How many times have you heard a beauty contestant say, “I want to work for world peace!” ? There have been songs written about peace. There have been peace conferences – peace accords throughout history. Yet, has this world ever had peace throughout the earth? NOPE – with the exception of a few moments in the Garden of Eden, this world has been a chaotic and often dangerous place to be.
On December 24, 1914, a German messenger came across the field called “no mans land” in St. Yves, Belgium – also known as the Western Front of World War I. The message asked for a Christmas Day truce – a cease of aggressive hostilities for the day. As the sun arose on Christmas Day some German soldiers began to sing some Christmas Carols and light candles. Then the British Soldiers began to sing their carols. A few soldiers began to step out of their trenches into “no mans land”.
Then more men began to come out. They shared cigarettes and other gifts with each other. A “football game” (aka Soccer) broke out among them.
It was a good day – a day not orchestrated by governments, but by men who had a heart for Christmas…. and they had peace that day in the midst of a bloody war.
When the Angels announced the birth of Christ, it wasn’t to the important government leaders, it was to shepherds tending their flocks in the fields. The message was simple and clear – “An angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to the shepherds in the field. The glory of the Lord filled the area with light, and they were terrified. The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid! I have good news for you of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord…. Then 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, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:9-11, 13-14
The Bible goes on to say that this message moved the shepherds to go and see the baby Jesus that very night. There was great peace in their hearts as they traveled and then shared the message.
Today, we have a choice, like the men in St. Yves, Belgium in WWI – to choose peace, or to accept the chaos that only wants to overwhelm us. Jesus told us in His word that He came to give us His peace. Yet, along with depression, anxiety is the most prevalent mental health challenge. Why is that? I believe it’s because we take our eyes off of God! When Jesus called Peter out of the boat to walk on the water, he was fine until he took his eyes of off the One who called him. As he grew worried and anxious, the waves and the sea overwhelmed him. He began to sink. Isn’t that what happens with anxiety today?
In the book of Isaiah, he gives us a prescription for peace –
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is fixed on You, because he trusts You!” Isaiah 26:3
In the midst of your day today, as you begin to feel anxiety overwhelm you, look to Jesus. Speak His word back to Him – “Lord, I am placing my mind on You. Help me to be in perfect peace that Your word tells me is mine. I choose the peace of Christ today!” He will bring all the peace of Heaven to your heart.
When we think about traveling during the holidays, many things may cross our minds. The joy of seeing family and friends, the beauty of the journey… long lines at the airport, horrible traffic… Travel can be both a joy and a nightmare. Regardless, we do it out of love, wanting to be with those we care about during this blessed time.
But what if the government made you travel to the place you were born, where everyone was a stranger? What if you were required to go to the place of your ancestors, a destination that felt foreign? Imagine that upon arrival, your place of rest was unknown. What if you were pregnant and about to give birth, but the only means of transportation was on the rugged back of a donkey? Not exactly something you would be looking forward to.
So why would Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Joseph, her husband, travel close to 100 miles, across inhospitable terrain, in the last month of her pregnancy? One simple reason – the Roman government made them. According to the Book of Luke, which is also substantiated by historical and archeological records, Caesar Augustus called for a Roman/world census. It was the first census the world had ever seen. Since Mary and Joseph were in the lineage of David, their ancestral home for taxing purposes was Bethlehem.
In the Old Testament, Micah, one of the minor prophet books, says the following:
“And you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, you being least among the thousands of Judah, out of you He (Jesus) shall come forth (be born) to Me, that is to become the Ruler in Israel” Micah 5:2
God had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. Yet, on their own, Mary and Joseph would never have gone to Bethlehem. Joseph was a carpenter, and in Nazareth, where they lived, there were plenty of trees for building. Bethlehem had only rocks and shrubs. Neither were of any use to a carpenter. Mary, being with child, would never have traveled by choice.
So God moved heaven and earth to make all the pieces leading to Christ’s birth come together. He did this at just the right time for the promised Savior of the world to be born… in the exact place that was prophesied over 700 years prior.
Could God have whispered in the ear of Mary and said, “Jesus needs to be born in Nazareth, so you need to go…”? Of course – He had spoken to her before and He could do it again. Yet, He chose to move her in another way… by a decree from the most powerful government in the world. Why do you think that is?
I believe that God was showing us something here that we often miss. God was willing to move a government, with great precision, to make His word happen! He made it all transpire in the exact place He foretold. He put it on the mind of Caesar, and the other rulers of the time, to make the people of Israel go to their patriarchal home, for Mary and Joseph, that was Bethlehem. Imagine this being done at the exact time of Christ’s birth!
The reason that is so important to us today, is that God speaks into our hearts. He speaks to us through His word and the Holy Spirit. His promises are real and His power is beyond our comprehension. So I believe that God is telling us through this story, that even when everything seems impossible and the odds are against you – trust Him. When you see no way to accomplish the task – seek Him. When the dream is too big and the call on your life is beyond your capacity to realistically consider – talk to Him. If He ordered it, we can trust Him to help us carry it out to completion. He has the power and will put things in motion just for your good.
You may be in a dark place today, and are not sure how you are going to be able to go on. You may have lost everything you hold dear. I want you to hear me… God has His arms open to you. He wants to walk you out of this valley of darkness or death but you have to seek Him. You may think that you are too far gone, and I will tell you that’s not true. God can reach into the deepest darkest pits of hell and move mountains, governments, and people just for you…. Will you trust Him today? Just try it… He is waiting!
P.S. I can speak these words because I have seen Him do it for me. There have been times in my life where I wanted to die – literally asked God to take me. I have been in some dark places that I could not get out of on my own. God took me by the hand, and led me through those valleys I thought were meant to destroy me. Little did I know, in those dark valleys, He was actually working to restore me. He can do the same for you.
This time of year can be magical. Holiday cheer is in the air. People are smiling and planning meals, family reunions and gifts for everyone. Christmas cards are going out and homes are being decorated inside and out. The stores are full and the registers are ringing. The weather has gotten a bit cool here in Texas and the leaves are turning and dropping. It is certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Yet, behind closed doors holiday cheer can be absent. The pain of the loss of a loved one can bring tears… for years. The stress and strain of the season can bring people to depression/anxiety and there is always an uptick in the use of psychotropic medications.
How can these different scenarios exist inside of a season where there is supposed to be great cheer? The truth is that they are both wrong because neither set of people are looking to the real reason for the season – the birth of Jesus Christ. As we look to the greatest event in human history, that is what should make us joyful. Yet, the sad truth is most people today can’t even tell you why and what Christmas is about.
Thousands of years before Christ was born of virgin in a manger in the city of Bethlehem, it was foretold that He would be born in that exact place and in that exact way. Wise men from Babylon came to celebrate His birth following a star that was foretold to announce His birth, the birth of the King and Savior of the World.
So why have things changed so much? Why are we not celebrating the King that has come to save us? The sad truth is that we, as a society, have become so caught up in the holiday scene that Madison Avenue has portrayed for us or the Hallmark Channel has scripted for us, that we forget about Jesus. We become despondent when the reality of the Madison Avenue Christmas is interrupted by real life tragedy, loss and pain.
I want to challenge you to do something with me – each day till Christmas, I am going to write about the real Christmas Story and some interesting historical and scientific facts about it all, along with a couple of Christmas miracles. I want to ask you to respond each day with a favorite memory of yours from Christmas past or your hopes for this Christmas – maybe your plans at your church etc. Let’s do this!
If God is really listening – what would you say to Him today about your life or situation? Many will want to say, I want all war and disease to end and I believe that one day that is exactly what is going to happen but let’s focus on the right now…
What would you ask Him today to help you with?
Many ask the question, is God really even listening. The atheist wants to scoff at the idea that God of any sort would bother answering anyone and if He is all that, how could he ever do that. What they fail to consider is that an all-knowing God can do all He sets His mind too!
In the Book of Daniel there are several examples of God’s response right in the midst of the prayer being spoken. That shows that God is not only willing to listen but to dramatically intervene when necessary but work on our behalf regardless!
Billy Graham once said about prayer, that it is a conversation with God where we listen as much as we talk. Have you ever thought about listening to God? There is a passage in 1 Samuel 3:9 where the young man says to God, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant is listening…” God speaks to the young man. What about you and me… can we do this? I believe the answer is yes. Have you asked God to speak with you recently? Have you sought to get quiet and enter His presence and ask Him to speak to you? I challenge you to do this today.
What is your greatest need today? Have you asked God about it? Why not?
I had a guy tell me the other day that when he was really struggling with drugs he asked God to intervene and help him get clean for a little while so that he could stand on his own two feet and stay clean. God answered the next day…
What about this prayer… Search me oh Lord, know me and send me where you would have me go! It’s dangerous but it could change everything!
Grace can be referred to as what we say before a meal…
Grace can be an attribute given to an athlete or certain animals… normally called, “Graceful”…
Grace can refer to poise… elegance…
Grace, in financial terms, can be a period of time given for a delayed payment…
In the worldly terms, this is about all it means but in God’s terms…
IT MEANS SO MUCH MORE!
Grace brings us back to life!
He bought us with the price of His life… that is grace! We don’t deserve it and can’t repay it… we are incapable. We can’t work to pay off our debt and nor are we indentured servants – He tells us that the We are free indeed!
So what are we to do then?
First, we receive the gift by faith!
Second, we come to understand that this gift is empowering us to do the work an fulfill the plan He has for us! Which is a great big ginormous plan!
Third, we are to share… give it away to others!
Yet, so often we try to do it all our own. We are told to just handle it… pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.. put our big girl panties on, suck it up buttercup… etc. We have grace at our right hand but we neglect it, refuse it with the words…. “I GOT THIS!”
The truth is that most of the time we don’t got it. We are overwhelmed… but we just hunker down and try to just survive.
Not only that, we live in the shadow of our past, when grace has set us free. Why do we continue to drag around the past that we are supposed to be done with? Why do we continue to flirt with the past and the things that brought us down to the bottom of the pit last time? Grace has paid the price for our freedom, while we are flirting with disaster! We have the power to run and not grow tired and soar on wings like eagles and yet we find ourselves content with rolling around in the mud… why?
The reality is we haven’t fully grasped the gift that has been placed in our hearts. We have received it but it’s like we haven’t unwrapped it… nor have we plummeted into its depths, which have no end.
Grace has redeemed us from the fall while we are still circling the drain…
Let grace grip you… let it help you be done with the baggage of a past that has been bought and paid for!
This world gets so caught up in labels and titles… it helps to classify you, so we don’t really have to get to know anyone. My name is __________ and I am a ___________. What else does the world need to know?
To serve you coffee… nothing
To sell you something… nothing
But if they want to get to know you, they must go deeper. Social media tends to cheapen that process because we can hide behind filters and memes!
So how do we really get to know someone? We spend time with them. We hear about their life. We ask questions and really listen. We discover truths about them that the world may miss because they hasten to place labels…
What about Jesus Christ?
First, how does the world label Him? Some call him a good man that lived a long-time ago. Others call him a myth. Some say he was just a prophet and nothing more. There are more labels but that will suffice for now.
So how do we know the truth and not some sound bit or cliche? We get to know Him! We read what He wrote… we listen to His story… we spend time talking with Him. What will you call Him once you get to know Him?
Let me tell you what I call Him –
Savior! He saved me from the mess I made
Transformer! He took me at my worst and began a work in me that changed everything.
My Strength! On my own, I am powerless over this world but in Him I am powerful!
Conqueror! He conquered the enemy and the power of death over humanity!
Friend! He tells that if I do what He tells me to do in His word, I am His friend.
The more I get to know Him, the more I want to be like Him!
He is my all – Do you know Him? Would you like to get to know Him? Just call out to Him in faith – he Hears you!
Whatever suits their purpose… if they want to sell me something, they want to influence or manipulate…
If they want to judge me… they look at my past and label me
If they want to get something from me… they may flatter me
If they want to have nothing to do with… they can categorize me
But if they want to understand me… they have to get to know me, but…
What would they discover if they really got to know me?
They would discover that I am not very religious, as the world defines it…
The Bible defines religion as visiting the orphan and the widow, while living a life unspotted by the world. I am not very religious….
But I am very much into my relationship with Jesus Christ… I spend time with Him everyday… we talk and I read what He has written. He moves me and I move… I get it wrong, miss some things but I believe by making a mistake in the right direction, trying to help or make a difference, I am still growing in this relationship, as He grows in me…
So, who am I …
I am a seeker… I seek the Son of God and His mysteries, along with the calling He has put on my life
I am transformed, daily… If you had known me before, you wouldn’t recognize me today! Jesus has done a work in me that I can’t easily explain… except to say that I am a new man, new creation and the old has passed away… the old me has died!
I am a stumbler… I fall every day! Glory be to God, He is there to pick me up… it’s part of the relationship of love that He has with me… it brings me to tears to consider that much love… for me. It’s like a mother or father of a special needs child, they will do anything to protect that child and just know that they must be there with them forever… I am very much a special needs child in this world and my Heavenly Father loves me, unconditionally… even as a stumbler!
There are things that I do but they are not me. There are things that I have and don’t have but they do not define me.
I am who Jesus says I am…even if I struggle…
I am stronger than I can comprehend (Philippians 4:13)
I am more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37)
I am loved… (The Whole Bible is a love letter He wrote to me!)