Christmas is a time of great joy and this Christmas joy is rooted in an announcement from an angel to shepherds out in the field keeping watch over their flock one night. That particular night God’s glory was unmistakable as the bible tells it; “the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.” (Luke 2:9) Have you noticed that when life gets dark, God’s glory shines its brightest when we turn to Him for help?
“And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10)
A Savior, who is Christ the Lord was born on this day and the shepherds found Him wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14)
This is the Merry in Christmas and peace to those with whom God is pleased. And how is God pleased? When we adore His Son Jesus, who is Christ the Lord.
Honor, devotion and worship are qualities of adoration towards someone. If your heart desires to honor God in all that you say and do, you are pleasing Him. If you are devoted to keeping God the priority of your life, you are pleasing to Him. If you are willing to live a life of worship to God by submitting to His will, you are pleasing to Him.
“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15)
“For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
Jesus is our good news and great joy, the Merry in our Christmas. His glory is unmistakable!
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“Life is hard but God is good” is a statement I heard many years ago that rings true of life’s journey. Jesus warned us that:
“…In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
The beauty and strength in Jesus’ perspective is that He knew the depth of sufficiency and power that would be provided through Him to overcome the world. It also means that Jesus followers have to know that their approach to overcoming tribulation will be different from the worlds approach. And we need to know what we’re fighting for.
In the movie Cinderella Man, the history making boxer (Jim Braddock) who is experiencing an incredible comeback after loosing everything is asked to explain his sudden success. His response resonates a new-found purpose that was birthed through his tribulation:
“This time around I know what I’m fighting for.”
Do you know what you’re fighting for in life? Knowing begins with discovering God and His purpose for your life. Jesus lived to please God. He accomplished the work that He was sent to accomplish on earth amidst great tribulation. He knew what He was fighting for, to bring the light of salvation to the world. We see His determination and focus through the prophet Isaiah;
“But the Lord God helps Me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:7)
God has a good plan for your life and it takes a fierce focus on Him to discover and fulfill it against the tribulations of living in this world. Know what you’re fighting for. How you spend eternity is weighing in the balance.
“…But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)
Growing up I learned that love had to be earned based on how well I performed. The giving of love was by works and not by grace. This way of receiving love was instilled in my father by his father and he naturally brought it into his parenting relationship with his own kids.
“We love because He first loved us.” (1John 4:19)
Performance based love is rooted in fear and not in the freedom of grace love initiated by God. My earthly father inflicted a ton of rules that I had to adhere to. Eventually I figured out that I would never be able to consistently meet his standards. God accepts us as we are, with all our imperfections and shortcomings. He not only loves us first but wins our heart with His kindness towards us.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us…but according to His own mercy…” (Titus 3:4,5)
God is love and He delights in pouring out His love on us. So much so that He sent His Son Jesus to remove the barrier of ‘works based love’ which could never satisfy our longing to be loved and accepted.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…In order that the world might be saved through Him.” (John 3:16, 17)
There is no fear in the perfect love of our Heavenly Father, there is peace of soul knowing that we are loved and accepted just as we are. His love brings freedom to soar into fulfilling our God-given purpose on this earth.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…” (1John 4:18)
Nothing can separate you from the love of God! (Romans 8:38, 39)
“He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.” (Song of Solomon 2:4)
Image: Nature’s Love, J. Shauk
From the moment we gasp for our first breath at birth we announce our need for a Savior. With the second breath our struggle begins with embracing it. Instead of embracing this need we strive toward building a self-sufficient lifestyle that conveniently obscures our view of the One who has known us since before we were born, who saw our unformed substance. (Psalm 139:13-16)
The crazy belief around building a life of self-sufficiency is the false belief that independent living is possible, that creating enough resources to get along without help is obtainable. And yet we find that in the last chapter of our lives we suffer regret over relationships that have been sacrificed for gain in life.
We were created for relationship and dependence upon God from the beginning.
“So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:27)
God also provided the resources that we would need during our life on earth and the abilities, gifts and talents to bear fruit, to live a prosperous life balanced in spirit, soul and body.
“Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” (3 John 1)
In our pursuit of self-sufficiency we presume that our resources have come about from our own hard work, gifts or talents. God warns us that when we trust in our own ways all that we build for ourselves will be destroyed. (Hosea 10:13) He encourages us to turn from pursuing a self-sufficient lifestyle to one of dependence upon the One who owns it all.
“For every beast of the forest is Mine, the cattle on a thousand hills.” (Psalm 50:10)
At the age of 14 God showed me my need for a Savior and the futility of trying to build a self-sufficient lifestyle. I believed falsely that it would protect me from being betrayed by others and the world in general. God was inviting me to journey through life with Him as my provider and One in whom I could depend on for provision that would result in works that would not be destroyed. His invitation was simple;
“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Everyone needs a Savior and His name is Jesus.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
What is at the root of your desire to praise God? For most of us the inspiration comes from answered prayers, overcoming obstacles, being healed of sicknesses, a recent promotion or financial windfall or any major milestone achievement in life. But if God all of a sudden seemed to stand back for a season and the blessings were not so obvious and tangible would you pass the test of maintaining a life of praise and worship to Him? Would you continue to offer up praise simply Because of Who He Is?
At the root of every soul is a deep desire to praise the God who created them. Once we experience His presence and the depravity of our soul exposed, worship is a natural response. Once we accept His salvation through Jesus Christ, His redemptive restorative work in our lives becomes the most powerful root and inspiration of praise we have to offer up to our Heavenly Father. No life has slipped too low for His saving grace to reach.
“Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)
Because of Who He Is and what He has done for us through salvation we can live at peace with God. As His children we can live in perpetual triumph in all areas of life, we are overcomers, living and walking in the Truth of His Word, freed from the bondage and curse of sin.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
May God, Because of Who He Is become the root and depth of your praise!
Image: Butterfly Wallpaper
Have you ever thought about how many times God would have to show up in your life to settle the question of knowing that He is God? Knowing that God is God is a familiar struggle that we can all relate to. And knowing that God gives us His ‘grace space’ to settle our struggle with unbelief once and for all is also comforting, as long as we realize that it is not His will for us to remain in doubt.
The Israelites struggled to believe that God was God in their lives during their 40 year wilderness experience. Even with the parting of the Red Sea, bread from heaven and numerous miraculous deliveries from their enemies many still could not embrace the All-Sufficient One. We see from their example that even God knows when we reach a point that we should know that He is God as when He said to Moses:
“How long will this people despise Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them?” (Numbers 14:11)
God was speaking about a people who had experienced His supernatural intervention in their lives for many years and yet still did not believe. God knew that He had provided ample evidence of His presence and they had reached a point of compromising their inheritance in Him. He was ready to strike them with a pestilence and disinherit them from His covenant promises! (Numbers 14:12)
We have another example in the story of the widow and her son of Zarephath in prophet Elijah’s day whom God miraculously kept alive by not allowing her flour and oil to run out, as along as she fed the prophet during a period of severe drought. But it was not until Elijah raised her son from the dead did she believe that the prophet was sent from God.
“And the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.'” (1 Kings 17:24)
Are you still within God’s ‘grace space’ of wavering in unbelief? If so, it’s not because God has not shown up in your circumstances a time or two, it is because of unbelief. Don’t waiver so long in unbelief that you forfeit your covenant promises from God. Believing God is just a prayer away.
Before Jesus healed the boy with the unclean spirit, his earthly father gives us a glimpse of his struggle with unbelief when he asks Jesus:
“…But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us. And Jesus said to him, ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” (Mark 9:22, 23)
And the father of the child cried out – “I believe; help my unbelief!” And the boy was healed.
“Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe His prophets, and you will succeed.” 2 Chronicles 20:20)
(Photo by Goodfon-su)
Love wins. It triumphs over all things. And this is possible because God loved first and through His all-powerful love He caused His light to shine upon the just and the unjust. We all enjoy the daily benefits of the light of His grace and love.
“The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us.” (Psalm 118:27)
God is love. We can know His love by placing our trust in His Son, Jesus, who is the light of the world (John 8:12), the bright morning star (Rev. 22:16). This Jesus, who loves us is the rock and anchor of our faith, the answer to all that we will ever need, the Savior of the world. He died and rose again in order to offer eternal life by taking our place on the cross. He is the Stone that the builders rejected who in triumph has become the Cornerstone of faith.
“This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes.” (Psalm 118:23)
Jesus said that we can know that we have come to know Him and God’s love if we keep His commandments. We can know that His love is being perfected in us. (1 John 2: 3-5) Our new nature in Christ removes the right to be selective in the commandments that we keep, our new nature delights in responding like Jesus would respond in everyday circumstances. His love did not leave us as orphans to work this out for ourselves, He gave us a Helper, the Holy Spirit who empowers us to walk in God’s light.
“And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” (1 John 3:3)
We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) as we pursue fulfilling a lifestyle of obedient faith in love.
“As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15: 9-11)
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Most gift-giving comes with strings attached and an expectation of reciprocation on some level. We are afforded many occasions throughout the year to give gifts to others as a gesture of affirmation, validation or reconciliation to possibly strengthen fragile relationships. In each case of gift-giving you have the giver and the receiver and at the core exists the relationship between the two.
God set the bar really high when it comes to the pure essence of gift-giving when He revealed His heart on the matter:
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” (James 1:17)
In other words, when God gives a gift to us it is pure with no strings attached and perfectly designed to meet our need for all time as a recipient. God’s gift is given voluntarily without any payment or expectation in return. If we accept His gift we accept without any particular effort of having to earn it.
When we receive His perfect gift we find all the affirmation, acceptance and validation that we sought in other gifts that can never meet this need. Most of all we find our relationship restored to the God who created us to be in relationship with Him.
The perfect gift is Jesus Christ our Savior, the Gift of a lifetime. What He offers can never be paid for by any effort on our part. He was sent by God to save mankind.
“…I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Have you received the Gift of a lifetime?