My Christmas devotional of choice for years now has been The Christ of Christmas by my former professor Calvin Miller. Here’s a few of my favorite quotes about advent that stick with me year end & year out.
“You shall not bear such pain alone”
We cannot live without bumps & pains, heartache & desolation, mosquito bites & cancer. The incarnation was God saying, “You shall not bear such pain alone”
“the noblest idea of any world religion”
The Incarnation is the noblest idea of any world religion. God did not watch human despair from the safety of heaven. He clothed Himself in humanity. He ceased watching the human war and became a soldier.
“wrestle with Him or rest in Him”
We basically have two choices to make in dealing with the mysteries of God. We can wrestle with Him or we can rest in Him. We can continue searching the unsearchable or relax in the reality. What exists at the end of all our searching will be a God who knows absolutely everything … and chooses to love us anyway.
In the Old Testament, Fathers pronounced blessings over their children & prophets pronounced blessings over people & armies. They weren’t dealing with the way things are currently, but how they WILL BE WITH GOD’S FAVOR. Blessings served to lift people, lift expectations & potential for what could be with God’s power. Jesus gave us a great example of this when he told wishy washy Simon, that from now on he would be called Peter – a Rock. He was saying, now that you’re with me, the trajectory of your life will be transformed. Giving a blessing is not limited to just our words. Acts of kindness & sacrifice can also serve to BLESS & lift others up. Jesus’ death, burial, & resurrection serves as a blessing to all who put their faith in Him, as promised in Genesis 12. Some Ideas for Blessing Others:
-> Bless Your Family – Holidays are great times to BLESS those close to us. I like to spend some time writing how each of our children have grown this year, the good things I see in their character, & how that will effect the trajectory of their lives going forward.
-> Bless Your Community – Churches should have a vision of what WILL BE for people in the community. What prayers, acts of kindness & sacrifice are you engaging in that will have a lifting affect on people in the community? Our church will be giving out Stockings to every home in the largest mobile home park in our community on Christmas Eve this year. Praying that the smiles, offer of prayer, & the gifts which include Gospel resources, will lift & bless families in this community.
-> Bless People that Need Change – Look around & you’ll see people struggling with employment issues, family issues, addiction issues, financial issues. Put yourself in their shoes. When you’ve been discouraged, wouldn’t you have loved for someone, even a stranger to offer a word of encouragement or a smile or an act of kindness? Who needs a blessing, a lift right now among your sphere of influence.
As followers of Jesus, we should live with not just the reality of how things are in the lives of people, communities, situations. We believe God is working & transforming people, communities, situations. Giving a blessing means we’re talking & acting like we believe that.
Now the other side of blessing is cursing. Just like we can lift people, community, situations, we can also curse & bring down people, community, situations. That’s another story for another day…
One of the highest of human duties is the duty of encouragement… It is easy to laugh at men’s ideals; it is easy to pour cold water on their enthusiasm; it is easy to discourage others. The world is full of discouragers. We have a Christian duty to encourage one another. Many a time a word of praise or thanks or appreciation or cheer has kept a man on his feet. Blessed is the man who speaks such a word.
William Barclay (1907-1978), via CQOD
Verses on Encouragement – Heb.10:25; Job 4:4; Rom. 12:7-8; 14:19; 15:2; 1 Cor. 14:3; Eph. 4:29; 1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11
35 He turns a desert into a pool of water,
dry land into springs of water.
36 He causes the hungry to settle there,
and they establish a city where they can live.
37 They sow fields and plant vineyards
that yield a fruitful harvest.
38 He blesses them, and they multiply greatly;
He does not let their livestock decrease.
In every city & community there are a dry desert places that need the living water of God’s presence. In every city & community God wants to gather the hungry people for the sake of establishing a fruitful multiplying community. This gives great purpose to the work of the church planter & church planting team: FINDING DRY, DESERT, PARCHED PLACES IN THE COMMUNITY. Settle there & establish a place for hungry people to gather, grow, & multiply.
Questions for planters:
- Are we planting for the purpose of seeing God water the dry places? or are we planting in places that are well watered?
- Are we establishing a place for the hungry or the already full?
- Are we ready to sweat & experience the difficulty of desert life as we plant in dry places?
- Are we ready to lay brick #1 in a million as we build a city for the hungry?
You have abundant reason to praise God, both for spiritual and temporal blessings. Beware of indulging gloomy thoughts: they are the bane of thankfulness. You are encompassed with ten thousand mercies, let these sink you into humble thankfulness.
John Wesley, in a letter published in the Works of John Wesley
“God has revealed so many glorious contradictions in the lives and conduct of genuine Christian believers…”
- The Christian is dead and yet he lives forever.
- The Christian saves his own life by losing it, and he is in danger of losing it by trying to save it.
- the Christian is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strongest.
- The Christian is in least danger when he is fearful and trusting God and in the most danger when he feels the most self-confident.
- The Christian actually has the most when he is giving away the most
Lord, help me be a glorious contradiction to this world.
A Church Leader’s Prayer:
Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me, anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity or the amount of its yearly offering. Help me to remember that I am a prophet – not a promoter, not a religious manager. Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions and deliver me from the itch for publicity.
You say, “What can I do?” You can furnish one Christian life. You can furnish a life so faithful to every duty, so ready for every service, so determined not to commit every sin, that the great Christian Church shall be the stronger for your living in it, and the problem of the world be answered, and a certain great peace come into this poor, perplexed phase of our humanity as it sees that new revelation of what Christianity is.