Monthly Archives: December 2016

December 21 – He Had To

Hebrews 1-6

I read another Christmas passage, and never realized it was a Christmas passage before. The author of Hebrews in chapters 1-3, tells us why we celebrate the birth of Jesus.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the argument, “If God were a loving God He wouldn’t send anyone to hell.” And that is a true statement. The reality is, God doesn’t “send” anyone to hell. In fact, there is no reason for anyone to go to hell.

First of all, we have to understand God is holy. He cannot NOT be holy. So when He created us with the ability to choose Him, He knew there was another side to that coin. We could also choose to reject Him. So before He created anything, He came up with a plan to save us. He created us to fellowship with Him. So He had to provide a way for us to fellowship with Him after we sin, because holiness and sin cannot exist together.

Therefore, He (Jesus) had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people ( Heb 2:17)

We are human. Humans sin. So a human had to pay the penalty for sin. (You don’t send a dog to jail to pay for a crime a person commits.)

Every transgression and disobedience receives a just penalty (the wages of sin is death) How will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? (The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus) See Hebrews 2:2&3 and Romans 6:23.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus because there was no other way for God to fellowship with us sinners. Jesus HAD to be born so that He could die and be that substitute for each of us.

I pray none of us will neglect so great a salvation!

Happy Birthday, Jesus. I’m glad you were born.

 

December 20 – Action!

I Peter

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. ( 1:3)

Peter’s first letter is full of action verbs. This Christian life is to be lived, played out in what we do rather than sitting comfortably in a pew once a week.

I was born into the Zehner family. I didn’t do anything to become a Zehner. And nothing I did made me more or less a Zehner. But there were some things I did, some choices I made, to get me to the Zehner woman I am today.

I learned. To walk and talk, to add and subtract, to do the dishes and dust, to care about others. Oh I had help along the way. Parents and teachers and friends helped to mold me as I yielded myself to their instruction. But even that had nothing to do with the fact that I am a Zehner. It does have a bearing on the kind of Zehner I am.

I was born into the family of God. I didn’t do anything to earn that privilege. I simply asked God to forgive me, and accepted His gift of grace that HE bought for me. But there are some choices I made to get me to the Christian woman I am today.

Let’s look at some of the action words Peter used to describe our walk:

prepare your minds, be holy, conduct yourselves in fear, fervently love, put aside malice, long for the word, grow, taste, come, believe, abstain, submit, honor. Be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, humble. Bless, suffer, rejoice, glorify God.

In my walk with the Lord I have chosen to read His Word every day, to pray, to worship with other believers, to use the gifts He gave me in service to Him and others. I choose to live a lifestyle that honors Him. I choose to resist the devil by staying close to my Savior.

I don’t do these things to become a Christian. I do them because I am a Christian.

Dear ones, people all over the world are celebrating the birth of Jesus, whether they want to believe it or not. It’s Christmas. It’s a great time of year to put our faith into action. I pray that you will read 1 Peter today and let God speak to your heart about what you could be DOING to demonstrate Jesus in your life. Many hearts are ready to hear about what the birth of this Baby really means.

Let’s show them by our own actions that what we have in Jesus is so much better than what they have without Him.

 

December 19 – Enemies

Titus

One thing that I’ve come to realize during this year in God’s Word is that non-believers are enemies of God. That is a hard pill to swallow because I have loved ones who fit that description. I know some really nice, good people who fit that description as well, for the fact that they refuse to accept God’s grace. I don’t want anyone I love to be considered His enemy when God looks at them.

But here’s how God treats His enemies while they still draw a breath: He died for them. He holds their forgiveness in His hands. He woos them, or strikes them, or blesses them, all the while giving them every opportunity to accept Him. It isn’t until they leave this life that He gives up on them.

Here’s what spoke to me today: Sometimes I think we Christians are too hard on God’s enemies. Some Christians feel pious hatred toward homosexuals, or child molesters, atheists, women who’ve had abortions, Muslims. We have a measure of godly indignation and condemn them to hell because that’s what they deserve.

But Paul tells Timothy to “malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” (3:2) But surely he didn’t mean those awful sinners, did he?

For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  (3:3-7)

Have you ever heard, “There but for the grace of God go I”? That’s what Paul wants us to adopt as our attitude toward those who don’t know God. It’s only God’s grace that renders you forgiven, clean, a friend of God. And it’s only God’s grace that will do the same for the vilest offend who truly believes, or for that nice little old lady down the street who has not yet surrendered her life to the Lord.

Christian, let’s determine to reveal God’s love to His enemies. But let’s not forget that their sin is making them an enemy of God.He is not willing that any should die without Him. We shouldn’t be, either.

 

December 18 – It’s In There

I Timothy

I guess I’ve never realized how much Paul’s letter to Timothy is anything but “politically correct.” In fact, it’s not all that modern church correct, either.

I pray you will read this book today and ask God to speak to you about homosexuality, about eternal security, about local church leaders, about helping the needy, about “knowledge”, about judgment, and about Jesus. He might speak to your heart about drinking wine, your attitude toward money, or godliness.

It’s all in these six chapters. And I pray that as you read the words God inspired Paul to write you will be challenged to “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance,and gentleness, and to “fight the good fight of faith.” (6:11-12)

Grace be with you.

December 17 – Emptied

Philippians

Christmas is eight days away. If you are like me, you’ve enjoyed the lights, the concerts and programs telling us of the Baby in a manger. We sing about Angels, shepherds, and wise men, and the young mother who gave birth in a stable. Throw in Santa and a long list, and a little snow, and it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippian church, tells us what Christmas is really all about. (2:5-8) Jesus, existing as God, equal to God, emptied Himself and became a human being. The Creator God became a servant, obedient to the end – the cross. That adorable baby surrounded by dirty animals and lowly shepherds, chose this birth. And He chose His death, for love of you.

Because you sin, Jesus “emptied Himself” to become a man so He could pay the penalty for your sins. Jesus gave it all.

We won’t know the whole reality of the word “emptied” until we see Him. But here is the reason He left heaven:

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (2:9-11)

I pray you’ll name that Name while standing in His Presence, clothed in His righteousness through His own precious blood. For the glory of God.

 

December 16 – It’s Not An Easy Road

Ephesians

The Christian life is not a walk in the park. It’s hard. It takes effort. It’s a conscious decision to put on the armor of God, to lay aside our former selves, to serve, to be rooted and grounded in love. It’s a daily, sometimes moment by moment choice.

Read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians today and let your heart soar at the benefits of being adopted into the family of God through the blood of Jesus. Read it and be challenged to make that daily effort to draw near to God who loves you, and wants to pour out His blessings on you.

There are so many wonderful verses in this book. Here are a few that jumped out at me today:

1:7-8a  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us.

1:13  In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise

2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

The emphasis above is mine. But as I read these verses I am reminded what blessings are mine because of Jesus. And my heart overflows.

As you read, pay special attention to Paul’s heart recorded in chapter 3:14-21. Here’s a glimpse:

…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

I pray with Paul, that God will give you a spirit of wisdom, and a revelation of who He really is.

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of HIs calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. ( Ephesians 1:17-18a)

The Christian life might be difficult. But it is also a road that is strewn with blessings. May you walk in the Light today. And be blessed.

 

December 15 – Best Boss Ever

Colossians; Philemon

Do you like your job? Your answer to that question might depend on the work itself, whether it’s challenging or rewarding. It might have to do with the hours you put in, your coworkers, your boss, your salary and benefits.

In my 37 years in public education I can say there were times I loved my job, other times. not so much. For me, my outlook had a lot to do with who the superintendent and/or principal was at the time.

And there’s the rub. I was working for the wrong boss.

Colossians 3:23-24:

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

I always prepared my best lesson to teach the day I knew my principal was going to observe me. But what about the other days, when God was doing the observation?

You, too, might put your best foot forward when your boss is within earshot. What about when the boss is away?

Here’s a suggestion. Do your job as though your Heavenly Boss had clipboard in hand, looking over your shoulder. The difference between this Boss and any human boss I’ve ever had is that God loves us absolutely. He wants us to do well at our jobs so that we represent Him in a positive light. He wants us to be successful so that people will recognize Him in our lives. He wants us to demonstrate His joy, His love, His honesty to our coworkers every day.

I believe that if we go to our jobs every day knowing that we are working for the Lord, we’ll have a better attitude, we’ll enjoy the days more, we’ll do our best work, which might be noticed by our earthly bosses and coworkers, and probably make our jobs so much better.

God gives us the ability to be the workers He wants us to be. He truly is the best boss EVER!

December 14 – Get Out There

Acts 27-28

These chapters are the final accounts of Paul’s missionary journies. The man had endured beatings and stonings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, opposition, and rejection. But he also saw many people come to believe in Jesus, he started and supported churches, and he talked to world leaders about the Lord.

Paul had been radically changed after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. He lived the rest of his life with the singular goal of sharing the Gospel with everyone he met.

In our final Beth Moore Bible study yesterday, we talked about Jesus’ commission to us to go into the world and tell people about Him. Our world that consists of people in our homes, neighborhoods, cities, states, countries, and beyond. We are to be as passionate as Paul was to share the only Truth that matters.

May God find us faithful as we get out there and talk about Jesus.

May God find me faithful.

December 13 – You Are Out Of Your Mind

Acts 24-26

Paul is defending himself against the lies accusing him of crimes. He went from one courtroom to another and spoke before High Priests, governors, and kings. He was imprisoned for two years. But his story never changed. Paul stayed true to his faith in Jesus.

After repeating his defenses before Festus, the governor shouted, “Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad.”

Scripture tells us spiritual truth is foolishness to those who don’t know God. It sounds crazy to believe some virgin girl gave birth after being impregnated by God. It sounds ridiculous to believe anyone could grow up without ever doing anything wrong, or live after dying on a cross. It’s foolish to believe all those men over thousands of years could write God’s Truth, and that scribes could copy it without compromising that Truth. It sounds wrong to say Jesus is the only Truth, or that He’s coming again.

I feel like God is asking me if people have reason to think I’m out of my mind. Or do I keep what I know is true to myself? Paul talked about his faith over and over again, and didn’t care what people thought of him because of it.

God, I pray that I will be faithful to share Your Truth today, regardless of what anyone thinks of me. May I share Jesus with love, and confidence, and passion like Paul did. And may people be drawn to You because of my testimony.

 

December 12 – A Clear Conscience

Acts 20:4-23:35

Paul said something to the Council in Jerusalem that got my attention. Paul, as Saul, had persecuted the church. He was responsible for the imprisonment of hundreds of men and women who were guilty of nothing more than believing in Jesus. He was present when Stephen was stoned to death, even approving of the murder.

But in 23:1 he said, “Brethern, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.

Seriously? Paul could say he wasn’t overcome with guilt about his past? Shouldn’t what he’d done give him sleepless nights over feelings of regret?

This week I have struggled with memories of how I treated my parents, both of whom now live with Jesus. Did mom know how much I appreciated the white suit she had made for me for homecoming? Did she forgive me for unkind words I’d said to her in my youth? Why did I choose to go to that jewelry party at my coworker’s house instead of welcoming Dad the night he drove 60 miles to surprise me? Mom had died. He was alone and lonely. And I didn’t stay. Why didn’t I hug my nephew the last time I saw him? Our eyes connected, but we didn’t hug. And he died a few days later. Did he know how much I loved him?

Friends, I have a guilty conscience. I see the faces of friends I betrayed, the looks of people who received the biting words I said, the hurt I caused. And I am sitting here weeping with regret.

I didn’t commit the sins Paul did. Yet he could say he had a perfectly good conscience before God. HOW?

I am reminded that I am forgiven. Jesus took the guilt upon Himself. I can stand before Him with a good conscience because when God looks at me He sees Jesus’ perfection. He’s forgiven me of all those things I did and didn’t do, and He’s forgotten them. I am guilt-free as far as He’s concerned.

So when I struggle with guilt, like I have these past days, I need to recognize that it’s not coming from my Savior. It’s Satan’s attempt to make me a slave to my past.

God, forgive me for falling for that. Thank you for forgiving me. I am a sinner. I am guilty of unspeakable sins. And I can feel pretty bad about them. Help me to remember that Jesus died so that those sins can be washed away, never to be remembered by You ever again. Help me to rejoice in my salvation, to never live another minute regretting what I can’t change. And give me the power to not repeat the sins I’ve committed. I don’t want to miss the joy of living with a perfectly good conscience before the God who gave it to me.