“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” – Psalm 46:10
We live in a fast-paced age: an age of calendars, schedules, appointments, meetings, memos, and hurried notes that remind us of activities we somehow need to squeeze in to our already overflowing hours and days. We leave voice-notes on our phones, Post-Its on our fridges, desks…even on the dashboards of our cars. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things we attempt to do. And yet, if we were to clear our calendars and schedules, cancel our appointments and meetings, and forgo all those things which seem so important in our daily lives…if we were to do away with all of it, and yet still managed to make time for God, then that day was not wasted. And, not only was it a day not wasted, but it was a day of gain: a day of increase and fulfillment. Because out of all our ‘needs’, there is only one which we cannot go without meeting: the need of an Almighty God in our lives. God is the appointment we should never miss, the meeting we should never forget, and the memo we should always remember to read. God is the one thing we shouldn’t need a reminder for; like our tithe money, the time we devout to Him should come right off the top: set aside and waiting to be offered up to Him.
“But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness,” (Matt. 6:34). And why first? Because that is the place God deserves to be in our lives: first. And yet, despite the fact that we all know this deep down in our hearts, we continually fall short of this command; we tend to get sidetracked at times, with our hearts seeking the things of this world first, and God in whichever order He happens to fall. Now, you might say ‘speak for yourself, there’…and, honestly, I am. But, I’m speaking for everybody else as well: if we all did as Christ commanded, than the church houses would be full every time the doors were open; people in the community would not go unwitnessed to or unvisited, our Bibles would not go unread, or our prayers said hurriedly or not at all. It’s just the truth; and the sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can go about remedying it.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” (II Tim. 3:16-17). So many find so little harm in not diligently studying the Word of God; it’s nothing for many Christians to go days if not weeks without reading the scriptures on their own time. But, think of it this way: to go without the reading of God’s Word is to go without the spiritual Bread and Water of Life that sustains us: it would be much the same to go several days without feeding your spiritual body: you just can’t function properly. How are we expected to be strong, to be determined, to be able to endure, if we lack this diligence? Would we so starve our physical bodies? Of course not! How then, can we starve our spirits, which should, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby?” (I Peter 2:2) How can we see to walk in this dark world if we are not constantly vigilant to keep the light burning? “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” (Psalm 119:105)
As Christians, we are nothing without the Word and the Spirit that sustains us: all that we are comes from the Lord, and we must seek Him out regularly to gain our strength, wisdom, and knowledge from Him. If we don’t seek these things, then we shall surely fall: we will not see increase, or abundance, or restoration, or victory if we don’t “Seek the Lord and His strength, seek His face continually,” (I Chron. 16:11).
So let us all make an effort to more diligently seek to spend time with our God; a God who has given so much to us, that the little He asks in return should make us ashamed that we so reluctantly give it. If we want to hear that ‘still, small voice”, then we must first make an effort to be still; to take those precious moment given to us and talk to our God – to seek Him, to know Him, to study and learn of Him…and to worship Him. We have to stop letting the noisy demands and confusions of this world distract us from the real reason – the real truth – of our existence here: to praise and serve our God in Heaven. The moments we give to Him are really His anyways; let’s stop hesitating so much on giving them back to Him.
“Glory ye in His holy Name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the lord. Seek the Lord, and His strength: seek His face evermore. Remember His marvelous works that He hath done; His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth.” – Psalm 105:3-5
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:2
We hear the term ‘Christ-like’ in regards to living a Christian life pretty frequently, all told; though it occurs to me that not everyone shares a universal definition of the phrase. To that end, I thought I’d take a few moments to examine my thoughts on the matter. So, what does it mean, to be ‘Christ-like’, do you think? Is it to live humbly, like He did? To live righteously, as He lived? Is it to stand for His word which we know to be true, and be willing to die as He died? I think it’s probably all of these things…and much, much more. But most important, I believe, is to share the love with which He loved the world. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:34-35)
Love. To be ‘Christ-like’ is, above all things, the ability to unconditionally love those around you. To tolerate the intolerable, to forgive the unforgivable, to love the unlovable. This is the defining characteristic of a Christian: our capacity to love freely and indiscriminately. All other things flow from that one single ability…the ability to love. Paul tells us to “let love be without dissimulation” (Rom. 12:9); which is to say, without hypocrisy: to love all with the Godly love with which Christ gave so freely to all. I’ve said many times that, no matter where Jesus was, or what He was doing, or how busy He might have been, He never denied those who came to Him for aid. He never told them to come back later, or that He was in the middle of something, or that He didn’t have the time; no, Jesus dropped everything to help those who sought Him out, no matter the situation or consequences. How many of us can make that claim? We are told that the servant is not greater than his Master, and yet our Master Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would go the aid of all who asked – without hesitation! – while we, the servants, will not deign to do as much! So, if we would truly be ‘Christ-like’, then we must show the love of Christ to all! That co-worker you can’t stand, that rival you’ve not liked all your life, that no-good drug-addicted thief you despise…all are every bit as worthy of God’s love as you are! And, if we truly desire to be like Christ, then we must give it to them! “This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12). There is no justification, no rationalization, to not show God’s love to any and all. After all, one of His last acts in this world was to show His love by forgiving the thief on the cross next to Him.
When you look at the verse at the top, are we, too, “looking unto Jesus” as our guide and example? What was “the joy that was set before Him”, for which He endured the Cross? It was the love of the Father, perfected by the Son’s sacrifice: the ultimate love which expresses itself in the salvation we are offered, and the love with which we are expected to live with one another. So, today, let us all work just a little harder to show that love; let us strive to bear it close to our hearts, so that we might “rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.” (Rom. 12:15). Let our hearts be open, and receptive, and loving towards all those who share this life with us – ready to give whatever we might be able to give, as our Master and Savior was always prepared to do before us. If we would be Christ-like, than let us “abide in faith, hope, and love, these three,” for, “the greatest of these is love.” (I Cor. 13:13)
“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” – Romans 8:29
“…Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shall thou serve.” – Matt. 4:10
For me, the passage of Christ‘s temptation in the wilderness is one of the most inspiring stories in the entire Bible. It highlights our Lord’s humanity, while at the same time sharply defining His divinity. How? Because, though Jesus is the Son of God, He was also the Son of Man: and as such, He was subject to man’s weaknesses and infallibility…the weaknesses of the flesh. So, was He tempted? Well, of course He was! But, the Spirit within Him, that sustained Him, and that gave Him power to overcome the devil is that same Holy Spirit that sustains the body of Christ today…and that Spirit is divine. One of the reasons He came to this world, was, in fact, to show us that such things could and can be done! “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on Me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto My Father.” (John 14:12). This goes for resisting and rebuking Satan, as well.
We are told, “Neither give place to the devil,” (Eph. 4:27), and to “abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good,” (Rom. 12:9), and to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11). Because the more we allow evil into our lives, the more power we give it to control us. The more we fall to temptation, the easier it is to keep continually falling. Now, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Rom. 4:23), but we have determine to what extent. So, what do we do to keep sin from our lives? How do we manage to overcome the devil and resist temptation when he is so good at hitting us just the right way with it? Because, bad things don’t ‘just happen’; as children of God, we are the continual targets of spiritual attack – for what would the devil want more than a child of the King in his clutches? How do we beat such a bombardment? Well, Christ lived and died to supply the answer to that question.
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God!‘” (Matt. 4:4). This is the answer: the Word of God. By being knowledgeable in His Word – by studying and meditating on it – then we are able to avoid situations in which we are tempted in the first place. And, by being washed clean by the blood of the Lamb who died upon that Cross, we are able to rebuke Satan when he does appear in our lives with the Word. Think: when tempted, what did Jesus use to resist the devil – to rebuke and overcome him? He used the scriptures…He used God’s Word. There is power – true power – in the Blood, and in the Word: these are the weapons that Christ died to provide; these are the tools that were purchased with His mercy and His grace. It depends on us, however, to use them effectively.
So, remember this today: that the key to withstanding any assault of evil, of darkness, is to be washed in the Blood and armed with the Word: the enemy cannot withstand these, for they are what make us strong, clean, and untouchable. “For though we walk after the flesh we do not war after the flesh: for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds.” (II Cor. 10:3-4)
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” – Ephesians 6:12-13
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” – Matt. 5:14
What is the difference between the believer that works diligently for the increase of God‘s Kingdom and the one who works only half-heartedly? At the end of the day, I believe, what separates the former from the latter is the strength of their conviction! This, I am convinced, is something we desperately need as we move forward into the new year: strength and conviction. We need the rock-solid certainty that we labor for an Almighty and all-Merciful God; that we can help to change things, people, and the world. We need to believe in our mission with all of our hearts, standing firm in our determination to plant seeds, to sow and to reap, to bear fruit…to touch hearts, and to help change lives. “But”, you might say, “only God can do the actual changing. We are only human”…and you’d be right. But we are told that “we are ambassadors for Christ,” (II Cor. 5:20), and that we stand here in His stead, to carry out His ministry. We are His representatives; we are meant to be His reflection here in this world. So, how can the world know of Him but that which we tell them, especially in an age when so many have forgotten? “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Rom. 10:14). And remember, that ‘preacher’ here means all those who minister for Christ…which is the entire body, one and all. While God determines the outcome of all things, we are His hands and feet: we are the workers of His Will in this world. For, “ye are the light of the world!”
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing…” (Matt. 5:13). As God’s children, much depends on us. We each have a part to play, and a cross to bear. When we lose strength, lose faith, and loose conviction, we are that ‘savourless salt’, and we become useless to others, to ourselves, and to our Lord. We are told that when “thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:16). We have to believe in what we do! We have to have faith in God, and to take responsibility for our part in His plan, or we will be unable to accomplish our mission. If nothing depended on our effort, our determination, and our faith, then why would the Word of God so stress these things? Why would we have been given power and authority if not to exercise them? “Ye are the light of the world!” We need to embrace this fact, and to strive to be that city on the hill: to stand openly and strongly for our God. We need to be salt with savour: to be filled with fire, conviction, and faith in our Lord.
So, today, as we move forward, let us pray for strength and faith to carry us on. Let us pray for fire and conviction to give our ministries substance and truth. Because, though we might not be able to change the world, the fact is that there is no excuse not to try our best to do so anyways. For, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, and we are the light of that world we wish to save; so, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
“…as it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of Peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!’” – Romans 10:15
“…behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying ‘Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His Star in the East, and are come to worship Him’.” – Matthew 2:1-2
The recorded history of this world stretches back some 6,000 years, beginning with the invention of the first written language: the cunieform of ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia. Other forms of writing would be invented later: Mesoamerican, Egyptian, Chinese, etc; all evolving into the languages of the modern world. Down throughout the ages, these languages have documented all the events, wars, disasters, victories, defeats, evils, and goodness that have shaped our history into the present. But the simple truth is that none of these records carried as much importance as these words: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:12)
From that moment in time everything changed. Everything. I’ve often wondered: can you imagine standing there the night that Star burned in the Eastern sky above Bethlehem? To know what it portended? To realize, in your heart of hearts that the King is here! What joy, what peace did those wise men and shepherds feel when they gazed upon the Lord of Lords? What sorrow at the knowledge of the sacrifice He must bear? Yet, with what joy in the knowledge of victory that sacrifice would purchase? Honestly, I imagine that it must have felt much the same as that which any Child of God feels when they accept Christ into their hearts: that speechless awe you feel in His Presence – the thrill of victory you feel when you can finally proclaim in your life that the King is here! “Saying, ‘Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest’.” (Luke 19:38)
When you celebrate Christmas, what is it exactly that you are celebrating? You know, you see all sorts of movies and TV shows and books that expound on the ‘true meaning of Christmas’; usually with exhortation on family, charity, or peace. And while these are all truly wonderful things, the true meaning of Christmas as I see it, is this: that on that night some 2,000 years ago, Jesus Christ, who was God in the flesh, was born into this world; and with Him was born the beginning of my salvation. That night the promise of healing in my life was born; my promise of peace, of prosperity, and of victory. You might say, ‘but you weren’t even alive!’…and you’d be right. But even though I wasn’t, all my hopes and promises were: the birth of Christ laid the foundation that all the grace in my life was built upon, “for other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 3:11)
Because that is what we celebrate when we celebrate Christmas: we are rejoicing that God loved us so much that – centuries before we were even born – He made sure that our lives would be blessed; that we would have the assurance of His mercy and grace…and that we would have the promise of His salvation. Realize how personal it is: realize that not only was the Savior born, but that your Savior was born. That joy you felt when you were saved, that peace you feel when you pray, the comfort and power that fills you alongside the Holy Spirit…all these things were born that first Christmas night. From the manger to the cross, He was born, lived, died, and risen again all for you! “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son that we might not perish, but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16).
And if, this Christmas, you do not know Christ, then please take the opportunity to open your heart to Him; to take the free gift that He offers – the gift which He has been offering to you thousands of years before you even existed. Realize that the child born that night was born to die…so that we might live eternally. This Christmas, let us honor His sacrifice; let us bow our heads, open our hearts, and praise our Lord Jesus Christ for His wonderful mercy and grace. Happy Birthday, Jesus, and thank you for everything!
“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, good will toward men.” – Luke 2:13-14
“And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” - Luke 2:10
The verses from Luke are famous; almost every Christian I’ve ever known is able to recite at least some part of the passages of the Nativity. Why? Because the Christmas story is special to God‘s children: it is the moving, triumphant tale of the birth of our Savior. And now, as I read over these words once again, knowing what this event means to us, I can’t help but think about what it meant for all those who lived at that particular point in time.
See, there was 400 years of silence between the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. And before that, their history was – since the death of King Solomon some five-hundred years earlier – a story of one long fall from glory and power. The northern Kingdom of Israel, made up of ten of the twelve tribes, had been destroyed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC, its survivors carted off and enslaved; their identity lost, and their history forgotten. All that was left was the southern Kingdom of Judah, which two centuries later would fall into its own captivity, the people relocated to Babylon in exile for almost 50 years until freed by Cyrus the Great.
This was the history of the Jews: one of shame and loss, robbed of their glorious history and punished for their faithlessness. Yet they were still God’s Covenant people, and they were promised a coming Messiah – a Savior, Redeemer, and Deliverer – One who would free God’s children and create a Kingdom like no other. To think, for those who were there, to have waited so long for His coming; to finally see it happen, and to believe! To finally possess that hope for salvation, for truth, and eternal peace. After all that time, to see God’s promise begin to come to pass with the birth of Jesus Christ!
But how much more fortunate are we, that we don’t have to wait for anything! For we are not awaiting God’s promise, because His promise has already been fulfilled! That promise has been born, crucified, and resurrected, and His salvation, grace, and righteousness isn’t coming…it’s already here. For us, everything has already been done; it was done those two-thousand years ago at Calvary. Our King of Kings has already set up that Kingdom in the hearts of all His children; and our Prince of Peace reigns in our lives if we only allow Him to do so.
Today, we need to realize that none of us are waiting on our blessings, because we’ve already been blessed. We are not waiting on our healing because we’ve already been healed. We are not waiting for victory, because we have already won! Our King has already been born, died, and has risen again so that we might “have life, and have it more abundantly!” (John 10:10) When we celebrate Christmas, let our hearts honor Him in every way for the sacrifice that beautiful child, born in a manger, was born to make. Made so that you and I might live that abundant life, both here and in Heaven, in peace eternally. Claim the blessings and promises your King has provided today; because unlike the Jews living two thousand years ago, you have not been waiting on these things…they have been waiting on you. With Jesus Christ, we do not have to wait on anything! That’s our King today, folks, “who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.” I Tim. 6:15-16)
“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11
“For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.” – Matt. 25:14-15
The ‘talent’, in the ancient world, was a unit of measurement – as are ‘pounds’, ‘ounces’, ‘grams’, etc., in our modern one – used to describe the mass of certain commodities: ie, gold, silver, wine, and other valuable trade items. It was only after this parables impact on the world that ‘talent’ began to mean something else: the inherent gifts which are given to us by God.
The Lord here, is – naturally – Christ, leaving on His long journey from which we await His return; the silver talents the Lord here gave His servants – by no means a paltry sum of money, either; rather, it was a veritable fortune – are in the same way the ‘talents’ that God gives to each one of us.
The first servant “went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents,” (v.16), just as the second “that had received two, he also gained other two,” (v.17). Both of these men, doubling their portion, are the Christians who use what God has given them – whether it be intelligence, strength, money, or abilities – to serve their Lord; to make increase in His kingdom, to touch hearts, change lives, and to strive to spread His Word where ever they might go. Because I truly believe that when we use our gifts for God – which God has given to us for that purpose to begin with – He will show us an increase in our portions: we will see His blessings rain down upon us and find our gifts doubled. Use your fortune to serve His kingdom, and it will be doubled. Use your mind to serve His kingdom, and you will grow in intellect and wisdom. Use your voice to sing His praises and you will sing like the very angels. Our efforts do not go unrewarded, so long as those efforts are made on His behalf. So long as we seek to bear fruit for Him, believing, we will bear it in abundance.
Or, like so many, we can choose to be like the third servant, who “digged it in the earth, and hid his Lord’s money.” (v.18) We can be the miser who hoards his wealth, the hard-hearted who shows no compassion, the intelligent who use their mind for their own gain, the strong who use their strength to intimidate and do the same….because so many of us are exactly these things. And when looking at it, you see why the Lord gifted that third man with the least amount of all: because why is God going to waste such riches on one who will only throw them away? Something to think about, if you ever wonder why God hasn’t gifted you with more than you think you deserve. Something I, at one time, had experience in, myself.
So today, use what He has given you for His glory, not letting it go to waste; remembering that talents being used for anything other than His purpose is a waste. Like the third servant, the talent we throw away or hoard will itself be taken away from us if not used for Him – no matter how small we might have thought it to have been. But if we will magnify His Word and Will, then He will magnify our blessings; so that one day, He might welcome us into that kingdom, saying “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matt. 25:21).
“For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” – Matt. 25:29-30