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The Christ of Christmas

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.

Blessing Others at Christmas and Beyond

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…

Blessings

Signs of Hope in the Christmas Story

It was Kate McAllister who called Christmas “the season of perpetual hope.” But as we look around at our world, it seems to be getting worse & worse. The Christmas story as told in the Gospels offers us many signs of hope that we can rest in.

1) Prophecy Fulfilled. Some estimate that over 300 Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by the coming of Jesus Christ. These prophecies gave hope to generations of followers of YHWH. And today they testify to us of how trustworthy God’s word is. The preciseness & detail arranged by God could not possibly be just happenstance. From being born in Bethlehem to a virgin (who was not from Bethlehem) to fleeing to Egypt to escape King Herod’s wrath. We can look at prophecy fulfilled & say GOD’S WORD IS TRUE. Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14, Genesis 22:18, Numbers: 24:17, Hosea 11:1, Jeremiah 31:15, Mathew 2:16.

2) He used ordinary people who dared to believe. As you read through the Christmas story, & really all of the New Testament, & get to know its characters, you’ll be struck by their ordinariness. Elizabeth & Zachariah – aging priest & barren wife. Mary & Joseph – young & poor village dwellers. Shepherds in the fields – like modern day janitors. No one probably ever even ask their names. The only thing spectacular about them was that they dared to believe God & get caught up in this miraculous story of God’s rescue of the world by sending his son. If he used them, he can use you & I.

3) He made a way for everyone. His was no a temporary intervention. His solution to the needs of the world went right to the heart, to the greatest enemy of humanity – sin & death. Real & lasting change is possible for EVERYONE through Christ. In his Arrival Jesus touched every socioeconomic sphere – the wealthy wise men, the poor shepherd, the old – Anna & Simeon, the young – Mary & Joseph, the powerful – Herod. In his ministry he touched every type of person – the rich – zaccheus, the sinful woman at the well, the diseased lepers, the religious Nicodemus, the destitute – woman caught in adultery. Today the gospel has universal appeal & changes everyone it touches no matter who or what or where you are. 

How can I Experience & Give Hope? You can be a sign of hope to the world if you will: 

  • Believe God’s Word is True. 
  • Believe that God can Use Me.
  • Believe that God has provided the way for everyone. 

These truths lived out will lead to the adventure of lifetime.

Taken from Give Hope, part 1 of Bridge Church’s Christmas Message Series. Get the audio HERE. Gather with Bridge Church Sunday’s at 10:30am at the Maritime Museum in Madisonville.

ADVENTure

The Duty of Encouragement #devo

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

Church Planting = Water for the Thirsty and A City for the Hungry #devo

PlantdesertTwo of my favorite images of church planting are found in Psalm 107:35-38.

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?

The Bane of Thankfulness #devo #wesley 

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

via Christian Quotation of the Day

What Should I Wear? #devo

IMG_5312This is a key question to ask for those who want to be an effective witness for Christ. Are you serious? The clothes I wear impacts my impact on others? Well, maybe, but I’m talking about what ATTITUDE & DISPOSITION you wear everyday. In today’s world, your disposition & attitude are a tremendous opportunity for evangelism. People are so beat down & discouraged & negative. If they see the joy of the Lord in you, they’ll want to know what the heck happened to you. People of salvation should be the most joyful people around. We have ETERNAL LIFE! Direct access to the God of the universe! The promise that Jesus is living in us & is with us ALWAYS! & so much more. I’ve met a few people that have said to me “I’m a Christian” & I thought about responding to them with, “Well, you better tell your face about it.”

Colossians 3:12-13 says, “as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, PUT ON a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”

If you WEAR compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, forgiveness, you WILL stand out wherever you are today AND overtime someone will want to know how & why you’re different. (Check out THIS GREAT LIST of other things that the Bible says we should PUT OFF & PUT ON).

Even Christians who are experiencing less than joyful circumstances often will be recognized by the inner joy they carry. Joy is in believers, not because of what’s on the outside, but because of what’s on the inside. Like a bird that sings during a hurricane. His song reflects what’s inside, not what’s on the outside.

So, what are you wearing today? Put on Christ-like character & the joy of the Lord & get ready to make a difference!

This is a summary from part of Sunday’s message at Bridge Church. Get the audio here.

Glorious Contradictions #devo #Tozer

“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. 

http://www.cmalliance.org/devotions/tozer?id=235 

 

“A Prophet Not A Promoter”

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.

A.W. Tozer

One Christian Life

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.

  Phillips Brooks (1835-1893), Addresses, Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, 1895, p. 22

Trail

Unsplash.com / Dustin Scarpitti

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