Jesus is for Every Season


This is a post from my other blog, Dadvotionals.com, but thought it was good to share on this site as well. Hope you all had a wonderful and memorable Christmas.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. I love the music, the food, the family gatherings, but most of all I love the reason. Christ come in the flesh, a baby born in a quiet town with shepherds in attendance. A young couple following the advice of angels to make a good start to their new family. The humble manger holding the greatest treasure in all of creation.

Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season, but our love for Jesus should not be seasonal. We cannot afford to be fair weather friends to the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the reason in every season of life. He is the reason we can make it through the harsh seasons and the reason we can celebrate the bountiful ones. His faithfulness never fails and we should make every effort to live likewise.

Christmas is a time to celebrate love and family and giving. Let’s remember to keep giving the gift of our love, faith and obedience to God even after the decorations are stowed away and the tree is gone.

Have a blessed Christmas and face the New Year with hope and peace.

Thoughts on Christmas: For To Us A Child is Born


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah   9:6 (NIV)

I am not very good at shopping ahead of time for Christmas.  Fortunately I have avoided the last minute shopping at the mini-mart for gifts, but it has come too close a few times.  My wife, on the other hand, is the picture of organization and planning ahead.  She starts buying presents for the next Christmas the first week of January.  She has a budget and lists of kid’s names and remembers what everyone likes and dislikes.  Between the two of us, you would definitely want her to get your name in a gift exchange.

There is no doubt that my wife reflects a characteristic about Christmas that we may not always consider: that the perfect gift came at the perfect time and was planned before the creation of the world.  How awesome is it to know that Christ’s birth wasn’t reactionary or a move of desperation?  From the beginning of time, through dozens of generations, thousands of years and the stubbornness of human will, God prepared the world for the coming of His Son.  The fulfillment of prophecy and the promise of salvation spoken of from the Garden and throughout all history – talk about planning ahead.

The amazing truth of this is that God takes the same pains to bring us to the gift He sent in His Son as He took in bring His Son to a humble manger in Bethlehem.  Every day He has prepared gifts that will bring us closer to Him.  Every day He has put in place what we need for that day.  On that first Christmas, God sent His Son to bring love and salvation to a dying world, and He is still sending that gift each day to those who are willing to receive Him.

During this Christmas season remember the God who plans ahead.  Remember that there is wisdom for you from the Wonderful counselor, there is power to overcome the world in our Mighty God, there is hope for a life to come with our Everlasting Father and we have a gracious Lord in the Prince of Peace.

Thoughts on Christmas: A Mother’s Song, A Daughter’s Song


And Mary said:  “My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)

It must have been an incredible moment, a moment that both women carried with them through the years their sons were growing up and becoming the servants of God they were meant to be.  One a prophet preparing the way for the Messiah; the other a rabbi who bled for the sins of the world. Both of them miracles.

John was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents well beyond the childbearing age – the Abraham and Sarah of their day.  Zechariah was commanded by God to name his son John, but was made mute because he questioned God’s ability to give them a son.  Jesus was the Son of God and Joseph and Mary – one by spirit, one by law and one by blood.  Mary was blessed for unflinching obedience and acceptance.

When Mary and Elizabeth meet, John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, signifying that he already recognized the one he would prepare the way for in an unprepared world.  Elizabeth is moved by the spirit to prophesy, which in turn moves Mary to sing praise to her God.  It is a holy moment, a sacred moment.  Two holy children destined to change the world and two women chosen to love and care for them joined together by God’s Spirit.

Often the song of Mary is considered a mother’s song, and it is, but it is also a daughter’s song to her heavenly Father.  A song of praise and thanksgiving for all that He had done and all that He would do. A song testifying God’s ability to give her everything she needs to do what she should.  A song for Christmas, when we celebrate the day that God gave us everything we need to do all we should.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas day, it is easy to get frustrated with the un-Christmas-like things around us and around the world.  However, the danger of focusing on the lack of Christ in Christmas in our culture is that we don’t focus enough on the Christ in Christmas.  Think of Mary, a young woman in her circumstances travelling to stay with family, avoiding the shame she might endure.  She carried the light of the world inside her, but knew no one would believe her.  In the midst of all this she sings praise to her God; she remembers what she is about and who she is; a daughter of the King.  Instead of fixating on all that could go wrong, or what was uncomfortable or unpleasant, she recounted what good a gracious God she served.  She was preparing the way for the Messiah.

Maybe that is what we should really be about during the Christmas season – preparing the way.  Like Mary and then John, we should be focused on preparing the way for Jesus to come into moments we share with friends, family, coworkers and even strangers.  Let’s prepare the way in our hearts for Christ to have His way in His time.  Prepare the way, Christmas is coming.

Thoughts on Christmas: Simeon’s Song


Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” – Luke 2:25-32

Can you imagine holding the Messiah?  Can you wrap your mind around being present when God came in the flesh to save the world?  I asked myself these questions a few years ago when I read this verse.  It is one that gets skipped over sometimes because it is stuck in between the nativity and the ministry of Jesus with the disciples.  It struck me that God had ordained this meeting between His son and His servant to confirm for Joseph and Mary that all they had experienced was real.

It is easy to feel a little jealous of Simeon’s experience, celebrating the arrival of God’s salvation by holding it close to his chest, but I have since decided that we now experience something Simeon did not – the indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  While Simeon knew who Jesus was and had been waiting for His arrival, he most likely was not living when Christ rose from the tomb.  As believers under the new covenant, we have a fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It really is astounding; that God would dwell in us and make our hearts His home.

In this coming year, in the aftermath of the Christmas season and all the un-Christmas stuff that can come with it, remember that we have received Christ.  We hold Him close to our hearts in faith.  We celebrate His presence in our lives.  We say with Simeon, “my eyes have seen your salvation” and give our praises to God.  This is the meaning and momentum of Christmas; that Christ was sent and received and continues to be sent and received through the Holy Spirit to save the lost and heal the sick and feed the hungry.

Now we become the bearers of the gift, carrying it into the lives of others, presenting them with their “Simeon” moment.  Our words and actions open the doors to present the gift to friends, family, coworkers and strangers, bringing Christ near to those He would save.  Can you imagine holding the Messiah?  Can you wrap your mind around being present when God comes in the flesh to bring salvation to a dying world?  It is our privilege and promise as His children to carry these great gifts every day.  Here is hoping that Christmas does not only mark the end of the year, but gives us the push we need to hit the new year with renewed strength and purpose.

Acting Out Our Faith: A Different Kind of Currency


Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:6-10 (NIV)

I sure am glad that heaven runs on a different currency than the world.  When the world tries to fix a problem it is all about throwing money and resources at it until it is buried.  Issues are resolved by committee and conference.  We have programmed, politicized and popularized helping the needy, but I think we can come to depend on them more than the power of God.

It is comforting to me that poverty in the world’s eyes has nothing to do with the riches of God.  Peter has no silver or gold to give, but what he does have is better by far.  The power to transform lives, to heal and help those in need, cannot be replaced by material things.  It is gracious to give of our resources and we should give with grateful hearts for God’s providence, but we cannot forget to invest the currency God has made available to us through the Holy Spirit.

I don’t want to be rich in this world if it causes me to be a pauper in God’s kingdom.  I want to be wealthy in the things of God and spend that wealth on others.  I hope that the next time I see someone in need I will remember this and invest the currency that only God can supply.

Lord, thank you for Your Holy Spirit supplying me with kingdom currency.  Help me to spend it wisely and fearlessly for Your glory and the benefit of others. Amen.

Life in Community: The Humility of Christ


Praise the LORD! Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise in the assembly of the faithful.  Let Israel be glad in its Maker; let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.  Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.  For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with victory.
Psalms 149:1-4 (NRSV)

A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.
Proverbs 29:23 (NIV)

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NRSV)

My youngest daughter is selfish.  This is not a surprise to me, as my first daughter had the same characteristic when she was that young.  This is not intended as a condemnation, but a statement of fact.  We all start out selfish and must be shown what it is to be gracious, patient, kind and helpful.  It takes time to learn how to be humble.

I think that is one of the reasons the Me Generation earned their moniker; we were the first generation who were told our rights were more important than our responsibilities.  We were sold on feeding our appetites and satisfying our desires.  We were the front end of the marketing industries guinea pigs.  In the process we have gained an enormous love for ourselves, but have lost the riches of community, service and sacrifice.

When I think of my daughters being selfish, my first prayer is that it will never turn into pride.  Right now they just want what they want.  If my wife and I don’t discipline in the right way, not only will they want what they want, they will exact whatever price necessary from others to get it.  This is the destructive nature of pride.  Where humility lightens our load, pride weighs us down and brings us low.

Jesus invites us into community through the doorway of humility.  His example through His horrific humiliation on the cross should help us daily maintain a humble perception of ourselves.  When we consider that Christ laid down His life to provide salvation for all of mankind, regardless of how many would choose to accept it, we must bow our heads, bend our knees and surrender our hearts.

Humility is one of the central changes that must occur in the life of the believer.  It is transforming, changing our motivation for the things we do and say.  Instead of wondering “What’s in it for me?” we ask, “What’s in me that God can use?”  We shift from loving others as a means of showing how spiritual we are to loving others because we truly see their beauty and value through Christ’s eyes.  Humility gets us out of the way so Christ can get to others through us more effectively.

While the Me Generation was told, “Even if you were the only person in the world, Christ still would have died on the Cross for your sins” the real power of the gospel says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.  And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” (2 Cor. 5:14-15 NIV)

Christ died for all.  That is amazing grace.  That is awesome love.  That is power through humility.  This is the kind of humility I want for my daughters.  Not a humility that roots itself in self-abasement and Eeyore-like demeanors, but a humility born of assurance and confidence.  This godly humility comes from a clear understanding that we no longer have any worries and can therefore put other’s needs ahead of our own.  My daughter is showing the signs of humility and I am so happy to see it take root in her heart.

Unfortunately, I am not humble as Jesus is humble.  It is a discipline and I am still working on it every day.  I am still learning how to make sacrifices that cost me without demanding any sacrifice from others.  I am still discovering the lengths to which God is willing to go to help me live the life of Christ.  God is still showing to me in small and great ways how immeasurably big He is and how finite I am.  The next time my daughter throws a fit about not getting what she wants, I will try to remind myself not to do the same thing with my heavenly Father.

Life in Community: Everyone is Broken


During our small group meeting a gentleman shared about his recent journey to the Philippines and the life changing experiences he had there.  One of the most powerful truths he saw during his visit was the importance and influence of community.  It reminded me of some blog posts I did about two years ago on living life in community and so I submit them again for your perusal.  I will be posting the series again over the next two weeks while I am working on a set of posts about Acts.  I hope that this series is a blessing to you.

Everyone who believes has God’s approval through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no difference between people.  Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory.
Romans 3:22-23 (GW)

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 NIV)

My daughter asked me one day why people do bad things and I quickly replied, “Some people are just bad.”  It was a lazy answer, certainly wrong and dreadfully insensitive, but in the moment it satisfied the ponderings of a seven-year-old little girl.  Fortunately the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let me get away with such bad theology – and bad parenting – and kept bringing me back to her question.  Why do people do bad things?

I came across the passage in Philippians 2 one day soon after the conversation with my daughter (it is one of my favorites), and the words jumped out at me.  Obviously my view of “bad” people was not in line with what Jesus desired of me, especially in light of Paul’s words in Romans 3.  Somewhere I had let a false perception creep into my thinking and it had skewed how I thought of others.  The devastating realization was that I had in essence told my little girl she was a bad person.

I have always enjoyed the writings of C.S. Lewis and his essay, “The Weight of Glory” is one I need to return to from time to time.

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.”

It is very easy to lump people into categories and affix our labels and go about our lives in the comfort of our well-organized world.  However, if we are looking for a better life, a richer experience of God’s presence, a deeper understanding of His love at work in our lives and the lives of others we will change our perception of what humanity is and what it can be.  When we understand that each of us will either be forever broken or forever made whole, we should be motivated to work toward the one and work against the other.  Instead we think we are okay because of how bad someone else is or because we are good at hiding our own brokenness.

After reflecting on these passages, I had to sit down with my daughter and explain that people do bad things because they are broken and that all of us are broken.  It was a simple conversation and a simple explanation, but her education in this area will advance with years.  She needs to know that we are all broken, that we all do bad things, and that it is the love of God that heals us and makes us whole; that in loving Him we find the grace and mercy to love ourselves and others because His love is greater than our own.  She will need to know that brokenness is not an excuse for our transgressions.  I will need to teach her that humility is the key to loving other people in the midst of their brokenness.  I will try to show her that it is a far great thing to be better for the sake of others than it is to be better than others.  I will try to show her what it looks like to move toward wholeness so she will know her way along the journey.

The Right Kind of Righteousness: Conclusion


But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. – Romans 3:21-24 (NIV)

Righteousness is an amazing thing; we all need, none of us have it and there is only one place to get it.  Talk about evening the playing field.  Righteousness requires us all to become spiritual paupers. This makes Jesus’ statements in Matthew 5 come into clearer focus.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3) and, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

There is no difference between me or the murderer in jail, until either of us admit our spiritual poverty and hunger for something better than all other things.  God has made His righteousness known and available, but we can get too involved in concocting our own righteousness instead.  We can look at the murderer and say, “At least I am not a murderer” all the while hating the murderer in our heart.  This isn’t righteousness, it is spiritual hypocrisy rooted in arrogance.

Righteousness asks us all to start at the same place, to count everything we have done on our own as rubbish.  We empty our pockets, we deny our credentials, we surrender our pedigree and we come before God naked and poor.  We need Him to clothe us.  We need Him to bless us with the riches of His kingdom.  We need His righteousness.

This life is too short to spend time trying to be right; too precious to spend our talents and treasures just to prove someone else wrong.  Make your argument with your life.  Hunger and thirst for righteousness and you will make the best argument possible; that God’s righteousness is better than man’s.  I certainly don’t say this from a place of success.  Every day is a struggle to seek God’s righteousness instead of creating my own, but I believe I am closer than I was last week, last month, last year.  I still hunger.  I still thirst.

Righteousness is an amazing thing, but it is not impossible.  My hope is rooted in the victories in my own life and the cloud of witnesses who testify to this truth.  The righteousness of God is our inheritance, but we must let go of the petty riches we cling to in this world.  We have to let go of our reputations, our degrees, our experiences and grab a hold of the hem of His garment.  Lord, let us hunger and thirst for You more every day.

Jesus is for Every Season


This is a post from my other blog, Dadvotionals.com, but thought it was good to share on this site as well. Hope you all had a wonderful and memorable Christmas.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. I love the music, the food, the family gatherings, but most of all I love the reason. Christ come in the flesh, a baby born in a quiet town with shepherds in attendance. A young couple following the advice of angels to make a good start to their new family. The humble manger holding the greatest treasure in all of creation.

Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season, but our love for Jesus should not be seasonal. We cannot afford to be fair weather friends to the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the reason in every season of life. He is the reason we can make it through the harsh seasons and the reason we can celebrate the bountiful ones. His faithfulness never fails and we should make every effort to live likewise.

Christmas is a time to celebrate love and family and giving. Let’s remember to keep giving the gift of our love, faith and obedience to God even after the decorations are stowed away and the tree is gone.

Have a blessed Christmas and face the New Year with hope and peace.

The Right Kind of Righteousness: A Gracious Memory Leads to a Better Future


At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.  But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:3-7 (NIV)

I have done and said things in my life that I am not proud of; at all.  These acts are proof of my unrighteousness, but they no longer define me.  The love of Christ has changed me from sinner to saint, from lost to found, from blind to seeing.  The lost blind sinner rears his ugly inclinations from time to time, but his power wanes as the found seeing saint gains strength and wisdom.  This is the path of righteousness.

My problem lies in perspective and memory.  Instead of being informed by my past through the eyes of grace, I allow it to rule the way I view myself and others. Grace redeems even the errant movements of my past and leads me toward righteousness.  When I begin to let my past sins peck away at that grace, my faith flounders and guilt sets in.  The righteousness from God overcomes our past and paints our future with hope and promise.

Righteousness does not come from us, but through us from God.  A daily understanding of this reality helps keep us humble and dependent before God.  This is a good place to be.

Lord, help me to look at my life through the eyes of grace.  May a right perspective of my life in You, lead me further into righteousness.  Let Your righteousness rule my heart, mind and eyes. Amen.