Christmas Wrappings

 

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Christmas Wrappings

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The Drawing of the Father

From: Utmost.org

When God begins to draw me to Himself, the problem of my will comes in immediately. Will I react positively to the truth that God has revealed? Will I come to Him? To discuss or deliberate over spiritual matters when God calls is inappropriate and disrespectful to Him. When God speaks, never discuss it with anyone as if to decide what your response may be (see Galatians 1:15-16). Belief is not the result of an intellectual act, but the result of an act of my will whereby I deliberately commit myself. But will I commit, placing myself completely and absolutely on God, and be willing to act solely on what He says? If I will, I will find that I am grounded on reality as certain as God’s throne.

In preaching the gospel, always focus on the matter of the will. Belief must come from the will to believe. There must be a surrender of the will, not a surrender to a persuasive or powerful argument. I must deliberately step out, placing my faith in God and in His truth. And I must place no confidence in my own works, but only in God. Trusting in my own mental understanding becomes a hindrance to complete trust in God. I must be willing to ignore and leave my feelings behind. I mustwill to believe. But this can never be accomplished without my forceful, determined effort to separate myself from my old ways of looking at things. I must surrender myself completely to God.

Everyone has been created with the ability to reach out beyond his own grasp. But it is God who draws me, and my relationship to Him in the first place is an inner, personal one, not an intellectual one. I come into the relationship through the miracle of God and through my own will to believe. Then I begin to get an intelligent appreciation and understanding of the wonder of the transformation in my life.

Our Daily Bread, source

At our house some Christmas events are the same each year. Among them is my wife Martie’s appeal to the kids and grandkids as they attack their gifts: “Save the paper, we can use it next year!” Martie loves to give nice gifts, but she also appreciates the wrapping. Presentation is part of the beauty of the gift.

It makes me think of the wrapping Christ chose when He came as a redemptive gift to rescue us from our sinful selves. Jesus could have wrapped Himself in a mind-boggling show of power, lighting up the sky with His presence in a celestial show of glory. Instead, in a beautiful reversal of Genesis 1:26, He chose to wrap Himself “in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7).

So why is this wrapping so important? Because, being like us, He is no stranger to our struggles. He experienced deep loneliness and the betrayal of a dear friend. He was publicly shamed, misunderstood, and falsely accused. In short, He feels our pain. As a result, the writer of Hebrews tells us that we can “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

When you think of the gift of Jesus this Christmas, remember to keep the “wrapping” in mind!

Lord, thank You for wrapping Yourself in our
likeness! Remind us that You understand our
struggles and that we can confidently take advantage
of the mercy and grace You offer to make us victorious.
Don’t disregard the wrapping of the best Christmas gift of all.

Insight

Philippians 2:5-11 is perhaps the greatest declaration of Christ’s deity and humanity in the Bible. In His incarnation, Jesus did not replace His deity with humanity, but added humanity to His deity; He did not cease to be God, but surrendered the independent use of His divine powers and the right to manifest His own glory as God. Before He went to the cross, Jesus prayed that the Father would restore to Him the glory He had with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). Jesus’ prayer was answered when the Father “highly exalted Him and [gave] Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).

Today’s Devotions

From; Through the Bible

Morning

December 22

Ezekiel 3:17-19 (NIV) 17“Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; so hear the word I speak and give them warning from me. 18When I say to a wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his evil ways in order to save his life, that wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood.19But if you do warn the wicked man and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his evil ways, he will die for his sin; but you will have saved yourself.

Ezekiel was called to be a prophet to the people of Judah in exile in Babylon. His calling is similar to that of the prophet Isaiah. He saw a vision of the glory of God several times. He described the same beings that fly about the throne and gave a little more detail than Isaiah did. The descriptions are fascinating. You can read them in the first three chapters of Ezekiel. Try reading it in several translations. We will all see the same thing one day, for we will all stand before the Judgment Seat of God.

Over and over God told Ezekiel that the people would not listen, but that was not to be his concern. He had to tell them anyway. God even told him that if he was sent as a missionary, those people would listen, but not this stubborn people of Judah. Some pastors wonder if they have the same calling. Our ministry is not about numbers. It is about obedience to God! There will be those that do hear, even if the vast majority does not. All are given a chance to hear and are then accountable to God with what they did with what they heard.

In our passage today, God gave Ezekiel an extra incentive to speak out what God had spoken to him. If we do not speak when God tells us to, we are the ones accountable to God for the blood of the wicked. It is obedience to God for that man to hear, as it is obedience to God for us to speak the words He commands us to speak.

Prayer: Lord, help us to be faithful to speak what You command us to speak.

Evening

December 22

Jude 1:3-4 (NIV) 3Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. 4For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Jude is a one-chapter letter of warning. Jesus had given the church the mission of spreading the Gospel to the world. As it began to do so, Satan counterattacked from several different angles. He brought about physical persecution. This only seemed to strengthen the conviction of believers. The deaths of martyrs inspired others to give their lives to Christ. The other attack came from within. Prominent men gained positions of authority in the church, but they did not continue teaching the apostles’ doctrine. By flattery and deception they influenced some in the church to hear their deceptive schemes.

This attack continues to this day. It is not always easy to spot because of the subtlety of these men. There is nearly always some form of immorality or financial gain involved. Paul, Peter and John also warned the churches about these deceivers.

It is not that they deny who Jesus is, for that would be too obvious. They deny His lordship over their lives. The fruit of their life gives them away. They draw people to themselves and not the Lord Jesus Christ. If you were to hear them speak, you would come away thinking of the man and not Jesus Christ. Jude is telling us that we must contend for the faith. Stand up to these deceivers. Expose them. Point out where they err from Scripture. Do not fear them. Point people back to Jesus.

Consider: Credentials and positions are not a guarantee of the lordship of Christ in that leader. By their fruits you will know them.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2014

From: Closed Doors, Open Windows

The Greatest Gift of All

This post is not what it appears on the surface…Please keep reading…

By now most of my friends and family know that we did not send out our annual Christmas letter…and only a very few cards to some who don’t have email or do Facebook.  And many of you also know that I had a hard time getting myself into the proper spirit for Christmas shopping, etc.
But if you have been following along the past week or so, you also will know that God came through, and He met me in my deepest place of sorrow, and gave me the strength and courage to choose JOY!

I am happy to report that after two long, grueling days of shopping and gift wrapping…I am feeling much better prepared to face this week and truly enjoy Christmas!  Thank you all for your prayers and words of support and comfort. You have blessed me with your love and wisdom, and I thank God for you.

Today has been a wonderful day of Sabbath Rest.  We had our

morning worship service here in our home, and the lesson today was taken from Matthew 13:45-46, which says:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls,
who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”
Not exactly an Advent or Christmas message for this fourth Sunday of Advent, the Sunday before Christmas.  At least not at first glance.  But as the message unfolded, we were asked to imagine ourselves as a person who had been captured and held prisoner, chained to others and forced to walk many days in the hot desert, back in the days of the Roman Government, which was in power at the time of Jesus’ birth. Instead of food we were given very little water and a detestable watered down broth of some kind, just barely enough to keep us alive. As our horrendous journey continued, we were not permitted to speak or cry, and if one did, he would be severely punished by many lashes of the whip.
After many days we finally arrived in a city, where the slave auction was held. One by one we watched our traveling companions be auctioned off to the highest bidder, to be purchased as a slave to cruel taskmasters who would make the previous journey seem like a vacation.
Suddenly it was my turn on the auction block. I was forced to stand before the bidders, my clothes were tattered and torn and filthy. I had not eaten or bathed in many days. My hair was matted and dirty, my body was bleeding from the many lashes I had endured. Weak, weary, and fearful, I tried to stay conscious as the bargaining and bidding began for my life. As I struggled to stand, listening to the jeers and jests of those around me shouting all manner of ugly and disgusting insults regarding my appearance, there was One bidder who stepped forward, and with a commanding voice He spoke His bid loud and clear above all the others.  The amount that He shouted out caused all the other slave traders to stop and turn around and look.  They began to question among themselves, “Who can this be? Why would He wantthis worthless prisoner…the one who looks completely beaten and defeated…the one who probably couldn’t do a day’s work no matter how hard she’s whipped?  And what is that He said? He’s giving all that He has to purchase this piece of human refuse! Who IS He?
And who can this person be who has such value in His eyes?”
 
Finally I heard the auctioneer shout, “Sold to the Highest Bidder! Take her away!”  I was expecting to be yanked up and rudely jerked off of the block and dragged along by my chains.  But instead, my Purchaser was kneeling before me, tenderly washing my wounds, removing the chains from my ankles and wrists, holding a cup of water to my lips, lifting me up and carrying me away in His arms. As He lifted me high above my previous tormentors, He gently whispered my name and called me His beloved child. I thought I must have died and gone to heaven, but He said, “You are my precious child…my chosen one…my “Pearl of Great Price!” 

I did not quite understand then what He meant by that…but when the day came that I saw this One hanging on a cross, crucified and dying, I understood.  You see, He did give all that He had for me…He gave His life, so that I might live.  And before He died He told me all that I would need to know so that I could one day join Him.  He said,

“Let not your heart be troubled; 
you believe in God,
believe also in Me.
In My Father’s house are many mansions,
if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come again and receive you to Myself,
that where I am, there you may be also.
And where I go you know,
and the way you know…
I am the way, the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
 
John 14: 1-6 
 
 

You may be asking yourself, “What does this story have to do with Christmas?”  Well, my friend, it has EVERYTHING to do with Christmas!

Why did Jesus come to earth in the first place?

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, 
but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:45

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