Christmas Possibilities

December 19th, 2014

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:28 NKJV.

Christmas is when the Almighty God changed impossibilities to possibilities.

Christmas stained glass

 

My thoughts and comments this Advent are about “Christmas possibilities.”

Never confuse the difficult with the impossible. It is an error to surrender to the difficult without even trying, as it is a monumental waste of time, effort, and resources to attempt to accomplish the impossible. It is tempting to move too quickly from your estimation of the former to your assumption of the latter. In reality, you need God for both. The Christmas season is not always joyous for everyone. For some, it comes with the brittle emotions of overwhelming situations, even situations that appear impossible. Christmas is a good time to remember Jesus’ words,

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:28.

No few words describe Christmas any clearer than that. Christmas is the perpetual reminder that the Almighty God changes impossibilities into possibilities. Unlike all others, our God delights in doing what others say cannot be done.

Christ is the mighty power of God and the wonderful wisdom of God. This ‘foolish’ plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:24-25 NLT.

Centuries before Jesus was born, prophets foretold of Israel’s Messiah who would come; Israel waited.

Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name ‘Immanuel, God is with us.’ Isaiah 7:14.

God chose what men knew to be impossible to explain what was unimaginable. A child born to a virgin? Impossible. A Savior who came for sinners? Incomparable. God coming into your world? Indescribable.

To her heavenly messenger, Mary asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34 NIV. The Angel’s answer was profoundly simple, “Nothing is impossible for God.” Luke 1:37 NIV. Mary knew why it could not happen; God knew why it would. With assurance from the Angel, Mary trusted every impossibility into God’s hands. Christmas would forever mean that nothing would ever be the same again for Mary. More than a sacred story or seasonal celebration, Christmas is any moment when eternity penetrates time with the promise of possibilities. Christmas changes anything that ever has been and everything that still could be.

For you as well this Christmas, the Angel’s words remain true, “Nothing is impossible with God.” That Christmas truth changed every assumption Mary had believed. Let that be true for you this Christmas. The situations that appear impossible to you – the need that exceeds your ability or resource – the obstacle that defies your efforts – the sin that seems indomitable – the failure that would steal your future – all these are well within the incomparable power of God to redeem. Christmas is when you surrender to the Almighty God your impossibilities, “Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20 NIV. Christmas possibilities are without limits.

My prayer for you this Advent is to welcome Jesus into your life as Savior and Lord.

Christmas Wonder

December 16th, 2014

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ.

This Advent, my thoughts and comments are about “Christmas wonder.”

Life presents moments that pique your curiosity until you just must know more. Some of those are coincidental; a few, but more than you might realize, are providential. I regret any time I was too busy to notice moments of divine providence. I am grateful for every time I allowed God to interrupt my plans with His opportunities. Such instances can change your course and shape your life in unexpected ways.

Christmas should be one of those times. On the first Christmas, the eternal and almighty God personally came into our world at an unexpected time (after 400 years of Heaven’s silence), to an unlikely place (to a stable, not a palace), and in an unimaginable manner (in a natural process possible only by supernatural means). The Creator became as His creation; the Eternal became subject to mortality; the Omnipotent became conventional.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ, presenting questions only God and faith can adequately answer. The Apostle Paul described the Incarnation to Timothy, his young protégé, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NLT. Peter simply wrote, “[We] were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 NIV.

I love the Christmas story as told by Luke. Read Luke 2:1-20. Angels fill the Judean night with praise and pronouncements to humble shepherds routinely busy about their drab and daily life. Leaving their flocks, the shepherds hurried to find this One of whom the Angels sang. Of course, the shepherds told Mary and Joseph their story, as they later, “spread the word that had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” People’s “wonder” is variously translated as, “amazed, marveled, or astonished.” Christmas should arouse wonder and amazement.

Mary’s response provides my thoughts and comments today; “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV. What a model of spiritual life for you and me. Mary “treasured and pondered in her heart” the words and workings of God. Spiritual discovery originates in the heart, then engages the mind for understanding and the will for appropriate action. Generations earlier, Solomon gave strong counsel, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” Read Proverbs 4:21-27 NKJV.

Mary’s attitude was reverential; Mary “treasured” the Angel’s words that began her journey of obedience and trust, as she embraced the awe-filled story of the shepherds’ angelic visit and pronouncement, just as she would esteem the Wise Men’s journey from afar. She placed high value on all that God said and did and cherished it all in her heart.

Mary’s posture was wonder and worship. Mary “pondered” the Angel’s words. “Ponder” is the process of, “putting one thing with another in considering circumstances.” Mary was deliberate, reflective, and ultimately receptive. Mary’s reasoned response was, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior for He has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant . . for He who is mighty has done great things and holy is His name.”  Read Mary’s joyous Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55.

This Advent, my prayer is that Christmas is released in your heart with fresh wonder and discovery.

Character and Reputation

December 13th, 2014

“Joseph, [Mary’s] husband, was a righteous man.” Matthew 1:19 NIV.

Character and obedience always matter first to God.

My thoughts and comments today are about “character and reputation.”

Joseph is little noticed and under-appreciated in the Christmas drama. Yet God chose Joseph just as carefully as was Mary chosen. Joseph had history and reputation with God. The Bible says that God saw, “Joseph, [Mary’s] husband, was a righteous man.” Matthew 1:19 NIV. A righteous man; what a description of Godly character. God chose a just and righteous man who would model spiritual devotion and shape the humanity of Jesus. Joseph modeled Godly care and character. His example and personal faith would be extremely influential in the young child’s earliest years.

Mary would need a good hearted man, just and righteous, to accept and protect her. And a kind and caring man to firmly stand between her and the predictable whispers of disapproval, or maybe even the rejection of family. A righteous man would reflect God’s love and protection for Mary. God knew the difficult choices Joseph would face, and God knew that Joseph would make a just and righteous decision. Read Matthew 1:18-25 NKJV. He could protect his good name or provide a home for Mary and this child. He could not do both. In life, hard choices have to be made; not all options are equal.

Jesus would need a Godly father to teach Him the ways of God. Joseph would model the justice and righteousness of God in his home. Character and obedience always matter first to God. When there is something to be done of eternal import, God chooses people who consistently put God first. God’s plans for your life always require a priority of His purpose. Joseph had history with God; God could trust his choices. Do God’s will first and foremost; then all else finds its proper order.

My Dad, a pastor, often “preached” this principle to me, “First things first!” When asked to do something, I usually had a different option I preferred. I always intended to do as he asked, eventually, as convenience and circumstance allowed. My Dad never found that acceptable. As a child, I learned that my convenience was not a substitute for my Dad’s expectations; as an adult, I learned why that is not a strategy that works in life.

Priority evidences importance. You put first who or what you consider to be of first importance. Jesus put the Father first because the Father was His priority. Jesus modeled His priority; “I always do those things that please [the Father].” John 8:29 NKJV. Advent should involve re-structuring the way things have become; “Your Heavenly Father knows all your needs, and He will give you all your need from day to day, if you live for Him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:33 NLT. Reflect on what your primary concerns and the obedience required to fulfill those should be.

This Christmas seems an opportunity for an honest inventory of how you and your family reflect this practical issue of keeping, “first things first.” Christmas is a good time to be reminded of the Old Testament prophet’s words, “[God] has shown you what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8. Life is to be lived justly and more sacrificially every day, in every way.

This Advent, my prayer for you is that your history with God releases your destiny in God.

Christmas Joy

December 10th, 2014

“You believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8 NIV.

Great joy is unknown wherever the Good News remains untold.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Christmas joy.”

“Merry Christmas!” is an all too familiar greeting, but “merry,” seems a bit underwhelming when describing the history changing birth of Jesus. Merriment is a good thing that comes from enjoying good times and good friends. But Christmas is so much more. And God has more for you, much more. I believe, “Joyous Christmas,” is more appropriate for God’s intent for this season and year round.

This Advent, open your heart and home to be overwhelmed by, “an inexpressible and glorious joy.” That’s how Peter chose to describe Jesus’ presence permeating your heart and daily life. “You believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.” 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV. Your experience and expression of the Savior’s birth, life, and sacrifice promises no less, deserves no less than great and glorious joy.

That auspicious Christmas night, the Angel’s’ announcement to the shepherds described the moment, “Behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. For today, there has been born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” At such news, Heaven could be silent no longer; “Suddenly, there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the Highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased.” Luke 2:10-14 NAS. Indeed, the Incarnation was “good news of great joy.”

But such joy did not begin with the first Christmas, nor does such abandoned joy end there. Christmas simply dramatized the eternal intent of the Father for all His creation to know glorious joy – at all times. Christmas’ celebration underscores the essence of your experience of His inexpressible joy every day. “In His presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11. That glorious joy will also flood your heart as you stand before God, “Who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy.” Jude 24-25.

However intended for you His joy may be, great joy is not automatic. Joy is a gift God chose to give; joy is a choice you make to receive. Advent invites you to choose inexpressible and glorious joy. Nurture joy in your heart because it is not natural to your fallen nature. Mature joy in your life until it becomes a more settled disposition of your spirit, as you continually draw on unfailing, spiritual resources. Jesus said, “If you abide in Me and My words abide in you . . My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” John 15:7/11 NIV. You have His joy completely; express His joy consistently.

You can’t share something you don’t have, and you can’t keep something you won’t share. When you give joy, you gain joy. Christmas isn’t really Christmas until you share your joy, and His joy, with others. Inexpressible joy should not be left unexpressed. Great joy is unknown wherever the Good News remains untold. This Advent, share the joy of Christmas every day, to every person, in every imaginable way. Celebrate without apology and with abandon. Invite, include, involve, welcome, laugh, love, express life, be real, and celebrate joyously.

Incarnate the joy of the message an unbelieving world cannot resist. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Rom 15:13 NIV. Hope, joy, and peace – my prayer and God’s Christmas gifts for you.

Today, my prayer for you this Advent is that His joy is real in you and irresistible to others.

 

Christmas Time

December 5th, 2014

When the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” Galatians 4:4 NIV.

God achieves His eternal purposes in the calendar and daily appointments of your life.

My thoughts and comments today are about “Christmas time.”

Christmas is a good time to thoughtfully examine life. Fast paces and busy schedules leave little time for purposeful reflection. Hurrying with little time to spare or running late and borrowing scarce minutes from the next event on your schedule, life becomes a blur. Lives are lived in a rush, wanting everything right now.

God’s plans rarely, if ever, coincide with your calendar. Nor does He submit them for your approval. But God is never late, though sometimes it may feel to you like He is. The psalmist trusted his times to God’s timing. “I trust in you, O Lord; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in Your hands.” Psalm 31:15 NIV. God has an impeccable sense of timing; your objective should be to synchronize your life with God’s plans and His calendar. “The steps of the Godly are directed by the Lord, and He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23 NLT.

The Christmas narrative begins in the story of Zachariah, a priest of the Levites, and his wife, Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary. As a young, loving couple they anticipated their first child as so many others have. Year after year they waited, until their dream adjusted to their reality. Apparently, they reasoned, they desired a child they would not have. Eventually, Zachariah’s appraisal was honest and accurate, “I am old . . and my wife is also.” Luke 1:18 NLT.

Then God startled Zachariah with news of the son for whom they had prayed; he was to be named John, a herald of the Messiah. At God’s time, your circumstances will not hinder Him from doing what He purposed to do – however long the years have been or whatever the circumstances of the moment. God is never late; you and I are often impatient.

God is neither cruel nor unfeeling, never unsympathetic or uncaring about your dreams and desires, but the calendar of eternity charts the purposes of God, not the random clocks of mortal plans. Your Father knows how and when to best fulfill your prayers, and precisely when and where His eternal plan intersects with His intentions and blessings. See Jeremiah 29:11 NIV. The trust issue is your acceptance, obedience, and faithfulness meanwhile.  

In the purpose and providence of God, the day would come; “There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came to bear witness of the Light, that all through Jesus might believe . . and of His fullness we have all received.” Read John 1:6-9/16. God’s plan was more vast and inclusive than Zachariah and Elizabeth’s hopes and plans, “. . that all through Jesus might believe,” reaching even to you and me today, and all who will follow. God coordinated the birth of John exactly when he could be the herald of the Savior. They would be content with a child; God gave them a messenger of Messiah.

While they may have thought the answer to their prayers was late, Christmas time is always the best time. That is true in your life as well. Christmas came exactly when and as God intended, When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Galatians 4:4-5 NIV. God achieves His eternal purposes in the calendar and daily appointments of your life.

Today, my prayer for you is that you will expect God at any time while waiting for Him every time.