Reading Resolutions

photo of child reading holy bible

Every January, many Christians resolve to read the entire Bible in one year. That’s a worthy goal, but God doesn’t require us to read a certain number of verses or chapters per day. Instead, he tells us to simply be in his Word — and thus be with him — so he can grow our faith, light our path and assure us of his love and forgiveness. God’s Word is a precious gift, but we need to “unwrap” it!

F.B. Meyer offers this helpful advice for a new year of discovering (and rediscovering!) Scripture: “Read the Bible, not as a newspaper, but as a home letter. If a cluster of heavenly fruit hangs within reach, gather it. If a promise lies upon the page as a blank check, cash it. If a prayer is recorded, appropriate it and launch it as a feathered arrow from the bow of your desire. If an example of holiness gleams before you, ask God to do as much for you. If the truth is revealed … entreat that its brilliance may ever irradiate … your life.”

Praying for you a New Year of discovering the gifts within God’s Word.

Advent: Jesus’ Birth

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Father, full of grace and truth.  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.  No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  John 1:14,17-18

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It all happened in a moment, a most remarkable moment that was like none other.  For through that segment of time, a spectacular thing occurred.  God became a man.  While the creatures of earth walked unaware, Divinity arrived.  Heaven opened herself and placed her most precious one in a human womb.

God as a fetus.  Holiness sleeping in a womb.  The creator of life being created.  God was given eyebrows, elbows, two kidneys, and a spleen.  He stretched against the walls and floated in the amniotic fluids of his mother.

God had come near.  No silk.  No ivory.  No hype.  To think of Jesus in such a light is — well, it seems almost irreverent, doesn’t it?  It is much easier to keep the humanity out of the incarnation.

But don’t do it.  For heaven’s sake, don’t.  Let him be as human as he intended to be.  Let him into the mire and muck of our world.  For only if we let him in, can he pull us out.

— from Max Lucado’s God Came Near

Advent: While They Were Sleeping

It was an evening like any other. Ordinary men were doing an ordinary job. Shepherds were “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Was it chilly? Were they tired? When angels appeared with news of a Savior, had the shepherds been talking about their troubles or sharing a good joke?

How quickly, how mysteriously, how unexpectedly an ordinary night became the turning point of human history. How remarkable that God chose to set his great rescue plan in motion when only a young couple was paying attention and only a few shepherds were awake.

sky space dark galaxy

God’s work is sometimes so secret we may wonder if he’s there or if he cares. The Christmas story tells us that God works out breathtaking plans for our lives in the dark, often while we’re sleeping or going about our ordinary routines.

Advent: The Perfect Gift

 

merry christmas gift box close up photo

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” At Christmas we celebrate God coming to earth to look outward with us in the same direction, from our perspective and experience.

Jesus was an ordinary person: He learned to talk and walk like any toddler, learned a trade from his father and acquired the habits of faith from his family. In adulthood, Jesus experienced life as we all do: the challenge of hard work, grief at a loved one’s death, heartache over oppression and the world’s great needs — but also joy in celebration, fellowship with neighbors and deep friendship.

God personally knows our every experience, emotion and need — because Jesus, while fully divine, lived as a full human being. He has gazed at the world, life and even death from our direction, giving us the perfect Christmas gift: love.

Advent: No Detour from Calvary

“And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”   — Luke 2:6-7

Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, He surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, He could have.  And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family.  He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness.  He could have called 10,000 angels to his aid in Gethsemane.  He could have come down from the cross and saved himself.  The question is not what God could do, but what He willed to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor.  The “No Vacancy” sign over all the motels in Bethlehem was for your sake.  “For your sake he became poor” (1 Corinthians 8:9).

no-room-for-an-inn

God rules all things — even motel capacities — for the sake of his children.  The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.

And we must not forget that he said, “He who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross” (Matthew 16:24).

We join him on the Calvary road and hear him say, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20).

To the one who calls out enthusiastically, “I will follow you wherever you go!” (Matthew 8:19), Jesus responds, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20).

Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth.  But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.

— from John Piper’s Good News of Great Joy

 

 

 

Advent: Christingle

In the Czech Republic and other places, the Christmas celebration includes “Christingles.”  A Christingle is an orange, representing the world, with a candle placed in the top of it to symbolize Christ, the light of the world.  A red ribbon encircles the orange, symbolizing the blood of Jesus.  Four toothpicks with dried fruits are placed through the ribbon into the sides of the orange, representing the fruits of the earth.

Christingle

This simple visual aid vividly represents the purpose behind Christ’s coming — to bring light into the darkness and to redeem a broken world by shedding His blood and dying.

In John’s account of Christ’s life, the disciple describes Jesus as the Light of the world.  He wrote of Christ:  “The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world” (John 1:9).  Not only did Christ the Light come to penetrate our world’s darkness, be He is also “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (v.29)

Think of it!  The baby of Bethlehem became the living, risen Christ who has rescued us from our sin.  And so John instructs us to “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).  May you find in Jesus the peace of walking in His light.

— from For God So Loved:  10 Reflections from Our Daily Bread 2015

Advent: For God’s Little People

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered…. And Joseph went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem…to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.”   Luke 2:1-5

nativity scene table decor

 

Have you ever thought what an amazing thing it is that God ordained beforehand that the Messiah be born in Bethlehem (as the prophecy in Micah 5 shows); and that he so ordained things that when the time came, the Messiah’s mother and legal father were living in Nazareth; and that in order to fulfill his word and bring two little people to Bethlehem that first Christmas, God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus that all the Roman world should be enrolled each in his own town?

Have you ever felt, like me, little and insignificant in a world of seven billion people, where all the news is of big political and economic and social movements and of outstanding people with lots of power and prestige?

If you have, don’t let that make you disheartened or unhappy.  For it it implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people — the little Mary and the little Joseph who have to be got from Nazareth to Bethlehem.  God wields an empire to bless his children.

Do not think, because you experience adversity, that the hand of the Lord is shortened.  It is not our prosperity but our holiness that he seeks with all his heart.  And to that end, he rules the whole world.  As Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.”

He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.

— from Good News of Great Joy by John Piper