Monthly Archives: December 2020

The Coming Days

( New Year’s Eve)

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The Coming Days

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Just before the start of a new year, we make one resolution after another. We set ourselves to lose weight, to exercise more, to eat healthier, and maybe even to spend less time working. All of these intentions are commendable, but what about our commitment to the Lord? How can we seek to serve him better in the weeks and months ahead?

The first step we must take is to become more determined, more resolute, to follow his will. We need to think less of what we want and focus wholly on what God has planned for us in the year ahead. The apostle James warned about making decisions based on personal desires and wishes:

“You who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” James 4:13-17 (NIV)

When we lay claim to what we are going to do, for example, we sin because we place greater emphasis on the finite rather than in the infinite. In other words, we replace God’s will with our own. We boast about our plans to make money or to prosper in some way when we should be placing our confidence and trust in God. What he wants us to do will last for eternity. What I want now will end as soon, and as quickly, as my life on earth ceases to be. My days, says James, are like a mist that lasts only a short while.

As we begin a new year, we have been given another opportunity to rededicate our lives to building God’s kingdom as opposed to our little one here in the world. We can still make resolutions for the next 12 months, but we must remember to begin them with the phrase, “If it is the Lord’s will.” Any success we experience is due to him; it is only right and proper that we begin with him as well.

We do not know for certain what a new year will bring, but we always hope that it will be better than the last one. We say goodbye to regrets, heartaches, arguments, missed opportunities, anxieties, perhaps even illness, and anticipate the coming days with eagerness. Maybe the year ahead will be a time of personal and professional growth, a time for financial increase, a time for a new job or a time for a much-needed vacation.

While we wonder about the future, God knows what lies ahead. He planned each moment of this new year long before our birth so many years ago. He alone sees where we are going and what we will encounter. Everything we are about to face will be according to his design. What we have to remember, in good times as well as bad, is that everything will work together for good for those who love him.

It would be nice to think that nothing evil or difficult will occur this year: we will not get sick; we will not experience tragedy; we will not be hurt by others; we will not have any economic problems; we will not confront disappointment; we will not have to cope with any adversity at all. But the reality of life is that many of these challenges will occur, and we will not have an easy time getting through any of them.

Day after day, for three years, Jesus walked from town to town doing the Father’s will. Each moment, from morning until evening, his life demonstrated the power and authority of God. He lived in the world without being a part of it.

Even though Jesus was attacked, maligned, mocked, jeered and rejected, he did not change. He knew who he was in God and he remained true to his purpose on earth. Nothing was able to come against him because he allowed himself to be guided and protected by God’s plan.

Jesus experienced the same temptations that confront us today. He was not immune to pain and suffering even though he was the Son of God. In fact, we seldom think about the magnitude of his struggle. Imagine how he must have felt after living in paradise and then coming down to earth. He came from glory and grandeur to face sin and corruption. Jesus knew perfection, yet he agreed to live for a short time among imperfection.

Our Father asks us to do the same. He plans for us to fulfill his good and perfect will. We, too, are asked to live for him (just as Jesus did) and to show the way to heaven. If we choose his way, God promises to care for us no matter what we encounter. He brought Jesus all the way through the cross and into eternity. Not only will God do the same for us, but we also have Jesus and the Holy Spirit to intercede on our behalf. The Trinity of the universe is all around us. Nothing can defeat us as long as we live according to God’s design.

This year we must be willing to trust God more than ever. Rather than placing our hope and expectations in circumstances around us, we need to put our hope in him. He is high above any of the troubles that will surely come our way. And he is ready to guide, protect, and sustain us. We have his promise, his covenant. We are his children and he is our father. He will take care of us every minute of this new year, even during times of tremendous pain and suffering. Our hope for the year ahead should be in him, and in his good and perfect plan for our prosperity. If we can find it in ourselves to place our full faith in his will, we will see – when we reach Dec. 31 – that this was indeed a good new year.

 

Grace for Families in the New Year

By: Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 NIV

Part of my job includes receiving letters from readers about family issues. Something that struck me this past year was how many Christian families suffer – truly suffer. Some struggle from financial woes, others from the behavior of rebellious teenagers, and some from painful relational problems within their marriages.

While I can’t offer quick fixes in this small devotional entry, I want to reflect on some scriptures here that will hopefully offer you some encouragement if you are among those facing a difficult family situation.

The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” – Genesis 3:7-12.

First, if you’re facing a broken situation or relationship, remember you’re not alone. With the fall of man came the fall of family life.  We can see this in Adam’s dysfunctional words as he blames God and Eve for his own sinful decision to eat the forbidden fruit.

You may compare your family to others and feel like a failure – like everyone else has this family thing figured out. But truthfully, we are all sinners who marry sinners and give birth to sinners. While this truth doesn’t excuse a person’s hurtful, sinful behavior (God himself is grieved by such behavior), it helps ground me a little more in reality when I find myself playing the comparison game or building up unrealistic expectations of others.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:8

Second, we’re not doomed to this sinful state forever. Becoming Christian doesn’t necessarily make family life easier, but it does make healing possible.  It is through the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ that not only can we be transformed as individuals, but our relationships can also be transformed, successfully reflecting the Trinitarian love of God to each other and the world. This is God’s desire for every Christian family, not just a privileged few. For as many disheartening letters as I receive from distraught spouses and parents, I receive encouraging letters and articles from those who have found true transformation and healing in Christ. If you are a believer, know that you have profound spiritual support to overcome your family trials.

“Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” – Ephesians 5:8-11

Third, transformation requires humility, help and work on our part. This may seem like I am stating the obvious, but sometimes it’s helpful to me when a loved one reminds me of basic truths. Just as we didn’t instantly become perfect upon our acceptance of Christ, neither will our families. Each day we have choices – choices to choose Christ and accept his grace or to turn our backs. Occasionally we have breakthroughs – giant leaps forward in sanctity – but most of the Christian life consists of small, everyday decisions to seek God and live in his truth.

Sometimes we need help from fellow believers to live successfully as children of the light – even Christ, who needed no help, graciously received help from Simon in carrying his cross (Matthew 27:32). I encourage you to plug into a local support group or check out some of the resources at the end of this devotional if your family is hitting particularly dark days.

Fourth, God grieves with us. He doesn’t rejoice in our pain or sit back and watch indifferently. Whatever trial you’re facing, he is there, wanting the very best outcome even if sometimes we don’t feel his presence or understand why things are going the direction they are going. When I find myself questioning God’s loving presence, I reflect on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where he accepted the painful cup of sacrifice out of profound love for you and me.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

 

True unity promoted

By: Charles Spurgeon

‘Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ Ephesians 4:3

Suggested Further Reading: Romans 15:1–13

Let us cultivate everything that would tend to unity. Are any sick? Let us care for them. Are any suffering? Let us weep with them. Do we know one who has less love than others? Let us have more, so as to make up the deficiency. Do we perceive faults in a brother? Let us admonish him in love and affection. I pray you be peacemakers, everyone. Let us remember that we cannot keep the unity of the Spirit unless we all believe the truth of God. Let us search our Bibles, therefore, and conform our views and sentiments to the teaching of God’s Word. Unity in error is unity in ruin. We want unity in the truth of God through the Spirit of God. This let us seek after; let us live near to Christ, for this is the best way of promoting unity. Divisions in churches never begin with those full of love to the Saviour. Cold hearts, unholy lives, inconsistent actions, neglected closets; these are the seeds which sow schisms in the body; but he who lives near to Jesus, wears his likeness and copies his example, will be, wherever he goes, a sacred bond, a holy link to bind the church more closely than ever together. May God give us this, and henceforth let us endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. I commend the text to all believers, to be practised through the coming year. And to those who are not believers, what can I say but that I trust their unity and their peace may be broken for ever, and that they may be led to Christ Jesus to find peace in his death? May faith be given, and then love and grace will follow, so that they may be one with us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

For meditation: God alone can create unity between the disunited (Ephesians 2:12–16); we are not expected to manufacture false unity with those who teach another gospel. But neither are we expected to undermine the unity God has already created. Rather we are to work towards its perfection (Ephesians 4:13). What is your track record in this matter? Do you need to make a New Year’s resolution?

Times Gone By

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Times Gone By

auld lang syne

 

Every New Year’s Eve, one of the most common English-speaking songs people sing is a song called “Auld Lang Syne.” Isn’t it funny how it’s possible to sing a song all your life and have no idea what it means?

It turns out that “auld lang syne” is a 17th-century Scottish song written by a man named Robert Byrns. His transcription of the words “auld lang syne” means “times gone by.” So when we sing this song, we are saying, “We’ll drink a cup of kindness yet for the times gone by.”

The other day I was thinking about this well-known song, and I began to reminisce. I got to thinking about just how awesome it must be to finally reach a place in life when you can honestly be thankful for everything. I mean everything. All the good, the bad, and the ugly. The whole shah bang! Everything that has ever had the fortune or misfortune of passing through the curtains of our lives!

I am more and more convinced, that until we truly believe God really does work out everything in conformity with the purpose of his own will, (Ephesians 1:11) we will never be ready for the next round of the growth process.

A very well-known scripture in the book of Romans says:

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT

If we count ourselves as being numbered among the “called out” ones, who also happen to be “head over heels” in love with God (which by faith, we all can be) we will soon find ourselves beginning to see things in a new and marvelous light.

It’s part of that promise given to us in Matthew:

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light.” Matthew 6:22 NLT

Then when we ultimately come to the realization that God is after one thing, and that one thing is “us” giving “Him” EVERYTHING, then (and only then) will we gladly, without hesitation, partake of that cup of kindness … yet for the times gone by!

As Dame Julian of Norwich said so well, “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.”

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 KJV

Grace for Families in the New Year

By: Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 NIV

Part of my job includes receiving letters from readers about family issues. Something that struck me this past year was how many Christian families suffer – truly suffer. Some struggle from financial woes, others from the behavior of rebellious teenagers, and some from painful relational problems within their marriages.

While I can’t offer quick fixes in this small devotional entry, I want to reflect on some scriptures here that will hopefully offer you some encouragement if you are among those facing a difficult family situation.

The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me–she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” – Genesis 3:7-12.

First, if you’re facing a broken situation or relationship, remember you’re not alone. With the fall of man came the fall of family life.  We can see this in Adam’s dysfunctional words as he blames God and Eve for his own sinful decision to eat the forbidden fruit.

You may compare your family to others and feel like a failure – like everyone else has this family thing figured out. But truthfully, we are all sinners who marry sinners and give birth to sinners. While this truth doesn’t excuse a person’s hurtful, sinful behavior (God himself is grieved by such behavior), it helps ground me a little more in reality when I find myself playing the comparison game or building up unrealistic expectations of others.

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” – Ephesians 5:8

Second, we’re not doomed to this sinful state forever. Becoming Christian doesn’t necessarily make family life easier, but it does make healing possible.  It is through the sanctifying grace of Jesus Christ that not only can we be transformed as individuals, but our relationships can also be transformed, successfully reflecting the Trinitarian love of God to each other and the world. This is God’s desire for every Christian family, not just a privileged few. For as many disheartening letters as I receive from distraught spouses and parents, I receive encouraging letters and articles from those who have found true transformation and healing in Christ. If you are a believer, know that you have profound spiritual support to overcome your family trials.

“Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” – Ephesians 5:8-11

Third, transformation requires humility, help and work on our part. This may seem like I am stating the obvious, but sometimes it’s helpful to me when a loved one reminds me of basic truths. Just as we didn’t instantly become perfect upon our acceptance of Christ, neither will our families. Each day we have choices – choices to choose Christ and accept his grace or to turn our backs. Occasionally we have breakthroughs – giant leaps forward in sanctity – but most of the Christian life consists of small, everyday decisions to seek God and live in his truth.

 

Sometimes we need help from fellow believers to live successfully as children of the light – even Christ, who needed no help, graciously received help from Simon in carrying his cross (Matthew 27:32). I encourage you to plug into a local support group or check out some of the resources at the end of this devotional if your family is hitting particularly dark days.

 

Fourth, God grieves with us. He doesn’t rejoice in our pain or sit back and watch indifferently. Whatever trial you’re facing, he is there, wanting the very best outcome even if sometimes we don’t feel his presence or understand why things are going the direction they are going. When I find myself questioning God’s loving presence, I reflect on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane where he accepted the painful cup of sacrifice out of profound love for you and me.

 

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” – John 10:10

Diamonds In The Rough

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Diamonds in the Rough

A huge uncut diamond was entrusted to a skilled artisan to create what is now known as the Hope diamond. The craftsman kept the rough gem for over a year, turning it over and over, to determine how to cut each facet to reflect its fire and exquisite beauty. He carefully chipped away bit by bit until he could hold and admire this gorgeous jewel shining in all its glory.

People now stand in awe and amazement when they catch a glimpse of this diamond which is estimated to be worth between two and 250 million dollars.

Diamonds and stalwart Christians are formed in a similar fashion — by heat and pressure. We undergo the heat of fiery trials and the pressures of the cares of this present world. The chipping away of our rough edges is necessary if we’re to become a jewel of great value.

God, the Master artisan, sees the beauty buried deep within our lives.  Often, through adversity, sorrow, and suffering, our undesirable traits are evident and we trust the Lord will sand off those rough edges. Our heavenly Father works carefully, as He envisions us as a precious jewel in His Kingdom.

“And they shall be mine, saith the LORD of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; …” Malachi 3:17 (KJV)

It is my prayer that someday we’ll end up in the Lord’s jewelry box.

We may not consider ourselves to be precious — but we’re not taking into consideration what the Creator of the Universe can do with insignificant people. Because we are His children, He gave each of us the talents and abilities to be a pearl of great price. He doesn’t think of anyone as ordinary or worthless.

It is amazing that our heavenly Father seems to delight in choosing unlikely people as valuable citizens in His kingdom.

“The Lord their God will save his people on that day as a shepherd saves his flock. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown.” Zechariah 9:16 (NIV)

The Lord made us in His image with the potential of a prayer warrior, a servant, or one with a compassionate heart to reach out to hurting people. It’s as if He sees each person as a diamond in the rough.

A diamond reflects natural light, while a Christian mirrors the Light of the Son. The beauty of both can be seen in their sparkle and the gorgeous colors refracted from each facet.

“Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.” Matthew 5:14 (MSG)

Shine, Jesus, shine.

 

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot

by Laura MacCorkle, crosswalk.com

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2

During the holidays, I have used my oven quite a bit.

Because it is electric, it automatically has a mind of its own.  It heats up very quickly and will char whatever is baking much faster than the time required for completion.  That means I have to adjust the times for any recipe that I’m attempting to follow.

So, as you can imagine, for the home cook this is extremely frustrating.  It means I must constantly be monitoring whatever is inside the oven.  Putting on the potholder gloves.  Opening up the door.  Pulling out the rack.  Checking the top of whatever’s baking to make sure it’s not burnt to a crisp.  Closing up the oven.  Waiting a few minutes.  Putting back on the gloves.  Opening up the door again.  Covering with foil to protect as needed.  Waiting some more.  And then testing with a toothpick near the center to check for doneness, while hoping that the bottom isn’t blackened and ultra crispy.

Ugh.  What … a … pain!

One of the recipes I made was for some bar cookies called “brandied cranberry-apricot bars.”  Dried fruit, brown sugar, vanilla, butter, pecans … what’s not to like?  The instructions called to bake the crust first (flour, sugar, butter).  And of course, my oven-baked it much faster than the 20 minutes (“or until golden”) that was required.  It was actually more like “or until darkest brown” by that point.

Still undeterred, I pulled it out and then poured in the filling (fruit, eggs, pecans, vanilla and more flour and sugar).  Next, I baked it for another 35 or so minutes. All the while, though, I was worried that the already partially-baked crust would be blackened by the time the cookies were done.  I couldn’t see it (since it was on the bottom), but I kept thinking maybe I should take out the pan before the time was up (Was my oven baking at warp speed or not?  How annoying!  And what to do?).

Eventually, I decided to let the cookies stay the course.  And thankfully, they weren’t scorched beyond recognition.  But they were done.

Despite the small culinary victory, situations like this always frustrate me.  Why?  Because the heat is on!  And I need it in order to complete what I’m baking.  But, it also forces me to make adjustments while it’s doing its thing.  And that isn’t something I’m clamoring to do.

Maybe it’s how a lot of us feel in our walks from day to day.  We probably don’t go out in search of fiery trials to bring into our lives.  But rest assured, they will find us anyway.  And when the heat is cranked up in any given situation or relationship, this means we can either get a little crispy or get the heat that we need (and is actually for our good!) in order to continue on our way toward spiritual maturity.

When life seems to be feeling “hot, hot, hot,” we can either refuse to make adjustments in our attitudes or choose to find the joy in knowing that the Lord is at work.  As his children, we know that he is always checking on our conditions.

It’s what it means to be loved by God.  He cares too much to leave us alone, to be burned up.  And he wants to move us—even through allowing fiery trials—toward completion as part of his eternal plan.

 

Canaan on earth

By: Charles Spurgeon

“For the land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs: But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven: A land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, even unto the end of the year.” Deuteronomy 11:10-12

Suggested Further Reading: Psalm 139:1-12

We have come now, beloved, to the end of another year—to the threshold of another period of time, and have marched another year’s journey through the wilderness. Come, now! In reading this verse over, can you say Amen to it? “The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon you, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” Some of you say, “I have had deep troubles this year.” “I have lost a friend,” says one. “Ah!” says another, “I have been impoverished this year.” “I have been slandered”, cries another. “I have been exceedingly vexed and grieved”, says another. “I have been persecuted,” says another. Well, beloved, take the year altogether—the ups and the downs, the troubles and the joys, the hills and the valleys altogether, and what have you to say about it? You may say, “Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.” Do not pick out one day in the year, and say it was a bad day, but take all the year round, let it revolve in all its grandeur. Judge between things that differ; and then what will you say? “Ah! Bless the Lord! He hath done all things well; my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!” And you know why all things have been well. It is because the eyes of the Lord have been upon you all the year.

For meditation: Are you glad that God sees you through and through every moment of your life? This should bring terror to the unbeliever (Hebrews 4:13) but great comfort to God’s people in the hour of distress (Genesis 16:13Exodus 2:25).

 

The World Beyond

by Inspiration Ministries

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” – Revelation 21:4 NASB

In the last work written before he died in 1992, French composer Olivier Messiaen tried to imagine what lay beyond death. The work, called “Illuminations of the Beyond,” was the culmination of a lifetime in which Messiaen pondered the things of God.

He described how he often spoke “of faith to atheists.” But in this final work, Messiaen tried “simply to imagine what will come to pass.” He focused on Jesus, “who will be the light of the resurrected: they will shine with the light of Christ.”

In his last interview, he commented, “I imagined myself in front of a curtain, in darkness, apprehensive about what lay beyond: resurrection, eternity, the other life.”

A famed musician described the first time he heard this piece in concert. When the music proclaimed, “And God shall wipe away all tears,” he “started to weep uncontrollably.” The music had such “incredible emotional power.”

What the Bible tells us about Heaven should fill our hearts with joy. We can look forward to spending eternity with Jesus in the glorious place He has prepared for us (John 14:3). There, every problem we experience on earth will seem unimportant.

Today, do not be in despair or allow worry or fear to fill your heart. Remember, if you have committed your life to Jesus, you will spend eternity with Him. He will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

God’s Supreme Court

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Heaven’s Supreme Court

Have you ever given much thought to how you are going to score on the most important test of your life? When we all stand before the living God to give an account of our lives? Before you start shifting uncomfortably in your chair or try to clear that spiritual lump in your throat, be assured that God has already provided the answers to our test before we have to take it.

I used to display a bumper sticker on the back of my car that read “As long as there are tests, there will be prayer in school!” A rather funny thought to an age-old dilemma that we all seem to struggle with. So why all the uneasiness in regard to accountability?

As I researched the topic, I became aware of my own feelings of trepidation — a kind of uncertain agitation that arises at the mention of “That Day,” sometimes referred to as “The Judgment.”

It is appointed unto man, once to die, but after this, the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)

The whole thing really began to puzzle me because I am a born-again believer — counted among those whose lives are supposed to be so grounded in the Word that nothing shakes or quakes us. I wanted to settle any looming doubt that had mercilessly harassed me. I found myself shrinking back at the very thought of just how I would fare on that day.

I knew I had to take my case to the Supreme Court of Heaven. I could pose my questions directly to the honorable judge of the universe Himself. But I hesitated to step into His hallowed chambers without adequate counsel. I knew I needed an advocate.

If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)

I sought the advice of the Clerk of Courts, The Holy Spirit, who reassured me that the decision had already been made. My case had been thoroughly deliberated by a well-known attorney whose name is Jesus Christ. The outcome was NOT GUILTY by reason of forgiveness! Hallelujah!

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13,14)

The good news is that when we stand before God, we will be complete in Him! This means any sin we have ever committed will already be covered under his blood, long forgotten, and never to be brought up again. Instead, only the good things in our lives will be brought to light. Our Lord will be looking to recognize every prayer, every heart cry, every tear, and every groan of the Spirit. He will call to mind the cup of cold water given to the thirsty and the morsel of bread given to the hungry. He is going to bring every good deed out in the open.

God will give to each person according to what he has done. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. (Romans 2:6-7)

You may still ask, “How can we be sure that our bad works won’t be held against us?” We have to keep in mind there will be two groups at the Judgement–sheep and goats. Each will appear separately. One group will be on the right (sheep) and one on the left (goats). This scene is described in Matthew 25:32-33. The bad deeds are to be accounted for by the unbelievers on the Day of Judgment. This would probably be a good time to make sure you are recorded among the correct column of divine contrasts. For example:

A Believer – an Unbeliever
A Wheat – a Tare
A Wise Virgin – an Unwise Virgin
Walking the Narrow Path – Walking the Wide Path

As a child of ten, I was a gangly tomboy, who like clockwork, would drop whatever I was doing and race home at 4 p.m. to flop down in front of the black and white Zenith TV. With my chin cradled by palms, I would gaze almost hypnotically at the popular series Dragnet, anxiously awaiting Detective Joe Friday to say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Even as an adult, I’m still one who wants to know the facts, the bottom line, and the truth is, we will all be summoned before a Holy God one day to answer the charges.

My prayer is that we understand that our final plea will be “Innocent” of all charges because the precious atoning blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed us of our sins! This message of truth is a wonderful anchor for my soul, and I pray it will be for you as well. As you stand before the great “I AM” on that awesome day, recognizing His eyes of love for you, then in front of the entire human race, He will reach out to embrace you as His bride.

Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready. (Revelation 19:7)

God’s “Summons to our Soul” is His calling us to a life of complete surrender to His Lordship! So when we stand on that grand and glorious day of reckoning, we will joyfully hear the words we longed for from our Master:

Well done, Thou good and faithful servant. (Matthew 25 :21a)

 

The Year of Hidden Blessings

by Katherine Britton, crosswalk.com

“For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal.”  – Job 5:18

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. – James 1:17

I’m evaluating all that happened last year. I always appreciate the post-holiday lull that allows for more quiet reflection, even if I don’t go crazy on the New Year’s resolutions. I need that time to stop going, going, going, and just take a look at what God has done.

In summing up this year, I’m calling it the year of hidden blessings. I nearly burned my house down in February, ended up the smushed middle car in a five-car highway accident in May, nervously watch the school system where my husband works make staff cuts, and more. I feel lucky to have survived the year, and I don’t mean that as an exaggeration. Mentally, I know that I’m dependent on God’s sustaining grace every year. This year, though, I practically had my nose rubbed in the fact. All the close calls made me face “what could have happened” and respond with thankfulness that it didn’t. But the crazy thing is, the Lord didn’t just deliver me through all these instances unscathed. He used my own stupidity to bring about good things. In other words, I experienced a whole lot of divine grace this year.

In what has become known as “The Fire” (that’s capitalized), half our cabinets burned, our refrigerator and stove were effectively destroyed, and various portions of drywall got pulled down by a fire department focused on safety precautions. But in the aftermath of The Fire, we found out insurance would pay for much of the remodel. So we went to work installing a much more functional – and beautiful – kitchen. For me, this was an object lesson in how God rescues his people. I’m a results-oriented person, so I often struggle with being “good enough” for God, with “earning” favor by being a good little Christian. But Christ provides us with the gift of life despite our best efforts to fumble it. As I looked around my soot-stained kitchen, knowing that my actions had caused the destruction and that someone else would finance the essential repairs… believe me, that’s humbling.

I could go on about the other life scenarios we lived through this year, but you get the idea. In any case, each circumstance began with heartache and a “what do we do now” cry. Each ended with God making his provision known in funny, little ways. Sometimes the situation was made better materially; sometimes relationally; sometimes spiritually. Now, I look back on each of those minor catastrophes and see that God was at work. He truly does work for the good of those who love him.

When You Don’t Understand God’s Timing

ALICIA BRUXVOORT, crosswalk.com

“God has given them a desire to know the future. He does everything just right and on time, but people can never completely understand what he is doing.” Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NCV)

We were curled up on the couch on a long-ago December day when my daughter announced her secret Christmas wish.

“I just want our baby to be here on Christmas morning,” 5-year-old Hannah confided. She exhaled a wistful sigh, then patted my belly.

Hannah had been rehearsing all things “big sister” for months. She’d practiced burping her teddy bears, swaddling her baby dolls, singing lullabies to the dog and tiptoeing past the crib. And as the baby beneath my heart grew, Hannah’s anticipation did too.

“You’re going to be a great big sister,” I said with a smile, “but it’s not time yet.” I waggled eight fingers in the air to remind my little girl of the weeks that remained until my due date.

Suddenly Hannah’s shoulders drooped. “But, Mommy! I want to be a big sister now.” Her eyes clouded with tears and her sighs turned to sobs. For a child whose life is measured in moments rather than days, the delay felt agonizing.

“Waiting hurts,” she murmured as she buried her head in my lap.

I could have lifted Hannah’s chin and tried to explain all the logical reasons for the wait. I could have offered a science lesson on human development or a lecture on the value of patience.

But instead of trying to expound on things beyond my kindergartener’s understanding, I simply reminded her that we can trust God with the timing of our baby’s arrival. Then I wrapped my arms around my daughter and held her as she cried.

It’s been over a decade since my daughter climbed onto my lap with a stream of troubled tears and an ill-timed Christmas wish. But this morning, when I scan the pages of my prayer journal, I feel the ache of waiting too.

My journal holds candid conversations with God about unfulfilled promises and unanswered prayers. And as I sit with my hopes and hurts today, I feel a surge of indignation. I’ll admit: It’s easy to feel offended in the midst of delay.

But I’m learning that when God’s timing doesn’t match my pining, I need to focus on what I know rather than what I feel. So, I turn to Ecclesiastes 3:11 and read the words of King Solomon:

“God has given [us] a desire to know the future. He does everything just right and on time, but people can never completely understand what he is doing.

This verse helps me filter my frustration through God’s unchanging truth. It reminds me that my delays aren’t a sign of God’s indifference, but an expression of His wisdom. I’ll never fully understand the complexities of God’s eternal plan while I’m bound to the dust of earth. But I can place my hope in God’s integrity even when I can’t comprehend His itinerary.

When my hope is tied to God’s trustworthiness instead of His timing, it changes my attitude in the waiting.

I am prone to recall His faithfulness instead of questioning His fairness. (Psalm 77:11)

I am able to respect His wisdom instead of disputing His ways.

I am inclined to celebrate His majesty instead of second-guessing His motives.

But, best of all, when I place the crux of my faith on the trustworthiness of God’s character, I discover an unexpected gift in the grit of delay.

The same God who is orchestrating plans too marvelous for my mind to grasp is within my reach right now. His ways may be higher than the heavens, (Isaiah 55:9) but His presence is as near as my next breath. He is with me in the aching and anticipating. He comforts me with His Spirit and strengthens me with His love. Even when it hurts. Especially when it hurts.

Loyalty Is The First Law Of God

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Resolve to Be Content in the New Year

“Now godliness with contentment is great gain.” 1 Tim 6:6 NKJV

January 1st is the day for many that self-improvement resolutions are made. Most will be financial, business, or personal fitness goals.

There is nothing wrong with any of that.

In fact, Proverbs 21:5 states that the plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty.

Yet as children of the King we should be cautious of the motivation behind any resolutions we might make. Are our goals generated from a state of discontentment?

To say “I won’t be content until this happens” means God is not enough for us now. And if God is not enough now, it means we’ll be striving to accomplish that resolution by our own strength.

Paul says, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.” Phil 4:11 NKJV

Paul knew who he was. Paul was aware of his identity as a child of the King. When we say to ourselves, “I’m lacking”, or “I’m insufficient in my current state”, then we are living below our privileges. The prodigal son left his father’s estate to work by his own strength. That didn’t turn out well. The other son stayed, but lived below his privileges because he was waiting on something he already had access to.

Remember, godliness with contentment is great gain. Unlike the riches of the world, the riches of God cannot be taken away from you. When we are content we put ourselves in a position for God to bless us.

Once we know who we are in Christ, every resolution we set should be in Him and for Him. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve our situation for the Glory of the Kingdom. In fact, God commissioned us to go out and do the work of His Kingdom. And when he commissioned us, he also equipped us with everything we need.

Perhaps a good practice for the start of this New Year is simply deciding to be content.

Before setting any goals or resolutions, spend some quiet time with the Father thanking him for what He has done. Thank Him for who He is, who you are, and acknowledge that He is more than enough. Regardless of your state: in debt, deployed in the military, family health issues, homeless… God is enough for you. It’s important to find that place. It may be difficult at first. It may only come through prayer and worship. But God would rather have you be complete in Him with zero resolutions than discontent in Him and hit every resolution you set.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4

Another way to look at this scripture is that if we delight ourselves in the Lord, our desires will begin to align with his desires.

So find that special place of contentment where the Father can show you just how complete in Him you are. Delight yourself in His ways. When you do this, any goal or resolution you set will be one that God can bless!

 

God and Treadmills

By Ryan Duncan, crosswalk.com

May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance. – 2 Thessalonians 3:5

Ever since I moved to Richmond I’ve acquired a taste for working out. There’s just something addicting about going to the gym after a long day at the office and pounding a treadmill until you feel the moisture on your forehead. If I don’t get my usual workouts, I tend to go stir crazy. That’s why I can’t stand January. After every New Year’s celebration, like clockwork, the gyms become crowded with people who have resolved to become healthier.

Because of the crowds, it becomes harder to get equipment, find parking spaces, or do any of my usual exercises. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m glad people are trying to get healthier and I encourage anyone who wants to start working out to give it a try, but I still get frustrated because I know that within a month most of these people will be gone. Exercise requires a lot of commitment and perseverance, and while a lot of people have resolved to live better, when the hard part comes they give up. You could say the same thing applies to faith. I cannot tell you how many times God has revealed himself in my life through his grace, his power, or even his sense of humor. But despite all these moments, it’s still so easy for me to doubt, to get angry with God and wonder if he has a plan, or if he’s even there at all.

The book of James is useful in moments like this, and even offers some encouragement for when we’re tempted to doubt.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” – James 1:2-8

Spiritual workouts are no different from our physical ones. If you want to run a marathon, you first have to run a mile, and if you want to become a tool for Christ, you have to trust him first. So don’t be afraid of trials and challenges, but instead embrace them as opportunities to mature in your faith. It won’t be easy, and odds are you’ll probably have to endure some difficult and painful experiences, but in the end you’ll look back and know you’re stronger because of it.

 

A Christmas Prayer of Praise to the Son

SARAH GERINGER, author, cbn.com

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” 1 John 5:20 (NLT)

On this Christmas Day, we praise You, Jesus, as the Son of God.

Before the creation of the world, You were set apart by the Father for a unique mission.
You are our Messiah, the One sent to save us.

As Immanuel, God with us, the One through whom all things were created,
You chose to lie in a manger and die on a cross for us.
You willingly laid aside your majesty to come down into our world.

By believing in You, we have the gift of eternal life.
How amazing is Your power and glory!
May we always hold You in awe as the Son of God.

We praise You, Jesus, as the Son of David.

Your birth was foretold by many prophets who never saw You with their eyes,
but received truth about You through the Holy Spirit.
The Father preserved Your birthright generation after generation.
He fulfilled His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
to give them countless descendants who would follow You.

You are the Lion of Judah, a King forever in the line of David.
Though You did not establish an earthly rule as many hoped,
You transcended those hopes with a universal kingdom to last for all time.

You are the fulfillment of countless prophecies, prayers and dreams.
May we always honor You as the Son of David.

We praise You, Jesus, as the Son of Man.

The Son of Joseph, a humble carpenter from Nazareth
who chose the path not traveled and proved himself faithful.
The Son of Mary, a young virgin of steadfast faith
who felt You turn in her womb and watched You suffer on a cross.
The Son who impressed teachers of the law
and amazed His parents even as a child.

The Son who understands our weaknesses
and faced all the tests we face yet never sinned.
The Son destined to cause many to fall and many to rise,
opposed without cause yet glorified above all.

As the Son of Man, now You are seated at God’s right hand,
offering prayers for us day and night as the Great High Priest.

You are the stairway between heaven and earth,
the only way we have access to the Father.
You are coming back on the clouds of heaven to give us eternal life.
May we always revere You as the Son of Man.

This Christmas Day, may our thoughts be fixed on You, Jesus.
May we believe in You as the only true God, the Lord over our lives.
May we trust You with all our hurts and hopes.

May we walk in fellowship with You, knowing you perfectly understand us.
May we rejoice in your birth and resurrection,
looking forward to the day when we will see You face to face.

In Your Name we pray, Amen.

 

Are We Ready to Let Go?

Arthur Schoonveld, author, reframemedia.con

Scripture Reading — Philippians 3:7-14

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. — Philippians 3:13-14

In one of his books, Max Lucado tells a story about the late champion boxer Muhammad Ali taking someone to his barn where he stored his trophies and awards. Standing in the doorway, he pointed to his many trophies and said, “It ain’t nothing.” He had come to the conclusion that when all is said and done, his accomplishments meant very little.

Centuries earlier, the apostle Paul looked back on his life and on all the things he had been proud of, and he said, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss. I consider them rubbish.” Paul said this not because he had a debilitating disease like Muhammad Ali but because he had met the Lord Jesus. He was ready to let go of whatever was behind him so that he could serve the Lord and live by the power of the risen Savior.

As we are about to enter into a new year, are we ready to let go of all the things that might keep us from experiencing the power of Christ’s resurrection? Are we ready to let go of all the things that at one time seemed all-important? Ask the Lord today for the grace to toss out everything that stands in the way of serving him.

Prayer

Lord, help us to be willing to let go of the things that stand in the way and that keep us from experiencing the power of our risen Savior. In your name we pray. Amen.

May God Guide Us In Our Decisions

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A Purse with Holes in It

gold coins

 

“We never seem to get ahead,” Rebecca said. “Without fail, as soon as we have any money saved, the washing machine breaks, someone gets sick, or we get a flat tire.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “John took a second job working weekends, but instead of having more money, we have less.” She lifted wide eyes to meet mine. “I don’t know how much longer we can go on like this.”

Financial struggles are real—and frightening. Sadly, Rebecca’s story isn’t unique. Most of us, at one time or another, have struggled to pay the bills, provide for the kids, and save for the future. And while lean times come to us all, some couples always fight to stay afloat.

In the tiny Old Testament book of Haggai, we find an eloquent description of a community struggling with the problem of too much month at the end of their money.

“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it’” (Haggai 1:5-6).

A purse with holes in it. Wow. That’s quite a word picture.

Financial problems are complex, with no simple answers. But many overlook a biblical principle—each of us should be giving to God’s work. Such was the case with the Israelites.

“You expected much,” the Lord said, “but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why? … Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house” (verse 9).

Concerned more about building their houses and securing their livelihood, the Israelites had neglected God and His work. This is also the case with many families today.

“We’ll give to the church after we pay off our debts.”

“We can’t afford to give right now. The cable bill’s two months past due, and I have to pay club fees for the kids’ travel ball team.”

“Let the rich members support the missionaries. They have plenty of money.”

God, however, has a different perspective on giving, saving, and spending.

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31–33).

These simple verses provide the key to biblical stewardship:

Don’t worry.

Give God a portion of your time, talent, and resources.

Trust Him to provide what you need.

The Israelites of Haggai’s day (and many Christians today) had it backward. Their approach looked more like this:

Worry.

Stop giving to God.

Do whatever it takes to maintain our lifestyle.

When Rebecca and her husband hit a wall, they wisely sought biblical financial counseling. Their advisor suggested a plan to help them get back on their feet. He encouraged them to develop a budget, eliminate unnecessary and luxury spending, and dedicate a portion of their income to the Lord’s work.

Although giving away a portion of their money seemed counterintuitive, as they stepped out in faith, they saw God multiply the remaining funds and stretch them further than they ever thought possible.

Rebecca’s family’s financial situation didn’t turn around immediately, but with hard work, prayer, and self-control, they now enjoy a comfortable, debt-free life. Best of all, they eagerly share with other struggling couples how God met them where they were and provided for them in ways they never could have imagined.

 

Resolutions & Redemption

by Anna Kuta, crosswalk.com

“For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

It’s that time of year again! I’m talking about New Year’s resolutions, of course. It’s still December as I’m writing, but I guarantee that by the time you read this, I’ll already be asking myself what possessed me to come up with such grand, unattainable plans the new year. (It seemed like a good idea at the time). Every year I tell myself it’ll finally be the year I keep all my resolutions. I mean, come on – how hard can it possibly be to finally set aside an hour for exercise each day, to stop consuming so much chocolate and coffee, and to never sleep for less than eight hours again?

Why are New Year’s resolutions so hard to keep? I don’t know, but it’s a lot like another area of life. Let me explain.

Before I became a Christian at the age of 17, I approached my life the same way I often approach New Year’s resolutions. I would try so hard to do the right things but I always ended up falling flat. I convinced myself that as long as I was the “good girl,” I’d be fine, so I tried really hard to live up to certain standards to please everyone, and hopefully God too. The problem, though, is that there’s nothing anyone can do in his or her own power to “earn” God’s favor.

As Ephesians 2:8 says, it’s by God’s grace that we are saved, not because of anything we could ever hope to attain or accomplish. God’s gift of His son Jesus Christ to save us from our sins through His death and resurrection is just that – a gift. Doing all the good, noble things in the world will never earn salvation, and like verse 9 says, nobody could ever think of boasting about such an undeserved gift.

Of course, the desire to do the right things is one result of making Jesus the Lord of your life, but we all continue to mess up because, after all, we are just sinners saved by grace. I still lose sight of it all sometimes and get caught up in the cycle of trying to “out-good” myself and others. This new year, however, in light of any New Year’s resolutions you may have made (or already broken), join me in remembering the assurance of one thing we never have to work to attain: God’s grace.

Left to Do Nothing – Streams in the Desert – December 26

Times have changed, but life’s hard times haven’t

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.”—Matt 26:36

It is a hard thing to be kept in the background at a time of crisis. In the Garden of Gethsemane eight of the eleven disciples were left to do nothing. Jesus went to the front to pray; Peter, James and John went to the middle to watch; the rest sat down in the rear to wait. Methinks that party in the rear must have murmured. They were in the garden, but that was all; they had no share in the cultivation of its flowers. It was a time of crisis, a time of storm and stress; and yet they were not suffered to work.

You and I have often felt that experience, that disappointment. There has arisen, mayhap a great opportunity for Christian service. Some are sent to the front; some are sent to the middle. But we are made to lie down in the rear. Perhaps sickness has come; perhaps poverty has come; perhaps obloquy has come; in any case we are hindered and we feel sore. We do not see why we should be excluded from a part in the Christian life. It seems like an unjust thing that, seeing we have been allowed to enter the garden, no path should be assigned to us there.

Be still, my soul, it is not as thou deemest! Thou art not excluded from a part of the Christian life. Thinkest thou that the garden of the Lord has only a place for those who walk and for those who stand! Nay, it has a spot consecrated to those who are compelled to sit. There are three voices in a verb—active, passive and neuter. So, too, there are three voices in Christ’s verb “to live.” There are the active, watching souls, who go to the front, and struggle till the breaking of the day. There are the passive, watching souls, who stand in the middle, and report to others the progress of the fight. But there are also the neuter souls—those who can neither fight, nor be spectators of the fight, but have simply to lie down.

When that experience comes to thee, remember, thou are not shunted. Remember it is Christ that says, “Sit ye here.” Thy spot in the garden has also been consecrated. It has a special name. It is not “the place of wrestling,” nor “the place of watching,” but “the place of waiting.” There are lives that come into this world neither to do great work nor to bear great burdens, but simply to be; they are the neuter verbs. They are the flowers of the garden which have had no active mission. They have wreathed no chaplet; they have graced no table; they have escaped the eye of Peter and James and John. But they have gladdened the sight of Jesus. By their mere perfume, by their mere beauty, they have brought Him joy; by the very preservation of their loveliness in the valley they have lifted the Master’s heart. Thou needst not murmur shouldst thou be one of these flowers!

 

“What have I done?”

“What have I done?” Jeremiah 8:6

Suggested Further Reading: 2 Peter 1:3-8

What hast thou done? I hear thee reply, “I have done nothing to save myself; for that was done for me in the eternal covenant, from before the foundation of the world. I have done nothing to make a righteousness for myself, for Christ said, “It is finished;” I have done nothing to procure heaven by my merits, for all that Jesus did for me before I was born.” But say, brother, what hast thou done for him who died to save thy wretched soul? What hast thou done for his church? What hast thou done for the salvation of the world? What has thou done to promote thine own spiritual growth in grace? Ah! I might hit some of you that are true Christians very hard here; but I will leave you with your God. God will chastise his own children. I will, however, put a pointed question. Are there not many Christians now present who cannot recollect that they have been the means of the salvation of one soul during this year? Come, now; turn back. Have you any reason to believe that directly or indirectly you have been made the means this year of the salvation of a soul? I will go further. There are some of you who are old Christians, and I will ask you this question: Have you any reason to believe that ever since you were converted you have ever been the means of the salvation of a soul? It was reckoned in the East, in the times of the patriarchs, to be a disgrace to a woman that she had no children; but what disgrace it is to a Christian to have no spiritual children—to have none born unto God by his instrumentality! And yet there are some of you here that have been spiritually barren, and have never brought one convert to Christ; you have not one star in your crown of glory, and must wear a starless crown in heaven.

For meditation: While the self-righteous makes the fatal mistake of thinking that good deeds lead to salvation, the saved can make the sad mistake of forgetting that salvation is supposed to lead to good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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What Child Is This?

nativity scene illustration

The question asked in this well-loved carol must have been uppermost in the minds of those present at Jesus’ birth. We can almost hear the question being asked from one to another as they gazed into the humble manger. How difficult it must have been for them to understand that the babe who lay in “such mean estate” was truly the promised Messiah. And through the centuries men have continued to ponder who Christ really is-how can He be fully God and still fully man? Only through divine faith comes the revealed answer.

He who is the Bread of Life began His ministry hungering. He who is the Water of Life ended His ministry thirsty. Christ hungered as man, yet fed the multitudes as God. He was weary, yet He is our rest. He prayed, yet He hears prayers. He was sold for 30 pieces of silver, yet He redeems sinners. He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd. He died, and by dying destroyed death. -Unknown

How beautifully the triumphant answer to this imposing question bursts forth in the refrain-“This, this is Christ the King.”

This thoughtful text was written by William C. Dix, one of our finest lay hymn writers. While a successful insurance salesman in Glasgow, Scotland, he was stricken with a sudden serious illness at the age of 29. Dix was confined to bed for an extended period and suffered deep depression until he called out to God and “met Him in a new and real way.” Out of this spiritual experience came many artistic and distinctive hymns, including this delightful carol. It was taken from a longer Christmas poem, “The Manger Throne,” written by William Dix about 1865. The melody “Greensleeves” is a traditional English folk tune.

“What Child is this, who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

Why lies He in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christian, fear — for sinners here the silent Word is pleading.

So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh-come, rich and poor, to own Him;
The King of kings salvation brings — let loving hearts enthrone Him.

Chorus: This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and angels sing;
Haste, haste to bring Him laud — the Babe, the Son of Mary.”

 

Wants vs. Need

by Laura MacCorkle, crosswalk.com

Did you get what you wanted for Christmas today? Or did you get what you needed?

What we want and what we need do not often go hand in hand. I should know. There are things that I have wanted in my life for a long time now, that apparently the Lord has not seen to be necessities. At least not yet.

I know he knows what is best for me, but it is still hard to wait. And it is difficult not to look longingly at what others have received and wonder why I, too, cannot be the recipient of such things in my life.

This kind of struggle is not new to any of us. And Hannah, who we read about in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, is a great example of how to live when what you want is not yet something God says you need.

For years Hannah had wanted to become a mother. To bear a child. To give her husband, Elkanah, a son—just like his other wife, Peninnah.

Being barren was considered a disgrace for a woman in those times, so Hannah most likely felt ashamed and alone and perhaps like a societal outcast. Instead of turning away, though, Hannah took her sorrow and her request for what she wanted to the Lord.

We don’t know for sure how long she waited (perhaps years)—and we don’t know the exact purposes of God’s timing in her life—but we can still learn a great deal from Hannah’s example …

She was persistent and continually sought the Lord. She did not give up and stop asking the Lord for what she wanted. Like clockwork, Hannah kept bringing her request to God, year after year at the temple in Shiloh (v. 7). No doubt her want continued to drive her to the Father and most likely deepened her relationship with him.

She was blessed with a lifeline. I am quick to forget that the beauty in the midst of Hannah’s pain is that Elkanah loved her very dearly (if not more than Peninnah). I am sure this buoyed Hannah to make it through the years when she may have wondered if God would ever answer her prayer for a child. God was gracious in giving her a loving husband (v. 5, 8).

She did not give in to ridicule or naysayers. Even when Peninnah (who was fruitful and had children) provoked her and taunted her because she was barren, Hannah did not add insult to injury (v. 7). She did not become nasty and retaliate when ridiculed for her condition or her faith.

She shared her “want”  and was encouraged by others. When the high priest Eli observed Hannah praying in the temple and inquired as to her condition (he thought she was intoxicated because she was praying silently, but her lips were moving—v. 14), she shared with him what she was asking of the Lord. When Eli saw what was really going on, he encouraged her and asked God to answer her request (vv. 12-17).

She gave back to God what he had given to her. When God blessed Hannah with a child, she did not cling tightly to him. She kept her promise, let her son go and dedicated him to the Lord (v. 11, vv.21-28). How unbelievable is that? To accept and then release back to God something he has given to you that you have prayed and prayed and prayed for? That is model faith!

Like Hannah, are you waiting on the Lord to give you something you want in your life today? A new job? Reconciliation in your marriage? Blessing in your finances? A cure from illness? To find your soul mate? Victory over an addiction? A baby?

Each of us has something we want in our lives. But is up to God to decide if this is something we really need. May we continue to come to him with joy and thankfulness, as we acknowledge that he knows what is best for us in our lives.

 

A Christmas Prayer of Praise to the Son

SARAH GERINGER, author, crosswalk.com

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” 1 John 5:20 (NLT)

On this Christmas Day, we praise You, Jesus, as the Son of God.

Before the creation of the world, You were set apart by the Father for a unique mission.
You are our Messiah, the One sent to save us.

As Immanuel, God with us, the One through whom all things were created,
You chose to lie in a manger and die on a cross for us.
You willingly laid aside your majesty to come down into our world.

By believing in You, we have the gift of eternal life.
How amazing is Your power and glory!
May we always hold You in awe as the Son of God.

We praise You, Jesus, as the Son of David.

Your birth was foretold by many prophets who never saw You with their eyes,
but received truth about You through the Holy Spirit.
The Father preserved Your birthright generation after generation.
He fulfilled His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
to give them countless descendants who would follow You.

You are the Lion of Judah, a King forever in the line of David.
Though You did not establish an earthly rule as many hoped,
You transcended those hopes with a universal kingdom to last for all time.

You are the fulfillment of countless prophecies, prayers and dreams.
May we always honor You as the Son of David.

We praise You, Jesus, as the Son of Man.

The Son of Joseph, a humble carpenter from Nazareth
who chose the path not traveled and proved himself faithful.
The Son of Mary, a young virgin of steadfast faith
who felt You turn in her womb and watched You suffer on a cross.
The Son who impressed teachers of the law
and amazed His parents even as a child.

The Son who understands our weaknesses
and faced all the tests we face yet never sinned.
The Son destined to cause many to fall and many to rise,
opposed without cause yet glorified above all.

As the Son of Man, now You are seated at God’s right hand,
offering prayers for us day and night as the Great High Priest.

You are the stairway between heaven and earth,
the only way we have access to the Father.
You are coming back on the clouds of heaven to give us eternal life.
May we always revere You as the Son of Man.

This Christmas Day, may our thoughts be fixed on You, Jesus.
May we believe in You as the only true God, the Lord over our lives.
May we trust You with all our hurts and hopes.

May we walk in fellowship with You, knowing you perfectly understand us.
May we rejoice in your birth and resurrection,
looking forward to the day when we will see You face to face.

In Your Name we pray, Amen.