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Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

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Whether I heard it or read it, I don’t remember. But the words caught me by surprise, and I jotted them down:

“What was uppermost in Jesus’ mind as Good Friday approached?

“Joy.”

Do you find that surprising, too?

Yet at least three times on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus spoke about joy (John 15:11; 16:22, 24; 17:13)–a most unusual topic and completely unnatural.  Who thinks about joy when they know that catastrophe is about to strike?

Jesus, that’s who.

Within the next twenty-four hours he would face excruciating pain, total abandonment by his Father, and the most horrific death ever devised.

But his concern was for his disciples, not himself.  Jesus wanted them to remember the important principles of love, obedience, and joy–an empowering joy that no one could take away from them.

Perhaps you remember the scene. Jesus and his disciples had just finished their last Passover supper together. After the meal, he taught his final lesson.

The first mention of joy came near the end of his teaching about the vine and the branches:

“I have told you this

so that my joy may be in you

and that your joy may be complete”

(John 15:11).

The word, “this,” refers to the ways Jesus had just mentioned that will contribute to joy:

1.  Live close to him and produce much good in and through your life (vs.4-8).

2.  Live in obedience to Jesus and experience the warmth, peace, and care of His love (vs. 9-10).

 Note that Jesus wanted his joy to be in the hearts of his disciples. What characterized his joy, compared to that of others?

  1. Strong awareness of the Father’s love for him, and his own love for the Father (vs. 9-10).
  1. Absolute surrender and self-sacrifice of himself to his Father, and the joy of doing what his father had sent him to do. Even during his great travail in the Garden of Gethsemane, his one desire was to do his Father’s will (Luke 22:42).

Jesus’ joy coexisted with the profound sorrow of his impending suffering, because he was already well-acquainted with the satisfaction and fulfillment of obedience.

  1. The understanding that joy deferred to the future is anticipatory joy in the present. “For the joy set before him he endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

And finally, Jesus told his disciples that he desired complete joy for them. What does complete joy look like? It is:

  • Not so much an emotion as it is a conviction (Keith Krell, “Moment by Moment,” http://www.bible.org).
  • Inner contentment, resulting from continually cultivating an intimate relationship with Jesus.
  • Constant, not dependent on circumstances.
  • Enduring, day after day. Indestructible.
  • Perfect—the perfect, joy-filled fulfillment of the destiny for which God created you, even when a portion of that destiny is suffering.

I’m thinking of the martyrs–Stephen, Polycarp, Ignatius of Antioch, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe and countless others who demonstrated complete joy even as they died in anguish.

Polycarp, disciple of the Apostle John and Bishop of Smyrna for many years, refused to revile Jesus. For that he was burned at the stake.

But before the flames rose up, Polycarp prayed:

“O Lord God Almighty, Father of thy blessed and beloved Son, Jesus Christ, through whom we have been given knowledge of thyself…I bless thee for granting me this day and hour, that I may be numbered amongst the martyrs, to share the cup of thine Anointed and to rise again unto life everlasting…”

Such devotion, courage, and supernatural strength are impossible to fathom apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

Can you hear the grace in Polycarp’s voice as he blessed God for the privilege of dying a martyr?

That is complete joy, only experienced by those who trust in Jesus implicitly.

Complete joy that Jesus purchased for us at Calvary.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

We marvel, Heavenly Father, in the extreme paradox that is the cross. Out of the evil unleashed upon your Son comes your holy, righteous goodness–upon us. Out of the horror of the crucifixion that Jesus endured comes inexpressible and glorious joy, to those who put their faith in him–not a temporary feeling of elation, but deep, abiding, abundant joy. 

All praise to you, our loving, gracious God!       

(Acts 3:13-16, 1 Peter 1:8, John 6:47, John 10:10)

 

(Photo credit:  www.rejesus.co.uk.)

 

 

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Christmas. The first syllable surely needs no explanation of origin. It speaks of the One we celebrate.

But what about the second syllable, -mas?

Christmas is a term that has been around for nearly a thousand years, coming to us from Old English. Cristes Maesse meant “Mass of Christ.” It was established by church leaders to disconnect the church celebration of Jesus’ birth from pagan holidays and customs—holidays such as Winter Solstice. (Even before the birth of Christ, Romans were celebrating the shortest day of the year, in anticipation of the sun’s gradual return.)

As a matter of fact, as early as the fourth century, Christians were creating their own wintertime celebration. One theologian pointed out in 320 A.D.: “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”

Yet there are those who wish to keep the customs of Christmas without including the One being celebrated. Seems they’d like to take away the first syllable, Christ. But then all that’s left is –mas.

Sounds like mess.

Indeed. I am confident that without Christ, my life would be a mess. 

A mess of fears.

A mess of brokenness.

A mess of worry.

A mess of guilt.

A mess of dissatisfaction.

It’s possible that for a long while I’d be able to hide the mess under glittery packages of stuff, noise and distraction, busy-ness.

But eventually, a body must stop and rest. That’s when my mind would kick into high gear and the mess would wreak havoc in my soul. Chances are I’d develop sleep problems, depression, or perhaps even physical manifestations like ulcers. Stress can do that to a person.

Shouldn’t I at least consider the alternative? What if I do allow Christ in my life?

Oh, my. The list of precious gifts He bestows is astounding and practically endless. To begin, he provides:

  • Calm in place of fear.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me” (John 14:1), Jesus said.

  • Restoration in place of brokenness.

 “Anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons” (2 Corinthians 5:17, The Message)!

  • Peace of mind in place of worry.

 “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met…God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:33-34, The Message).

  • Forgiveness in place of guilt.

 “Everyone who believes in [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

  • Contentment in place of dissatisfaction.

 “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 And among his many other gifts to us, Jesus grants us the incredible privilege of eternal life (John 3:16)—with him in heaven.

But how will I be able to enjoy all these gifts if I don’t give Christ a chance?

I really have nothing of value to lose. Just the mess.

 

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)–the Christ of Christmas!

 

(Art credit:  www.emblibrary.com .)

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Not long ago I came upon this Bible verse:

 

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“May your  unfailing love rest upon us” (Psalm 33:22a).

 

Not exactly a new concept for those of us who know God and have entrusted our lives to him.  We know that God loves us.

But that day, each word (with a bit of tweaking!) spoke particular truth from my Heavenly Father. Below are the impressions he laid upon my heart. I pray that a thought or two will bring encouragement to you as well.

My:

My love for you is holy — totally separate from any human love — because it is:

  • Pure – never the result of ulterior motives
  • Sacrificial – proven at Calvary when I, God the Son, gave up my life for you
  • Unchanging – in the past (because I loved you before you were born), in the present (even when you’re not at your best), and into eternity (when my love will be expressed in total bliss).

Unfailing:

Never will I “fall out of love” with you. There is nothing in this world that can stop me from loving you. No matter what you do, nothing can separate you from my love.

And remember, my love is an unfailing, all-powerful force. I make all things work for your good – even when you go through pain and trials. Cling to that promise, child. Good will always prevail in the end.

Love: 

My love for you is much more than warm affection. I am passionate about you and devoted to you. My faithfulness to you will never fail.

I am your Heavenly Father. Think of all the ways I express my love to you every day – through kindness, grace, mercy, faithfulness, blessing, wisdom, guidance, strength, comfort, peace and more. It’s a long list, isn’t it.

Neither are these love-expressions infrequent or intermittent. Constantly I am expressing my love to you.

And everything I say and do comes from a heart of holy, perfect love.

Rests: 

My love comes to rest upon you. It’s attached to you, never wanes, and never will be removed.

And because I am continually expressing my love, you can rest in confidence that I will care for you. When worry and fear start to creep in, turn your spiritual eyes on me.

Start recounting all the ways I’ve expressed my love to you in the past, and rest in confidence that my pure, sacrificial, unchanging love will see you through – not just to survive, but to triumph!

Upon: 

My love is not earned; it is bestowed upon you. You do not need to perform marvelous deeds for me. Nor do I withdraw my love because you are not perfect.

What gives me pleasure is love-motivated progress toward spiritual maturity. I also revel in your efforts to seek my presence. But even these actions do not cause me to love you more. My love for you is already total and complete.

You:

Yes, you. I made you. I created your inmost being and knit you together in your mother’s womb. I prepared all the days of your life before even one of them came to be. 

And I love you – completely and forever.  My unfailing love most assuredly rests upon you.

 

(Romans 8:28, 38-39; Psalm 89:33; Psalm 139:13-16.)

 

 

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Ever attend an elaborate breakfast buffet that was a feast for the eyes as well as the appetite?  Perhaps a kaleidoscope of sparkling fruit grabbed your attention first.  Then you noticed the fresh breads of all shapes and sizes overflowing from broad baskets.  And last, large chafing dishes displayed scrambled eggs, sausage, and French toast.

Just imagining the scene makes me want to be there!  But that’s not enough. Someone who only observes such a display receives no benefit from the bounty.  She has to partake in order to be fully satisfied.

Paul tells us in Colossians 2:10, “You have been given fullness in Christ.”

But there’s no benefit from his bountiful goodness if we don’t partake.

Just how do we do that–partake of the fullness in Christ?   It’s one thing to talk about the concrete experience of participating in a buffet.  You fill up a plate, sit down at a table, and eat.  Simple!

It’s another matter to understand an abstract concept like “partaking of the fullness of Christ.”  Here’s one view:

The fullness of Christ includes the fullness of his character, the fullness of his blessings, and the fullness of his promises.

Are you feeling empty, weak, or deficient?  Come to Christ, to “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 3:23).  Nothing is missing; nothing is left out.  He is everything we need–everything that has to do with value and meaning in life, everything that has to do with joy, peace, and fulfillment.

I’m picturing a buffet, laid out for us by Jesus.  But instead of fruit, bread, and egg dishes, I see attributes, blessings, and promises.  Just as we fill our plates with delectable things at a buffet, we can fill our minds with everything exquisite about our Savior.

Here’s a sampler platter of…

…Christ’s attributes:

  • His constant presence (Matthew 28:20).
  • His tender compassion (Matthew 9:36).
  • His kindness and attentiveness as our Good Shepherd (John 10:14).

…Christ’s blessings:

  • The precious gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
  • Provision of everything we need (Matthew 6:31-33).
  • Peaceful rest from fear and worry (Matthew 11:28-30).

…Christ’s promises of:

  • Endless possibilities , because everything is possible with God (Mark 9:23).
  • Wisdom and guidance through the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26).
  • Companionship with the King of the universe (John 14:23).

Chances are these are not astonishing new revelations to you, any more than berries, cinnamon buns, or sausage are never-tried foods.  But if you are enjoying a delicious meal with someone, invariably you will talk about the delectable flavors, even though the dishes are familiar fare.  Sharing augments the pleasure.

So talk about the fullness of Christ–his character, blessings, and promises. Even if you have to talk to yourself!  Revel in his fullness–the bounty he provides.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

What aspect of the fullness of Christ is most precious to you and why?  Join the conversation below!

(Photo credit:  bookclubs.barnesandnoble.com)

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Cover of "The Guernsey Literary and Potat...

Cover via Amazon

The title grabbed my attention:  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows).   And it turned out to be an excellent read, especially since I particularly enjoy historical fiction.

But this post is not a book review.  It’s about a statement one of the characters makes.

First, a bit of background.  A group of folk who lived on the island of Guernsey, in the late 1940s, were greatly anticipating the arrival of a writer.  She was going to tell their story of what happened during the German occupation of World War II.

Upon her arrival, one of the village residents, Juliet, says, “How beautiful of you to come” (p. 26).

Note she did not say, “How wonderful of you to come.”  She said, beautiful.

I love the use of an unexpected word that catches me by surprise and makes me think.

As I read Juliet’s statement, I thought it made a perfect gratitude prayer to Jesus, especially at Christmastime.

How beautiful of you to come—how lovely, graceful, goodly, splendorous, and magnificent.

Oh, yes, Lord Jesus.

 How beautiful of you to come, leaving the resplendent perfection of heaven behind, and:

  • Making yourself nothing,
  • Taking the very nature of a servant,
  • Becoming obedient to death (Philippians 2:7-8).

How beautiful of you to come, with glorious qualities that delight our hearts—qualities such as:

  • Love, expressed with forgiveness, patience, and benevolence (1 Corinthians 13:4-5).
  • Perfect sinlessness, giving us a worthy example to follow (Hebrews 4:15).
  • Truth, in which we can trust (John 14:6).
  • Peace that defies explanation (Philippians 4:6-7).

How beautiful of you to come, to:

  • Turn my darkness into light (2 Samuel 22:29b).
  • Be the source of my salvation (Hebrews 5:9).
  • Be with me always (Matthew 28:20).
  • Provide blessing after blessing (John 1:16).

How beautiful of you to come. 

And as we welcome you into our hearts, Lord Jesus, you make us new (2 Corinthians 5:17).

You make us beautiful!  We can:

  • Shine like stars (Philippians 2:15).
  • Be the aroma of Christ to others (2 Corinthians 2:14-15).
  • Reflect your image (Romans 8:29) of holiness, moral purity, and love.

Oh, how beautiful of you to come!

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No doubt we would all agree:  Christmas is much more than carols, cookies, and cards.  The heart of this holiday goes even deeper than the love we express with presents.  It is a celebration of God’s inexpressible gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).

And those of us who accept God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, ought to live our lives with overflowing gratitude.  The motivation behind our words and deeds should be the same sacrificial love which motivated Jesus.

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933, photo credit: Wikipedia)

What might that look like in everyday life?  Henry van Dyke* made several suggestions through these thought-provoking questions:

“Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;

To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;

To put your rights in the background, and your duties in the foreground;

To own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;

To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness—

Are you willing to do these things even for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas.”

Ouch.  If God made these stipulations into law, and only law-abiders were allowed to celebrate Christmas, I’d be left out.  My thoughts and motivations are not always pure.  I do not consistently put others’ needs before my own.  My focus is not always on what I can give.

But Rev. van Dyke’s essay does not end on that hopeless note.  He adds one more glorious line.

“But you can never keep it alone.”

Of course not!  “We are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us” (Romans 3:23, The Message).

However.  God does not expect instantaneous perfection, the minute we invite Jesus into our lives.  “God who began the good work within [us] will keep right on helping [us] grow in his grace until his task within [us] is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6, The Living Bible).

Hallelujah!

(Photo credit:  www.worshipkids.com)

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,

Opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,

Drive the dark of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day.

(also by Henry van Dyke)

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*Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an author, educator, and clergyman.  His lengthy list of accomplishments included professor of English literature at Princeton, minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg (by appointment of President Wilson), and author of many poems, stories, and essays. “The Other Wise Man” and “The First Christmas Tree.” are among his most popular works.  He also wrote the lyrics for a number of hymns, including “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  The first verse is quoted above.

 

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Like most expectant parents, Steve and I considered dozens of names before each of our three children were born.

First of all, the name had to have a pleasing ring with our unusual last name, Ruegg (pronounced “rug”).  We passed by Douglas.  Doug Ruegg rings too loudly.

We wanted a name that would not attract teasing or silly nicknames.  We passed by Dustin.  Dusty Ruegg would be too tempting.

And we wanted a name that meant something worthwhile, so we passed by Darnell.  “A-Type-of-Grass” Ruegg would not be very inspiring.

No doubt many of you who are parents experienced the same struggle to find appropriate names for your children.

Mary and Joseph, however, had no such struggle with their firstborn.  The angel who visited Joseph in a dream to tell him about Mary’s child, also informed him of the name.  “You are to give him the name Jesus,” he said (Matthew 1:21a).

And when an angel brought good news of great joy to the shepherds, he said, “A Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).

These two scriptures give us the three names we probably use most often when referring to God’s Son:  Jesus, Christ, and Lord.

And each name carries significant meaning.

Jesus, or Yeshua in Hebrew, means “Yahweh (the Lord) is Salvation.”  Could a more perfect name be chosen for the One who would “save his people from their sins?” (Matthew 1:21b).  Yeshua becomes “Joshua” when translated into English.  And in Greek (the language in which the New Testament was written), Yeshua becomes Iesous, or Jesus in English.

Jesus, our Savior.  The only perfect God-Man able to save us from the consequences of our sins.  He is our supreme Christmas gift, given by God, because he loves us.  Deeply.

Christ is English for Christos (Greek), which means “anointed.”  In Hebrew the word would be moshiach, or “Messiah.”

Anointing was a God-ordained custom, to dedicate someone for a special task.  You might remember the prophet, Samuel, anointed David to be king over Israel (1 Samuel 16).  That is, Samuel took oil (probably olive oil) and poured it over David’s head, signifying divine equipping for his royal position.

Again, what could more appropriate than our Savior to be symbolically anointed by God? Jesus was divinely equipped for the special task of saving his people from their sins.

Lord is also a name bestowed on God’s Son.  It is the name that is above every name.  And the glorious day is coming when every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-11).  Imagine that.  Millions of voices proclaiming his majesty!

Lord is a familiar term, come down to us from feudal times in England, when kings and nobles were addressed as “lord.”  It denoted power and influence.

The history of the word, though, reveals a fascinating connection to Jesus.

Lord is derived from a compound of two very early Old English words:  hlaf (pronounced with a long “a”)  and weardHlaf means “bread,” and weard means “ward” or “guardian.”  Lord literally means “guardian of the bread.”  In feudal times, such a position would be highly important to the household.  And so lord came to mean “a man of authority and rank” (Webster’s New College Dictionary).

 Such background gives new meaning to Jesus’ words, “The bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…I am the bread of life” (John 6:33, 35a).  In other words, he is the Sustainer of life.  Whoever comes to him can experience deep satisfaction of spirit (v. 35).

Jesus stands as the guardian of our abundant life now and eternal life in heaven yet to come.  He is also the guardian over of our minds and hearts, supplying peace, joy, comfort, and more.

Paul celebrated the magnificence of the Lord Jesus Christ at the close of Romans 8:

“I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (vs. 38-39).

And now, what do these names signify to me?  Am I deeply grateful to my Lord Jesus Christ?  Are my thoughts, attitudes, and actions pure and holy gifts I can give back him– my Savior, anointed Deliverer, and Guardian of my life?

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord Jesus, your very names proclaim astounding truths:  you are the Savior of the world!  In fact, you are the only Deliverer who can proclaim us “not guilty” before Almighty God.  And you are our Guardian, caring for our every need, when we depend upon you.  I praise and thank you for your love and grace, demonstrated supremely when you died in our stead.  Oh how I want my life to be a delightful Christmas present for you!

(photo & art credits:  www.babble.com, http://www.thefamily.com, http://www.ortzion.org, http://www.everydaywithmy savior.blogspot.com.)

 

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