For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
What we celebrate at Christmas is that YOU came!
You cared enough to put feet on Your spiritual legs and step on the broken dirt of this world.
Certainly not because of anything wonderful we ever did.
No, You came to rescue us. You came to meet us where we are so we could leave this Earth and be with You forever. You first met us here … and here You are still meeting us.
In some way every day, You touch our lives. Through the Holy Spirit. Through Your words in the Bible. Through the ordinary occurrences we like to call coincidences. It’s all You.
In a manger, as a frail baby boy, You came long ago … but You’ve never left us.
Happy Birthday, Jesus!
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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son she wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary, Did You Know?” A song about Jesus’s mother and whether she could tell that her sleeping baby boy was God. I think I love this song so much because I can put myself in Mary’s shoes, imagining the mysterious plan God might have for my baby.
I always want to know God’s plan for the future, especially when it comes to my kids.
I’m sure Mary knew God had a special plan for Jesus. And I’m just hazarding a guess here, but God probably didn’t let her in on the ending because Mary wouldn’t have approved. It would have been too much.
Some people feel the same way about Jesus’s life and death. It is too much.
Too many rules. Too much faith required. Too many miracles to believe.
Like spiritual ostriches, they bury their heads in the sand.
But we all believe in some ‘ordinary’ miracles. A living, breathing, complex human being, composed of cells, and chemical reactions, and electricity is a true miracle. And yet, here we stand.
Jesus is all about the miraculous. And He is all about us.
On the other side of history, we don’t have to guess, as Mary did, what God’s plans were for Jesus. His miracles, His life, and His death are recorded in the Bible to give us examples, to teach us how to live, and to remind us that God is into the miraculous.
Jesus isn’t too much—He is everything!
Dear Lord, when I’m convinced it’s all too much to believe, give me a glimpse of You. Remind me that my existence is a miracle, as well as the everlasting life You promise. In Jesus’s name, amen.
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We are all born to die.
Too often, death is far from my mind. I worry about teacher gifts, basketball games and school lunches. As I go about my day, blissfully unaware, death stalks me. Will it be today? Thirty years from now? Next week?
Some deaths just happen, the result of a body wearing out. Isn’t that how we all want to go? And other deaths are tragically sudden: a car accident, a shooting, a drowning.
Then, there are those deaths I can’t understand. The lives given up simply because that person has given up. A rash of suicides in our area has caused me to think deeply about why. What is the reason someone would cut their life short? Why don’t they think they their life has purpose?
And that’s just it. We always want to know the purpose of our lives.
Does my life count? Why am I here?
Does it even matter? Or am I just trying to get as comfortable as possible, while waiting to die?
But some lives are given for a purpose: a solider diving in front of the man next to him, a policeman shot by a suspect, a missionary worker tending to the sick now destined to die of the same disease.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
This is the example Jesus gave. He was born to die just like us. Not a noble death, crucifixion is completely undignified, but a death that served the highest purpose.
Jesus died so we could live.
He didn’t just give His life for one or two people, He died for us all. In his death, He showed the greatest level of love possible. He took my sins, the debt I owe to God, and paid it in full. He wiped out the negative balance on my account. I can approach God because of what Jesus did.
Like us, Jesus was born to die, but He didn’t stay that way. He conquered death to show us the way to everlasting life.
The way is Jesus.
Dear Lord, help me to remember every day what an amazing act of sacrifice You displayed on the cross. Your death gave all of us the chance to draw close to You. And when I die, as we all will, let me spend eternity praising You for what You’ve done. In Jesus’s name, amen.
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We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen. And he has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother.
1 John 4:19-21
Who are your peers? In parenting books, I read a lot about the influence of peer groups, but what exactly is a peer?
Is it someone you consider equal to you? Or someone you want to hang around with? Maybe it’s someone who thinks like you or who gets you?
But then again, maybe that’s too limited a definition.
Not long ago, I met a dear friend who became my critique partner (a person that I swap work with to evaluate it). Certainly, she’s my peer in writing, but we are very different. Different age, different race, different life stage (my kids are young, hers are grown), living in different states. And yet, we have a great time together.
Is it the writing that bonds us? Yes.
Is it our mutual love for Christ? Yes.
But are my peers only Christian Writers? Of course not.
In a very real sense, my peers are everyone. Why? Because Jesus considered everyone His peers.
When I look around at people who are different, I shouldn’t focus on the differences. I should focus on what’s common to all of us—the God-shaped hole inside every person.
Dear Lord, help me to see the need for You in others. We are all cherished in Your eyes and we are all empty until we let You fill us up. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me.
1 Corinthians 4:2-4
For years, I have noticed blackbirds swooping at hawks, basically attacking them in the air. This year, I saw the phenomenon six or seven times, much more than usual. I felt sorry for the hawk, such a beautiful and majestic animal. I imagined the hawk out on a leisurely flight, when out of nowhere three blackbirds dive bomb him. The hawk would fly away with the other birds still pursuing. I wondered if they ever gave him any peace.
Then, I realized how many judgments I had made in that scenario. Maybe the hawk had attacked the blackbirds first. Or perhaps the hawk had swooped in on the blackbirds’ nest, intent on having a baby blackbird for breakfast (try saying that five times fast). How was I to know what happened before the scene that I witnessed?
This became a lesson to me in judging. How can I judge another person when I don’t know what’s going on in their life? And even if I think I know what is going on in someone else’s life, I still shouldn’t judge because I don’t know what they’re thinking about what’s going on. My judgments are probably wrong.
And we can flip this around also. Don’t worry about what others think of you when they judge, because they don’t really know you, they don’t know what you’re going through, and they’re probably wrong.
God is the only one with true sight—internal and external. Make your peace with Him and move on.
Dear Lord, help me to remember that You are my only judge and You show me mercy whenever I ask for it. Help me to release other people to Your judgment, not subject them to mine. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me for you are my rock and my fortress.
I’ve studied the craft of writing for many years. One of the things suspense writers work on is leaving a scene at the moment of the most tension.
Imagine a scene from the novel I just finished. The heroine is kidnapped by the bad guy and he is forcing her to climb a large mountain, tethered to him by a rope. Partway up, she falls into a hidden ice crevasse—a huge crack in a glacier—where she dangles above the darkness suspended only by the rope the bad guy holds. That’s where I leave the scene.
Rather than end the chapter with her getting out of the ice crevasse and all is well, I leave the reader desperate to turn the page and find out what happens next. Tension keeps the pages turning.
Aren’t you glad God doesn’t do that to us?
He never leaves us at the moment of our highest tension. He doesn’t set us swinging at the end of a rope wondering if anybody is around to help.
He is always right there, using one hand to hold us up and the other to wrap our heart in his peace. If you are struggling today, cry out to Him. He is able to take all of your tension upon Himself.
Dear Lord, thank you for Your faithfulness. You never abandon me. Your perfect love surrounds me always. Help me to remember this truth. In Jesus’s name, amen.