Christmas

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December 5

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Kindness vs Own World.

I read a story today in Our Daily Bread of the kindness of a stranger.  A mother of two boarded a plane. The 3 y/o began kicking and crying and her 4 month old need to eat. A traveler seated next to her offered to hold the baby while she got the 3 y/o buckled in and then proceeded to color with the 3 y/o while mom fed the baby. On the connecting flight he offered his help again if needed. (For the full devotion please check out the link).

Some will say, “That’s creepy.” I would answer, “Why? Just because our culture is so wrapped up in the #MeToo issue?” While it’s true there are shady people, don’t you think it’s somewhat sad that we have gotten to this point that all acts of kindness are suspect?

We often hear and are encouraged to do Random Acts of Kindness. Why not do them? Philippians 2 tells us to “have this mind (attitude) which was also in Christ Jesus, that He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”  The coming of Jesus was not just an act of love, and of a willingness to become a servant. It was also a great act of kindness, an act of the kindness of God.

Kindness involves getting out of our world and getting into the world of another.  Kindness means a baby in a manger. Kindness means caring. Kindness means coloring with a 3 y/o while you may have something else to do. Kindness is a meal. A note. A thoughtful gesture. Not just at Christmas time but all year. Do random acts for others.

“Father, you came out of your world to come to earth as a baby.  You came into my world. Help me to follow your example by sharing and being kind.”

December 4

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Christmas vs Easter.

Celebratory vs Solemn.

That’s often the way we look at Christmas and Easter. Christmas Eve vs Good Friday. The tree vs the Cross. Not until Easter morning-Resurrection Sunday-does the 40 days leading up to it become a celebration.

In my mind it is not a case of either/or.  It is a case of both/and. In God’s grand scheme Christmas is not more celebratory than Easter. Sure Christmas is a time of celebration-nowadays dating back to the day after Thanksgiving (and now creeping closer to Halloween). And Easter tends to be more of a one day of celebration.

But if you really think about it, without Christmas Easter makes no sense. And without Easter Christmas is only an introduction but has no conclusion. Taken separately Christmas speaks of a birth; Easter speaks of a death & resurrection. Seen together we see Someone born; we see Someone die; we see Someone born to die.

We often hear during this time of the year the slogan “Wise men still seek Him.” True. But not just Christmas. Wise men worship the child who was born and the man who would die.

“Father, I thank you for the story of Christmas. I thank you for the story of Easter. And I thank you they make more sense and have more meaning when seen together.”

December 3

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2019

My title for this devotion is A Person vs A Blob.

I read something this morning that got my wheels spinning. It was something I had never really thought much about. So I’d like to put it out there for you to think about.

First, let me say this: I am not a political person. I hate politics. I hate talking about it. I won’t blog about it. So you may ask, “If so, Bill, why this devotion?” Because I don’t believe the “baby in the womb” is a political discussion; it is a moral one. With that being said, I give you this devotion.

It struck me today that when Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was already six months pregnant, Luke 1:39-45 records part of their interaction. Verse 41 says, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” Not bad for a blob, a mass of nothingness. I’m being sarcastic-yes. The baby (John) leaped in her womb. That being-whom some say is not alive, viable, or a person-recognized who just came into the room. Not Mary but Jesus! Not only is Elizabeth humbled with the visit from Mary, but her next words reveal even more: “And why is this granted that the mother of my lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” WOW!! If there was any question who Mary’s baby was that answers it. And if there was any question about the personhood of a baby in a womb, that question is answered also.

Person or blob. There should be no question.

“Father, thank you for this account. In a different way than normal, you have shown me the personhood and the awareness of a baby in the womb. May I react the same way John did when I am in the presence of Jesus.”

December 2

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Seriously? vs You’ve Got to be Kidding!

One of the weaknesses of someone with my personality (very much a Sanguine) is the tendency to take things at face value.  Some would call it naivete’. Someone says something to me and I tend to accept it.  Now, given some time I may change my outlook or perspective, but initially acceptance not skepticism is the order of the day.

That’s why the story of Zechariah (Z from here on) and the story of Mary are contrasts to me. Hence, the title.

  • Both were going about their daily life.
  • Both found themselves in the presence of an angel.
  • Both received a message so incredulous it was stunning!
  • One responded with doubt and skepticism; the other with acceptance.

Both Z and Mary received word of a baby on the way. Z balked. Doubted. Mary questioned. Believed. They both asked “Seriously?” but in their own way. Z’s ended up being more of a “You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment, while Mary’s was “So be it. I am yours.”

What will mine be? What will yours be? Will mine be like Z: Seriously? You have got to be kidding me!” or will it be more like Mary’s: “Seriously? I’m yours Lord. Have your way.”

“Father, may my response to your message at this time of the year be like Mary’s. Stunned but yielding to You.”

I have presented a challenge on my other blog for others to join me in posting a Christmas thought each day of December. If you would like to join me and others, then visit my other blog and let me know. I’d love to share links with you and with others.

November 19

Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Will He or Will He Not.

I believe all of us have struggled at one time or another with believing God is faithful. A tough time comes; a downturn in our business; a health issue dogs our tracks; we lose something or someone of importance; a child wanders from his/her faith; a marriage blows up; the examples are numerous. It is during those times that we have a question to ask: Will He or Will he not?

Will God keep His promises, or will He not? Will He be faithful, or will He not? Will He sustain His love, or will He not? Will He renew my strength, or will He not? The questions about God are as numerous as the examples.

But one thing I know: God DOES keep His promise. What promise is that? “I will never leave your or forsake you.” How do I know that? Well..I’ve seen it fleshed out in my own life for one. Some of the horrendous things I’ve done surely made Him cringe at the least. I have to wonder how and why He stayed true. I know the answer to that.

HE PROMISED IT.

Look no further than the Christmas story. How could one not read that story and see God’s promise fulfilled? 3-4 centuries (maybe more) passed from His promise in the Garden to the night in Bethlehem and 33 years later on a cross. Those two events sealed the deal.

The Christmas story alone would have been enough. That story alone shows God keeps His promises. The cross? The nail in the coffin.

“Father, when I’m doubting; when I’m swinging on a pendulum of emotion; when I’m having a tough time connecting the dots between life’s reality and  feelings, remind me of the Christmas story. Proof positive of Your faithfulness to Your promises.”

November 5

Tuesday, November 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is What Was vs What Is.

It is inescapable. In reality, it has been since before Halloween. What is that? Christmas is coming. Surely you’ve noticed the displays in the stores. Pretty soon we’ll see Uncle Sam in a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny rabbits. Sort of ridiculous if you ask me. (But no one has). Christmas decorations, trees, etc out before October is even over. It is definitely a reminder of our consumeristic society.

But it should also serve as a reminder of a greater truth: What was and what is.

The Christmas story is a story of what was vs what is. The story doesn’t start in a stable in Bethlehem. It actually starts in the Garden. Having known only the beauty of sweet fellowship with Adam and Eve, God came to the Garden wanting to meet with them as He always did. For the first time, Adam and Eve are hiding. The effects of sin-their sin- has already manifested itself. What was will never be again. What was sweet, pure and lovely will now forever be tainted with ugliness, mistrust, and a penchant for hiding from God. That bond what once was is forever broken. No longer do Adam and Eve long for and look forward to walking with God in the cool of the day. Now they hide. I hide. Sin has done its dirty work and has forever put a gap between me and God.

But that’s also why I celebrate Christmas. God has bridged that gap between us by His Son’s birth, death and resurrection. Praise God what was is not and does not last. Christmas is the celebration of God’s desire to have fellowship with me. With you. A tragedy is turned into a triumph. A forever broken relationship is mended by a Man- God’s Son. Born in a manger.

“Father, what was- perfect peace- will never be again. But what can be is a life with You. Thank you for Jesus- His birth, His death, and His resurrection.”

November 1

Friday, November 1st, 2019

My title is Good News vs Bad News.

Christmas (X from here on out) is a time of celebration. It is a time of revelry and joy. It is not a time when people talk about bad news.

I’m reading Paul David Tripp’s X devotion book Come Let Us Adore Him during my morning Quiet Time. I should say rereading it…for the 5th time. I first read it in October,November & December of 2017. Then I read it in December of 2018. I’m reading it now in preparation for X but also for my sermon preparation for that wonderful season of the year. Today’s devotion-#5-was about the Good news and Bad news of X. This chapter is chock full of stuff but two statements stood out to me.

“The incarnation of Jesus Christ pointedly preaches our inescapable need for radical, personal, and moral rescue and forgiveness.” (p.30)

“The reason the birth of Jesus is such gloriously wonderful news is that in His birth God offers you and me the solution to the fundamental brokenness of sin that is the core tragedy of every one of our lives. So confessing our brokenness is the only way we will ever fully understand and celebrate the birth of the Messiah.” (p.31)

Bad news= sin, brokenness, messed up, hopeless, need for rescue.

Good news= Jesus humbled Himself to get rid of the bad news which made up our lives so it could be replaced with good news.

“Father, not much more needs to be said at this point except thank you. Thank you for the Good News!”

October 8

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Countdown to D-Day (my 67th birthday) is one day. And I celebrate with a colonoscopy one day before. Go figure. Guess I didn’t plan that one very well did I? 🙂

My title for this devotion is Presence vs Absence.

One of the most devastating times is when a person feels utterly alone. It is loneliness that often drives one to despair; which is often the precursor to hopelessness. Like a series of stacking bricks or a landslide of falling rocks, that hopelessness often leads to an utter lack of desire to live; which can lead a person to contemplate, or maybe even act, upon taking their life. I have never felt that alone, although there have been times I have wept uncontrollably and pounded my fist (on something soft) out of the sheer weight of my circumstances. I’m not sure there is something much more devastating than losing a job (being told to leave) when one has a wife, 2 young children around ages 8 & 4, and then again at the ages of 12 and 8.

Please understand: I am not seeking sympathy nor am I trying to justify anything. Frankly, it was my own pride and arrogance that got me into those messes. But even though I was going through those valleys, and can now see more clearly after going through them, I can say I know one thing: God’s presence was always…ALWAYS…with me. To be honest, I had nowhere else to go. My mess = my cleanup = real trouble. I NEEDED His presence to steer me straight.

My thoughts were piqued today as I continue reading John Piper’s short devotional book on Christmas (yes I am already reading in preparation for that season) called The Dawning of Indestructible Joy. He writes this:

‘Jesus came to prove that God tells the truth, that God keeps His promises. Christmas means God can be trusted’ (p.32)…’Say to the next generation again and again: God is truthful; God keeps His Word; God does not lie; God can be trusted! (p.33)

One of His promises I learned was the reality of His presence. He promised He will be with me to the end. He promised He will never leave or forsake me. He promised His presence. ALWAYS. To that I cling.

“Father, thank you for being truthful. Thank you for keeping your promises. I look back with 20/20 and see you were always there. I cling to that promise even today!”