One Size Fits All

Like most children, I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas. With great anticipation, I would snoop under the tree to see what toys and games awaited my eager grasp. So I felt deflated when I started getting things like shirts and pants. Grownup gifts were no fun! Then last Christmas, my kids gave me some cool socks with bright colors and designs. I almost felt young again! Even grownups could wear these socks, as the label reassured me: “One size fits all.”

That welcome phrase “one size fits all” reminds me of the best gift of Christmas—the good news that Jesus is for everyone. The point was proven when the first invitation sent by angel choirs was to shepherds on the bottom rung of the social ladder. The news was underscored further when the VIPs—the wealthy and powerful Magi—followed the star to come and worship the Christ-child.

After Jesus began His ministry, an influential member of the Jewish ruling council came to Him at night. In the course of their conversation, Jesus invited “whoever believes” to come to Him. The simple act of faith in Christ grants eternal life to those who trust in Him (John 3:16).

If Jesus were just for the poor and marginalized, or only for the famous and fortunate, many of us would not qualify. But Christ is for everyone, regardless of status, financial situation, or social standing. He is the only gift truly fit for all.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1ZoaN4I
via IFTTT

The Drummer Boy

“The Little Drummer Boy” is a popular Christmas song written in 1941. It was originally known as “Carol of the Drum” and is based on a traditional Czech carol. Although there isn’t any reference to a drummer boy in the Christmas story in Matthew 1–2 and Luke 2, the point of the carol goes straight to the heart of the meaning of worship. The carol describes how a boy is summoned by the Magi to the scene of Christ’s birth. Unlike the wise men, however, the drummer has no gift—so he gives what he has. He plays his drum, saying, “I played my best for Him.”

This echoes the worship Jesus described when He told of the widow and her two coins: “ ‘Truly I tell you,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on’ ” (Luke 21:3-4).

All the drummer boy had was his drum and all the poor widow had were her two coins, but the God they worshiped was worthy of their all. He is worthy of our all as well, having given His all for us.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1OjPboj
via IFTTT

Amazing Love

Approaching the first Christmas after her husband died, our friend Davidene wrote a remarkable letter in which she pictured what it might have been like in heaven when Jesus was born on earth. “It was what God always knew would happen,” she wrote. “The three were one, and He had agreed to allow the fracturing of His precious unity for our sake. Heaven was left empty of God the Son.”

As Jesus taught and healed people on earth, He said, “I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. . . . For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:38,40).

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was the beginning of His mission on earth to demonstrate God’s love and give His life on the cross to free us from the penalty and power of sin.

“I cannot imagine actually choosing to let go of the one I loved, with whom I was one, for the sake of anyone else,” Davidene concluded. “But God did. He faced a house much emptier than mine, so that I could live in His house with Him forever.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16).

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1QDCRQ6
via IFTTT

Pax Romana

No one can afford the price of war. One website reports 64 nations are currently involved in armed conflicts. When and how will they end? We want peace, but not at the expense of justice.

Jesus was born during a time of “peace,” but it came at the cost of heavy-handed oppression. The Pax Romana (“Roman Peace”) existed only because Rome squashed all dissent.

Seven centuries before that time of relative peace, hostile armies prepared to invade Jerusalem. From the shadow of war, God made a remarkable pronouncement. “On those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned,” the prophet declared (Isa. 9:2). “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . . Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end” (vv. 6-7). Matthew tells us that Isaiah’s prophecy found fulfillment in the Christ-child (Matt. 1:22-23; see also Isa. 7:14).

We adore the tiny baby in the manger scene. Yet that helpless babe is also the Lord Almighty, “the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isa. 13:13 nlt). He will one day “reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness” (9:7). Such a regime will be no oppressive Pax Romana. It will be the reign of the Prince of Peace.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1YosnbJ
via IFTTT

The Seventh Stanza

In the summer of 1861, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s wife, Frances, died tragically in a fire. That first Christmas without her, he wrote in his diary, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.” The next year was no better, as he recorded, “ ‘A merry Christmas,’ say the children, but that is no more for me.”

In 1863, as the American Civil War was dragging on, Longfellow’s son joined the army against his father’s wishes and was critically injured. On Christmas Day that year, as church bells announced the arrival of another painful Christmas, Longfellow picked up his pen and began to write, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

The poem begins pleasantly, lyrically, but then takes a dark turn. The violent imagery of the pivotal fourth verse ill suits a Christmas carol. “Accursed” cannons “thundered,” mocking the message of peace. By the fifth and sixth verses, Longfellow’s desolation is nearly complete. “It was as if an earthquake rent the hearth-stones of a continent,” he wrote. The poet nearly gave up: “And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.”

But then, from the depths of that bleak Christmas day, Longfellow heard the irrepressible sound of hope. And he wrote this seventh stanza.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!”

The war raged on and so did memories of his personal tragedies, but it could not stop Christmas. The Messiah is born! He promises, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5).

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1NYi3k7
via IFTTT

Reaching Out in the Darkness

Normally she doesn’t move or make a sound, but lately she’s been pawing us gently in the middle of the night. At first we thought she wanted to go outside, so we tried to accommodate her. But we realized she just wants to know we are there. She’s nearly deaf and partially blind now. She can’t see in the darkness and can’t hear us move or breathe. Naturally, she gets confused and reaches out for reassurance. So I just reach down and pat her on the head to assure her that I’m there. That’s all she wants to know. She takes a turn or two, settles down, and goes back to sleep.

“Where can I flee from your presence?” David asked God (Ps. 139:7). David took this as an immense comfort. “If I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,” he noted. “Even the darkness will not be dark to you” (vv. 9-12).

Lost in darkness? Grieving, fearful, guilty, doubting, discouraged? Not sure of God? The darkness is not dark to Him. Though unseen, He is at hand. He has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). Reach out your hand for His. He is there.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1NAz6VC
via IFTTT

Christmas Rest

As a boy I delivered newspapers in order to earn money. Since it was a morning newspaper, I was required to get up at 3:00 every morning, 7 days a week, in order to have all 140 of my papers delivered to their appropriate homes by 6:00 a.m.

But one day each year was different. We would deliver the Christmas morning newspaper on Christmas Eve—meaning that Christmas was the only morning of the year I could sleep in and rest like a normal person.

Over the years, I came to appreciate Christmas for many reasons, but one that was special in those days was that, unlike any other day of the year, it was a day of rest.

At that time, I didn’t fully understand the meaning of the true rest that Christmas brings. Christ came so that all who labor under the weight of a law that can never be fulfilled might find rest through the forgiveness Christ offers. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). In a world that is too much for us to bear alone, Christ has come to bring us into a relationship with Him and give us rest.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1m8Adoj
via IFTTT

Holy Is Your Name

One afternoon I was having a discussion with a friend I considered my spiritual mentor about misusing God’s name. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God,” says the third commandment (Ex. 20:7). We may think this only refers to attaching God’s name to a swear word or using His name flippantly or irreverently. But my mentor rarely missed an opportunity to teach me about real faith. He challenged me to think about other ways we profane God’s name.

When I reject the advice of others and say, “God told me to go this way,” I misuse His name if all I am doing is seeking approval for my own desires.

When I use Scripture out of context to try to support an idea I want to be true, I am using God’s name in vain.

When I teach, write, or speak from Scripture carelessly, I misuse His name.

Author John Piper offers this reflection on what it means to take God’s name in vain: “The idea is . . . ‘don’t empty the name.’ . . . Don’t empty God of His weight and glory.” We misuse His name, Piper says, when we “speak of God in a way that empties Him of His significance.”

My friend challenged me to honor God’s name and to pay closer attention to using His Word carefully and accurately. Anything less dishonors Him.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1YeYeLV
via IFTTT

The Importance of How

While attending Bible college, my friend Charlie and I worked for a furniture store. We often made deliveries accompanied by an interior decorator who talked with the people who had purchased the furniture while we brought it from the truck into the house. Sometimes we had to carry the furniture up several flights of stairs in an apartment building. Charlie and I often wished we had the decorator’s job instead of ours!

During Israel’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, three clans from the priestly tribe of Levi—the Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites—were assigned the job of transporting the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle). They put it up, took it down, and carried it to the next place, then repeated the process again and again. Their job description was simple: “Carry the things assigned to you” (see Num. 4:32).

I wonder if these “custodians” ever envied the “clergymen” who offered sacrifices and incense using the holy articles in the sanctuary (vv. 4-5,15). That job must have looked much easier and more prestigious. But both assignments were important and came from the Lord.

Many times we don’t get to select the work we do. But all of us can choose our attitude toward the tasks we’re given. How we do the job God gives us is the measure of our service to Him.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1NtFwpy
via IFTTT

Let’s Celebrate

After Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan scored a goal against Germany in the 2014 World Cup, he and his teammates did a coordinated dance step. When Germany’s Miroslav Klose scored a few minutes later, he did a running front flip. “Soccer celebrations are so appealing because they reveal players’ personalities, values, and passions,” says Clint Mathis, who scored for the US at the 2002 World Cup.

In Psalm 150, the psalmist invites “everything that has breath” to celebrate and praise the Lord in many different ways. He suggests that we use trumpets and harps, stringed instruments and pipes, cymbals and dancing. He encourages us to creatively and passionately celebrate, honor, and adore the Lord. Because the Lord is great and has performed mighty acts on behalf of His people, He is worthy of all praise. These outward expressions of praise will come from an inner wellspring overflowing with gratitude to God. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord,” the psalmist declares (150:6).

Though we may celebrate the Lord in different ways (I’m not encouraging back flips in our worship services), our praise to God always needs to be expressive and meaningful. When we think about the Lord’s character and His mighty acts toward us, we cannot help but celebrate Him through our praise and worship.

from Our Daily Bread http://ift.tt/1J5GEhh
via IFTTT