Monday, December 21, 2009

Single at Christmas

For the single Christian man or woman, Christmas can be an extremely difficult time. Memories of Christmas past with family and friends can become its own curse, like a ghost haunting the days of December. Christmas music in the stores, holiday decorations, people’s chatter about shopping and dinner plans only serve as daily reminders of how alone we are.

The secret of a Merry Christmas is to remember that we have the ability within us to make Christmas meaningful. If circumstances have forced us to be alone at Christmas, we can make special plans for that holy day. For instance, we can decide to make Christmas Eve a time set apart for us and our Lord. We can place lighted candles on the dining room table, place Christmas cookies on a decorative tray next to the center piece, then prepare an elegant meal to eat in the presence of God.

After dinner we can sit in front of the Christmas tree and read the Christmas story (Luke 1; Mathew 2:1-23). Keep your spirit sensitive to the Holy Spirit and see what he says to you. Write it down in a special journal. Then if you are adventurous, lay down under the tree and look up between the branches at all the secret nooks and crannies of Christmas decorations. Ponder the gifts God has given especially to you.

I promise you, God will visit you on Christmas if you make room for him (James 4:8). Make it a special Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Oily Skin

“And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 1:8-11).

Many of us think of sheep as nice furry animals that are cute and cuddly. But a sheep’s coat is filled with natural oils that serve as a magnet to dirt and grime. Sheep are not pleasant to touch in the outdoors. During Biblical times shepherds lived in the fields with their flocks for months at a time. The shepherds’ skin absorbed the smell of the sheep. Let’s just say it would not be used as a base for perfume. Yet it was to these men that the angels appeared with the news of a Savior.

We are like shepherds soaked in the aroma of the world. We follow one another into dangerous territory, will jump off a cliff if we think everyone else is doing it and generally do not make wise decisions. If that sounds like a cruel description, pick up a newspaper or watch a news program. It is no accident that God refers to his people as sheep.

God created us as beautiful beings to worship him, but we have covered ourselves in sin. The good news is that our Father sent us a Savior to remove the oily residue of the field so that we can become the soft wool of a cleansed sheep (Isaiah 1:18).

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


“And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields, and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:8-11).

Don’t miss those important words, “there has been born for you a Savior”.

Don’t let anyone tell you Christmas is not about you. Christmas is about you. It is about God coming to rescue you. It is about his precious gift given to bring you into a wonderful relationship with him.

If you find yourself tense, depressed, anxious or harassed during the Christmas season. Stop what you are doing. Sit in front of a Christmas tree ablaze with lights, or stare at the flames in a fireplace, or just sit somewhere quiet and meditate on his promise to direct your life.

You may be in an extremely difficult place. God has not abandoned you there. He has placed you there so that you might know what is in your heart and turn intentionally toward him for help (2 Chronicles 32:31).

For unto you a child was born, he died, rose again and is calling you to walk with him today.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Red Velvet

His over six foot frame carried the deep velvet red coat lined in white far with elegance. His silver bread and hair glistened in the lamp light. The breathtaking Saint Nicolas costume far excelled any I have seen. I stood amazed watching him and the men and women in the small group that were dressed in 18th century clothing.

If human beings dressed as magical characters can inspire great pleasure and admiration, what must it have been like for Isaiah to see God on his throne in heaven (Isaiah chapter 6)? Is it any wonder that whoever God gives a vision of himself falls down in worship? He who has created all that is beautiful, who is himself beauty, inspires in the hearts of his children, admiration and loyalty.

"Come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant, come ye oh come ye to Bethlehem. Come and behold him, born the King of Israel, oh come let us adore him; Oh come let us adore him, Oh come let us adore him, Christ the Lord.

"For he alone is worthy! For he alone is worthy! For he alone is worthy, Christ the Lord!"

Friday, December 11, 2009

Blessed is she who believed

When Elizabeth greeted her cousin Mary one of the things she said was, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord” (Luke 1:45).

When we believe that God means what he says in his word, when we make our choices based on his love, promise to guide us and the eternal significance of our daily lives, we are blessed beyond measure. Peace is ours. Confidence is ours. Hope is ours.

No matter what happens in our earthly lives, we rest in the assurance of God’s love and power and intimate involvement in who we are and what happens to us.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Plan

"And behold you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (Luke 1:31-33).

Gabriel revealed in two sentences the plan God had set into motion before he laid the foundations of the earth (Ephesians 1:4-5; Hebrews 4:3; 1 Peter 1:20-21).

Scripture teaches us that God has laid out a plan for our lives also (Psalm 139:16). We are instructed to remember this. Whenever we plan we are to plan with the caveat "If the Lord wills".

Imagine what God saying, "And (fill in your name) will live in (fill in your city) and will work at (fill in your company) for X number of years. Then I will move him/her to the city of ________ and she/he will be my servant there.

That is what God has said about each of us. We can be at peace. We do not need to strain and worry. God has already given us wisdom through our reasoning, his word and circumstances. He is perfectly able to change our direction in a matter of seconds if he has other plans for us.

We can respond like Mary, "Behold the servant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Greatest Miracle

“For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

For many Christians this phrase has become a familiar chant. It comes up easily in conversations about troubled times, but how many of us recall that it was Mary who first heard those words?

God would create in the Virgin Mary’s womb the Christ Child. Elizabeth had become pregnant after menopause. But the greatest impossibility was about to come to pass, the rescue of God’s people from the bondage of sin (1 John 1:9, 2:1, 3:4).

This is the greatest miracle

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ruined Reputations

Gabriel's words to Mary, "You have found favor with God" tell us that she was a godly woman. Joseph had recognized the beauty of Mary's spirit and had asked her to be his wife. Their engagement was the first phase of their wedding. The consummation of the wedding vows would occur after everything was prepared for their new home and the final step of the vows were taken.

So when the angel Gabriel told Mary, “You will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus" she was stunned. She did not doubt the angel's words were from God, but she certainly was puzzled at how this could come to pass. She asks, "How can this be since I do not know a man?"

Gabriel responded, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:31-35).

The reputation of Mary was about to be destroyed (John 8:41). There may come a time in our lives when we are doing God's will, yet our reputations are ruined. People do not know or understand what has happened behind the scenes. God does not always work out in the open. Often his work is held in secret until the moment he chooses to reveal it.

Then we, with the rest of his Saints, will celebrate the wonder and majesty of all he has accomplished through our individual lives (Revelation 15:3-4).

Monday, December 7, 2009

Do Not Fear

“The the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:30-33).

It is important not to miss the irony in the angel’s words, “Do not be afraid.” Mary was going to suffer terribly before this was all over. When we see our children in physical or emotional pain, we are filled with the desire to rescue them. But parents cannot control either the decisions adult children make or the decisions others make that affect our children’s lives. When they suffer, we suffer.

Mary’s future suffering was all the more reason Gabriel’s words were important. Knowing that God‘s purpose for our lives cannot be stopped by anyone or anything brings us hope (Job 42:2). We, like Mary, need to place all our trust in God so that we overcome our natural fear.

The suffering will not last forever. Mary saw her son resurrected. We too will one day see the glory God brought through our suffering. Do not give up hope as you long for that day. It will come.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Lightning

“But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was” (Luke 1:29).

When we see the holiness of God, even through the filter of one of his created beings, we are moved with fear. All of our imperfections come bursting across our minds; like a bolt of lightning across a dark sky the clouds of our faults come into full view. How can we be favored when we are covered with humanity?

It is our faith in the efficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice that brings us peace with God and washes away our fear of his presence (Romans 5:1). The message of Gabriel comes to us believers, “Do not be afraid, for you have found favor with God.” He calls us to himself and asks us to welcome him into our home (the place where we are completely exposed to him) (Revelation 3:20).

There is no hiding in the presence of God because there is no need to hide. He offers forgiveness and creates change where needed. His Christmas gift is given, we only need to unwrap it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Highly Favored

"The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" (Luke 1:27-28).

"Highly favored one"; what a privilege to carry the Christ Child. The child within her was the one that would set her people free.

The Jewish people were under control of the Roman Empire. They expected the Anointed One would come and set their nation free from foreign rule and set up a kingdom on earth. They had passed over the scriptures that foretold the suffering and crucifixion of Christ. The glad news that she would carry the savior was colored with expectations of freedom and honor.

We are also favored because we also carry the Spirit of God in us (John 14:17; 2 Peter 1:4). But we also, like the Hebrew people, want and expect freedom from pain and suffering. We miss the fact that God offers us inner freedom and peace in the midst of suffering (John 17:15-16, 20-21).

But our suffering is not endless or pointless. God has a definite good purpose in all that he allows us to experience.

When we don't understand, we can trust.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gabriel Sent

“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph…” (Luke 1:26-27).

If we have been a Christian for a long time, our eyes tend to glaze over as we read the Christmas story. But try to imagine God instructing an angel to give you a message. “Now God sent an angel called Gabriel to _______(fill in your name) who lived in _______ (fill in your town) who worked at _______ (fill in your company name).”

It is not foolish to personalize what happened because God did call us by name and give us a message. Many times scripture says God knew someone by name before they were born. It tells us that by nature we do not seek God or have any understanding of spiritual things. The only reason we think about God is because he is pointedly calling us by name.

(Romans 3:10-18; Ex 31:2, 33:12; Nu 1:17; Is 43:1; Mt 10:29-31)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Christmas Invitation

Twenty five days till Christmas.

For some of us it means snow drifts against the house. For others it means Jackfrost swirls on the windows. For many it means rain beating on the roof and for others it means sunshine days and cool crisp nights.

But for all of us, it means the celebration of our savior. His birth announces his willingness to share in our experience of being human. He laid aside all his visible glory to show us a greater glory, his love for us.

Chirstmas is his inviation to be intimate with him.