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.

As always, thanks for reading, liking, commenting and sharing!  And please take a moment and become a subscriber at the upper left.

The cradle & the stars…

cradlestars

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?

1449351849999

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.

Hey, Christmas! Not So Fast! – Making Christmas Last

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/430/16733732/files/2014/12/img_0253.jpg

Some years, Christmas just doesn’t feel like Christmas.  There are a lot of reasons for that.  It might be that the people we usually celebrate with aren’t present.  Family events have kept you from the usual preparation.  Or, it might be as simple as the absence of snow!  Whatever the reason, it seems the holiday is going to come and go, without making it’s impact on us.

It’s okay. Take a breath. Christmas isn’t over on December 25th.  In fact, for most of Christian history, December 25th is when Christmas celebrations began.  The famous song, the 12 Days of Christmas, remind us of this.  The 12 days of Christmas begin December 25th and go through January 5th, which leads to a celebration on January 6th, called Epiphany.  Epiphany is the celebration of the arrival of the Magi (Wisemen).  

Here’s an idea about how to keep Christmas going – not the hectic, frantic, wearisome part – but the meaningful, celebratory, lasting part! Take each day of the 12 days of Christmas and reflect on different aspects of the coming of Christ and his lasting joy.   Below is a daily calendar that will guide you in getting the most out of Christmas!

December 25th – We celebrate on the wonder of the incarnation.
Read:  Luke 2:1-7
Pray:  Pray with a grateful heart for the truth of Christ’s coming to transform your life.
Do:  Sing a carol that celebrates Christ’s coming.  Have one conversation with someone, either in person, or phone, or text, about what Christ’s coming has meant to you this year.

December 26th – We reflect on the needy around us.
Read:  Isaiah 42:1-9
Pray:  Pray for the needy Christ came to save.  Ask God for a heart to see the needs of others that He came to meet.
Do:  Give something away today, that will help others in need (time, food, resources).  Set aside some money to give to the “Benevolent, or Deacons” fund at church this Sunday.

December 27th – We praise God for the revealing Himself as Trinity.
Read:  Matthew 3:13-17; 2 Corinthians 13:14
Pray:  Ask God to help you know Him as Father who loves you, as the Son who redeemed you and prays for you, as the Spirit who empowers and directs you.
Do:  Write a letter to God, specifically the member of the Trinity you least relate to. What do you need to say?

December 28th – We thank God for the Gospels which share the gospel of Christ.
Read: John 20:30-31; 21:24-25
Pray:  Pray for a life that proclaims the gospel of Christ and lives out the grace and truth of Christ.
Do:  Spend time making a list of 3 people God has put into your life to influence toward Christ.  Pray for them.  Think of one simple act of grace you could do for each one in the next week.

December 29th – We remember the Law given by God to remind us of our need.
Read: Galatians 3:23-29
Pray:  Admit to God, the perfection of His law and our inability to do what is required by his righteousness.  Praise Him for meeting us in our need and leading us to new life.
Do:  Think about one tradition, rule, or law you might be depending on to give you favor with God. Make a change in the way you do it.

December 30th – We rejoice that our Savior is Creator God.
Read:  Genesis 1; Colossians 1:15-17
Pray:  Pray for the creation – including people – that God loves.  Pray for the desire of creation to one day experience the redemption and restoration to be complete.
Do: Take a walk and notice creation around you, reflecting on what it reveals to you about God.

December 31st – We praise Christ for fulfilling the Law for us.
Read:  Matthew 5:17-20
Pray:  Give thanks for the fact that Jesus met all the Law’s requirements.
Do:  Make a list of 3 rules you hold onto that might make it hard for others to experience the grace of Christ.

January 1st – We remember the day of Christ’s circumcision and dedication.
Read: Luke 21-40
Pray:  Thank God for the parents of Jesus who saw that He grew up in the covenant of God.  Pray for parents around you who have the responsibility of leading children to Christ.
Do:  Get involved in a regular serving opportunity to families, children or youth.

January 2nd – We humbly come to Christ with our need.
Read:  Matthew 5:2-11
Pray:  Ask God in honesty and humility to help you recognize the inner hunger you have.  Pray for Christ to fulfill that longing that still may feel unmet.
Do: Recount the need that first led you to Christ.  Share it with someone today.  Think about who else might have that need now.  Pray for wisdom to know how you can share Christ in that need.

January 3rd – We renounce the presence of sin in our lives.
Read:  Mark 1:1-8;
Pray:  Thank Christ for his holiness and ask God a desire to live a holy life before Him in the world.
Do:  Write down a sin that remains prevalent in your life.  Do one thing that would make that sin harder for you to participate in: revealing it to an accountability partner, changing a behavior pattern, removing the temptation from your life.

January 4th – We receive the gift of new life in Christ for us and the world.
Read:  John 1:9-18
Pray:  Thank God you are counted as one of his children through faith.
Do:  Write a personal poem, or psalm today, that expresses Christ as the light of the world, and your light.

January 5th – We commit ourselves to a path of faithfulness.
Read:  Hebrews 11:32-40
Pray:  Thank the Spirit of God for helping saints-of-old perservere in the faith.  Pray for strength to be counted as one of the faithful.
Do:  Fast at least one meal today, to remember the call to deny ourselves and follow Christ.  Use the time for prayer, or encouraging another in their faith.

January 6th – We rejoice at the coming of the Magi, which is his revelation to the nations.  Read:  Matthew 2:1-12
Pray:  Asking God to continue making himself known to the nations.  Express your longing for Christ to be reigning King of all the nations.
Do:  Give a gift of conversation, service, time, care to someone from another “nation” than your own.

I’d love to hear some of your ideas about extending the joy of Christmas!  And please comment and share this with others who might want to have the joy of Christmas continue!

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?