The Savior of the World Is Here

Over 2,000 years ago, Gaius Octavian became the Caesar of the Roman Empire. According to Stephen Davey, “for the first time in the four hundred year old kingdom of Rome, the Roman senate voted to give Caesar Octavian the title of Augustus. Augustus meant ‘revered or holy,’ and, until this time, it had been a title reserved exclusively for the gods.” One inscription referred to him as “the savior of the world.”

But during his time on earth, another baby was born to whom that title rightly belonged.

Which of the two would the world believe to be the real Savior? By birth, wealth, fame, and position, most people would have gone with Augustus. How could an unknown baby born to poor parents in Bethlehem claim that title?

But John wrote, “And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14).

Many books could be written and verses shared about how Jesus is the true Son of God and Savior. He claimed those positions for Himself, they were foretold by numerous prophets, His Father testified to them as well as many others.

But though He died to save the world, only those who believe on Him come to know Him as Savior for themselves.

As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God (John 3:14-18).

If you don’t know Jesus as your own personal Savior, I pray you will believe on Him today.

I wish you all a wonderful, meaningful, joyful Christmas.

I have never heard this song sung at Christmas, but it could be!

I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship,
Should set His love upon the sons of men,
Or why, as Shepherd, He should seek the wand’rers,
To bring them back, they know not how or when.
But this I know, that He was born of Mary,
When Bethl’hem’s manger was His only home,
And that He lived at Nazareth and labored,
And so the Savior, Savior of the world, is come.

I cannot tell how silently He suffered,
As with His peace He graced this place of tears,
Or how His heart upon the Cross was broken,
The crown of pain to three and thirty years.
But this I know, He heals the broken-hearted,
And stays our sin, and calms our lurking fear,
And lifts the burden from the heavy laden,
For yet the Savior, Savior of the world, is here.

I cannot tell how He will win the nations,
How He will claim His earthly heritage,
How satisfy the needs and aspirations
Of east and west, of sinner and of sage.
But this I know, all flesh shall see His glory,
And He shall reap the harvest He has sown,
And some glad day His sun shall shine in splendor
When He the Savior, Savior of the world, is known.

I cannot tell how all the lands shall worship,
When, at His bidding, every storm is stilled,
Or who can say how great the jubilation
When all the hearts of men with love are filled.
But this I know, the skies will thrill with rapture,
And myriad, myriad human voices sing,
And earth to heaven, and heaven to earth, will answer:
At last the Savior, Savior of the world, is King.

–W. Y. Fullerton, 1920

Thanks to Stephen Davey for inspiring these thoughts in his radio message from December 15, The Inside Story.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Why Did Jesus Come as a Baby?

“Often in the account of salvation history, the future of God’s plan rests with a baby or a child.” (1).

“In Bible history, very often the birth of a baby has made the difference between defeat and victory for God’s people” (2)

In one sense, every baby born represents a new beginning with potential and hope for the future. But sometimes a baby was a major turning point in Bible history.

The first child born on earth, Cain, killed his brother, Able. Cain was exiled, but God sent Adam and Eve another son, Seth.

God had made a historic covenant with Abraham that his descendants would be as many as the dust of the earth (Genesis 13:14-17) or the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). In him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Genesis 12:1-3). But Abraham had no child with Sarah, his wife, for about 25 years after the promise was made. Finally Isaac, the child of promise, was born.

When God’s people were captive in Egypt, Pharaoh demanded that all the Jewish baby boys be killed. But “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23). Moses grew up to be the deliverer of his people: God used him to bear witness to Egypt through the plagues, to lead Israel out of Egypt and to the promised land, and to give them God’s law.

In another low point in Israel’s history, when injustice was running rampant, one desperate woman prayed for a child that she promised she would give back to the Lord. God gave her Samuel, who was the pivot between the time of the judges and the kings and who called his people back to worship and serve the one true God.

A bitter woman named Naomi had lost her husband and both sons. Now she was alone with her daughter-in-law, Ruth. But God raised up a godly man to marry Ruth and give Naomi a grandson—a grandson whose grandson would be David, the great king of Israel, a man after God’s own heart.

God had promised that the Messiah would come through David’s line. But wicked queen Athaliah killed all the king’s sons—she thought. Jehosheba, the aunt of little Joash, hid him away with a nurse until he could be made king and carry on the Davidic line.

Malachi ends the Old Testament with a promise that God would “send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (4:5-6). Then there were 400 years of silence. And suddenly one day, an old, childless priest was startled by an angel’s visit announcing that he and his aged wife, after many long years of now-abandoned prayers, would have a baby who would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared” (Luke 1:16-17).

And then, in yet another low point in the history of God’s people, when they were under the Rome’s rule, “when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Why did God send His Son to earth as a baby? I don’t know all the reasons. But here are a few:

To be the Son of Man But he took on our flesh that he might be Son of Man as well as the Son of God.

To defeat death. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

To be made like His brethren (Hebrews 2:17a).

To become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God (Hebrews 2:17b).

To make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17c), To take our sin and punishment on Himself to atone for our sins.

To help those who are being tempted “because he himself has suffered when tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).

Those things explain why He took on flesh. But why as a baby? Partly so that He could live a whole righteous life in our place. But perhaps Charles Spurgeon is on to another reason when he says, “We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger. Never could there be a more approachable being than Christ.” (3)

“The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies” (4). Especially this baby.

1. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Distinct (2 Kings & 2 Chronicles): Standing Firmly Against the World’s Tides, p. 224.

2. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Basic (Genesis 1-11): Believing the Simple Truth of God’s Word, p. 94.

3. Charles Spurgeon, Joy to the World: Daily Readings for Advent.

4. Dr. E. T. Sullivan as quoted in Warren Wiersbe, Be Compassionate (Luke 1-13): Let the World Know That Jesus Cares, p. 26.

Thanks to Dr. Wiersbe for emphasizing God’s use of babies in so many of his commentaries and whose thoughts inspired mine.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Three Short Christmas Book Reviews

I hope you’ll forgive all the book reviews this week. I happened to finish a few around the same time. Because of that, and because the first two books here are a little shorter than usual, I decided to review them together.

Christmas Hirelings

I first read, or rather listened to, The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon a few years ago when it was free for Audible subscribers. I reviewed it here, so I won’t repeat all that. The condensed version: Sir John Penlyon is an old man in Victorian England who is not a Scrooge, but is a little gruff. He complains to his friend, Danby, that Christmas is boring. Danby replies that “Nobody knows how to enjoy Christmas if he has no children to make happy.” Then Danby proposes that they hire some children to come and stay at the manor over Christmas. He knows of a family with three children who have very nice manners but are reduced in circumstances. If Sir John would “hire” the widow’s children, it would liven up their Christmas plus be a help to the family.

Sir John thinks the idea is preposterous, but agrees as long as he doesn’t have to be involved other than paying for the experiment.

The children get off on the wrong foot with Sir John at first, but soon the children bring joy and life into the old house. Until tragedy strikes.

Sir John’s back story is quite touching. I loved listening to this again. I caught things I had missed the first time.

The audiobook is superbly narrated by Richard Armitage (Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movies). I may make listening to this an annual tradition.

I got Snowed In for Christmas by Cami Checketts also through Audible. I don’t remember if it was free with my subscription or on a “2 books for 1 credit” sale.

Charlotte Oliver is a firefighter with a lifelong crush on her sister’s friend, Jace Mitchell. Charlotte suspected her sister, Virginia, and Jace were more than friends. But Jace left eight years ago to go into the military, and Virginia married someone else. Then Virginia and her unborn child tragically died in a car accident.

Now Jace is back in town, trying to establish a medical practice. Charlotte is as attracted as ever, but she thinks Jace probably still loves her sister.

Jace had always thought of Charlotte as a cute little sister, but now she’s grown up into a beautiful woman. But he knows a relationship with her is impossible. He’s sworn to secrecy over an event in his past, and he knows Char would never forgive him if she discovered it.

This book reminded me why I don’t usually read stories that are primarily romances. So much talk about kissing, anticipating kissing, remembering kissing. Sure, kissing is fun, but there is so much more to love than that.

The book actually got more interesting to me when Char did accidentally find out Jace’s secret, and they had to work through that.

I did not like how Char’s “Grams” handled things, but I don’t want to spoil the story by explaining.

If you like clean faith-based Christmas romances, you’d probably like this.

In Midnight, Christmas Eve by Andy Clapp, Brady Jameson was a high school junior out finishing some shopping on Christmas Eve when he saw a girl crying on a park bench. He approached her to see if he could help and discovered the girl was Sarah, the head cheerleader, girlfriend to the school’s best athlete. Brady provided a shoulder to cry on, and he and Sarah became friends.

Sarah’s boyfriend, Aiden, is not good for her, but she stays with him. Brady realizes Sarah has come to mean very much to him, but keeps his distance since she’s dating someone else.

After another chance encounter and another opportunity to comfort Sarah through another crises, she makes a proposition: that if neither of them are married within five years, they’ll meet at Christmas Eve at “their” bench and get married.

Brady agrees and shows up at the appointed time, but Sarah doesn’t. Their lives intersect at various times, but they never mention their promise. Brady comes every Christmas Eve, even when he tells himself he’s a fool for doing so. But Sarah never shows up.

Is Brady a picture of faithful love? Or is he deluded, letting life pass him by while he waits for an impossible dream?

I loved this book. It had me in tears in a couple of places. I appreciated that the characters’ faith was interwoven so naturally and seamlessly.

Though technically this was also a romance, it was so much deeper and so much more was involved than in the previous book I mentioned.

My Christmas reading is off to a good start!

A Confession of Praise

A study Bible footnote unexpectedly intersected with thoughts about Thanksgiving.

I’m not a Hebrew scholar by any means. But the ESV Study Bible noted that the Hebrew word todah could be translated as “make confession” or “give thanks or praise,” depending on the context. The footnote goes on to say, “Some overlap of these meanings is not surprising because rightful confession is itself a kind of worship of God” (p. 820).

We don’t usually connect confession of sin with worship and praise, but the one does lead to the other, doesn’t it? Once we’ve confessed sin to the Lord and rested in His grace and forgiveness, we overflow with joy and thankfulness.

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2).

But I began to wonder at another connection.

I was taught that confession of sin means saying the same thing God says about it. In other words, we don’t downplay our sin. We’re honest about it. We don’t say, “Oh, I just told a little fib.” No, to adequately confess sin, we have to call it what it is and own up to it: “I lied.”

So I wonder if giving thanks or praise carries that same connotation. When we praise God, we’re agreeing with what He says about Himself. It’s not that He needs the affirmation, but we need to recognize Him for who He is. And when we do, we can’t help but praise Him. And the more we behold Him, the more our cares and concerns melt away, because we remind ourselves He is more than able to handle any need we have.

Confessing also seems to carry the connotation of personal experience. I might share or rejoice in what God has done in someone else’s life. But if I am confessing, whether it’s sin or praise, I’m sharing what God has done in my life.

In Psalm 95:2, todah is the word translated thanksgiving: “Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!”

Many of the psalms combine confession of sin, thankfulness for God’s grace, amazement at His greatness, and confession of His people’s personal experience of His provision, protection.

Psalm 145 is a beautiful example of this. Part of it says:

One generation shall commend your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty,
    and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.
They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds,
    and I will declare your greatness.
They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness
    and shall sing aloud of your righteousness.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his mercy is over all that he has made.

10 All your works shall give thanks to you, O Lord,
    and all your saints shall bless you!
11 They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom
    and tell of your power,
12 to make known to the children of man your mighty deeds,
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures throughout all generations.

Psalm 65 does as well:

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

These thoughts brought to mind Ron and Shelly Hamilton’s song, “Worthy of Praise”:

My heart overflows with praise to the Lord
I will lift up my voice to the King
He brought me out of the pit of despair
And taught my heart to sing

Worthy of all my praise
You are worthy of all my praise
I bow at Your throne
And I worship You alone
Lord You are worthy
Worthy of praise

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with food, family, and praise for Him who is worthy.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Why Is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ Important?

Why is the resurrection of Jesus Christ important

Easter Day! Time for new, springy clothes, a ham dinner, brightly colored eggs, and chocolate bunnies.

And the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

I’m not against those other things. I enjoy them all. But I do fear that the resurrection gets lost in the shuffle except for a special church service and hymns.

Even as Christians, sometimes we’re so used to the resurrection, we forget how special, how life-changing, how dynamic it is.

Or we might be comforted by the resurrection when a loved one dies, but we don’t think it affects everyday life much.

So I thought I’d spend some time thinking about just why the resurrection of Christ is important.

The resurrection of Christ proves His deity.

Set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:1b-4).

He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

The resurrection of Christ validated what He said. He foretold many times that He would rise after three days in the grave. Here are just a few:

From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21).

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed (Matthew 17:22-23).

And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead (Mark 9:9).

The resurrection is part of the gospel. When Paul spoke of sharing the gospel, the resurrection was an integral part of it.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:22-25).

Without the resurrection, we’re still in our sins.

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:17-19).

I’ve heard some say to the unsaved, “If I’m wrong and you’re right, I’ve lost nothing. But if I’m right and you’re wrong, you’ve lost everything.” But that’s not what the Bible says. “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Since Christ was raised, we know we will be, too.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John11:25).

Since we will all be raised, we will see our loved ones again.

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).

The resurrection removes death’s sting. Death is still grievous. It is still an enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26). But knowing that we’ll live again afterward and can meet God forgiven, cleansed, and accepted takes away death’s sting.

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is your victory?
    O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 54-57).

Because Jesus died and rose again, Satan is defeated.

In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him (Romans 11-15).

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:14-15).

The “rulers and authorities” mentioned in the last verse are thought to refer to Satan and his minions, the unseen “rulers of darkness.”

God’s power in the resurrection is the same power with which He works on our behalf.

That you may know . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:19-23).

Because of the resurrection, we can walk in newness of life.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4).

For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:10-14).

Jesus’ resurrection gives hope and meaning to our suffering.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us (Romans 8:18).

Because He died and rose again, we come to a throne of grace.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4: 14-16).

Because Jesus rose again, He is interceding for us.

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

Because of the resurrection, we can be steadfast. After spending 57 verses talking about the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says, “Therefore”—because of all that he said in those 57 verses—

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58).

In Isobel Kuhn’s Nests Above the Abyss, she says the Lisu “have no hope beyond the grave.” She had heard their wail “for the dead and my heart could hardly stand the hopelessness of their agony.” One five-year-old child screamed incessantly when his beloved neighbor died and he understood death for the first time. When he became a young man, he admitted, “after that awful introduction to the fact of death, he could not come upon a grave on the mountainside without getting cold all over.” This, Isobel says, is “a typical scene.” Another “cried so hard and so long he was ill for days” upon learning about death. Some who bury loved ones “sometimes weep themselves blind, and some lose their minds.” Some harden themselves by trying to forget their dead loved one.

That first five-year-old boy grew up to become an evangelist. One time he related his story, then told how he heard one of the missionaries speak on John 11:25, where Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

“As she explained that verse, suddenly the truth of it broke in on my understanding, and the fact of eternal life, a life after death, a hope beyond the grave, shone before me. I was thrilled through and through; faith and acceptance of the Saviour were born right then in my soul. It was that verse on the resurrection that brought me to Christ; and I have a feeling that I am not the only Lisu to become a believer because of this truth. All of you who were led to become Christians by the resurrection doctrine, hold up your hands.” Ans all over the building hands shot into the air and the glowing joy on their faces told its own story (pp. 16-18).

May those of us who have heard of the resurrection all our lives be impressed anew with its truth, its hope, its victory. May we come to love and appreciate it now more than ever. May the resurrection impact us not just at Easter, but every day.

And may those who have not yet believed do so soon.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Lamb of God

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 53:5-6

Years ago I heard a story about a guest preacher who was just getting ready to board his train after speaking at a church. A man hurried to him, saying he had been in the meeting and was anxious about his spiritual state. Could the preacher take time to talk to him?

The preacher’s train was the last of the night, and it was about to leave. All he had time to tell the man was to read Isaiah 53:6, and then to go in and the first “all” and come out at the last “all.”

The man was puzzled, but when he went home. he looked up Isaiah 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” As the man read the passage several times, understanding dawned. He was a sheep gone astray, stubbornly following his own way. But Jesus took his iniquity. If he trusted in Jesus, he would be saved and forgiven.

I don’t know if this is a true story, but the point it makes is true.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous,
that he might bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18).

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
see him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ, by man rejected;
yes, my soul, ’tis he, ’tis he.
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
proofs I see sufficient of it:
’tis the true and faithful Word.

Tell me, as you hear him groaning,
was there ever grief like his,
friends through fear his cause disowning,
foes insulting his distress?
Many hands were raised to wound him,
none would intervene to save;
but the deepest stroke that pierced him
was the stroke that justice gave.

If you think of sin but lightly
nor suppose the evil great,
here you see its nature rightly,
here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the sacrifice appointed,
see who bears the awful load;
’tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God.

Here we have a firm foundation,
here the refuge of the lost:
Christ, the Rock of our salvation,
is the name of which we boast;
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
who on him their hope have built.

Thomas Kelly, 1804

Isaiah 53:6

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

Happy Christmas!

Matthew 1:21, Christmas, Jesus our Savior

I wish all of you a wonderful Christmas resting in the greatest gift of all,
the Savior who provided for our salvation.

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus,
for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:21-23

Celebrating His Coming by Neglecting His Presence

Several years ago, a couple from our church invited us to their home for dinner.

I had long admired the wife. She was one of those people about whom I wondered, “How does she do all she does?” She had the same number of children I did, close to the same ages. She was active in several church ministries. She sewed for herself, her daughter, her home, and for other people. Her home was not only clean every time I saw it, it was nicely decorated.

Meanwhile, I felt I was barely keeping my head above water as a wife and mother. I concluded that God gave people different capacities. Maybe she was a ten-talent person, while I . . . was not.

As we enjoyed our visit at this couple’s home, the wife often popped up to go check on or do something. I understood that. As a hostess, you have to check on the kids or the potatoes or whatever. But her forays away from us seemed excessive. I wondered if we caught them at a busy time, and if so, why they didn’t reschedule. I mused that maybe she was the type of person who couldn’t sit still for very long, and maybe that’s how she got so much done.

I am not so needy a guest that I want 100 per cent of the hostess’s time and attention. But I confess to feeling just a little neglected.

As a child, I often saw a plaque in peoples’ houses which contained words about Jesus being the unseen guest of the home. Some time after I became a Christian, I understood that when we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior, He is not just an occasional guest. He is with us all the time. He is Lord. It’s His house.

Through our church’s Bible reading program the last few years, I’ve particularly noted God’s desire and effort to be with His people. First, He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden. When they sinned, they broke fellowship with Him. When He delivered Israel from Egypt, He instructed them to build a tabernacle. Later, after they settled in the promised land and David was king, he wanted to build a temple. Both tabernacle and temple had a heavy curtain between the holy place and the most holy place. No one could just barge in there. Only the high priest could enter once a year with a sacrifice for the people’s sins. When Jesus died on the cross, that curtain was torn in two, signifying that the ultimate sacrifice had been made and the way was now open to God. His kingdom was within those who believed on Him. Someday, when He comes again, we’ll dwell with Him as we never have before.

God desires our fellowship, to the point of sacrificing what was dearest to Himself. This season of the year, we run amok doing so many sweet and lovely things fraught with nostalgia, ostensibly for the sake of remembering the birth of His Son. Yet, in a sense we leave Him sitting at the table, neglected. It’s not that He needs us. He loves and and desires our fellowship. And we need Him.

Yes, He is with us all the time. With even our closest human relationships, much of our time and conversation together occurs while doing something else: shopping, cooking, working in the yard, etc. But even in those relationships, we sense a need to sometimes just stop, lay everything else aside, focus on and listen to each other.

How much more should we spend that focused time with our Lord? Yes, we can talk with Him all through the day, thanking Him for a good parking place or a good sale or a beautiful sunset, telling Him the concerns on our hearts, singing along with the hymns on our playlist. But sometimes we just need to sit with Him, spend time in His Word, listening, learning, worshiping. loving.

We are prone to celebrate the fact that He came by neglecting Him now that He is here. We need wisdom in the use of our time, simplifying, maybe laying some things aside. But most of all we need to remember who and what we’re actually celebrating. Let’s not neglect His presence. Like Mary, let’s choose the good portion, sitting at His feet and listening.

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)

A Perfectly Ordinary Thanksgiving

I was working through a couple of blog post ideas, trying to decide which to use. Then I remembered this was Thanksgiving week.

“Hmm,” I thought. “I should probably say something about Thanksgiving.”

But what could I say that I hadn’t already said? What new angle or twist could I come up with?

Then I thought—does Thanksgiving really need an angle? Can’t we just—be thankful?

But what if we’re not feeling so thankful?

Well, thanksgiving isn’t a feeling. It’s an action, an act of the will. And once we start giving thanks, it’s not long before we feel thankful.

If you’re not feeling so grateful this week, maybe you could read some psalms, like 100 or 103 or 107 or 145.

Or you could sing or read some hymns, like “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” or “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”

Or you could recount your Ebenezers, those times in your life you especially saw God’s hand at work.

Or you could make a list of simple blessings: a beautiful sunset, a warm home, friends and family, food to eat, and so on.

Though we should be thankful every day, Thanksgiving is a good reminder that we do have a lot to be thankful for. I’ve found that once I get started looking for things to be thankful for, it’s hard to stop.

It’s fine to create a Thanksgiving feast (we will) or try some new ideas to spur thankfulness (we have) or set out Pinterest-worthy decorations or or try some Thanksgiving-ish crafts (done those, too).

It’s also fine to eat out or use paper plates or grill hamburgers or make sandwiches.

But simply giving thanks to the Giver of all good things often gets lost in the shuffle of everything else. Whatever else we do, may giving thanks to Him be our main focus.

Here’s both a hymn and a thankful list! It’s beautifully sung by the Sacred Music Services‘ men’s chorus.

I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day, someone to share it with, something good to eat, some time to rest, and some time to “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” (Psalm 107:1).

(I often link up with some of these bloggers.)