Thursday, December 18, 2014

ADVENT: Reclaiming Christmas -- Day 19

Advent:  Day 19:  “May Christmas Drive you Crazy!”

Scripture:  “Therefore many other signs JESUS also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that JESUS is the CHRIST, the Son of GOD; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).

As you read these Advent devotionals you can probably discern that I’m pretty bewildered by the fact that so many believers have become callous to the astonishing and shocking truth of the incarnation.  Something needs to happen to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of GOD becoming flesh and blood, dwelling among us, for the purpose of suffering and dying a criminal’s death to purchase our redemption.
How dead we are!  How callous and unemotional to His glory and to this amazingly unbelievable story!  We really must repent!  There are many movies and fairy tales today like Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Harry Potter series bring us a greater thrill and sense of awe than the weirdest, crazy, strange, and eerie story of all.  All of those are fictional!  The Christmas story is reality!

My prayer is that HOLY SPIRIT will break into our hearts and into our experience in a frightening way to wake us up to the unimaginable reality of GOD and the ridiculous series of historical events that He orchestrated for our salvation.

One of the most exciting parts of GOD’s on-going-story-series of His redemptive work is that in an up-coming episode lightning is going to fill the sky from the rising of the sun until the setting of the sun and there is going to appear in the clouds One like a Son of Man with His mighty angels in flaming fire!  And we will see Him!

In that day, I can guarantee you, we will be filled with excitement, terror, astonishment, awe, and wonder!  Oh my friends, don’t continue to walk in present distraction from the hustle and bustle of the world around you.  Focus on the crazy weird ridiculous story of Christmas . . . be astonished . . . be overwhelmed . . . rejoice and celebrate wildly . . . JESUS the CHRIST has been born for our redemption!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

ADVENT: Reclaiming Christmas -- Day 18

Advent:  Day 18:  “What’s the Big Deal about Christmas!”

Scripture:  “You say correctly that I am a king.  For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.  Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). 

Several years ago my grandson (Christopher) and I were travelling together and we were having a theological discussion.  It was around Christmas time and so we were talking about the significance of the Christmas story.  I taught him the definition of the incarnation because he enjoys learning new words.  I’ll never forget the impact that discussion made on his life at that time.  The concept of GOD leaving glory to become a man and walk among us on the earth and to suffer and die was overwhelming to him.

For the life of me I cannot understand why so many are not more greatly impacted by this biblical truth:  That the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacle) among us (John 1:14)!  It’s not like this is an everyday occurrence . . . as a matter of fact, it had never happened before and it will never happen again. 
The uniqueness of JESUS’ birth is that He did not originate at his birth.  He existed before He was born in a manger.  The personhood, the character, and the personality of JESUS existed before the man JESUS of Nazareth was born. 

JESUS’ birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person.  The mystery of the birth of JESUS is not merely that He was born of a virgin (though that pretty remarkable too!), but that the child born at Christmas was a person who existed from before the beginning of time . . . eternally with the Father (John 1:1-3; John 17:5; Colossians 1:13-17; Hebrews 1:2; 13:8).

This was GOD’s redemptive plan from the foundation of the world to give you and me the possibility of being re-united with Him in Heaven . . . to receive forgiveness for sin . . . to bring us eternal life and the most incredible life here and now!



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

ADVENT: Reclaiming Christmas -- Day 17

Advent:  Day 17:  “GOD is Forgetful!”

Scripture:  “Behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah . . . I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their GOD and they will be My people” –Jeremiah 31:31-34

Another glorious reason why we celebrate the Christmas story with such abandon and recklessness is because the birth of JESUS was the earthly beginning of GOD orchestrating the coming together of His redemptive plan . . . to establish a new covenant between Himself and His people.

GOD is just and holy and separated from His people because of our sin.  Our dilemma is how shall we get right with a just and holy GOD? 

Through JESUS’ birth, suffering and death, burial, and resurrection GOD put our sinful nature on His Son, and judged them there so that He could put them out of His mind, and deal with us mercifully and remain just and holy at the same time (V. 34).  Hebrews says,JESUS was offered once to bear the sins of many . . . “(Hebrews 9:28).   

JESUS bore our sins in His own body when He died.  He took our judgment.  He canceled our guilt.  Our sins are gone.  They do not remain in GOD’s mind as a basis for condemnation . . . He forgets them (V. 34; Romans 8:1)! 

Do you understand what this means?  We are free from the law!  We no longer have to keep a list of “do’s and don’ts!”  We are no longer subject to the law, works of flesh, sweating in order to be forgiven (Galatians 5:1). 

Remember this:  There is NOTHING you can do to get GOD to forgive you of your sin and to make Him love you more.  And there is NOTHING you can ever do to cause GOD to stop loving you.  That is truth!  That’s why we call it Good News!  That’s GOD’s Christmas gift to you and to me.



Monday, December 15, 2014

ADVENT: Reclaiming Christmas -- Day 16

Advent:  Day 16:  “Christmas Calls us to Humility”

Scripture:  “For this reason also, GOD highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of JESUS every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that JESUS CHIST is LORD, to the glory of GOD the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).

There is a message in the Christmas story that is often neglected and not really given much consideration.  It is the message of humility, brokenness, denial, and death.  The essence of all sin is pride and self-centeredness.  On the other hand, an important fruit of authentic redemption is self-denial and death to self (Matthew 10; 16:24; Luke 9:23).  JESUS said, “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39).  I’m afraid the great majority of believers aren’t getting this part of the redemptive message.

GOD left His glory and place of power and reign to humble Himself to become a mere man (John 1:14) in the form of a bond-servant . . . humbled Himself to even die . . . and humbled Himself in such a lowly way that He died a criminal’s death (Philippians 2:5-8).  But this was GOD’s redemptive plan. Just when the Enemy thought he had won the battle GOD exalted JESUS above all (Philippians 2:9-11).

Through JESUS, GOD the Father not only provided redemption once and for all, He exemplified His plan for us to truly find happiness and life even in this world.  Pride has destroyed many lives, disrupted many business partnerships, dismantled many churches, and broken apart many marriages.  But the great mystery of self-denial and death to self is that we find authentic life, joy, and fulfillment. 

Someone has said, “GOD doesn’t waste anything . . . any suffering.”  GOD promises us that if we are willing to identify with His suffering and trust Him in the midst of it all He will adopt us as His children and fellow heirs with Christ and that we will ultimately be glorified with Him (Romans 8:17).

Another promise found in the Christmas story is that though the Enemy may plan evil against us GOD will use it for His glory and for our good.  Believe it and trust Him!  (Genesis 50:20).



Sunday, December 14, 2014

ADVENT; "Reclaiming Christmas" -- Day 15

Advent:  Day 15:  “Celebrating Christmas in Suffering and Loss”

Scripture:  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).  Also, read 2 Corinthians 5.

Part of the curse of the Fall (Genesis 3) is that one day every one of us reading this devotional will one day die and leave this world.  Our bodies of flesh and blood no longer are intended to live forever in this fallen world.  As a result for many people in the world the Christmas season can be one of the saddest times of the year.  Many fear death . . . many grieve the passing of their loved ones . . . and the “Norman Rockwell-type” Christmas images bring a deep sense of loss instead of joy and celebration.

However, the joy of the Christmas story is that JESUS was born to die in order to purchase our eternal destiny.  For those of us who are in Christ and who embrace the true purpose for the Christmas story death is no longer something we fear.  We know that we are created for an eternal destiny.  We know that our true home is in heaven.  We are confident, based on the finished work of JESUS (Hebrews 10) that when our earthly bodies die and leave this world we will be instantly transported into the very presence of GOD (Philippians 1:21; 2 Corinthians 5).

The question in my mind that I would ask is, “Do we really truly believe what we say we believe the Bible teaches about death and dying and eternity?”  I would suggest that if we truly believe then we will “long for our true eternal home” and we will rejoice with our loved ones who have passed on to the other side before us and we look forward with great expectation of being reunited with them in eternity (2 Corinthians 5).

Based on this hope and promise I encourage you this Christmas to enter into the feelings of loss you experience due to the loss of your loved ones.  Don’t block those feelings out.  Embrace them.  Let your love for those who have died be intensified as never before.  But in the midst of embracing your loss celebrate the true message of Christmas.  And in the midst of any fear you may have concerning your own death celebrate as never before GOD’s promise of eternal life brought to light by the incredible Christmas celebration.

During this Christmas season let every loss and every delight thrust you into a longing and groaning for your real home . . . the great eternal home-coming!



Saturday, December 13, 2014

ADVENT: Reclaiming Christmas -- Day 14

Advent:  Day 14:  "The Reason for Christmas is Death!"

Scripture:  “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

“Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood . . .”

We are the children of GOD.  GOD’s love for His children (John 3:16) moved Him to act redemptively by offering His Only Son, JESUS.  Those who truly believe from within the depths of their hearts experience adoption into GOD’s family (1 Timothy 4:10).

“. . . He Himself likewise also partook of the same [flesh and blood] . . .”

JESUS existed before the incarnation.  He was Spirit.  He was with GOD and was GOD (John 1:1).  But He took on flesh and blood and became a man and walked amongst us (John 1:14).  This is truly one of the most amazing truths in the entire world and it is also an incredible mystery.  But it is a foundational truth of the Christian faith.

“. . . that through death . . .”

Please take this into your heart and allow it to overwhelm every fiber of your being . . . the purpose for JESUS becoming a man . . . the purpose for JESUS’ birth . . . the purpose for Christmas . . . WAS FOR JESUS TO DIE!              JESUS WAS BORN TO DIE!  Good Friday is the reason for Christmas.

“. . . He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil . . . “

By dying, Jesus covered all our sin which means Satan has no legitimate grounds to accuse us before GOD and we are justified (we become a new creature . . . just as if we have never ever sinned Romans 8:33).  This was accomplished once and for all (Hebrews 10) by JESUS’ death . . . shedding His blood in our behalf (Romans 5:9).

“. . . and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery.”

As a result of the astonishing redemptive work of GOD out of His amazing love and grace for us we are free from the fear of death and we are no longer slaves to our sin or to our fear of death.  This life isn’t all there is . . . we have an eternal destiny!  What an incredible Christmas present from GOD to us and from us to the world!


Friday, December 12, 2014

ADVENT: Reclaiming Christmas -- Day 13

Advent:  Day 13:  “The Great Christmas Gift Exchange”

Scripture:  “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:10-11).

When we give gifts from our possessions unto the LORD it is not that we are assisting GOD because He has need.  And, hopefully, it is not because we want to give with expectation of receiving from Him some large material “blessing” in return.  We give gifts to the LORD simply because we love Him and because we have something within us that desires to give to those whom we love something from ourselves.  It is especially meaningful when whatever we chose to give requires some sacrifice on our part; which is what the LORD exemplified in His redemptive gift of His Only Son.

In some mystical miraculous way, as we give sacrificially unto the LORD, we experience a deeper level of intimacy in our relationship with Him.  Isn’t that the way He created us?  GOD did not create us to be self-serving and self-centered.  He created us to be loving and sacrificial.  His word speaks of this from Genesis through Revelation.

As we give unto the LORD we are basically declaring that our love for Him is truly the greatest treasure of our heart rather than any material thing in this world (Matt. 6:21).  It becomes for us an incredible expression of worship.  This is what the Magi were expressing as they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

As we celebrate Christmas through giving gifts to those whom we love we are embracing this same spiritual truth.  Paul even quoted JESUS, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).  Only those who have authentic intimacy with the LORD can truly grasp the full meaning of JESUS’ statement.

This is the great joy of Christmas . . . GOD gave the greatest gift of all . . . He gave Himself in the form of His divine Son . . . who became a man and dwelt among sinners (John 1:14).  In response of His love for us and our love for Him we can’t help but to make every effort to give some of ourselves back to Him.  The most sacrificial thing we could give would be ourselves . . . our lives.

May we bring our gifts unto the LORD to say to Him, “You alone can satisfy my heart . . . not anything or anyone in this world . . . Only You!