Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
There is a piece of spinach stuck in your teeth from lunch that no one tells you about, and when you see it in the mirror three hours later, you wonder why no one bothered to tell you. It’s too prominent to have been missed. If only this were only true of spinach. Constructive feedback is hard to come by.
As we stand on the cusp of a new year, we have the opportunity to pause and reflect on the past year. Although loved ones sometimes sugarcoat their feedback, we can find clarity in seeking God’s perspective. He measures the waters of the earth and knows every crevice of your soul. He sees and speaks truth.
If we don’t take time to do this, our years blur together and we miss the story God is weaving with our lives. As we review our year, seeking His clarity, we find growth to celebrate and missed opportunities to mourn. Reflecting on the past can strengthen us for the future as we seek God’s vision and direction for the upcoming year. Allow Him to lovingly lead you forward.
All day long have I toiled and striven; but now in the stillness of heart and in the clear light of Thine eternity, I would ponder the pattern my life has been weaving.
Revelation 20 – 22
A Timely Word
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
1 Corinthians 3:16
When Eli Fangidae, an Indonesian businessman, decided to take his own life, a friend found him dangling by a rope and cut him loose. Afterward, in protective custody, Eli decided to try again; at that moment, his attention was drawn to a nearby Gideon New Testament. Out of curiosity, he opened it and read: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him.”
“How could the page be opened at that very moment when I was going to commit suicide?” Eli later said. “There were no earmarks, nor were the verses underlined. When I thought of those verses given me by God, I knelt down and cried, ‘Oh God, forgive me. Have mercy on me.’”
His life was changed forever.1
God always has a timely word for us. The Word of God encourages us in our hardest moments. As we prepare to launch into a new year, make a renewed commitment to daily Bible study. Fall in love with God’s Word this year, and you’ll find a timely word for every day and fresh hope for every hour.
A timely word—spoken at just the right time to meet a particular need—how good it is!
1Adapted from Converted and Called (Nashville: The Gideons International, 2003), 37-38.
Revelation 18 – 19
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
A discriminating diner might taste a chef’s dish and exclaim, “Perfection!” An art critic might stare at a famous painting for hours and conclude, “It’s perfect!” Or a young bride-to-be might stare at her engagement ring and whisper, “Oh, it’s perfect!”
Really? Are meals, paintings, and diamonds actually perfect? Not really, but we fully understand what “perfection” means in those situations. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder. So is anything in this world actually perfect? The Bible says one thing is: “The law of the Lord.” And what does that mean? It means that God’s words to man, found in Scripture, are complete, lacking for nothing; they cannot be improved upon. There is nothing missing, nothing God forgot to include that we need for faith and practice in the Christian life. Paul wrote that Scripture is sufficient for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be perfect.
God’s Word should be our first stop and the last word on anything about which it speaks. A “perfect” way to begin every day is with the prayerful consideration of God’s perfect Word.
Revelation 14 – 17
The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations.
Do you remember 2008? Unless you were married that year or had a child in 2008, that year may not evoke happy memories. Why? Because on September 20 of that year the Dow had its worst point drop ever. The sudden dramatic decline of stock prices resulted in a significant loss of wealth for people across the nation. This, joined with a drop in housing prices, caused people to owe more than their home was worth, and a domino effect began in our economy. In a time when everything man touches seems to change rapidly, the constancy of planet earth offers a benchmark of stability.
Don’t look now, but our planet is going to change one day as well. The apostle Peter writes that the day is coming when “both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” as part of “the day of the Lord” (2 Peter 3:10-12). So is there anything permanent? Anything that will never change? Only one “thing”: the Creator of heaven and earth. God spoke through Malachi saying, “For I am the Lord, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6). God’s person and attributes are infinite and eternal. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Nothing except God is constant in our world. He is our ever-present hope.
Revelation 10 – 13
Christmas is about the most important thing in your life. It’s about the birth of Jesus Christ who has made it possible for you to be forgiven your sins. You are no longer an enemy, no longer alienated but reconciled once and for all with Almighty God.
If someone were to ask you what is the meaning of Christmas, what would you say? Would you talk about trees, gifts, friends, fellowship and all of that? Or would you get right to the heart of the question and talk about what it really is? I don’t think a lot of people know what it is about. They shop, they spend money, and they say Happy Holidays (that’s the best they know) and they get time off from work so they have some vacation time, they take a break. They go shopping, they buy their friends gifts. They receive gifts so you can just think of a lot of things that people would say…so when you ask what is Christmas then, what is it besides that? In other words, most people define Christmas as what you see, I see trees and gifts and people happy and eating and so forth but there is more to it than that. Think about this. When you think about what Christmas really is, Christmas is the celebration of one of the three most important events in human history. No one can equal any one of these three. 1. The birth of Jesus Christ the Son of God. 2. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ for our sins. 3 The resurrection of Jesus Christ- our promise of eternal life and heaven our home. Where can you get anything to match that? You can not. If you don’t have the Jesus of Christmas in your heart you don’t have the promise of any of those. Salvation, the presence of the Holy Spirit living within you from the moment you trust him as Savior and heaven is your home. Christmas is just one of those significant matchless times in the history of humanity and it is one we can enjoy year after year. I want us to think seriously about what Christmas is all about because if you understand what it’s really about you have a different attitude on Christmas morning. So as you think about it, how do you choose to spend it?
One of these days God is going to call our name.
Oh some people say “when God calls my number, I’ll be ready”. God doesn’t have numbers. He doesn’t call numbers. You are not a number. Listen, the reason I know you are not a number is because God loves each one of us personally. Not numbers. Personally.
When He calls your name, the question is will you be ready? You will either be ready, sealed by the Holy Spirit, the result of the death of Jesus Christ who forgave you of your sins, separated you from your sins, and reconciled you to the Father. You will either be ready as a result of those things or you will stand before God not ready and have to give an account for it. You may say “well you know what, I don’t believe all that”. Let me ask you a question. Can you give me a legitimate reason for not believing it? Don’t tell me about your feelings, give me a reason.
Christmas is a serious time. It’s about the birth of the only person who has ever lived who can forgive us of our sins and who went to the cross and paid the only price acceptable to God who could not look upon us with favor because of our sin placed on his son Jesus Christ-the debt of all of our sin, crucified him on the cross and as a result, Jesus death paid your debt, my debt and the debt of the entire world. And to make it real so we would never have to doubt it, Jesus died, he was in the tomb absolutely dead and in 3 days out he comes. He is seen, walks, arose and is alive today. And that’s how we know our sins are forgiven with absolute certainty.
Have you ever trusted him as your personal savior?
If you leave Jesus out of your life you don’t have anything.
It’s not about presents and trees and lights.
It’s about Jesus.
If you have any questions please contact Pastor Stan at firstname.lastname@example.org
Journey Beyond Christmas
Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
During our weekend devotions this month, we’ve considered the goodbyes of Christmas. For some, Christmas means separation rather than reunion. It means a parting glance: Jesus leaving heaven; Joseph and Mary leaving Nazareth; the Magi leaving Babylonia; and maybe you being away from your loved ones.
But now it’s time for all of us to say goodbye to Christmas as we haul off the tree, throw away the leftover candy, box up the decorations, help the guests out the front door, and try to get our routine back to normal.
Here’s the great thing. The incarnation of Christ—the truth of His entering the world for us—is a reality we never leave behind. His abiding presence is a constant reality. We never say goodbye to Him. We’re never separated from Him, not today, not ever. The Bible says, “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). Take a parting glance at Christmas and then press onward into a new year with Christ!
Your most important work is always ahead of you, never behind you.
Revelation 1 – 9
Humility Transcending the Holidays
He humbled Himself….
The trappings of Christmas are wonderful—the colors, lights, bows, and wreaths. But too many get trapped in the trappings and miss the truth. And the truth of Christmas is far better than its trappings. The truth of Christmas is Christ.
In a sense, of course, Christmas is about us. God loved us, became flesh for us, died to forgive our sins, and rose to give us everlasting life. Christmas is the celebration of what Jesus did for us. But in return, we should make it all about Him: loving Him, serving Him, praising Him, and emulating His attitude of humility.
He humbled Himself to become human; and, in turn, Joseph and Mary put His interests before their own. The shepherds, too, put Him first. They left their flocks and bowed before Him. The Magi worshiped Him and presented Him their gifts. In the temple, the aged Anna and the venerable Simeon praised God because of Him. They gladly let Him have center place.
Let’s have ourselves a humble little Christmas. Don’t think so much of yourself today; think of Him and of others. What a great day to rededicate the remainder of your days on earth to serving Christ with a humility that transcends the holidays.
(Luke 2:1-20), Jude 1
They Came With Haste
Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.
The angelic chorus could have appeared to everyone in Bethlehem. They could have materialized above Jerusalem. They could have hovered over the skies of Rome or Athens or Corinth or any of the great cities of antiquity. But they appeared just to the shepherds—lowly, lonely shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night.
Why? Perhaps there are reasons known only to God. But certainly in His omniscience God knew the shepherds would act on the revelation He gave. For as soon as the angels departed, the shepherds rushed to see the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and sleeping in a manger.
Faith isn’t just knowing something but doing something about it. The Lord speaks to us every day as we study His Word. Whenever God speaks to us, we must respond. If He tells us to stop worrying, that’s what we do. If He tells us to tame our tempers, that’s what we do. If He tells us to go to the ends of the earth with His message, we pack our bags. Christ is worthy of our faith, and faith always leads to obedience.
What message does God have for you in His Word today?
2 John 1 – 3 John 1
The Empty Christmas
But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.
Most people don’t understand Christmas. They never think beyond the Babe in the manger. But Christmas is about emptiness—an empty throne, an empty manger, an empty cross, and an empty tomb, all of which fill our empty hearts. It’s a circuit. When Jesus traveled from heaven to earth, He used a round-trip ticket with stops along the way. He left the throne for the manger, the manger for the cross, the cross for the tomb, and the tomb for the throne. He left blessings behind at every stop. He emptied Himself so we might be filled. That’s the true story of Christmas.1
That means Jesus came into the world with the Cross in mind. Since God cannot die, the Second Person of the Trinity entered into the human race through the virgin womb of Mary, taking on flesh and becoming a man. He did this to offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins. He was born to die; and He died to rise again. Because of His death, we can live forgiven; and because of His resurrection, we can live forever. That’s why an “empty” Christmas is so fulfilling.
1Robert J. Morgan, “A Blue Danube Christmas,” in 12 Stories of Christmas (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2014), 171.
1 John 1 – 5
A Christmas MeditationBy Ravi Zacharias
One of my favorite authors, F.W. Boreham, tells a fascinating story, told to him by his mother while they sat around the fireplace one evening. As a young woman of seventeen, she had set up an appointment to meet her cousin in Canterbury, near the Cathedral. She went as planned but her cousin was not there. Somewhat “dejected and disgusted” about this broken appointment, she was not in the happiest disposition. A man with a very intellectual countenance but a gentle presence who had seen her walk up and down offered to show her around while she waited and explain some of the Cathedral’s features and its history. He had a wealth of information with incredible insights. As they parted, he gave her his card and without looking at it, she slipped it into her purse. In the end, it turned out that her cousin had become ill and hence, never showed.
On her way home in the train, she finally took out the card. It simply said, “Charles Dickens.” She gasped at the thought that she had been face to face with one of the greatest story tellers of all time and regretted her lost opportunity of knowing through whose eyes she was seeing the great Cathedral...one who was so in tune with the stones and personages that intersected where they had met. But preoccupation had preempted that inspiration.
Seeing through the eyes of one who knows the stories behind an edifice is a privileged glimpse for anyone. Imagine how it must have felt to the disciples on the Emmaus Road when they realized who it was that had just explained to them not a building or a song, but all of history as it pointed to the Messiah. When they met him, He asked why they were so despondent and not knowing who He was, they answered, “Are you the only one in Israel who doesn’t know what has happened in the last few days?” He must have smiled on the inside because the irony was that He was the only one in Israel who actually did know what had happened. Even as they listened to Him open history before them they had no idea who it was that was doing the explaining, except that their hearts burned within them as they saw a panorama of redemption. When it dawned on them that He was the risen Christ, they must have dug deep inside to wonder how they had missed it.
But at least they listened. Poor Pontius Pilate asked the greatest question he could have asked—“What is truth?”—of the only one who perfectly embodied it, but he did not even have the presence of mind to wait for the answer. He also missed the moment. History repeats itself and regrets of that nature have a long reach.
On that quiet night so long ago, lying in the manger was the answer to all of life’s successes, struggles, disappointments, and regrets. The hopes and fears of all the years had met in Him that night in a makeshift crib in the little town of Bethlehem. A carpenter, a humble maid, a band of shepherds, and ordinary folks responded in awe at the blessing of his arrival. As always, there were those who were busy about their business and had no time to pause and ask, “Who is He in yonder stall?” What a loss! They missed a divine appointment with mankind.
Then there were those in power that felt threatened by Him and wished to silence Him permanently. Malcolm Muggeridge said it well: All new news is old news happening to new people. Just as the Garden of Eden is lived out every day in somebody’s life, the Christmas message is lived out every day in all of our lives. Today in our schools and even businesses and government in America the message of Jesus is shamelessly silenced or mocked, and should anyone speak up, some “figures in robes” somewhere with the power of Caesar will wreak havoc in their lives. This is not new. There are still Caesars who think they are gods. There are still those who elevate the mundane to the exalted and miss the marvel of the ultimate. This has ever been so, as truth and grace are traded away for the artificial and the momentary. Intellectual hubris silences the bells of heaven and they cannot hear for whom the bell now tolls as a nation self-destructs. How self-indicting it is, that we can be so close and yet so distant from having our eyes opened.
But there was another one that first Christmas, the one who was the closest of all to the story but didn’t quite know what the journey was all about for a completely different reason. When she was told that a sword would pierce through her heart Mary must have shuddered under the weight of the unknown. She had no idea of the horror she would one day experience, seeing her son go to the cross. What a horrific pronouncement! Yet, the prophecy brought enough of a jolt to one day bring those words to mind, though she could not anticipate the specifics. Uncertainty once again, with hope but fear. It is understandable.
We have the unique privilege of being able to look back and read the whole story. There was a Cross that loomed in a fearful symmetry with the manger. Emmanuel, God was with us. Born to be lifted up, “to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Bethlehem portended the magnitude of the need and the supremacy of God’s answer.
Our world is broken. Many a family will have a vacant chair this Christmas because a life has been snatched from their circle. Humankind is wounded and hollow speeches bereft of wisdom are the landmarks along the way. We look into the future a little bit like Mary, knowing we have the Savior but not knowing what swords will pierce through our hearts. Hopes and fears intersect as we journey.
But let us draw strength this Christmas. Prophecy is unfolding before our eyes in giant strides, just as He said it would. The scriptures are full of it. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
I have a friend who lives in Norwalk, Ohio, a doctor. He told me some years ago that as a very young teen, his daughter had gone to the Caribbean on a youth mission trip. She returned with her group to Miami to make her way back home. Her parents were concerned about this last leg of the journey by herself; she would be separate from the group, traveling alone for the first time. As she was looking for her flight information on the marquee at the airport, an older man also viewing the list of flights asked if he could help her. Uncomfortable, but not wanting to reveal her unease, she let him know she was checking for her flight information to Detroit. He said, “Oh, I’m going to Detroit, too!” That sent tremors into this young girl’s heart. Again, she tried to mask it. “Is that your destination,” he asked? “No, actually I’m heading to Norwalk, Ohio, and my dad is picking me up in Detroit.” To her utter surprise, he said, “You know what? I’m going to Norwalk too and I’ll be happy to take you there and save your dad the drive.” Now fear really began to grip her. Then there was a pause. The gentleman detected the hint of fear. “Are you Stacey,” he asked, giving her full name? Stunned, she answered that she was. He smiled. “I’m the doctor who delivered you when you were born, Stacey. I know your folks very well.” An irrepressible smile lit her face now and she felt a huge sigh of relief. She knew that her parents knew the doctor very well. The phone connection was made and the journey home was both providential and safe.
I ask you, what more poetic a story than to be worried about your daughter only to learn that the first one to have ever held her in his arms was the same one who would guide her home on her first journey alone from a distant city!
We are pilgrims, journeying through life. The story of Bethlehem is the most beautiful and the greatest story ever told, the story of God’s visitation. Imagine the shepherds who tried to raise perfect lambs looking at the Lamb of God. Imagine the kings who studied the stars coming to the One who made them and was the King of kings. Imagine Simeon, who had waited all his life for the Messiah, holding in his arms He who would soon be carrying Simeon in His own. Imagine Mary, fearing the sword that would pierce through her heart, finding out that the child in her arms was the redeemer of every heart that came to Him, the great I AM. Imagine Joseph the carpenter, who “saved” him from Herod’s slaughter, finding the very designer of the universe saving him from his sin.
Missing Dickens and being fearful of who is offering you a ride back home are legitimate regrets or fears in a world of unknowns. But finding the Savior and having Him explain all and take you to your destination is what Christmas is all about: hope within and hope for the future. He is the One and only Prince of Peace.
As the world debates who should be armed to wage war and who shouldn’t be, the message of Christmas is that God Incarnate came to this same world as a babe to ultimately carry us in His everlasting arms. This world would be a different place if we understood what that meant. Thank you for helping us carry His message for another year.
Savior or Example?
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”
The popular Internet “encyclopedia” Wikipedia has an article listing books written about Jesus Christ, divided by century. While it lists hundreds of titles, the article makes no claim to the list being exhaustive—nor could it. No doubt Jesus is the most written-about person in history. And with that interest come opinions: Who exactly was Jesus?
Perhaps opinions can be grouped into two camps: human example and divine Savior. Jesus certainly was a good example for humanity; but if He wasn’t God, He couldn’t be a Savior. And the Bible is clear that He was God. The prophet Isaiah saw Him coming as Immanuel (“God with us”—Isaiah 7:14), confirmed in the New Testament (Matthew 1:23). John the apostle understood Jesus to be the divine Word and said that He had come to earth to dwell with humanity (John 1:14). If Jesus was just a good example, He could have died on a cross. But it was His resurrection that demonstrated that God had accepted His death as divine payment for sin.
This Christmas, be glad that the Jesus born in Bethlehem came as God incarnate to rescue you from your sins.
1 Peter – 2 Peter