December 26 – A Light of Revelation

Luke 2:21-52; Ezekiel 38-39; Isaiah 61

“A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:32 NKJV)

Jesus had a two-fold mission: He was the Son of David, calling the people of Israel back to the good old days when people’s hearts were in tune with God’s will. (More or less) He was also to be a light of revelation to the Gentiles. He was to bring the message of God’s love and redemption to those who had not been members of the family of faith. This was a revolutionary statement uttered by Simeon, since the general belief of Jews at that time was that God had created Gentiles to fuel the fires of hell. Jesus, as John would describe it later, came not to judge the world, but to redeem the world and bring all people into a relationship with God the Father. 

Our call, as followers of Christ, is to share the light of revelation we’ve received and spread the good news to a world that’s walking in the dark. One of the problems with walking in the dark is that our eyes become accustomed to the lack of light and we make adjustments. The light of Christ is hard to endure when it’s first revealed. Yet little by little, our eyes begin to adjust to the light and we can see what the darkness hid. There are cities that look beautiful at night, as the artificial lights draw your attention and you don’t see the problems around you. Those same city streets are filthy in the daylight. The difference here is that when the light of Christ shines on a person, the light itself begins the process of transforming them into the image of Jesus Christ. God doesn’t see the dirt in our hearts, He sees the glory of Jesus. It’s time to begin the process of leaving the manger, like the shepherds did, and spreading the light of Christ to the people who walk in darkness.

Lord, If the people who walk in great darkness are to see a great light, You will use people to spread that light. Purify me, and let me reflect the light of Jesus in this dark world.

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December 25 – All People

Luke 2:1-20; Ezekiel 37; Isaiah 60

Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2:10-11 NKJV) 

All people. The passages in Ezekiel and Isaiah hint at resurrection and light for all people. The angels made it clear: God’s message of redemption is for all people. It was for all people on the day Jesus was born; it’s still for all people. It doesn’t matter what their background may be. It doesn’t even matter if they say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” The message is clear: God loves all people and Jesus was sent to make salvation available to all. We’re called to respond to His offer of grace, but the offer is available to all people. The birth of Jesus, the Savior, is good tidings of great joy to all people. 

Sometimes we who claim to follow get hung up on little things. We try to set up admission standards for people to be fit for the kingdom of God. We want people who aren’t Christians to conform to Christian beliefs and behaviors, or at least our understandings of what Christian behavior is like. (Believe me, I’ve seen a lot of people who I know are Christians live by standards that I consider shocking.) Which makes the point that ultimately, God is in control of the admission standards for redemption: and He tells us to trust in Him. Whoever you are, wherever you live, whatever you’ve done, God wants you to experience the same message of good tidings and great joy He gave for all people that the shepherds experienced. Just trust in Him.

Lord, what great news for all people! I pray that all people would experience the good tidings of great joy You made available for all in Jesus.

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December 24 – Redemption in the Second and Third Chances

Luke 1:57-80; Ezekiel 35-36; Isaiah 59

“So they made signs to his father–what he would have him called. And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, ‘His name is John.’ So they all marveled. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God.” (Luke 1:62-64 NKJV) 

Zacharias had made a mistake when he questioned the angel who announced the forthcoming birth of John. It’s hard to blame him, if you think about it. He and his wife, Elizabeth, were a bit old to have kids. But they’d been praying for a child, and when Gabriel told him his prayer was answered, he had a hard time believing it. He was struck mute until everything that Gabriel had said came true. It could only come true if Zacharias believed and obeyed Gabriel’s words. When the baby was born, Zacharias took advantage of his second chance, letting all those well meaning friends know that the baby was supposed to be named John. When the last part of Gabriel’s prophecy came true Zacharias received his voice again and he used it in the best way possible: praising God.

We all have regrets about things we did that we shouldn’t have done, or things we should have done that we didn’t do. I doubt that you were ever struck mute because of those mistakes, but I’m guessing you probably didn’t want to talk about that missed opportunity. I don’t like to brag about what I did wrong, or didn’t do right. Zacharias got a second chance to do the right thing, and he took advantage of that. God gives lots of second chances, and third chances, and even more if we need them. John came to give the people of Israel a second chance to turn back to God, and prepare the way of the Messiah, Jesus, who came to give all people the chances they need to develop a relationship with God. When we live in a restored relationship with God, then we can, as Zacharias did, praise God.

Lord, thank You for all the chances You gave me to come to You. Thank You for the miracle of Christmas time when we celebrate Jesus’ first coming to earth so that we could have the chances we need. Thank You for the promise of Jesus’s second coming. May all people take advantage of those chances so that they can praise You and be ready for Jesus’s return.

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December 23 – God’s Plan and Forever Kingdom

Luke 1:26-56; Ezekiel 34; Isaiah 58

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33 NKJV) 

It’s interesting how the Old Testament reading relates to the New Testament reading today. In Ezekiel 34:11 God says, “ “Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.” We see God’s plan in the words of Gabriel to Mary. God would send His Son, born of a virgin, who would be called Jesus, and He would reign forever. That was His plan for the redemption of mankind. That was His plan to restore our relationship with Him. He Himself would seek us out, and He did that when He sent His Son to earth to begin His kingdom reign that will last forever.

It’s easy to forget that God has a plan, sometimes. We get so caught up in the day to day issues of our lives that we have a hard time imagining, or understanding God’s plan. But God’s plan has always been for us to be in fellowship with Him. Sin marred that plan from a human perspective, but God showed us how to return to Him. One of the sayings of Christmas is that wise men still seek Him (from Matthew’s account) but the real truth is that God has been seeking us. He doesn’t seek just wise men, He came to seek all people. God’s kingdom is forever, and I’m grateful that He allows me into His kingdom, just as He allows all who request entrance into His kingdom.

Lord, thank You for searching for Your sheep. Thank You for Jesus coming to earth as a baby, dying on the cross, but having an eternal kingdom. Thank You for allowing me to be a citizen in Your kingdom.

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December 22 – Remembering the Days of Elijah

Traveling and computer issues have made me late. I apologize. Hoping to catch up today. Merry Christmas!

Luke 1:1-25; Ezekiel 33; Isaiah 57

“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17 NKJV)

The birth of Christ in this world was the end of the beginning of time and the beginning of the end of time. From this point on, God would deal with people on the basis of grace, but even still, they needed to be prepared, and this was John’s call. He was to turn people back to the Lord, and turn the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient to God’s wisdom in order to prepare them for the coming of the Lord. Later people would remind Jesus that Elijah would have to come to prepare the way for the Messiah: Luke makes it clear that John came in the spirit of Elijah, as did Jesus.

John’s job was to make people expect the coming Messiah. When Jesus came, it should have been obvious that He was the Messiah. What had happened was that as the people of Israel lost their focus on God, fathers didn’t care about their children. Relationships deteriorated as people thought about themselves even above family, and the same thing happens today. The coming of the Messiah the first time restored ther relationship between man and God. The result of that should be restored relationships in family and throughout society. As we grow in our relationship with God, we should think of others more than ourselves. As we prepare for the second coming of Jesus, we should heed this call to think about others more than ourselves and find ways to show God’s love to those wh need to experience it. 

Lord, turn my heart back to You. At the same time, turn my eyes and my heart to people who need to experience Your love. Help me to show them Your love as they need to experience it. 

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December 21 – Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Colossians 3:18-4:18; Ezekiel 31-32; Isaiah 56

“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:5-6 NKJV) 

What’s your purpose in life? Paul urged the Colossians to fulfill their purpose of proclaiming the gospel by walking in wisdom toward those who are outside the household of faith. Paul said that they should speak with grace. The goal of the Christian isn’t to win arguments or be seen as the smartest kids on the block; the goal of Christians is to draw people to Jesus. Because of that, Christians shouldn’t waste their time in foolish arguments or intellectual debates, we should use our time wisely to show others the love and grace of Jesus.

Every so often I need to remind myself about my purpose in dealing with others. My purpose in life isn’t to be seen as super intelligent, as the bravest person, or even the most clever. My purpose in love to communicate the love and grace of Jesus Christ to people who are separated from Him. My secondary purpose is to help people grow in the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Thus, I don’t initiate or get involved in a lot of political discussions. Those generate a lot of heat and smoke, but they don’t further the cause of Jesus Christ. When I focus on causes, I emphasize those causes that deal with the preservation of human life and spreading the grace of God. You are, of course, free to pursue the course God has established for you, but I urge you to always seek to redeem the time you have with people and speak with grace. 

Lord, remind me of my purpose every day. Don’t let me get embroiled in foolish arguments, but let me redeem the time I have with others by showing and speaking grace in my dealing with them.

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December 20 – God’s Love Wins and Brings True Peace

Colossians 2:20-3:17; Ezekiel 29-30; Isaiah 55

“But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.” (Colossians 3:14-15 NKJV) 

The third chapter of Colossians is a beautiful chapter of how to live. It speaks of getting rid of those behaviors and attitudes that separate us from God. It commends to us behaviors and attitudes that will signify that we’ve put on the new man of God. Paul sums up that teaching by reminding us to “put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” The word for “love” here isn’t the sexual love celebrated by our world, nor is it the love of friends; it is the love of God. It is the self-sacrificing love that He showed when Jesus went to the cross. It is the love that brings grace and forgiveness for any and all sins. When we experience and exhibit this love, then we’re able to let the peace of God rule in our hearts no matter what the situation may be.

When Jesus talked about how people would know HIs disciples, He said that it would be by our love for one another. We get God’s peace when we love with God’s love because we stop worrying about judging others, letting God take care of that, and learn to love people in spite of their sins. When we’re trying to make sure that people are living right and get judgy on other Christians and people in the world, we don’t have peace because our goal is to find something wrong with other people. God’s love conquers that by allowing us to show them love, grace, and forgiveness without worrying about their sins. Let’s learn to love others with God’s love. That’s the only kind of love that really wins.

Lord, help me to love others with the same love that You have for me. Let me experience Your peace in the midst of the world’s turmoil because I’m enveloped in Your love.

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December 19 – The Right Condition to Grow

While I’m traveling, my ability to write and post may be hindered. Please be patient with me.

Colossians 1:24-2:19; Ezekiel 27-28; Isaiah 54

As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7 NKJV)

The Colossians had a universal Christian problem. They had this idea that discipleship involved doing lots of stuff so that they could grow in the faith. Paul reminded them that they would grow in Christ just like they received Him: through the power of the Holy Spirit. He used a plant metaphor of being rooted in Jesus as a way to point out that discipleship happens when we spend time with Him and depend on Him. In short, the word disciple doesn’t describe what we do so much as who we are.

I’m not a gardener. Plants die when I try to grow them. But I’ve been told that if a plant is established in the right conditions, it will grow. Jesus described that situation in Luke 8:5-8. Plants don’t move around looking for food and water, they get their sustenance from being in the right conditions. As followers of Christ, the only way to get the right conditions for growth is to live each day in the presence of Jesus. The first disciples grew in their faith because they walked with Jesus for almost three years. While Bible study, prayer, and all those other practices that we emphasize to help people grow in their faith are good things, the only way to grow as a disciple is when our lives are rooted in Jesus Christ and we spend time with Him. 

Lord, it’s so easy to get distracted in a world that has so many options. Teach me to sit at Your feet so that I can learn and grow in You in all situations. 

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December 18 – Beyond the Manger: The Reason for the Season

Colossians 1:1-23; Ezekiel 25-26; Isaiah 53

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.” (Isaiah 53:7-8 NKJV) 

Why did Jesus come to earth? We celebrate His coming, His birthday even, although He probably wasn’t born on December 25. We love to talk about the little baby in a manger and we bristle when anyone says or does anything that might be perceived as a threat to the traditional Christmas story. Yet, this whole chapter from Isaiah reminds us that while we celebrate the baby who was born in a manger, Jesus came for one purpose: to be stricken for the transgressions of God’s people. Just as a point of reference, these are the verses that the Ethiopian eunuch asked Philip about. It was these verses that Philip used to tell him about Jesus. Jesus didn’t fight verbally when before Pilate, He suffered and ultimately died so that our sins would be forgiven. The real message of Christmas doesn’t end with the baby in the manger, it only begins there.The baby in the manger was pointing to the One who was afflicted and oppressed, died on the cross, and was ultimately resurrected as proof of His power over death.

What if, instead of snapping back at people who merely say, “Happy Holidays,” we smiled at them and thanked them. Sometimes I’ll thank them and say, “I celebrate the Christmas holiday, what holiday do you celebrate?” Do you think that will open up a conversation? Let’s face it, in our society, there are any different holidays celebrated this time of year and it doesn’t help the spread of the gospel if we become agents of the Christmas Enforcement Society.  What if we stopped arguing about the secular practices of Christmas and took opportunities to point people to the crucified and resurrected Lord. What if we learned not to open our mouth in the face of what we might perceive to be harassment or persecution, and instead found ways to show the love of Jesus instead of the condemnation of Christians? I think our loving response to people might be more effective than success as members of the Christmas Enforcement Society.

Lord, help me celebrate the birth of Jesus by responding as He did when faced with adversity. Help me to show His love and grace to all people instead of trying to make them conform to the practices I follow.

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December 17 – When You Think The World is Hopeless, Think Like a Child

Philippians 4; Ezekiel 24; Isaiah 52

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV) 

Paul warned the Philippians about the “crooked and perverse generation” of their time. (ch. 2) I think he recognized the debilitating effects of dealing with evil all the time could have, though, so we see these beautiful words in the middle of the last chapter. In short, think about the good things in life. All of chapter four has some beautiful encouragement. Sometimes we get so enmeshed in the battle, though, that we forget about the beauty of this God-created world. We see the ugliness of air pollution, and not the beauty of the mountains. We think about the trash in the water, and miss the beauty of the oceans. We grumble at the need to shovel the snow, and forget about the amazing beauty it brings as it covers over all the ugliness in the area. In short, we’ve become so focused on the problems, we fail to appreciate the beauty God has created. Maybe this is why Jesus said to become like little children: they often see the beauty we adults miss.

If you want to be reminded of the ugliness of this world, check your social media accounts, watch the cable news stations or the national news, or read the newspaper. The police blotter has all kinds of crazy stuff that will set your teeth on edge. Earlier this week, I was so disheartened by a few news stories that I was about to get into a depressive state. Then, these verses came to mind. Our church choir performed their Christmas music. Then, that evening our children’s choir performed. You know how children’s choirs always have “that one kid?” you know, the one that makes everyone in the congregation giggle and laugh…everyone that is except for the mother who’s cringing. At this most recent service, I had the joy of watching a mother who said later, “I know my kid.” She was encouraging her child and the child, getting the attention she needed, continued to be unique, but never went “out of bounds.” Seeing that mother enjoy her child being her child was noble, pure, lovely, and, in my mind, of good report. My heart rejoiced and while the bad news didn’t go away, I was reminded once again of the beauty God’s placed in this world.

Lord, help me to see Your world as a little child and see the beauty of Your world even when Your people are acting their worst. Let me spend my time thinking about how Your love and grace can make a difference and then showing that love and grace to others.

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