★ Thought for the Day – What’s Your Blanket? ★

Yesterday we had a strong thunderstorm roll through our area that brought lighting and hail which got me thinking about this this Thought for the Day.  What comes to mind when you read the title of this post?  If you were like me, and grew up with the classic TV show “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” an image of Linus with his security blanket may come to mind.  Or maybe you may be thinking about the Downy Infusions Calm TV Commercial that shows a cute little boy who is awakened by a thunder and lightning storm outside.  As he runs down the hall scared to Mommy and climbs onto her bed, he smells a fragrance coming from one of the blankets that immediately calms him by the lavender scent. Instead of staying in bed with his Mommy, he grabs the blanket and goes back to his bed smelling it all the way.  While I could write about either one of these, the inspiration came from my “four-legged son” Jake, who like the frightened young boy, is also terrified by thunderstorms and goes running to his “Mommy.”  We always know when a storm is coming because Jake starts shaking like a leaf and incessantly panting.  And last night was no different, he was a mess and would not calm down.  I remember one day, my wife sent me these photos because Jake was freaking out so bad that he pushed his way into the shower and then tried climbing onto the bed.

Now as you may be chuckling, it’s actually really sad to see him suffering so bad from the anxiety of the impending storm.  No amount of petting or hugging or soothing words could settle Jake down.  Only one thing helps him…

His ThunderShirt.  Forgive me if this seems like a promotion, but it really works (and I receive no kickbacks for saying so, hahaha!)  The website says that it…

“Applies gentle, constant pressure, similar to swaddling an infant.”

In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Annihilating Anxiety ★, I shared Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB) which says:

“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.”

In the post, we talked about how if we go to God with our anxieties, He WILL be help us through anything!!  A common misconception of Christianity is that once you give your life over to God, and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior, everything in your life should be sunshine and roses!  BUT THAT SIMPLY IS NOT TRUE!  We live in a fallen, broken world in which God-fearing, Jesus believing, Holy Spirit filled Christians lose their jobs, contract cancer, or experience the death of a loved one.  However, the Bible offers encouragement throughout the pages which can help us to deal with our worry and fear, which is of course is completely normal to experience as we go through the storms of life.  In the post ★ Thought for the Day – Be Strong and Courageous ★, I shared about our daughter heading to Atlanta for a three-day training camp before heading to Eswatini (formally known as Swaziland) and South Africa for a two-month Missions Trip, and the anxiety we were feeling having our first-born child on the other side of the world over 9,000 miles away from us!  God spoke to me through Joshua 1:6-9 to “Be strong and courageous” and trust that she would be alright.  Well the 2 months came and went, and she arrived safely home from Africa with incredible stories of how God worked in and through her.

Today I would like to unpack the context of the anchor passage of Philippians 4:6-7 because as you have heard me say in the past, context is everything.  Like anything, it always come down to a choice.

  • Will you CHOOSE to WORRY or TRUST God?
  • Will you CHOOSE to TRY TO CONTROL EVERYTHING or LET GO and LET GOD HANDLE IT?
  • Will you CHOOSE to LISTEN TO THE LIES OF DEVIL that God is not good, or WILL YOU REMEMBER how He took care of you in the past and BELIEVE that God is faithful?

So, let’s look at the verses that bookend our anchor passage that can help us find where true comfort can be found.  Philippians 4:4-5 (NLT) says:

“Always be full of joy in the Lord.  I say it again—rejoice!  Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do.  Remember, the Lord is coming soon.”

That is a tough one, right?  To “always be full of joy,” easier said than done, but the way we gain victory is “in the Lord,” not through “white-knuckle” effort on our part.  The only think we must do is choose to believe that the Lord is good, that He is for us and not against us, and that He is able to do more than we can ever expect!  As we do this, then the need of a “security blanket” to comfort us through the “storms” will not be necessary.  Comfort which typically is not a blanket or ThunderShirt but rather something that comes from a bottle, prescription or something altogether illegal.  Comfort items that before I came to Christ, I tried to fill the void in my heart but to no avail!  Depression, fear, anxiety WILL NEVER BE CURED with another drink, pill or _______ (fill in the blank.)  If only I knew the truth of Philippians 4 back then!

Let’s look at the other book end which is Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT) which is the application portion…

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing.  Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.  Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.  Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me — everything you heard from me and saw me doing.  Then the God of peace will be with you.”

What we focus on is what we will experience.  We need to “keep putting into practice” and as we do our faith will be built up and our worry will wither away!  It is all about discipline and training ourselves to look to God instead of whatever “blanket” we got to which only covers the problem, it will never fix the root issue!  I will close with this truth from Jimmy Evans,

“Fear is expecting the Devil to move.  Faith is expecting God to move.” 

And in John 16:33 (The Passion Translation) Jesus made this promise…

“And everything I’ve taught you is so that the peace which is in me will be in you and will give you great confidence as you rest in me. For in this unbelieving world you will experience trouble and sorrows, but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!””

Through a relationship with Jesus, you can conquer the world!

If you want to develop that relationship, check out these posts:

★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian… ★

★ Thought for the Day – I Hate Religion and I’m a Christian…Part 2 ★ 

“The Power of Peace” by Jimmy Evans. He shares a message about the gift and power of God’s peace and how to fight for it in our lives.

 

 

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

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

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 ★

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

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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 ★

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 ★

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

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

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

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 ★

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

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★ Thought for the Day – Christmas or X-Mas? ★ 

63 - Daily Dependence - Chirstmas or X-MasLast night we were watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, which today is still my favorite cartoon to watch!  It is amazing to me that back in 1965, when this first aired, how much materialism that Charlie Brown saw amongst everyone during the Christmas season.  It was so pervasive that if you remember, even the Christmas trees he picked out did not meet the standard.  What is shocking to me, 49 years later, the same spirit of consumerism prevails.  I wonder though, what the cartoon would be like if it was re-done today??

My favorite part has always been Linus’ citation of what the real meaning of Christmas is.

So we know where Linus stands…what do you think Christmas is all about?  I am sure by the title of this Thought for the Day, you probably have an inkling to what direction this will be going in, but I pray that though you may know what the answer is, that the Holy Spirit will make the truth penetrate your heart…And that this Christmas season will be more meaningful than it ever has been in the past.

Hypothetically speaking…if an alien just landed on Earth and saw the yuletide craziness in Wal-Mart, or constant the barrage of an advertising through TV, emails and old fashion mailings, what do you think they would believe that Christmas is all about?  I think definitely about shopping, a fat man in a red suit, and about putting trees in your house and decorating them.

It is not too hard to get lost in the “stuff that needs to get done,” and fulfilling “wish lists,” but if we are not careful, we can easily get one-off track.  Christmas should not be about getting stuff.  There needs to be an intensive effort on our part to combat against the “get me this bug,” and try to reverse the impact of the heavy marketing that is confusing the meaning of Christmas.  Don’t get me wrong, I want my children to enjoy all the fun things of the season, but at the same time I don’t want the true meaning of Christmas to be lost on my daughters.  Take a look at this cartoon, I think it makes Charlie Brown’s point well!  63 - Daily Dependence - Tree Comic

“I hate to ask you nice folks to move, but the inn’s marketing department figures that it will only be a matter of time before this tree gets better recognition than your son”

So how about it?  What do you think, is it Christmas or X-mas?  Does it matter?  Do you see a difference between the two?  For many years I didn’t.  In fact I still have storage totes with “X-mas” written on them.  Have you ever wondered where X-mas came from?  I mean how did that evolve to be an abbreviation for Christmas?63 - Daily Dependence - Evolution of X-mas

Well the word “Christmas means the “Mass of Christ.”  It was later shortened to “Christ-Mass.” Then further shortened during the 1500’s in Europe to “X-mas” which is derived from the Greek alphabet, in which X is the first letter of Christ’s name: “Xristos,” therefore “X-Mass”.  That is how X-mas is a derivative for Christmas.  But in today’s culture and how the term is used, I believe there is a big difference between the two words.  X-mas is no longer a short version of Christmas but a replacement.  You don’t have to look far, to see how modern-day consumerism and marketers have completely “X”-ed Christ out of Christmas.

Christmas is now a franchise, a holiday that is marketed in a million different ways, none of which have to do with Jesus.  Just take notice of all the printed advertising and commercials that are on TV this time of year.  There is very little mention of Jesus if any.  We have removed the part of the holiday that is the true “reason for the season”.  And all that we are left with is whatever products store owner’s can convince us that we need to have.

Christmas is not about getting stuff but about Jesus.  It is the Birthday of Jesus, the day that God was manifested into flesh and blood.  It is about a King.  Not a King that rode into battle to conquer his enemies but a King who laid down His crown, humbling Himself to become a man. 63 - Daily Dependence - King Size BedIn doing so, He surrendered His majesty and position and sacrificed Himself for us.  So the answer to the question “what is Christmas all about”, well it is about SACRIFICE and HUMILITY!  You don’t really consider that when you think about Christmas, but when you look at what had to happen in order for Jesus to open the gates of heaven for us, it is crystal clear that the baby in the manger was born to be the sacrificial lamb to die as the payment for our sins once and for all.  W.J. Cameron once said that,

“There has been only one Christmas – the rest are anniversaries.”

I love that!   Jesus became human and then gave up His life for us so that we could gain eternal life.  He had to lose His life so we could keep ours!  Through His Sacrifice, out past, present and future sins are forgiven!  And we are Redeemed!  Redemption, what an awesome word.  It is defined as

“The act of delivering from sin or saving from evil” or “Purchasing back something previously sold.”

We have been delivered through His death on the cross.  The greatest gift will not be delivered by the man in the red suit, the best gift is Jesus!  Jesus63 - Daily Dependence - The Real Gift paid the ransom, paid the price for our sins to save us from the evil one so that the lost could be found, the sick…healed, the broken…repaired and the captives set free.  Because Jesus came into the enemy’s territory (by coming to Earth), we are redeemed and reconnected to our Father in Heaven.  We are the children of God as it says in Galatians 4:6-7:

“Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”  So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.    

Christmas is about the sacrifice of Jesus and the redemption that resulted from His selfless act.  And through it all we have become heirs to the riches of heaven.

You know, there is nothing wrong with all the holiday preparations, but we need to keep in focus what we are celebrating on December 25!  Our Biblical or Christian Worldview needs a little fine-tuning.  Like everyone else, I have a long list of things-to-do associated with the Yuletide season, from decorating to getting a Christmas tree to shopping for gifts.  There are many things to plan for and to pull you in different directions and to distract you…BUT I love how Henri Nouwen defined Christmas…he said that

“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 my favorite holiday.  Not only for the significance of Jesus’ birth but also for the other stuff as well.  I love all the holiday preparations and the warm fuzzy feeling you get during this time of year.  But as we just read, Christmas is much more than that.  We need to check ourselves and where our biblical worldview is, not only in regards to this one day but also for the other 364 days a year.  So the proper biblical worldview of Christmas is all about Sacrifice and Humility!  Philippians 2:5-7 says that:

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” 

Christmas is a time to remember the birth of Jesus and the coming of God’s salvation for His people.  Jesus was born and walked on this Earth to show us the way to heaven through His example.

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

 Verse 8 of chapter 2 of Philippians finishes this though with:

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”

So I want to challenge you to really understand the Reason for the Season, and not allow consumerism to “X” Christ out of Christmas.  Follow Jesus’ example, and be a servant to your “fellow man.”  Look for ways to impact the people around you…family members, co-workers, friends or even strangers.  Serve food to the homeless or buy a present for a child who will have nothing under the tree this year or be a shoulder to cry on for a depressed friend.

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  Galatians 6:9

Don’t let season passed by without letting it penetrate your heart!  Be Jesus for the people who are around you.  Be the miracle in their life.

63 - Daily Dependence - Merry Christmas