Tagged: Incarnation

Day 25: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

25aFor unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.Isaiah 9:6-7

Christmas is not always a happy time.

  • For some, it is a reminder that they feel terribly disconnected and alone.
  • Many first responders, medical staff, “essential personnel,” and military service men and women will miss some or all of the holiday gatherings with their families, who will miss them deeply.
  • When someone dear has died, this day will be reminder of the absence. Grief can resurface, barricading the heart from joy.
  • And there are other losses, crises, and hurts that can kill the traditional spirit of celebration… an unhappy marriage or divorce, a family tension or conflict, unemployment, illness, and countless other forms of human pain and suffering.

Isaiah was a sensitive man who was weary of living in such a world of hurt and loss.

Isaiah lost king Uzziah after a prosperous 58-year reign. Admired for his efforts at religious reform and his personal devotion, Uzziah had impacted a nation—and a young man named Isaiah. Uzziah’s passing cast a long shadow over the future of the nation. Isaiah’s hero and spiritual leader was dead.

Isaiah began to seek God more than ever during dark and disturbing times. The world seemed as if it was reeling out of control. Then God gave Isaiah a powerful vision of His glory and power (Isaiah 6). Later, in Isaiah 9, God revealed details concerning a future Messiah who would restore order to a chaotic and corrupt world. Convinced of the rule of God in his life and in the world around him, Isaiah was transformed by the Christmas Revolution!

Let me say it again: Isaiah was gripped by a vision of the kingdom of God ushered in by the birth of a child – it would color the rest of his life and work.

You may feel life is reeling out of control and the world is a dark and painful place. And it is. You are not wrong about that. Isaiah saw it too and longed for change… real hope that Someone was going to come and reshape, reform, renew, and recreate all of life! Peering through time to observe what God was doing behind the scenes in human history, Isaiah saw the child… and he penned a poetic song describing the Son of God upon whose shoulders all authority will rest: Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

That child was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago, but He is near you at this moment. He lives and He is not hiding in some far away corner of the universe. He is no Santa Claus, but He does see you always. He knows you.

The world you are living in can be filled with hope and light by opening the door to your heart. What do I mean by that? “Opening the door” includes…

  • placing your trust in Him for salvation from sin and death (John 3:16-17),
  • yielding to Him the reins of your life… He wants to change you from the inside out (Matthew 11:28-30, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Romans 8:29),
  • letting Him come into your needs (Matthew 6:25-34),
  • letting Him speak and obeying what He says (Matthew 4:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17),
  • taking responsibility for your sins, then seeking and accepting His forgiveness — His death on the cross was God’s way of wiping away your sins… Jesus died in your place (1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17-21, Ephesians 1:17, 1 John 1:9), and
  • falling down before Him in worship (like the wise men). Rising from the dead, Jesus became Lord over everything that would be Lord over you (Philippians 2:9-11).

The King is here. He patiently waits for you to get that. It’s the bottom line of the Christmas Revolution.

Need more guidance? Explore further by clicking here.

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 24: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

Nativity SceneNow there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:8-14

They were just doing their job. Ordinary men… extremely ordinary. The shepherds of the Christmas story were among the poorest in society: you will never read about a wealthy shepherd. And of all the people on the planet, God sent an army of angels to inform them that His Son was being born in Bethlehem in real time.

The news was for every person on the planet (“all people“), and when properly understood, the news causes “great joy.” What were they told?

  • There was a birth.
  • The birth was in the city of David (Bethlehem).
  • It was the birth of a Savior.
  • The Savior is identified as the Christ (the anointed One or the Messiah).
  • The Savior is the Lord.
  • The Savior will be found as a newborn in a feeding trough.

Then the countless assembly of angels shouted out, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” The word “peace” was commonly used to describe the cessation of hostilities in a war. The same word is used in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” For the one who places faith in Christ for forgiveness and salvation, God erases all sin from the relationship. You can draw near. You can know His favor. He is able to respond to you with “goodwill.”

God is not at war with you.

However, your experience of God’s peace is not automatic. It is conditional… dependent on your readiness to lay down your defenses and cease hostilities on your part. You don’t need to fight your way through life. You don’t need to live as if everything depended on you. You don’t need to hide. You can stop running.

You have a Savior.

The first ones to learn about the Savior born in Bethlehem were not the rich and powerful, the mighty and influential, the successful and famous… the first ones granted access to the Savior were the ordinary ones!

He has good news for you, if, like me, you feel pretty ordinary. The Savior has been born… for us! It’s 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 23: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

23When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.Matthew 2:9-11

They fell down and worshiped Him… stunning.

These travelers arrived as much as two years after the birth of Jesus. The young family was living in a house in Bethlehem, not overnighting in a stable. The shepherds had long since come and gone. Jesus was walking by now.

The text does not tell us the wise men were kings, nor that there were three of them. They are the Magi… scientists and religious scholars who combined astronomical observation with astrological speculation. It is likely that they knew some Jews where they came from… and they would have been equally aware of the Jewish hopes for a Messiah. They traveled a great distance, led by a star that had the capacity to be movable, and then motionless. These men who had spent most of their lives peering at the night sky recognized something special about the star and attached great significance to it.

I have so many questions for these guys.

  • what are your names?
  • how many of you were there?
  • where did you go after you saw the baby?
  • what did you do for the remainder of your lives?
  • why did you fall down and worship…a toddler?

The word worship used here finds it’s root in the Greek word proskuneo. Pros means “towards” and kuneo means “to kiss.” It means to lie prostrate, literally leading with the lips towards the object of honor. These men fell down and did that… before a toddler. Somehow these men put it together: this was no ordinary baby.

Yes, they gave the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But long before they gave their gifts, these dear men gave themselves.

Models for you and me, the wise men show us the way to 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 22: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

Christ's Birth In A Stable“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.”Micah 5:2

His birthplace was foretold. Nearly 750 years before Jesus was born, Micah the prophet recorded God’s words to a little, insignificant village in Judah: Bethlehem. When the wise men asked where the Messiah would be born, Herod’s scholars immediately turned to Micah’s text (Matthew 2:4-5). Later as He walked among the people of Israel, when people debated whether Jesus was the Messiah, they referred again to the prophet’s words concerning Bethlehem (John 7:41-42).

But the prophet also spoke of the Messiah’s mission. He would be a “Ruler” of God’s people, His activities (“goings forth”) flowing from a timeless past (“from of old, from everlasting“)… Micah was describing no ordinary man! And He would be no ordinary ruler, either.

There is no question that the kingdom of God is coming and will be fully expressed at His Second Coming (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). But what about now?

The kingdom Jesus preached…

  • is “at hand” – immediately accessible to His hearers (Matthew 4:17);
  • is something someone must desire or “seek” (Matthew 6:33);
  • is received with the simple trust and dependent heart of a child (Luke 18:17); and
  • requires a new birth (an internal, spiritual renewal from God) in order to enter it (John 3:3, 5).

Jesus demonstrated the kingdom — or the active rule of God — by casting out demons, healing the sick, and quieting killer storms (Matthew 12:28). But He did not come to simply rule over nature. Nor did the “Ruler” prophesied by Micah strive to exert raw power, forcing all humanity into submission.

No, Jesus came to rule your heart… a place you voluntarily yield to Him.

In the early part of the eighteenth century, Philip Doddridge wrote these verses:

Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes, the Saviour promised, long; let every heart prepare a throne, and every voice a song.

Monastery Decani (Serbian Orthodox) – 1327

Doddridge writes, “Let every heart prepare a throne.” In the ancient world, the symbol of an empty throne was found among many different religions. From Zeus to Buddha, the vacant seat of authority was a way of describing a power greater than self. In the ancient mosaics of the early and medieval church, the hetoimasia, or “prepared throne,” was a way of depicting the place where Jesus was to come and rule.

In your heart, are you sitting on the throne? Or have you stepped aside and prepared the throne of your heart for the “Ruler” born in Bethlehem?

It’s His rightful place… and your way to a very personal and powerful 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 21: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

21But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.Galatians 4:4-5

I was born with the name Donovan Donnelly. Following my parents’ divorce, my mother did her best to raise me as a single parent in the 1960’s. I recall with fondness Mom’s bedtime stories, the rich aroma of my grandfather (he liked cigars), my day care center friends, and long, endless summers… I think I was a happy child. But then things got serious: I started the first grade. As you can see from the image of my “Social Characteristics” (X = Needs to Improve), I was easily distracted, impulsive, and quite talkative!

I21a was surrounded by supportive influences. My mother and my grandfather were gentle, nurturing fixtures in my little world. Living in a mobile home park on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, I spent most of my time outside, running around with neighborhood buddies and creating a vast array of childhood “adventures.” But deep down, I felt a little “different” from the other kids. I wasn’t different. I just felt different.

Then my mother began dating a young Air Force pilot. I liked him. He was like a Dad to me. Then they married… and my step-father became my father: he adopted me as his son. My young mind easily embraced all of the changes. My new name was Donovan Pucik. I really liked that. I didn’t feel “different” anymore. I had a Dad and a Mom now.

When he signed the adoption papers:

  • he gave me his name;
  • he assumed complete responsibility for me as his son;
  • he gave me all of the rights and privileges of a son;
  • he became my father; and
  • he chose to do it — he chose me.

The baby born in Bethlehem was the Son of God. But God seeks others to become part of His family. He seeks you and me. When a person trusts in the Person and work of the Son (click here to learn what that means), God the Father adopts him or her into His family.

What does it mean to be “adopted” by God? For me it means…

  • I was not always a son, but now I will always be His son. “But when the fullness of the time had come
  • I have a new Father or authority in my life. I am not alone in this world. “God sent forth His Son
  • I have a Father who paid a great price to make me His son. The life of Jesus is the “value” He placed on my life. “to redeem those who were under the law
  • I have a Father who wants to be intimate with me. “And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts

For this believer in Christ, my true relationship with God is that of an adopted child… He chose me through 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 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’t 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.