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Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

For the last two posts I’ve shared journal-contemplations from the first two stanzas of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics and miss their full significance.

But when we put pen to paper and delve into word meanings, explore implications of the lyrics, and ponder the impressions God brings to our spirits, wonderful blessings emerge: increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations become worship.

With those thoughts in mind, let’s savor the third stanza:

Hail, the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!

I praise You, Lord Jesus, the only One who can mediate reconciliation between the sin-prone people we are and the righteous God of heaven. Without You, we’d have no hope of eternal life.

I praise You also for the peace of mind you provide as we affirm Your attributes. By Your omnipotent strength you will uphold, and by Your omniscient wisdom You will guide, until our days on earth are complete. We are safe in Your hands (1).

Hail, the Sun of Righteousness! Light and Life to all He brings

I praise You, Lord Jesus, that Your radiant presence brings comfort, joy, and prosperity of soul.

Your Light of truth obliterates the lies of our enemy and brings us closer to You.

From Your Light shine beams of blessing such as these:

  • The variety of wholesome pleasures in this world, benefiting us in mind, body, and spirit
  • The love of family and friends, increasing our joy
  • The ability to read and learn, providing knowledge and wisdom
  • The delight of hands, allowing us to pursue a myriad of satisfying activities (2)

Risen with healing in His wings

I praise You, Lord God, for raising Jesus from the dead. Because He’s alive, we who believe in Him can be confident of eternal life also.  

One day Your Son will come on swift wings, ready to bestow perfect healing upon all who’ve come to Him. Our healing from the sickness of sin that causes so much woe will finally be complete. There will be no more pain and suffering, no more harm and brokenness, no more sorrow or death!

But even now, Lord Jesus, just as beams from the sun bring health to every living thing, You bring health to our spirits—a deep-down contentment only You can provide (3).

Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for laying aside Your glory as the Son of God. You left Your celestial throne, the unceasing adoration of angels, and all the splendors of paradise to be born a helpless baby.

During your earthly life, few praised You as You deserved; many found fault with Your glorious perfections.

Nevertheless, You see worth in every human being; you desire that everyone accept God’s gift of eternal life, that “man no more may die.”

I praise You for saving us from the death-sentence of our sin (4).

    

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for the transformed life You offer, raising each believer out of his plight of eternal death and into the pleasure of eternal life with You–pleasures that begin the moment we say yes to You.

Those gifts include:

  • Security, because our final destiny is secure, and in the meantime You’re always with us, working toward our best good
  • Provision of guidance, strength, help and more
  • Rest for our souls, as Your Spirit of counsel and power takes up residence in our spirits
  • Gladness, as we celebrate Your work around us and in us

One day, Lord God, You will raise all Your children into the magnificence of Your heaven! With joyful expectation we anticipate the wonders You’ve planned for us.

Thank You for making possible this second birth into Your family. All the amazing blessings highlighted in this carol come to us when we choose adoption into Your family (5).

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for providing reconciliation with God, ultimate victory over death, over-arching peace and joy, healing for the wounds of our spirits, and more.

Glory to You, my magnificent, sovereign King!

Notes:

  1. Acts 4:12; 2 Timothy 4:18
  2. Psalm 23:4; John 15:11; Philippians 4:11-13; Hebrews 4:12
  3. John 6:40; Revelation 21:4; Psalm 23:1-3
  4. Philippians 2:6-7; Revelation 5:11-12; 2 Peter 3:8; Romans 6:23
  5. John 11:26; Matthew 28:20; Romans 8:28; Isaiah 11:2; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Psalm 92:4; John 14:3; 2 Corinthians 4:14; John 14:3

Photo credits: Nancy Ruegg; http://www.openclipart.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.open.life.church/resources; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org.

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Last week I shared with you journal-contemplations from the first verse of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” As with most hymns and praise songs, it’s easy to sing through the lyrics of this carol and miss their full significance.  

By putting pen to paper, we slow our thinking and wonderful blessings begin to emerge—like increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Contemplations can become worship.

With that in mind, let’s savor the second verse:

“Christ by highest heaven adored”

How glorious the music in heaven must be! Rich, clear voices, every note perfectly pitched. Intricate harmonies and faultless instrumentation.

All these sublime elements come together to worship You, Lord Christ–the Anointed One–who left the magnificence of heaven to be the Savior of humankind.

Thank you, Father, for giving us a glimpse (in the book of Revelation) of the heavenly song that celebrates King Jesus. I can’t help but hear Handel’s majestic melody from Messiah for the lyrics:

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for Your splendor!

“Christ, the everlasting Lord!”

You, O Christ, existed throughout the infinite past and will prevail into the infinite future.

Though Son of God, You are also the Eternal Father, forever with us and LORD of all. Nothing is outside Your control (1).

Power often corrupts in the human realm. But You are perfect in all attributes and motivated by matchless love.

I praise You, O Christ, for the supreme grace of Your Lordship!

“Late in time behold Him come”

To those who waited for Your arrival, You must have seemed late! Centuries had passed since the last prophecy of Your coming.

“But when the time was right,” You, O God, sent Your Son to redeem us (2).

In retrospect we can see why You chose the time of Roman rule. They had established stability in their far-reaching empire, built thousands of miles of roads, and established a common language.

Such factors meant early Christians could spread the good news about You more easily than ever before (3).

I praise You, O God, for Your masterful orchestration

that’s always in operation for the benefit of Your children!

“Offspring of the Virgin’s womb”

You are the One and Only begotten Son of the God the Father, the only Man of heavenly origin who ever lived on earth.

You committed no sin. Without that absolute perfection in You, there would be no salvation for us. God made You, who never sinned, to be sin so we could be made right with Him (4).

I praise You, Righteous Savior, for Your perfection!

“Veiled in flesh the Godhead see”

You embodied all the magnificent attributes of God during Your time on earth, yet You were also human.

You dealt with exhaustion, frustration, temptations, and discomforts, just as we do. The fullness of Your glory was veiled behind the ordinariness of Your humanity (5).

How difficult that must have been to know Your full capabilities yet continually hold Yourself in check.

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for your fierce love

that compelled You to complete such an arduous mission.

“Hail th’incarnate Deity”

No one has ever lived a sinless life except You.

No one espoused wisdom as You did or performed miracles like You.

You are the radiance of God’s glory!

I praise your for your divine holiness.

“Pleased as man with men to dwell”

You chose to come to earth and dwell among us, in spite of our self-centeredness, pride, weakness, and brokenness.

Such an incredible reality!

I praise You, O Lord, for your mercy, for wanting to be with us.

“Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

You are Emmanuel—God with us (7). Once we invite You into our lives we’re never left to our own feeble devices; we’re never without Your attentive care.

In Your presence we experience joy, refreshment, help, and pleasure (8). You enhance every moment of life with Your radiant attributes!

I praise You, O Christ, for choosing to veil Yourself in flesh that we might behold You.

I praise You for dwelling with us that might enjoy You!

Notes:

  1. Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 28:20; Philippians 2:9-11
  2. Galatians 4:4-5 CEV
  3. See “The Appropriate Time” for further details
  4. John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  5. Daniel Ruben, http://www.fbccarson.org/harktheheraldangelssing
  6. John 10:17 and 1:14
  7. Matthew 1:23
  8. Isaiah 9:3; Acts 2:28 and 3:19; Psalm 42:5; Psalm 16:11

Art & photo credits: http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.openclipart.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.worldhistory.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.freebibleimages.org (2); http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.hippopx.com.

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Some time ago, wise-and-insightful blogger Michele Morin (over at Living Our Days) shared that she was journaling through some of the old hymns. Isn’t that a brilliant idea?

I imagined her digging into the meaning of some of the rich language and theology, personalizing the truths, and/or using them as the basis for prayer.

Most often we sing through the lyrics so quickly we miss their full significance. But if we intentionally slow our thinking by putting pen or pencil to paper, we make room for wonderful blessings to emerge—blessings like increased understanding of God and his Word, renewal of the mind, and augmented intimacy with God.

Our contemplations can become worship.

So far I’ve journaled through seven hymns. For Advent I chose to contemplate a Christmas carol: Charles Wesley’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” which offers both rich language and theology. (The story behind the song is also interesting. You can read it here: “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”)

Over the next three weeks we’ll savor the three best-known verses of this carol. No doubt you’re familiar with the first:  

My journaled prayer included the following.

“Hark!” the hymn writer begins, inviting me to listen with close attention. His lyrics take me back in time to that night when angels declared life-transforming news for those who embrace it:

A new King has been born—a king like no other (1)!

That’s YOU, Lord Jesus. You are the Prince of Peace, the One who offers inner tranquility to all who desire it (2), and universal, all-encompassing peace when the new heaven and the new earth are established (3).

I praise You, O Christ, for Your comforting peace

that steadies me and gives me hope.

You’re the One who bestows mercy—tender-hearted forgiveness—when I confess the wrongs I’ve committed. You’re the One who put ultimate mercy into action by “being obedient to God and dying a criminal’s death on a cross” (4).

I praise You, O Christ, for your unceasing mercy.

You have not punished me

the way I deserve, and You never will.

You’re the One who reconciled me to God (5). First, You chose to do the unthinkable, to die in my place and pay the penalty for every sin I commit.

Then You restored my broken relationship with God, as I put my trust in You and accepted Your free gift of eternal life. Because of You, I have right standing with God and access into His presence at any time.

I praise You, O Christ, for your unimaginable sacrifice,

making the impossible possible.

For all these blessings (and so much more) I rise up with Jesus-followers from around the world to sing joyful praise to You (6)!

Our voices join those of the angels to give you glory (7)–celebrating Your attributes, rejoicing in Your excellent works, and taking pleasure in the privilege of being sons and daughters of Almighty God.

I praise You, O Christ, for leaving the wonders of heaven

to be born in the humble village of Bethlehem

and live among ignoble humanity—

all for our benefit.

I praise You, O Christ, for the incredible FREE gift

of eternal ecstasy in paradise with You.

And I praise You for being my compassionate Christ,

my glorious Emancipator, and my powerful King!

Notes:

  1. Revelation 1:5-6
  2. Romans 5:1
  3. 2 Peter 3:13
  4. Philippians 2:8 TLB
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
  6. Psalm 67:4
  7. Psalm 148:11-13

Photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.openclipart.com and http://www.canva.com; http://www.negativespace.com (3); http://www.publicdomainpictures.net.

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I remember the moment; I don’t remember when it took place . . . perhaps in young adulthood, during my quiet time. A Bible verse caught my attention–John 17:21–causing my eyes to widen and fill with tears.

First, a bit of context. That chapter includes Jesus’ prayer after the Last Supper and mere hours before the crucifixion. He asked his Father to sustain him, to manifest God’s power through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and in so doing, prove that Jesus was the Son of God (vs. 1-5).[1] 

Second he prayed for his disciples—for their protection, joy, spiritual growth, and unity (vs. 6-18).

And then (wonder of wonders!) Jesus prayed for you and me, his future followers!

“I pray also for those who will believe in me,” he said (v. 20, emphasis added).

I read on with eager expectation. What did he ask God to do on our behalf? Strength to endure? Guidance for wise choices? Kind and generous hearts?

Those are worthwhile prayers, but it would seem Jesus left those for us to request.

Instead, he prayed for one over-arching blessing to characterize his believers: unity.

“I pray that they may all be one, Father!

May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

John 17:21a GNT

Among all the things we need as his followers, why would Jesus pray for unity? We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, we need to understand he wasn’t praying for uniformity, expecting his followers to agree on every issue. The apostle Paul and his co-missionary Barnabas disagreed over their young companion Mark (Acts 15:37-39), and godly men throughout church history have taken different sides of various issues: Martin Luther with Huldrych Zwingli, John Wesley with George Whitefield, and John Stott with Martyn Lloyd-Jones—to name a few.

It’s doubtful Jesus expected his followers to grow into one big denomination. What he did desire was a spirit of love and an attitude of grace to bind us together, equipping us to overlook differences of preference and tradition. He’d have us focus on what we have in common.

At the Christian university I attended, all students were required to take the course, Philosophy and Christian Thought. One of our textbooks (a very thick one!) was titled, The Protestant Faith. And though the differences between denominations were certainly laid out, I was struck by how much doctrine and theology we share in common—much more than what divides us.

That’s what we need to concentrate on: the foundational truths like those we recite in the Apostles’ Creed, and our purpose of introducing others to Christ as well as taking delight in obeying him and growing more like him.

Even more important? A covering of love—love that admits wrong, forgives grievances, allows for differences of opinion on nonessentials, and doesn’t dishonor others but seeks the best for them.

Last but foremost: we must continually look to Jesus through prayer and worship, privately and publicly.

Perhaps you remember A. W. Tozer’s illustration. If one hundred pianos are all tuned to the same fork, they’re automatically in tune with each other. Similarly, if one hundred worshipers look to Christ, they’re going to be much more in tune with one another than if they focus on other matters, worthwhile as they might be. That would include unity itself.[2]

And now to answer that question, why would unity be so important to Jesus? His reason is revealed at the end of John 17:21.

“May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

John 17:21b GNT

The world is plagued by ugly divisiveness, hatred, and vitriol.

Jesus desired his followers to be characterized by the beauty of unity as we strive to love like him—overlooking slights, sidestepping fights, and giving up our rights.[3]

When people witness such beauty, there will be those who desire it for themselves and come to faith in Christ.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, point out those areas where my preferences and opinions interfere with my love for your people. Help me put aside differences and focus on areas of commonality. May I play an active part in the beauty of unity within my circle of influence, drawing others to you.   


[1] Barnes Notes on the Bible, www.biblehub.com.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 90.

[3] Patsy Clairmont, Boundless Love, 236.

Art & photo credits: http://www.commons.wikimedi.org; http://www.flickr.com (Long Thien); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (Peter Swain); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.rawpixel.com.

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That title comes from the New Living Translation of Hebrews 12:2:

Isn’t that a strength-infusing image? Picture our Lord Jesus wearing a spotless white robe, sitting tall on a regal white horse, a golden sash encircling his chest.  See his face glowing like the sun, eyes blazing like fire. And in his hands rests a scepter of iron. Everything about him conveys authority, glory, and power.[1]

Statue located in Hendersonville, TN at Trinity Music City. Photo by Brent Moore.

But more important than how he looks, of course, is what he does. And that list is extensive. 

We have a Champion on our side—an all-victorious One—who is ready to help us win this race of life as we stay focused on him.[2]

Scripture reveals remarkable truths about our Champion. The following sixteen statements not only create an acrostic, but offer glorious reasons for praise.  

Our Lord Christ is:

Jesus, the Son of God through whom all things were created and through whom we live.[3]

Everlasting Father, protecting and providing for us now and always.[4]

Sovereign over all, reigning with wisdom, righteousness, and mercy.[5]

Unfailing and unchanging in his personal love for each of us.[6]

Savior to all who believe in him.[7]

Overcomer of our arch enemy, Satan, who’s already been defeated.[8]

Upholder of justice and truth, always acting with integrity, always speaking rightly.[9]

Rescuer from every evil attack, who will take us to heaven when the time is right.[10]

Conqueror of death who brought us the good news of salvation, offering life to us that never ends.[11]  

Hero of impeccable character and omnipotent power, willing to help us every moment.[12]

Alpha and Omega, the all-sufficient One who always was and always will be.[13] 

Mighty Warrior King, coming to earth again to establish his glorious kingdom.[14] 

Perfector of our faith, who will never give up on us.[15]

Intercessor for all believers, continually pleading for us before God.[16]

One and only Word of God—communicating and manifesting the magnificence of God to us.[17]

Name above all names, the result of his absolute perfections and humble sacrifice in our place.[18]

And what will be the result as we focus our contemplations upon Jesus our Champion?

His influence will penetrate to the core of who we are.

The Apostle Paul put it this way:

We’ll begin to act and react like Jesus, talk and even think like Jesus.

And in the process we’ll become champions ourselves—victors and conquerors, able to triumph over whatever comes our way.[19] 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I praise You, Lord Jesus, for being my Champion. What a glorious relief to know that you—the all-sufficient One–go before me each day, ready to defend, protect, guide, and provide. May I keep my eyes fixed on you to bolster my faith and grow me more like you. I do want to live in confident victory!

2 Corinthians 2:14a; Deuteronomy 31:8;

Psalm 91:14-15; 2 Peter 3:18; 1 John 5:4

Scriptural support for this post:


[1] Daniel 7:9; Revelation 19:11-15; 1:13-16; Daniel 7:14

[2] Philippians 3:7-12; Hebrews 12:2

[3] 1 Corinthians 8:6 NLT

[4] Revelation 21:4

[5] Ephesians 1:19b-21; Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 42:1; James 5:11

[6] John 15:13

[7] John 3:16

[8] John 16:33; 1 John 3:8

[9] Jeremiah 33:15; Revelation 19:11; 1 Peter 2:22

[10] 2 Timothy 4:18; John 14:2-3

[11] 1 Timothy 1:10 CEV

[12] 1 John 2:1; Ephesians 1:19; Philippians 4:13

[13] Revelation 22:13; Colossians 1:13-20

[14] Isaiah 42:13; Psalm 72

[15] Philippians 1:6

[16] Romans 8:34 GNT

[17] John 1:1; Colossians 1:15; 2:9

[18] Philippians 2:6-11

[19] 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.flickr.com (Brent Moore); http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.canva.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.rawpixels.com; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org.

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Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes,

our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions,

they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

John Quincy Adams

Many in today’s world want to believe that truth is relative. You’ll hear them say, “What’s true for you isn’t necessarily true for me.”

In the case of taste, that statement may apply. You might love coconut, hard rock music, and skinny jeans ; I do not. And that should be OK. We all have our preferences.

But to understand the absolutes of reality, we must consider the facts and evidence in order to judge rightly and respond accordingly. Truth is truth. And when it comes to our eternal destiny, we cannot risk basing our hopes on untruth, no matter how well-intentioned.

Yet falsehoods frequently masquerade as truth, and have for centuries.

So how are we supposed to know what is right and true concerning our eternal destiny?

Behold the Truth

There’s no getting around the fact that every one of us will die. And though we don’t know the details of what happens next, the Bible is clear: When we trust in Jesus, who took the punishment we deserve for our sins, God graciously grants us eternal life with him in heaven (John 3:16). This is the way he’s established (John 14:6).

But why should we believe the Bible? That‘s a key question every person needs to be able to answer.

Whole books have been written on the subject; I’ve listed a few at the end of this post. But here’s a sample of categories that affirm the Bible is reliable truth, to whet your appetite. And with each I’ve provided just one example or a link to one.

So what facts and evidence prove the Bible is true?

  • Thousands of archaeological discoveries verify names and places mentioned in the Bible. Nothing has been found to repudiate any scripture. (One amazing example: When Truth Unfolds.)
  • Over 5,000 ancient manuscripts or fragments corroborate the Bible.
The Dead Sea Scrolls include 800-900 manuscripts representing every Old Testament book except Esther. They date from about 225 B.C. to 50 A.D.
  • Hundreds of prophecies have come true with 100% accuracy. (Compelling Evidence offers just one set of prophecies concerning one city–all of them fulfilled with mind-boggling perfection.)
  • A number of scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible have also been proven accurate. One example:
  • Over the centuries, millions of lives have been transformed because of Christ’s work within them. (When Love Drove Out Hate tells just one miraculous story.)

But don’t take my word for it. Find out for yourself “the state of facts and evidence.”

Study the photos of archaeological finds. Many are available online.

Learn about fulfilled, biblical prophecies and why the argument that they were written after the fact is provably false. (Read Is the Bible True?/ Fulfilled Prophecy as a good starting point.)

Consider all the scientific and medical facts mentioned in the Bible and how unfolding knowledge over the ensuing centuries has verified their accuracy.

Read biographies of those who hit rock bottom in their lives and how God lifted them up, often in miraculous ways.    

We begin to recognize lies

when we know the truth.

Beth Moore, Praying God’s Word, 76

And if we truly seek after God, he has promised, we will find him (Proverbs 8:17).

Believe in the Truth

Many people believe that heaven is earned. If our good deeds outweigh the bad, God will allow us to enter. But that teaching is not in the Bible. And if we’re going to assert the veracity of scripture (which we must, given the overwhelming evidence), then we have to accept:

This is not a matter of taste, choosing our beliefs depending on what we like, as with food, music, or clothing.

This is a matter of life and death.

Now is the time to behold the Truth, believe in the Truth, and belong to the Truth, if you haven’t made that choice before.

You’ll be so glad you did!

If you’re already a Christian, please share in the comment section below about what brought you to accept the Bible as truth and Jesus Christ as the Way to eternal life.

For further reading: The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith, both by Lee Strobel, and Why Should I Trust the Bible by William D. Mounce.

Photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.jenikirbyhistory.getarchive.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.canva.com.

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(in celebration of Poetry Month)

Inside us all exists a place

unique in space and size.

Just one thing can fill this space;

it’s nothing money buys.

Some people try to fill the void

with work and busy-ness.

They think that to be well-employed

will bring true happiness.

Others try a different route—

they seek recognition.

But all too soon they learn about

the failings of ambition.

But inside me there is no void—

it’s a marvelous sensation!

Inside me grows peace and joy,

defying explanation.

The future holds no fear for me,

sleepless nights I don’t endure.

There’s no need to fret continually,

because my destiny is secure.

Even when problems come my way,

a sense of joy pervades.

From an inner strength, fears are allayed,

and anxiety begins to fade.

This peace and joy inside me

come from one amazing Source.

It’s Jesus Christ—he’s the key,

the almighty, empowering force!

The Lord alone can fit that space;

nothing else will ever do.

While following his excellent ways,

I experience his blessings too!

Art & photo credits: http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.piqsels.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.pixabay.com.

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Tonight, the Thursday before Easter, we remember the Last Supper and the heart-wrenching scene in the Garden of Gethsemane.  It was there Jesus prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done”(1).

In a matter of hours from that moment, Jesus would face unimaginable pain and suffering. Yet his prayers were not only for himself that night. He prayed for his disciples, and he even prayed for us—those who would believe in him in the future. His desire was that God’s love and his presence would be in us (2). I marvel at such selflessness in the midst of supreme crisis, don’t you?

As a result of his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, Jesus made possible the fulfillment of that prayer. Our crucified, resurrected, and ascended Christ indwells every believer (3).

Think of it. The all-powerful, all-wise Lord of the universe lives within us! But just what does that mean?

I like Sarah Young’s explanation: We are intertwined with him in an intimacy involving every fiber of our beings (4).

It means that God makes available to us everything we need:

  • Power to handle life’s challenges (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • Wisdom to determine right actions from wrong (James 1:5)
  • Access to talk to him at any time (Hebrews 4:16)
  • Personalized purpose, to fulfill a God-ordained plan (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • Hope that can never be disappointed (Isaiah 40:31)
  • Resources that can never be exhausted (Philippians 4:19)

It means that in Christ we have:

  • Complete forgiveness (Hebrews 8:12)
  • Everlasting life (John 3:16)
  • Overflowing joy (Psalm 16:11)
  • Deep peace (John 14:27)
  • Attentive care (1 Peter 5:7)

Sometimes I act like the Israelites on their trek to the Promised Land. Remember the manna God provided so they wouldn’t go hungry? It tasted like wafers made with honey (5).

Yet they became so accustomed to the provision, they began to complain. Manna wasn’t good enough after a while.  “Yes, Lord,” they may have said.  “You’ve been very gracious to provide manna, but we need meat!”

These blessings of Christ in us listed above are more precious even than miraculous manna. How could I take such astounding blessings for granted? Add to that the incredible price Jesus paid so I could enjoy those blessings. How dare I think, Yes, Lord, you’ve been very gracious, but I need more!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *   *     *     *

Dearest Jesus, as I contemplate your deep distress in the Garden of Gethsemane, your suffering at the hands of Roman soldiers, and the unfathomable pain you endured on the cross, my petty wants become inconsequential.

Forgive me for allowing familiarity to dull my senses of awe and gratitude for the sacrifice you made. Willingly.  Lovingly.  

“Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” (6).

So be it.

Notes:

  1. Luke 22:42
  2. John 17:26
  3. Colossians 1:27
  4. Jesus Calling, 332.
  5. Exodus 16:31
  6. From the hymn, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Art credit:  www.free bible images.org.

(Revised and reblogged from April 17, 2014, while we enjoy a week-long visit from our daughter and family.)

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While exercising last Friday I listened to a podcast of Pete Briscoe’s sermon, “Every Day Jesus.” He made the point that we can actually see “tangible evidence of his intangible love” if we’re paying attention.

Pete told the story of a man who began looking for hearts, as emblems of Jesus’ love for him. He found them everywhere—heart-shaped rocks, shells, clouds, a heart-shaped stain on his jeans, even a heart-shaped dinner roll.

Pete told Jesus, I’d like to find tangible evidence of you too.  That very afternoon he spotted a pile of grass clippings on the side of the road, shaped just like a heart. He shared a photo on the sanctuary screen, and sure enough, there was no mistaking it.

Oh Lord, I thought, while finishing a set of push-ups.  That sounds like such fun. But I wonder if my emblem might be different than hearts—something personal. What could I look for?

No sooner did I get up from the mat than there it was: a star—a big one—blazoned on the wheel of our exercise bike. (Jesus made sure I didn’t miss it!)

The verse in Revelation came to mind where Jesus calls himself the bright morning star (22:16). And brief research delightfully expanded my understanding, so I’d appreciate more the stars yet to be discovered.

Just as Venus, the morning star, is always present whether we see it or not, so is Jesus. He is FAITHFUL and TRUE (Revelation 19:11), even when there’s no evidence in the moment.

Just as the morning star gives us assurance of approaching dawn, so Christ gives us assurance of approaching eternal life with him in heaven. He is our HOPE (1 Peter 1:3-5).

And just as the morning star cheers the night-weary soul, so Jesus brings JOY to the discouraged soul (John 17:13).

Each star then, would be a reminder of my Savior’s unfailing faithfulness, the confident hope I have in him, and the ineffable joy he provides.

Since Friday stars have been appearing with surprising frequency.

For example:

A friend posted a photo of her snow-covered garden. Right of center stood a small windmill –with a star on top.

While looking for an old photo on my phone I came across a springtime star from our own backyard.

We watched our Cincinnati Bengals squeak a win over the Titans last Saturday night. I’d never paid attention before to the NFL logo—with its stars.

The Titans’ helmets also include stars. See them surrounding the T?

In our refrigerator are a half-dozen stars or so. . .

. . . if you were to cut the apples horizontally, instead of stem to calyx.

A devotional reading this week just happened to be titled, “Star Gazing.”

In my office you’ll find paper clips shaped like stars. . .

. . . and on a table sits a Czechoslovakian, star-topped creche that I leave out all year.

On a shelf in the family room a crystal star adds sparkle . . .

. . . and even makes rainbows when placed in the sun.

With each star discovery, my heart sings. He is here—with us—revealing his extraordinary presence among the ordinary moments of our lives.

 *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God, after less than a week I’m already rich with stars! You’ve scattered them throughout my days with such creativity.  Thank you that each one reminds me: my faith is not misplaced, my hope is assured, and every joy of life is enhanced—because of your loving presence.

Do you find tangible emblems of Jesus’ intangible love as you go about your day? Tell us about it in the comment section below!

P.S. Here’s a link to Pete Briscoe’s sermon: https://benttree.org/sermon/part-1-everyday-jesus/

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pxhere.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); Nancy Ruegg (4); http://www.pxhere.com.)

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For most of us, the words Christmas scriptures bring to mind the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke.  We may even remember the prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Micah.

Rarely will we think of the psalms as part of the Christmas story, yet at least a dozen passages from the Book of Songs include references related to Christ’s birth. A few qualify as outright prophecies; other statements are less direct, but hindsight allows us to make delightful connections.

So for each passage quoted below, see if an aspect of the Christmas story doesn’t come to mind!  (To keep this post from getting too long, I’ve included just six examples. Answers appear below.)

1. “The Lord said, ‘I have made a covenant with My chosen one, I have sworn to David, My servant, I will establish your offspring forever and build up your throne for all generations” (Psalm 89:3-4 HCSB).

2. “[The Lord] himself will redeem Israel from all their sins” (Psalm 130:8).

3. “Light shines on the righteous and joy on the upright in heart” (Psalm 97:11).

4. “The heavens proclaim his righteousness, and all peoples see his glory” (Psalm 97:6).

5. “Send me a sign of your favor.  Then those who hate me will be put to shame, for you, O Lord, help and comfort me” (Psalm 86:17 NLT).

6. “Praise the LORD and pray in his name! Tell everyone what he has done” (Psalm 105:1).

7. “Because of your temple at Jerusalem, kings will bring you gifts (Psalm 68:29). 

(The second Jewish temple; a model in the Israel Museum)

Answers:

1. Jesus’ lineage and reign described in Matthew and Luke fulfill this prophecy perfectly (Matthew 1:1; Luke 1:32-33).

2. Psalm 130:8 sounds very similar to Matthew 1:21, doesn’t it?

3. The Light of the world began to shine that night in Bethlehem, and the angel of the Lord proclaimed great joy for all people (Luke 2:9-10).

(by Philip James de Loutherbourg, 1740-1812)

4. The psalmist may have thought he was writing about the stars, sun, and moon—all declaring the power and glory of God.  Little did he know his words foreshadowed events on the night Jesus was born, when the heavenly host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (Luke 2:9) and the shepherds saw the glory of the Lord shining around them (v. 9, 13-14).

5. This verse also brings to mind the lowly shepherds (whom others often despised) as well as the angel’s words, “This shall be a sign unto you . . .” The birth of the Messiah brought great help and comfort to all his people, but perhaps especially the marginalized. For everyone, the long wait for his appearing was over.

6. The shepherds followed this directive as they left Jesus’ birthplace and “spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:17).  They glorified and praised God for all the things they’d seen and heard, just as they had been told (v. 20).

7. That’s exactly where the Magi went first—Jerusalem—seeking the one born king of the Jews (Matthew 2:1-2.)  And of course they came bearing gifts–gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:10-11).

Isn’t it amazing–from the Book of Songs written eons ago, come the distant strains of the exquisite, eternal Christmas Song that we celebrate to this day:

All your works declare Your glory;

all creation joins to sing.

Praise resounds as earth rejoices

in the birth of Christ the King (2)!*

*the last four lines of “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” stanza 2)

Art & photo credits: Steve Ruegg; http://www.stockvault.net; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.pixabay.com.

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