Dec 30

 

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Public Domain Image

Today, I wanted to talk to you about today, December 30. People look at this day differently. It can be an odd day. To Rudyard Kipling, Tiger Woods, Matt Lauer, and Bo Diddley it means birthday candles. To other’s it’s a memorial.

Wayne Gretzky won’t forget it, it’s the day he set a new NHL record. In 2011, owing to a change of time zone, Samoa actually skipped the day. The government declared that their citizens would go to sleep on Thursday, and when they woke, it would be Saturday instead of Friday.

A day is memorable because of the events attached to it. Somewhere a person stood up and said this is happening today. They purposed to accomplish something on this day. What will we set out to tie to today’s memory?

Will it be the day we remember doing a, b, or c, or will we, like Samoa, skip the day? Maybe not physically. Oh we’ll breath through it, existing the hours away, but what we’ll we accomplish today?

It can be as simple as making someone smile. A moment making another’s day better, is one worth remembering. Purpose today, not to change the planet, but to improve someone else’s world.

Whatever your plans today, plan to do something for someone else. I know it’s a strange time, not quite the end, and not yet the beginning. Still, it’s a day given us by God. It is worthy of greatness, not in the sense of our own ego, but in the significance of making this day memorable for another.

When you go to bed tonight, your event won’t be reported on the news, Samoa might skip talking about it, but the life you benefitted will remember it. They won’t forget that, on December 30, you made it a day they’ll never forget.

It Doesn’t Have To End

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Matthew 2:23
And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene
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It doesn’t have to end you know. Oh sure, the torn paper will get thrown away, and the tree will come down, but those are just outward things. Christmas, that feeling of awe and wonder, doesn’t have to end.

I know it seems hard to hold on to in this mundane world, filled with trials. You go into survival mode just to get through the week. Mary and Joseph understood it, not long after Christ’s birth, they were fleeing to Egypt.

It’s very easy to allow the constant beat of life’s drum to drown out the wonderful things. It’s a very human thing for you and I to do. However, even, while struggling to survive, The Wonderful One’s heart was beating in Mary’s arms. We don’t have to rely only on ourselves, Emmanuel, God is us!

That renewed sense of hope, that smile, that joy at Christ’s gift to us all, hold it tightly in your chest. Christ’s heart now sets the pace of our own, no matter what we face, it can’t be silenced.

The little drummer boy is more than a Carol, it’s a battle cry. A young drummer used to go out with an army into the heat of the battle. Whether life’s chaos, or Christ’s Quiet assurance, both armies had drummer’s, we get to choose which pace we follow.

Jesus knows the problems we face, and how very real they are. He spent thirty years in obscurity, facing the mundane in Nazareth daily. The Lord also knows though, how very real the hope of the next life is. He secured it for us on Calvary through a cross and an empty tomb.

God was wrapped in flesh to die for us, they tried to throw away the wrapping then as well. The trouble was, He came back, scarred for you and I, but whole. He kept them as a witness of His love. The lights on our fake evergreen may be unplugged, but The Tree Of Light will never be extinguished.

So don’t look at today as the day after, or even starting the countdown to the next. Look at it as an extension of the joy, the awe, and the wonder of Christmas. For the real present is that He is ever with us, and we’re just a heartbeat away from seeing His face!

Being Interpreted

 

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Matthew 1:23
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

“Being interpreted …”, we brush past those words because of the phrase that follows, “God with us.” Who can blame us? Those three so powerful words are enough to captivate the soul! I submit to you today, on Christmas Day, that the ones leading up to it are just as powerful.

Interpret means more than to explain the meaning of something. It also means to translate orally or into sign language the words of a person speaking a different language. We spoke a different language than He did.

Ours was a dialect of dirt, sin, dust, and ashes. His was a conversation of the Heavens, perfection, and the stars. How could we understand Him? The only way, was an interpreter.

God, wrapped in flesh, to interpret His will to us. Jesus did this by living each day, sinless, in a sinful world. He did this by ministering to a flawed people. Most of all, He accomplished it by dying for His creation.

The third meaning of interpret is to
perform a dramatic role or piece of music in a particular way that conveys one’s understanding of the creator’s ideas. He knew that we could only comprehend The Master’s love through the music that was His life.

Like a performance, it began softly, on a dark night in David’s town. We watched Him grow as He sat in the Temple, opening men’s eyes, while still a boy Himself. We saw the impact of His ministry, the miracles yes, but more than that, Christ’s message. Man could lift their head above the dirt, higher than this plain of sin and mortality.

The climax of the piece was Calvary. Did you know that the words being interpreted are also in Mark and John? In John it appears, being interpreted Master and Christ. He explained what it meant to trust in Him. In Mark, it refers to Golgotha, being interpreted, the place of the skull. He explained that death didn’t have to be final.

Most commentators believe that the stable was in a cave. That means His life began in a cave, and returned to a cave in death. Of course, three days later, He left it never to return! The point is, God, the speaker of the Heavenly, came to the most Earthbound thing on the planet to communicate with us.

At His birth, and in His life, He interpreted God to man. In His death, He interpreted Salvation to sinners, and translated our sufferings. God knew how it felt to be forsaken so that we would never be alone.

He spoke our language so that we could learn His. He cried so that we could laugh. He died so that we would be free of death, and was born so that we could be born again.

On this Christmas Day, “God with us” is Awesome. Still “being interpreted”, God walking our world so we could fly to His, is pretty incredible too!

Anticipation

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Isaiah 7:14
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

“I wonder what color it will be?” “Did they get the one I circled, with the special features?” Anticipation, it’s happening all across the globe this Christmas. It means to regard as probable, to expect, or predict.

It’s a word that contains so many others, faith, excitement, hope, and waiting. It’s the expectation of what we’ve been waiting for. To a child at Christmas, it might be a bicycle, to Isaiah, it was a baby.

An old man puts down his quill to day dream. He’s just, under God’s anointing, written his seventh chapter. In Isaiah’s mind, he travels to his anticipated day. He imagines meeting Christ and hoping for the real event.

David, and those before, Abraham, Moses, and Jacob longed to see Him. They anticipated, they believed, they expected. “He will be born… He will accomplish… He will fulfill!” They faced trials, battles, and all out war, but the anticipation kept them going.

We get to read about Him, Christ’s birth, His Nativity. What prophets and kings would pay to know, are passages we’ve committed to memory. In the midst of the turmoil of your season, don’t allow it to steal your anticipation. The expectancy of hope that is Christmas is more than wrapped gifts under a tree.

You may ask, what is there to anticipate for us, this side of Bethlehem? We’ve seen the Angels, read about the wise men, and watched the flight to Egypt. What is left to anticipate? The fact that, every morning not just on Christmas morning, it is real again to us. The heartbeat that filled the stable, now beats within a Christian’s heart!

Christ is born, Hallelujah, Christ is born in us! It’s the anticipation that He still is patient, still is forgiving, and still is kind. He cradles us the way Mary cradled Him. We get to expect His mercy, though not take it for granted. Oh better still, we get to expect to see Him!

It may sound old fashioned, and out of date, but it is still true. Many doubted Isaiah’s prophecy, but He was still wrapped in swaddling clothes. They mocked Christ when He said He would give His life and rise again, until He did. As surely as the manger was filled, and the tomb was emptied, The Lord Jesus is coming.

This Christmas Eve, as you anticipate tomorrow’s gifts, and the new year beyond, take some time. Anticipate what it will be like to bow at His feet, not at a manger, but a throne. Whether as a cooing child, or a loving King, all sorrows end at The Master’s feet. An until that day, we can kneel in prayer, anticipating, expecting, and finding Him there.

Awe At Hope

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Joy fills the night
Awe at hope, now instant
Day is born in moonlight
Life Eternal, a small infant
Mary cradles our dreams
Joseph guards a Heavenly gift
From Herod’s twisted evil screams

Their lives will now be swift
Israel to Egypt, and back again
Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem,
Christ’s climactic battle with sin,
God, man, and wrongs will meet,
Soul’s rescued gladly kneel,
Death conquered at Mercy’s feet

Joy fills our night
We awe at hope eternal
Heaven in our mind’s sight
Mary’s Child now internal
Our hope on Heart’s throne
Shining, Guiding, and calling,
Each of us now His own!

Wonder At our Present

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Matthew 21:15

And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,

The word is Wonder, or as they said in Old English Wundor. I like Wundor. Wonder is both a noun and a verb. As a noun it means “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” Today I’m thinking of course, of the wonder of Christmas.

As a verb, it means to “feel admiration and amazement; to marvel.” A child this week knows what it means, even if they don’t know how to put it into words. It’s the day before, the day before, the day before Christmas. The very thought of it is wonderful to them.

We adults though, we’re jaded. We say things like “It’s too commercial.” “It’s become too much about this or that …” I’m not here to defend what some have allowed it to be, I come instead with hope. Individually, we don’t have to celebrate what others have made it.

You and I can still wonder at Christmas, irregardless of how others see it. Our celebration doesn’t revolve around neon lights and cash registers, it centers on The One in the manger. We can still approach it with the excitement of a child!

Yes, little ones are excited about a gift. If we adults were that way, we’d be afraid of being called shallow. The truth is, we should most definitely be excited about a gift. The gift of Christ!

It is that precious gift that kept Adam’s heart beating. The realization of the promise of Abraham, the dream of Joseph, and the hope of David. He is Isaiah’s Wonderful Child!

Yes, we should wonder at Christmas! Whether you like the lights, the tree, and the cookies or not, personally I do, all can agree on this. We can all return to kneel beside a manger, where God crossed Eternity to save us. The Creator Of Light now swaddled as an infant.

Wonder of wonders, Jesus is born, not only in a messy stable, but in messy hearts. The stable was no accident, it was planned. He was saying, “I Am here to clean up your mess. I’m here to swaddle you as you’re born again, not of this world, but of the one to come.”

Jesus was telling us that our mess is not greater than His mercy. That night changed everything for all mankind. An even though He was most likely not born in December, we celebrate it on that day, and hopefully every day.

So, get excited, dream, even giggle like a child on Christmas morning. Let us wonder at our present, in two ways. Both in the gift of Christ, and the gift of our present condition. We are not yet what we should be, but we are no longer the things we used to be.

Let us wonder at His love, honor His sacrifice, and rejoice at the promise of His soon return! It’s almost here! Get ready, and smile, it’s the day before, the day before, the day before Christmas!

Masters Children, Not Misfits

 

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Luke 7:35
But wisdom is justified of all her children.

“Too often The Master’s Children were mistaken for misfits. That’s okay, we’re in good company. They said the same thing about Him.”

“We’re a couple of misfits”, it’s a line from the classic tv special, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer. It’s sung by Rudolph and his Elf Dentist friend. I couldn’t help but think if Joseph and Mary wouldn’t have described themselves the same way.

Yes, they were called of God, and oh yes, they’re willingness helped changed the world, but they recognized the irony. Joseph knew, to others, from the outside, he looked naïve. He knew better, even if they didn’t.

Mary knew, that inside her, was God Incarnate. She knew that God had selected her, regardless of the lies and snickers. Mary knew what God had called her to do. She knew that inside her was The Hope of all mankind.

Still, they were mocked, but that was okay. The Lord reminded me of something tonight, Mary and Joseph were not the first to be mocked. Abraham went out, not knowing where he was going, but God knew. David ran when others said run Saul into the ground. They didn’t get it, The Lord understood.

In short, God was saying, “I know how to bring you through this. I’ve brought others through what you’ve never experienced.” As my Dad would say, our problem is not God’s first rodeo.

He knew how to care for them, even in the midst of doing what even God had never done before, becoming a man. The Lord encouraged Mary by sending her to Elisabeth. Once Joseph received the dream, he never looked back. God sustained them through a desert of loneliness.

Whatever you’re facing, take hope in the fact that He’s brought others through it. God never sends us on a journey that He hasn’t already mapped out. He went to Calvary and back to chart out our Salvation. God knows the cost of what we face. He spent Himself to purchase our redemption.

Your not at the end of your road, you’ve just never walked this way before, He has. See that well, that’s where Jacob stopped to rest. It’s also where the woman of Samaria met Jesus. That place of discouragement you’re at, Moses stopped there too. Of course, just a few yards beyond it, was a burning bush.

At our Church, Point Of Mercy, Pastor Denny Livingston has spent the last year reminding us, that we are not misfits. We are Fitly Framed in the plan of God!

The Baby Prince

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Wikimedia Commons Image

Years ago, before Christ was born,
Still both children, moon and sun,
The earth was new, and smiles were worn,
God and man laughed together, rejoicing, having fun,
Until sickness and sadness slipped in,
Man opened the door to a trickster called sin.

It caused man a mighty fall,
God and man’s relationship breached,
Because of sin’s fast constructed, evil wall,
Our Lord established the journey He’d reach,
Finding the road To rescue His friend,
Never quitting, always working, He would defend.

The vow to lonely ears He gave,
Whispering to everyone that did pray,
Victory over sin, death, and the grave,
God would make a way,
The promise reaching man did sound,
A Prince will come, and joy abound.

In a stable, God slipped into the cave,
Spanning the wall, and entering the globe,
He’d walk the path to free sin’s slaves,
Not as a towering God with a royal robe,
His people, He came to call,
But as a swaddled Babe, a Savior for all.

There on Bethlehem’s starry plain,
Filled with joy, both God and man,
Joined by an Angel’s refrain,
They laughed together, hand in hand,
And like a clock Sin did know,
It’s days, just numbered grains of sand,
The Baby Prince would grow.

On that night Christmas was born,
It’s greatest gift, The Baby’s cry,
But far better was that glorious morn,
The day The Prince climbed sin’s hill,
Jesus’ silenced evil with a victorious sigh,
Toppled it’s wall, and brought man nigh.

Now, though the sun is old,
The moon no longer young,
When Sin tries to scare with lies so bold,
A tune is heard, a song is sung,
Men are new, Christ has won,
We laugh together, rejoicing, and having fun.

Cherish

 

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A Wikimedia Commons Image

Cherish, it’s an old word. We don’t hear it much any more, other than at Weddings. Sadly, in some marriages, that’s the last time the word is ever used, and one of the few times its modeled. It means to protect, or care, for someone lovingly.

It’s a concept that we should practice everyday of the year, but how much more so than at Christmas? Loved ones who make you smile, hearts that beat as one, and friends that are there for each other. We should cherish them.

I love words, whether as a student of God’s Word, or as a writer, they amaze me. One of the synonyms of cherish is foster. That word means to encourage or promote the development of something good. If cherishing doesn’t come easy to you, you can foster it, this just takes practice. Anyone can define love in another’s life, if we will.

When an orphan is placed with a foster family, it can be awkward. The uncomfortableness can be as thick as, well eggnog. There is a level of mistrust, a feeling of what do you want frome me, over time that can fade. If the foster parents cherish the child, they’ll work towards making them feel loved.

Who in our lives do we value? Is it a family member that you once argued with, but couldn’t live without? Perhaps it’s s friend that you’ve kept at arms length, but who you always want within an arm’s reach. Maybe it’s a coworker, or someone desperately in need of being valued, or cherish.

That’s really what this old word is about, valuing those who are priceless to us. We put our money in banks, and our phones in cases, but what protective layer do we wrap our loved ones in? Find those you care about today, and show them you love them.

You don’t have to stand in Wal-Mart holding a banner singing their praises, that would be awkward. Though it’s used in them, cherish isn’t about the ceremony, it’s about the relationship. It can be as simple as a smile, a cup of coffee, and a conversation.

Sure it may be old school, or retro, but you let them know you cherish them. We should cherish our loved ones, at Christmas when we celebrate how He cherished us enough to be born. Each of us though should cherish as Christ did, and does, by showing it 365 days of the year.

Better Than Neverland

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Ecclesiastes 7:8
Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof: and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.

A few hours earlier, the peacock network aired a live version of Peter Pan. You’re familiar with the story, and the famous tag line, “I won’t grow up.” It seemed to me that our problem isn’t with growing up, it’s with growing old. Upon further thought, essentially, we fear endings, or landings if you will.

It is appropriate that Peter Pan’s home is called Neverland, because we really seem to hope to never land. Endings scare us, they haunt our dreams. When in reality, if we’ve met Jesus, they shouldn’t.

Revelation 1:8
8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

He alters the state of time, by inserting the present after mentioning both the beginning and the ending. The Lord Jesus further stretches our vision by placing the past, after both the future and the present. He finally wraps it up by giving us a new future to look too.

What does all this mean? It means that, with Jesus, in our present, our past doesn’t define us. It, and our future bow to His will, not our mistakes! He is The Almighty, and will silence all voices that seek to stop us. Isaiah said it like this.

Isaiah 9:6-7
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end…” In other words, there will be no stopping of our future. We fear an end because of the finality we attach to it. Jesus promised to eliminate that. He doesn’t only promise us life without end, He promises it in spite of endings.

The word end occurs in The Bible 291 times. However in the KJV, the word ending appears once, this stopped me in my tracks. In other places He says I Am the beginning and the end, but here, the ending.

The Greek word for both end and ending is Telos. They also used the same word for purpose or goal. Christ is our purpose. He is our goal, and The One we hope to stand beside of past the ending of all things. We do not seek Heaven, we seek The Creator of the Heavens.

The boy in green tights seeks to take people to a place where they’ll never reach their full potential. If all followed this idea, growth would completely die. No grown ups would mean no parents, which would mean no children. Those dreams of, “when I grow up”, would never be fulfilled. We don’t want Neverland, we seek something better than Neverland.

Jesus promised us that something better. One of the meanings of ending is eternal. He promised us, not the avoidance of something, but the completion of it. The Lord Jesus also promised that our every journey would have purpose. He was saying that each of us is important. We all can make a difference.

John 11:25-26
25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

We look at Christ’s promise and think it means life after death. In reality, it means life, before, during, and beyond death. He promised us life, and abundant life. God’s focus wasn’t on death, but eternal life.

What’s the difference? He stood at the grave of Lazarus unintimidated by death’s attack. In fact He knew it before Lazarus wasn’t even sick. He stood at the grave, ignoring death, and commanding Lazarus to live.

In Christ’s Ministry, when He raised the dead, He never rebuked death. He simply commanded for the person to live. The only time He spoke to death, was to mock it after His resurrection. He was saying that only He determines the ending. Our endings are not determined by the limits of our world.

It’s not pixie dust to believe in a Creator that has brought us through all the trials that we’ve faced! We’re not tied to a wire, harnessing man made ideas. We do not hope for a land of make believe.

Christians stand in faith, with our eyes raised towards The Maker of all things, believing for something far greater. Our song is not the impossible rant against fulfillment and purpose. Our song is that of The Resurrected Lamb, who has proven His claims.

In short, we can take comfort in this on opening night. When the music plays, and the trumpet sounds, the voice we hear won’t spend time saying what He won’t do. His voice, that clear matchless voice will say, “Come Up Higher”, or to put it in the context of this post … “You Can Fly! You Can Fly! You Can Fly!”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.