Tagged: Christmas

Day 20: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

20And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.Luke 1:6-7

Although they loved and served God, Zacharias and Elizabeth wrestled quietly with years of personal sorrow, grieving over their inability to have a child. Have you ever had this thought: “If God really loved me, then He should…”? Doubt is a dark seed that can bear the bitter fruit of disappointment. Do you struggle with doubts about God or His love for you?

Zacharias was a godly man who had desired a child for many years. In spite of the social disgrace associated with barrenness, he and his wife continued to walk faithfully with the Lord. I believe that he dealt with questions concerning the Lord’s care for him. He kept the rules and did all of the right things, but God did not grant him the privilege of parenthood. However, during a once-in-a-lifetime experience of leading prayer in the Jerusalem Temple, Zacharias had a stunning encounter with an angel. He was a key figure in the stories surrounding the birth of God’s Son in Bethlehem. The Christmas Revolution was coming!

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also 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 a people prepared for the Lord.” And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.” – Luke 1:13-18

The angel told Zacharias that his prayer had been heard. What prayer? The prayer for a son. He was still praying for a child! Elizabeth was past the years of normal childbearing, so was he expressing faith and hope in a miracle? It doesn’t appear to be so. It seems more likely that over the years, the heart-felt petitions had become empty, unthinking, and routine repetitions. We can surmise this because Zacharias did not believe the angel’s birth announcement concerning John. Zacharias was a dedicated man going through the motions of faith.

It happens to many in church. In too many pews around the world, believers have allowed faith to become the sum of their religious activities and routines. Prayers become empty. Songs are sung without feeling. Activities are performed without the engagement of the heart. Jaded by life’s disappointments, those times when it seems God does not “come through,” there are Christians who become convinced that God is not listening. In too many pulpits, there are pastors who rarely exercise personal faith, preoccupied with a numbing staccato of religious activities and routines. Possessing little or no capacity to believe, these dear ones are saying the words… singing the songs… praying the prayers… living a life, but on the inside they are running on “empty.” Their hearts are disengaged.

Like Zacharias, they need a word from God. Sometimes in our efforts to hear God, we forget that God has already spoken to us in the Bible. In the face of disorienting questions, the Scripture alone will provide the emotional and intellectual handles to grasp all available truth about my experience. Although Scripture may not provide an answer to every question I have, it is in the Bible that I will find sufficient insight to calm the troubled waters of my soul. God speaks to us through the Scripture. It is not the only way He speaks, but it is an immediate source of truth and life that He wants you to explore. His written Word will help you discern and evaluate every other “Word” you will ever receive from God.

After the miraculous conception and birth of his son John (the Baptist), Zacharias became a mighty fountain of biblical truth! In a heartfelt eruption of realization and insight, he says God was acting in our lives “to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74-75)

God had never stopped caring for Zacharias or His people. Zacharias came to see that God really does hear us when we cry out to Him. God will deliver us. Circumstances may be confusing and hurtful, but our experience in the midst of those circumstances doesn’t have to be that way. Zacharias learned to be fully engaged with the Father in every remaining moment of his life. Never again would he follow God out of habit or routine. He was going all the way for God! We are not called to a lifeless and joy-less existence. No enemy of the human soul will succeed. The Lord will rescue His people. We can truly “serve Him without fear.”

Disappointment grows in the gap that lies between my expectations of God and my experience of God. If you don’t see God acting on your timetable, it does not mean He has failed to act or hear you. Guard your heart! The angel’s announcement to Zacharias means that great blessing belongs to the person who does not trip over his unfulfilled expectations of how God is going to do something. Never let go of God’s promises—but hang loosely to your expectations… God’s fulfillment of His promises may be very different from what you expect! In the meantime, you can start rejoicing right now in the mighty acts of God on your behalf. There’s no need to wait.

Overcoming disappointment with an anticipatory joy and a patient faith… this is where each of us finds our own pathway into the Christmas Revolution!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 19: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

19Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. – Matthew 1:24-25

Are you ready for Christmas? In the New Testament, Joseph illustrates the gifts God most desires from you and me. What are they?

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. – Matthew 1:18-19

How would you have reacted? You make the shocking discovery that your fiancé is expecting someone else’s baby! The Jewish engagement in Joseph’s day was arranged by parents on behalf of their children. It lasted for one year and was a legally binding agreement: the couple was already considered man and wife.

So Mary’s apparent indiscretion was an outrage. The shame and the embarrassment must have been overwhelming. Although stoning was no longer the ultimate punishment for this sin (Deuteronomy 22:23), Joseph still possessed the ability to hurt Mary deeply. In his mind he only had two choices:

  1. a very messy, public legal proceeding involving charges of gross immorality; or
  2. a very quiet divorce involving two witnesses.

Joseph pursued justice and mercy. He determined to do what was right; but he would do no harm to Mary. He chose to handle the matter quietly. Joseph displayed a merciful spirit.

Vengeance and retaliation should never be found in our relational toolbox. On one occasion a Samaritan village denied Jesus and his followers customary hospitality because of their race—a true hate crime. The angry disciples asked Jesus whether they should call down fire from heaven to destroy the village. Jesus quietly replied: “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:55)

Joseph possessed a merciful spirit… ready for Christmas!

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 1:20

As Joseph continues to reflect over his options, an angel from God appeared to him in a dream and explained what was really happening to Mary. In the announcement, the angel said to Joseph “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.”

Joseph was afraid, but of what? Was he afraid of Mary? No. He obviously cared for her very much, genuinely struggling to know how to respond to her condition. Was he afraid others would think he was the guilty father of Mary’s child? Surely not. The humiliation of Mary through public charges would have been sufficient to clear him of being the father.

Joseph was afraid of offending God. The baby was not his. Mary’s baby and Mary’s heart belonged to another man (or so he would have thought). In Leviticus 21:7 the priests who stood before God were forbidden from marrying a woman like Mary—would making Mary his wife now offend God? Joseph was clearly torn between his love for Mary and his desire to honor God in everything he did.

He struggled to maintain a tender, sensitive conscience… ready for Christmas!

But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” – Matthew 1:20-23

The words from the angel were stunning! In a few phrases, Joseph learned the truth about the baby and Mary. The angel calls Joseph a “son of David,” but the baby has no earthly father, for he is “of the Holy Spirit.” His name will be Jesus—meaning “the Lord saves”—because his mission in life will be to rescue the people of God from their own sins. And the most stunning news item of all? Joseph understands that he is being commanded to take Mary as his wife (verse 24).

Up to this moment Joseph has been developing a well-reasoned, biblical course of action. He is going to do what is right, but not at Mary’s expense. He is wondering if there are any other options—the angel appears in a dream “while he thought about these things.” He is open to new information. He is ready to revise his thinking as he contemplates the best course to take. He is teachable.

Joseph was easily re-directed by God because he had a teachable attitude… ready for Christmas!

Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. – Matthew 1:24-25

Joseph awakened with a set of instructions from God Himself. The dream represented a life-defining encounter with the will of God. Joseph acts immediately, receiving Mary as his wife and giving the name Jesus to the baby born a few short months later.

Joseph does not hesitate. Once he reaches a conclusion regarding God’s will, Joseph decisively and aggressively obeys God… ready for Christmas!

Joseph… a man who demonstrates the right way to get ready for the Christmas Revolution!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 18: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

NativityEditor’s Note: Today, we have a guest post from my wife, Gail (aka “the hot blonde”!). Enjoy!

Luke 1:13 (The Voice Translation)

Messenger: Zacharias, your prayers have been heard. Your wife is going to have a son, and you will name him John. He will bring you great joy and happiness – and many will share your joy at John’s birth.

Luke 1:25 (TVT)

Elizabeth: I have lived with the disgrace of being barren for all these years. Now God has looked on me with favor. When I go out in public with my baby, I will not be disgraced any longer.

Luke 1:30-45 (TVT)

Messenger: Mary, don’t be afraid. You have found favor with God. 31 Listen, you are going to become pregnant. You will have a son, and you must name Him “Savior,” or Jesus. Jesus will become the greatest among men. He will be known as the Son of the Highest God. God will give Him the throne of His ancestor David, and He will reign over the covenant family of Jacob forever.

Mary: But I have never been with a man. How can this be possible?

Messenger: The Holy Spirit will come upon you. The Most High will overshadow you. That’s why this holy child will be known, as not just your son, but also the Son of God. It sounds impossible, but listen – you know your relative Elizabeth has been unable to bear children and is now far too old to be a mother. Yet, she has become pregnant, as God willed it. Yes, in three months, she will have a son. So the impossible is possible with God.

Mary (deciding in her heart): Here I am, the Lord’s humble servant. As you have said, let it be done to me. And the heavenly messenger was gone. Mary immediately got up and hurried to the hill country, in the province of Judah, where her cousins Zacharias and Elizabeth lived. When Mary entered their home and greeted Elizabeth, who felt her baby leap in her womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Elizabeth (shouting): You are blessed, Mary, blessed among all women, and the child you bear is blessed! And blessed I am as well, that the mother of my Lord has come to me! As soon as I heard your voice greet me, my baby leaped for joy within me. How fortunate you are, Mary, for you believed that what the Lord told you would be fulfilled.

As I read the Christmas story this year, I was struck with fresh awareness of the personal costs of embracing God’s favor.   Elizabeth and Zacharias had endured years of unmet desire to have a baby. Elizabeth wore an aura of public disgrace and shame because God had not blessed them with a baby of their own. God’s messenger revealed to Mary that Elizabeth was “now far too old” to naturally bear a child. Elizabeth and Zacharias must have thought the time had passed and their deepest longing would never be met.

But God’s purposes and timing was perfect. The pregnancy and birth of Elizabeth and Zacharias’ son would be part of God’s confirmation to Mary that He was indeed at work in all of their lives to do miraculous things and to bring about the arrival of the Savior.

For Elizabeth, God had looked on her with favor. When she went out in public with her baby, she would no longer be disgraced.

God’s messenger told Mary that she, too, was favored and blessed by God. But for Mary accepting the motherhood of Jesus and trusting God at work in her life would mean embracing public disgrace and shame.

Can you imagine the whispers, the hushed conversations, the doubtful looks from those who had once been Mary’s friends and neighbors? Who would believe her even if she told them that her son, Jesus, was born of the Holy Spirit, a unique part of God’s plan to save us all? Even her loving, honorable husband-to-be, Joseph, had to be encouraged in a dream by a messenger of God to take Mary as his wife and to trust that she had been faithful to him.

Mary embraced God’s plan. She trusted Him. She couldn’t begin to know all of the personal costs, but she decided in her heart as God’s humble servant, “As you have said, let it be done to me.”

When God’s favor intervenes and His blessings appear to be burdens, He always has a special purpose. I don’t always understand or appreciate His favor. That is the time when I most need to decide in my heart to trust Him, to put the unanswered questions behind me, to embrace Him, His favor, and His purposes whatever the cost.

Editor’s Comment (Don): Trusting God in the midst of my questions… a significant lesson drawn from the Christmas Revolution!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 17: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

17And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.1 John 5:11-13

Bubbles… float… to the surface.

John makes the case throughout his letter that when God is at work on the inside of a person, His activity “bubbles up” into changed thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.

God begins to transform a person from the inside out, beginning at the moment when that person abandons self-rule (sin), yields himself to the love and governance of God the Father, and believes that Jesus Christ bore his sins (past, present, and future) on the cross (John 3:16; 1 Peter 2:24; Romans 10:9-10). Salvation begins with a sincere expression of faith in Jesus upon hearing the good news (the gospel).

But how can I know that He has come into my life? How can I know for sure that God is at work within me?

John’s purpose in writing his letter is to lead Christians to a place of great assurance and certainty that they are, in fact, children of God. His argument is simple: the “bubbles” of God’s activity on the inside will surface in the believer’s life. It is certain and it is inevitable over time.

A few years ago, I composed some diagnostic questions based on John’s insights. These are not practices to strive for… but “bubbles” of change associated with God’s activity within a human heart over time. John’s “bubbles” are indicators of the presence of God.

  1. Am I dealing with a God of revelation or imagination? (1 John 1:5)
  2. Am I living the way I want or the way He wants? (I John 1:6-7)
  3. Am I hiding or exposing sin in my life? (I John 1:8-10)
  4. Am I struggling against sin in my life? (I John 2:1-2)
  5. Am I motivated by love for God to yield to His directional control over my life? (I John 2:3-6)
  6. Am I drawn to love Christian brothers? (I John 2:7-11)
  7. Am I pursuing this life’s rewards or the next? (I John 2:12-17)
  8. Am I sensitive to doctrinal error? (I John 2:18-27)
  9. Am I longing for purity in my life as a pathway into my Father’s presence? (I John 2:28-29; 3:1-10)
  10. Am I responding to Christians in need with “deeds”? (I John 3:11-22)
  11. Am I conscious of the Holy Spirit’s activity in my life? (I John 3:23-24; 4:1-6)
  12. Am I growing in love because of my experience of God’s love? (I John 4:7-21)
  13. Am I exercising faith in God? (1 John 5:1-13)

Who is the active agent of change inside the Christian? The Son of God… the One born in Bethlehem!

The kind of confidence we are supposed to have comes from recognizing that inside us something has changed forever—that God has changed us and come to live inside us through His Son. John doesn’t write, “He who has the Church has life,” but rather, “He who has the Son has life.”

Salvation does not occur when we come inside the church, but when the Son comes to live inside us… the life-changing consequence of the Christmas Revolution!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 16: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

16I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.Galatians 2:20

Although 40 percent of Americans report attending a Christian church on any given weekend in the United States, the actual attendance is less than 17 percent. And that number grows smaller each year. It’s no wonder that when we speak collectively to our culture about anything, no one is listening. Churches appear to have all of the same problems as society. Molestations, embezzlements, adulterous affairs, lawsuits, and internet porn wreak as much havoc in the church as anywhere else. We are powerless in the face of sin… and we are not reflecting the life of Christ to anyone.

Our greatest need is to know Him and His life.

Paul writes that Christ “loved me and gave himself up for me.” We preach and teach this, with the result that the best church members will try to be good and worthy of His sacrifice, focused on asking forgiveness when they fail. However, most believers never go past this point. The “good Christian life” becomes all about human efforts and His approval (or disapproval) of me: I do my best and He applauds (or frowns), forgiving me when I fall short. But the message of forgiveness and the eradication of my offenses is only part of the gospel; we need to know how to live now.

Paul’s assertion is stunning: “I have been crucified with Christ.” Christ not only died for me, but I also died with Him. The word crucified describes an event occurring in the past that is complete, but with consequences flowing into the present. For the person who has been born again (John 3:3, 5, 16), trusting in Christ to rescue them from the penalty and the power of sin, Paul is saying that salvation is intensely personal. You were saved, not by a transaction of new life in exchange for your trust in the Gospel, but through a  union of His Spirit with your spirit (1 Corinthians 6:17). Christ lives in you and you are one with Him (Colossians 1:27). Writing about this in his 1907 Systematic Theology, seminary professor A.H. Strong declared,

“Christ and the believer have the same life. They are not separate persons linked together by some temporary bond of friendship,–– they are united by a tie as close and indissoluble as if the same blood ran in their veins.”

Consequently, what is true of Christ’s relationship to sin, the Law, and the Father has become true of every believer. Sin is no longer your master (Romans 6:6). He is. This truth fuels a new ability to resist temptation, knowing that your spirit is no longer enslaved by sin, but the core of who you are has changed. He is with you. He is your life.

You will never consistently overcome sin habits and addictions in your life by trying to keep the “rules”, but through a moment-by-moment, dependent relationship with the One who rules over all things! Your new life unfolds through an internal conversation and love affair fueled by the presence of the Holy Spirit within you. He speaks. He directs and guides. He strengthens. He unveils His wisdom and releases His power… to you, in you, and through you.

God’s Word (the Bible) becomes alive for the person who has been united with Christ. As the believer reads, reflects, and responds to the God-breathed text (2 Timothy 3:16), the Spirit applies the truth to the believer’s heart, contributing to an ongoing internal transformation into the likeness of Christ. As we look at Him in the Scriptures, we come to know Him, and we become like Him. Our thoughts change. We begin to care about the people and things He cares about. We begin to act like He acts.

But it’s more than the imitation of Christ. It’s the life of Christ being formed and released through the human heart.

Paul puts it like this, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God.”

So, since I trusted Christ to save me in 1978, it’s no longer about me. My short earthly life ended then. I died with Christ. My spirit is united with Christ and hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:1-2). In the realm of the Spirit, my spirit is alive in the Presence of God. The change in my heart cannot be undone (Romans 8:1-4). All of my sins remain forgiven (Hebrews 10:10-13). On this side of heaven, I will still have good days and bad days (and I do), but my union with Christ never changes. His work within me is incessant and will not fail. Not only will He one day express His rule throughout all creation, but He seeks to rule the deepest recesses of my heart. And whatever He starts, He finishes (Philippians 1:6)!

So, my life as a Christ-follower will be misguided and mishapen if I am consumed with me correcting me, or me straightening me out, or me trying to make something out of me. It’s not about me trying to be right or achieve a right standing before God. It’s not about “how am I producing for God?” Jesus produced everything necessary to give me full and eternal acceptance before a holy God — that never changes. I am out of the “production” business for God.

I am called to live simply by “faith in the Son of God.” The One born in Bethlehem launched the Christmas Revolution… in my life! And He is ready to do the same for you.

Source for church attendance in the United States: David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis: Groundbreaking Research Based on a National Database of Over 200,000 Churches (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 28-30.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 15: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

15“…but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”Hebrews 9:26

In the process of getting a divorce after five painful years of separation, Chip and Cindy Altemos had begun seeing other people. Then without warning, Chip’s health began to deteriorate rapidly. After Chip was hospitalized with kidney failure, Cindy made the decision to donate a kidney to her soon-to-be ex-husband. “There was no way I could walk around with two kidneys and he had none,” she said. “It was the right thing to do.” The transplant took place on February 21, 2007.

Recuperating in the hospital, a surprising thing began to happen. Chip said, “We slowly fell back in love again.” The couple reunited as a result of Cindy’s act.

Such sacrificial love carries with it the power to transform the recipient. Have you ever been loved like that? Whether you realize it or not, the baby born in Bethlehem grew up to love you deeply! The writer of Hebrews writes about the overwhelming, personal nature of Christ’s love for you.

For me, He went where I could not go.

“For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.”Hebrews 9:24

In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle contained an inner sanctuary where God’s presence was believed to dwell. On the annual Day of Atonement, a high priest was allowed to enter that space and represent the people of God (9:7). He carried with him the blood of an animal sacrifice—killed to atone for the sins of the nation. No one else could enter there. Not me. Not you. No one was worthy.

When Jesus entered heaven following His death on the cross, He was worthy. Going before the very face of God as sacrifice and priest, Jesus entered God’s space “for us”—literally on our behalf. He is our access into God’s presence. He did it for me!

For me, He gave what I could not give.

“…not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another…”  – Hebrews 9:25

Intimate contact with God came at great cost.  Before a God who is holy, I am helplessly immersed in sins that will keep me from ever knowing His love. When no other human being could rescue me, Jesus “would offer Himself” as the atoning sacrifice for my sins. Only one without guilt could die for the guilty (2 Cor 5:21). He suffered (9:26), bore my sins as his own (9:28), and then put them away (9:26). He did it for me!

For me, He offers what I cannot imagine.

“He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”Hebrews 9:26

When I think that sin bars me from access to God’s presence, it leaves me with a sense of hopelessness. Even if I repent and “make it right,” sin recurs in my life. In the Old Testament, the high priest made atonement for the sins of Israel every year—a constant reminder that the way to God was opened ever-so-briefly through an imperfect, sacrificial system. No one could imagine an access to God that was always available.

Jesus opened up the way to God “once” for all time (9:26-28). Stressing the finality of Jesus’ sacrifice and decisive handling of my sins, the writer of Hebrews wants me to know that the doorway to God’s presence is permanently and always open to me. I will never be good enough to enter God’s space on my own merits, but I will always be welcome there. It really is hard to imagine, but He did it for me!

For me, He is coming.

“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.”Hebrews 9:27-28

According to the writer of Hebrews, Jesus will leave the Holy Place of Heaven again and will come for His people, to complete the salvation begun during His first coming. The purpose of salvation goes beyond forgiveness. Salvation is about God coming after a people for Himself. He is not coming again because my sins have been inadequately done away with. He is coming for me!

How do I respond to a Savior who does so much for me? When Jesus returns, the Bible says He is coming for a people who are eagerly waiting for Him (9:28). Does your life reflect a core longing in your heart to be where He is?

Has your life been changed by the Christmas Revolution?

Source for the story: Associated Press, “Kidney Saves Marriage,” FoxNews.com, 6 May 2007, http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,270337,00.html.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 14: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

Candles“A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”Matthew 2:18

[12/14/2012] At Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, twenty children arrived at school this morning who would never leave alive. Eager for Christmas to come, their hopes and dreams were snuffed out by a shooter in a few minutes of indescribable tragedy. Adults died too. And hundreds of lives were shattered along with the bodies of the victims. Tears flowed freely across the land… including my own.

O dear Lord, You arrived here two millennia ago in the midst of this same kind of evil. In You alone, we find comfort in the present and hope for the future. Please capture the hearts that are broken. Don’t permit evil to beget evil. Please draw Your people into these scorched fields of human pain and agony to serve and heal through Your Presence.

Jesus was born for this battle… for days like today. From infancy, He encountered enemies that sought to eradicate His mission by destroying Him! The fight rages on and He calls His followers to join Him. How?

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” – Matthew 2:13-15

In the middle of the night, Joseph received a message from God: Herod is coming to “destroy the child.” Narrowly escaping to Egypt, the baby Jesus escaped the mass murder of all male infants and toddlers in Bethlehem.

Are you shocked? Or is this story a horrific reminder that the world we live in is at war? Evil is not simply an idea or an act. Evil is fueled by an individual consciousness nearly as old as creation itself. Millennia ago, the Bible explains that some of God’s creatures rebelled. The angels sinned. Man sinned. The world as God intended devolved into moral and spiritual chaos. Trapped in a very real spiritual war, we have enemies, and we need a Savior!

Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. – Matthew 2:16

After a lifetime of hatred and power-mongering, Herod is now determined to stamp out a divinely prophesied rival for his throne! Angered when the wise men failed to lead him to the child, he sent his troops to massacre the little ones of Bethlehem. Like so many senseless acts of violence and cruelty in the modern world, Herod raises the question: why would God allow such pain?

Preoccupation with this question can derail individual faith. A better question might be “who is responsible for the pain?” Jesus calls the devil the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), a liar, and a murderer (John 8:44), who steals truth from the hearts of people who do not know God (Matthew 13:19), and is keeping them blind to the reality of a living God (2 Corinthians 4:4). He animates evil in the world, influencing and empowering those who do not know God to reject God and do everything that is offensive to God (1 John 5:19). According to the Scriptures, human suffering is a consequence of a very deadly warfare raging around every human soul.

The issue is not a question for the head. We need to check our heart.

How does God react to widespread suffering and pain? In Matthew 9:35-36, the Bible says Jesus was “moved with compassion.” He cares and so should we. We should not waste time on philosophical queries in the face of human suffering, but we should care deeply enough to be motivated to action.

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” – Matthew 2:19-20

In this story we observe evil in motion, making repeated attempts to snuff out the life of the young Jesus. We also see almighty God anticipating and thwarting the enemy. Through the wise men, He provided financial support for a move to and from Egypt. In his sleep, Joseph received clear direction about when to move, when to stay, when to return, and where to settle—each decision countering the destructive forces in the unseen world.

However, we should never allow ourselves to slip into a cheap form of triumphalism, believing God is going to rescue all Christians from the deadly conflicts in this world. That would be an affront to the martyrs through the ages and an insult to the little ones who did not escape Herod’s soldiers then… or the gunman’s bullets this morning. Nevertheless, in every war there are casualties and atrocities.

But for those who know Him, our losses are real, but only temporal, and not eternal! God has a plan for His people. He is accomplishing His purpose, no matter what our seen and unseen enemies may do. Every action of our enemies will always play into His plan for our lives. Jesus came to rescue us from the enemies of our soul, both in this world and the world we cannot see.

Is this your God? Do you reject the notion that God is the author of evil? Do you embrace the truth that God will ultimately triumph over all? He truly is the Lord of Lords. He is the King.

Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” – Matthew 2:21-23

Joseph’s obedience was instrumental at every step in this story, wasn’t it? With every direction, he responds with obedience. Apart from his sensitive, passionate pursuit of God’s purpose for his life, Joseph could have been a casualty in the conflict surrounding the birth of Jesus. He had a very significant role to play.

And so do you, especially on a day like today. So listen carefully and obey immediately!

We will shed tears along the way, commingled with His own, but the time for weeping will fade as the Victor puts down every evil and every darkness in the universe… and in our hearts. We will dance in eternity before the One born in Bethlehem—the One who was born for battle and ushered in the Christmas Revolution!

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.