmaus and at their bidding, He broke bread with them. As soon as He blessed the bread and ate with them, their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him! He then vanished before them, but they were witnesses to the Eleven that what the women proclaimed—that Jesus was indeed resurrected—and their hope was revived! I must make note as well that these two disciples were not numbered with the Eleven. Our Savior found them to be just as important as the Apostles. We are equally important to Him and He desires to reveal Himself to all who will receive Him.

In the quiet, still, cold night, Christ crept into the world unnoticed, with the exception of a few lowly shepherds. While the world slept, the Chronos was broken and the Kairos—the long-awaited promise—the Redeemer, Deliverer, and King of Glory drew near to the world that He loved so much, in a humble stable that holy night.
He did for us what we could not do for ourselves; we now have the privilege of drawing near to Him: 

Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” {Heb. 10:22 NASB}.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” {Jam. 4:8 NASB}

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Monday, December 23, 2019

Advent Seeking Christ Day 23

And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong” {v.41 NASB}.

Jesus was born in a manger and died on a cross. He came to redeem mankind from our fallenness, darkness, sin, and rebellion. He was the only perfect sacrifice for sin and the only mediator we will ever need {1 Timothy 2:5-6}. He was declared innocent by seven different people that day. Seven times Jesus was examined, judged, and found to be without sin. God is a detail-oriented God. Each sacrifice brought to the Tabernacle was to be carefully observed by the priest to ensure the offering being presented was without spot or blemish. Everything in the law in Israel was observed, in Christ, they are fulfilled, in the church (believers) they are applied. Christ fulfilled every Old Testament Scripture concerning Him.
Jesus’ innocence was so apparent that even a thief dying on the cross next to him could see the truth. Though Luke’s Gospel gives the impression that one thief mocked Him and one did not, Matthew and Mark’s Gospels give the full account. Matthew 27:44 and Mark 15:32 reveal that both criminals mocked Jesus.

Though both mocked Him, hours spent being crucified next to the King of kings taught him to think better of his behavior. He began to see Jesus for who He was and put his faith and trust in the Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. In this Chronos, the condemned thief and criminal who was a rebel against God became a child of God. What a difference a moment can make in one life. He was no longer on his way to hell, but rather on his way to paradise. One moment he was a criminal who did not deserve mercy but was welcomed into the Lord’s bosom that very day. What mercy. What grace. What a price Christ paid to bridge that gulf between God and man; life and death.
That is what the innocent babe in the manger came for; to seek and save the lost {Lk. 19:10}. The same mercy and grace He extended to that dying, repentant thief, is available to you and me. He was innocent of sin at His birth; He was innocent of sin at His death. That is what He took on His shoulders for you and me.

I know I have made much use of Bonhoeffer in my Advent musings, but he says it so eloquently:

The Great Turning Point Of All Things

What kings and leaders of nations, philosophers and artists, founders of religion and teachers of morals have tried in vain to do—that now happens through a newborn child. Putting to shame the most powerful human efforts and accomplishments, a child is placed here at the midpoint of world history—a child born of human beings, a Son given by God {Is. 9:6}. That is the mystery of the redemption of the world; everything past and everything future is encompassed here. The infinite mercy of the Almighty God comes to us, descends to us in the form of a child, his Son. That this child is born for us, this son is given to us, that this human child and Son of God belongs to me, that I know him, have him, love him, that I am his and he is mine—on this alone my life now depends. A child has our life in his hands.[1] 

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[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In The Manger (Westminster: John Knox Press., 2010), 56.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Advent Seeking Christ Day 22

And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation’” {vv.44-46 NASB}.

This verse touches me. It really made me ponder the humanness of Jesus. He was fully God, but He was also fully man. We cannot ignore Jesus’ humanity, or you will never fully grasp the depths of Gethsemane or your own human when you are faced with choices like that of Jesus. Jesus could have gone His own way and followed His own will. But thankfully, He chose to follow hard after God and to fulfill the will of the Father. Our salvation was on the cusp as He cried out in anguished prayer:

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” {v. 42 NAS}. 

He obeyed the Father—sealing our salvation. The curse that came on Adam in the garden to toil by the sweat of his brow is broken by the Redeemer of the world in a garden by the blood-sweat from His brow.

In His love for real human beings, Jesus becomes the one burdened by guilt – indeed, the one upon whom all human guilt ultimately falls and the one who does not turn it away but bears it humbly and in eternal love… As the human being who has entered reality, Jesus becomes guilty. But because His historical existence, His incarnation, has its sole basis in God’s love for human beings, it is the love of God that makes Jesus become guilty. Out of selfless love for human beings, Jesus leaves His state as the one without sin and enters into the guilt of human beings. He takes it upon Himself.[1]

Each of us will face our own Gethsemane or many of them perhaps. Though we do not bear the salvation of the world on our shoulders, we each must choose in the hard places who we will follow…our fleshly desires or the will of the Father.

Advent is about Jesus’ birth in a manger, that Holy crèche on that Holy night, but will we make room for Him? Not just as our Savior but also our Lord in the hard places—the hard choices—in this fallen world.

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[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In The Manger (Westminster: John Knox Press., 2010), 34.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Advent: Seeking Christ Day 21

Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near” {vv. 27-28}.

I love when the Old Testament meets the New. Jesus speaks of yet another fulfillment of God’s Word that He poured into His prophets concerning things to come. And Jesus, the Son of Man, stands before them as the fulfillment of the prophet Daniel’s words given by God. Jesus came to save the world and to offer salvation to those who will receive the precious gift. Those who choose to Him become citizens of the glorious, universal Kingdom of which Daniel foretold. The Jews have been harassing Jesus for a sign that He is who He says He is and He answers their demand. 

I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him” {Daniel 7:13 NASB}.

Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen” {Revelation 1:7 NASB}.

We must remember that though Christ came as a baby; He is a grown, real, living person; who grew in wisdom and stature before the Lord {Lk. 2:52}. Christianity is not a religion that follows a certain set of rules, but it is a real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to us and now lives in us through His Spirit. He lived and died and rose again to redeem you and me. At the Second Advent, He will judge our mortal lives and the decisions we made and whether or not we lived for Him. This is a time to reflect on our lives and consider whether there is any part of our life that does not please Him. The One True God is holy and hates sin, but He loves us immensely, so much so that He sent His Son to redeem the world. Because we are living for Him His second advent need not be a terror in the night. Only those who persist in their wickedness need fear His coming. If we submit our lives to Him now, we will be accepted when He appears on that Great Day.

His message is urgent that we believers on earth be ready. The tribulation and tumult of the earth will not last forever. Just when it looks as though the anguish and despair can only worsen, Christ will be revealed in the heavens and every eye shall see Him. And the old prophet Zechariah’s words concerning His appearance will come to pass, “they will say where did you get those marks in your hands? And he will say, ‘in the house of my friends’” {see Zech. 13:6}. Then, according to the Apostle Paul, the Jewish nation will be born in a day; all Israel will be saved.

Jesus will also place His precious, nail-pierced feet on the Mount of Olives. The prophet Zechariah tells us that Christ, accompanied by His raptured saints, will enter the great city of Jerusalem. The returning saints along with those believers on earth will gather to crown Him King of kings and Lord of lords and Christ will begin His millennial and eternal reign.

Are you ready for His return? What part of you are withholding from Him that you may offer Him as a gift this Advent season? Is there room in the inn of your heart for this precious gift of the promised Redeemer?

Let’s not deceive ourselves. “Your redemption is drawing near” {Luke 21:28}, whether we know it or not, and the only question is: are we going to let it come to us too, or are we going to resist it? Are we going to join in this movement that comes down from heaven to earth or are we going to close ourselves off? Christmas is coming—whether it is with us or without us depends on each and every one of us. Such a true event happening now creates something different from the anxious, petty, depressed, feeble Christian spirit that we see again and again, and that again and again, wants to make Christianity contemptible… Advent creates people, new people. We too are supposed to become new people in advent.[1]

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[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In The Manger (Westminster: John Knox Press., 2010), 40.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Advent: Seeking Christ Day 20

How is it that they say the Christ is David’s son? For David himself says in the book of Psalms,‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet. Therefore David calls Him ‘Lord,’ and how is He his son?’” (vv.41-44 NASB).

I love this exchange between Jesus and the religious leaders. Once again, wisdom is vindicated by all her children {Luke 7:35}. This speaks to the dual nature of Jesus, which the Jewish religious leaders never understood, though the Old Testament told them to look for these signs in the Redeemer. Jesus validates this by quoting from the verse in which the Lord gives dominion to the King. He solidifies here the inspiration of the Old Testament Scriptures.

What they did not understand is that this implies both the future existence of David’s throne and the authority of the Messiah over all that has been given Him by the Father; His spiritual authority as King over the nations.

The Sadducees were silenced once again by Jesus, who as fully God {the preexistent Christ} was David’s Lord, and as fully man was David’s son. This same account in Matthew’s Gospel tell us that He so confounded them that “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from that day on to ask Him another question” {Matt. 22:46 NASB}. Jesus again bewildered His adversaries.

In God’s holy promise of the coming Savior into the world, it was imperative that the prophecies reveal both the fully God and fully man natures of the Holy Savior. The revelation of the coming Redeemer of man-kind—this holy truth—caused the Old Testament prophecies to declare of Him, “And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace,” as well as being the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief {Is. 9:6; Is. 53: 1-12}. 

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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Advent: Seeking Christ Day 19

The whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’” {vv.37-38 NASB}.

For the third chapter succinctly in Luke’s wonderous gospel, we see again people crying out to God. The ten lepers, blind Bartimaeus, both crying out in anguish for mercy. Now the crying rings of anguish have turned into praise the miracles they have seen; a stark contrast from the nine who went their own way. One wonders if they were in the crowd that day.

Rejoice Zion! The prophecy is fulfilled in their very presence:

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey” {Zech. 9:9}. 

Advent is a season in which we look for the crèche, the babe in the manger, rightly so. But I think that when we read about Christ’s triumphal entry, we tend to lose the seriousness of what this particular day means. This entry into Jerusalem is definitely revered at Palm Sunday, but do we understand the full meaning of this day; what we are seeing?

We have become accustomed to the idea of divine love and of God’s coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God’s coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. {Dietrch Bonhoeffer, The Coming of Jesus in our Midst}.

Reflect and prayerfully seek God about what His coming truly means for this world. He is the Light in darkness that was foretold from ages past. He is the blessed King who comes in the name of the Lord bringing Peace for those who are enduring this chaotic worldthis weary world rejoices…the promised King is here. Yes, He was a babe in a manger which is what we are celebrating in this hushed season of Advent—don’t let go of that holy hush. Let us only remember that He is our King and is coming again.

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Advent: Seeking Christ Day 18

Day 18 Luke Chapter 18

“‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way were sternly telling him to be quiet; but he kept crying out all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (vv. 38-39 NASB).

These two chapters of Luke speak volumes to the pain and suffering in the world. Two accounts of hurting and sick people crying out for the mercy of God. If He does not see their pain and intervene, they have no hope.

Bartimaeus has lived in a blind existence. His world was dark and lonely. Jesus said that while He is in the world that He is the Light of the World {Jn. 4:5}. Isaiah prophesied of the coming Child that He came to give Zion a happy future;

Say to those with anxious heart, ‘Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.’ Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy’” (Is. 35:4-5 NASB).

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God…

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect lamb?
That sleeping child you're holding is the Great I Am?

(Mary Did You Know? Mark Lowery, 1984)

Pentatonix: Mary Did You Know?

How many times have we been faced with trials and circumstances that have brought us to our knees and caused us to cry out with anguished desperation, “Jesus, have mercy on me!?” The darkness, the sickness, this lost, dark, evil world gives many an opportunity. I have been brought to cry out on many occasions.  

God doesn’t miss a single sigh that escapes our lips. But historically, God’s people most often cried out in spoken words that sprang from the depths of their being! God heard their petitions…and shook their worlds{The Power of Crying Out: When Prayer Becomes Mighty, Bill Gothard}.

Remember this Advent that this is why He came—to give us a happy future. He came to set the captives free—giving sight to the blind and opening deaf hears to hear the good news of His coming kingdom and to see Him when He arrives. Keep your eyes open, He will be arriving soon.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Advent Seeking Christ: Day 17

Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan” {vv. 15-16 NASB}. 

Leprosy was a horrible disease. There was no treatment and no cure. It was a brutal disease that met with a horrific death. Their cry, “Have mercy on us,” is heart-wrenching. Such a cry of anguish that echoes through human history.

The ten lepers cry out to Jesus for mercy because He is their only hope to be delivered from this agonizing existence. One with the curse of leprosy was marked as someone God Himself had cursed. There was no way out from this deadly mark. They desire to be healed because they know that only their healing can lift the ostracism and allow them to enter society and give them a glimmer of hope that life can return to like it was before.

The narrative of the ten lepers is a lesson for us. Before we entered into this Advent season, we were focused on being thankful and not complaining and murmuring about what we don’t have or what we want. God responds to gratefulness, not grumbling at our circumstances. These ten lepers all had faith in Jesus. They knew He was the only one who could deliver them and make things right again. Every hope they had clung to who Jesus was and the power of God within Him. Jesus delivered. They cried out for mercy and He granted it to them. He told them to go show themselves to the priest {according to the Law of Moses}so they could be declared clean. They all went away healed!

This is account is not one of a lack of faith, but of a lack of gratefulness. Only one returned to worship the Lord for what He had done for them. They were in a crisis moment in their lives—in utter despair—yet how quickly they forgot. As soon as the crisis was over, they went their separate ways. What they received was not taken from them. But the one who returned left with more blessing than the others who did not return to worship. Jesus told him that not only was he healed from this crippling disease, but because he came back and worshiped the Lord for the miracle, he would also be made whole. All that he had lost would be restored to him.

That is Mercy’s pen writing a new chapter for each of them. But special prose was written for the one who worshiped in gratefulness to the divine Physician. He took the time to come back and let Jesus know what it meant to him to be healed.

Reflect in this season of waiting for the Christ Child upon everything the Lord has done for you. Let us not forget what He has so merciful delivered us from; how He has healed us and made us whole. Let the Lord know how His mercy has marked your life with deliverance and wholeness.


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