The Word Became Flesh…

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As we enter this Christmas season and ponder the meaning of the incarnation, the excerpt below from Philip Yancey’s, “The Jesus I Never Knew” may very well shed some light in your heart on the light of the world — God in flesh.

 

The Jesus I Never Knew

~ by Philip Yancey

I learned about incarnation when I kept a salt-water aquarium.  Management of a marine aquarium, I discovered, is no easy task. . . You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful.  Not so.  Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dove for cover into the nearest shell.  They showed me one “emotion” only: fear. . .

To my fish I was deity.  I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible.  My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction.  To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation.  I would have to become a fish and “speak” to them in a language they could understand.

A human being becoming a fish is nothing compared to God becoming a baby.  And yet according to the Gospels that is what happened at Bethlehem.  The God who created matter took shape within it, as an artist might become a spot on a painting or a playwright a character within his own play.  God wrote a story, only using real characters, on the pages of real history.  The Word became flesh.

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory,

the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

–John 1:14

 

Flowers in My Heart

~ music by Shane Henry, “Amore” from the Album “Beauty in the Struggle”

Recently I saw a quote on Pinterest that said, “I don’t need someone who sees the good in me, I need someone who sees the bad and still wants me.”  Thankfully, there is such a One!  God knows us inside and out.  He sees the bad and still wants us.  He remembers that we are “but dust” and “doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve” or “repay us according to our offenses”.  (Psalms 103:10 & 14)  He is patient, longsuffering, and loves us with a perfect love that can only come from Him.

See wise words below from Tim Keller and remember, God will never leave you or forsake you.  “He who began a good work in you WILL carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 1:6)

 

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“The gospel is this: we are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

– Timothy Keller

Vast, Unmeasured, Boundless, Free

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I’ve heard it said before that more often than not we won’t remember the words to a sermon, but we WILL remember the words to a song.  I believe this is true and exactly why God told Moses and Joshua:

“I am going to give you the words to a new song. Write them down and teach the song to the Israelites.  If they learn it, they will KNOW what I want them to do…”   (Deuteronomy 31:19)

Because the truth of the song below is important and is something that God wants us to know, I’m sharing it in my blog post this week so that perhaps we will all learn it, remember it,  and know what God wants us to do…

(Click title to hear a beautiful rendition.)

O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!

Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!

O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
’Tis an ocean full of blessing, ’tis a haven giving rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee!

Words:  S. Trevor Francis, 1875

Act,— act in the living Present!

Maybe it’s because I am getting older, but I am so sad to take my Christmas tree down this year.  For 28 years I have taken our Christmas tree down on the day after Christmas.  Looked forward to it!  I was always ready to get my house back “in order”.  But this year the thought occurred to me, “What’s the hurry?  Why all the rush?”

So tonight, I sit in the dark bathing in the peace of the twinkling blue and white lights of my heavily adorned tree.  And I have decided to slow down, enjoy the glow, and leave my tree up until after New Year’s.

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       A PSALM OF LIFE

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

      WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST

    TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

    Life is real!  Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

    Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

    Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

    In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

    Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

    Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

    Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

    Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

“I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).”

~ John 10:10

 

Aha! That’s it!

Army Angels

Ever had an “aha” moment?  One of those “can’t see the forest for the trees” kind of experiences?

When reading about the Divine Weapons that God has given for our protection as we navigate through life (Eph. 6:10-18), it always bothered me that there were only six weapons listed instead of seven.  Every time I saw a poster or drawing of the “Armor of God” the thought would come back to me again:  “Why only six?”

Put on the Armor of God

Really, it was no big deal because I had no Scriptural support for thinking there would be seven weapons listed other than the fact that seven is such a symbolic number in Scripture.  Seven is the number of perfection and completeness.  So it just made sense to me that there should be seven weapons listed in the Armor of God.

Then one day, I really read it.

Let’s read and we’ll count…

 “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the FULL armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Therefore, take up the FULL armor of God, SO THAT you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

Stand firm therefore,

(1) Having GIRDED YOUR LOINS with TRUTH (like a belt buckled around your waist)

(2)  Having put on the BREASTPLATE of RIGHTEOUSNESS

(3) and having shod YOUR FEET with the PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE;

(4)  In addition to all, taking up THE SHIELD of FAITH with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.

(5)  And take THE HELMET of SALVATION,

(6)  and the SWORD of the SPIRIT, which is the WORD OF GOD.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…”

But wait, read that last sentence again carefully (verse 18).  Once armed, how do we take our stand against the devil’s schemes?

(7)  Through prayer!  The SEVENTH powerful piece of our Armor!  “With all PRAYER and petition PRAY at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…

As I read that final verse, I thought… “DUH!!!”  And “Aha!!”

Reminds me of a true story I once heard about a group of soldiers who consistently prayed the 91st Psalm in combat.  Let the Lord speak to you as you read and spiritually put on your FULL armor.  Our God is powerful and so is the Divine Armor He has given us…but the choice to put on the WHOLE armor of God is up to us.  Every piece is vital!

 The Soldier’s Psalm

Almost 100 years ago, during World War I, the 91st Infantry Brigade of the U. S. Expeditionary Army was preparing to enter combat in Europe.  Because their commander was a devout Christian, he assembled his men and gave each of them a little card on which was printed the 91st Psalm, the same number Psalm as their brigade.   They agreed to recite that Psalm daily.  After they had begun praying the Psalm, the 91st Brigade was engaged in three of the bloodiest battles of World War I — Chateau Thierry, Belle Wood and the Argonne.  Other American units that fought in the same battles had up to 90 percent casualties, but the 91st Brigade did not suffer a single combat-related casualty.

Psalm 91

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
     

I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
For you have made the LORD, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways.
They will bear you up in their hands,
That you do not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and cobra,
The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.
“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.
“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
“With a long life I will satisfy him
And let him see My salvation.”

 

De-Icing Before Taking Off

Snowblind

Continuing with the theme from my last post of keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus and throwing off  “everything that hinders”, Ron Hutchcraft expounds on this idea in the article below, “De-Icing Before Taking Off”.

Southwest Wing Over Phoenix
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De-Icing Before Taking Off

By Ron Hutchcraft

I usually leave airplanes to the experts.  I fly on commercial airplanes and I usually don’t give a lot of thought to the maintenance or the flying of the plane – usually, but not on a very wintry day in Toronto.  The plane was warming up at the gate, all the passengers were seated, and I was as usual already busily at work until I glanced out the window at the wing which was covered with snow, and getting more covered.  I may not know too much about airplanes, but I do know that you have to de-ice them before they take-off.   A little ice on the wings affects the lift on an aircraft and causes you to go “boom.”   I’m used to the de-icer truck taking care of things at the gate before we leave, and we were preparing to leave the gate iced and snowed.  Finally, the pilot told us that they would do that on the runway which is actually a better idea.  But, I told my wife later that if they hadn’t done something about those wings, I was off that plane. It’s unbelievable how much damage a thin layer of ice can do.

Our word for today from the Word of God is about crash prevention in your life.  Hebrews 12:1-2, “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”  Actually this verse is talking about a runner not a flyer, but the principal is still the same: get rid of anything that’s slowing you down or hindering you.  I think pilots call it drag.

  • Now in terms of your commitment to live for Jesus Christ, are there too many days when you crash?
  • The same old sinful attitudes or thoughts; same old reactions that trip you up?
  •  Or you go through the day depressed and discouraged instead of with the joy you used to have.
  •  Or you just forget about God a lot of the day.

Your crashes haven’t been fatal, but they’ve done too much damage.  The problem may be a thin coating of sin, of compromise on your wings.  It doesn’t take much to bring you down, that’s why the Bible says to deal with it forcefully and aggressively.  It says, “throw it off.”   Personal purity is not a passive thing.  It actively attacks anything that’s a drag on your flight plan of following Jesus.

Every new day means another take-off into that day – people and pressures and temptations.  Before you leave the gate, be sure you de-ice.  Spiritual flight preparation means that you get on your knees before your Savior and you pray through what you know will be the temptations of that day.  Anticipate them; walk through them with Jesus before you face them.  Claim His power for each one.  Commit yourself to send Him to the door when that temptation knocks.

There are going to be surprises, but you’ll be ready for them if you’ve prepared yourself for the ones you know are coming.  One major source of spiritual ice on your wings is a negative, complaining attitude.  Has there been too much of that?  It will make everything look dark all day long.  Lose it at the beginning of the day and replace it with praise and thanks.

De-icing also means checking your motives before you take off.  Ask the Lord to expose any things you might be doing for your own glory, or out of bitterness, or jealousy, or to get your own way, and throw it off.  And ask the Lord to show you where there’s any breakage in your relationships, and make that right with God and then later with that person.

As you examine your day through Jesus’ eyes, you’ll begin to see the weight that can bring you down.  Get rid of it there before you’re airborne and it’s too late.  You can prevent a lot of crashes if you deal with what could cause a crash before you ever take off.

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit!  No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.  Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

~ Hebrews 12:-2 (MSG)

On Your Mark, Get Set, GO!

Maximus Crunk

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I have been thoroughly captivated by Hebrews 12:1 over the last two weeks.  It says….

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

Note the words the Holy Spirit has been emphasizing to me…

 “every encumbrance” — not sinful acts, although they could become sin if left unchecked…but those things (often good things) that weigh us down and hold us back from God’s best….the use of our time…certain relationships or activities that hinder our relationship with God rather than enhance.

“the sin” — We all know what outright sin is…and we’re usually careful to avoid outward ones, but what about our thought life?   Thoughts that no one sees, except the only One who matters.

“so easily” — without difficulty.

“entangles” — This word in the Greek means “ambushes” or “encircles”.

“run…with endurance” —  Merrian Websters defines endurance as, “the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity”…for example, a marathon runner’s endurance.

With all of this in mind, “let us not grow weary”, but “run with endurance”  and “imitate those (particularly those in Hebrews 11, The Great Hall of Faith) who through FAITH and PATIENCE inherit what has been promised.”  (Hebrews 6:12)

Henry Blackaby has some pearls of wisdom about “The Race of Faith” below….Read, and then RUN with it!

The Race of Faith

by Henry Blackaby

At times, living the Christian life can seem impossible, but a host of saints from throughout history provide powerful testimony to God’s faithfulness as well as to the wisdom of staying true to Him.  People have faced every manner of persecution, opposition, tragedy, crisis, temptation, and disappointment, yet remained loyal to their Lord.  You can do the same.

Scripture promises that God’s people will experience trials and tribulations, and life may be very difficult for you right now.  You may feel alone, as if no one has ever dealt with what you are facing.  Know, however, that many who have gone before you have faced similar pain and struggles.

One of the purposes of Scripture is to encourage us, and the examples of those who have gone before us do exactly that.  The Bible provides concrete evidence that God strengthens, comforts, and guides His people during hard times.  In its pages the lives of believers shout out, “God is faithful!  Stay true to Him and you will experience His gift of abundant  life.”

 “Consider the outcome of their way of life,

and imitate their faith.”

~ Hebrews 13:7b