Happy New Year! As the calendar rolls to a new year, we flip through the photos, whether it be of puppies, sunset images or as I just hung mine, photos of tropical islands. The empty squares indicating days yet to be lived, those 12 pages can either propel us or paralyze us.
The change of the New Year has traditionally become a re-setting if you will of our life compass. We evaluate the past and plan for the future. For some of us, this means sitting down and writing out our Resolutions. Money to be made, exercise routines, diet plans, buy that new house, get that promotion, clean out those closets, get organized and the list goes on, don’t get me wrong, these are all a good plan of attack, (yet there is more). A New Year’s Resolution can be defined as ‘a firm decision to do or not do something, a course of action designed with the intent to keep a vow.’ Statistics claim, one in three Americans makes a New Year’s resolution of some sort, yet only about 75% of these folks stick to their goal for at least … a week.
Have we considered that instead of a resolution to do better, get more, and perhaps try to be something other than we are, that we seek … revelation? As we stand at the door of 2019, may we take pause and truly position ourselves to seek a fresh revelation of our God – as we read through our Bibles we see new qualities of His character that cause us to be in awe of Him. That is my plan, that is my goal. Making a firm decision to take action to learn and accept more of His love, trust His hand and bow more in gratitude of His mercy and grace.
I pray over us as Paul did, “I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Amen) – Ephesians 3:14-21 (NIV)
From our home to yours, a hardy blessed Happy New Year.
In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
“Everyday can be like a holiday.” Just one of Starbucks seasonal cup slogans, I like it with a hardy “Yes, yes it can” as I sip my Peppermint Mocha. Often we consider the season of Christmas to be the day after Thanksgiving and lasting until New Year’s Eve, after that, the tree is taken down and the lawn reindeer stored in the garage rafters. Christmas becomes a fleeting memory. YET, the message of Christmas CAN be seen, felt and shared throughout the year.
I find it fascinating that the angel when appearing to the shepherds (Luke 2) addresses their fear first, taking the time to say something before they bolt and miss the message, the story would not be the same if they all took off running (in different directions). After the fear factor addressed, the presentation of ‘Good News’ given, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you, you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (v11-12) then the choir sings of God’s glory and peace now on earth and the service was over. I wonder… if our pastors today approached the pulpit and opened their sermons with ‘FEAR NOT’ would we pay just a tad bit more attention. (HA!)
Life is busy, our days full of routine, obstacles, and stress. However, the Christmas promise and message is clear and continues to roll forward. What if (humor me) JESUS came to us, saying, “Don’t be afraid, today, I Christ the Lord, YOUR Savior is here, and here’s My sign…now as the shepherds did … come and see Me.” Sign in the Greek is defined as the power and presence of God manifested, noting significance. Sometimes the significance is personal.
Do we look for God to manifest Himself before us, around us and ahead of us each day? Have we considered His orchestration of our life so we would take pause and cause us to look and …see Him? It may not be a Celestial choir gathering above the Metro area, but it may be a gentle whisper – See Him. Or a loving note from a friend – See Him. Or maybe that very personal hope and prayer you’ve mentioned is indeed answered – See Him.
This year, may we take the Christmas message beyond the borders of the calendar pages – the Good News, God with us! May we see and yield to divine manifestation. Oh God, open our eyes, our ears that we too would do as the shepherds did, make a determined adventure to see You and then as they did, we go and tell others! (Luke 2:17)
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrew 10:24)
This holiday season I have been pondering and rolling around in my head, the little seasonal rhyme, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’ It fits well as a lapel pin, even hangs proudly as an ornament on our trees. I like it! The message is clear and points to Jesus!
Yet… I began to think of this in theological terms, the accuracy of it. I know… I KNOW you are rolling your eyes at this point. But bear with me. I am a people watcher, I watch how they walk, how they talk, their mannerisms, their facial expressions (there is much entertainment in it… ‘nough said’). The other day as I was Christmas shopping I watched their faces, looked into their eyes, wondering if THEY knew Jesus. Then it dawned on me – ‘THEY are the reason for the season!’
The season is Christmas. Christmas is JESUS, His birth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Jesus came to earth, the divine embodied in human form, His life pointed to the Father, His death representing us, He resurrected in full power and authority and now sits, enthroned on the right side of the Father – for US! WE are the ‘whosoever’. WE are the reason for the season! YOU are the reason for the season! (Ok, group HUG!) He came for YOU! THE best gift giving possible.
Even with all the self-interest, self-emersion and all the “I” focus today, this Christmas look into the eyes of those around you, consider THEM! What a great opening line to the gospel, said with heartfelt humility as you tenderly lean forward “Did you know YOU are the reason for the season…” Then tell them about Jesus and why He came, use their name (read their name badge if they have one) “Bob, He came for YOU!”
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” – John 1:14
Blessed Christmas to you and yours,
In Him, DeDe & Mark (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Christmas. Just the word alone brings a soft glow to the soul. A warm crackling fire, hot chocolate and watching Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey yelling “Mary!” as he runs through the old drafty house. Peace.
Isaiah prophesied centuries before Luke penned his gospel saying: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) Fast forward to Luke 2:14, with the singing telegram to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Peace had come to earth.
Biblical peace (in the Greek) is ‘to set at one again,’ – the picture is something that has once been erected has toppled over. Chaos, strife, irritation, unrest even war are the results. Once it is set back, PEACE is the result; all is in its rightful place. Remember Adam and Eve sinning in the garden? (Thanks, guys!) The original design, ‘God and man’ had been ‘toppled over.’ Gone were the daily walks together in the garden. Jesus came, setting things back in the right place, God and man in right relationship. “The Word became flesh (Jesus) and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14 (emphasis mine) It may not be the Garden, but God again walking with us. Immanuel, oh the ‘with us’ of God! Jesus, peace on earth, the Prince of Peace. Peace is a Person. One of my favorite Christmas carols, “Hark the herald angels sing “Glory to the newborn King! Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” After 400 years, the angels break the silence with the spectacular news. Such theology dripping from this song: Jesus, Peace, God back on earth, setting things right again. God and sinners reconciled. As a bookkeeping clerk, I fully understand ‘reconciled’, the number zero could not be a more beautiful number, through Jesus I have ‘0’ debt! ZERO!
Peace is not only a Person but a position. “But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace …for through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:13-14) We are now back where we were originally designed to be, right-standing relationship with God, given full access and ability to come into His presence. Paul declares this point, “Since we have been justified through faith we have PEACE with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1) Peace is a God thing. Man cannot create true peace in his own soul, it is not part of the package deal, in the sense; it does not come attached to intelligence or fame and wealth. It is the result of Jesus’ presence, Jesus’ Lordship, and Jesus being walked & lived. Peace is a position.
Because of our sinful nature and our perpetual continuing to do so, John strongly declares “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) This is written to the Jesus follower, we mess up, but as we confess, we are saying the same thing about our situation that God does. We are now in full agreement; we realign with what God says. To stop doing something we have to start doing something else. I don’t stop standing until I START walking. In this process, we are taking what was ‘toppled over’ returning to the original design and bringing Jesus back to His rightful peaceful place. We mess up, we get cleaned up. Peace restored. Peace is a process.
The increase of peace accompanies the increase of Christ’s governing power over our lives. Colossians 3:15 “Let the peace of Christ RULE in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” If I want peace in my heart, I allow Jesus to RULE in my heart. He is King, I bow to Him as King, giving Him the rightful place on the throne of my life. A continual challenge indeed! We will know peace to the degree that we bow to Jesus. It is NOT about peaceful circumstances, it is obedience, His voice over our own, God doesn’t come to take sides, He comes to TAKE OVER. Peace is a posture, a bowed, get OFF the throne, posture. (Head bowed)
This Christmas may we pause and consider wholeheartedly, the Person, position, process, and posture of peace. Yes, Peace had indeed come to earth, Prince of Peace.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Continuing our ‘Names of God’ study, we look at Immanuel. This time of year, we sing with a resounding ‘O come, O come Immanuel…” and it is written in beautiful font lettering across our Christmas cards. Immanuel*, meaning ‘God with us.’ Many who attempt to say God is uninterested and doesn’t turn His divine head our way does not understand Immanuel. Whether it is walking in the Garden in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8) the pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:22) or sandaled feet in Galilee (Matt. 4:18) or gloriously residing within us (1 Cor. 3:16) The God who dwells with us, among us and in us – God is Immanuel.
Immanuel is first mentioned in Isaiah (chapter 7) within a strong warning to King Ahaz to get his act together in the midst of political uprising and trust that God is with them – but the guy chose poorly. Isaiah prophecies: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will be called Immanuel.” (v14) As we know, God’s people were quite fickle in their love, trust, and obedience, causing them to do what was right AND evil in God’s eyes, they STILL didn’t fully comprehend God’s presence. Fast forward to the New Testament, tucked in the story of the birth of Jesus – Matthew chapter 1. Joseph is about to take Mary as his wife, (according to cultural tradition, the engagement was a done-deal). BUT, she is pregnant (Hm…) he, a good man plans to dissolve the marriage quietly as to not disgrace her. Queue angelic messenger: Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife, the baby she carries is of the Holy Spirit, she will have a Son, and His name will be Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Matthew gives narrative: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and they will call him Immanuel – which means, “God with us.” (vv 22-23)
God was and is with His people throughout history, but sending His Son, slipping Him into human flesh, all He was, all He did, could not be more unmistakably-striking evidence of God’s presence. A sign indeed! God keeps His promises. The All-Powerful, All-Sufficient, Sovereign Creator of the universe does not NEED to be with us – He wants to! This holiday season, as you consider Immanuel, step up, lean in, look to the far left, back to the beginning and then follow the timeline all the way to where YOU now stand and then continue to the right, following the thread into eternity as declared from the heavenly throne, Jesus reveals to John, “the dwelling place of God is with man.” (Revelation 21:3) So beautiful, so comforting – Immanuel.
In Him DeDe, (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Why do we often see two spellings for Immanuel? The different spellings ultimately are because of different vowels used in Hebrew (O.T. ‘Immanuel’) and Greek (N.T. ‘Emmanuel’) yet they are indeed the same God presence, just two different languages.
Christmas, a time of sharing, loving and gift giving. We are in the season of gift hunting, we may not have anything in mind, but there is hope of something jumping off the shelf and literally wrap itself with a glorious bow attached. Regardless of what makes it home with us from the mall, all of us have gifts to offer, God-given gifts that He asks that we share with one another. Whether it is the gift of serving, or of encouragement, or hospitality, providing an extra place at the dinner table.
We often read the Christmas story and highlight the most spectacular parts: Singing angels, “Fear Not” statements, the Star of Bethlehem, and yes the dingy manger. YET, there are some quiet and seem less significant items to be had in the excitement. Gifts. Consider if you will, (imagine with me) the Magi as they prepare for their trek out to find the child to whom the shiny Star belongs. They are packing, dividing the supplies list, then they come to the gift inventory, gold is given to the first, then frankincense handed to another, oh yeah, the myrrh is last. How would you like to be handed the myrrh, and picture yourself bowing low, head to the floor while you offer M-Y-R-R-H (said with an Eeyore deep tone) to the King of Kings! You may think “Dude, why do I have to carry the white elephant gift?” White elephant it is not – one among the triune gifts that are of great value. Have we thought about these? Gold, we have that one down. Frankincense is ground dried up tree sap used as incense. And myrrh, what is THAT?
The divine significance of myrrh: It too comes from the sap of a tree and used in the anointing oil of the Tabernacle and the priests (Exodus 30:22-23). Myrrh/Myron: Perfumed oil poured over Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:36-50). It was used as one of the spices to prepare Jesus’ body for burial (John 19:39-40).
Picture now, the Christ child, perhaps two in age or younger (took the Magi some time to get there), curly dark hair, possibly pudgy cheeks. At His feet, the Magi place gold, frankincense, and MYRRH. The same anointing oil used to anoint temple priests, Jesus our High Priest (Heb. 4:14-16). The same perfumed oil poured on His feet as a grown man, those feet that would one day hang on a cross and be pierced. The oil added to the spices wrapped around His body following His death. He now a child will one day be the man fulfilling this gift.
Myrrh, HOW PROPHETIC.
Christmas gift giving! Follow the Magi’s example – be prophetic. Regardless of how insignificant, we never know the impact and how far-reaching our giving may be (in Jesus name). An encouraged heart, a feed soul, a lived principle, a person no longer lonely – the gift that keeps on giving.
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
Christmas 2018: Santa Claus, electronic yard reindeers, snowmen, decorated trees, wrapping paper, and lights – LOTS of lights. Christmas the beginning: Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus, a manger, bright star, angelic host, shepherds, sheep, and GOOD NEWS.
Luke chapter 2, the familiar recounting of the Christmas story, like that of a well-rehearsed children’s play, all the characters are in place. The declaring angels hit their queue perfectly, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” (v14) LOVE IT! There is one small phrase prior in the narrative; “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”(v. 8) Scholars believe, due to the proximity to Jerusalem THESE lambs were the temple lambs. Potentially, THESE shepherds were caring for lambs destined for sacrifice. The religious custom (requirement) of the day was to raise or purchase a lamb for each family, take it to the priests and have it offered as a substitutionary sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
Keep reading… I tried to keep this short, but we don’t want to miss this!
The shepherds were the first to hear the glorious news, not chief priests or princes or even the learned men of Jerusalem, no dignitaries were found in the bunch. Oh, these shepherds knew the divine importance of keeping watch over their flocks! In addition, news of the Messiahs coming would not be “good news of a great joy” (v. 10) unless they were seeking Him and waiting for Him. These men got the message, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord” declares the angel (vs. 10, 11).
Remember the conversation Abraham had with Isaac as they climbed the mountain on that heart-wrenching day? “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “But where is the lamb…?“ Abraham answers, “God Himself will provide the lamb…” (Genesis 22:7-8) What prophetic imagery for what is yet to come.
Fast forward, this recorded of John the Baptist, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) About 3 years following John’s statement, it is Passover; Jesus is found gloriously-innocently* (See below) hanging on the cross. Onlookers watch as His blood drips from His beaten, nail-pierced body. John’s words echoing, “Behold! The Lamb of God…”
As we follow the story of God, the angels again declare, yet this time, (Let’s all stand…) “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing … be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” (Revelation 5:11-13)
This Christmas as we consider the Nativity scene, may we attempt to grasp the full message of the birth of Jesus. In the stable, the KING, the lil lamb not eating from the manger, but IN the manger – He is our substitutionary sacrifice for OUR sins. However, we did not purchase Him – He will purchase us! (Head bowed) Nowhere in scripture are we told, suggested or asked to remember Jesus’ birth. We are told to remember His death. (The Last Supper: “This is My body given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”- Luke 22:19) Don’t pack up that shiny-star tree topper yet – His birth is divinely tied to His death, His death needed for His resurrection, His resurrection the authoritative power for YOUR redemption and deliverance! Christmas leads to Easter. Hallelujah! (Hands raised!)
Where is the lamb? Behold the Lamb. Worthy is the Lamb.
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”
In Him, DeDe (“Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love & good deeds.” – Hebrews 10:24)
*Jesus gloriously-innocently hanging on the cross. The requirement was that the sacrificed animal was to be ‘male and without defect – without blemish’ (Ex. 12:5) Jesus was indeed THAT: “He committed no sin..” (1 Peter 2:22 – See also 2 Cor 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Jn 3:5; Jn 8:29) Peter declares; “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. (1 Peter 1:18-19 NLT)