Archive for November 2014

The Christ of Christmas

During Christmas, Jesus is the Gift of the Father.
He is all the fullness of God embodied in a human infant.

A child will be born to us, a son will be given to us…
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6, NASB)

Christmas is the unveiling of
God’s greatest promise,
His greatest miracle,
His greatest gift:
His own incarnation.
All He is,
all His purity and perfection,
all His transcendent beauty,
became a human being.
The limitless God became the poorest, most helpless of all human creatures:
the newborn infant of an unmarried peasant girl.

Look! Here is the gift of Christmas.
Here is the wonder of Christmas.
Here are all the most precious treasures,
poured out on all who will receive them.
Here are holiness, wisdom, and boundless joy,
wholeness, harmony, and complete well-being.
Here are unity and individuality,
eternal belonging and a glorious destiny.

During Christmas, receive
the Gift of the Father,
the life of the Father, and
the love of the Father.
Receive Jesus Christ by simple faith.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Love Has Come!
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I Want What You Want

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” (John 4:34, NASB) 

Father, at times I have been so self-centered.
I have wanted all the wrong things.
Now, Lord, I want what You want.

I am short-sighted.
I am blind.
I can’t see the future, and
I don’t know which way to go.
I want what You want.

You are love, my Lord.
You are wisdom and knowledge.
You see the end from the beginning.
And You are always good.
Everything You do is good and beautiful.

My God,
I want what You want.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Father, Father
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I Trust You with My Time

“Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
(Matthew 6:27, NASB)

Creator of all eternity,
Lender of my life,
I trust You with my time.
Help me relax and listen,
letting You be the Master of my moments,
accepting each one from Your hand
as I receive each borrowed breath,
each meal,
each joy,
with appreciation and anticipation.

Teach me to walk in all the freedom Your love provides.
Thank You, my Father.

My times are in Your hand. (Psalm 31:15, NASB)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: My Mind Is Yours
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The Shepherd King

Hear this from Ezekiel 34:

This is what the Sovereign Lord says: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?…You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals.”

Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says to them:
“I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.”
(vv. 2, 4-5, 20a, 23-24, NIV)

Micah 5 prophesies this:

You, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.
He will stand and shepherd his flock
in the strength of the Lord,
in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
will reach to the ends of the earth.
And he will be their peace.
(vv. 2, 4-5a, NIV)

Isaiah 40:9-11 says:

You who bring good tidings to Zion,
go up on a high mountain…
lift up your voice with a shout…
say to the towns of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
See the Sovereign LORD comes with power…
He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young. (NIV) 

Sheep and shepherds were a fixture of daily life in biblical times. Everyone was familiar with them. Thus “shepherds” was a common figure of speech for leaders, from kings on down. These “shepherds” were to lead their flock to food and water. They were to provide protection for everyone and special care for those who needed it.

But not all shepherds took their jobs seriously. Ezekiel spoke of leaders who cared for themselves rather than the flock. The fed on the flock rather than feeding the flock. Through both Ezekiel and the prophet Micah, God said that He would not stand by while His flock was neglected. The unfaithful shepherds would be judged and struck down.

But He would not leave His people without a shepherd. Both prophets said that God would send a Greater Shepherd, His own Anointed One, Messiah, who would shepherd His people as Loving God desired. This Great Shepherd would be from the line of King David, who himself had been a shepherd.

In fact, says Micah, this Shepherd would come from David’s home town, Bethlehem. This tiny village, insignificant by human standards, would provide a second great leader, even greater than King David. God said this leader would come as God’s own agent, not man’s choice. His origins would be “from of old, from ancient times”; that is, He would be part of God’s timeless plan, working since before the foundation of the world. This Leader would “stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.” His power would not be limited by human weakness but would be the power and authority of Sovereign God Himself. God’s people would finally live in total security, and the King’s rule would reach “to the ends of the earth”.

This King would not simply bring peace. He Himself would be their peace. Over 700 years later the Apostle Paul would say the same of Jesus Christ:

He himself is our peace. (Ephesians 2:14, NIV)

How appropriate that when Jesus came and was opposed by the false shepherds of His day, He characterized Himself this way:

I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
(John 10:11, NIV)

To our picture of the mighty Messiah King, the Shepherd King brings a personal flavor, a tenderness, an individual attention that all who know Jesus Christ will recognize immediately.

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28, NIV)

Father, Jesus Christ is my shepherd.
His every word is love, and
His every path leads to You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Peace, Peace, Peace
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I Trust My Body to You

If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:11, NASB)

Those same physical problems keep coming back around again.
They’re not all that serious,
but sometimes they get me down.
They make me feel helpless, and
they remind me that eventually,
my body will deteriorate, despite my best efforts.

But Lord, You whisper that I can trust my body to You,
in its weakness and decay.
And I do, Lord.
Heal it if it be Your will, Father,
in Your way and time, and
I will use it to glorify You.

But meanwhile, enliven my spirit toward those around me.
Enliven my spirit toward You, Father.
Your Spirit is already living in me, and
eternal life in You has already begun.

Praise to You, my Lord!
Praise to You!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Father’s Gifts
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I Look to You in Temptation

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, NASB)

Father, when I handle temptation in my own strength,
the result is failure and frustration.
The harder I fight, the more entangled I get
in the web of my own weakness.

Teach me to do all I can to flee temptation,
but when it comes,
let me hear it immediately as a call
to look to You,
to trust my needs to You,
to rest in You,
my Father,
my Creator,
my loving Savior.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Keep Us from All Evil
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Prepare for the Living Christ

John saw Jesus coming toward him and said,
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
This is the one I meant when I said,
‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me
because he was before me.’” 

Then John gave this testimony:
“I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and
remain on him.
I would not have known him,
except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me,
‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain
is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
(John 1:29-30, 32-34, NIV)

He is coming,
the Lamb of God who takes away all sin,
the only Son from the very presence of the Father,
the Holy One who immerses our hearts and lives
in the Spirit of God Himself.

He comes with such rich gifts.
Have you prepared?
Are you ready to receive Him?

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Christ Is Coming! Lift Your Eyes!
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I Lay Down My Life

Bear one another’s burdens, and
thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2, NASB) 

Lord, there is one near me who is
tired,
stressed,
overworked,
anxious,
carrying a burden too heavy to bear.

Lord, please help them.
Lift their load.
But can I pray this way without being willing to help them myself?

God, please help them, and
use me however you choose.

Lord, use me
to lift someone’s load
today.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Be Love in Me
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I Follow You

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23, NASB) 

Jesus, these same words that you spoke to Your disciples so long ago,
You speak to me today.

You want me to know You.
You want to be close to me always.

But I must set aside my own plans and selfish interests.

I must be ready to follow You, even if it means discomfort and sacrifice.

Lord Jesus, I don’t know what’s best for me.
But I believe that You do.

I love You, and I trust You.

Lord Jesus, today
I set aside my plans and
follow You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: In Your Steps
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You Did It for Me

The picture that Jesus paints is a sobering one. When He returns to earth in all His glory, He will gather before Him all our race. Then He will separate us. Some will be blessed and welcomed into a beautiful kingdom prepared for them by their loving Father. Others will be cursed and sent away from God into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.

What will be the standard for this separation? Simply this: how we responded to Jesus Christ here in this life; specifically, how we treated Him when we met Him in the needy around us.

We will answer to Jesus face to face, with our hearts and lives laid bare. In that moment our acts and our omissions will be seen for what they are: our personal response to the living, ever-present Jesus Christ.

That moment is a certain future for each of us. How should we prepare? Surrounded by need, how can we live up to such a standard?

What He wants for us is very simple: live in His presence now. Make Him the center of life now, as you will see Him to be in that moment. Your love for Him will grow. And as you love Him, you will love those He loves.

If we claim to love Him but live to please ourselves, ignoring the needs of His dear ones all around us, our love will be shown to be a lie. 1 John 3:17 (NIV) says: 

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?

Lord Jesus, help us to see You in the faces of the needy all around us. As we love each little one, we are loving You.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: When I Face You, Lord
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