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December 23

Monday, December 23rd, 2019

As it gets closer to Christmas my workload also amps due to the church serving breakfast on Christmas morning and also handing out at least 30 bags of groceries which will all be put together today. (There are actually 60 since not all the food will fit into one bag). So I am going to “cheat” again by using my #ChristmasChallenge devotion here.

My title for this devotion is Manger vs Cross.

I read the following quote:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ  brings us to God.

Growing up you really only think of Christmas-besides the whole Santa Claus and gift thing-as the occasion to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We like the story of the baby in the manger. It fits our “meek and mild” picture of Jesus. It fits our Away in a Manger and Silent Night theme.

But as C.S.Lewis says in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (which I just finished reading again), “There is deeper magic here.” What is seen on the surface is just that: the surface. There is so much more to see and learn. There is so much more at work than just the birth; there is also the vision of the cross. Without doubt Jesus came with the specter of the cross in His sights. Phil.2 even tells us that. Jesus reminded His disciples over and over that the Son of Man must suffer and die.  The cross of Christ is always there. It is through the cross, and the cross only, that we find our way to God. It is only through the blood of Jesus that salvation is found.

But it is through the birth of Jesus as a baby, as God made flesh, that it all begins.  The quote again:

The birth of Christ brought God to us;

The cross of Christ brings us to God.

“Father, thank you for that truth. May this Christmas season take on extra meaning because it is more than a baby in a manger. It is also that baby on a cross giving Himself up for us.”

December 19

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is More vs Less.

One verse that may seem to have nothing or very little to do with Christmas has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember. I have a plaque in my office with this verse on it. The verse is John 3:30. When John’s disciples are offended that Jesus is garnering more attention than John, he answers their statement with the words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Other translations might say, “He must become greater; I must become less.” No matter how you shake it, they all the same thing: Jesus must become more; I must become less.

Can anyone think of a time in the Bible where the greatness of Jesus is seen any more than at His birth and at His death? Why? His greatness is shown by his humility. First, the whole incarnation miracle (truth) blows me away. Second, to realize the humility He displayed for that to happen is mind-boggling! Sorta makes our petty jealousy and one-upmanship seem childish and silly. Here was the King of all laying down His pride, His status, His desire in order to display a humility that is unmatched. How can I insist that my agenda is the one that’s right? How can I insist that I do this or that? How can I be jealous when someone else gets to sing, play, speak, whatever and I don’t?  (You did notice the emphasis on the previous questions did you not?)

Humility-Jesus becoming greater and me becoming less-is where I need to be. It’s a trait that needs to be more common in my life. John 3:30 needs to be more than a verse in the Bible or on a plaque; it needs to be written on every page of my heart.

“Father, may You become more in my heart so there is less of me there. And may you become more in my thoughts and actions so people see less of me and more of you.”

I’m taking some folks to the Indianapolis airport for their yearly trek to Disney so I “cheated” a little by using a good part of my #ChristmasChallenge at my other blog as my daily devotion today. I needed to save a bit of time since I am leaving fairly early to take them.

Dear friends: I have made a grave error in this post. I have since made the correction. Diane’s comment pointed it out. I did not mean “reincarnation” but “incarnation.” My sincerest apologies. That was one ugly heresy I put out there by accident.

December 11

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Knowing vs Knowing About.

In Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings…”  I’ve always liked that verse than for no other reason than one word: know. Our English language fails us here because our idea of know is sometimes pretty shallow. But the Greek word goes much deeper. The Greek word means to know intimately. Simply put: there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of people who have a knowledge of Jesus. Many non-theists and atheists have a better knowledge of Jesus and the Bible (for the purpose of arguing) than many followers of Christ. But that is different than what Paul is talking about.

It is also different than the “Christmas experience” (for lack of a better phrase this morning). When Jesus came it was for many reasons, but one of the primary ones was so God could reveal Himself to us. So we might know Him. We will never “know” Him like we should-our ability falls short because we are humans with limited everything. While Mary knew her son because of the mother/child bond, she too had limited knowledge.

But the limits placed on us by our humanness should not inhibit our desire to pursue Him, to want to know Him. If anything it should fan the flame of desire in our hearts. So use this Christmas time to pursue knowing Jesus. More than a baby; the Son of God.

“Father, may my Christmas season be one of a desire to know You. Help me not to be content with the baby in a manger. Help me to want to get to know Jesus-the King of kings and the Lord of glory.”

December 10

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Bright Lights vs Dim Light.

One of the most beautiful scenes of Christmas is a decorated house. Even better, a house of lights with music! 🙂  (Check out the multiple entries for this). The lights transform a dull, dingy exterior into a wonderland of beauty. In our house, one of our traditions is a Christmas tree (now of the artificial variety) that goes up on Thanksgiving Day and stays up until sometime after Christmas. It doesn’t just stay up; it stays on. That’s right. 24/7. The lights on the tree are never off. Growing up our lights were on Christmas morning when we came downstairs and then each subsequent evening. I suspect some of that was economically and safety-driven since both were suspect back then, but with the advent of smaller bulbs which don’t get hot or have you see your electric meter going nuts, ours stay on all day. We have certainly come a long way from the first lights on a tree…candles. Of course, many a house burned down back then. 🙁

The light displays are as numerous as the houses, as is the amount of work put into the display. Each year a local florist puts lights on their giant outside tree. I keep forgetting to ask him if he puts them up and takes them down or just unplugs them.

But those lights pale in comparison to “the Light of the World.” In John 8:12 Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the world.” If you are a Christ-follower the light of Christ has shown into your heart. Why not share that light with someone else this Christmas? Brighten their world.

“Father, your light transforms even the darkest scene and the darkest night. May your light shine in me and then through me to others.”

December 8

Sunday, December 8th, 2019

Sunday is a wash out day for me when it comes to posting. So I’m going to take the “easy” way out by posting a video. I heard this song a couple of years ago and was immediately “struck” by it. Okay, more like a 2×4 across the forehead.

I liked it so well I asked one of our young ladies to sing it. She nails it! I wish you could hear Hanna sing it. But since you can’t, I guess you will have to settle for 2nd best. 🙂

https://youtu.be/5Vwu-t7QRaE

If you prefer to have the lyrics you can check it out here.

 

December 6

Friday, December 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Generosity vs Stinginess.

I think one of the overarching themes of this time of the year is generosity. The idea of Jesus’ words through Paul (“It is more blessed to give than to receive”) are, perhaps, never more prevalent than at Christmas. I know for me I get great joy in giving and seeing the faces when that gift if accepted and opened.

In many minds the “seed” for that generosity is a somewhat mythical creature named Santa Claus. I don’t get on the bandwagon about SC. I have bigger fish to fry. That is not a battle I choose to fight because, frankly, I don’t care. I really don’t. Those fools who say things like, “SANTA had the same letters as SATAN; they are just mixed up a little” are fighting a losing battle. That is just dumb. The legend of SC comes from the supposed inspiration of a real person, St. Nicolas. His idea? Generosity. Seeing a family or someone in need and trying to help.

Granted, some have taken it too far. Christmas is often more about trees, gifts, lights, etc than about celebrating the birth of Christ. But rather than protest in rebellion to that, we ought to use that as a springboard to be the most generous people around. Generosity ought to be one of the “calling cards” of the Christ-follower, not stinginess.

After all, the greatest example of generosity is the story we want to promote: the generosity of a loving God to lost humanity with the greatest gift of all.

“Father, help me to be a generous person not one who is stingy and wrapped up in himself. Help me to follow Your example.”

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.”

November 22

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Lower vs. Higher.

Today it happened like so many other times. No, I didn’t get into trouble…yet. 🙂 No, it is something much better.  I’m sure you have probably had it happen too. You read the Bible and something clicks. You realize you are reading about yourself. Please let me explain.

My first reading this morning was from Jeremiah 2-4. First, I had to wade through the conviction that the Jews (and me) were trying to make life on their own and had committed two evils (2:12-13). Please take the time to read it. But what really got me was the incomplete repentance of Israel and Judah. What I mean by that is they were sorry for what had done; said so; but then failed to change. True repentance involves change, a turning around. How often has my repentance been incomplete?

That often comes from a failure of humility. A failure to see myself as needing to lower myself. In Luke 14:7-11 Jesus tells a parable of the wedding feast. In short: He says it is better to start lower and be moved up than to take a higher seat and be asked to move down. He finishes with these words: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Who is a better picture of that than Jesus? He humbly placed himself under human rule. As a human He exposed himself to all we face-weather, physical, abuse, political, all of it-to come down. But we also know as He humbled Himself He was also exalted to the highest place, the highest name, the highest seat, the highest position. Nothing in His life would make one think He was the King of kings. But His humility is evident. He wanted no pomp and circumstance. I mean…He rode a donkey not a Beamer!

A lesson for me to learn: take the lower place, not the higher. Don’t seek to elevate myself.

“Father, Jesus was the epitome of humility. He showed it as no one else did. May I follow His example and take/seek the lower seat.”

November 21

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

My title for this devotion is Fool or Wise?

Over the past couple of months I have read two books that came from a unique perspective. Their authors were former atheists who came to know Christ as their Savior. They wrote for different reasons. Confronting Christianity by Rebecca MacLaughlin was written to answer 12 arguments that Christianity (God) is accused of. Why I Still Believe by Mary Jo Sharp was written to counteract actions in the church which threatened to turn MJ away from her life in Christ.

The denial of God’s existence is very real. There are those whose life mission is to disprove or argue His existence. The late Stephen Hawking. Dawkins. The late Christopher Hitchens. And others. But Psalm 14 puts a word on them that is ominous and no one wants to be called: F.O.O.L.

No one like to be called a fool and yet the ultimate foolishness is the denial of God.  But what concerns me is the one who believes in God and yet lives as if He doesn’t exist. What do I mean by that? Glad you asked. 🙂  It’s the one who lives:

  • As though God is a second thought not a first thought.
  • As though he is the master of his own fate
  • As though he is the ultimate ruler of his life and doesn’t need God’s authority.
  • As though he is smart enough to act and doesn’t need God’s wisdom
  • As though he has it within himself to overcome sin and temptation and doesn’t need God’s power in his life.
  • As though he gets things done by merit and does not need nor have to rely on God’s grace.

Could it be that every time I/you do or think the above thoughts we are saying, “God, I don’t need you. I’m going on this alone” even though we may not verbalize it?

I want to borrow from Paul David Tripp’s book Come Let Us Adore Him:

A fool has no ability whatsoever to rescue himself from his own foolishness. A fool is always a person in need of eternal rescue…He (Jesus) was born to rescue fools like you and me. (pp.122-123)

“Father, help me not to live in such a way so that it appears I don’t believe in You. Instead, help me to live a life of wisdom-a life of surrender to You and not to myself.”