Tag Archives: #christian

PONDERING CHRISTMAS

What is God doing?

Christmas music surrounds us with the message of grace and forgiveness. It can put the Good News on display, and sometimes, we do not even realize it. We’re in isle 4 picking out socks for Uncle Bob while swaying to O Holy Night. Thoughts of Aunt Susie’s ugly Christmas sweater are accompanied by thoughts of the true meaning of Christmas.

Mary, Did You Know permeates our ears with the truth of Christmas. It sends our thoughts to Jesus’ identity, and how God was working on that first Christmas. Luke tells us we’re not alone. Mary was thinking about this as well.

Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”

The last few months have been exciting. Mary has been visited by an angel, found out she was expecting a child, had to travel with Joseph for the census, and now, she’s given birth. There’s a lot of hype around her baby. Shepherds visiting and prophetic statements being made. In our day, there would be wall-to-wall coverage on the news networks, and Mary soaks it all in. What was God doing?

This Christmas season you may be wondering the same thing. All the activity in your life – the good and the bad – is causing you to wonder what God is doing. As you ponder God’s work, you can rest assured he has something great planned. You may not fully see it now, but it will be great because God is the one at work.

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what? that’s it!

Here a snake, there a snake, everywhere a snake, snake. This doesn’t sound like anywhere I would want to be, but there was a group of people who found themselves in such a place.

This group of travelers was in the desert and growing a little cranky. One thing leads to another and Israel finds themselves surrounded by poisonous snakes, so they asked Moses to pray.

“Then the Lord told him, ‘Make a replica of a poisonous snake and attach it to a pole. All who are bitten will live if they simply look at it.’ So, Moses made a snake out of bronze and attached it to a pole. Then anyone who was bitten by a snake could look at the bronze snake and be healed,” according to Numbers 21:8-9.

God’s answer for the people is easy. “Simply look at the snake.” In other words, “trust me.” That’s it. If an Israelite was bitten by a snake, he or she just needed to trust God by looking at the bronze snake. Perhaps they expected a more difficult process. Find a specific plant oil or hold the infected area in the sand for 15 minutes, but God’s answer was simple. The simplicity may have caused some people trouble.

It did Nicodemus, and Jesus said to him, “And as Moses lifted up the bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up. So that everyone who believes in him will have eternal life. For this is how God loved the world, he gave his one and only son so that everyone who believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life. God sent his son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:14-17). Jesus requested trust from Nicodemus. Follow his leading to eternal life, and you will be saved just like the Israelites who looked at the bronze snake.

Jesus requests the same trust from us. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” he says in John 14:1. “You trust in God; trust also in me.” The simplicity of trusting him confuses us at times. We feel there should be something more, but Jesus reminds us following him will lead to eternal life. We forget all the places we see the Lord at work, so our trust may begin to slip a little. The question of is there something more I need to do slides into our thoughts.

But Jesus assures us, trusting him is the action required. By the way, we trust simple actions to do complex work all the time. We trust pushing an elevator button will raise or lower us to the desired floor without seeing the mechanical movements of the elevator. We turn a door knob to open the door without witnessing the latch being pulled back in the door. We trust Google and Alexa to turn on our lights without seeing the process go through its steps. Jesus asks for our trust. Do we trust him?

 Make a list of the ways the Lord is working in your life for reference if your trust begins to slip a little. Where have you seen the Lord at work? How has God shown himself trustworthy to you in the past?

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jesus: one who understands

Does Jesus really understand my situation?

Yes, Jesus truly understands our situation. Some folks have a difficult time wrapping their minds around Christ’s grace because they feel his life was not relatable to their life. However, Scripture ensures us Jesus can relate to our circumstances, and he does understand the difficulties of this life.

Understanding Through His Birth

In the first 17 verses of Matthew’s Gospel, we begin to see how well Jesus can relate to us. His earthly family was anything but perfect. The individuals listed in the genealogy of Jesus are not powerful and perfect. They are ordinary and normal folks just like you and me. They are Jews and Gentiles. They are men and women with diverse backgrounds and stories. They are individuals with struggles the same as people today.

Look at Jesus’ parents. Mary and Joseph are a young couple engaged to be married. They discover they are facing what society would term an “untimely pregnancy.” Their home may not be ready; they may not be ready to be parents, but they are having a baby. A short time after Jesus’ birth Mary and Joseph are forced to flee to Egypt and hide to save Jesus’ life. This is not an ideal situation. By the very way Jesus enters the world, he says he understands us.

Understanding Through His Life

His birth is not the only way Jesus relates to us. Matthew 4 tells us Jesus was tempted in every way. You may be tempted by this or tempted by that. You may struggle with this or struggle with that. Your list will match Jesus’ list, which leads the writer of Hebrews to assert, “For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. We have one who has been tempted in every way just as we are – yet was without sin. Let us, then, approach the throne of grace so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Understanding Brought Christmas

Understanding us, Jesus comes to save us. The Gospels are full of examples of Jesus saving. He provides sight to those who can’t see. He provides hearing to those who can’t hear. One lady was healed by touching the edge of his garment while in a large crowd. Jesus brought Lazarus out of the tomb. In the same way Jesus understood these individuals and met their needs, he understands us and meets our needs.

Whatever you may be experiencing today, Jesus understands and has come to help you. Your life will not shock him or cause him to run away. Jesus has come to embrace us with the fullness of his grace and truth. Will you consider allowing Jesus to embrace you where you are today? Will you consider allowing him to help you?

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Jesus: With Us to Save us

The man was rushed to the hospital where a CT scan revealed pools of blood on his brain. He was quickly transferred to a regional medical center, and placed under the care of a skilled Neurosurgeon. The doctor advised waiting a few days, then running another test to find the source of the bleeding. The time would allow the pooled blood to be absorbed by the body. Saturday slowly became Wednesday, and it was time for the test to be ran. The results were different than anyone was expecting.

It turns out the bleeding spot healed itself and was no longer bleeding. No Neurological procedure was needed. The Neurosurgeon explained it this way, “This happens sometimes.” Sometimes, miracles happen.

Have you ever witnessed a miracle? What was it? Miracles capture everyone’s attention; especially, during the Christmas season. Movies and TV shows have miraculous themes. The miracle of Christ’s birth is no exception. It has captivated mankind for centuries as everyone tires to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

Who is Jesus?

Conservatives and liberals agree Jesus existed. He made a mark in mankind’s history which cannot be erased. When it comes to his identity though, there is much disagreement. Ask who is Jesus, and you will receive numerous answers.

A college professor gave this assignment to his students. They were to ask 20 people who is Jesus. Here are just a few of the answers.

  • A good guy.
  • A guy in history.
  • A guy in the Bible. What else is there to know.

In Matthew 1, we find the Bible’s answer to this question. Matthew explicitly states Jesus is God with us to save us.

God with us.

Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 which states, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.”

The idea of God being with us is not a new thought. From the very beginning, we see God being with us. He walked with Adam in the coolness of the day in the Garden of Eden. Sin creeped in and destroyed this perfect communion, so God pulled himself back to the Holy of Holies. That is, until the miracle of Christmas. Christmas brought God back to us in the form of a baby. The fullness and completeness of God came on Christmas night.

  • Philippians 2:6-8 says, “Christ, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing. Taking on the very nature of a servant.”
  • In his Gospel, John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. He was with God in the beginning,” according to 1:1-2. Verse 4 goes on, “In him was life, and that life was the Light of men.” Then verse 14 says, “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.”

The Creator became the creation to save it. You see, Jesus is God with us. He is God with us to save us.

To save us.

The angel tells Joseph in Matthew 1:21, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.”

Jesus’ name links back to Joshua. In the Old Testament book of Joshua, the account of the leader helping God’s people by leading them out of wilderness into the land of Canaan, their promised land, is told. Like Joshua, Jesus came to lead his people out of the wilderness of lostness into the promise of freedom in Christ’s grace and truth.

2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ that though he was rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich.” You see, Jesus came to save us.

Our answer.

C. S. Lewis has said, “Jesus was either telling the truth about his identity or he was a lunatic. A man running around claiming to be God in the flesh is either telling the truth or is a lunatic. No one in his right mind would make such a claim unless it was true. We have to decide.”

According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is God with us to save us. Thus, the IVP New Testament Commentary Series remarks, “By the cross we are invited to worship a God who accepted the ultimate vulnerability. Jesus was born as an infant to poor and humiliated parents into a world who was hostile to his presence. His oppressors must hate such a God. For his abandonment of power for love is contrary to everything they believe, but the broken and depressed find in him a God they can trust in a world where trust is dangerous. Of all the world’s faiths, Christianity is the only one who presents a God who shares in our pain.”

The birds helped him understand.

There is an old story told by radio personality Paul Harvey of a man and a flock of birds. There was a good man. He tried to do everything right. He was a good husband, excellent father, and he had an upstanding reputation in the community. He was just a good man.

He could not wrap his mind around Jesus’ birth. The miracle of Christmas seemed out of touch to him. A baby being able to save him was just hard for him to grasp.

One Christmas eve, the man told his wife he was not going to attend the Christmas eve service, but he would wait up for her. He hugged his wife goodbye, and closed the door behind her. As he did, he noticed it was snowing. He stood at the window for a few moments enjoying the beauty of the snow before retiring to his chair by the fireplace.

A few minutes later as the man was lost in the chapters of a good book, he was startled by a thud on the window. Thud, thud, thud came the sound. The man investigated to find a flock of birds trying to break the glass to escape the warmth of the dark, cold night. They were attempting to enter the light and warmth of his home, and the man thought, “I can’t let the poor creatures freeze.”

Dawning his coat and shoes, the man went outside to help. He opened his barn door hoping the birds would fly into the hay stack, but no luck. The birds just continued to fly toward the window.

The man turned on the light in the barn, but the birds didn’t head that way. He tried leaving a trail of food to the barn and chasing the birds, but they didn’t understand what he was doing.

“If only I was one of them,” the man thought, “they would not be afraid of me, and I could show them the way to the safety of the barn.”

Just then, the church clock clanged midnight. The chimes began playing O Holy Night, and the man fell to his knees in the snow.

He had it. The man understood the miracle of Christmas; he understood God left everything to become one of us. He understood Jesus is God with us to save us. What is your answer? Who is Jesus?

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hold on!

The 26.2 miles of a marathon is hard. It takes much perseverance for runners to finish the race. Often, they have a goal. A reason to complete the race which pushes them forward. Everything starts out grand, but the mileage soon becomes grueling.

The Bible compares life to a marathon. The writer of Hebrews says, “Let us run the race of endurance God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). Life is a race of endurance. We know it has its thumps, and life can even shake us clear to the core at times. Like a marathon, life can be agonizing, but we can have hope in the fact Jesus understands the agony.

Jesus understands.

We run life’s marathon by keeping our eyes on Jesus, “…the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people, then you won’t become weary and give up” (Hebrews 12:2-3).

Jesus understands the agony of this life. The daily thumps, the tears, the sorrows, the heartaches, and the pains. Jesus even understands those moments where it seems there is no way out. He has experienced life. Jesus gets life’s good moments, okay moments, and excruciating moments. And, Jesus welcomes us to rely on him through it all.

We are encouraged to approach the Lord with confidence to find grace and help in our time of need. We do not have to go through the agony of this life alone. Jesus is with us and cheering us on. Understanding what you and I are going through today, Jesus is inviting us to cling to him. He gets the harshness of our current circumstances, and he gets the awesomeness of Heaven. So, we are challenged to focus on Jesus and set Heaven as our goal to finish the marathon strong.

Cling to Jesus

Scripture says…

  • “Since we are receiving a kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshipping him with holy fear and awe” (Hebrews 12:28).
  • “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him” (James 1:12).

The next time you find yourself going through a crisis, try to remember to rely on Jesus. Cling to him. He understands, and he is there to offer help and encouragement.

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make it stop

His son was in trouble, and the father’s world was rocked almost to its core. Mark tells us an evil spirit had seized the boy and would often cause him to have convulsions. This would often cause the boy to fall into fire or water. The dad had faith, but his faith had been pulled to its very end. He couldn’t see a way out of this circumstance. Filled with desperation, he cried out to Jesus.

As they were explaining the situation to Jesus, the people said, “The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us if you can.’ ‘What do you mean if I can,’ Jesus asked. ‘Anything is possible if a person believes,” records Mark 9:22-23.

Then verse 24 states, “The father instantly cried out, ‘I do believe but help me overcome my unbelief!”

No Relief

His son was enduring a horrific problem, and this dad’s world was shaking violently as he was amid a monstrous trial. We know he requested the disciples help, and we can assume he sought help elsewhere. Nothing was working though. No matter where he turned it seemed there was no end to this father’s crisis. Day after day, night after night, seizure after seizure the boy’s condition continued, and it seemed there was no relief from the crisis. Can you relate?

Our world is rocked by a trial. As our world trembles, we search for solid footing, but we can’t find it. The longer we seek a solution, the more discouraged we become. We believe the Lord has a plan, but our eyes are blurred by the current season so we can’t see how to get through it. In these moments, Scripture suggests we follow the example of the father. We seek wisdom from the Lord to help us.

James 1:5-8 encourages, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waiver for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

The Way Out

While we may not see it today, we can have confidence the Lord will lead us out of our crisis. The way out may not be immediate. It may involve several steps, but the Lord will get us there. We know he will because he has helped so many before us.

Remember how he helped the people of Israel. They were headed out of their trial in Egypt. They needed to cross the Red Sea, so God made the wind blow. They needed water, so the Lord made it pour out of a rock. The people needed to eat, so God made manna fall from Heaven. There were several steps in ending the trial, but the Lord showed Israel the way.

Jesus stopped the father’s world from shaking. Jesus released the grip of the evil spirit. In 9:25-27, Mark records, “He said, ‘I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again.’ Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion, and left him. The boy appeared to be dead…. But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up.” The trouble was over. The boy was free and the father’s crisis ended because of Jesus.

If your world is shaking today and you do not see how the Lord is going to get you through this crisis, remember he will. He has helped people get through, and he will help you. Echo the words of the father, “I do believe, but help me Lord because I don’t see it right now.”

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Everyday Thumps

There’s nothing like a victory on the soccer field to make a family hungry, so drive-through, here we come. Combo meals and single sandwiches ordered; we pull around to the first window to pay. Now, we’re in the lead in the parade of customers proceeding to the second window. We pick up our order and quickly pull away so the next customer can be helped. We stop in the parking lot to satisfy those hunger pains before driving home, but there is a problem. The restaurant forgot to put my fries in the bag. Can you relate?

We allowed ample time to get to the doctor’s appointment, but halfway there, traffic was at a standstill. The extra time allowed was erased. The snarled traffic pushed our arrival 30 minutes past our appointment time. Can you relate?

The agenda didn’t allow much time between flights, and the first was delayed. This meant we had to run from one side of the airport to the other to make the flight. We made it to the gate just as they were calling our name for the final time about to shut the aircraft door. Can you relate?

Day-to-Day Living

I’m guessing you relate to these events. They are normal, everyday strains on our character. We know life has tough moments in which we have to rely heavily on our faith. God uses these crises to strengthen us, but what about the everyday events? Not shattering enough to be classified a crisis, they are just big enough to annoy us. James reminds us these events are helping build a Godly character of endurance.

“Dear brothers and sisters,” James 1:2-4 says, “when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow. For when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete needing nothing.”

Max Lucado writes, “When a potter bakes a pot, he checks its solidity by pulling it out of the oven and thumping it. If it ‘sings,’ it is ready. If it ‘thuds,’ it is placed back in the oven. The character of a person is also checked by thumping. Have you been thumped lately?”

Thump, Thump, Thump

Fries missing. Traffic wrinkling our schedule. Running through the airport to make a flight are all thumps. Life is filled with thumps. Lucado continues, “There’s nothing like a good thump to reveal the nature of a heart. The true character of a person is seen, not in momentary heroics, but in the thump-packed hum-drum of day-to-day living.”

How do you respond when you are thumped in your daily life? Do you “sing” or “thud?” What changes do you need to make to your response? Join me in challenging yourself to do more “singing” and less “thudding.”

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ASK THESE 5 QUESTIONS BEFORE SPEAKING

In the Peanuts Thanksgiving show, Peppermint Patty calls Charlie Brown to let him know she is coming over for Thanksgiving. “My parents said I could come over for Thanksgiving, Chuck. I will be over, Chuck. Wear something nice, Chuck.” She invites a few other people until there is a whole group of visitors going to Charlie Brown’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, but there is a problem. Charlie Brown was going to go to his grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving.

“I’ve tried to tell Peppermint Patty I’m not going to be home,” Charlie Brown says at one point in the show, “but I can’t get a word in. She talks all the time.”

Our words are powerful, and they are like toothpaste. Squeeze too much toothpaste out of the tube. Putting it back is almost impossible, and it makes a big mess in the process. Our words are the same way. We can’t put words back in our mouth, and when too many come out, it can make a big mess. To avoid the mess, Scripture suggests we choose our words carefully.

  • “Understand this my dear brothers and sisters,” James 1:19 encourages, “you must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
  • According to Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

Our words carry with them the power to direct our lives. Our words build up or tear down relationships. Words can build someone’s confidence or cause great heartache and discouragement. Our words, whether out of our mouth or via our keyboard, have tremendous power, which is why it is essential we choose our words carefully. Here are 5 questions we should ask before speaking.

  1. Are these words kind?
  2. Are my words beneficial to the recipient? As Christians, we are to build one another up with our words.
  3. Are my words necessary?
  4. Would I be embarrassed if I was quoted?
  5. Would I want someone to say this to me?

The average person can speak 100 to 130 words per minute and type 60 to 65 words per minute. We can quickly get words out and be on to the next one, but the impact our words have can last for a long time. In some cases, their impact can be felt for a lifetime. Being entrusted with something this powerful requires careful use. You and I should be slow to speak; choosing our words carefully is one of the ways we are recognized as being with Jesus.

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finding real success

The day seemed busy. The companions were going through their ordinary agenda, but they did not realize God had placed an activity on their schedule that would take up most of the day. They were headed to the temple to pray when they noticed a group of folks bringing a man to the gate to beg. The man was lame, and he spent his days by the gate hoping to raise enough provisions to survive. He too did not realize God had placed an event on the calendar. It is now time for God’s change to the timeline to be revealed.

Peter and John looked at the man and the man looked back expecting money, but Peter said to him, “We don’t have any money. We will give you what we have. In the name of Jesus, get up and walk.” Peter then helped the man to his feet and took advantage of a natural opportunity to share the Good News. This concerned some of the religious leaders of the day, and they took Peter and John before their “Supreme Court.”

The next day as Peter and John stood before the religious leaders, they gave the credit to Jesus. “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John. For they could see they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus, but since they could see the man who had been healed standing right there among them, there was nothing the council could say,” records Acts 4:13-14.

Peter and John were fishermen; they were ordinary guys, so the council was perplexed about how they performed this miracle and could handle Scripture with such authority. The council could reach only one conclusion. The reason for Peter and John’s success was Jesus.

What is real success?

People search for success all over the place, but the key to real success is the Lord. Author Charles Stanley comments, “Real success is never about your own intelligence, education, beauty, or talent. Rather it is about the Lord Jesus Christ shining through you.” Peter and John were recognized as men who had been with Jesus.

Are you recognized as someone who has been with Jesus? The Lord uses our intelligence, education, and all the other attributes he graciously gives us in our lives. But ultimately, success or failure is up to him. The road to success is definitely bumpy, but one day it comes. The goal of real success is the desire of all Christians – spending eternity in Heaven. Real success comes in spending time with Jesus.

Challenge yourself to spend time with the Lord. Spend time reading the Bible and in prayer. JC Penny once commented his success was the result of adversity and Jesus.

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food for thought on thanksgiving

Billy’s grandmother told him today was Thanksgiving, so he needed to stop and count his blessings. Billy replied, “I’m not very good at arithmetic.” Many are pausing today to offer thanks.

The first Thanksgiving was a celebration of harvest. It was a celebration of the fact the pilgrims finally had a foothold in their new land. These folks had a rough start in their new settlement. In fact, it has been calculated that out of the 101 original settlers only 48 survived to celebrate Thanksgiving. This band of settlers experienced much hardship, but with the help of their neighbors, they learned how to live. To spite the emotional drain of their hardship, the settlers took time to thank God for their blessings.

Today, we are celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada. This celebration comes amid much difficulty; however, we have reasons to be thankful. As Christians, we all can be thankful for a Lord who is always with us. Beyond this, our reasons for being thankful could vary. Family and friends, the start of a new job, the start of an exciting life chapter or the end of a stressful one, or the long-asked prayer being answered may make the list of thankful reasons.

No matter the reasons, remember the encouragement of Scripture to always give thanks. And, challenge yourself to make it a daily occurrence if you’re not already giving thanks daily. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

As I think of my thankful list, you are on it. I am grateful that you have taken a moment to read this. I am grateful so many of you stop by on a daily basis.

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