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Archive for December, 2014

chair

Sometimes the hope of Christmas is, “Next year all our troubles will be miles away.” That’s what the song says anyway, but many will not have a merry Christmas just because of that. They know it is not true. Many start with and cannot get past the empty chair—where their husband used to sit, where their daughter used to climb, where grandma used to stand to reach up high. Sure, the stores have been visited, and the goodies consumed, but joy will not be unmixed this season because someone isn’t there. Death has come and cast its shadow upon Christmas.

 

Lurking in this shadow is the great beast, despair—slithering through the house as the family arrives, waiting for an opportunity to steal your joy. Satan loves to use good memories to bring pain. The fond remembrance of how it used to be can become a sea of sadness because it will never be just like that again.

 

I can still remember Christmas as a boy and teenager when my grandpa was alive. He would read from the Bible and pray, and some years would surprise the family with interesting gifts that he wanted to keep at his house after you opened them. Unforgettable. He is easy to miss, and it is not uncommon for the tears to flow while remembering how it was before he died. But he did die, and so did your sister, cousin or father. And people only die once, so they are not coming back. Let the weight of death affect you.

 

I’m sure you have tried to lift it, and maybe you feel like this time of year is another opportunity to hopelessly carry the burden. The heaviness of death that Christmas has the tendency to bring is the reason Jesus came. After his birth, the murderous Herod called for all children around Bethlehem under the age of two to be killed because he could not find out exactly where Jesus was staying. Jeremiah prophesied, “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more,” (Matt 2:18). This is the world that God entered, a world of horrifying fatality. A world that was broken and lost, estranged from God and spiraling downward into the murky depths of hell.

 

Into this blackness, the true light broke when God became a man. “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.” Jesus came to bring new birth, bind up the broken-hearted and release the captives. He came because sin reigned in death. Both spiritually and physically, death had reign, and then Jesus came to beat down the old king. He was born so that “as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” (Rom 5:21). When Jesus came that man no more would die, he brought tidings of great joy. Grace has arrived!

 

Because death no longer rules, true joy cannot be swallowed by storm clouds of despair. This does not mean that there will be no tears this Christmas—that reality is still to come. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away,” (Rev 21:4). The former things of this glorious future are still our earthly reality today. So we long for the end, the second advent of our Lord.

 

Jesus came and provided rescue from sin and life eternal. Because death no longer rules, songs of a trouble free next year are not our hope. They don’t even make sense. Trouble is here, and it is coming again to you and your family, but a humble man from Nazareth has lifted the burden of death from your shoulders, and is coming quickly to wipe all tears away. Our hope at Christmas is the One who experienced death to conquer it – forever.

 

Author: Kole Farney

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Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave to some passing traders (37:19-21), who in turn sold him to Potiphar in Egypt (37:36), where he was falsely accused and imprisoned (39:11-19). While in prison, Joseph earned the favor of Pharaoh, who appointed him Prime Minister (41:39, 40). At this time, a famine forced Joseph’s estranged brothers to Egypt (42:1, 2), where Joseph dutifully cared for them (42:4-7). Joseph’s father and brothers moved to Egypt and lived under Joseph’s provision (47:11).

After the death of their father, Joseph’s brothers are concerned that Joseph will seek revenge (50: 15). But Joseph reassures them saying, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (50:20).

I have often heard this verse interpreted to mean, “You meant it for evil but God turned it around for good”, or even “You meant it for evil but God was able to work it out for good”. However, that is not what Joseph meant when he said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good”. “It” refers to the evil action of his brothers, their “transgression” and “sin” against him (50:16). According to Joseph, God meant for him to be sold into slavery. God intended, planned, purposed, and plotted for His servant Joseph to be sold as a slave by his brothers. But while his brothers meant it for evil, God meant the same event for good. The word translated “meant” here is a Hebrew word that literally means “to weave.” God masterfully wove together every detail of Joseph’s life, including his brother’s wicked hearts, to accomplish His own divine purpose.

The second half of the verse explains God’s purpose. He had Joseph sold into to slavery, in Egypt, by his brothers, in order to “bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”. Joseph explains it this way:

…do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5).

And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry (Genesis 45:7-9).

God’s plan for Joseph culminated with Joseph being a ruler over Egypt and being in the position to deliver his brothers when the famine came. Looking back over Joseph’s life, this means that God orchestrated more than his slavery. God also meant for Joseph to be falsely accused, and imprisoned. All of these details contributed to Joseph’s position, and God infallibly wove them together. God meant it, every detail.

God meant good for Joseph and Israel, but He accomplished it through suffering. It is the same for you, dear Christian. God means good for you, and He will accomplish it through suffering. Indeed, the greatest good that was ever meant for you was purchased by suffering. Jesus said, “it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:46-47). God meant it when Joseph suffered, God meant it when Christ suffered, and God means it when you suffer.

-Rick Appleton

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mess

Being a parent is a consuming vocation. The unexpected and unplanned for circumstances just seem to keep on coming. In this mess, Christ can become distant, your life experience resembles being drawn into a swirling vortex.

In Psalm 73, the psalmist had become overwhelmed with the seeming futility of following God. Survival mode had become his norm. He, too, was caught in the vortex. He, too, was thinking, I just can’t do this anymore. But here is the reality that the crush of daily life can obscure—Jesus is right there with you in the middle of the clutter of your life!

Trusting Christ in the mess of life is what gives stability to your soul. He has brought together all of the events, frustrations and demands of your life at any particular moment to point you to him. Jesus is not some distant bystander. He is there with you. He is not watching and waiting for you to do the next wrong thing. No, he is actively interceding for you even when you are not doing well, even when you forget him. The Holy Spirit anticipated your need when the psalmist wrote:

My flesh and my heart may fail,

You see! Christ does know your struggles as a parent. How kind the Holy Spirit is to include these words of truth in this psalm. How many times have you said or thought these words? Scripture is about reality. These words are not words of condemnation or scorn. The Holy Spirit is not chiding you. Rather he is using the real life experiences of the psalmist to encourage you—to give you hope that God is there to be known and loved right now, in the middle of your life. The psalm continues:

… but God is the strength of my heart

This is reality, even more so than the sense of exhaustion you have when your role as a parent seems more than you can bear. Jesus is with you to give you strength to do what you cannot accomplish on your own. For example, if you hear your voice beginning to rise in exasperation and frustration, Christ is there to give you strength to speak with pleasant words instead of harsh words born of frustration and anger. Christ is there with you to make that hard decision you have been avoiding.

As the 25th of December rushes upon you, remember the words of reality from this psalm. Don’t be overwhelmed by all that you can’t do or would like to do or give or clean. Be overcome by the reality that Christ is caring for you—even when he is the last person you are thinking about.

Really, truly, this is the kind of God that he is.

Source: Shepherd Press

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advent

Please be sure to save or download John Pipers free book (PDF ) “Good News of Great Joy: Daily Readings for Advent” (Click here to download)

“Advent is an annual season of patient waiting, hopeful expectation, soul-searching, and calendar-watching marked by many churches, Christian families, and individual followers of Jesus. There’s no biblical mandate to observe Advent. It’s an optional thing—a tradition that developed over the course of the church’s history as a time of preparation for Christmas Day. Many of us find observing Advent to be personally enjoyable and spiritually profitable.

The English word “Advent” is from the Latin adventus, which means “coming.” 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.

Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas and ends Christmas Eve. This means the earliest it begins, depending on where that Sunday falls, is November 27, and the latest it starts is December 3. Whereas Lent (the season of preparation for Easter) is 40 days, Advent ranges in length from 22 to 29 days.

Christians throughout the world have their different ways of celebrating Advent. Some light candles. Some sing songs. Some eat candies. Some give gifts. Some hang
wreaths. Many of us do all of the above. Christians have developed many good ways of extending the celebration of Jesus’s coming beyond merely the short 24 hours of December 25. The incarnation of the Son of God, “for us and for our salvation,” as the old creed says it, is too big a thing to appreciate in just one day. Indeed, it’s something the Christian will celebrate for all eternity.

Our prayer is that this little devotional might help you keep Jesus as the center and greatest treasure of your Advent season. The candles and candies have their place,but we want to make sure that in all the December rush and hubbub we adore Jesus above all.”

-David Mathis (Desiring God)

 

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