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Bible

Merry Christmas!

What is Christmas to you?

Does Christmas mean parties, Santa Claus, reindeer, mistletoe, eggnog, buying gifts, holiday sales and discounts, pine trees and decorations, a holiday bonus, TV specials and movie releases, a few days off from work,  candy and treats, sending cards, mouthwatering desserts, passing on well wishes to others, bells ringing, year-end giving, snowmen and snow flakes, eating and drinking too much, time with family and friends, carol singing, and happy childhood memories?

Those things are all part of what Christmas has become, but have little to do with what it means.

Two-thousand years ago, Jesus pointed a new way to God; he came out of love and he came to give.  So when we give gifts to each other on Christmas, it is really a reminder of Jesus loving us and giving himself to us.  In this way, we can keep the true spirit of Christmas alive by following Jesus’ example of loving and giving — and not just at Christmastime, but every day, throughout the year.

Merry Christmas!

[See Luke 2:1-14 for the Christmas story]

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Bible

Don’t Worry or Be Anxious

The news has been bad lately — and there is seemingly little hope in sight.

The global economy is bad, there is a credit crisis, the US automotive industry is in trouble, unemployment is increasing, many of those with jobs are concerned, and a turnaround seems a long ways off.

But in the big picture, this has happened before and will happen again.

Jesus puts it into a proper perspective for us:

“I tell you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat; or
about your body, what you will wear.
Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given
to you as well.”


[Luke 12:22, 23, 31]

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Bible

At the End of Your Rope

Imagine you are going down the side of a 200-foot cliff — with a 100-foot rope.  At 99 feet down, you find yourself literally dangling “at the end of your rope.”

What an apt metaphor for a hopeless situation.  At this juncture, there are but three options — none of them good: 1) Try to climb back up (which is physically impossible for most people), 2) hang on as long as you can in hopes of an eventual rescue, or 3) give up and let go.

Eugene Peterson uses this powerful “end of the rope” image in his paraphrase of the Bible, which puts ancient thoughts into contemporary terms.  Consider the following “end of the rope” references from The Message:

  • “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.”  [Matthew 5:3]
  • “The owner was at the end of his rope. He decided to send his son. ‘Surely,’ he thought, ‘they will respect my son.'”  [Matthew 21:35]
  • “When someone gets to the end of his rope, I [Paul] feel the desperation in my bones.”  [2 Corinthians 11:28]
  • “Hurry up and help us; we’re at the end of our rope. You’re famous for helping; God, give us a break.”  [Psalm 79:8]
  • “Your anger [God] is far and away too much for us; we’re at the end of our rope. You keep track of all our sins; every misdeed since we were children is entered in your books.”  [Psalm 90:3]
  • “Oh, God, my Lord, step in; work a miracle for me—you can do it! Get me out of here—your love is so great!— I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins.”  [Psalm 109:21]
  • “God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me.”  [Psalm 116:1]
  • “Hurry with your answer, God! I’m nearly at the end of my rope. Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me! That would be certain death.”  [Psalm 143:7]

When we are at the end of our rope — and it happens to all of us sooner or later — God is there to rescue us (option 2); so don’t give up.

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Bible

What’s Next?

When we die, what’s next?

Paul, who diligently and ardently followed Jesus, was quite sure of the answer.  He wrote, “The time of my spirit’s release from the body is at hand and I will soon go free.” [2 Timothy 2:4, The Amplified version]

We need to realize that we are more than a body — and that life is more than existing in the physical realm.  It has been astutely said, “We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body.”  [See 1 Thessalonians 5:23]

So, once our body dies, our spirit and soul continues on; for Paul that meant freedom.

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Bible

God as Your Copilot

A friend asked for prayer, that she would allow God to be her copilot.  This is a good step for her, but it misses the point of what God truly desires.

You see, a copilot is there to help the pilot should unforeseen circumstances occur or the pilot become incapacitated.  The pilot is still in charge and is the one flying the plane; the copilot is there in a secondary support role.

God doesn’t want to be our copilot; he wants to be in charge and for us to depend on him to take us where he wants us to go.  That is hard to do, especially in a world that tells us that we need to always be in control and remain independent.  Relegating God to copilot status maintains our control, doing things our own way, yet keeps God close enough to rescue us if we get in a jam.

Having God be our copilot is certainly better than us flying solo, but what he really wants is to pilot our plane, taking us where he wants us to go.

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Bible

Five Trustworthy Sayings

The phrase “trustworthy saying” occurs five times in the Bible.  It likely refers to phrases that were commonly used and accepted by the early church.  Paul’s inclusion of these phrases in his letters affirms them as reliable truth.  Here are the five “trustworthy sayings” that Paul recorded:

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.

If someone aspires to be an elder, he desires an honorable position.

Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.

If we die with him, we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship, we will reign with him.
If we deny him, he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.

When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.

[from 1 Timothy 1:15, 1 Timothy 3:1, 1 Timothy 4:9, 2 Timothy 2:11, and Titus 3:8]

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Bible

Investments That You Can Bank On

In these times of economic concern and faltering financial markets, it is easy to worry about the future.  Interestingly, the Bible has much to say on this topic:

“Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow.  Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous.  If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.” [1 Timothy 6:17-19, The Message]

So, we are to trust God, not money.  God will give us what we need.  We are to use what money we do have for good, thereby putting our “savings” into lasting things.

With the stock market going down, this is certainly something to think about.

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Bible

Training for the Best

In Paul’s letter to Timothy, he contrasts physical training (which is good) to spiritual training (which is better).

I wonder, how often do we pursue things that are good, while pushing aside God’s things that are better?

That’s something to think about next time we’re working out or pursuing some leisure time activity.  After all, I don’t want to live a good life, but the best life possible.

[1 Timothy 4:8]

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Bible

The Allure of Mystery

There are things about God, Jesus, and salvation that the Bible simply describes as “mystery,” that is, hidden truth or a mystic secret.

This drives some people crazy; they want to understand all and be able to fully explain everything.  Anything less causes frustration and angst.

For me, I relish the realization that some things of God are but a mystery.  That draws me to him; it is an allure.  Daily, I strive to unravel his mystery and know him more fully.  This is as it should be.

To explore this mystery motif more fully, consider the following verses that evoke the “mystery” explanation:

Job 11:7
Romans 11:25 and 16:25
1 Corinthians 15:51
Ephesians 1:9, 3:3-4, 3:6, 3:9, 5:32, and 6:19
Colossians 1:26-27, 2:2, and 4:3
1 Timothy 3:16
Revelations 10:7

[The word mystery is used in other contexts in Daniel 2:18-47, 4:9, 1 Corinthians 13:2, 14:2, and Revelation 1:20, 17:5, 7]

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Bible

Living in the Prophetic

In Paul’s letter to Timothy he talks about a prophecy that he made regarding Timothy.  (A prophecy is a God-inspired foretelling of the future.)

Often we think of a prophecy as being about some grand, distantly future event — like the end of the world or major catastrophe — but that is not always the case.

A prophecy can also be given for a specific person that will occur in the near future.  So it was when God gave prophetic words to Paul for Timothy.

What is interesting is that Paul says the prophecy is to inspire Timothy and aid him.

This seems to suggest that we shouldn’t just passively accept a prophetic word that may be given for us, but need to intentionally move in that direction.  That doesn’t mean that by our own efforts we accomplish what was predicted, but merely that we expectantly allow God to do in us, or for us, what he said.

That, too, is living in the prophetic.

[1 Timothy 1:18]