Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 24 (Beyond the Manger, the Passover Visit)

I am writing tonight from  beautiful, icy cold Tulsa, Oklahoma.

I am writing tonight from beautiful, icy cold Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Luke 2:41-50 Tells about  Mary and Joesph taking Jesus to the Passover, when He was 12 years old. On the way home Mary and Joseph assumed Jesus was in their company, however He was not with them. He was back at the temple,  or what we would call the church of the day.  Do we sometimes assume today, that so long as we are with “church” people that Jesus must be with us? The story of the Passover visit, the Jews demanding Pilate to crucify Jesus, and even the whole Israeli nation and its leaders worshiping Baal back in the days of Elijah, show us that we can’t afford to make the same mistake Jesus’ parents made, in thinking that so long as we are with a church that we must be with Jesus. Mary and Joseph were with “church” people traveling back home from the temple, but they weren’t with Jesus.

So how do we make sure we don’t make the same mistake?

If Joseph and Mary had stayed their minds upon God by meditation and prayer, they would have realized the sacredness of their trust, and would not have lost sight of Jesus. By one day’s neglect they lost the Saviour; but it cost them three days of anxious search to find Him. So with us; by idle talk, evilspeaking, or neglect of prayer, we may in one day lose the Saviour’s presence, and it may take many days of sorrowful search to find Him, and regain the peace that we have lost.
In our association with one another, we should take heed lest we forget Jesus, and pass along unmindful that He is not with us. When we become absorbed in worldly things so that we have no thought for Him in whom our hope of eternal life is centered, we separate ourselves from Jesus and from the heavenly angels. These holy beings cannot remain where the Saviour’s presence is not desired, and His absence is not marked. This is why discouragement so often exists among the professed followers of Christ.
Many attend religious services, and are refreshed and comforted by the word of God; but through neglect of meditation, watchfulness, and prayer, they lose the blessing, and find themselves more destitute than before they received it. Often they feel that God has dealt hardly with them. They do not see that the fault is their own. By separating themselves from Jesus, they have shut away the light of His presence.
It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.
As we associate together, we may be a blessing to one another. If we are Christ’s, our sweetest thoughts will be of Him. We shall love to talk of Him; and as we speak to one another of His love, our hearts will be softened by divine influences. Beholding the beauty of His character, we shall be “changed into the same image from glory to glory.” 2 Corinthians 3:18. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 83

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 16 (Acceptance)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where many are accepting God's love and life changing power. Will you accept God's love into your heart today?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where many are accepting God’s love and life changing power. Will you accept God’s love into your heart today?

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, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:13-14 NKJV

What a wonderful message from heaven to fallen man! The angels did not come and say, “God is over in Bethlehem, and you better get over there, and see if you can get things straightened out between you!” No! God is at peace with man if man will just,

“…take hold of My strength, That he may make peace with Me;
And he shall make peace with Me.” Isaiah 27:5 NKJV

God is not at war with mankind. Mankind is at war with God!

Because the carnal mind is enmity against God. Romans 8:7 NKJV

It is not God who is at enmity with man, it is man who is at enmity with God. In the Garden of Eden it was not God who ran from Adam after they sinned, but Adam who ran away from God.  In the story of the prodigal son, it was not the father but the son who ran away. It was not Jesus who told the demon possessed that He could not stand being near them, but it was the demon possessed, who could not stand being near Jesus.

So today our Intercessor does not intercede trying to convince God to accept us. No! He is interceding for us, trying to get us to accept the God who has never run away from us! He is interceding, pleading for us to come back to God! The Father provided the Intercessor, because He wanted to make peace with us, after the carnal mind made war with Him!

But this great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father’s heart a love for man, not to make Him willing to save. No, no! “God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.” John 3:16. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of  Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption.
Jesus said, “Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.” John 10:17. That is, “My Father has so loved you that He even loves Me more for giving My life to redeem you. In becoming your Substitute and Surety, by surrendering My life, by taking your liabilities, your transgressions, I am endeared to My Father; for by My sacrifice, God can be just, and yet the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus.” –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Pages 13-14

While pagan religions make human sacrifices to get the gods to accept them, in Christianity the God makes the sacrifice to get the humans to accept Him!

Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:4-6 NKJV 

God is offering peace and good will towards man. Will you accept Christ’s forgiveness with all His life changing power today?

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 15, (As far as the Curse is Found)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Romans 5:20 NKJV

On Thanksgiving Day, this year my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church Family lost a dear patriarch, when 95 year old Woody Hill passed away. Strangers would stop Woody and his wife in public and tell them they had a special beauty and glow. His children say it was Jesus in Him. Woody was always busy helping his family, his church and his neighbors. At age 85, when he heard a prowler was near a neighbor’s home, he grabbed his pistol and went out into the night to scare the prowler away, which he did!

Last night as I was visiting the family, I was awed by the time they told me he spent in prayer. Entire nights. That sounds like only One other Person I know. The only Person who gets a capital letter when only calling Them a Person. His family told me the week that he died, he was praying in his chair until 6 in the morning, and the way he prayed you would think Jesus was sitting right next to him. They told me how Woody prayed for the church and neighbors and everyone he knew including me! How humbling!

Having labored from Connecticut to Chiclayo Peru, I have met many people, who when I see them or hear their name, I quickly remember them and associate them with church. But Woody will always remind me  of Jesus!

After Woody’s passing on Thanksgiving Day, another dear elderly friend, Julian passed away just yesterday morning. Julian was my golf buddy as well going with me on my group Bible studies with his wife, and also traveling with me when I would preach out of town.

Instead of ruining my Christmas this has made it even more meaningful to me.  A song keeps echoing in my heart and mind.“Joy to the World!” One verse especially keeps repeating itself over and over. The third verse, which proclaims the complete power of the gospel. Because of sin we have so many sorrows climaxing with death. But a little baby, lying in a manger about 2,000 years ago came to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found! Because of Him we will live again! Joy to the world!

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,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found. –Joy to the World, Issac Watts, 1719.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 11 (False Worship)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,  “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2 NLT

Then Herod called for a private meeting with the wise men, and he learned from them the time when the star first appeared.  Then he told them, “Go to Bethlehem and search carefully for the child. And when you find him, come back and tell me so that I can go and worship him, too!” Matthew 2:7-8 NLT 

When the wise men go to worship Jesus, they were probably surprised to find they were the only ones.  Why were God’s people so lethargic? Then the wise men meet Herod, who tells them he wants to worship too. That must have really encouraged them! Of course, we know Herod’s claim to worship was not sincere. It was very hypocritical. The fact that the wise men were not a part of some big mega church or mega movement did not keep them from worshiping Jesus, even if they were the only ones. The fact that Herod, who claimed to be a worshiper turned out to be phony, did not keep them from seeking Jesus either.

Please don’t let the lethargy that may be in your church, family or community, keep you from seeking Jesus, even if like the wise men, you feel all alone. Please don’t let hypocrites or false worshipers rob you of your joy in finding the Savior!

Wise men still seek Him, even if no one else does!

Blogging Through The New Testament; Luke 2

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

 

Every year the poor inn keeper is portrayed as the “goat” of the nativity story, as he had no room for Mary and Joseph, and poor Mary was going into labor to boot. Not just any labor but was about to deliver the Son of God. How could the inn keeper be so cold? Wait a minute. The inn keeper worked on a first come first serve basis. It was not his fault Joseph and Mary showed up when they did, and he did have room for them- in the manger. It wasn’t like he didn’t have room for them at all. It’s not like the inn keeper meant any ill will towards the Son of God, it’s just that by the end of the day a little corner in a barn was all that was left for Jesus.

 

Before we give the inn keeper a bad rap let’s examine our own lives. We mean no ill will towards Jesus either, and we do have room for Him in our lives, but like the inn keeper, are we giving Him the best place in our lives or just what is left?  Today it is not at an inn that Jesus seeks a place to stay.  Jesus stands at your hearts door and says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20 Do you have room for Him in your life today? If so where? Are you going to give Him the best part of your day, or just whatever is left?

 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light of The Cross.