★ Thought for the Day – A Season for Everything ★

89 - Daily Dependence - Ecclesiastes 3 - 1-8 - A Time For EverythingEcclesiastes 3:1-8 (NKJV) says,

To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;
A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible he had this commentary on verse 1…

“In His wisdom and sovereignty, God sets an appropriate time for everything.  At the right time, Christ was born (Galatians 4:4); at the right time, He lifts us up (1 Peter 5:6).  Don’t run ahead of God’s timing!  His blessings are always worth the wait.” 

We just concluded a 25 day consecutive series of post looking into the “Reason for the Season” and why we should be thankful at Christmastime.  If you missed it, you can catch up by ★ Clicking Here ★.  We spent that time delving into the significance of that Season and why it was so important for Jesus to come.  On Day 01 we started off with this quote from John Maxwell,

“Reflection turns experience into insight.” 

Today, as 2015 draws to an end, let’s not get ahead of God’s timing…Before we enter into a new year with fresh opportunities and a clean slate, I thought it appropriate to take moment in this season before January 1, to share with you what I have reflected upon that God spoke to me in the season of “Advent.”  My prayer is that like me, you would gain a new insight!  This will also be an opportunity for those that missed the series to get a sampling of what we posted about through the series.  Below are hyperlinks to each day’s post and one aspect that God really spoke to me about…

★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate? ★

“Christmas is about Jesus being conceived in YOU!  It’s about Jesus growing in you and you delivering Jesus to the world around you.”  Robert Morris Senior Pastor at Gateway Church

★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★

“First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior.  Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.  It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior.”  John Piper

★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★

“In Scripture, however, hope is void of uncertainty.  In fact, certainty is at its core, because it rests in the stability of God, His character and His will, which are unwavering.  Biblical hope, then, can be defined as, “the confident expectation and desire for something good in the future…Hope is essential to our faith.”  121 Advent Bible Plan

★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★

“Celebrate Christmas with a spirit of adoration and joy.  Celebrate by stringing up twinkling lights on your front door.  Celebrate by humming the tunes of Nat King Cole and “Silent Night.”  Celebrate by giving to those in need.”  My Daughter, age 14

★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★

“For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  And then the angel left her.  Luke 1:37-38

★ Day 06 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Should Change Us ★

Regardless of whether we are just starting out in life or reaching the end, their example shows that you are never too young or too old to experience God’s promises!”  My wife’s insight

★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★

“Integrity is when your behavior matches your beliefs … when what you SAY and what you DO aren’t separate … it’s an INTEGRATED lifestyle.  Integrity will bring you peace.  Trust, Respect, Honor and Influence will happen for you if you walk with integrity.”  David Smith, Elder at Gateway Church

★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-Mas? – Part 2 ★

“He [Jesus] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” of John 3:30 (NLT) 

★ Day 09 – Reason for the Season – Who Do You Belong To? ★

The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”  C.S. Lewis

★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★

“The beauty of the hope ushered in through Christ and made alive in us through His Spirit, is that it gives us the ability to have abiding hope, that transcends earthly circumstances and uncertainty.”  121 Advent Bible Plan

★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”  Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)

★ Day 12 – Reason for the Season – Oh Holy Night ★

“God rules all things—even motel capacities—for the sake of his children.  The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.”

“Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth.  But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.”  John Piper

★ Day 13 – Reason for the Season – The Nativity Revealed ★

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT)

★ Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★

“Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.”  Kay Warren

★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★

“The people that men consider to be NOBODIES, God considered them to be SOMEBODIES.”  Kevin Brennan

★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★

“The true secret of life is to give rather than receive, and no greater gift has been given to us than God   giving His only Son, Jesus, to make a way for us, to bring us hope and salvation.”   Chris Tomlin

★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★

“Want to Keep Christ in Christmas?

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”  Steve Maraboli

★ Day 18 – Reason for the Season – Jesus Is _____ ★

“Without Jesus, Christianity is just another religion among many. After all, He is the very essence of God who came not only to take away the sins of the world, but to reveal the Father to us in the flesh.”  Tony Evans

★ Day 19 – Reason for the Season – Everlasting Gratitude ★

“The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.”  Zig Ziglar

★ Day 20 – Reason for the Season – The Father’s Love ★

“Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.”  C.S. Lewis

★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★

“I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”  John 8:12b (NKJV)

★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★

“Worship will get you through the toughest times in your life, because it shifts your focus from the problem to the problem solver.”  Unknown

★ Day 23 – Reason for the Season – Can Christians Condone Claus? ★

“Santa Claus may be fun at Christmas, but he pales in comparison to the One who reigns forevermore. Jesus can give you what you really need.”  Max Lucado

★ Day 24 – Reason for the Season – Best Christmas Gift Ever! ★

“Status was never important to Jesus but selflessness was…Christ surrendered everything He loved in order that He might serve those He loved.”

“What did Christmas mean to Christ?  It meant giving up heaven, giving up the beauty of His home and selflessly coming to Earth.”  David Jeremiah

★ Day 25 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Isn’t the Destination ★

“Christmas doesn’t end December 25th…Its beautiful reality really should linger a little longer.”  Lysa TerKeurst


Let start off the New Year by closing out 2015 with a new insight!

 

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★ Day 25 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Isn’t the Destination ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

25 - Daily Dependence - Comic - Scrabble - VenisonThis comic has no relevance to anything, but just was hysterical to me about what the down time activity that Santa and the reindeer may engage in.  Today we conclude our 25 Day series of posts, (a first ever!)  I pray you have been blessed and that a new or fresh connection with the Jesus has been established in your life!

“Our understanding of Christ molds and shapes our view of eternity, of hope, and of salvation.  If we have the wrong view of Christ, who He is, who He was, and what He came to do, then it shapes everything we see, it becomes the lens that we look through…How we view Jesus is extremely important.”  Marty Collier, The Church on Rush Creek 

So has your view of Christ changed over the past 25 days?  I hope so; I know it has for me!  Now that Christmas has come and gone, what’s next?  December 25 is not the end…The story continues…Matthew 2:12-18 (NLT) says,

“When it was time to leave, they returned to their own country by another route, for God had warned them in a dream not to return to Herod.  After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream.  

“Get up!  Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said.  “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death.  This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.”

Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him.  He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.  Herod’s brutal action fulfilled what God had spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:

“A cry was heard in Ramah—
    weeping and great mourning.
Rachel weeps for her children,
    refusing to be comforted,
    for they are dead.”

If you recall in the ★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★ post, we discussed the previous 2 verses, that the Wise Men came in and worshiped Jesus.  It is interesting that after they honored God, by honoring His Son, The Wise Men were warned to go another way because of King Herod.  In ★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★ post that the Wise Men’s interaction with Herod, stirred up the King’s envy which resulted in the heinous acts of verses 16-18.  And as a result, Mary and Joseph, with child Jesus in tow had to flee to Egypt.  Christmas is so much more than the birth of Christ; it’s about allowing God to change you!  Have you been changed?  Or another way to ask it…How can we incorporate Christmas into our lives the rest of the year?  The solution I believe is to MAKE ADVENT A LIFESTYLE!   

25 - Daily Dependence - Make Advent A Lifestyle!Let’s review the lessons we learned from the Advent Wreath:

  • In the ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★ post we discussed the first purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Hope. If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, then share the Hope that is within you with others…Don’t just keep it within you.
  • In the ★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★ post we discussed the second purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Peace. If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, then be a peacemaker and impart to everyone else that peace can happen even in the hardest season of life!
  • In the ★Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★ post we discussed the third candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath, which is the only pink candle, represents Joy.  If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, remember that the “Joy to the World” is not just one day a year but can be every day!  Spread it to all who you come into contact with.
  • In the ★Day 20 – Reason for the Season – The Father’s Love ★ post we discussed the fourth candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Love.  If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, follow the sacrificial example of God sending His Son and be willing to sacrifice for others.
  • And finally in yesterday’s ★Day 24 – Reason for the Season – Best Christmas Gift Ever! ★ post we discussed the he last candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath that represents Jesus Christ, which is the only white candle.  If you want to keep Christmas in your heart, then endeavor to be more like Jesus and be ready to be His hands and feet everywhere you go.

Jesus was sent by God, to earth, to be the greatest gift of love one could ever receive.  Carry that giving spirit all through the year by volunteering and encouraging those around you who are hopeless.  Look for opportunities to give the love of Christ out to a world that is in desperate need of a Savior!  I love this quote from Lysa TerKeurst,

25 - Daily Dependence - Lysa Terkeurst -“Christmas doesn’t end December 25th…Its beautiful reality really should linger a little longer.”  

Amen!!  I will add to that to say Christmas should linger indefinitely!  Jesus gave His disciples, (and now us 2,000 years later,) this instruction in John 13:34-35,

“A new command I give you: Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Love one another…Let your goodwill towards others be evident through your actions…Spread Hope, Peace, Joy, Love and Jesus to all those God has placed in your sphere of influence!  I will close with this from 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 (NLT),

“And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to Himself through Christ.  And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”

25 - Daily Dependence - Charles Spurgeon - Missionary or ImposterAnd to piggyback that, Charles Spurgeon said, 

“Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”

God has given each one of us the task to mark an impact on this world…Will you?

I pray that these “25 Days of Thankfulness” has given not only given you a new perspective on the Reason for the Season but a new connection and love for Jesus Christ!!

If you missed any of the series or just want to start from the beginning you can by ★ Clicking Here ★

25 - Daily Dependence - Peace

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★ Day 24 – Reason for the Season – Best Christmas Gift Ever! ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1Well, we made it!  We have arrived…Merry Christmas!!  I received this from Mardels which I though was very clever..Today the last candle is lit on the Advent Wreath that represents Jesus, which is the only white candle representing Christ Himself…The Candle is in the center of the wreath as Christ should be the center of our life!24 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 5

Galatians 4:4-5 (HCSB) says,

“When the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

24 - Daily Dependence - Galatians 4-4-5 - The Nativity SceneWhat great news!!  I am so thankful that because of the events 2,000 years ago, I can now be called a son!  What an astounding thought that Jesus, being fully God and fully man would come to earth to be born in a stable and then die on a Roman cross all for me…and for you too!!  (See Hebrews 2:5-18)  I heard a great message from Dr. David Jeremiah called What Christmas Meant to Christ”.  He talked about how The Christmas story has been told from every conceivable point of view…in fact that is exactly what we have done for these past 25 days from the Angel Gabriel, to Mary to the Shepherds to the Wise Men.  In the sermon Dr. David Jeremiah wanted to look at Christmas from a perspective that’s often overlooked…through the eyes of Jesus Himself…fascinating idea isn’t?  He said,

“Status was never important to Jesus but selflessness was…Christ surrendered everything He loved in order that He might serve those He loved.”

What did Christmas mean to Christ?  It meant giving up heaven, giving up the beauty of His home and selflessly coming to Earth.”

Incredible to think of it that way.  Jesus willingly decided to leave paradise…He knew how hard life was going to be and how horrible His death would be and yet Jesus still went through with it!  Wow!  Ralph W. Sockman made this insightful statement…

“The hinge of history is on the door of a Bethlehem stable.”

Everything changed that night in the stable!  I was listening to a great podcast yesterday on my way home from Steven Furtick called “Don’t Make A Scene” in which he said that we have to embrace the CHAOS and the CONTEXT of Christmas; and related it to what it must have been like in the stable that first Christmas.  As we discussed in ★ Day 13 – Reason for the Season – The Nativity Revealed ★ post, the idyllic nativity scene we always see depicted was anything but that! 24 - Daily Dependence - The Birth of JesusSteven Furtick makes a similar point that it must have actually been “chaotic” and anything but a “silent night” amidst all the animals.  The point that hit home for me was that we must…

“Remember the context of Christmas that Christ came into the world through sinners, for sinners and you’re one of them!”

What an unbelievable gift!  If I may take a moment I have a comic to share about another viewpoint that you do not typically think of…24 - Daily Dependence - Comic – What Do You But the Who Made EverythingIt is a great question which got me thinking about gifts that I have received I that past.  The day after Thanksgiving we pulled out all the Christmas decorations, as this has always been the officially start of the Christmas season for my family.  Box after box I saw written on the bottom “Love Mom” and as I shared in the ★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★ post, my love for Christmas stems from my Mom.  From the time I was 5 years old, she was a divorcee, raising 3 children at a time when there was such a stigma.  She taught us how to be generous, loving and self-sacrificial.  I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas which was done on a single parent’s income!  Thinking back on it now, as a father myself it is amazing how she were able to rub 2 nickels together to create a quarter.

As you are undoubtedly aware, the new Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens movie is out, which is probably the best of all the movies!  Well long before this newest Hollywood offering, I had the Rebel Transport Ship from “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strike Back” movie on my Christmas List which I desperately wanted.  My mom rode on the back of a motorcycle through 3 states looking for it just so I wouldn’t be disappointed on Christmas morning.  35 years later I still have it because it was the best gift ever!  24 - Daily Dependence - Star Wars Rebel Transport ShipMy mom always made my wishes come true and put in some much love, time and effort to make Christmas a wonderful time!!  My childhood was spent watching the original Star Wars Trilogy and playing with the toys.  I have two daughters now and have shared my love of Star Wars with them.  My youngest, spent hours playing with the action figures herself which brought such joy to me.  When she was 10 years old, she made this great pun from the catch phrase “May the Force Be With You” (which for those who are not familiar with the franchise, that is the central theme from Star Wars)…

“And may your God be with you!” 

I pray that for everyone who reads these blogs…that you would look to God the Father and accept the sacrifice of His Son Jesus for the forgiveness of the sin that came into the world when Adam rebelled against God.  Romans 5:18-21 (NLT) says,

“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.  Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners.  But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.  God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were.  But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.  So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

My mom’s sacrificial love for me and desire to give me a Christmas to remember was my first example of what sacrificial love was.  As I was writing this ”Reason for the Season,” my wife and oldest daughter had the same revelation from God that just like my mom rode through 3 states, Jesus was in the grave for 3 days so that we could be saved from our sin.  Though we go through trials in this world, Jesus knows and can empathize with everything we go through.  Perry Noble from NewSpring Church. Said,

“Jesus was in the tomb for three days, even Jesus didn’t walk out of the storm immediately.  If Jesus didn’t immediately walk out of His storm, why would we think we could immediately walk out of our’s…His strength is greater than our storm!”

The greatest Christmas gift I ever received was not a plastic toy from my favorite movie, but Jesus Christ!  I pray that if you don’t know Jesus as your Lord and Savior, that you would make that decision today!  If you would like to learn more, check out ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★.  Neal A. Maxwell once said,

“Each of us is an innkeeper who decides if there is room for Jesus!” 

I love that!  The offer is always extended to us but we have to decide whether we will make room for Him.  Speaking of offers…Are you sick of receiving all the email advertisements like these in your inbox?

I know I am.  But I have a deal for you!  And you don’t need to peel anything back!

24 - Daily Dependence - Countdown to Christmas - Salvation is a Free GiftThe Salvation God provided through His Son has no expiration.

The Offer NEVER Ends!!  Get your life on the right path for FREE when you accept Jesus Christ as your   savior. 

Fine Print: If you are ready to accept Jesus, here is a simple prayer to pray…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.  I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in m a new heart.  I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus dies as the payment for those sins.  Take my life, I give it to you.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!

If you prayed that in earnest, I have great news!  You are now a son or daughter of God!  2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NLT) says…

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!  And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ.  And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”

Amen!!  I will close with this quote from William Arthur Ward,

 “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”

Today if you are grateful to God to for sending His Son, tell Him!  Let God hear your gratitude because today is truly a day to celebrate!
24 - Daily Dependence - Merry CHRISTmas Love Jeus

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 25 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Isn’t the Destination ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 23 – Reason for the Season – Can Christians Condone Claus? ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

23 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - It’s Not on Your Christmas List, But…I love the different approach this comic takes… often times you see Santa as the focal point during this time of year but there is a deep spiritual truth revealed here that we need to get a grasp on…Instead of looking at this time of year for the accumulation of stuff, let’s look to receive from Jesus what we really need.  About a week ago Candace Cameron Bure posted on Facebook page a response to the selfie she shared wearing this Ugly Sweater 23 - Daily Dependence - Ugly Seaterthat has people in an uproar about the sacrilegious nature of it.  You have probably seen this sweater and I am not sharing this to stir up controversy but rather to raise awareness to this issue of the tension of Santa vs Jesus and pose this question…Is there “Can Christians Condone Claus?  The website Faithit has a great article about the scandalous sweater selfie, shared Candance’s response to her critics (12/16/2015)…

“I see this sweater as a bridge between commercialism and the real meaning of Christmas, that invites conversation.”

The debate about whether or not Christians should perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus has been raging for centuries.  There are people on both sides of the issue, each with their own reasons why or why not to proliferate the reality of a heavy jolly man in a red suit who travels the world in a single night, delivering presents to good girls and boys by way of a chimney and then and drives away on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer23 - Daily Dependence - Santa Flying throgh the Sky…Wow, just saying that all in a sentence you realize the enormity of the tale…In yesterday’s ★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★ post, we looked at the heart of worship that the Wise Men modeled for us to emulate…Today’s “Reason for the Season” is not intended to sway you one way or another or even to add to the debate, but rather to have a conversation as Candance Cameron put it, and look at what Santa Claus represents and apply it to our life!

Over the centuries Santa Claus has gone by many different names from Old Saint Nick to Kris Kingle to Father Christmas to St. Nicolas…to name a few.  It is the last name I would like to delve into on for a moment or two.  I did a little research and found a quick biography on St. Nicholas on “bio.” website.  In the article they said he was…

“Born in Patara, a land that is part of present-day Turkey, circa 280, St. Nicholas was a Christian bishop who helped the needy.  After his death, the legend of his gift-giving grew. St. Nicholas transformed into the legendary character called Santa Claus, who brings Christmas presents to children around the world.” 

The helping of the needy and the gift-giving part of St. Nicolas is what I think we can all grab hold of as a positive influence that Santa Claus can have.  Many Christians wrestle with whether or not to expose their children to Santa Claus or not, it is a decision that every parent has to decide for themselves.  My co-worker I were discussing Old Saint Nick yesterday as we enjoyed a beautiful lunch in the park, and he said something to the effect that Santa has nothing to do with Christmas so why would I even bring him into my home.  He definitely has a point and again I don’t want to step on any toes, so I will just share with what I have experienced and if you bear with me I’m sure that God will speak through this post or at least that’s my prayer.

Growing up my mom, who was a single-parent raising three kids on her own, (having gotten divorced when I was five,) made Christmas a very magical time for all of us and Santa Claus was a part of that magic…Ones that I never would want to have missed out on.  For my wife and I…we decided to continue on the legacy of Santa Claus as well but talked at length about the significance of the holiday being all about Jesus and explaining the Christmas story each and every year.  Part of the teaching that we did about Santa Claus was that he represented the spirit of giving and helping others.  But I can assure you that our children undoubtedly walked away with a firm understanding that the greatest act of giving and goodwill to men was by God sending his Son…as the Angels proclaimed to the Shepherds…

“Glory to God in the highest,
  And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
  Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

So in my opinion, and I know that this is not shared by everybody, Santa Claus…or should I say the man he was named after…St. Nicholas is a representation of the goodwill that I want my children to show to others as they grow up.

When you think of Santa there have been many different depictions for the jolly man in the red suite, artist Norman Rockwell for me captured some of the best!

23 - Daily Dependence - Norman Rockwell Collage

I have always loved the last painting in particular, call23 - Daily Dependence - Norman Rockwell - The Discovery Covered “The Discovery.”  It was published on December 29, 1956 in the Saturday Evening Post, capturing the stunned expression of this poor little boy when he discovers the truth about Santa.  Rockwell’s portraits have always evoked an instant sense of nostalgia in me by drawing me into a time period that seems like no other…where childlike wonder abounds and innocence is once again tangible.  That is what I think Santa Claus does as well…the myth of this benevolent gift-giver generates a faith that there is something bigger than ourselves and opens our eyes to see life in a different way.

This Christmas I pray your eyes will be opened to believe into something so much greater than a good man who delivers presents to deserving children, but rather to the Savior of the World, born of the virgin Mary, who lived the humblest of lives and died in the most horrific way in order to bridge the divide that existed (see Isaiah 59:2).  The apostle Paul said in Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT)…

“God saved you by His grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”

God sent Jesus to be the payment for our sin and so when we believe in Jesus and trust Him as your savior, you receive a free gift that you could never earn…God’s Grace.  We started this “Reason for the Season” to look to receive from Jesus what we really need and that is Grace, the free and unmerited favor of God which is available to anyone who will take the step of faith.  Take a look at this picture.  23 - Daily Dependence - Ephesians 2 - 8-9 - Grace is the BridgeI am a visual learner so for me that nails what Grace is in a nutshell.  It is the bridge, the path to restore the connection between God and us!  HOW AMAZING IS THAT?  Immortalized in song by former slave trader John Newton, Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me!!”  23 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Amazing GraceGrace that stands in the gap for us…Without Jesus coming to earth, the separation that our sin caused would keep us from God (see Romans 6:23.)  So what about you?  Is there a bridge or a gap between you and God?  Jesus said in Matthew 18:2-4 (NASB),

“And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

Humility is key!  I will close with this final thought from Max Lucado,

“Santa Claus may be fun at Christmas, but he pales in comparison to the One who reigns forevermore. Jesus can give you what you really need.” 

I could not agree with that statement anymore, but what I do love about Santa Claus is the awe and wonder he cultivates in a child’s imagination…so why can Christians condone Claus?  Because it is a great starting point for a child to believe in the in the miraculous which is this season is all about.  The Christmas story in a sentence is…

Christmas is God’s salvation plan through the virginal Birth of His Son in a Palestinian Stable over 2,000 years ago to be the perfect sacrifice for the redemption of His People!

23 - Daily Dependence - Romans 15-13This season approach Christmas and Jesus with childlike faith, with awe and wonder for it is a time for the miraculous – may a new level of faith be birthed in you!  Here is my Prayer for you!!

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in Him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13 (NLT)

I have two supplements to today’s “Reason for the Season” for you:


If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 24 – Reason for the Season – Best Christmas Gift Ever! ★

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★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★

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22 - Daily Dependence - FrankensteinI love quirky humor like this!  Much has been said on the Wise Men over the years.  The Bible however only records 12 verses about these significant pieces of the Christmas Story.  We covered 10 verses yesterday, and today we will read the last 2.  Our story picks up after the events of yesterday ★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★ post, where we were first introduced to the Wise Men who followed the star from the East, and their interaction with Herod about where the baby that was born King of the Jews was.  As a refresher from yesterday, Matthew 2:7-8 (NASB) says,

“Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.”

In Charles Stanley’s “Life Principles Bible,” he had this commentary on Luke 2:8 on the cunning nature of Herod…

“Anyone can pretend to love God – but the proof is in a person’s character, and Herod’s was sinfully   flawed.  Thankfully, the men were not deceived.  The Lord warned them about Herod, and they returned to their own country without telling him that they had seen Christ.”

That is so true.  Character is everything.  I am reminded of the quote from Abraham Lincoln,

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

A person’s true self will come out in the light eventually which was the case for Herod and for the Wise Men.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will focus on the latter.  I love this play on words…Are you part of the inn crowd or the stable few?”  22 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men - Part of the StableObviously this is muse for today’s title, but it opens the discussion, which are you?  Are you on the periphery of the Christmas story, in a comfortable “Inn,” keeping Jesus at a distance and not allowing the truth of this season to penetrate your heart?  Or are you part of the “Stable Few” that your you are “all in,” that regardless of the adversity, Jesus is the center of your life; and that Christmas is the fulfillment of God’s plan for salvation?

Our passage is from Matthew 2:9-11 (NASB) which says,

“After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.  After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him.  Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  (Emphasis added.)

Charles Stanley’s had this insightful commentary on Luke 2:11 about the truth of when the Wise Men came to see Jesus contrary what many depictions show…

“The Wise Men probably visited Jesus when he was about two years old.  They came to a house instead of a stable and saw the Child rather than an infant.  Regardless of His age, however, they worshipped Him and acknowledged Him as the Messiah.”

The Wise Men “fell to the ground and worshiped Him,” and then “presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”  Incredible!

If it is okay, I have one more comic to share…What a great modern adaptation!!  22 - Comic - Wiser WomanBut it raises the issue about these three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  I did a little research on what they were and the representation of each of the gifts.  The gold is obvious, it was for its worth but also to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus.  Everyone is quite familiar with Gold, but what about Frankincense and Myrrh…not as much I suspect…Did you know that both are dried tree saps, or resins.  Frankincense is highly fragrant when burned and often used in worship.  When it was burned, it was done so as a pleasant offering to God, (see Exodus 30:34).  Frankincense is a symbol of Jesus’ holiness and righteousness.  And finally Myrrh has a medicinal, kind of bitter smell and was often used to dress wounds.  Today, it’s still used to prevent and treat gum disease and sometimes shows up in toothpastes and mouthwashes.

The Magi as they were also called were a caste of a wise man specializing in astronomy, astrology, and natural science that came from the East to worship Jesus who was prophesied about over 700 years earlier.  We can learn a lot from them, a couple of adjectives come to mind…steadfastness, driven and passionate.  And at the core the Wise Men were extreme worshipers!  Jimmy Evans made this great point,

“The wise men traveled hundreds of miles and spent an enormous amount of time and money seeking Jesus.  That is the spirit of Christmas.”   

We talked about this on the ★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★ post, that the Spirit of Christmas is all about giving of yourself in service to God and others, and I can think of no other example in the Christmas narrative than Wise Men whose sole purpose was to worship the Messiah, which gives us a great model for how our faith should be.  They were resolute and unwavering in their mission, regardless of whatever stood in their way…whether it was the cost of the trip, the dangers along the way, or an envious King who wanted to stop the fulfillment of the prophecy of the coming Messiah, their belief in the prophecy was so strong that the Wise Men overcame any adversity in order to worship the Savior of the World!  Wow!  The question I have for us…Do we have that kind of faith?  Day 4 of the 121 Advent Bible Reading Plan said,

“Most often our hope wavers because it is rooted in an act of will and therefore lacks a stable foundation…Where is your hope rooted?  What characteristics of God can you rest your hope in today?”

Great questions…Today my prayer is that a stable foundation of faith in the Jesus would be built and that if He is not the center of your life that you would make the decision to follow the Magi’s example!  Hebrews 10:23  (NLT) says,

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.”

I will close with this last thought…

And it is so true!  When I take my focus off the problem, and place it in the capable hands of the problem solver, EVERYTHING CHANGES!  I am thankful for the model that these “Stable Few” Wise Men have given us to follow.  They journeyed for hundreds of miles through peril and struggle all to worship the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  May this be the posture of our hearts today!

22 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men TravellingWe received a Christmas card this year from good friends of ours with this saying on it…

“The star that led the Wise Men then….Still shines to guide the hearts of men today.” 

To assist in that, here is Elevation Church’s beautiful song “Let Us Adore” from their new album called “Wake Up The Wonder.”

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Wise Men – The Voice of Adoration.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Wise Men’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 23 – Reason for the Season – Can Christians Condone Claus? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★

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21 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - Lights Too BrightsI hope you have been enjoying all the comics…They bring levity while simultaneously helping raise awareness to a much-needed area to discuss.  A friend of mine posted this picture on Facebook the day before Thanksgiving that had 21 - Daily Dependence - Stop Premature Christmas Decoratingme laughing…

“Stop Premature Christmas Decorating”

…but I have to say I agree.  Not sure where you fall in this debate but for me, the day after Thanksgiving is the starting point of the decorating season whether inside or outside…It is not a sin of course if you did it beforehand…this is just my preference, hahaha!  Don’t get me wrong I am not ant-decorating, just pro post-Thanksgiving.  I love seeing all the neighbors decorate their houses, and often times we will slow down to “oh and ah.”  My co-worker was telling me of two house on his block who each year their displays get bigger and bigger due to their neighborly competition… As you can see there is not much lawn left…hahaha!

21 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Lights - Competition with NeighborsHe said they literally grow their display after each person put something else out to outdo the other.  Too funny!  There is a park near my house that rivals these houses for sure and definitely did have to prematurely decorate because there were a total of with 4 million lights to set up along a 2 mile path/drive!  Each year they set up this Holiday Light extravaganza that draws thousands of cars to our area to drive through the incredible displays.  

21 - Daily Dependence - Prairie Lights FilmstripThough I am not a runner to say the least, this year we participated with our lifegroup from church in the “Sneak-a-Peek 5K Run & Walk” the weekend before thanksgiving.  My wife and I walked along the trail with our good friends as our kids blazed passed us…hahaha!  The light show is really something to see, but my favorite for sure is the last picture of the film strip above…The Nativity Scene for sure!  Hard to see amidst all the other decorations, but here is a focused view…21 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Lights - NativityThough I take exception to the depiction of the Wise Men because they were not present that night Jesus was born, (…we will discuss in tomorrow’s ★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★,) this illuminated display sure popped along the pathway because of it brilliance.

Matthew 2:1-10 (NKJV)21 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men will be our passage from the Christmas narrative that centers on the Star that led the Visitors from the East to come to worship the newborn king of the Jews!  Let’s begin with verses 1-2…

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’”

Though we are not told specifically, it is believed that the Wise Men were from the region where Daniel and the other Israelites spent 70 years of captivity, (605-530 B.C.)  Daniel was a powerful prophet of God who spoke of the second coming of the Messiah (which you can study on your own in the book of Daniel, chapters 9 through 12, speak of Daniel’s prophecies about the second Advent or coming of Jesus that will be a conquering King, unlike His first Advent as a humble baby.)  Daniel held a high office in the Babylonian Empire and wielded great influence on the people, and as a result the Wise Men probably learned from Daniel’s teachings about the coming savior of the world.  Let’s pick up the story with verse 3…

“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Stop…That verse is so peculiar to me.  But it also is quite revealing, showing the darkside of Herod, (no I will not be making any Star Wars tie-in here…) and the darkness that rested Jerusalem.  This news that the Wise Men brought should have brought great joy as it much-anticipated fulfillment of the prophecies of old but instead, Herod was “troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”  Very sad…Okay back to verses 4-8…

“And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet [Micah 5:2]:

‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” 

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared.  And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”

Herod’s neighborly competitiveness was much greater than trying to have the best light display; he was obsessed with being king over Israel, and was determined to do whatever it took to keep his throne!  (You can read in Matthew 2:16-18 about the level he went to, but that is for another day…)  We finish out today’s narrative with verses 9-10…

“When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was.  When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”

The wise men traveled hundreds of miles, following the star that they saw in the East and when they reached their destination, “they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy.”  Is that your reaction to the coming of December 25?  Or have you become preoccupied with the trappings that this season brings?  I shared this on ★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★ post, but it warrants repeating…

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Matthew 5:14, 16 (NKJV)
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Like the Star for the Wise Men, we too should let our light shine for all to see!  We should be filled with “exceedingly great joy” because of Jesus!

“To let the light of Jesus shine through us and to bring honor and glory to God, we first and foremost have to have Jesus in us.”  Marty Collier

Herod had no room in his heart for the true KING that came in the form of a baby over 2,000 years ago, what about you?  Are you shrouded in darkness and feeling lost?  You don’t have to be…Jesus offers another way.  In John 8:12b (NKJV) Jesus said to the crowd,

“I am the light of the world.  He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Following Jesus and having a relationship with Him will bring you into the light and will give you a hope and future that you WILL NEVER HAVE A PART FORM HIM!  I am thankful not only for the Star that led the Wise Men to Jesus but for the Savior of the World that was found there!  If you want to learn more about how to have a relationship with Jesus, check out our ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★, you will never be disappointed choosing to follow Jesus!  Worship him as the Wise Men did so many years ago!!

21 - Daily Dependence - Wise Men SilhouettesAs an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to  “The Twelve Voices of Christmas audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Herod – The Voice of Deception” who was the biggest enemy in the Christmas story!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 22 – Reason for the Season – Part of the Stable Few? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 20 – Reason for the Season – The Father’s Love ★

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Growing up I remember a plaque hanging on the wall called “Footprints in the Sand,” by Mary Stevenson.  It is a beautiful poem that starts off talking about two sets of footprints in the sand, 20 - Daily Dependence - God Never Left Youbut then at the lowest points in life, there is only one set because God is carrying us.  I saw this comic and thought if this is how God feels sometimes.

The Bible says in both the Old and New Testaments that God is always with us regardless of the fear and anxiety we may feel in the face of circumstances.

20 - Daily Dependence - God is Always With Us

What comforting words to know that God is always watching over us!  Life may sometimes feel like just the opposite but feelings are liars.  C.S. Lewis once said this that gives the antidote to our feelings,

“Life with God is not immunity from difficulties, but peace in difficulties.”

We live in a fallen, broken world but God will carry us through any difficulty we will face.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will center on our Father in 20 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 4Heaven and His love for us!  The fourth candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Love.  If you were to sum up the Bible in one word I think it would be LOVE.  From Genesis to Revelation, the pages of this Holy Book speak to the Love of God and the great lengths that He will go through to have a relationship with us.  In the ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★ post, we discussed the one Bible verse that sums up the Bible in a nut shell…John 3:16  (NLT),

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

God gave His son to save you and me!  He loves you more than you can ever imagine and sent Jesus to establish a “relationship” with us… You can read more on this in the ★ Thought for the Day – What Does The Love of God Mean? ★, all this was done so that we could have eternal life with God and Jesus in heaven.  As a father of two lovely daughters, the idea of giving them up to a horrible death is inconceivable to me!  Next to getting married, being a “Daddy” has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember.  My wife and I were married in June of 1999 and by November of 2000 we had our first bundle of joy.  I remember holding her for the first time, marveling at what a miracle she was and thinking how I would NEVER, EVER let anything happen to this precious gift!  The same was true when our second daughter was born in July of 2003. 20 - Daily Dependence - Rick Warren - God's Love It amazes me how much my heart opened up to love these little angels and it makes me think, if I, a broken, sinful man could love my children this much…How much more does my perfect Father in Heaven love me?  And as the stream of consciousness flows, my next thought is…If I would do anything to protect my child from harm, how much more would God have wanted to protect His Son Jesus from the brutality of the cross?  But yet He sent Him to earth on that first Christmas night over 2,000 years ago to do just that!  I love Rick Warren’s comparison…

“God’s love is like an ocean; you can see its beginning but cannot see its end.”

What imaginary and if we could truly fathom that, our lives would be forever changed!  Another symbol that has not beginning and no end is a circle.  My pastor shared this “Circle of Love” diagram two weeks ago to explain how God’s love was designed to operate.  His explained the process as laid out in 1 John 4:7-11 (NLT) 

7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God.  8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.

9 God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him.  10 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.

11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other…”

God is the source of love (v.8), and His love flows to us, who are the focus of that love (v.9a).  It then moves through Jesus (vs.9b-10) and then from us (v.11) through compassion (v.11), which is Love in Action.  And then back to God…He said that,

“Love starts and ends with God.  He is the source of Love and when we love we reflect Him.”  Marty Collier

20 - Daily Dependence - 1 John 4-18 - God First Loved UsWhat a beautiful truth!  Just a few verses later in 1 John 4:19 it says,  

“We love because He first loved us.”

For the past 20 days we have been reflecting on the Christmas narrative, but more than that, we have seen The Father’s Love in Action as He has moved Heaven and Earth to fulfill the prophecies of long ago, and to give us a path to eternal life with Him while simultaneously modeling how we ought to love others through His Son.  The Apostle Paul gives us clear instructions in Colossians 3:14-15, 17 (NLT),

“Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which20 - Daily Dependence - Hello I Am A Representative of Jesus binds us all together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.  For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.  And always be thankful.

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

Maybe you are struggling this Christmas season and have been asking God for a sign of His love and commitment.  Well I have good news for you, Genesis 9:12-13, 17 (NLT) has just that,

“Then God said, ‘I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth.’  Then God said to Noah, ‘Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.’”

20 - Daily Dependence - God's PromiseThe rainbow is the physical manifestation of God’s love to remind us of the covenant or commitment between Him and us!  Storms will come but there is Hope when you place your life in God’s capable hands.  I will close with this final encouragement from Romans 8:38-39 (NLT) 

20 - Daily Dependence - Romans 8 - 38-39 - God Love“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Christmas embodiment of love…God the Father, who willingly sent His Son to be born in the humblest way imaginable and grow up in similar manner being from Nazareth.  Jesus was wrongly imprisoned, beaten and crucified on a Roman cross so that God could restore the relationship with His creation.  Accept the Father’s love that was given to you and I in the form of the baby in that Palestinian Stable over 2,000 years ago!  God’s Love will never leave us and will always be there to help us through whatever season we find ourselves in, just like any good Daddy would do!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 21 – Reason for the Season – Neighborly Competition ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 19 – Reason for the Season – Everlasting Gratitude ★

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19 - Daily Dependence - Christmas ConsumerismThe person we are spotlighting today from the Christmas story is Anna who has the remedy to greed and materialism.  I shared this quote in the ★ Thought for the Day – Begging God For_____? ★ post, where we saw that the key to being content is gratitude but it’s worth repeating!

“What is you woke up today with only the things you were grateful for yesterday?” 

19 - Daily Dependence - What If You Woke UpI think that would really change our attitudes quite a bit don’t you?  Zig Ziglar once said that,

“The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.” 

And I think that is really true.  My old lifegroup leader in NJ was like that.  There was such peace in his spirit and he was a fantastic leader as well.  He once said this that had really impacted me…

“Very few things honor and glorify God more than the sweet fragrance of a thankful soul.  It scatters the darkness and ushers in the sweet peace and blessed hope.  Gratitude encourages graciousness.”  Leo Primero

Amen?  I love that…“Gratitude encourages graciousness.”  Following up yesterday’s post ★ Day 18 – Reason for the Season – Jesus Is _____ ★ of Mary and Joseph’s encounter with Simeon, today we will look at the prophetess Anna whose name interesting enough means “grace.”  Let’s take look at this incredible woman of God!  Luke 2:35-38 (NIV) says,

“There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.  She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.  Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Anna’s story is kind of a sad one…married in her youth and then widowed after just seven years. Interestingly she lived in a culture that being married an having children is everything yet Anna chose not to remarry but instead devoted herself to God as she “worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.”  Anna was 84 years old, which is incredible that she had the stamina to pray and fast night and day.  I am half that age and do not think I would be able to do that myself.  I was reading a devotion from Liz Curtis Higgs called “Lord, I Want to Be Like This Woman” and she made this interesting point,

“At the Holy Spirit’s prompting, she [Annna] made a beeline for the Christ child, “coming up to them at that very moment” (Luke 2:38a, NIV).  We sense her urgency, her excitement, her conviction.”

You know those people that hover around you until they can get a word in edgewise, well you can tell that Anna was so excited to see the savior of the world she could barely contain herself!  And she did not linger to talk with Mary and Joseph, but “she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”  Her level of gratitude was off the charts but how do you think she got there?

I heard an amazing sermon from Steven Furtick called ”Graduating in Gratitude” which he quoted Brene Brown who said,

19 - Daily Dependence - Brene Brown - Gratitude is a practice“Gratitude without practice may be a little like faith without works, it’s not alive.  

You cannot have just an attitude of gratitude because just having and attitude does not translate to a behavior.”  Brene Brown

It is clear that Anna had practiced gratitude for decades and I think God is speaking to us through her example that if we want to have a life full of joy and peace; we need to start practicing some gratitude ourselves!!  Instead of looking at what we don’t have, we need to follow the counsel from the Apostle Paul who said in 1 Timothy 6:6-7 (NLT)…

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.  After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.”

I will close with this last thought from Liz Curtis Higgs’ devotional,

“Anna was prepared and so prepared the way. Now it falls to us, 2,000 years later, to follow in her footsteps.  To tell everyone we know, everything we know about Jesus.

When we ease our breathless pace, when we stop, look and listen, we can sense the gentle weight of His touch and take comfort in the warmth of His presence.

In this season, in every season, let’s pause and remember Immanuel: God with us.”

It’s all about Gratitude!  Thank you God for Anna, may I follow her example and cultivate and everlasting gratitude in my life! 

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Anna – The Voice of Thanksgiving.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Anna’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 20 – Reason for the Season – The Father’s Love ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 18 – Reason for the Season – Jesus Is _____ ★

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18 - Daily Dependence - Charlie Brown - What is LoveMost definitely not an original Charles M. Schulz creation, but when I came across this comic it so perfectly captures what God wants to speak to us today that I had to use it!

As we pick back up the Christmas Story…Luke 2:21-24 (NLT) tells us that Jesus is presented in the Temple in Jerusalem eight days after His birth which was the custom.  So just after giving birth, Mary was back on a donkey heading to Jerusalem.  As we discussed in ★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★ post, I did a search and found that it is a 100 mile trek on foot from Nazareth to Bethlehem…To go from Bethlehem to Jerusalem it was an additional 17 mile walk.  18 - Daily Dependence - Map of Bethleham to JerusalemWhile at the temple Luke 2:25-35 (NLT) records The Prophecy of Simeon.  He was a righteous and devout man, “who was waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel.  The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.” (Verses 25-26)  Simeon was filled with the Holy Spirit and was led to Mary and Joseph and took Jesus in his arms and praised God saying,

“Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
I have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared for all people.
He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, but he will be a joy to many others. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.  As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your very soul.” (Verses 29-35)

I like how Luke record what Mary and Joseph were like…they “were amazed at what was being said about him.”  I am sure they were, wouldn’t’ you be?  But what I think is most amazing is that through the Holy Spirit, Simeon knew who Jesus was and with full confidence proclaimed the truth to all present that the long awaited savior had come!  I want to open up today’s’ “Reason for the Season” with the question Jesus asked His disciples in Matthew 16:15 (NIV)…

18 - Daily Dependnece - Who is Jesus“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”  The answer you give will significantly influence how you will approach Christmas, and more importantly how you will live your life.  This has been a question people have wrestled with while He was on earth and ever since!  Answers range from Jesus was a good man…He was a good teacher…a Peacemaker…a prophet of old come back to life, (see Matthew 16:14,)…to God’s Son…the long awaited Messiah, the Savior of the world.  Isaiah 11:1-2 prophesies the coming of Jesus, “A Branch from David’s Line,” 

“Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him—
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.”

You can read more about the prophesy in Isaiah Chapter 11.  In yesterday’s ★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★ post, we discussed how to manage the holiday stress and madness that results from the incredibly long “To-Do Lists” of gift buying, baking cookies, decorating the tree and __(fill in the blank)__…[ enter sigh, deep breath ], okay…Today we will look at who Jesus Is ____

18 - Daily Dependence - Jesus isMatthew 16:16 (NIV) records the answer to Jesus’ question…

“Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’”

Peter declared that Jesus Is the Messiah…Who do you say that Jesus is?  David Mathis said in the preface of John Piper’s the “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“the figure at the center is Jesus—the baby born in Bethlehem, the God-man in swaddling clothes, laid in a manger, destined for Calvary, sent by his Father to die and rise again for His people.”

Over 700 hundred years before Jesus was born, Isaiah prophesied of Jesus’ birth, Isaiah 9:6-7 (NLT) says,

18 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Isaiah 9-6“For a child is born to us, a son is given to us.  The government will rest on his shoulders.  And He will be called:

Wonderful Counselor,

Mighty God,

Everlasting Father,

Prince of Peace.

His government and its peace will never end.  He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity.  The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!”

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is a Wonderful Counselor,

Jesus is a Mighty God,

Jesus is an Everlasting Father,

Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

His government will be one of peace that will never end!  What a promise!!  Hillsong has an incredible song called “Unto Us” that beautifully conveys the truth of Isaiah 9:6 from the album “We Have A Savior.”

Let it play as you read the rest of this “Reason for the Season.”  I also share shared yesterday about the excitement of the opening of the new Star Wars The Force Awakens movie coming out. 18 - star-wars-force-awakens-official-posterWe were in the movie theater this morning at 9 am to watch the new masterpiece from J.J. Abrams.  I promise that there will be no spoilers in this post.  There were two characters that were quite interesting to me.  The first is Kylo Ren, a Force-wielding warrior operating under orders from powerful Dark Side figure Supreme Leader Snoke.  Trailers show him with the charred mask of Darth Vader vowing to “finish what he [Vader] started,” but there is a struggle within him of whether he can remain on the Darkside or not.  The other is FN-2187, a Stormtrooper part of The First Order.  Also known as Finn, as the trailers have shown, he abandons his post as a Stormtrooper “to do the right thing” and becomes part of The Resistance. 18 - Daily Dependence - Kylo Ren vs Finn

There is an unbelievable parallel between these two men struggling between the Darkside and Lightside…And the decision that is before all of us on what to do about Jesus.  It reminded me of this great play on words…If you Know Jesus, you will Know Peace but if there is No Jesus, there will be No Peace.  But I ask again, who is Jesus?  18 - Daily Dependence - Know Jesus Know Peace

I have always loved the Isaiah 9:6-7 prophecy and it give us some insight into who the Messiah was going to be but I think it is always great to hear directly from the person themselves.  In the book of John and Revelation, we get just that.

Jesus made these polarizing and very clear declarations of who He is….

18 - Daily Dependnece - Who Jesus IsJesus is everything that we could ever need and all we need to do is accept Him as our savior.  Tony Evans nailed it when he said,

“Without Jesus, Christianity is just another religion among many. After all, He is the very essence of God who came not only to take away the sins of the world, but to reveal the Father to us in the flesh.

Not only did Jesus come to do the Father’s will, but He came to represent God, the Father, so that we would know what it is like to have God with us, as the name Immanuel defines. In Colossians, we read, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God ….” (Colossians 1:15) In Hebrews, “And He (Jesus) is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature ….” (Hebrews 1:3) And in John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us …. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (John 1:1, 14, 18)

Jesus Christ is Immanuel: God with us.”

In the ★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★ post, I mentioned about that series called “Back to the Basics” that goes back to the roots of the Christian faith.in order to understand who Jesus is.  I also shared on Day 15 how you can accept Jesus as your Savior if you are ready to make that decision today.  I will close with this encouragement from John 14:27 (NLT).

18 - Daily Dependence - John 14-27 - Peace I leave you

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Simeon – The Voice of Peace.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Simeon’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 19 – Reason for the Season – Everlasting Gratitude ★

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★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★

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17 - Daily Dependence - Dilbert - Christmas PartyI love this comic for two reasons…One because I have worked for companies that scheduled the “Holiday Party” in January to save some money…(kind of defeats the purpose)…and the other because it opens today’s “Reason for the Season” with reminding us of the “stuff” that has to be done.  In yesterdays ★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★ we explored how to break the spirit of greed and materialism and adopt a new mindset focused on Jesus and others.  To close out that “Reason for the Season,” and transition for today’s, here is a powerful insight from David Jeremiah,
17 - Daily Dependence - Consumed with BusynessI pray as the Advent Season has been a time for reflection and renewal in how you view the 25 days leading up to Christmas.  I know that today’s title has probably tipped my hand in where this is going, but before that, let’s talk about all the great things about this time of year.  Prior to going artificial, finding a Christmas tree and the decorating process has always been a sweet time of connection with our family as we reminisced over the various ornaments from different years and seeing old photographs in some of them.  Back when we lived in the northeast, I loved going ice-skating at Rockefeller Center, though if you 17 - Daily Dependence - Flipsidewere on the ice at the same time, you would need to keep a wide berth from me as I am an unstable skater!  Christmas Caroling, great food, and of course presents come to my mind as well!  There is a magical feeling of good will and compassion for one another…It’s the most wonderful time of year!  But as my uncle once told me, “there is a flip side to everything.” Amidst all the merrymaking…comes the crowded malls, endless list of presents to purchase, lights to be strung up on the house, Christmas cards to address and get out in time, and of course the resulting credit card bills after Christmas.  There is even a Christmas Carol Parody by Bob Rivers about the flip side of Christmas called the “12 Pains of Christmas.”  Growing up it was one of my favorites.  It’s easy to lose yourself in all the chaos of the things that have to get done.

My wife sent this comic to me and it just cracked me up!

17 - Daily Dependence - Countdown to Star WarsEven if you are not a fan of the most epic, awesome and mind-blowing space odyssey ever conceived and executed on the silver screen, you are well away of the much-anticipated Star
Wars Episode VII, The Force Awakens that released last night!  A good friend of mine has been sending me countdowns17 - Star Wars Countdown to when we are hitting the theaters with the kids to see it!  As you can imagine, this has had my attention but the only think that can rival Disney’s endless marketing, is the incessant barrage from retailers trying to create a panic…”Time is running out”…”Act now before it’s too late”…”Only 7 days left until Christmas”…and so on.

So how has your Christmas season been going?  Have you been feeling pressured as the “To-Do” lists grow, and your schedules is jam-packed?  It’s no surprise that people get stressed out with so much to accomplish.  When you stop and think about it though, everything we consume ourselves with, is intended to make the most of this special time but it can end up leaving us drained and stressed to the hilt resulting in the opposite desired outcome.  Whether it be because of procrastination or truly too much to accomplish, I believe a lot of the craze is a result of not building in enough margin in our life…enough time to shop, enough time to drive from point A to point B, enough down time, and ultimately enough sleep…We are consumed with busyness and if we are not careful, the hustle and bustle, will cause to miss the “Reason for the Season”…the remembrance of the birth of Jesus…and ultimately steal our joy away from this wonderful time of year! But there is hope; if we could get our priorities straight we can have peace even with the lists.  17 - Daily Dependence - Billy Graham - Make Room for JesusI read this article from Billy Graham, “Make room for Jesus as you observe Christmas,” and this point really got to me about how are priorities…

“must bring great sadness to God to see the way we’ve treated His Son – not just at Christmas, but every day of the year.  The problem isn’t just that we’ve become preoccupied with material things…Nor is it only because Christ today is banned from our public celebrations of Christmas…The real problem is within our souls…Tragically, we still have no room for Jesus in our lives.”

If the whirlwind of “things to do” that I have been talking about describes how you typically experience this season, I want to encourage you to not let this year go by the same way. You can have peace…Day 8 of the of 121 Advent Bible Plan gives us some motivation too…

“When we live in peace, God is glorified because He is the God of peace. We reflect Him through peace, but we also receive lives of good, of flourishing. This is why peace matters!”

Christmas can be a great opportunity to reflect on what God has done for you, and all the blessings in your life…which I hope the past 17 days have helped you along the path.  Henri Nouwen Defined Christmas this way,

“Songs, good feelings, beautiful liturgies, nice presents, big dinners, and sweet words do not make Christmas.
Christmas is saying yes to something beyond all emotions and feelings.
Christmas is saying yes to a hope based on God’s initiative, which has nothing to do with what I think or feel.
Christmas is believing that the salvation of the world is God’s work and not mine.”

Christmas is saying yes Jesus and following His example.  He was the ultimate example for TRUE HUMILITY.  During this time I like to take stock in how I am measuring up, to become more humble and less self-absorbed.  I would like to say I am further along but I have blown it many times.  I love this definition from John Maxwell on what Humility

“Humility is a true recognition of our strengths and our weaknesses and then a willingness to be secure enough to admit our weaknesses and allow other people to come alongside of us.  Because a humble person is one, who seeks other people’s advice, their help, asks questions and understands as my friend John Wooden one time said, ‘It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.’”

Humility is about recognizing our own short comings and allow yourself to be molded by others.  It is also about being that for someone else, and not miss an opportunity to make an impact those around you because you are consumed with getting stuff done.  So with humble mindset, here is a fresh way to look at the “To-Do” List…Let’s push aside all the distractions and this year let’s commit to:17 - Daily Dependence - Christmas List

  1. Be Present
    – Let’s put down the iPad or smartphone and really engage with those in front of us.
  2. Wrap Someone in a Hug
    – Let’s look for an opportunity to show the love of Christ to someone in need.
  3. Send Peace
    – It used to be a letter, but you can always send a text, Facebook message or email to someone you haven’t talked with in a while to let them know you care.
  4. Donate Food
    – Find a food pantry to serve at or help to feed those less fortunate.  There is a great opportunity on tomorrow in Dallas if you are free…click here for more information.
  5. Make Love (…keep it G-Rated)
    The Bible says in John 3:16 (NIV)…

“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.”

17 - Daily Dependence - Doing for OthersBe the hands and feet of God where you live, work and play.  I will take a moment to share something very special that my 12-year old daughter made this for me last weekend for breakfast that made my day!  I share this to inspire you to find some way big or small to bring some love into the people’s lives around you!

  1. Be the Light
    There is such negativity in the world…a pervasive atmosphere of hopelessness, pessimism, skepticism, abounds and I believe that is a result of a lack of people who genuinely care for anyone other than themselves.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said,

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” 

Be the light that drives out the darkness!  In Matthew 5:14, 16 (NKJV), Jesus said, 17 - Matthew 5-14_16 - Let Your Light ShineHow different would this world be if this list was the kind of busyness we were consumed with??  How different would we be if we did approach it that way?  And the great thing is, you can start today and if you continue, there is a bonus for you…You will feel less stressed and depressed.  Mark Twain gives us some great advice…

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer everybody else up.”  

I saw this happen in my life just two weeks ago when my oldest daughter had a piano recital at a local Assisted Living Facility.  I love to watch her play piano but if I am being honest with you, the timing was terrible.  It was at 2 pm on a Saturday and my “to do list” for that day was packed…But as I watched the residents slowly enter the lobby with canes, walkers, and wheelchairs, I felt God move in my heart and gently show me how much I had to be grateful for.  It also reminded me of my mother who since having a stroke now lives in a similar facility.  As the recital went on and I surveyed the room of over 30 residents in attendance, it was incredible the joy these“young Mozarts” brought to the residents who probably don’t have many visitors.  17 - Daily Dependence - Playing Piano for People in an Assited LivingThis woman in particular got my attention because she put her hand out after each performance to “high five” the child to encourage them that they did great!  You can see the beaming look in her face, she was being the light.  As I soaked in that moment, my “to do list” that was so important just an hour earlier was now gone from my mind and I felt so strongly…This is what Christmas is all about!  Being the light to those around me is all that matters!  17 - Daily Dependence - Paint brush Gift from the ResidentsWhen the recital concluded, the children were blessed with this special Paint Brush Gift that the Residents made for them to say thank you!

You may have noticed that this post came a day late and I do apologize for that!  I too was consumed with busyness but for a wonderful reason…Tonight we are doing a presentation for my in-law’s 50th Wedding Anniversary and I was in charge of the PowerPoint that took longer than expected…Hahahah!  Though we missed a day, we will still post 25 Days of Thankfulness, we just run through December 26.  I will close with this question, how do keep Christmas in your heart and not be consumed with busyness?   Steve Maraboli will help us with that answer…

17 - Daily Dependnece - Steve Maraboli - Keep Christ in Christmas“Want to Keep Christ in Christmas?

Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

Here is a link to a very cool modern interpretation of the historical events surrounding Jesus’ birth and how it might have been had a social network existed at that time.

A Social Network Christmas

I leave you with this blessing from Philippians 1:2 (ESV)

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 18 – Reason for the Season – Jesus Is _____ ★

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★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★

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I have good news and bad news.  The good news…Today is only Day 16 of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series!  The bad news is…There is only 9 Days left to shop ’til Christmas!  16 - Daily Dependence - 9 Days Until ChristmasDid you feel your blood pressure rise with that update?  It’s no wonder as marketers put these types of images with tag lines like “Guaranteed delivery before Christmas Day if you complete your orders by ____.”  The constant bombardment of commercials, advertisements and email flyers cultivates a Spirit of Consumerism and Materialism that I pray will be broken today.  We first introduced this with the ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★ post that was chiefly written by my oldest daughter when she was 14!  Today’s “Reason for the Season” is inspired by her as well, however not for what she wrote, but for how she lives.  But before I jump into that, let’s have some comic relief, and since we haven’t had any for a couple of days, here are two…16 - Daily Dependence - Christmas List and Gift ReceiptI so love these comics because they illustrate two aspects of the same spirit that we need to be very careful about feeding.  One is that you get everything on your list and the other is that needing assurance that the gift can be returned/exchanged if it is not liked.  Now I will put this caveat out there…There is nothing sinful about making a Christmas list or receiving/getting gift receipts, that IS NOT what I am saying at all.  As my wife and I have been raising our now 15-year old and 12-year old daughters, we have tried to impart to them that Christmas is about Jesus and doing for others more than it is about receiving gifts.  Before you think that they never received Christmas gifts, that is the furthest thing from the truth…we just do not spend a thousand dollars on Christmas presents for two reasons…

1.  To stop them expecting and becoming entitled to receive large, costly items…And…

2. For practical reasons, we don’t want to have to work the next 6 months paying off the credit cards to pay for Christmas. 

What I hope to do today is introduce this idea of a “Gift from the Heart.”  A what?  You may ask…You mean I do not receive a gift from you that is on my list but rather that you put thought and effort into coming up with and buying on your own?  I must admit that when my wife and I were first dating, this was a foreign concept and one that needed to adjust to but one that I love!  We still have some items on a list by we have tried hard over the years to put a little effort into the gift exchange.  It was interesting though, as we have had the “Christmas List” discussions with different family members, when we came to our oldest we asked her what she wanted for Christmas and her response was a “gift from the heart,” or money for her to go on a Mission Trip to help others less fortunate.  WOW!  I had two reactions…one of conviction on how selfless that response was and the other unbelievable pride in the maturity and true “Spirit of Christmas” she possesses at the age of 15!  Now I tell you this not to brag but to encourage and show that it is possible to move from a “gimmie attitude” to one of “giving.”  That is the Heart of God and what Jesus came to earth to teach us!  I love what Chris Tomlin said,

“The true secret of life is to give rather than receive, and no greater gift has been given to us than God giving His only Son, Jesus, to make a way for us, to bring us hope and salvation.” 

The Beauty of Christmas is not in the presents but in His presence!!  In ★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★16 - Daily Dependence - Matthew 1-23 - Beauty of Christmas post, I shared about a beloved episode of our family from Little House on the Prairie called “Christmas in Plum Creek” and I wanted to share yet another heartwarming moment of that episode.  In the climactic scene, baby Carrie reminds the family that “there’s one last Christmas gift to open.”  After finding a penny, Carrie went to Olsen’s Mercantile and bought a gift for Baby Jesus…16 - Daily Dependence - Little House in the Prairie Star on the Christmas TreeA shiny star ornament for the top of the family’s Christmas tree.  After all, Christmas is really Jesus’ birthday isn’t it?  Such a beautiful example of sacrifice and I pray that we could all have a heart of giving like a child…To give all we have for Jesus!  And it does not mean give away all your money, it could mean giving up your time or some other resource to help others.  My wife told me of this acoustic from Susie Jennings’ book “31 Days of Mountaintop Miracles” yesterday about how to have True JOY…It is possible to have if we focus on these priorities…

16 - Daily Dependence - True JoyAnd to tie this into our “Reason for the Season,” we can have True Joy in spite of the marketing-induced chaos if we only adjust our focus…Not just for the Christmas S16 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Party for Jesuseason but all year round!  Susie Jennings runs a ministry called Operation Care International which puts on an “ANNUAL CHRISTMAS PARTY FOR JESUS” for the homeless.

If you live in Dallas/Fort Worth, it will be at the Dallas Convention Center this Saturday, December 19 @ 8:00 am – 3:00 pm, if you would like information to attend, volunteer and/or give, click here.

Robert Morris had this interesting point that can help with the refocusing effort,

“We tend to relate God’s blessings to stuff.  But a person who has more stuff than someone else is not necessarily more blessed.  Stuff is just stuff.  And the way you think about stuff will determine whether you have a heart of gratitude or a heart of greed.” 

I want to always have a heart of gratitude and it starts by simple saying thank God for all that you have richly blessed me with…Start big and go small…

  • Thank you for sending Jesus to save me,
  • Thank you for my spouse,
  • Thank you for my children,
  • Thank you for my job,
  • Thank you for my home,
  • Thank you for the clothes on my back,
  • Thank you for my dog!

You get the point…There is so much to be grateful for!  I will close with a picture of my dog and James 1:17 (NIV) which says, 

16 - Daily Dependnece - James 1-17 - Every Good Gift
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 17 – Reason for the Season – Consumed with Busyness ★

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★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★

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In yesterday’s post, ★ Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★ we looked at Luke 2:8-14 (KJV) which was the proclamation of Jesus’ birth from the Angel of the Lord to The Shepherds who were nearby in the fields.  The Angels not only proclaimed the Good News but verses 13-14 tells us…“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  So not only was the night sky set ablaze from the glory of the Angels’ radiance but they also worshiped the Savior of the World in song from a “multitude of the heavenly host!”  And I think that they give us a great example that the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!  15 - Daily Dependence - Bring Christmas Cheer By SingingWe discussed yesterday about placing ourselves within the story and imagining what that must have been like to see brilliance of the Glory of the Lord and be told the news that everyone in Israel was longing to hear for hundreds of years.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will look at Christmas through the Shepherd’s eyes.  Angels from heaven visited Shepherds in the field to proclaim that the Savior of the world has been born in the City of David.  That is pretty incredible news but as we have been discussing over the past 2 weeks, all too often we can miss the significance, miss the whole “Reason” for the “Season” by being a Bible reader but not a Bible absorber, and never find Jesus in a meaningful way within these passages.

The light and beauty of the Angel’s praises filled the night as they announced the greatest event in history to lowly Shepherds.  What an honor the Shepherds were given, not only to be visited by Angels but also to be the first to hear of Jesus’ birth.  Have you ever wondered why the Shepherds were honored?  What made them so special?  If you look at the Shepherds, 15 - Daily Dependence - Shepherd in Fieldthey were just average men, living amongst animals.  By the measure of this world, you would think a King or rich man would be the first to hear the news, someone of “significance.”  We give such reverence to people who have acquired great wealth or power.  But God doesn’t work that way.  He seeks out the most unlikely of people to use them in His master plan.  My pastor, whom I was saved under his teaching back in NJ in 1998, said it perfectly in one of his messages…

“The people that men consider to be NOBODIES, God considered them to be SOMEBODYS.”  Kevin Brennan

In those days the Shepherds were part of the lowest class in society, likened to thieves and scoundrels, yet God sent His angels to proclaim the birth of His Son to the most undesirable of all people!  I like how Matt Chandler put it in his sermon called Advent (Part 2) – Tell of His Coming: The Shepherds and Angels,.”

“God brings glory to Himself, by being the power, the authority, and the presence by which all things happen.  So when God calls, rescues, redeems, calls to Himself…He calls among the weak, and broken so that He is most glorified…

God often times, if not always, calls people to Himself that are undesirable, they are unlikely, they are unhealthy, they are the last person you would ever think…In fact if you pay attention throughout the Bible, this is almost His M.O., in fact being super strong might disqualify you.”

Now if this visitation and heavenly announcement was not amazing enough we will pick up the story with what the Shepherds’ response was which to me is what I find almost just as amazing…Luke 2:15-20 says,

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the Shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the Shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the Shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

So it was the Shepherds who were first to know and spread the word, not rich men or kings.  Incredible!  Look at the response from these lowly recipients of God’s message to the world…After the Angels went back to heaven; the Shepherds left the fields and their flocks and went out in faith to see what the Angels announced to them.  To me this is amazing because the Shepherds could have stayed with their flocks and just discussed what happened.  They could have waited until daylight to go.  But to them everything else was secondary to going to see the fulfillment of prophecy.  Instead they set out immediately, leaving behind what was the source of their livelihood, and even though it was dangerous to travel at night, the Shepherds did not let Christmas pass them by and so the last became first to proclaim the good news that Christ had come, See Matthew 19:29-30 (NIV1984).  God never does anything as we expect Him to…Amen?  That is what I love about Him…He is the God of the miraculous and unexpected.  The Hope and Salvation of the World was not trumpeted in Jerusalem to Kings of men, but to Shepherds in an obsolete part of the countryside to the lowly and insignificant (in the world’s eyes,) in order to show us that God works in small, unnoticed places like a manger in a Palestinian stable. 15 - Daily Dependence - Silent NightAnd that is what we need to understand this Christmas…That night in the stable our hope and our salvation was born and we CANNOT let this Christmas season pass us by without accepting the free gift that God gave us through the birth of His Son!  Philippians 2:6-8 says,

“Though He [Jesus] was in the form of God, He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, 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.”

John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“What defines Jesus’s humility is the fact that it is mainly a conscious act of putting Himself in a lowly, servant role for the good of others.”

Unfortunately that realization has been lost in the commercialism and materialism in the current state of this world.  This “Reason for the Season” started out about looking at the Christmas story through the eyes of the Shepherds, but there is more that the Holy Spirit wants to say.  We need to look deeper than the Shepherds and the Angels.  We need to look to the “babe in swaddling clothes lying in the manger.”  Since the start of this blog, we have been posting in a series called “Back to the Basics” in order to understand our faith and set our minds and hearts on Jesus, focusing on what is really important.  We have talked about the “Gifts of the Spirit” and using them to help minister to people.  And we talked about being radical for Jesus that “1 Conversation Change a Life.”  Today as you read this blog, I pray a conversation is happening within your Spirit between you and God.  I pray that you will really examine what this season means and strip away any preconceived notions you have about Jesus, push out the noise of the obligations of the “things to do” and take captive your thoughts to ignore the lies of Satan as he attempts to discourage you through circumstances.  It’s not about Christmas trees, or presents or anything else that some a marketing department tells you.  Christmas is about Jesus Christ, who humbled himself and was born into a dark, damp, dirty place.  He came not to be served but to serve to give us an example for us on how we should treat one another with humility and love…Not for 25 days in December, but for 365 days!  He is the bridge and our access to heaven.  1 Timothy 2:3-6 says that we should make prayers and requests for everyone that:

“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given in its proper time.”

Don’t let the significance of Christmas pass you by.  The advent calendar, though I didn’t realize it when I was growing up is a tool for us to get out hearts and minds in the right place for the birthday of our savior.  But you don’t need a calendar to do this – just talk to Him.  I challenge all of you to spend each day this month and consider the love and grace of God in sending His son.  Pray, read the Bible and thank God for the Gift of His Son to a world lost in sin and hopelessness.  Start this month and continue each and every month…Get to know Jesus.  Will you be like the Shepherds and step out in faith, trusting in a higher power?  Ron Hutchcraft once said that there are (5) things that you can do with Jesus.  You can:

1.  Reject Him,
2.  Ignore Him,
3.  Postpone Him,
4.  Agree with Him or
5.  Commit your life to Him.

You can flat-out say ‘I want nothing to do with Him.’  Or you can take the apathetic approach and ‘decide to do nothing.’  You could postpone Him, that is say ‘yes I’m interested but I want to live life my own way, I will get to accepting Him as my savior eventually.’  You could agree with Him, believing in the parables and bible stories but decide that ‘you still want to do things your own way.’  And then there’s the last thing you could do and that is to accept the sacrifice he made on the cross and ‘commit your life to Him.’  Today I want to ask you, will you reject Jesus or Commit your life to Him.  Will you continue to run your life on your own terms or will you stop and accept what that baby in the manger did for you and me?

If you are ready to accept Jesus, here is a simple payer to pray, the words that you use are not important but it is your act of submission and humility to accept God’s Son that does…

Lord I am a sinner.  I have tried to run my life and failed, I cannot do it on my own.  I need a savior.  Please wash me, cleanse me, and create in me a new heart.  I am sorry for my sins and I believe that Jesus died as the payment for those sins.  Please take my life I freely give it to you.  In Jesus’ name I pray, amen!

If you prayed that in faith and truly believe this, then I have Great News!  You are a new creation and will be spending eternity in Heaven!  I urge you to tell people about your decision and to find a Bible teaching church and get yourself a Bible.  I have been reading this year the New Living Translation (NLT) and highly recommend it as a good place to start!  Humility is the key!  Let us not forget the Glory of our Lord that was presented to lowly Shepherds this Christmas.  For those who seek Him will surely find Him.  Yet, not as a babe, but as a King, who one day will reign over all.

Here is a great follow up to today’s “Reason for the Season” from Ron Hutchcraft who explains more about how Jesus is the “THE BRIDGE TO GOD”…★ Just Click Here ★

 

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Shepherds – The Voice of Declaration.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Shepherd’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 16 – Reason for the Season – Gifts from the Heart ★

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★ Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1Two songs that always get me into the Christmas spirit are “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” By Andy Williams (a classic,) and any version of “Joy to the World,” (most recently I have been enjoying David Crowder Band’s interpretation of the classic hymn.)  I think this picture of these kids crying, 14 - Daily Dependnece - The most wonderful time of the year as the possibility of the perfect Christmas card is becoming more and more remote, captures many people’s view of this season of chaotic schedules and never-ending lists of things to do.  You can hear the sarcasm of people as they make some comment like “oh yeah, it sure is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year as I am exhausted out of my mind and don’t know how I am going to get everything done in time!  The signage of this photo shoot gone badly is the focus of today’s “Reason for the Season.”

14 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 3The third candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath, which also is the only pink candle, represents Joy.  Joy is such an interesting concept.

Yesterday my pastor was preaching on Joy as part of the Advent Sermon Series we are currently in and he discussed the difference between Joy and Happiness.  Often times the two are used interchangeably but they are radically different.  He said,

“You can have joy but not be happy about circumstances.  You can have happiness but not joy.”  Marty Collier

See HAPPINESS is based on circumstances, whereas JOY is based on our faith in God.  I read a devotional this morning called “The Definition of Joy” from Rick Warren based on Kay Warren’s new book, Choose Joy: Because Happiness Isn’t Enough.

“My problem was my definition of joy.  I thought joy meant feeling good all the time.  That’s impossible!  Even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic, that’s impossible…

Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.

You’ll find nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because, as we all know, happiness is fleeting and temporary.

Happiness is fleeting, only Joy remains!  The second song that I mentioned that kindles the Christmas spirit in me is Joy to the World.  David Mathis said something very interesting about this song in the preface of John Piper’s “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“The advent primarily in view each December is the first coming of Jesus two millennia ago.  But Jesus’s second coming gets drawn in as well, as the popular Christmas carol “Joy to the World” makes plain:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

I was shocked when I read that…I never realized that a song I sang at the top of my lungs during the Christmas season was actually a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphant second return, rather than a song celebrating his first coming.  Published in 1719, the words by English hymn writer Isaac Watts and are based on the second half of Psalm 98 in the Bible. Take a look for yourself…Psalm 98:4-9 (NLT).  Powerful imaginary isn’t it?

And that is what I believe God would like us to grab hold of this Advent Season…Not just to look back at the first coming of Christ, (which is good to do no doubt,) but to also have joyful expectation of Jesus Christ’s second coming as the Book of Revelation speaks of!  Steven Furtick made this statement about Joy that I wanted to share…

“I love the scripture that says that weeping may endure for the night but joy comes in the morning.  You know what I found out though morning doesn’t happen when it says AM on the clock.  Morning happens when you wake up and throw the covers off and open your eyes to the goodness of God.  In other words the moment you decide to wake up and look, I bet you’ll see God in the middle of your circumstances. I bet you’ll see God in the middle of your difficulty.” 

In the ★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-mas? – Part 2 ★ post we talked about this year is the 50th anniversary of the classic TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Today’s passage is one in the same with what Linus quoted the Gospel According to Luke, verses 8 through 14 of the Kings James Version so we will read it in that translation as well…

14 - Daily Dependence - Angels Visiting Shepherds Collage“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I am so thankful for Charles Schulz fighting to have those (6) verses included because there is so much power in them!  Can you imagine what that scene was like to be one o those shepherds?  Maybe it was a crisp cool night as the Shepheard’s sat around a campfire…all that could be heard was the sheep shuffling around grazing in the open pasture.  The shepherds probably had very little to do, but to gaze at the stars above when all of sudden “the glory of the Lord shone round them!” I have always thought it comical, that Luke writes in the next line, that the “were sore afraid.”  14 - Daily Dependence - Angel Announcement I bet they were, wouldn’t’ you be?!  But I love the reassurance they received from the Angel…“Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  Hundreds of years of waiting for this news, and the recipients of the greatest news event in history was not a King or nobles but lowly shepherds tending their flock in the countryside.  Tomorrow we will dig into “A Shepherd’s View of Christmas” so I will defer that aspect of this event until tomorrow.  Like we discussed in the ★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★ post about the journey to Bethlehem for the census, we can gloss over familiar parts of the Christmas Narrative and miss the wonder like the next part…“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Wow can you imagine what that light show must have been like?  What an unbelievable experience to have that proclamation done in front of you!  I am sure all these images pale in comparison to what it must have been like.  I came across this image that I thought was fascinating in how it shows the events unfolding simultaneously…  14 - Daily Dependence - NativityAs Mary lays the baby Jesus down in the manger, we can see the Angelic Heavenly Host declaring the arrival of the Savior of the World in the distance!  This painting is a great visual representation of the tapestry of events that God wove together the lives of many different people to bring about the fulfillment of His Salvation plan as revealed through the prophecies of Isaiah, Micah and Jeremiah, (to name a few…) right down to the very last detail.  Amazing!  I love this quote from Matt Chandler’s sermon called “Advent (Part 2) – Tell of His Coming: The Shepherds and Angels,”

“God is a God who keeps His promises, even the small ones that don’t seem maybe to matter that much…The fact that God keeps His promises to His people should move our hearts towards worship, move our hearts towards gladness and anchor us in confidence.”

I am thankful for a God who is not only a promise keeper but who is also my anchor!  14 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Bring JoyLike the Angels, we need to BRING JOY EVERYWHERE YOU GO.

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Angels – The Voice of Praise.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Angels’ perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 15 – Reason for the Season – A Shepherd’s View of Christmas ★

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★ Day 13 – Reason for the Season – The Nativity Revealed ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1

13 - Daily Dependence - 12 Days Until ChristmasWell we are at the final stretch, 12 days ‘til Christmas!  How has this advent Season been going for you?  Are you fostering lasting moments with your family and friends that will be remembered?  In the ★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate? ★ post I shared with you a tradition that my mom did with my brother, sister and I with the advent calendar and how precious that memory was to me.  My mom did a phenomenal job cultivating wonder and excitement during the advent season.  Another tradition we had was that on Christmas 13 - Daily Dependence - Nativity Scene - IncompleteEve, one of us got to put the baby Jesus in the Nativity….up until then, the porcelain figurine set was incomplete.  As was the case with the last day of the advent calendar, this was yet another opportunity for my siblings and I to fight over who got to do it.  Typically if you opened the last flap of the calendar, you were ineligible for the Nativity addition of the baby Jesus.  My mom needed to do a lot of refereeing since there were 3 of us…hahaha!  I saw this comic and thought this was a hysterical point of view from the animal’s perspective of what it was like to be there for the birth of Christ!

13 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - Coolest Thing to Happen in the StableIn the ★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★ post, I mentioned about the tough road that Mary and Joseph had to endure travelling to a foreign land, and how I loved the realism of the 2006 movie “The Nativity Story,” (probably one of my favorite movies!)  As we discussed, I especially loved the realistic depiction of what the long and arduous journey to Bethlehem must have been like for the pregnant teenager, Mary riding on the back of a donkey through the barren land.  In yesterday’s ★ Day 12 – Reason for the Season – Oh Holy Night ★ post, we looked at the birth of Jesus and the fact that his crib was a feeding trough in a stable of animals.  Today’s “Reason for the Season” will delve into what the Nativity really was like…which probably was nothing like the idyllic scenes that we see in all the Hollywood depictions and artistic paintings like this one…

13 - Daily Dependence - Nativity Scene

Growing up this is always how I imagined the first Christmas to be like.  Peaceful, tranquil and with no stress whatsoever, but I know think it was quite different!  Luke 2:7 (NKJV) says,

“And she [ Mary ] brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” 

One simple verse that we can extrapolate that the Savior of the World was born in a stable with a manger or feeding trough for a crib.  Have you ever thought about what that must have been like?  How it was to give birth in a filthy stable filled with animals?  Last year I went on a field trip with my daughter to a career center so that she could investigate possible options for her future.  One of the courses of study available was “Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources” that was designed for students interested in careers in agribusiness, animal sciences, and farm/range management.  They had a fully functioning stable with cows, pigs, sheep and an assortment of other livestock animals.  Though they kept the place as clean as possible, the smell was unbelievable!  Between the stench of the animals and manure it was difficult for me to stay there for too long.  Now imagine being in a stable over 2,000 years ago.  I would think that the hygiene conditions and aroma from the animals would have been drastically worse than a career center to train high school students.

The other aspect that I think it often overlooked in such a short passage of scripture is the lack of cleanliness in the accommodations for giving birth.  I was blessed to be present for both of my daughter’s births back in 2000 and 2003.  I remember so vividly the sanitized room and how comfortable they made my wife feel.  We were in a very relaxing and beautiful hospital room surrounded by our family for support in the waiting room.  There were nurses popping in every 30 minutes or so to see if they could get her ice chips or anything else to put her at ease.  She also had an epidural to help with the pain, and a host of medical professionals available if anything went wrong.  Another aspect that I recall was the precautions that the doctor and nurses took to prevent the spread of any contagion.  Now rewind back to the delivery room that Mary had…She probably had a blanket on the dirt ground surrounded by livestock, no epidural or nursing staff to make her more comfortable, and I would suspect Joseph delivering the baby…Far from ideal circumstances!  As we have been seeing over the past few days, Mary and Joseph faced tremendous adversity to be part of God’s salvation plan to bring Jesus into this world!  I think though that they had great joy despite the circumstances and hardships they faced.  John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“The key that unlocks the treasure chest of God’s peace is faith in the promises of God.”

Mary and Joseph both has extraordinary faith in God and Faith in God = Peace in life!  Day 10 of the of 121 Advent Bible Plan furthers this point…

“We are all longing for peace in our lives.  We all want the brokenness and chaos of sin to be removed and for shalom to enter in.  So how do we find true peace?  How can we go and live our lives in peace?  JESUS!  JESUS!  JESUS!  If we lay our lives at His feet, trust Him with our whole selves, the Prince of Peace will cover us with peace for all our eternity!  Jesus is the giver of peace to our lives!

Sin is the problem and Jesus is the answer!  Just like the Nativity scene was incomplete until December 24 in my childhood home, so out life is incomplete until we accept that baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in the manger that cold, dark night in the stable.  2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says,

“For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

And Jesus said about Himself in Luke 19:10 (NLT),

“For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

The journey we have been on together for the past 13 days, studying the events of the birth that changed everything, we will find peace and completeness when we trust in Jesus as our Savior!  I am so thankful that Jesus is at the center of my life and that He will always be present!

13 - Daily Dependence - Nativity Scene - Complete

 

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here… Day 14 – Reason for the Season – Joy to the World ★

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★ Day 12 – Reason for the Season – Oh Holy Night ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1O12 - Daily Dependence - Silent Night Lyricsne of my favorite classic Christmas hymns to sing is “Silent Night,”

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin Mother and Child, holy
Infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Today’s “Reason for the Season” is focused on the moment that the Israelites longed for, for hundreds of years, the night that the savior of the world was born.  The prophet Isaiah foretold of the coming of Jesus over 700 years beforehand…Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) says,

`”Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”

“God is with us” and He sent Jesus to be that connector. Saint Athanasius said,

“He became what we are that He might make us what He is.”

Yesterday in the ★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★ we discussed how perilous the journey to Bethlehem must have been for the pregnant Mary traveling over 100 miles on the back of a donkey.  Something that has always astounded me is that after everything Mary and Joseph went through, when they arrived at Bethlehem it didn’t any easier.  Luke 2:6-712 - Daily Dependence - The Nativity Story Birth of Jesus recalls the Birth of Jesus,

“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born.  She gave birth to her first child, a son.  She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

Two simple verses in all of scripture that records the most incredible event in human history!  Another classic Christmas song that I love is “Away in a Manger,” which is this lovely, soothing song but do you know what a manger really is?  The Holman Christian Standard Bible translation gives us some insight…Mary “laid Him in a feeding trough.”  Here is the definition of what God’s Son was placed in…

trough  (trôf, trŏf) n.

1.  A long, narrow, generally shallow receptacle for holding water or feed for animals.

The messiah was born in a stable, amongst animals and then placed in a “shallow receptacle for holding water or feed for animals.”  Incredible…Definitely not the idyllic scene that so many paintings and movies depict!  In Charles Stanley’s “Life Principles Bible,” he had this incredible commentary on Luke 2:7,

“Amazingly, God stepped into this world not as the reigning King with pomp and ceremony, but as the humble Child who was wrapped in simple swaddling clothes.  Far from a royal crib, Jesus’ first resting place was a primitive feeding trough.”  

In the movie “The Nativity Story” they showed Joseph frantically running from door-to-door because Mary was in labor, and it may have been that, or it may have been under calm conditions, but regardless at the end a 100 mile journey it must have been heartbreaking and quite frustrating to find that there was no suitable place for them to stay.  Day 3 of the 121 Advent Bible Reading Plan said,

“As His followers, life will be difficult, but our hope is not at the mercy of our circumstances and our perspective is not limited to what is seen, but is wrapped up in the truth of the Gospel for all eternity.  We have hope and can hope because it has been given to us in Christ.”

Life will be difficult…It was for Mary and Joseph, and it most definitely was for Jesus…But our hope is in the baby that was wrapped snugly in strips of cloth and laid in a manger over two thousand years ago.  While I was reading John Piper’s “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,” he addressed what I had always questioned about with the no vacancy signs throughout Bethlehem.

“Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, He surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn.

Yes, he could have.

The question is not what God could do, but what He willed to do.

God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake He became poor.  The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake.  (See 2 Corinthians 8:9)”

The way Jesus came into this world was for our sake so that we would have a Savior that understands adversity and any hardship that we may ever experience…Jesus endured it all for our sakes!!  I will close with this additional powerful point from John Piper’s devotional…

12 - Daily Dependence - The Nativity Story and Cross“God rules all things—even motel capacities—for the sake of his children.  The Calvary road begins with a “No Vacancy” sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing of the cross in Jerusalem.”

“Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus have a room at his birth.  But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road.”

Jesus’ life started in a “silent night, holy night,” but ended in agony and chaos all for our benefit!!  Today I am thankful for that Holy Night that brought into being the hope of my salvation!

Here is my favorite version of “Oh Holy Night” sung Rebecca Pfortmiller…You will be blessed!

12 - Daily Dependence - May the peace and hope of Christ's Birth be with you

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 13 – Reason for the Season – The Nativity Revealed ★

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★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 111 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - No Room In the Inn

Hahaha!!  That to me is hysterical but true!  We are going to examine in today’s “Reason for the Season” that following God’s plan is not always going to be easy but that we can have peace that surpasses understanding   Peace that is not depending on circumstances but on the faith in Jesus! (See Philippians 4:6-8.)  Day 7 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan said,

“From the very beginning of time, peace was understood to be not simply the absence of that which is bad, but also the presence of that which is good.  In the Bible, the Hebrew word used for peace is “shalom.”  Shalom means wholeness, complete flourishing of a person’s life.  Biblically, shalom is often used to reference a person’s life being whole with God.  God created everything to operate in perfect harmony with one another and with God.  This is shalom; this is peace.”

That is the type of peace that I am talking about, not as a result of not having problems at the moment but peace in the midst of problems because of your relationship with God the Father.  Growing up in Pennsylvania my mom became a huge “Country and Western” music fan.  I remember how endless the car rides were as this honky-tonk noise droned on and because we lived in the country everywhere we went was a minimum of a 20 minute drive.  It’s funny though, decades later I am a country music fan as well…I guess the brainwashing worked hahaha!  There was one song from Lynn Anderson entitled “Rose Garden” (released in 1970) that had this opening lyric that I still remember it so clearly…

“I beg your pardon; I never promised you a rose garden.  Along with sunshine, there’s got to be a little rain some time.” 

My mom used to say to me growing up that God never promised us a rose garden.  Good advice from a good ol’ country and western song, but it does align with scripture as well…Jesus said in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB)… 

God sends His sun to rise on both the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  That is an important truth to put on the sticky side of your brain.  Just because you are living a life sold out for God does not mean you will not face adversity.  In fact because we live in a fallen world, full of sin, and have a real enemy, Satan, there will always be warfare…See Ephesians 6:10-17.  As I was talking with my wife about this post and the “Rose 11 - Daily Dependence - Rose and ThornGarden” song, she made this astute point that along with the beauty of the rose comes the thorns.  Much like the verse from Matthew 5:44-45, there’s a great paradox that exists with the rose…There’s beauty and ugliness…delicateness and jaggedness…joy and pain.  I think it is a great symbol for what God wants to speak into our hearts today.  Abraham Lincoln once said,

 “We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Such a great perspective isn’t it?  As you ponder on these truths, I would also point out that God did not spare His own Son from the cruelty and torment of the cross.  And the same is true for Jesus’ earthly parents, God definitely did not spare Mary and Joseph from adversity…From the start, there was much to overcome from the believability of the Immaculate Conception that Mary became pregnant even while being a virgin (see ★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★); to Joseph accepting his part in God’s plan and ultimately all the gossip that people would spread about the assumed scandalous pregnancy (see ★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★) and now the next boot is about to drop as they are told they must make a 11 - Daily Dependence - Map of Nazareth to BethlehamPilgrimage to Bethlehem as told in Luke 2:1-5 (NLT) says,

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census.  And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home.  He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee.  He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant.

Five little verses that if we are not careful we can skip right over to get to the birth of Jesus in verse 6 but Joseph and Mary did not get to skip over the fatigue, danger and uncertainty of what this journey would bring.  The trek probably was done on foot or maybe there was a donkey for Mary to ride on as some many pictures and movies speculate, but regardless it could not have been easy.  Responding to the decree to take part in the Roman Empire Census, Joseph took his pregnant fiancé to be counted but had to do so on the back of a donkey!  How many women would want to have traded places with Mary for that road trip??  With only 5 verses of information, there is not much known about the route so here is a current map of the region which Google Maps outputted if you were to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem which is a little over a 100 mile expedition.  I have always wondered what that must have been like.

11 - Daily Dependence - The Nativity Story PosterThere is a movie that came out in 2006, called “The Nativity Story” which does an excellent job in depicting what the long and arduous journey to Bethlehem might have been like for a pregnant Mary riding on a donkey through the barren land.  Unlike other movies which are primarily based on the Birth of Jesus, The Nativity Story focuses a lot on life in Nazareth and showing Mary living the simple life of a teenager and the development of her getting engaged to Joseph the local carpenter.  The visitation of Gabriel and trip to see Elizabeth are well done but what is really powerful is how the movie shows the scorn of the community from the virgin conception once she returns to Nazareth and Joseph’s struggle to believe her seemingly outlandish story.  The only exception that I have with the movie is the depiction of the Magi at the Nativity which Matthew 2:1-10, makes clear that they visited a house not a stable, a child not baby but we will get to that on Day 21.  As you can tell this is a phenomenal Hollywood offering form a very different perspective.  And ultimately that is what we all need, a different perspective!  If I may go back to the imagery of the rose and thorn, when Jesus was being prepared to die on the cross, it says in John 19:2 (NLT) that,

“The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on His head, and they put a purple robe on Him.”

Jesus died for you and I and regardless if life is not falling into place the way you think it should or if you are facing trials does not mean that God is not with you.  Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) says,

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”
“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.”

Regardless of what you are going through, God loves you and is working behind the scenes providing all that we need.  John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“He is a big God for little people, and we have great cause to rejoice that, unbeknownst to them, all the kings and presidents and premiers and chancellors of the world follow the sovereign decrees of our Father in heaven, that we, the children, might be conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ.”

Yes following Jesus will cost you but its worth it!  Romans 8:28 (NASB) is promise we have from God that,

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

No matter what happens in life, we can be thankful this truth!!

Earlier we read in Matthew 5:44-45 (NASB) that Jesus said to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven,” so as an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to  “The Twelve Voices of Christmas audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Herod – The Voice of Deception” who was the biggest enemy in the Christmas story!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 12 – Reason for the Season – Oh Holy Night ★

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★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 110 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 2The second purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Peace and today’s “Reason for the Season” is going to explore how we can experience that in the midst of a busy season by making the choice to live out each day with the Spirit of Christmas in our hearts.  Let me ask you; are you a Little House on the Prairie fan?  If not, I strongly urge you to start binge watching it on Netflix or set the DVR to record it from the Hallmark Channel.  10 - Daily Dependence - Little House in the Prairie castIt is without a doubt, one of the most outstanding TV shows, which to this day, my family and I continue to watch daily!  For those not familiar, Little House on the Prairie (LHOTP) first aired in 1974 (the year I was born.)  It is a pioneer/western TV drama adapted from the books that Laura Ingalls Wilder authored about her life in Plum Creek, Minnesota.  41 years later, this timeless classic TV show is just as relevant in teaching great life principles in a realistic but uplifting way, as it was when it first hit the airways!  Growing up I had heard of LHOTP but never really watched it.  I came to love the show later in my life, when my wife introduced me to it in our first year of marriage.  I remember so clearly watching every night in our one bedroom apartment, the episode that we had recorded that day on the VCR player, (if you have no idea what that is, consider yourself blessed!  Hahaha!)

One of my absolute favorite episodes is “Christmas at Plum Creek,” in which each member of the Ingalls family works hard, and makes great sacrifices in order to buy or make gifts for each other.  Though none of them has much money, they want to make the first Christmas in their new home a special celebration.  One of the repeated lines in the episode about Christmas coming, is that

“It is a time for secrets and not to ask questions.”

And my family and I even say that to each other as a result.  [ Spoiler Alert ] The part that gets me every time is when they are opening their presents and Caroline10 - Daily Dependence - Little House in the Prairie Opening Presents (Ma) is dying to know what is in the giant box next to her, (reminds me of the child-like anticipation and curiosity of my wife!)  Believing it is from Pa (Michael Landon), she is shocked to find out that it is actually from her little girl Laura, who sold her beloved horse “Bunny” so that she cold but the stove for her!   Every time, I chock up watching the sacrificial spirit of that act of love…which every time results my daughters laughing and regaling that “Daddy’s crying again!”  I cannot emphasis how great the show is.  Laura Ingalls Wilder penned this beautiful sentiment…

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”

I so love that.  Before Christmas I challenge you to stream this episode and experience this tangible example of what the Spirit of Christmas is for yourself.  The Spirit of Christmas is not about getting stuff (as we looked at on ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★,) but about finding ways to give to others.  Day 5 of the of 121 Advent Bible Plan said,

“The beauty of the hope ushered in through Christ and made alive in us through His Spirit, is that it gives us the ability to have abiding hope, that transcends earthly circumstances and uncertainty.”

One of the reasons that Christmas is so wonderful is because it’s the one time of year when people start to think of others less fortunate than themselves…whether it is buying presents to give to “Toys for Tots,” or serving in a soup kitchen for the homeless or some other form of community service.  Calvin Coolidge once said,

“To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” 

That is the Spirit of Christmas to be the hands and feet of Jesus, spreading God’s love to those around you.

Last week while I was on a business trip to Indiana, I saw the Polar Express movie (from 2004) again. Every time I hear Josh Groban’s song “Believe,” it warms my heart because of the message it conveys. As I watched the climactic scene of Santa giving out the first gift of Christmas, he said something that just resonated with me…

10 - Daily Dependnece - Polar Express - The True Spirit of Christmas lies in your heart
“The true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.”

And that is so true!!  Titus 3:4-0 (NIV1984) says,

“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy.  He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”

10 - Daily Dependence - Charles Dickens - Honor ChirstmasAs a result of Jesus’ sacrifice, when we accept Him as our savior we receive also the Holy Spirit which is the greatest gift ever!  I will close with this last thought…As we have been ruminating over these past 10 days, let’s do what Charles Dickens said in his classic novel, “A Christmas Carol”…

“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year.”

Let’s live with the Christmas Spirit in our hearts, not just on December 25 but for the other 364 days!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 11 – Reason for the Season – Following Jesus Will Cost You ★

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★ Day 09 – Reason for the Season – Who Do You Belong To? ★

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When you read this title what was the first thing that came to mind?  Depending on your age, your answer may be different.  We all start off being known as the daughter/son of Mr. and Mrs. _(fill in blank)_, then you may become the wife/husband of _______, and finally you could be the mother/father of _______.  My wife and I have this running joke that once we had children we stopped being called by our name to our daughter’s school population…we are now refereed to all the time as ______’s mother/father.  But there is another person we belong to which we will delve into in today’s Reason for the Season.  But first, let’s look at, Zechariah’s Prophecy – Luke 1:67-80 (NLT)

09 - Daily Dependnece - Zechariah’s Prophecy over JohnThen his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has visited and redeemed his people.
He has sent us a mighty Savior
    from the royal line of his servant David,
just as he promised
    through his holy prophets long ago.
Now we will be saved from our enemies
    and from all who hate us.
He has been merciful to our ancestors
    by remembering his sacred covenant—
the covenant he swore with an oath
    to our ancestor Abraham.
We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
in holiness and righteousness
    for as long as we live.
“And you, my little son,
    will be called the prophet of the Most High,
    because you will prepare the way for the Lord.
You will tell his people how to find salvation
    through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy,
    the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
    and to guide us to the path of peace.”

John grew up and became strong in spirit.  And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.”

I love this picture of a Father speaking over their child and prophesying of a rich future for his son.  John Piper made this powerful point about Zechariah’s Prophecy in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“Notice two remarkable things from these words of Zechariah in Luke 1.  First, nine months earlier, Zechariah could not believe his wife would have a child.  Now, filled with the Holy Spirit, he is so confident of God’s redeeming work in the coming Messiah that he puts it in the past tense.  For the mind of faith, a promised act of God is as good as done.  Zechariah has learned to take God at his word and so has a remarkable assurance: “God has visited and redeemed!”

In ★ Day 06 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Should Change Us ★ we looked at how our faith in God’s plan will change us, and clearly today we can see that is the case for Zachariah!  That quote from John Piper hit me hard.  I have read this passage so many times but never caught that Zachariah used the past tense that…“the God of Israel, visited and redeemed his people.”  Indeed that is what Jesus has done for us but for Zechariah to prophesy that it was in the past is a picture of incredible faith!  I believe that was a result because Zechariah understood fully “who he belonged to”…God the Father in heaven who showed great love and faithfulness in giving him and Elizabeth a much longed for son!  In that culture, if you did not have a child it was considered a curse, which people believed you had sin in your life and as a result, barrenness was a punishment.  Luke 1:24-25 (NASB) tells us that when Elizabeth’s barrenness ended it brought her great joy,

“After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, ‘This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.’”

So I think it is safe to say that John the Baptist was loved greatly and probably felt like he belonged.  Going back to today’s passage, that last verse, “John grew up and became strong in spirit” I believe is indicative of the strength of his home life and his father’s influence of helping his son bring to fruition this prophesy.  There are many studies that show what a stabilizing impact a father who is present in the home can have; and conversely the negative vacuum that is created when there is not one.  If I may, I would like to speak to the Husbands and Fathers for a moment and share with you this powerful statement from Sandi Krakowski that we must do…09 - Daily Dependence - Thermostat or Thermometer

“Be a THERMOSTAT, not a thermometer, change the atmosphere around you with your attitude rather than just reflecting circumstances.”

Ask yourself, are you predominately a thermostat or a thermometer…the answer is critical.  God has called men to be leaders in our homes, and leaders set the climate in their home.  We all have our bad days but I underlined “predominately” in the hopes that you would do so soul searching over the course of time versus just having a bad day here or there.

Okay back to everyone…If you grew up having a father in your home, consider yourself blessed and take a moment today to reach out to him and say thank you for everything he’s done for you.  For me that was not the case.  In the ★ Thought for the Day – Never Fatherless ★ I shared how I grew up without a father in the house from the age of 5, and that my mother and I moved to another state at the age of 12 so I never had a father in my life to speak over me like Zechariah did.  I can testify to the fact that not having a father around left a hole in my heart that rippled into all sorts of self-destructive behaviors from excessive partying, alcohol abuse and addiction to drugs.  I carried that Father Wound for years until I accepted Jesus as my Savior and learned all about God the Father who was just waiting for me to turn away from my sinful life and trust Him for my needs.  I now have something far greater than belonging to an earthly father, I belong to my Heavenly Father and He has healed me completely!  He loves me and you so much that he gave up His one only Son to save us from the penalty of our sinful decisions.  (See John 3:16-17 or ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★, where we looked at that verse.)  1 Peter 3:18 (HCSB) says that,

“For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring you to God, after being put to death in the fleshly realm but made alive in the spiritual realm.”

Believing in Jesus suffering for our sins is the way to eternal life…to bring us to God the Father!  C.S. Lewis once said,

“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”
“The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.”

I love that way he put it, “to enable” us to become sons and daughter of God.  John 6:40 (NIV1984) furthers that point by showing the God the Father’s heart,

“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.”

We have a future in making that decision to believe in Jesus and finally in John 10:10 (NASB), Jesus said,

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

There is no better decision that you could make.  If this Christmas season you find yourself alone and hopeless, feeling as if you do not belong, KNOW THIS…Jesus came to give us not only life, but Life in ABUNDANCE…trust Him today!

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Zachariah – The Voice of Disclosure.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Zachariah’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 10 – Reason for the Season – What is the Spirit of Christmas? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas vs. X-mas – Part 2 ★

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08 - Daily Dependence - Christmas or X-masLast year we posted ★ Thought for the Day – Christmas or X-Mas? ★ where we looked at the evolution of the word Christmas to its abbreviated form of “X-Mas” and how Jesus has been “X-ed” out of Christmas.  08 - Daily Dependence - X-ing Christ OutI highly recommend you read the original post for the context//background as I plan to build upon it, (not repeat the content.)  The main idea is how do you “X” Christ out when “Christmas begins with Christ?”

08 - Daily Dependence - Christmas Begins With Christ

This year is the 50th anniversary of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which today is still my favorite cartoon to watch!  It is amazing to me that back in 1965, when it first aired, how pervasive materialism must have been to inspire the TV special.  If you have not seen it, the main character Charlie Brown is struggling with depression and trying to understand the meaning of Christmas as everyone around him is focused on themselves and what they can get.  I wonder how creator Charles Schulz would feel about today’s atmosphere.  There was a special on TV the other week commemorating the golden anniversary which gave some interesting insight into Schultz’s insistence that the crux to the show was Linus quoting the Luke 2:8-14 of the Kings James Version in which the scene lasted 51 seconds!  08 - Daily Dependence - Linus - For Unto You is Born a SaviourBig investment and gamble but it paid off!  And at the end of that near minute recitation Linus concluded with the simple statement that,

“ . . . And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown,”

At the time, CBS executives saw the final product and were horrified, believing the special would be a complete flop and wanted to “X” it out but 50 years later, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” continues to air every season that is a testimony to God’s Word having tremendous power, even with how hostile the culture is towards Jesus!  (If you missed it, we delved into this a little more in the ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★.)

Today we will build upon this reality of “X-ing” Christ out of the Christmas by contrasting it with a man whose followers tried to set him up as the Messiah which was the first attempt to “X” or replace Jesus.  The next part of the Christmas story that we are going to look at is the Birth of John the Baptist as recorded in Luke 1:57-66 (NLT).  When we last left Zachariah in ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★, the Angel Gabriel disciplined his disbelief by rendering him mute until the events that he foretold came to pass.  After John was born and they went to the temple to circumcise and name the baby “John,” Elizabeth was met with opposition because no one in the family was named that and insisted that he be named after his father Zechariah.  Luke 1:63-66 (NLT) records Zachariah’s atonement and restoration for His faith,

“He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God.

Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills.  Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, ‘What will this child turn out to be?’  For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.”

That last part is very interesting… “‘What will this child turn out to be?’  For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.”  God set the stage for John the Baptist to be the forerunner for his cousin Jesus to “Prepare the Way,” calling the people to repent of their sins and ready their hearts for the coming of the Messiah.  When you read the Gospels (the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,) you learn much about this mighty man of God and how there was indeed a special anointing on John the Baptist.  In John 1:19-23 (NLT), John the Baptist testified about who he was,

“This was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Temple assistants from Jerusalem to ask John, “Who are you?” He came right out and said,

“I am not the Messiah.”

“Well then, who are you?” they asked.  “Are you Elijah?”

“No,” he replied.

“Are you the Prophet we are expecting?”

“No.”

“Then who are you?  We need an answer for those who sent us.  What do you have to say about yourself?”

John replied in the words of the prophet Isaiah:

“I am a voice shouting in the wilderness,

‘Clear the way for the Lord’s coming!’”

Regardless though, John the Baptist had many disciples, and converts coming every day, but when Jesus’ ministry began to flourish, people flocked to Him instead causing John’s disciples to complain to him.  But here is what we need to grab hold of…Instead of puffing up with pride, John the Baptist embraced “being second” and did not try to replace Jesus.  He responded to the critics with this powerful statement:

“He [ Jesus ] must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” of John 3:30 (NLT) 

08 - Daily Dependence - I Am Second - John 3-30

See John the Baptist understood what his purpose was, that he was not the star or hero…Jesus was!  No one or anything should replace Jesus.  He was the original the “I AM Second” spokesman!   And it is clear that his attitude of humility lead to the Son of God, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ to say that John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived, (see Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28) and that was because he knew his place and accepted it!   (If you are interested you can read more on this topic from the post ★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Settle For First Place! ★.)

I will close with this final thought from Mark 10:43b-45 when Jesus said,

“…and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” 

I am so thankful that gave me an example like John the Baptist that being second to Jesus is not a bad thing but rather the right think which He holds in high esteem!!

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “John the Baptist – The Voice of Preparation.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the John the Baptist’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 09 – Reason for the Season – Who Do You Belong To? ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 107 - Daily Dependence - Reverend Fun - Stable HomeI love the cheesy humor in this comic.  I resonate with this pun from Joseph consoling Mary as he tries to make the best out things after finding out there is “no room in the inn,” as this is how I tend to bring levity to bad situations.  But today I want to look into the life of a man who does not get much coverage in the Christmas story but yet his influence was great.  When you think of the major characters in the Christmas Story, who comes to mind, other thank Jesus of course…The Angel Gabriel?  The Virgin Mary?  The Angel’s announcement of the Birth of the Messiah to the Shepherds?  Or perhaps the Wise Men from the East? What about Joseph?  You know Mary’s husband…In all the Hollywood movie adaptations, Joseph does not get very much attention and so we will remedy that and be focusing on the character of this mighty man of God.

Matthew 1:18-25 (NLT) is told from Joseph’s point of view about Mary’s Immaculate Conception.  (If you missed ★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★ we looked into Luke 1:26-38 which is Mary’s point of view.)  As a husband and father of two daughters, I would have found it very difficult to be in Joseph’s position.  Not only trusting that the child is indeed from God but also to endure the daily judgement and speculation of who’s the “real” father’s identity is that must have been pervasive in the small town of Nazareth.  Gossip isn’t a new thing and you know how news spreads in a small town…everyone knows everybody else’s business.  Joseph was a man who clearly thought of others above Himself.  When faced with the betrayal of Mary’s pregnancy, before the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm the truth (see Matthew 1:20), but right before that verse 19 gives us some insight to his character…

“Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.”

Amazing!  “He decided to break the engagement quietly,” and by deciding to do that, Joseph would have never ended the scrutiny or dispelled the rumors of whose child it was.  You know it would be one thing to make that decision after the dream, but to decide that beforehand shows what an incredible amount of integrity Joseph possessed.  In Matthew 1:22-25 (NLT) it says,

“All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born.  And Joseph named him Jesus.”

This furthers the point that Joseph was a man above reproach, because not only did he have an unwavering acceptance to being part of God’s plan for Jesus’ arrival on Earth, and took Mary as his wife, but he abstained from having sexual relations with “his wife” until AFTER Jesus’ birth.  Joseph was an ordinary man who trusted God so much that he was willing to believe the extraordinary and walked it out!  He is a model of integrity and I pray that we would all grab hold of this attitude to accept whatever God’s Will is.  I had heard a sermon some years ago from David Smith, one of Gateway Church’s Elders and he said this about integrity…

“Integrity is when your behavior matches your beliefs … when what you SAY and what you DO aren’t separate … it’s an INTEGRATED lifestyle.  Integrity will bring you peace.  Trust, Respect, Honor and Influence will happen for you if you walk with integrity.” 

It is certain that long before the news of Mary’s pregnancy, Joseph was already living that “INTEGRATED lifestyle” in which he had peace in his life and was probably a trusted, respected, honored man who had influence within the community that made him the ideal candidate to participate in God’s plan…To be the stepfather of the Son of God.  Joseph must have had unparalleled confidence and trust in God to walk the path that was laid out before him, which could have only resulted from knowing His character and understanding God’s love for Joseph and the children of Israel.  We posted recently this ★ Thought for the Day – Confidence IN WHOSE You Are ★, if you want to learn more about how you are the Apple of God’s Eye, just like Joseph was!  God will take you and me exactly how we are (see Romans 5:1-8 for further evidence!)  I saw this image and it got me thinking…

07 - Daily Dependnece - What I Want for Christmas“What I Want for Christmas is someone to say ‘come as you are’ and mean it.” 

Every one of us wants to be accepted regardless of the baggage we have from past mistakes.  Today I want to speak on behalf of God and say there is unwavering acceptance from your heavenly Father; He will accept you just the way you are!  And if you have accepted Jesus as your savior but you still feel unworthy because of the lies of Satan, Romans 8:1-2 (NLT) says,

“So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

That is the truth that Joseph walked in as well!  Though he probably received much condemnation from the people around him when he chose to take Mary as his wife and be the father of Jesus, Joseph was confident in whose he was and that was enough.  Tony Evans talked about what is available to you if you have faith in God, he said,

“God will often wait to do His big thing until you have done what He has asked you to do.  He does this because He wants us to see Him in a way we’ve never seen Him before.  He wants us to experience Him in a way that we’ve never experienced Him before.  He wants us to see the connection between our act of faith and His deliverance.  He wants to be more than just a Cosmic-Santa Claus with a pocketful of miracles to throw down.  God wants a relationship with you.”

Amen?  If you are reading this and you have not trusted Jesus to be your savior, you can develop a relationship with God through Jesus today!  Go to ★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★, which will lead you on how to make that decision today.  I am so thankful that God uses ordinary people to do the extraordinary and for Joseph’s example to spur us on to have unwavering acceptance of God’s providence in our lives!  And if you too want for “someone to say ‘come as you are’ and mean it,” then here it is from Jesus who said in Matthew 11:28 (NASB)…

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I will close with this song from Crowder that echoes this truth, aptly names “Come As You Are.”

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Joseph – The Voice of Reason.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Joseph’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here… ★ Day 08 – Reason for the Season – Christmas or X-Mas? – Part 2 ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 06 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Should Change Us ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1Luke 1:39-45 (NLT) tells of Mary’s trip to visit her cousin Elizabeth just a few days after Gabriel’s proclamation that she would be the mother of the Son of God fulfilling the long-awaited prophesy of the coming of the Messiah and how Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit when Mary entered the house.  Verses 39-41 recalls,

“A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth.  At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

“When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.”  My wife sent me this image and I thought it was so profound.

06 - First Person to Recognize Jesus

Obviously I have no idea what it feels to be pregnant but I have to think it would be an unbelievable feeling for your child to “leap” within your womb!!  I also think it is amazing how God gave signs to Elizabeth and Mary confirming everything that Gabriel had spoken to Zachariah and Mary.  Elizabeth was indeed pregnant when Mary walked in the room and if you recall in Luke 1:14-15, the Angel said the baby would “be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.”  As we looked at in yesterday’s ★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★, God is so gracious when we open our hearts to believe in His Word.

Picking back up on the story in Luke 1, verses 42-45 says,

“Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has ble06 - Daily Dependence - Mary and Elizabethssed you above all women, and your child is blessed.  Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?  When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy.  You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.”

The question, “Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me?” from Elizabeth has always amazed me because it shows how becoming pregnant so late in life changed her…Not only did Elizabeth receive a miracle, but she also developed a reverence for her young cousin and recognized that she was carrying the Son of God!!  This Christmas I pray that the faith that Elizabeth and Mary are modeling for us, would penetrate our hearts.  Regardless of whether we are just starting out in life or reaching the end, their example shows that you are never too young or too old to experience God’s promises!  John Piper said in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,”

“The only people whose soul can truly magnify the Lord are people like Elizabeth and Mary—people who acknowledge their lowly estate and are overwhelmed by the condescension of the magnificent God.”

Humility is key and I love Mary’s response to Elizabeth’s question that is recorded in Luke 1:46-56 (NLT), which is known as “The Magnificat: Mary’s Song of Praise,”

Mary responded,

‘Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
    How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
    and from now on all generations will call me blessed.

For the Mighty One is holy,
    and he has done great things for me.

He shows mercy from generation to generation
    to all who fear him.

His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
    He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.

He has brought down princes from their thrones
    and exalted the humble.

He has filled the hungry with good things
    and sent the rich away with empty hands.

He has helped his servant Israel
    and remembered to be merciful.

For he made this promise to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and his children forever.’

Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.”

John Piper also made this powerful point in the devotional,

“Mary sees clearly a most remarkable thing about God: He is about to change the course of all human history.  The most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.”

Love, love, love that!  “The most important three decades in all of time are about to begin.”  Have you ever thought about that?  We have been talking about the Advent Season, and how we look back to the events leading up to the birth of Christ but for the Israelites, they have been waiting for thousands of years for the coming of the Messiah which was about to be fulfilled!  The Advent Season should be filled with expectation and excitement as we recognize that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah, the Savior of the world!  Have you accepted that truth or do you just think all these Christmas stories are just part of a religion?  My 14 year old daughter wrote this on her Instagram page that I wanted to share with you…

“Do you have a religion or a relationship with Christ?  Do you love Him because you have to, or do you choose to live for Him?  The goal is to have a RELATIONSHIP with your Savior, where you are constantly praying and worshiping Him.  Jesus chose me so I choose Jesus.  Stand up for what you believe in, even if it means standing alone.”

06 - Daily Dependence - Jesus is My Savior Nor My ReligionJesus is My Savior Not My Religion and His coming over 2,000 years ago truly did “change the course of all human history!”  It did for me!!  I will close with this from Lysa TerKeurst,

“When the Messiah touches our mess it becomes our message to the world.”  

Now the choice is yours, will you let Christmas Change You?  Nothing changes if nothing changes!

Here is a beautiful version of “Mary Did You Know?” from Jordan Smith (performed at the Finale of the “The Voice” music competition that delves into what Mary may have felt.  Powerful!

 

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 07 – Reason for the Season – Unwavering Acceptance ★

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★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★

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05 - Daily Dependence - Mary and Gabriel_1The Birth of Jesus Foretold – Luke 1:26-38 (NLT)

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary.  She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean.  “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God!  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.  And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen?  I am a virgin.”

The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.  What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age!  People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.  For the word of God will never fail.”

Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  And then the angel left her.

Wow!  This is such an incredible story.  Many times we can read a familiar part of the Christmas story and just glaze over what is actually being said.  Often times I like to put myself in the story to understand it more fully.  First off, what would I do if an Angel appeared to me?  Cower in terror I am sure!  Everywhere in scripture that an Angel appears to a human their very first words are the same “Don’t be afraid.”  Just the sight of a Messenger of God evoked such terror.  Now think of Mary, and what it was like to see and Angel and being a teenager!!  Though scripture does not say how old she was, Mary was probably around 13 or 14 years old which was the traditional betrothal or engagement age.  The artistic rendering above is more commonly the type of depiction you see of the interaction between the two of them, and perhaps afterward Gabriel comforting words Mary had that composure, but I think this is probably how it first appeared and what I image myself being like.  05 - Daily Dependence - Mary and Gabriel_3As Gabriel was making his second proclamation to a human being, this time to Mary, I wonder if he changed his approach after Zechariah’s response of disbelief (that his wife Elizabeth would become pregnant in their old age) because now he is giving supporting evidence that the impossible can and is currently being fulfilled.  (If you missed it, go back and read, ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★.)  What an encouragement Luke 1:37 (NLT) is, not only for Mary but for us today:

“For the Word of God will never fail.”

The New Kings James Version (NKJV) translates it,

“For nothing is impossible with God.”

I love Mary’s response in verse 38 to the Gabriel that though she was a virgin, she would give birth to the son of God. 

“Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May everything you have said about me come true.”  And then the angel left her.”05 - Daily Dependence - Mary and Gabriel_4

Amazing faith!  If you want to delve a little deeper about Faith, we posted this ★ Thought for the Day – Unfathomable Payoff of Faith ★.  Hebrews 11:1 (NLT) says,

“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

There is much uncertainty in this world, but one certain thing I know is that God will never change and so long as I place my faith in Him I WILL NEVER GO WRONG!  I am so thankful for Mary’s extraordinary example of Faith and I pray that I would have the same as well!  May we not only keep sight of the “Reason” for the “Season” but also to trust in God with the same measure of faith as Mary!  I will close with this beautiful prayer from Susie Larson,

“Today, may the Holy Spirit awaken your heart, stir up your faith, and empower your steps! May Jesus open your eyes to all you possess in Him. May you raise your shield of faith, draw a line in the sand, tell the enemy of your soul, ‘No More!’ and refuse to be bullied by your fears. God’s perfect love surrounds you, fills you, and covers you. He’s got you. In Christ Jesus, your soul is heir to His Kingdom. Everything He has is yours. Remember who you are today. Remember whose you are. Heaven knows your name.”

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Mary – The Voice of Wonder.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Mary’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 06 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Should Change Us ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 104 - Reverend Fun - Too EarlyWell Back Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday are behind us!  So now what big thing will the marketers do to get our hard-earned dollar!  I heard a an advertisement for T.J. Maxx which I started laughing so hard from. The announcer said,

“What if this season was spelled by L-O-V-E instead of S-A-L-E?”

Kind of ironic that a Radio Ad for T.J. Maxx would talk about Love in order to sell product but I think there’s something we can learn!  This is the season of Love not sales!  I love what Art Fettig said,

“Some businessmen are saying this could be the greatest Christmas ever.  I always thought that the first one was.”

Amen!  My thoughts exactly!!  Below is a post from my daughter’s Instagram page called Undeserved Grace that she posted a year ago, (when she was 14 years old!)  It is amazing how God spoke through her and it captures exactly what I wanted to share for the Reason for the Season today!

Holiday music blares through speakers.  [ JINGLE BELLS JINGLE BELLS 🎵 ] Aisle shelves are filled with wrapping paper, decorations and batteries, and of course, signs promising to beat competitors’ prices.

To some, it is definitely not the “most wonderful time of the year”. It’s easy to envision long lines at the checkout counter, unbearable traffic, the hassle of battling crowds for the perfect gift, but we can’t let all the hustle and bustle take away from the family, friends, and joy that comes while remembering the birth of our Savior.  Let’s not pass by the magic.  The wonder.  The miracle.  The celebration.  Because without Christ, there would be no Christmas.

Every year we are warned against the sins of commercialism. 🚫  We are told to stop focusing on presents, decorating, and spending money.  Point taken.  But it can be tempting to get distracted by the warnings ad nauseam and miss out on the joys of celebrating. 🎉

Heaven and earth proclaim
Come on, let’s celebrate
It’s Christmas 🎄

Think about this.  Jesus wasn’t born in the best of circumstances.  The political rule was like a dictatorship.  Most people were struggling to get by financially.  So Jesus shows up in the midst of shaky times, deflating most expectations, and with barnyard animals and the stench of manure accompanying his teenage mom in labor.  Not the best kind of set up for a promised Messiah.  But wait.  It was time to celebrate!

Heaven rejoiced.  Angels whooped and hollered, shouting out praises.  The angel of the Lord appeared to unassuming shepherds and said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people” (Luke 2:10).  Good news and great joy!  Then a host of other angels came on the scene and joined the festivities shouting, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth” (Luke 2:14).  It was a time of worship.  Praise.  Thanksgiving.  Celebration.

So instead of feeling condemned, annoyed, or frustrated by overzealous retailers, mad shoppers, or Bah Humbug-ers, celebrate!  Celebrate Christmas with a spirit of adoration and joy.  Celebrate by stringing up twinkling lights on your front door.  Celebrate by humming the tunes of Nat King Cole and “Silent Night.”  Celebrate by giving to those in need.

If you need to, dial back your trips to the mall and spending habits.  And, of course, keep your perspective in check.  But don’t let the grumblings of commercialism keep you from celebrating the One who came to give you the greatest gift—eternal life.

Can you say proud Daddy?  Hahaha!  Such rich insight inspired by the Holy Spirit!  There is nothing wrong with blessing people with gifts but when we allow ourselves to be sucked into the marketing we can lose the meaning of Christmas.  I think it was best said by Dr. Seuss in his classic story ”How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

Christmas does mean so much more than anything that comes from a store!  It is all about Jesus and the hope, peace, joy and love that He offers and I am so thankful that!

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 05 – Reason for the Season – Faith Like Mary ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1In the ★ Thought for the Day – Overwhelmed or Overcoming? ★ we looked into what problems really are…How to avoid being overwhelmed, and more importantly how to overcome them, if you missed it, I highly recommend reading it in tandem with today’s “Reason for the Season” as it has everything to do with Hope.

Christmas can be a really challenging time for people, whether because of loneliness or as a result of losing a loved one or because of some hardship.  For me, this Christmas has been a little difficult because of my mother’s condition.  On December 23, 2010 we had an incredible day with my sister sightseeing in New York City, in which we hit all the hotspots…We saw the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, played the “Big Piano” in FAO Schwarz Toy Store and the kids saw Santa Claus at Macy’s Department Store.  03 - Daily Dependence - NYC SightseeingIt was an incredible day when all of a sudden the rug was pulled out from under us when we got the call that my mom was rushed to the hospital after having a massive stroke that almost killed her.  Nothing prepares you for that call, and let me tell you the train ride back to New Jersey was the longest trip of my life.  The next 5 days in the hospital was a rollercoaster of emotions, filled with extensive praying and tears as one doctor after another rendered a very bleak prognosis of her future.  We went from “what do we do if she flat lines,” to “she may never speak or walk again”…It was a truly gut-wrenching time.  5 years later I am so thankful that not only did my mother survive; she is able to speak and walk and is a living miracle (as there was not an iota of hope that was given by the doctors.)  The reason that this time is a little hard for me is that though my mom is doing well, her life, “the new normal” as they call it after a stroke is radically different.  My mom thoroughly enjoyed Christmas and went overboard to make a magical time for everyone.  Truly my love for the season is a direct result of all that she poured out for everyone else.  As I think back to that time 5 years ago, I am so thankful that we were in town visiting for Christmas when that happened because I could not imagine getting that call and being over 1,500 miles away and I am thankful that God showed up in the way He did because though it was a horrific time, I experienced His Love, mercy and grace in a way I never had before!

Today’s “R03 - Daily Dependence - Fit Family - Let Hope Ariseeason for the Season” is one that is “a rose-colored glasses” everything is great, peaches and cream viewpoint but rather a call to action that regardless of the hardship, circumstance or doctor’s prognosis…we need to “Let Hope Arise!” I cannot think of a better image than this rose struggling to survive in the cold snow laden ground.  If Christmas is a tough time for you, I pray that God would stir your heart as you read this post and well up in you the truth that there is Hope in every situation when you trust in Him!  We talked on the first day about the Advent Wreath, in which there are 4 candles that are lit each week in the season of Advent and the fifth is lit on the last day.  

03 - Daily Dependence - Advent Wreath 1The first purple candle that is lit on the Advent Wreath represents Hope.  Advent Wreath.  Day 2 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan says,

“In Scripture, however, hope is void of uncertainty.  In fact, certainty is at its core, because it rests in the stability of God, His character and His will, which are unwavering.  Biblical hope, then, can be defined as, “the confident expectation and desire for something good in the future…Hope is essential to our faith.”

“Hope is essential to our faith!”  If you are feeling alone, hopeless and at the end of your rope, I want to encourage you to change your perspective because God is a miracle working God!  Like in my mother’s condition, He can breathe life back into your situation.  I love what Marty Collier said,

“Hope is our assurance that God will finish all He has started.
Hope is our confidence that He will do all He has promised.”

The Bible is full of stories of God’s promises.  One such story in the Old Testament that comes to mind, is that of Abram (later renamed Abraham,) who God chose to be the Father of the nation of Israel and promised him and his wife that though they were old, and she was barren, they would conceive and have a son (you can read the account in Genesis 17-18).  Sound familiar?  That is the same story from yesterday’s ★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★ about Zechariah and Elizabeth.  God loves stacking the odds up against Him, and all we need to do is believe.  Romans 4:18-24 (ESV) describes Abraham’s belief…

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.”  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  

No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”  But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in Him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,”

ABRAHAM BELIEVED AGAINST HOPE!  Regardless of the situation we can have the same unwavering faith!  Day 6 of the 121 Advent Bible Plan talked about Abraham’s hope…

“Abraham’s circumstances seemed humanly impossible.  The promise of an heir was hopeless in the face of old age and barrenness.  But when hope rests on God, who can and does, in fact, do the impossible (Matthew 19:26), the realm of possibility has no bounds.  Our hope abounds in His ability, His goodness and His faithfulness toward us, His children.  We have “full assurance of hope.”

“With God everything is possible!”  You can read more on Abraham in (Romans 4:16-21 NLT).  I share this because this is not some dusty old history lesson but is applicable to you and I today!  Lamentations 3:22-24 (NLT) says,

“The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him.”

God’s love for you and me will never end!  He is merciful and faithful.  Problems are going to happen.  We live in a “Fallen World” and Satan is always looking to cause hardships in our life in to discourage us and turn us away from God.  People are going to get sick and bad things will happen but when we persevere and look to God, we can overcome the adversity; and when we do, it will develop and change us, breaking the focus from ourselves and make us more like Jesus so that we can help others!!  Again all we need to do is TRUST GOD in whatever we are going through today and let it transform us! I will close with this beautiful promise that was made in Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)…

I am so thankful for this truth and for what God did in my mom and in my heart!!  God has a plan for you and me, to give us a future and a hope, so LET YOUR HOPE ARISE in God today!

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Elizabeth – The Voice of Blessing.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Elizabeth’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here… ★ Day 04 – Reason for the Season – Christmas Consumerism ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★

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This comic really captures the atmosphere in America.

02 - Daily Dependence - Comic - CreationWise - Why I Say Merry Christmas - Offended by ChristmasEveryone is so concerned about offending people that they have no problem trampling on the rights of those who want to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  It used to be that regardless of whether you believed in Jesus or not, the Christmas season was a time that everyone could come together and celebrate a time of peace and good will to all.  As I think about the upcoming Christmas season of decorating, shopping and everything else that come along with it, I would like to take a moment today and think about “The TRUE Reason for the Season” which is so beautifully conveyed in John 3:16-17 (NLT)…

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.”

“God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son”stop…You can read that and pass right over the significance of these two words, “He gave.”  When it says that He gave it means that He willingly sacrificed His beloved Son up to die in the most heinous way so that “everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life!”  Jesus was born of a virgin woman over 2,000 years ago to make a way for you and I to be saved.  He was sent “into the world not to judge the world,” as some many believe, “but to save the world through Him.”  Now that is something to celebrate!  John Piper made this powerful point in his “Good News of Great Joy | Daily Readings for Advent Devotional,” about the first thing we need to do as we enter the Advent Season,02 - Daily Dependence - John Piper - Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight

“First, meditate on the fact that we need a Savior.  Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.  It will not have its intended effect until we feel desperately the need for a Savior.”

Christmas is an indictment before it becomes a delight.”  Wow that is powerful!  I never thought of Christmas in that way before that it that serves to illustrate that we are lost without Jesus and deserve to be condemned because of our Sin.  But John 3:16-17 is the path to acquittal where all formal charges can be dropped!  But we need to make that choice!  People are offended by Christmas because it puts a spotlight on the fact that they have no relationship with Jesus.  1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) says,

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

That was the case for me for sure!  It was not until I was 24 years old that I realized how lost I was and in need of a savior.  Though I had plenty of information about who Jesus was and the events of Christmas and Easter (when Jesus was raised from the dead after being crucified on the cross 3 days earlier,) there was no transformation in my heart.  I did not understand the significance of Jesus and how His birth over 2,000 years ago would change the course of human history and mine as well!!  Ultimately The Cross of Jesus and Christmas is and will remain folly to those perishing until we understand our need for a savior!  And until then this comic will continue to be the reality…

It really is astounding how Jesus has been “X-ed” out of Christmas in the largest Christian Nation.  I love what comedian Michael Jr. said about this,

“Some people are offended by the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ So I just say ‘Merry Jesus Birthday.’”

“Merry Jesus Birthday” sure has a catchy tone!  Hahaha!  I say Merry Christmas because it is a miraculous time and one worthy of recognition, it is NOT intended to offend or make others feel bad but to celebrate the coming of Jesus.  Christmas is a time of miracles, a time to remember Jesus’ birth and a time for renewal in our hearts.  As we discussed in the last post, ★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate? ★, the start of the Christmas story is in Luke 1:5-25 (NLT) that recalls the first miracle of the Christmas Season as the Angel Gabriel announced that Zechariah and Elizabeth would conceive a son even though they were well along in years and that he would “prepare the people for the coming of the Lord.” (Verse 17)  Zechariah’s son who would be named John the Baptist, was the forerunner to Jesus, the Messiah to be His herald and do just what the Advent Season that we celebrate each year is intended!  Unfortunately though Zachariah did not believe, verse 18 says,

“Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this?  I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

Circumstances clouded his vision and understanding of the miracle-working God that he was serving in the Temple that very day!  So Zachariah’s unbelief, resulted in Gabriel responding in verse 20,

But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

But my favorite part of the story is that even though Zechariah had a moment of doubt, he did indeed believe as verses 23-24 proves,

“When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home.  Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months.”

Like Zachariah, you may have doubts, but I promise you if you open your heart to the truth pf John 3:16-17, you too can be thankful as I am to say Merry Christmas.  I read this quote somewhere that said,

“The most important part about Christmas is the first six letters.”

So I will close this Thought for the Day by saying…          

As an additional supplement to today’s “Reason for the Season”…I highly recommend you listen to “The Twelve Voices of Christmas” audio dramatization from Back to the Bible of “Gabriel – The Voice of Disclosure.”  This dramatization is designed to help the listener experience the story of Christ’s coming in a fresh way from the Gabriel’s perspective.

If you would like to see the next installment of our “25 Days of Thankfulness” series go here…★ Day 03 – Reason for the Season – Let Hope Arise ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate? ★

#Daily Dependence - Reason for the Season - 25 Days of Thankfulness 1John Maxwell once said,

“Reflection turns experience into insight.” 

This simple statement really motivated me to look at the Christmas Story with a new set of eyes and to earnestly seek to explore the “Reasons for Season,” and why I should be thankful.  The muse for this 25 Day Devotional was born from a conversation with y wife as I told her that I want this Christmas to be different from any other.  In her typical motivational nature, she challenged me to write a series of reasons what I am thankful during the Advent Season.  In our last post ★ Thought for the Day – Begging God For_____? ★, we discussed the importance for being thankful and introduced the series that we will be doing for the next 25 Days where we reflect and turn that experience into insight!  Each day we will post daily Reasons for Thankfulness for this Advent Season.  Psalm 136:1, 26 instructs us…

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good.  His love endures forever.  Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” 

A thankful heart will change the bleakest of situations because when shift our focus from the circumstance to the Creator, anything is possible!  We just need to be patient and wait on the Lord which is what the Season of Advent is all about!  For those who may not be familiar with the term of “Advent,” Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as:

noun Ad·vent \ˈad-ˌvent

:  the period beginning four Sundays before Christmas and observed by some Christians as a season of prayer and fasting

01 - Daily Dependence - Advent WreathAdvent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.  Traditionally this has been observed with an Advent Wreath with (5) candles that represents Hope, Joy, Peace, Love and Jesus which would be lit each Sunday.  Interestingly, my church just started a series based on Advent this past Sunday so it is awesome to see how God is spreading His message through different outlets!  Growing up my family celebrated with an Advent Calendar which had small numbered flaps, with a picture and scripture verse 01 - Daily Dependnece - Advent Calendarthat taught a part of the Christmas story for the 25 days leading up to Christmas.  My brother and sister and I always fought to open the last day which had a double flap revealing the baby Jesus, a childhood memory I cherish to this day.  My Aunt has continued the tradition this year by getting my daughters a subscription to an online Advent Calendar which we will be starting today!

Much the same, each day we will look at the Christmas story to better understand the “Reason for the Season” in order to cultivate a true sense of Thankfulness for God sending His Son to be born in a manger.  Psalm 100 – A Psalm of Thanksgiving says,

“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth!  Worship the Lord with gladness.  Come before him, singing with joy.  Acknowledge that the Lord is God!  He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise.”

01 - Daily Dependence - Jesus the Reason for the SeasonThere are a lot of action Words – shout, worship and come singing with joy!  My prayer for you, and for me is that the next 25 days will not be a blur filled with “stuff” to check off the obligatory list, but that we would find a new sense of connection to Jesus!  Because to state the obvious,

Jesus the Reason for the Season! 

Come expectant for God to do something in you each day.  Someone who was expectant was the prophet Micah who foretold where Jesus the Messiah would be born over 700 years prior to His birth.

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”  Micah 5:2 (NIV1984)

To help along with that, I started reading the YouVersion Bible Reading plan called 121 Advent’ (Click here to view).  I highly recommend you do the same.  In today’s devotional content they gave this great description:

The word “advent” is rooted in a Latin word simply meaning, “coming”.  Advent is a season of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ.  This side of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we are able to celebrate this season of advent in two distinct ways.  We look back and identify with those that awaited and longed for the arrival of the Messiah foretold to them.  We do this from a perspective infused with knowing that God, in His faithfulness, provided that Messiah in Jesus, just as the Scriptures prophesied.  We also look ahead, in expectation and longing for the second coming of Christ.  Advent is not a biblical mandate, but a tradition implored among the Christian tradition to set our minds and hearts on the coming of Christ.”

For those who maybe have never read the Christmas Story in totality, here are the major stories:

Or if you want to read it completely through – Luke 1:5-56, Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:57 – 2:40, and Matthew 2:1-23.  Robert Morris has this great thought for you to reflect upon on why to celebrate this season…

“Christmas is about Jesus being conceived in YOU!  It’s about Jesus growing in you and you delivering Jesus to the world around you.” 
“Christmas is about Jesus being conceived in YOU!  It’s about Jesus growing in you and you delivering Jesus to the world around you.”

I am thankful that I have a Savior to celebrate and earnestly desire to grow more and more like Jesus!  So as we enter the Season of “Advent,” let’s spend the next 25 days really focused on setting our minds on Christ and reflecting on all the “Reasons for the Season” to cultivate a thankful heart!


If you would like to see the next installment of our 25 Days of Thankfulness series go here…★ Day 02 – Reason for the Season – Why I Say Merry Christmas ★

Or you can start from the beginning by ★ Clicking Here ★

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★ Thought for the Day – Begging God For_____? ★

As we come to the closing of another year, and the festivities begin with Thanksgiving tomorrow, and then right around the corner Christmas…I wanted to tap the breaks to help us get ready for that all important day that occurs in between….you guessed it Black Friday!  I saw this comic and thought it was priceless…and so true.  A little Black Friday humor!  I don’t know about you, but I do not subscribe to camping out all night or getting up at the crack of dawn to fight the crowd88 - Daily Dependence - Black Friday Realitys in order to get a great deal.  Now anyone who knows me, knows I always hunt for a deal and then will even try to negotiate the price further.  In fact my cousin even referred to me as Dave Ramsey Jr…but you will not see me captured on the news running through a Wal-Mart at 5 am for door buster deals.

So what is on your Christmas list?  What is the one thing you must have?  Maybe a LCD Flat Screen TV? A Coach hand bag?  A Fitbit, to enhance your workout?  Maybe a Self-Balancing 2 Wheel Scooter or a Drone/Quadcopter?  Whatever it is, you can be sure the desire for it has been feed by the incessant Black Friday marketing on which store has the best deal.  I was sick of the commercials before we even got out of October and we still have another month to go.  Tonight my wife and I made a run to the Target, and as we passed Home Depot they were in full swing selling Christmas trees in the parking lot…ugh…I want to transition from the red-faced child screaming “Daddy I want this _____” in the toy section, to what we do to God in our prayers.  Do you find your prayers centering on stuff or a job promotion or finding a spouse?  Do you pray to God with a transactional attitude that you bring a checklist of items for Him to grant?  Or do you pray to Him with a relational attitude that you want to grow closer and get to know God?  There is nothing wrong with asking God to be promoted or to find a spouse but when it is the only reason you talk with Him that is the problem.  What I hate more about the crowds on Black Friday is what the day turns people into…irrational, crazed shopaholics!  88 - Daily Dependence - Black Fridat MadnessIn the ★ Thought for the Day – Keeping Up With The Joneses? ★, we delved into the need to be content with what God has provided for us.  Proverbs 30:7-8 (NLT) is one of my absolute favorite verses on this subject, which says,

"O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die.  First, help me never to tell a lie.  Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!”
“O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die.  First, help me never to tell a lie.  Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!”

What would happen if instead of begging God to grant all of our greeds, we would selflessly pray for God to change our hearts to want what He wants…integrity and contentment?  A prayer I pray daily is for God to make me more like Him…to be a better husband, a better father and a better servant to all.  Proverbs 30 is so powerful; I especially love verse 9 that says,

“Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?”  And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.”

How different would our lives be if we embraced this wisdom?  The bridge between going to God for our greeds, to our needs is a grateful heart.  Psalms 100:4-5 (NLT) says,

“Enter His gates with thanksgiving; go into His courts with praise.  Give thanks to Him and praise his name.  For the Lord is good.  His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation.”

Too often we get consumed with what we don’t have instead of being thankful for what we do.  I know myself I get lost sometimes looking at the bank account and wishing there was more money and not appreciating all that God has done for me.  It is a natural feeling to long for more, or to get twisted up comparing our situations with others but God doesn’t want that for us.  He longs for us to get our priorities straight and trust in Him to be our provider, releasing all our anxieties.  The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Steven Furtick made this profound statement about this verse…

“One of the reasons we’re so anxious about what’s coming, is because we’re not thankful enough for what we have.  And so Paul says, if all you ever pray about is what you need but never stop and thank God for what you have, you’ll always be anxious.”  

Amen!!  There is such wisdom in that statement!  I know myself whenever I shift my focus from God and to my circumstance, anxiety always results.  Verse 7 of Philippians 4 goes on to say,

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” 

Stephen Furtick went on to say,

“We all want the ‘peace of God’ in verse 7, but to get that, we need to first go through verse 6, and be thankful for what God has provided for us.  It is all about having the right    perspective with our priorities aligned with God’s.”`

When we were in at the First Monday Trade Days in Canton, TX, I saw this plaque and it got me thinking…

“What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?”

If that were true, how much would be gone when the alarm clock broke the silence at 4:30 am?  It is really convicting to me.  Cultivating a heart of gratitude really is the key, I would like to reverse this Thought for the Day and pose this question to you…

88 - Daily Dependence - I Am Thankful forFor me I am so grateful for the life God has blessed me with – a beautiful wife and wonderful children, a great home and job…words cannot express my thankfulness!  Most of all I am thankful for who I am in God!  The late, great motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar said,

“The greatest source of happiness is the ability to be grateful at all times.” 

As we, as a nation set aside tomorrow for giving thanks, I would like to challenge us to do what Zig Ziglar said “to be grateful at all times,” and in all circumstances.  Let your thankfulness be not just once a year, but all 365 days!  In keeping with this philosophy, starting on December 1, 2015, we will be starting a 25 Day series where we will delve into the Reasons for Thankfulness for the coming Advent Season.

88 - Daily Dependence - 25 Days of Thanksgiving

You can see the first post here: ★ Day 01 – Reason for the Season – Why Do We Celebrate?

Or see them all (including this one) by clicking here…Reason for the Season

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

★ Thought for the Day – Accidental Existence? ★

Three weeks ago at this time we were on vacation in beautiful San Diego, marveling at God’ handiwork on display everywhere we went.  What an incredible trip!  Not only did we get (11) people across the country and back safe and sound, we were able to visit many of the hotspots San Diego has to offer, from the Gaslamp Quarter to the San Diego Zoo to Point Loma and also Seaport Village…But the highlight for me was visiting the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla.  You will not find this on the list of the top tourist destinations, but for someone who studied this architectural masterpiece in college and its creator,87 - Daily Dependence - Louis Kahn Louis Kahn it was a dream come true!  In 1992, the Salk received a 25-Year Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and was featured in the AIA exhibit Structures of Our Time: 31 Buildings That Changed Modern Life and was described in the San Diego Union-Tribune as the single most significant architectural site in San Diego.  And that is not exaggeration!  Check out this video I stumbled on that shows how incredible this masterpiece is throughout the day – from sunrise to sunset!

The next paragraph is for the Architects or other people who appreciate architecture and a little history…gleaned from the Salk Institute’s website.  Named after Jonas Salk, MD, the developer of the first safe and effective polio vaccine, the vision for the Salk Institute was to be a research facility that would contribute to the betterment of humankind.  In 1960 Salk selected world-renowned architect Louis I. Kahn and directed him to create spacious, unobstructed laboratory spaces that could be adapted to the ever-changing needs of science.  The building materials had to be simple, strong, durable, and as maintenance-free as possible.  Jonas Salk summarized his aesthetic objectives by telling Kahn to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.”  87 - Daily Dependence - Salk InstituteKahn’s masterwork sits on a 27 acre site overlooking the Pacific Ocean and consists of two mirror-image structures — each six stories tall — that flank a grand travertine courtyard with cascading waterfalls.  87 - Daily Dependence - Salk Institute Film StripAs you can see these couple of shots, the space is breathtaking…Okay no more details on the Salk Institute, (thank you for indulging me).  I will get back on track and share with you the muse for the Thought for the Day.  As an idealistic young architecture student, I was privileged to tour most of Louis Kahn’s buildings, the few that were constructed on the east coast.  Moving to Texas, I checked off the Kimball Art Museum from my list and now the Salk Institute.  Kahn was a master at mixing materials and creating spaces that you just wanted to spend hours in.  My dream was to work on architectural projects like that!  As I grew up though, I opted for better financial compensation which led me away from job opportunities that would have been more design orientated, to firms that specialized in more utilitarian projects.  Don’t get me wrong, though I would have loved working projects like Kahn did, but I much rather have the life that I have now.  I am happily married and have a close relationship with my daughters and financial stability unlike my architectural idol.

After sharing my experience at the Salk, a co-worker lent me a documentary film that was made by his son Nathaniel Kahn called “My Architect,”  Phenomenally produced, the younger Kahn blended family history with site visits to his father’s buildings and interviews with people who knew and worked with Louis Kahn, in an effort to learn about whom the man was that died when he was just 11 years old in 1973, (just 1 year before I was born!)  Kahn died from a heart attack in Penn Station, NY in a men’s room after returning from a business trip.  Because he scratched off his address on his passport, this word-renowned architect remained in the morgue for 3 days until he was finally claimed.  What I found out through this gut wrenching search from my hero’s son, was that the man who created these incredible masterpieces was half a million dollars in debt at the time of his death, and the father of 3 children, one from his wife, and the others from two mistresses.  I know that you should never put people on a pedestal but I was taken aback by this revelation.  My heart went out to Nathaniel Kahn, a middle-aged man who clearly had deep father wounds from a man who valued work far above relationships, and was quite selfish in how he treated the mothers of his illegitimate children.  If that was not bad enough, in the documentary several times they played a clip of Louis Kahn staying….

"How accidental our existences are, really, and how full of influence by circumstance."
“How accidental our existences are, really, and how full of influence by circumstance.”

Sad…My heart dropped…All I could think of, was how tragic this man’s view of life was.  Believing that his existence was merely accidental was the saddest fact that I learned about him.  This quote has haunted me, because though I looked up to the “architect” Louis Kahn, the man behind the buildings clearly was broken and lost in his view of the meaning of life.

Maybe you share this view of life, and today, with every fiber of my being, I want you to know that is the farthest thing from the truth!  Ephesians 2:10 (NLT) says,

“For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Charles Stanley wrote a Life Lesson on this verse in his Life Principle’s Bible which illuminates this verse…

“No one understands you better than God – He knows you far more profoundly than you can even know yourself.  In fact, the Lord knows what you were created to be and all the great things He could accomplish through you if you were to surrender yourself to Him.  He has designed you for a specific, fulfilling purpose, but you cannot find it or achieve it on your own.  Rather, it is only by abiding in Him that it will come to fruition in your life.”

God has a plan for your life and He wants you to know that it’s been planned for a long time…There is nothing random or accidental with God! 

87 - Daily Dependence - Cliff Notes on EstherIn the Old Testament there was girl named Esther who was became queen to King Xerxes.  I will attempt give you the “Cliff Notes” version on her background (but I highly recommend you read the whole book of Esther, incredible history!)  After becoming Queen, her cousin Mordecai warned her to keep secret her family background and nationality since she was a Jew.  Haman was the King’s right hand man, who was higher than that of all the other nobles.  At the time of his promotion, Mordecai refused to bow down to him and give him honor so Haman sought to destroy not only Mordecai but all the Jews.  He convinced the King that the Jews needed to be eliminated and in Esther 3:13a (NIV1984) it says that

“Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews–young and old, women and little children–on a single day”

Mordecai came to Queen Esther for help to beg for mercy so that the King would change this law.  She was in a precarious situation of whether to allow her people to be executed or to go before King Xerxes and risk being killed herself, because at that time there was a law that any man or woman any man or woman who approached the king without being summoned could be put to death unless the king to extend the gold scepter to them to spare their life.  Like anyone in a position like that, fear made Esther waver about whether to heed Mordecai’s request or not.  In Esther 4:14 (NIV1984) Mordecai made this powerful statement.

You can read the whole account between Mordecai and Esther in Esther Chapter 4.  This is such an amazing story that is just as relevant today as it was back when it happened in Mid-to-Late Fifth Century B.C. (464 – 415 B.C.).  You may feel like your life is just a random set of experiences and accidental as Louis Kahn stated, but God wants you to know you are not alone and that He has a plan and a purpose for you!  Just like he used Esther (who did ultimately go to see King Xerxes and convince him to save her people,) God can use you to do great things as well.  In fact who knows, you could be in your current situation to prepare you for the next phase of your life as Esther was!  God created you and I intentionally, not accidentally.  As I wrote in the ★ Thought for the Day – Confidence In Who’s You Are ★, we are the “apple of His Eye!”  I just wish that Louis Kahn had heard this truth.  Stop for a moment and meditate on what Psalms 8:3-6 (NLT) says, 87 - Daily Dependence - Salk Institute - Psalms‬ ‭8-3 - 6

I like how the message translation puts it.

“Why do you bother with us?
Why take a second look our way?”

The answer is because we are significant and valuable to God.  No one wastes their time on things that do not matter.  In our last post, ★ Back to the Basics – Silencing the Noise ★, we discussed the importance of developing a quiet time with God so that we can center our lives on Him and get to know who His Son Jesus Christ through reading the Bible.  We need to make it a priority to spend time with God because He has already made you and me a priority in His life!

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (NLT) says,

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.

Eternity has been planted in your heart!  Let me ask you, what Reminds You of God’s Presence?  Or what is evidence to you of His Handiwork?  For me it is sunsets…Everyday God paints the sky with a beautiful and tangible reminder of His omnipresence.  Going back to Psalms 8:3-5 the writer uses this imagery to describe the majesty of God’s creation…“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers”…God positioned the moon and the stars but yet He took the time to create mankind and to continue to care about us even after being rejected over and over by His children…It is amazing!  The next time you see a beautiful sunset, take notice of His Majesty, God is calling out to you to remind you that regardless of the day you just had, He is ever-present and He loves you!

YOU ARE NOT AN ACCIDENT!

Maybe you are reading this and God is stirring your heart to make a change…

Below is a prayer you can pray to start your relationship, the words you say really don’t matter, there is nothing special about them, but the emotion and belief in your heart does.  Make this your prayer today:

God take this broken, sinful person and forgive my sins.  I want a relationship with you I am in need of a Savior.  I believe that Jesus came to die for my sins and that He is the bridge that brings me to eternal life with you forever.  Please forgive all my sins.  I accept the free gift of eternal life and know that I can never do enough good deeds to earn that salvation.  In Jesus Name I pray!  Amen!

If you earnestly prayed that prayer, you are a new creation (see Romans 10:9-10 and 2 Corinthians 5:17!)  God will honor that prayer of surrender and will do incredible things in your life! 

Please contact me if you have any questions about your new life in Jesus Christ, I would love to discuss your decision more.  God Bless!

If you would like to read the next post, go here…★ Thought for the Day – Begging God For_____? ★

 

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