Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Only One Did That For Me

The official holiday of Christmas is over. The planning, gathering and traveling is done. The gifts are unwrapped and the stockings are empty. Perhaps we feel a little let down as the spirit and cheer of Christmas suddenly dissipates and the decorations and twinkling lights come down.
As my fellow Grounded 3.17 blog authors have shared, I hope you were able this Chrismas to focus on Christ. In Christ we find our true joy and so the real reason we celebrate Christmas is never over. Even though we take this time every year to celebrate Christ's birth, His purpose for coming to earth - to bring us His Salvation - is a gift that lasts year round.
1 Timothy 1:12-16 "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. " 
Mark 10:43-45 "Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 
The song How Many Kings by Downhere has been catching my attention on the radio recently, (From the album Bethlehem Skyline Vol. 2) I think that the lyrics in this song capture so well the truth of Christmas and our God and Savior's dear, sweet, and intense love for each of us.
Follow the star to a place unexpected
Would you believe, after all we've projected,
A child in a manger
Lowly and small, the weakest of all
Unlikeliest hero, wrapped in his mother's shawl
Just a child - Is this who we've waited for? 'cause...

How many kings step down from their thrones?
How many lords have abandoned their homes?
How many greats have become the least for me?
And how many gods have poured out their hearts
To romance a world that is torn all apart
How many fathers gave up their sons for me?

Bringing our gifts for the newborn Savior
All that we have, whether costly or meek
Because we believe.
Gold for his honor, and frankincense for his pleasure
And myrrh for the cross he will suffer
Do you believe?
Is this who we've waited for?
 Only one did that for me
All, all for me...
All for you...

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:8-14 
“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.” Isaiah 9:6 
God's blessings on each of you. May He continually draw you nearer to Him. May you each day seek Him whole-heartedly and grow in your faith in Him. May you be reminded today of His love for you and His gift of Salvation to you.

"Only one did that for me
All, all for me...
All for you..."


Monday, December 26, 2011

Simple - yet, Glorious

"Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census should be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was govenor of Syria. And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city.

Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." - Luke 2:1-7
No doubt you've heard or read this passage in the last couple of days. And, if you've grown up in the church, you've probably heard it countless times. Too much, I fear, that we have lost the glorious simplicity and magnificence of its truth.

The birth of the Savior of the world - the great I AM coming in human flesh - is descibed so simply. Do you notice that Luke takes more time "setting the stage" than he does giving us details about the birth of the Messiah? Paraphrased, one might say: "Mary gave birth to Jesus, wrapped Him up in a blanket, and placed Him in a feeding trough."

It doesn't really make sense to us, does it? Jesus - God Himself becoming man - should not have been born outside, let alone in a cave. He shouldn't have been placed in a donkey's cereal bowl. Instead, He should have been born with pomp and circumstance with doctors attending and a party upon the announcement of His birth. After all, this is the long-awaited Messiah - the One promised since the fall of mankind. But, as once explained to me by Pastor Phil Haugen:
"God's way of doing this is different than man's way of doing things. If something is not big and splashy, dynamic and awesome, we have the idea that it's not very good. God's way is very different - He has a very strong tendancy to take that whcih is despised and insignificant in the eyes of man to accomplish His purpose."
Merry Christmas, all. And may the wonderful simplicity and glorious significance of Christ's birth never grow old in our hearts.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

We Celebrate and Await

Today is Christmas Day.

This is a day where we give gifts, laugh a lot, and over eat. It is a day we frantically look forward to once Thanksgiving passes. This 24-hour period becomes ingrained in our memories.

But for what?

What is the reason we celebrate Christmas?
Why do we do what we do on December 25th?
Who smiles the most when we gather together?
When was the last time your life changed on Christmas day?
Where will your focus be as you close your eyes tonight?
How has the Holy Spirit shaped you into someone new this Christmas?

We celebrate Christmas because of the incarnate birth of the infinite, personal, Creator God.
We await the triumphant return of Him who rose from the dead and sits on the right hand of Our Father.

Today there was many a feast, there were gifts given, there were laughs and photographs.

We humans were together as family, and whether we acknowledged it or not, Christ was with us. The presence of God filled our homes today. He was knocking at the back door, looking through the side window, sitting by the fire. When the shutter snapped and the flash bulb popped, He was smiling too. Standing at the sink, scrubbing pots and pans, our Savior selflessly served us. Holding the hand of the elderly, His powerful presence made those in permanent care feel right at home.

Thousands of years ago "the hurricane became human, fire became flesh" and God became man.

Today we remembered this mind-blowing reality.

Lives have been changed. Love has been lived.
We celebrate and await God's plan perfected.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Simple Dollar Story

Oh Christmas, the time of the year when I feel most loved. Family members, friends, all sharing in long-time traditions that all serve to show that we care about one another. We gather in homes, eat delicious foods, and open well thought of gifts especially of our own. But isn't Christmas much more?

Throughout the rest of the year though, it can be hard to see the value in our lives. This season puts a good distraction in our thoughts, as we're busy with the twinkle and sparkle of Christmas. However, when January comes, those worthless thoughts often return. Steve Jensen once used a metaphor to describe the value of life. Think of a dollar--paper and ink. In of itself, it means nothing. It's just another slip of paper that has green ink on it. However, the piece of paper represents a treasure hidden far off. The dollar in and of itself means nothing, but what it represents means everything. Our lives are like that-- in and of myself, I'm just a girl. But what I represent is Christ. My worth does not come in myself, in the paper and ink, so to say, of my own. My worth comes in what I represent, what is represented through me.

That's where the real meaning of Christmas comes in. If what I represent as a Christian is Christ, then my life represents His. As so wonderfully stated by Sarah in the post below, Christmas isn't even just about the birth of Jesus. While that was wonderful miracle and declaration of God's love, it points to something much bigger. The whole point of Jesus' lowly birth was to bring Him to the Cross. That is where the meaning of Christmas lies. That is where the love and worth that Christmas brings lies. Christ came as a humble babe, ready for what He knew would come 33 years later. That is love.

"In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:9-10 ESV)

As we go about the busyness that comes along with the Christmas season, I pray that each of us would look to Christ and the Cross at this time. I pray that we would place our worth and desire to be loved in the hands of God, because that's where He holds us. I pray that in this time, and in the long months of cold (at least for us mid-westerns!) that follow, we would find our worth in the One who chose to die for us. That is the Good News, the Gospel, that we so desperately need. And that is the real reason for the season.

Merry Christmas, and may you walk in His love this day!

Monday, December 19, 2011

No Snow in Bethlehem

Yesterday was a rather ridiculous day here in western North Dakota. The temperature reached an unnatural 51 degrees. The beautiful layer of snow we received on Thursday night vanished except for spotty portions on lawns and streets. On my afternoon walk, I decided this weather was more appropriate for an Easter celebration, not a Christmas one. And I wasn't quite sure I liked that.

As I walked, however, I was reminded that as much as we (or at least, I) love to associate snow with Christmas, Christmas is not about snow. Christmas isn't even about a beautiful tree or dazzling lights. Christmas isn't about that mysterious gift, about seeing family, or Sunday School programs. Christmas is about the cross.

"'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of 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 1:21 
"'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.'" - John 3:16 
"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." - 2 Corinthians 5:21
I pray that whether your Christmas is white or brown, slushy or fluffy, that your focus would always be on Jesus Christ. May we remember that Christmas is wonderful because it means that our God loved us enough to become a man, live among us, die and come back to life in order that our relationship with Him might be restored. What a glorious reason to celebrate!

And if you find yourself or others pouting about the lack of snow, just remind them that there wasn't snow in Bethlehem either.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thoughts anyone?

True. Honorable. Right. Pure. Lovely. Admirable. Excellent. Worthy of Praise.

Do these words describe your thoughts during every part of the day. No matter what time of year it is, God wants us to keep our thoughts pure. I know many times I catch myself thinking unlovely thoughts, that probably are not true. And eventually they come out in my actions. Lord, help me to be aware when my thoughts are not true, honorable, right, pure lovely, admirable, excellent, worthy of praise. Mold me into your image.

"Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise." - Phil 4:8

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Freedom to Be

As the Christmas season has come around once again this year, I am reminded so very well of why Jesus came. The Bible talks about how Jesus was one time looking at the people around Him and He had compassion on them because He saw that they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. That's kind of how I am feeling this Christmas season, harassed and helpless.

Sometimes as a Christian I think that I need to have it all together, have it all under control, and be doing everything right all of the time. The reality though is that I don't get it right all of the time, and this is hard for me to accept, but the reality is that Jesus knows that I won't, and He doesn't expect me to. That's why He came to die. Even as a Christian I sometimes think that I need to get everything right though, that I don't have the freedom to make a mistake; that's no way to live. By living that way though I once again put myself under the judgment of the law instead of under the grace and mercy of Jesus. Jesus came to set me free from the mentality, the belief, the need, to do everything right. As a Christian I have the freedom to mess up and be broken because Jesus is the one that makes me different. As I live my life with Him He is the one who changes my heart. As I abide in Jesus, by walking by the Spirit in obedience to Him, the Father comes and cuts away all of the things that He no longer wants to be there. There is a lot of freedom in that. He takes care of the things that are bad and makes me into the person that He has given me the desire to be, which is like Him.

This means though that I have to give control of my life to Him, and sometimes that is hard to do, especially when He is asking me to do something that I have never really done before. It makes me want to run away from what He is trying to do even though I know that what He wants to do will be good for me. We're like that though. We're control freaks. Through it I am learning to trust Him and others better as He asks me to follow Him through this season of life into something great and wonderful that He has planned for me, even though right now it sees kind of dark and dreary. That's the beauty of the Christmas story though. Jesus came into the darkness and shone Himself to be bright and to make a way for us to follow Him into a a good and abundant life with God.

Whatever your feeling this Christmas season, I hope that you will find Jesus to be everything that you need. I am being reminded that Jesus knows I am harassed and helpless; so He offers to be my shepherd and to lead me out of this place into a good place that He has planned for me. Even though it is kind of difficult to follow Him down the trail He is leading me on I know that I can trust in Him and He will bring me to a a new place of wholeness and healing in my life if I will follow Him the whole way through.

He is the King of Kings, who came as a baby and died on the cross, may we praise Him as such this Christmas season.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Big Things in Small Packages

I just returned from a blessed weekend of Christmas festivities in the Cities with family and friends. As I drove westward towards Minneapolis, C.S. Lewis' classic The Last Battle kept me company. One phrase towards the end of the novel caught my attention - so much in fact, that I kept "rewinding" (can you do that with a CD?) to hear Lucy Pevensie's statement. But before I jump right into that, let me give you a little bit of context:
King Tiran has just been thrown into a stable by enemy Calormens. "He looked around again and could hardly believe his eyes. There was the blue sky overhead, and grassy country spreading as far as he could see in every direction, and his new friends all around him laughing.
'It seems then,' said Tiran, smiling himself, 'that the stable seen from within and the stable from without are two different places.'
'Yes,' said the Lord Digory. 'Its inside is bigger than its outside.'
'Yes,' said the Queen Lucy. 'In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.'" (The Last Battle by CS Lews, pg. 176-177) 
Did you catch that? Did you understand the magnificence of the statement made by Lucy? "In our world too, a stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world."

Jesus Christ, the One through whom the whole world was made. Jesus Christ, the very image of the invisible God. Jesus Christ, the One who was with the Creator God from all eternity past. This One came into a humble, earthly stable. He was laid in a manger - a feeding trough for cattle. What humility. What love!

I pray that this magnificent truth would never grow dull to us. May we continually be shocked and awed by the humble birth of our Savior. May we always remember that He is, in fact, the LORD God Almighty. And may we never forget that it was all because of His great love for us.

"And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. . . He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together." - Luke 2:7; Colossians 1:15-17

Once in royal David's city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby
In a manger for His bed;
Mary was that mother mild.
Jesus Christ her little child.
He who came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall;
With the poor and oppressed and lowly,
Lived on earth our Savior holy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Follow God's will or follow the crowd?

I love the book of Daniel. It's my favorite book of the Old Testament. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah followed God's law and will for their lives even when facing the direst of outcomes. They are pillars of faith and fortitude. Daniel especially was steadfast through-out his life in his pursuit of God.

When we first meet Daniel in chapter one he has been taken into captivity and chosen along with other male youth to be trained for the King's service. Daniel along with Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (also known as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) meet their first challenge as they enter training for the King's service.

1) The first challenge: To eat from the King's table or not.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were to be fed meat and wine from the King's table. They were captives in a foreign country. However, to eat from the King's table would have broken God's laws and would have defiled them. It's not really like they had a choice and yet rather than defile himself Daniel was so bold as to ask for different food. 

Daniel 1:8-10 "But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

Out of all the young men gathered and trained to serve the king only these four, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, chose to go against the grain. 

The question before them: Follow God's will or follow the crowd?

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah hold true to God's commands:
Daniel 1:11-14 "Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days."

The outcome: God is Victorious:
Daniel 1:15-20"At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom."

2) The second challenge: Bow or Burn.

Faced with the decree to bow before a false idol Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego remain standing, even though the king commands they bow. When brought before the king they still refuse to bow, even at the threat of being burned to death.

Daniel 3:13-15 "Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”

The question before them: Follow God's will or follow the crowd?

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) hold true to God's commands:

Daniel 3:16-23 "Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace."

The outcome: God is Victorious:

Daniel 3:25-27 "Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them."

3) The third challenge: To pray or not to pray.

Through schemes to trap Daniel and discredit him before the king all the other royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors come up with a law that no one can pray to anyone but the king for 30 days, knowing Daniel will not keep this law.

Daniel 6:6-9 "So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing.

The question before him: Follow God's will or follow the crowd?

Daniel holds true to God's commands:
Daniel 6:10-11 "Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help."

The outcome: God is Victorious:
Daniel 6: 16-23 "So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God."

When we live for Christ we will also stand out for Christ.

Ephesians 6: 10 - 18 says "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 

Theses verses in Ephesian always bring Daniel to mind because he exemplified this kind of faith all through out his life. Daniel had the full armor of God on.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah never doubt that God will be victorious. We too can trust in the strength of a God whose outcomes are always victorious.

The question before us: Follow God's will or follow the crowd?


Monday, December 5, 2011

Hark! What Great News!

Now that Thanksgiving is over, we are bombard by Christmas music at every turn. I have nothing against Christmas music - in fact, I love it! My only fear that all too often, we hear these songs so much that they no longer hold any meaning. One of my favorite Christmas hymns is "Hark the Herald Angels Sing". It may have begun simply because it's the final song on the movie, It's a Wonderful Life - but as I've grown, I've come to love this song because of the truth it proclaims. I want to encourage you to read the words to this classic carol- not sing them in your head. Sometimes we sing so quick the words don't have time to move from our mouth to our heart.

Hark the herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled"
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
"Christ is born in Bethlehem"
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

Hail the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris'n with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"

When Jesus was born, He brought peace. Not an end to war, strife, famine, or trouble. Peace with God. No longer are God and man separated by the great chasm of sin because Jesus came to close that gap. He came to offer the most precious peace we could ever desire.
"And He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, because at that time He will be great to the ends of the earth. This One will be our peace . . . " - Micah 5:4-5a 
"Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." - Romans 5:1
Israel had been awaiting their Savior for hundreds of years. They experienced 400 years of complete silence from the LORD in which no prophet spoke. But when the time was right - in God's perfect time - the Savior came. The Immanuel - God with us. The presence of God among men. 
"But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." - Galatians 4:4-5 
"'Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which translated means, 'God with us'." - Matthew 1:23
When the Savior came, He came not as man had expected. He laid aside His privileges and glory as God Almighty and became a man. Born just like any other human child. His birth means that we no longer have to be separated from the Father; His birth has brought us new life. 
"Although He [Christ Jesus] existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men." - Philippians 2:6 
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come." - 2 Corinthians 5:17
Praise be to God for His abundant, steadfast, never-changing love! His love that was so great that He became a baby for us - to bring us peace with Himself. How can we not joyfully proclaim this truth every day - whether it's December or August?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Are you a Follower?

Who will you be?

I have been challenged with that questions the past few weeks, and especially with the down time as I was sick this past week. Sometimes God has to make us slow down and be in His quiet love...He knew what I needed...

Have you ever noticed how Jesus called His disciples? He didn't ask them if they believed in Him. He didn't ask if they would be OK with the rough road that was ahead. He said "Follow Me, and I will show you how to fish for people."

So much happened after the disciples made that choice to follow Christ - and it all wouldn't have happened if they decided to do their own thing instead. Following Christ was just the beginning.

Have I missed out from so much in my walk with Christ, because I have said that "I believe in Him" but it stops there because I choose to do my own thing over following Him...Many times I don't truly follow Him - I cling to my will, or maybe I am too worried about appearance or doing "what is right."

Many times tho, we can find ourselves believing in Jesus, "following" Him until the hard path comes. But then what? We decided that we don't want to be fully committed - we want to have a part and do what we want. We can't seem to let go.

Watching "not a fan" on JCTV this week stirred a question in my heart, and has really challenged me -
am I just a "fan" of Jesus, or amd I a complete, devoted Follower.
If we choose to follow Him, where He leads us will not be easy, it won't be void of sorrow or despair, but it will develop our character to be more like His, it will draw us closer to Him if we allow Him, and He will show us what to do next. We need to decide in our heart if it is worth it, and not turn back. And it will only be the beginning - He will teach us show much, and show us how to live as we let go and follow Him.