Silent Night? Not So Much…

Last night (Christmas Eve), before we all turned in, I shared with the family “the other side of the nativity.”

Award-winning author, Philip Yancey, in his book, “The Jesus I Never Knew” shares,

“Christmas cards of the religious genre typically depict a serene manger scene with Mary and Joseph surrounded by shepherds, animals, etc. All is calm.  But when I read the gospels i detect a much different tone.”

Yancey goes on to write, “Politically – and spiritually – Jesus was born into a scene more resembling the movie ‘Saving Private Ryan.”

In the first few verses of Revelation 12, via a series of vignettes of scenes past and future, we are given a peek behind the proverbial curtain as to what was going on that silent night.  

The dragon, Satan, has, for centuries, done all in his power to prevent the Messiah from coming by attempting to cut off the messianic bloodline.  

He fails every time. 

Then, on that silent night, John records in Revelation 12, the dragon eagerly awaited the moment of Jesus’s birth so he could immediately kill him, thus destroying the hope of mankind. 

Again, he failed.  

Some 30 years later, on the night before he would do the very thing for which he was born – die for us – he said, “The prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me.”

The next day, the man who was once the tiny baby we see in pictures and paintings, beaten and bloody, from a Roman cross, said, “It is finished.”

No wonder the angel announced to the shepherds, “Behold! I bring you good news of great joy! For unto you this day is born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Happy Christmas, St. Nick ❤️

Joy vs. Happiness

Happiness is rooted in circumstances.  Joy, on the other hand, is rooted in biblical truth – regardless of our circumstances.

This is precisely why, incarcerated for his faith, Paul, while still languishing in prison, could write, Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!

Make no mistake: the type of joy Paul writes of here is not a paper-thin, over-the-top, emotional celebration.

Biblical joy runs deep.  Deeper than our most acute pain.

Germany.  Christmas, 1942…

During the Christmas season of 1942, the German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote the statement below while under severe persecution for his Christian faith. Two and a half years after this quote was penned, Bonhoeffer was executed by Hitler’s Secret Service.  He was 39:

“The joy of God goes through the poverty of the manger and the agony of the cross; that is why it is invincible, irrefutable. It does not deny the anguish, when it is there, but finds God in the midst of it, in fact precisely there; it does not deny grave sin but finds forgiveness precisely in this way; it looks death straight in the eye but finds life precisely within it.” Dietrich Bonheoffer (Christmas, 1942)

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

The Self-Correcting Property of Being Thankful

Our human-race default is to focus on what we lack, or wish we had. For instance:

I wish I had more money and less bills.

I wish I had a better job.

I wish I had… (fill in the blank.)

Some things are trivial: We all know how repelling that perpetually negative person can be, seemingly always having something to complain about.

While others are far more acute: personally, I wish I had my son back.

When Satan has us in a death grip, tempting us relentlessly to focus on what’s missing from our lives, God provides a principle in scripture that comes with a corrective property.

It’s called “being thankful.”

God’s choice in how things are worded in the Bible are, as you will agree, intentional. So, when Psalm 100 includes “Enter his gates with thanksgiving,…” there is significance to that. As one author put it, “It appears thanksgiving is the gateway to [intimacy with God.]”

Paul warned the believers in Ephesus to abstain from “sexual immorality, covetousness,…” and then wrote, “but instead, let there be thanksgiving.” And only a few verses later, after admonishing his readers to “be filled and controlled with the Spirit,” he then adds, “giving thanks for everything.” (5:3-4, 18-20)

It’s hard being thankful. It’s not our default.

But it has a liberating effect. Our stress eases, our blood pressure begins to lower, and life becomes a little clearer as we begin to sense the presence and power of the Almighty Christ i.e. that in our trivial complaints, our inconveniences, our pain, our piled-up bills and broken relationships, it’s going to be ok.

Parenthetically, we are never instructed to be thankful for our pain, but rather in it.

I no longer have my son. But I can thank God for the Cross and the Empty Tomb, because of which my son is more alive than he’s ever been, and one day – a reunion is coming.

What/who are you thankful for today?

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

 

 

 

Finding Our Way

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There are many biblical passages teaching us why we must “walk in the light.” (This would include avoiding friends who would influence us to “walk in the dark.”) Read on…

“God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while walking in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another…” (1 John 1:5-7)

And…

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light… [that you me be able to] discern what is pleasing to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:8, 10)

It’s clear why God chose to so often use the metaphor of light:  it’s hard to find our way in the dark physically.  It’s impossible to find our way in the dark spiritually.

Further, and significantly, there is added blessing to walking in the light of Christ: as believers walk in the light of the truth, the knowledge of the Lord’s will becomes clear.

We obey: God blesses.

Soli Deo Gloria, Nick

 

 

 

What Satan Doesn’t Want You to Know

Why is a daily devotion/quiet time so vitally important to our spiritual growth.

It’s inconceivable (credit “The Princess Bride”) that a musician or athlete would rehearse or practice once a month or worse, a few times a year. But, that’s exactly what Satan fools believers into doing all the time.

And for good reason.

Read Paul’s words to the Ephesians below to see what we miss out on when we forget to focus some daily attention on God…

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” (Ephesians 3:16)

One author said this about the above passage:

“Spiritual power is a mark of every Christian who submits to God’s Word and Spirit. God’s magnificent power is readily available for all who discipline their minds to study his word, understand it, and live by it. As a result, the Holy Spirit will energize, revitalize and empower you. God’s power, working in and through believers, is unlimited and far beyond our comprehension.”

Becoming clearer why the enemy will do all possible to prevent us from daily intimacy with Christ?

Christ said in John 15, “Apart from me you can do nothing”, and compared those who ignore him – intentionally or unintentionally – to a branch that’s broken off from it’s trunk, eventually drying up and dying.

I heard a preacher a long time ago say something I’ve never forgotten. He said,

“If Satan can’t keep a person from becoming a Christian, he’ll simply keep that Christian busy.”

When I played baseball and football in high school, and took piano lessons – it didn’t matter what – we always began every practice and rehearsal with fundamentals.

Spiritual discipline is no different.

Even if it’s 5 minutes, set aside time daily to “tap into” his might and power.

Love you, Nick

Turning the Tables on the Devil

We all have awful days i.e. our car breaks down, the hot water heater goes out, something frustrating happens at work or school, someone hurts us, the list seems endless.

Pastor/author, Charles Stanley, writing about Joseph (the one with “the coat of many colors” in the book of Genesis), pointed out,

“we are all dealt, in essence, a hand of cards. Some hands are awful. The key is not focusing on the cards, but rather on our response to them.”

In Acts 16, Paul was thrown into the “inner prison and shackled” for simply sharing his faith in Christ.

He was dealt an awful hand. And, like Joseph, had every earthly reason to curse God, remain bitter, and even throw in the towel – which is what Satan was desperately hoping for.

But, Paul turned the tables on the devil in a surprising plot twist.

Verse 25 records, “About midnight Paul and (his friend) Silas were praying and singing hymns (while shackled in prison.)”

The next phrase grips me as much as the one we just read: “and the (other) prisoners were listening to them.”

A friend told me once, “It’s completely ok – and normal – to have a pity party. But make sure and put a time limit on it.”

Translation: when we are dealt an awful hand, pain and anger and frustration will naturally follow. And that’s where Satan wants us to remain – but don’t.

Jesus is whispering to us, “I’ve got this. Trust me.”

And, who knows, just like the other prisoners in the story, it could be that others who’ve been dealt an awful hand are looking for someone – anyone – to remind them that there his hope in the Cross and the Empty Tomb.

Love to you all, Nick

 

The Supernatural World

On the book of Job, chapters 1-2…

From award-winning author, Philip Yancey’s, book, The Bible Jesus Read:

“Nowhere else in the Bible are we more clearly informed of a realm beyond our own – one we cannot see but, nonetheless, exists.

“Like Job, we live in ignorance of what is going on ‘behind the curtains.’ Job reminds us that the small history of mankind on this earth takes place within the large drama of the history of the universe. We are foot-soldiers in a spiritual battle with cosmic significance.

“In the words of C.S. Lewis, ‘There is no neutral ground in the universe – every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” (Philip Yancey)

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