3 Ways to Possess What Jesus Came to Bring

Christ-incarnation
He came to endure the cup of suffering, so to us it could be the cup of life.

This morning I awoke 2 hours before the alarm sounded.  I began thinking about Jesus and the season of advent.  I started paging through my Bible and found a couple of verses that made me appreciate Jesus even more.  And it made me meditate on whether I am enjoying all He has done.

Check these out:

Philippians 2:7 ‘[Jesus]…emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

and

Galatians 4:5 “[God sent Jesus]… to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Note: Let me try to remove a stumbling block before I go forward.  “Adoption as sons” in that day meant that men and women were given the place and privilege of the son that would inherit all of Dad’s stuff.  So, instead of relegating women to an inferior status, the promise lifts all of us to equal footing in our relationship with Christ.

In reading these two verses together, we see the means and the meaning of Jesus’ coming.

THE SON BECAME A SERVANT, SO THE SERVANTS COULD BECOME SONS.

I love that line!  Sit on it for a bit.  What is the difference between a servant and a son (or child with full status)?  Servants are humiliated, their lives are sacrifices, their lot is suffering. Children belong, their hope is inheritance, and in the household they are free.

What a wonderful gift, that the Son of God would become the servant, so we could become real children in the household of God.

I don’t know about you, but this makes me wonder why I’m not aware of this gift more often?  How is it I feel more like a slave?  I feel like I don’t belong.  I often feel like I’m just trying to get it right so God will like me.  How do we move from the slave-life, to the life as His child?

  1. Don’t live at a distance from God.  Come to him.  Trust in what Christ did for me, for the world – everyday!  Turn, repent, confess, call, trust, pray, listen, follow.  In other words, reorient your thoughts and ways around Him.
  2. Be lifted by the hope he gives.  The kingdom is yours in Christ.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:5).  It IS! Not, it will be.  It belongs to you, if you belong to Christ.
  3. Don’t ensnare yourself again to the things that want to keep you enslaved.  Steer away, let go, run from the demands, and the expectations, and the empty promises of the kingdoms of this world.

Jesus came, humiliating himself.  He served our needs.  He opened the door.  He called us to follow.  Embrace Him and the life He gives.  The Son became a servant, so the servants (like you and me) can become sons.

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The cradle & the stars…

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I loved these words I read from St. Ambrose (378 AD), when writing of the divinity of Christ.

“In one God did the Magi believe, and they brought, in adoration, gold, frankincense, and myrrh to Christ’s cradle, confessing, by the gift of gold, His royalty, and with the incense worshipping Him as God.  for gold is the sign of the kingdom, incense of God, myrrh of burial.

“What, then, was the meaning of the mystic offerings in the lowly cattle-stalls, save that we should discern in Christ the difference between the Godhead and the flesh?  He is seen as man, [Philippians 2:7] He is adored as Lord.  He lies in swaddling-clothes, but shines amid the stars; the cradle shows His birth, the stars His dominion; it is the flesh that is wrapped in clothes, the Godhead that receives the ministry of angels.  Thus the dignity of His natural majesty is not lost, and His true assumption of the flesh is proved.”

He is God who came.

Lord, Creator, God of the universe, you have come!  Do not let the noise in my world, nor in my mind, keep me from hearing the praises of the heavenly hosts.  Do not let the man-made lights dilute the brightness of the star that proclaims your presence.  Do not let my plans for celebration over shadow your plans for the redemption of humanity, nor your plans for my next hour.

Bless You, my God.  Amen and Amen.

God smiled.

happy-holidaysOn this day, generations ago…

… shepherds worked on the hills watching their sheep.

… angels waited.

… a prophetess hoped.

… an old man longed.

… a young man stressed.

… a young woman wondered.

… relatives questioned.

… Satan schemed.

… The world sat in darkness.

… God smiled, because he knew tomorrow would be different!

May the coming of Christ make tomorrow different for you too!

 

Thanks for reading… and Merry Christmas!

10 Reasons Even Baptists Need To Celebrate Advent

5 Candles, a wreath, Scripture, short prayers… what difference can it make?  Why should we do this every day from November 27th to December 24th?

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We want to keep Christ in Christmas.  We are continually fighting with our culture to keep the Christ in Christmas, yet our Christmas celebration looks more like the world’s each year.  Advent is a way to introduce Christ into each day as we approach Christmas day.

Rituals do help.  Often, we baptists argue against ritual, even as we develop our own.  We follow ritual in the way we do prayers before meals.  Our order of worship is it’s own liturgy.  Why not use a pattern that the body of Christ has used for more than a thousand years?  Empty, meaningless, or legalistic rituals are bad.  But rituals that reconnect us with Christ, the gospel and the church are good!

It quiets the soul.  Christmastime is loud.  Loud music, loud lights, loud sweaters, loud co-workers at the Christmas party bar.  Advent forces us to quiet.  Candles, a wreath, a Scripture, a prayer… In quiet we find the wonder of Christ’s coming and the presence of God’s Spirit.

It reminds us of the past. Remembering is our chance to relive what has happened in the past.  When we remember the coming of Christ in a meaningful way, we enter into the story of Christ’s coming.  It becomes our story.

It reassures us of the future.  Advent is “a coming, arrival, or beginning.”  Jesus’ first coming was the arrival of the King.  But Christians have always used this season to remember that another advent is coming.  Jesus, our Lord is coming again in great glory, to restore all things.

Anyone can do it.  It is simple to celebrate.  Young and old, families, friends, couples and singles.  This is for everyone who really wants to celebrate Jesus!

It brings faith home.  Our families learn more about faith at home then at church.  Our kids will learn things intentionally or unintentionally.  If your church celebrates Advent during worship, you’re creating a wonderful bridge between home and church.

Everyone can share in it.  The different parts of the celebration can be led by anyone.  Listen to your kids pray.  Hear Dad sing. Appreciate Mom reading Scripture.  And when Grandma and Grandpa are over, or friends are visiting, invite them to share.  This is an awesome opportunity to broaden and deepen your celebration.  A simple, “this is what we do, would you like to join us?”

It makes the mysterious tangible.  Can kids understand the mystery of the incarnation?  I know I can’t.  But I know when I see that wreath, feel the waxiness of the candles, smell the burning wick, hear the off-key tune of “Silent Night”… I will reconnect with a coming that has changed my life and changes my world.  I can see, smell, touch, hear and believe the mystery again.

God shows up.  One of our most memorable Advent celebrations was when our youngest son, Jonathan prayed to receive Christ after we discussed that Jesus came so we could be forgiven, but we needed to ask!  At a young age of 4, he said, he wanted to do that.  He prayed, we cried.  And today we thank God for the open door Christ’s coming has provided.

Here’s a brief outline of how we’ve done Advent as a family.

  • Put the Advent wreath & candles in the middle of the table.
  • Light a Candle (1 candle lit each day the first week; 2 candles each day the 2nd week; etc; on Christmas eve – light all 4 and a final white candle to celebrate Jesus’ coming).
  • Read a passage of Scripture (we focused on Matthew 1, Luke 2, Prophecies from the OT, and the “I AM” passages of Jesus.
  • Sing a short Christmas Carol together (steal a hymnal from church if you must – ok, maybe you should ask first).
  • Pray a prayer of thanks and dedication.

Other Suggestions:  We had the kids take turns in lighting and blowing out the candles, reading, picking the Christmas song and even praying.  It only took about 15 minutes, either just after dinner, or sometimes just before bed.  We’ve done it at the dining room table, or around the coffee table, near the lit Christmas tree.  Don’t force, but always be open to the spiritual conversations that might occur.

5 Ways We Work Against Christ at Christmas

dbe0d9ab-eebd-4f2a-bdfa-107b3bcec8e7Even in this season when we celebrate Christ’s birth, we can easily work against what He came to do.  Remembering that Christ sent us on his mission, in the words, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you (John 20:21).”  It’s easy to put this aside for a season like this.  Yet, neglecting His mission has to be the worst birthday present ever.
How do we work against Christ at Christmas?
Time… We over schedule our lives.  We squeeze out prayer and reflection.  By doing that, we don’t even hear His voice that daily invites us to follow Him.  It has to be better to say no to a few things, rather than neglect every opportunity to spend time in His presence.  The mission of Christ demands we hear him.
Materialism… We join the rat-race of hunting down the perfect gift, or the best deals.  We teach our kids how to sing the chorus of “I want, I want, I want.”  In doing this, we replace giving ourselves with giving stuff.  A better strategy is to help one another think about how we can give the love of Christ to someone who needs it.  His mission is to meet people at their point of need – not want.
Family… How can family work against Christ?  Some of us see our families as a “closed group.”  We become a little clannish around the holidays.  And in making everything revolve around our families, we neglect those on the outside who need to be invited in.  We can join Christ by making our family times into open times where we welcome others and show them Christ.
Attitude… It’s easy to get a little “schroogie” in this season.  We get tired and stressed.  And in doing so, we let go of the joy of Christ.  If we lose our joy at Christmas, we’ve done something terribly wrong.  This is a season of hope and anticipation.  Let me make a little comment here:  If someone greets us with “happy holidays,” be grateful and joyful that they gave you a blessing!  And return it to them.  In our mission, we must not be people of grudges and demandingness.  We are called to be people of joy.  That’s one great evidence of the difference Christ makes in our lives.
Fear…  This year this is especially important.  We are living in scary times.  And it seems the 24 hour news cycle just feeds the frenzy.  As it was a dark time in the world 2000 years ago (and it was dark) when Christ came the first time, His presence brought glorious light.  Today, we are the light of the world, as we live out the gospel of Christ.  We trust in the Sovereign plan and mission of God.  We aren’t in the dark about what’s happening in the world and why.  So, in faith, we can live with confident hope.  This is something the world needs to see in us.  And when they do, more will ask questions about why.  That’s our mission!
How will you fight the temptations to work against Christ at Christmas?  Which of the above touches a nerve with you?  What would you add?

From Dependence to Glory

Advent – December 4, 2015

Advent-2014-BannerFirst AdventPsalm 22:9–11 (ESV)   Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. 10  On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.  11  Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help.

Second Advent2 Peter 3:10–13 (ESV)  10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.   11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Psalm 22 is a prophetic psalm that Jesus quoted while on the cross.  That was the end of his first coming.  It was a life lived in humbled dependence on the Father.  As he hung on the cross, he felt the distance our sin creates.  One day he will return.  When he comes it will be the ultimate shock and awe.  As we wait, we ought to wait in holiness and godliness.

Prayer – O Lord Jesus, I praise your name.  I know you are the one who humbled yourself and felt the pain and rejection that my sin produced.  I thank you for wearing my pain, my shame and my death.  As I wait for your glorious coming, as the King of kings and Lord of lords, keep me humbled and obedient.  Help my life reflect your life.  Guide me in a life that lives in anticipation of your new heave and new earth.  Amen and Amen.

Christmas and a Wedding

Advent – December 1, 2015

Advent-2014-Banner

First Advent: Isaiah 9:6–7 (ESV)  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.   Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Second Advent: Revelation 19:6–9 (ESV)  Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,  “Hallelujah!  For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.  Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;  it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

When your son or daughter was born, what dream did you have for her, or him?  It probably included a future career and probably a wedding.  When Jesus was born, God the Father had a wedding in view.  But it wouldn’t be a marriage to a woman.  When he returns, he will no longer be the baby laid in a manger, he will return as a bridegroom.  The bride is his people, the church, men and women of faith. They will be clothed with righteousness.  This wedding is the future Christ was born for.  And when we’re born again, that marriage celebration is our future too.

Prayer:  Father, you are glorious and worthy of praise.  You have reached out to us through your Son, Jesus Christ.  And you have secured us through the gift of your Holy Spirit.  Thank you for sending your Son as a baby.  Thank you also, that by grace, you have invited us to share the future wedding banquet celebration.  Jesus, my Lord, I look forward to that banquet with you.  As I live today, keep your purposes and your future in my mind.  Help me live in a way that reflects that I belong to you and long for a future with you.  Amen.