THE LOVE OF CHRISTMAS

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CHRISTMAS IS LOVE
#christmasdevotions

The Child Born on Christmas is Almighty God

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
– Isaiah 9:6

Have you ever truly thought about what it meant for Jesus (Who is God) to step out of eternity and to be born on Christmas morning over 2000 years ago so He could become one of us? I hope Christmas will get all of us thinking about what a sacrifice of love this was.

Paul understood what it meant for God to be born in our likeness, and what a sacrifice it was for Him. Paul’s insights are spelled out in Philippians 2:6-8. Speaking of Jesus it says,

…who, although He existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Let us break up the above verses into 3 phrases to give us more insight into them:

PHRASE 1: who, although He existed in the form of God

This phrase means Jesus had the very nature and very character of God. Let’s reason this out a bit. Only you have your nature and your character so only you are you. Jesus has God’s nature and character, so He is God.

PHRASE 2: did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself

The word emptied in the Greek means – to empty oneself, to divest (strip) oneself of rightful dignity by descending to an inferior condition, to abase (humiliate) oneself. This phrase means Jesus willingly stripped Himself of His self-interests, not His deity, when He was on this earth. He let go of His rights as God. Doesn’t that blow you away that God willingly gave up His rights for you? God willingly gave up His rights when we needed Him too. How often are we willing to give up our rights when others need us too?

I don’t know about you, but I try my best not to get myself in a humiliating situation. However Jesus, because He loves us very much, allowed Himself to be humiliated for you and I when He was on this earth. The thought Jesus was willing to be humiliated for me touches my heart so much! It makes me want to love Him. How about you?

PHRASE 3: taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Paul wanted us to realize and know was that Jesus had the nature and character of a servant on this earth as well. He came to be a servant and not to be served and to suffer, and die, to give His life to save us from our sins.

…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many – Matthew 20:28

May these insights we get as we delve deeper into Philippians 2:6-8, remind us of 2 things this Christmas.

First, let us be reminded this Christmas that Jesus was just as holy on this earth as He is in eternity. His very nature was repulsed by sin. Nonetheless, He willingly chose to live among us sinners, even though He detested sin. He chose to love sinners even when they did awful things to Him without a cause. He chose to experience the punishment for our sin, even though sin and the consequences of it had nothing to do with Him.

Second, let us also be reminded what He dealt with from mankind on this earth: He was hunted down to be killed both as a child and as an adult, not because of anything He had done wrong, but because of who He is. He was shunned by most people because He loved and cared for people who weren’t very lovable from society’s perspective. He was hated because He taught that everyone needed to love God and each other, not by just fancy words, but by deeds lived out. The human reason He was crucified was jealousy on the part of His countrymen, and from the Roman’s perspective, just plain cruelty. He was sentenced to death and died (for our sin) by one of the most tortuous deaths wicked humans could invent. If that wasn’t enough of a sacrifice for us, God whose character is completely absent of sin, whose whole being instinctively abhors sin, took our sin upon Himself!

2 Corinthians 5:21 says,
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus was born, lived and died on this earth because He loves us!

1 John 4:10 talks about this unselfish and unfailing love from God,
This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.

What manner of love the Father has given unto us!

________

This Christmas let us be reminded on what it meant for Jesus to step out of eternity and to be born so He could become one of us. May we see how much we are loved by God and love Him back.

Father, we thank you how Christmas reminds us that we could never get to heaven on our own. You had to come to us. And thank you for not just sending but giving your son to us, to suffer and die for us. He is the most wonderful gift of all! Jesus is Christmas!

MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU!!

#rusticchristmas2014
#unwrappingthegiftsofchristmas

THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS

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THE HOPE OF CHRISTMAS

#christmasdevotions

We talk a lot about hope. Many of us are hoping we get just what we want for Christmas. But for many of us, hope lacks a sense of certainty. It is more like a wish—something that we want to happen but have no way of knowing that it ultimately will. So we keep our fingers crossed and “hope” that everything will go the way we want it to.

The reality is that often life doesn’t turn out the way we hoped it would. Hope is a fragile commodity. When life is disappointing, our optimism is replaced by feelings of discouragement and hopelessness.

This was the landscape of life when Jesus entered the world. The prevailing mood of Israel was anything but hope. Centuries before, they had been promised a deliverer who would restore Israel to its former glory, but it had never happened.

Into this sense of cynical hopelessness, true Hope was born. But the tragedy of that first Christmas was that very few realized the hope that had been introduced. Hope for the forgiveness of sins. Hope for a bright future—forever. Hope for God’s presence and power in daily living. Hope that would enable us to forget the past and set our sights on stuff that doesn’t disappoint. A hope that, because of Jesus, is a certainty and not just another wish to be dashed on the rocks of reality.

I love the honesty of the psalmist who said, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” We’ve all been there. But let’s not stop there. Keep reading! “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5). Rejoice that Jesus came to give you something better than the disappointments of life on planet earth. And when by faith you embrace Him and all that He promised, you can have a hope that is no longer a fingers-crossed wish that you harbor in your heart, but rather a confident, courageous optimism that is rooted in the certainty of His Word.

Pin your hopes on Jesus this Christmas—you won’t be disappointed!

An early MERRY CHRISTMAS to you!!

#rusticchristmas2014
#unwrappingthegiftsofchristmas

THE STAR OF CHRISTMAS

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THE STAR OF CHRISTMAS
#christmasdevotions

Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the

east, and are come to worship Him. – Matthew 2:2

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the well known American poet of the 19th century, once stated: “Hitch your wagon to a star.” This was his advice on how to become successful in life. Just follow your star. To this I say, it all depends on the star you desire to follow. For it must be confessed that some stars are too dangerous and too destructive to follow for any length of time. Think of those stars that are harmful and hurtful to each one of us. The star of pleasure. The star of fame. The star of convenience. The star of personal gain. The star of selfish ambition. The star of passion. These temporary stars shine brightly at first, but if followed over a period of time they burn into ashes and leave one in the night of spiritual darkness and despair. If you don’t believe me, ask any Hollywood celebrity who has followed the star of fame and pleasure only to find that it did not satisfy.

But make no mistake about it, stars are beautiful things to watch, let alone try to follow. Astronomers tell us that there are some six thousand stars visible to the human eye, of which no more than two thousand are ever visible at the same time. And yet, the total number of stars in the Milky Way is between forty and one hundred billion. The nearest star is twenty million miles from the earth, thus taking four years and three months for the light of that star to travel to the earth!

So much for ordinary stars. I wonder at this Christmas season if you have ever seen the great star of Bethlehem that haunted those wise men of long ago? It was the highest and brightest star ever to shine. For only this star is high enough to put real distance into your life, and only this star is bright enough to lead you out of the darkness of death and despair of defeat, into the reality of the living Christ. No star, whether it’s the star of pleasure, of selfish ambition, of popularity, if it leaves you short of Bethlehem where this Child of Destiny was born is worth your loyal devotion and lasting dedication. That night the Magi faced a decision: Were they going to pursue the star? At what cost and for how long? Were they going to move out of their comfort zone in order to search for something small yet priceless?

We are struck this holiday season by the awareness that all of us face the same decision. Will we pursue Jesus? Will we recognize the amazing signs God places around us that point to the reality of the God-Man, Jesus Christ? Will we journey to get to know Him?

Let us lay aside our cares and follow the Magi on their journey to Bethlehem. A baby lies there who is the Light of the World. The King in the cradle. Immanuel. God with us. The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus, Savior, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

What a strange world we live in. How different things seem now, how uncertain we all feel. But some things do not change and will never change. Wise men still seek him. And those who seek him find him. That will never change. On that happy thought, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

#rusticchristmas2014
#unwrappingthegiftsofchristmas

THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS

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THE JOY OF CHRISTMAS
#christmasdevotions

It’s that time of year again-the time of busy shopping days, holiday baking, and twinkling lights. The time when schedules overflow with parties and events. The time to give gifts cards to family and friends. It’s supposed to be the season of “holiday cheer.” But in the weeks before we celebrate our Savior’s birth, so often we feel anxiety and stress instead.

Years ago, Isaac Watts wrote “Joy to the World,” the well-loved hymn often sung during this busy Christmas season. Ironically, Watts never intended his hymn for Christmas use. Instead, he simply intended to paraphrase the words of Psalm 98 “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth . . . for he comes. . .” (vs. 4, 9).

Amidst his poetry about Christ’s second coming, however, Watts also provides fitting words for our Christmas frenzy: “Joy to the world! the Lord is come . . . Let every heart prepare him room.” Prepare him room-significant words for any time of year. Yet perhaps we need to hear them the most at Christmastime, when so many things can distract us from our faith. .

This year, as the hectic Christmas season approaches, take the time to prepare your heart. Remember Christ’s first coming, as a humble King and Savior. Reflect on the certainty of his return, as Judge over all. And as you think on these precious truths, you’ll probably experience the best holiday feeling of all-the joy of knowing “the Lord is come” into your heart.

An early MERRY CHRISTMAS to you!!

#rusticchristmas2014
#unwrappingthegiftsofchristmas

OURS ARE ORDERED LIVES. WE HONOR THE ORDER BECAUSE WE HONOR HIM WHO ORDERED THEM AS SUCH.

LET ME BE A WOMAN

by Elisabeth Elliot

 

#reading

#notes

 

In this book, Elisabeth Elliot shares to her readers her thoughts on womanhood which she gave to her daughter, Valerie, during the period of her daughter’s engagement.

_____________

(Trust for Separation – Ch.11)

“Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living,” he (Jim Elliot, Elisabeth’s husband) wrote to me, and those words have helped me very often since. We accept and thank God for what is given, not allowing the not-given to spoil it.

This is the call. This is the order of our lives. There is nothing haphazard about them. We can commit them to God, and accept them from Him.

______________

(Self-Discipline and Order – Ch. 12)

We are the creatures of a great Master-Designer, and His ordering of our lives is sure and certain, yet many people live without any visible order or peace or serenity. The way we live ought to manifest the truth of what we believe. A messy life speaks of a messy – an incoherent – faith.

Freedom begins way back. It begins not with doing what you want but with doing what you ought – that is, with discipline.

How shall we learn to believe and obey God if we have not been taught from earliest childhood to believe and obey the ones He puts over us? A child has to know first of all and beyond any shadow of doubt that the word spoken will be the word carried out.

Failure to fulfill threats and promises trains a child to discount what is said. It trains him to lie. The parents are not to be trusted, therefore they need not be obeyed, therefore no authority is trustworthy or need be obeyed. Obedience is optional, depending on convenience or inclination or obvious reward.

I learned very soon that I had to give my full attention to you when I spoke. … I mean that when a matter needs the mother’s attention it must get her full attention for that moment. I had to turn from my work and turn to you.

The way you keep your house, the way you organize your time, the care you take in your personal appearance, the things you spend your money on all speak loudly about what you believe. “The beauty of Thy peace” shines forth in an ordered life. A disordered life speaks loudly of disorder in the soul.

 

HOW DO YOU DEFINE LOVE?

THE DEFINITION OF LOVE ♥

A proper, biblical definition of love holds the key to understanding and experiencing real love and to sharing genuine, selfless Christ-like love to others in this broken world.

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And God gave us the definition of love through the Cross of Calvary.

“This is how we’ve come to
understand and experience love:
Christ sacrificed his life for us.”
– 1 John 3:16

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
– Romans 5:8

______

Thoughts for meditation:

THE CROSS

“It’s the picture of violence
Yet the key to peace
A picture of suffering
Yet the key to healing
A picture of death
Yet the key to life
A picture of utter weakness
Yet the key to power
A picture of capital punishment
Yet the key to mercy and forgiveness
A picture of vicious hatred
Yet the key of love
A picture of supreme shame
Yet the Christian’s supreme boast.”
– David Watson

In situations where there is strife and hatred, or suffering and pain, or doubt and hopelessness, or loss, or inadequacy and weakness, or mistakes and overwhelming personal failure, or hate, or when shame, or insult or hurt and betrayal, or unfairness, injustice – if any of the above falls upon your life or is inflicted upon your heart at one point or the other – do you find yourself choosing to react in love, to make peace instead of nurturing bitterness, to enlarge your faith and hope instead of magnifying doubt and despair, to seek healing and restoration of relationships instead of promoting hate, unforgiveness and division?

Remember,
If you cultivate doubt, you will have more hopelessness
If you nurture regrets, you regress, for you get stuck where you are
and you won’t move forward for you miss the beautiful lessons that bring growth
if you will always choose to mistrust, you will grow cynicsm within you.
If you cultivate ill-will, you will reap more hatred
If you cultivate harsh anger, you will reap more bitterness
If you will promote discord, you will experience more disunity
If you choose unforgiveness, you will experience hardness of heart

“Look unto Me (Christ on the cross)
and be saved…”
– Isaiah 45:22

Our encounters with Calvary love save us from the perilous effects which negative, damaging, hurtful and sinful emotions/attitudes can have upon our lives, our relationships, and our world and Christ in us faithfully and patiently teaches us to plant the right things in our hearts in ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, whether they may be working in our favor or against our favor, so we will have more and more of Christ’s loving heart and selfless qualities and in actual be more identified with the life and death of Christ (to be identified with Christ doesn’t mean desiring to know Jesus in a general sense; rather, identification with Christ as Paul put it in Philippians 3, means wanting to grow deeper in one’s personal and intimate knowledge and experience of Christ to the point of willingly taking up our own cross daily to share, in our very own lives, His sufferings so as to obtain the resurrection power made available to all believers). So, as we face to embrace life’s sufferings and carry our crosses, we must make sure we are carrying them well. How do we do that? By first being mindful of what we carry within our hearts for whatever we choose to always plant in our hearts we will eventually sow and have more of in our lives. And our overflows (whatever we have inside our hearts in increasing measure) are the very things which then proceed forth from our lives – the things we give and share to the world which ultimately become the determinants that shape and define the realities of our world (our thought-life, our inner world – how we perceive God, how we perceive life, and how we perceive the world to be).

So, let us choose to…
Plant peace, so we will sow more peace
Plant forgiveness, so we will sow unity
Plant compassion, so we will sow more compassion
Plant faith, so we will sow more faith
Plant hope, so will sow more hope
Plant love, so we will sow more love

Our planting of godly thoughts and responses finds its starting point or source (or is in effect the outflow/efflux of the influx of His love in our hearts) in what we have come to personally know and experience of God’s love. And what, actually, is this love He longs for us to experience more and more, moment by each passing moment? It is a love that daily brings peace,comfort and rest, a love that unconditionally offers forgiveness, demonstrates deep compassion, builds our faith, reminds us of unfailing hope, and lavishes us with everlasting and satisfying lovingkindness – even when we were still sinners and even during the many present moments we are at our worst versions, when the proud and selfish Golum in us rears its ugly head.

So again, attitudes chosen and carried within are crucial. Whatever attitudes we consistently plant and sow, we tend to worship in our hearts. And whatever we so worship we eventually become. Let us look unto Jesus daily, and make sure to consistently and deliberately plant the rights things within us. He will grant us sufficient grace in choosing the godly things over the sinful, negative emotions and attitudes that shall only hurt His heart. And the Christ-like thoughtful refrains and attitudes we allow to take residence in our hearts and minds, we must carefully, mindfully, and deliberately cultivate. Let them grow in our own hearts until they overmaster us, dominate us. Do not let sinful thoughts have the upper hand. And we shall sow lovely and rewarding fruit one day. In His good and perfect time a beautiful garden will flourish that will yield a bountiful harvest of love, joy, peace, charity, faith, hope and love (the excellent fruits of the Holy Spirit) for us and for those we fellowship with at home, at work, in church, and in the community we serve. And this is how we overcome and grow more and more like Christ – in the good, the bad, and the ugly.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness,
gentleness, self-control”
– Galatians 5:22-23a

#love
#chooselove
#LoveLife

BE ROOTED IN LOVE

BE ROOTED IN LOVE

BE ROOTED IN LOVE.

♥ The most important thing we can do in our love and service for others is to cultivate spiritual depth in our own hearts. Only when we grow deeper in our relationship with Christ (in knowing Him experientially), firmly rooted and established in His love, we become enabled to love and serve others exceedingly and abundantly beyond all hopes, prayers and imaginations. For to “work from below” and from within (the hidden work of God in our hearts, spiritual growth) is to allow the Divine to “work from above” – God pouring in greater abundance heavenly blessings of Christ’s love, powerfully working IN us, and also THROUGH us, as more and more people whom we come in contact with daily receive a dose of His love through our lives, a love which we ourselves are unworthy recipients of, a love mercifully given to us by grace, a love which continually and powerfully transforms our very own hearts beyond all that we can ever ask, pray and expect, or think of, all bestowed unto us for increasing greater acts, greater works of love and compassion and service for God, for the community and for eternity. ♥
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♥ A Morning Prayer ♥

“And I pray that Christ will be
more and more at home in your hearts,
living within you as you trust in him.
MAY YOUR ROOTS GO DOWN DEEP
INTO THE SOIL OF GOD’S MARVELOUS LOVE;
and may you be able to feel and understand,
as all God’s children should,
HOW LONG, HOW WIDE, HOW DEEP,
AND HOW HIGH HIS LOVE REALLY IS;
AND TO EXPERIENCE THIS LOVE FOR YOURSELVES,
though it is so great that you will never see the end of it
or fully know or understand it.
And so at last you will be filled up
with God himself.”

“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do FAR MORE THAN WE WOULD EVER DARE TO ASK OR PRAY FOR OR EVEN IMAGINE OR DREAM OF — INFINITELY BEYOND OUR HIGHEST PRAYERS, DESIRES, THOUGHTS, OR HOPES.”

– Ephesians 3:17-21

#morningreflections
#LoveLife
#lifelayinglove

EMBRACING THE HAND OF THE DIVINE ON MATTERS AT HAND

LET ME BE A WOMAN
by Elisabeth Elliot

#reading
#notes

(Acceptance of Divine Order – Ch.33)

 WILL TO WILL YOUR GOD-GIVEN DESTINY – HIS DIVINE ORDER/ARRANGEMENT (HIS WILL & HIS PLANS) FOR YOUR LIFE

“He (Jesus) could do that (washing the disciples’ feet) because He knew who He was and whose He was. He could also face the events of the coming night and day. It was not weakness which enabled him to become a slave. It was not resignation that took Him to Calvary. He has both accepted and willed the Father’s will.”

A STRONG SENSE OF DESTINY IN GOD BRINGS INNER STABILITY

“You and I can be steadied, directed, and held by the knowledge of where we came from and where we are going. To know that the whole world moves in harmony at God’s bidding is wonderfully stabilizing.”

MARRIAGE IS HIS DIVINE ARRANGEMENT WHICH COMES WITH DIVINE ORDERS

“One thing that makes a marriage work is the acceptance of a divine order. Either there is an order or there is not, and if there is one which is violated disorder is the result – disorder on the deepest level of the personality.”

THE TIME IS NOW TO LIVE OUT YOUR DREAMS!

THE TIME IS NOW TO LIVE OUT YOUR DREAMS!

THE TIME IS NOW..

As we gaze upon His beauty, He shall open our eyes and make us see the wonder and beauty of things around us & within us.

Christ IN US, the HOPE OF GLORY.

Open the eyes of our hearts, Lord, that we may see the hope of our calling.

Whatever His call brings, wherever His call takes me, whenever His call’s timing does not match my own expectations’ timetable, I choose to press on in His sufficient grace. The call matters, not because a successful endeavor in service or ministry will make me happy. THE CALL MATTERS BECAUSE THE CALLER MATTERS.

“Because, Frodo Baggins, you’re only a small hobbit after all.” – LOTR

One must realize that God places dreams in our hearts because these dreams are primarily for His name’s sake and He carries these dreams out in our lives not to serve our self-serving wishes and hopes but to meet a greater need in this world. Our God-given dreams are not just about us. It is about God’s glory and sharing His love to others. This is how our dreams bless us, when we honor and bless His name and as we obey and are made to be instruments to bless others by sharing His love shall we find real blessedness and joy within us, no matter what the circumstance may be..There is always His presence and the promise of deep abiding joy. He is always our exceedingly great reward.

SO LIVE TO THE HILT! MAKE EVERY MOMENT COUNT.

The time is now to dream with Him and for Him. And act out these dreams, live out these dreams with eyes wide open. Seize the day!

“Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God!”
– Jim Elliot

The big moment has come. Make the most of what you are given today!

#reflections

“How many of us spend our time expecting that we will be something we are not. Oh the time is coming when I am going to be so and so. It never will come; the time is always now. The amazing thing about the salvation of our Lord is that He brings us into contact with the reality that is, until we are just like children, continually seeing the wonder and beauty of things around us.” –Oswald Chambers, in The Moral Foundations of Life from the Quotable Oswald Chambers.

THE GREATEST ROMANCE

THE GREATEST ROMANCE

To fall in love with God is the greatest of all romances;
To seek Him, the greatest adventure;
To find him, the greatest achievement.

– Augustine