I love football. I really love Hawkeye football. Especially when the Hawks are winning. The University of Iowa is my alma mater, so I feel as if I have special claim to them as my team. I love being part of a winning team.
You feel that way too? Good. Let’s keep this short and sweet. Don’t be a loser, choose Christ.
Christ wins. He wins everything. He is the Son of God, heir to all:
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. - Hebrews 1:2
The LORD says to my lord: "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. – Psalm 110:1
And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. – Daniel 7:13-14
Yes, he is that good. The perfect Victor.
Jesus won when he completed his mission on the cross (although it looked like defeat until the perfectly timed resurrection comeback). The forever reigning Champion has been declared and it is Jesus Christ. Yet, God decides when time is up for this game. When he blows the whistle (okay it’s a trumpet) he then sends his Son to gather his team for a victory celebration:
And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. – Mark 13:26-27
And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” – Revelations 19:9
What you do on this field called Earth matters for eternity. This Rose Bowl will pass and another will come next year and the year after, God willing. You only get one soul to surrender to the one you want to play for. Choose the winning team.
Duh, right? Sounds obvious, choose to win, don’t choose to lose. Most still choose to lose, remember – “the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many” – Matthew 7:13. Don’t blow by this. I pray you think long and hard on whom you are playing for as you look toward 2016.
If Christ has already made you part of his victorious team, good, but don’t relax. Start playing like you mean it. This really isn’t just a game after all (you do know this right?) Decide to work harder than ever in the New Year. The work of God always starts in the Word of God. Read it.
If you feel you are on the losing side, then cry out to God for mercy. Ask him to choose you to be his. Being won by God always starts with the Word of God. Read it.
Be there like I plan to be when the victory is proclaimed and the celebration begins:
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” – Revelations 19:6
In those days, Caesar Augustus issued a decree…” those words from Luke chapter 2 (NIV) are some of my favorite in the whole Bible. When I hear them, my mind and heart flood with good memories and excitement. My Dad read them every Christmas Eve before the four of us kids went up to bed for the night.
I am amazed (really saddened) at how many families go through Christmas without ever reading the Christmas story directly out of the Bible. They may talk of Jesus and his birth, attend services, set out a nativity, but to open up a Bible and actually read the documented historical account of the events seems to be too much.
Ladies, put an end to that. If opening up your Bible is low on your list of things to do today, move it up to the top. You are missing out on so much if you don’t. And by so much…I mean everything!
So below are some scripture references I encourage you (better yet, your husband) to read OUT LOUD today or on Christmas day to the family. You can do it like we did just before bedtime or maybe at Christmas dinner or first thing Christmas morning (how about all three). Make it a standard for every Christmas from here on out and your children too will come to treasure the Words of God.
The birth of Jesus and the visit by the shepherds – Luke 2:1-21 (this is what my father read every Christmas Eve as I was a child and continues to do so). Also in Matthew 1:18-25.
The visit of the Wise Men (Magi) - Matthew 2:1-12.
The birth of Jesus foretold – Luke 1:5-26-38 (not to mention the entire Old Testament).
Speaking of that…great Old Testament scripture references about the birth of Jesus – Isaiah 7:14, 9:1-7, Micah 5:2.
The birth of John the Baptist who prepared the way – Luke 1:5-80
Don’t stop there! I believe it is also extremely important to read why this Jesus baby is so important and worthy of celebration:
The story of Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion and resurrection – Matthew 26-28, Mark 14-16, Luke 22-24, and John 17-20.
I really will be praying that you who read this, will open up your Bible and read it today. No other words spoken or written have the power of God behind them as does Scripture. My words cannot change your heart, but God’s can (Hebrews 4:12). Here is one final portion that I love from the Word and I feel is a beautiful summary of Jesus:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:5-11
Allow no substitute! Open up God’s Word and discover his perfect peace available to you today. Only with Jesus can you have a joy-filled and truly merry Christmas.
Sweet baby Jesus. I’ve heard it, you’ve heard it. Yes, I’m sure Jesus was a sweet and cute little baby. Aren’t all babies? Well, I’m not really the best person to ask, mine were horrible (no not ugly, they cried a lot), but that’s a story for another time. I have often wondered what kind of baby Jesus was. Did he cry much? Did he sleep all night? Did he spit out his first taste of matzoh (yes, that was a google search)? Did Mary feel the pressure of raising the Savior of the world? These may seem silly, but we mommas do wonder them at times.
However Jesus acted as a baby, we need to remember one very important fact - that sweet little baby Jesus grew up. Too often people are so very comfortable with Christmas because they can handle Jesus in the baby stage. Who doesn’t love a baby? Throw in an awesome (miraculous) birth story to go along with it and wow! Now you are talking about something to celebrate! Baby Jesus? You bet I love him, he is SO precious.
Adult Jesus, Teacher Jesus, Crucified Jesus, Risen Jesus, Savior Jesus, King Jesus, Sovereign Jesus? Now things get a little less cute and cuddly for most.
This may be why Easter is less celebrated than Christmas. Baby Jesus does not appear to demand the authority and call for dedication as fully as adult Jesus does. A baby stays in a nice, small package that we can easily ignore and pack away with our decorations at the end of the season. For most people Jesus will be the eternal “baby in a manger”.
Ladies, never fall prey to that kind of thinking. The very same book that wrote about Jesus coming to earth as a baby, has much more to say about what he did while on this earth as an adult. You can’t take one without the other.
The grown-up Jesus of the Bible demanded attention and gave tough teachings. He declared himself God, “I and the Father are one” John 10:30. He demanded repentance, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15. He demanded sacrifice and full devotion, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” John 16:24.
Jesus offered salvation yet also judgment, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the only Son of God.” John 3:18. Jesus was clear why he was on earth, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace but a sword.” Matthew 10:34.
Some of these words are why many seem to prefer a baby who is unable to speak; unable to confront them with their sin and wickedness. They would rather stay ignorant of their desperate need for him; ignoring the hope that that baby brings. Instead talking of Santa and the gifts he miraculously lavishes on those who “believe” this time of year.
Force your eyes to look beyond the birth of Christ and at the purpose of his life. The birth of Jesus was amazing but not because he was born in such highly unusual circumstances. It was amazing because he was God in baby flesh. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” John 1:14. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” Colossians 2:9. Our all-powerful Savior exchanged his glory for a time to live with foul humanity, being born in a stinky, crowded hole in a wall. Not quite the welcome we would desire for a King, but what beauty it holds for those he came for.
For those of us who know Jesus, we rejoice at Christmas. We revel in celebrating the birth of Jesus because he grew up and fulfilled his mission from his Father to redeem us from our sins. Dying in our place under the wrath of God, rising again, ascending to Heaven where he is seated at the right hand of his Father right now. This is glorious news!
We hear his voice through the Bible and delight in the words he gives. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10. The newborn baby points us toward the new life available only through him.
That sweet baby Jesus means everything to us because in him dwelled the fullness of our Messiah. That baby was a promise fulfilled and a promise to come. When you see a manger scene with baby Jesus remember - that baby grew up. He is the one whose lips uttered, “It is finished” (John 19:30) as his work was completed.
Sweet baby Jesus not only grew up, he always was and always will be. Praise God that he came as a baby, praise God that he is a baby no longer!
This year I drug it ALL out, all the Christmas decorations we own. Last year was left to a bare minimum as we were busy cleaning up after the fire at our business. This year, if it’s red, green, gold or jingles it is on display.
This includes my small nativity collection. At one time I collected nativities a little more seriously. I will still pick one up if it is unique or as a souvenir from travels. I have nativities from Haiti, Indonesia, Honduras, and Guatemala. A glass one from my grandfather, an ugly, cheap set from Wal-Mart (the first one I bought when I was on my own), and a special one hand painted by my mother in law among others.
If you were to visit our home this Christmas season, you would notice something different about many of these sets. Nearly all of them are in circles. Baby Jesus is in the middle with his parents, the shepherds, wise men, angel and often even the donkey and sheep all around him. Usually you can’t even see Jesus at all for the crowd that is gathered around him.
My son, Peyton, first began this practice years ago when he was around five. I let him set out my old nativity and he bunched it all up in a circle. The control freak in me spread them out neatly like we all envision the scene should look in our minds. I came back a little later and found the circle in place again. This happened a few times and finally I asked Peyton why he kept doing this. He quite logically stated that Jesus is most important and everyone would have wanted to be near him.
Boom. Schooled by a little boy.
How could I argue with such perfect reasoning? We have had circular nativities in our home ever since.
In a child’s mind this is so very obvious. Why would it be any other way? Jesus is who we celebrate at Christmas and everyone should be giving him their utmost attention. What the heck is a birthday party for if it isn’t to honor the one with the birthday?
Another great example of why Jesus says, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belong the kingdom of God.” Luke 10:14. So often children get it when adults do not; more sadly, often it is us adults who add in all the excess and confusion to this time of year. Mucking up the purity of the season with excess worldly traditions and materialism.
How about you? Are you striving to see Christ more clearly this time of year, or are you too busy striving for the best prices and best looking home? Are you determined to get closer to God Almighty or are you more excited to get closer to family and friends. Are you looking forward to feasting on the Word of God or feeding your flesh with all the treats?
These are tough questions but we have to be real with ourselves. There is no sense wasting time playing outside with the sheep when Jesus is right inside the stable. Get in there!
Christ is supreme above all. “For by him all things were created…all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:16. We are included as something made “for him”, therefore our existence needs to revolve around Jesus. Does that describe your life?
As in Peyton’s nativity where everyone is crowding around Jesus; we need to do the same. Don’t settle for getting “close enough”, don’t settle for just a glimpse from a distance. You can bet those shepherds were vying for position as they tried to get close to Jesus that night in Bethlehem. They had just been visited by a host of angels proclaiming this wonderful news. However it wasn’t until after seeing this baby King for themselves that they began “glorifying and praising God.” Luke 2:20.
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8. Draw closer to your Savior this season, pushing all obstacles and excuses (no matter how legit you think they are) out of your way until you see him clearly. Only then can you bow your knees and truly adore him.
Ladies, you are in a mighty position as keeper of the home to ensure it honors God. Maybe it’s time to circle your nativity; more importantly, circle yourself and your home around Jesus Christ this Christmas.
Here is a confession: for years I had a love/hate relationship with the Proverbs 31 woman. Can you relate? The women I have talked to lately can. Have you read about her? If not, read it now before you read the rest of this. You can find her in Proverbs 31:10-31. She is the “Excellent Wife” that king Solomon (King Lemuel) wrote about.
She has long been taught and preached as the ideal woman. I never really had a problem with this when I was a young. I had no doubts that I would be just like her; I planned on being the perfect wife and mother. Then I grew up…and life with a husband and kids was harder than I thought it would be. “Perfect” went out the window and was replaced with words like “adequate” and “survival”.
I admit that I was beginning to feel some resentment towards this lady. I didn’t want to read that chapter anymore. Here are a few of her qualities:
“The heart of her husband trusts in her.” (11) Sometimes when I share ideas with Phil, he gives me a look like I am crazy. I’m not sure I instill much confidence.
“She seeks wool and flax.” (13) I know what wool is, but flax? It certainly doesn’t sound very comfortable.
“She brings her food from afar.” (14) Brother’s Market is less than a mile away from my house, but much of the produce is from out of the country. Maybe that counts? But it’s probably covered in pesticides and wax. Don’t get me started on the preservatives I feed my family.
“She rises while it is still night” (15) “her lamp does not go out at night.” (18) This lady never sleeps, how do you compete with that?
“She considers a field and buys it.” (16) I have never bought real estate…on my own…ever.
“She makes bed coverings for herself” (22) “She makes linen garments.” (24) I don’t sew very well and I don’t think my family would appreciate having to wear whatever it is I would make them.
“Her children rise up and call her blessed.” (28) I have to remind my kids to say, “please” and “thank you”. This certainly won’t happen if I make them wear garments I’ve sewn myself out of flax after not sleeping.
I always wished there was a Proverbs 32 woman; an addendum written for those who couldn’t quite live up to the lady in chapter 31. It would include phrases like, “She tries hard” and “She makes great brownies” and “She even plays Monopoly with her kids when she doesn’t feel like it.” Those I could handle.
Obviously, I jest. Yet crazy things like this would run through my mind when reading the chapter. I thought this woman was just another glossy magazine model I could never dream of being.
So why is the Proverbs 31 woman in the Bible? Would God, who loves me, put something in the Bible just to make me feel bad? Part of the answer lies in that question - God loves me! He included these verses in the Bible for a reason and (as everything in the Bible) it is for my good. I believe that about the rest of Scripture so I can’t exclude these verses from that same reasoning.
When I got my perspective corrected I began to see things a little more clearly. The Bible is full of statements such as is found in 1 Peter 1:16, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” and Matthew 5:48, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” God expects perfection and will never lessen his standards to accommodate us. This should not surprise us or discourage us, quite the opposite really. What kind of God would hold to low standards and accept anything less than perfection? No God I would want to serve. I want a perfect God in every way; otherwise he would not be fit to govern this universe.
We don’t take up issue when we are told to be like Jesus, yet it is one and the same calling as the Proverbs 31 woman. This woman never existed in real life; Jesus is the only perfect human who has ever walked the earth. Yet she is the epitome of perfection in godly womanhood. Proverbs 31 is a masterfully written prose from a loving Father who is graciously setting out standards for his beloved daughters. This ideal of a godly woman is a gift to us, letting us know what to aspire to and a tool for prioritizing our lives appropriately.
So how are we to be perfect? The simple answer is we can’t be. But, praise God for Jesus! His perfect sacrifice was sufficient to cover all of our failings. Because of him, we can stand in the presence of God someday, with his righteousness in place of our own. We become more like this ideal woman when the Holy Spirit inside of us enables us to be more like Christ. This does not happen under our own power or by us striving for perfection in our own power, only through dependence on him.
I no longer have issues with this woman in Proverbs 31. Reading about her now reminds me of God’s extravagant love for me. I get a glimpse of what I can be when empowered by the Holy Spirit. It is through Christ that I can be found to be worth “far more than jewels.”
I enCOURAGE you to read Proverbs 31 with this new perspective today. “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30