“Walking with Jesus the Way We received Him”

December 29

As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him . . . Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? (Col_2:6 and Gal_3:3)
In this vital matter of relating rightly to the Lord, one common mistake is attempting to develop our Christian walk in a different manner than we began it. Our present verse points us to the proper outlook. We are to build our life with the Lord upon the very same terms that we began that life. “As you have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” We are to walk with Jesus the way we received Him.
We received the Lord and His great salvation as gifts of grace. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (2Co_9:15 and Eph_2:8). We must, therefore, walk in Him with a “grace-receiving” mentality. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for [upon] grace” (Joh_1:16). We must never attempt to treat the Christian life as something we can manufacture or earn. Sinful, earthly fathers were created with a desire to give beneficial gifts to their children. Even more so, our holy, heavenly Father has a heart to give all that is needed to those who are willing to ask and receive. “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Mat_7:11).
Gal_3:3 reinforces the necessity of keeping our pattern for beginning a walk with God the same one we use for developing that walk: “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” These rhetorical questions warn of the deadly danger of having our approach to Christian growth differ from how we found spiritual birth. The Holy Spirit alone was able to bring us spiritual birth. The flesh of man could avail nothing. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Joh_3:6). The Holy Spirit must bring us spiritual progress. The flesh can contribute nothing. “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (Joh_6:63). Any change in approach from birth to growth is foolishness. It is doomed to failure.
We began by grace, so we must continue by grace. We began by the Spirit, so we must continue by the Spirit. Yes, we are to walk with Jesus the way we received Him. Any changes in approach are unacceptable, ineffective, impossible.
Heavenly Father, You are such a generous giver. You gave me Your Son and His salvation as a gift of grace. You gave me new life by a work of Your Holy Spirit. Now, I want to walk in Christ these same ways, in His gracious name, Amen.

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The Coincidence of Christmas

December 28

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.” (Luk_2:1-3)
We know that Joseph and Mary lived in lowly Nazareth, and that they were relatively poor. We also know that the prophets of old foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is about 70 miles south of Nazareth. And we know that somehow Joseph and Mary, despite their financial challenges, would need to move to Bethlehem before the child is born.
But there is more to this story than at first meets the eye.
An angel could have appeared to them and said, “It’s time to go.” And a miraculous provision could have been made whereby the trip was rendered effortless. I mean, Elijah’s flaming chariot could have swooped down and whisked them away in seconds. Or, for that matter, the Spirit could have mysteriously transported them like He did with Ezekiel, or with Philip the Evangelist after he baptized the Ethiopian.
But no, it was a donkey ride for a very pregnant Mary.
Furthermore, it was necessary that Bethlehem be very crowded — in fact, over-crowded, so as to insure that there would be no room for them in the Inn; thus leaving them to the one place no one would choose on purpose — a stable behind the Inn, where a manger would serve as the Baby’s bed. And, mind you, all this had to happen in ways that could not be detected as Divine.
So God put it in the heart of Caesar Augustus to issue a decree that all the world be taxed, requiring every man to return to his home town. Thus Joseph, against his better judgement, had to submit to the law of Caesar and make the perilous trip to Bethlehem. Arriving at such an hour that all rooms had been taken — he settles into the stable and unknowingly finds himself at the epicenter of human history.
The Bible tells us that “God works all things after the counsel of His will.” So while Caesar regarded himself as the Emperor of the world, it was the Lord of Heaven and Earth who directed the King’s heart to accomplish His divine will.
When we carefully examine all the extraordinary events that each had to occur in an exact order and with specific timing so that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem, in a manger — we cannot but be staggered at how the hand of God worked in all these things.
This was more than mere coincidence — it was the Coincidence of Christmas.
Let me close by asking a question. Is it possible that the hand of God is still working in coincidental ways today, both in our world as well as in our personal lives, in order to bring more and more of Jesus into our daily affairs? And instead of murmuring and complaining about disruptions and inconveniences — might we all be better served by looking for how God’s hand is working, and then start thanking Him for what He is doing?

Midnight in a Carpenter’s Shop (Part 2 of 2)

December 16

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mat_1:20-21)
Like many men do when faced with problems, Joseph made his way to his workshop to tinker on some of his projects. He fumbled around with a couple of wooden beams, a hammer and three large nails — but he couldn’t think of any use for them, so he set them aside for a later day.
He shuffled aimlessly about the carpenter shop, whittling away the time, torn between sorrow and rage. The candle burned low and the corner cot beckoned to him. Joseph curled under the blanket, sighed once or twice, and closed his eyes. It didn’t take much; they were almost swollen shut from crying.
Whether it was the fatigue of a hard day’s work, or the emotional drain of such disturbing news, or perhaps a numbing blend of both, Joseph found it difficult to get any sleep. He would dose off for a moment, only to be startled awake by the night noise that visits all of our homes; the creaking walls, the drip of water, the brush of tree branches, the incessant tingling of wind chimes, or the bark of a neighbor’s stupid dog.
Sometime in the early morning hours, when an eerie stillness settled upon the city, Joseph finally drifted into a deep sleep. It was then that the angel of the Lord visited him in a dream and said:
“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mat_1:20-21).
Joseph woke up from the dream and walked into history. He followed the Angel’s instructions explicitly, and was happy to do so for he truly loved Mary. And he, most privileged of all men, was the one who first spoke the blessed Name of Jesus.
Jesus — His name was revealed in a dream; and knowing Him is a dream come true!

Midnight in a Carpenter’s Shop (Part 1 of 2)

December 15

“Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mat_1:20-21)
Mary looked unusually radiant as she came walking toward Joseph. His heart leapt within him at the sight of his bride-to-be. She seemed to him to be more full of life than ever before. “Joseph, my beloved, I have something I must tell you,” Mary said.
Joseph smiled broadly and gave her his undivided attention, captivated by the light in her eyes. In the following few moments as he listened carefully to his love, his world came crashing down like the walls of Jericho. Mary was pregnant, and Joseph was not the father!
Joseph’s heart was broken and his mind raced with a hundred questions. “Who is the father? How could Mary have done such a thing? What will I tell my friends? What will the family have to say? What is to become of our marriage plans?” It’s true that Mary had said something about an angel, but Joseph didn’t really hear much after she told him she was with child. Everything went kind of foggy at that point.
He left Mary and wandered off into the night, trying to sort out his options. The hard choice, according to the Law, would be to stone Mary for her unfaithfulness, or at the very least, put her to an open shame before her family and friends by denouncing her as an adulteress. Joseph’s anger may have driven him to such measures had not his love for Mary been so strong.
He was an honorable man and thought of a quiet, private settlement beyond the public eye, keeping Mary from scandal. Still, the more he tried to work through his feelings, the greater became his overwhelming sense of despair.
It was a night he thought would never end. But then something happened.
(to be continued)

A Christ Christmas

December 14
A Christ Christmas
“He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not.” (Joh_1:10)
While performing at the Kraft Music Hall in 1941, Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas”, a song by Irvin Berlin, and unexpectedly produced the best selling single of all time. There is scarcely anyone today who is not familiar with the old-fashioned melody, for it surfaces each year with the same nostalgic force it unleashed that first December all those years ago.
But things are notably different in our world today. Especially when it comes to Christmas; and specifically when it comes to Christ. The political/social climate of our world is increasingly hostile to anything Christian, and much is being done to exclude Christ from all public forums.
Once again we see the truth of John’s ancient words, “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not” (Joh_1:10). John does go on to tell us that, even though the world does not accept Jesus, there are those who do. And God gives them “the power to become childern of God” (Joh_1:12).
So, here’s a gift from me to you. A Christmas prayer, really. I wrote this to express not only what’s in my heart, but also in the hearts of millions throughout our world today.
Take the old tune “White Christmas” and sing the following words as an expression of your faith and hope during these Holy Days. And may this rise as a prayer to Heaven, which moves God to act on our behalf and answer it even while the words are on our lips!
“I’m praying for a Christ Christmas, just like the ones we used to know.the Babe in the manger,being friends with strangers,helping every needy soul.
I’m praying for a Christ Christmas, just like it was that holy night.your days be filled with God’s light and may all your Christmases have Christ.”
May God fill your life with all the treasures that are hid in Christ, as you do your part to openly make Him known to others!

The Great Christmas Auction (Part 2 of 2)

December 12

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom_8:32)
As the old man unwrapped the package, the paper gave way to reveal a portrait of the man’s son, which the soldier had painted. Though the world would never consider it the work of a genius, the painting featured the young man’s face in striking detail.
Overcome with emotion, the man thanked the soldier, promising to hang the picture above the fireplace. A few hours later, after the soldier had departed, the old man set about his task. True to his word, the painting went above the fireplace, pushing aside thousands of dollars of paintings. And then the man sat in his chair and spent Christmas gazing at the gift he had been given.
The following spring, the old man became ill and passed away. The art world was in high anticipation! According to the will of the old man, all of the art would be auctioned on Christmas day, the day he had received his greatest gift.
The day soon arrived and art collectors from around the world gathered to bid on some of the world’s most spectacular paintings. Dreams would be fulfilled this day; greatness would be achieved as many would claim “I have the greatest collection.” The auction began with a painting that was not on any museum’s list. It was the painting of the man’s son.
The auctioneer asked for an opening bid. The room was silent. “Who will open the bidding with $100?” he asked. Minutes passed. No one spoke. From the back of the room came, “Who cares about that painting? It’s just a picture of his son. Let’s forget it and go on to the truly valuable items.”
More voices echoed in agreement.
“No, we have to sell this one first,” replied the auctioneer. “Now, who will take the son?”
Finally, a friend of the old man spoke. “Will you take fifty dollars for the painting? That’s all I have. I knew the boy, so I’d like to have it.
“I have a bid of fifty dollars,” called the auctioneer. “Will anyone go higher?”
After more silence, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice. Gone.”
The gavel fell. Cheers filled the room and someone exclaimed, “Now we can get on with it and we can bid on these great treasures!” The auctioneer looked at the audience and announced that the auction was over.
Stunned disbelief quieted the room. Someone spoke up and asked, “What do you mean it’s over? What about all of these paintings? There are millions of dollars of art here! We demand that you explain what’s going on!”
“It’s very simple,” the auctioneer replied. “According to the will of the father, whoever takes the son . . . gets it all.”
The Bible says, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom_8:32). Receive Jesus into your life, and you get everything that God has to give!
Take the Son, and get it all!

The Great Christmas Auction (Part 1 of 2)

“He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom_8:32)
Years ago there was a very wealthy man who, with his devoted young son, shared a passion for art collecting. Together they traveled around the world, adding only the finest art treasures to their collection. Priceless works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others adorned the walls of the family estate.
The widowed elder man watched with satisfaction, as his only child became an experienced art collector. The son’s trained eye and sharp business mind caused his father to beam with pride as they dealt with art collectors around the world.
As winter approached, war engulfed the nation, and the young man left to serve his country. After only a few short weeks, his father received a telegram. His beloved son was missing in action. The art collector anxiously awaited more news, fearing he would never see his son again. Within days, his fears were confirmed. The young man had died while rushing a fellow soldier to a medic.
and lonely, the old man faced the upcoming Christmas holidays with anguish and sadness. The joy of the season, a season that he and his son had so looked forward to, would visit his house no longer.
On Christmas morning, a knock on the door awakened the depressed old man. As he walked to the door, the masterpieces of art on the walls only reminded him that his son was not coming home. He opened the door, and a soldier greeted him with a large package in his hand.
“I was a friend of your son,” the soldier said. “I was the one he was rescuing when he died. May I come in for a few moments? I have something to show you.” As the two began to talk, the solider told of how the man’s son had told everyone of his father’s love of fine art.
“I’m an artist,” said the soldier, “and I want to give you this.”
(continued tomorrow)

Desired Things

December 10

“The eyes of all look expectantly to You, And You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.” (Psa_145:15-16)
Today I am posting “Desiderata” (Latin for “desired things”), a prose poem written in December 1933 by Max Ehrmann about attaining happiness in life. If you have never read it before, I’m sure you will find it uplifting.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.

Carriers of the Keys

Old keys on a old book, antique wood backgroundDecember 8

“And I will give unto you the keys of the Kingdom…” (Mat_16:19)
This is perhaps one of the more noted sayings of Jesus, and the very idea that we can actually open and close heaven’s doors fills our imaginations with both wonder and inquiry. What does He mean by this?
Some would argue that since Jesus was speaking specifically to Peter, these words make him the first of many successive Popes who hold an authority to which no other human may lay claim. Not so. For the same words were spoken to all the disciples on other occasions.
Jesus is saying that His followers, those who are a part of the Community of the Called Out, have been given the ability to grant access into the kingdom — as well as close access to those who will not enter.
Furthermore, it is not Heaven’s doors we are opening and closing. Rather, this is about helping others access the very real and royal presence of the Lord and His work here on the earth.
This is a right now activity, not something in the sweet by and by.
it ever occur to you that you can actually be the means whereby the Lord extends His love, light, and life to others? You can be the one that makes it possible for someone else to actually experience a real and lasting touch from Jesus; a touch that heals, that forgives, that cleanses, and that transforms.
Christ can make Himself known through your hands, through your words, and through your deeds. You are a carrier of the Keys that opens the Kingdom. And you have been authorized by the King to give away to others what your have freely received yourself.
Ah, but there’s the rub. Have you indeed received it yourself? Has the touch of Jesus healed you, cleansed you, forgiven you, and transformed you? If so, then in the words of the Psalmist, “let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” (Psa_107:2).
But If not, then what in the world is keeping you back? I open the door to you right now! Come on in and behold the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!
One final note. This is not a free-for-all, indiscriminate toss out of heaven’s treasures like candy thrown from floats in a passing parade. No, Jesus set clear perimeters in His commissioning us a carriers of the Keys. “What you open on earth must already be opened in heaven,” He said. In other words, we are to follow God’s lead — just as Jesus Himself did. “I only do those things I see My Father doing.”
So, yes we have authority, symbolized by holding the Keys; but we also are charged with the responsibility to only do as the Lord directs. This means we must always be in relationship with Him, for that is the only way to handle each and every situation as Carriers of the Keys. So, what are you waiting for?
There’s a whole lot of folks just waiting for you to pass their way.

The Crumbling Gates of Hell

gates

December 7

“The gates of hell shall not prevail” (Mat_16:18)
Most of us have seen various images of huge iron gates framed in flames and topped with evil-looking gargoyles — the Gates of Hell as Hollywood imagines them to be. While it makes for good theater, it is poor theology.
First of all, there is no fence around Hell, so there can be no Gate. In fact, Jesus is not talking about a physical gate at all. Rather, He is talking about the counsels, judgements, plans, purposes, schemes, tricks, and wiles of the kingdom of darkness. That is the actual meaning of the phrase — the Gates of Hell.
In ancient times the gates of the city were the place where public concourse and matters of court would be considered and decided upon. Also, it was customary for the elders of the city to sit in the gates, signifying that wisdom and understanding were available for all the people of the city. On some occasions, even kings would place their thrones in the Gates, signifying their rule over all who came in and out of the City.
Those listening to Jesus talk about the gates of hell would understand all this; after all, they didn’t have movies in those days.
When Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Community of the Called Out (that is, His Church), He means that none of the attacks which the devil unleashes from his seat of authority will in any manner gain supremacy over the people of God. Even if the full arsenal of Satan’s dark empire was launched in a single, massive, all-out frontal assault against the Church, the cumulative effect would be like a fly smacking into the Rock of Gibraltar! The Rock wins.
Friend, no scheme the devil devises will succeed, no counsel he offers will prosper, no plan he comes up with will work. “Greater is He who is in you, than he that is in the world” (1Jn_4:4). And, “no weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isa_54:17).
Of course, this doesn’t mean that he won’t try. In fact, it all but guarantees that the one thing the devil will do is attack the Church with relentless intensity. And why? Because the Church is the only thing on the planet that holds the unique distinction of being the Bride of Christ. And the devil so hates the Lord Jesus that he will try to trash whatever is dear to the Lord’s heart. And that’s us.
What else can you expect from a sulking bum sitting defeated in the crumbling gates of hell?