Born this Day, a Savior

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When you think of Christmas, do your thoughts begin and end with the birth in Bethlehem?  As awe-inspiring as the nativity account is, there is so much more to the arrival of Messiah than the stable, the shepherds, and the star.  The significance of The Savior’s birth is rooted in who He is, and in what He accomplished on our behalf!

For He has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of His dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see —
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through Him and for Him.
He existed before anything else,
    and He holds all creation together.
Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body.
He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.
    So He is first in everything.
For God in all His fullness
    was pleased to live in Christ,
and through Him God reconciled
    everything to Himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
    by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.  – Colossians 1:13-20 NLT

What an amazing description of The Son of God!  What amazing truths to take to heart… this season and always!

May the all-sufficient grace of God and the blessing of salvation through His Son bring you joy this Christmas and in the coming new year!

Deny, Take, Follow

Mark 8:27-38 (NKJV):

27 Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them,“Who do men say that I am?”
28 So they answered, “John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”

29 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.”

30 Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.

31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
34 When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 35 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? 37 Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

When reviewing the feedback from couples who attended the 2014 Committed for Life Marriage Retreat, it was encouraging to us to see how many positive comments were written in reference to Dr. Johnny Parker‘s session based on verses 31-36 of the passage above.  Although Mark 8:34b is key, and commonly-quoted, it was eye-opening to consider it in context with events that preceded, and with the full content of Christ’s declaration.

As the text reveals, the fact that Jesus is the Messiah was a certainty in Peter’s mind.  Nevertheless, Christ’s actual immediate future did not coincide with Peter’s worldly expectations.   Jesus then clarified for His disciples that real allegiance to Him required that they esteem Him – and the proclamation of the good news – more than they valued their very lives!  Then, and now, The Lord has instructed each Believer to:

1) DENY yourself – This concept goes far beyond the idea of settling for a Toyota, rather than a Lexus.  In this case, it means to renounce (to abandon) your right to act as though your life belongs to you.

2) TAKE up your cross – This, of course, is not fashion advice about what type of jewelry to wear.  In the age of Christ’s ministry on earth, those dwelling in Israel were all too familiar with the practice of forcing condemned men to carry the beams upon which they would be executed.  Here again, He calls you to regard your life as a living sacrifice (Rom. 12:1), given up for Him.

3) FOLLOW Him – In our marriages, our careers, or even our ministries, we can find ourselves wishing, “Lord, here’s where I want to go; please come along and help me reach my goal.”  Conversely, when we understand what He means by “follow”, our prayers will sound more like, “Lord, lead me daily – through Your Word, and by Your Spirit – in the way You want me to go; my life is in Your hands.”

To deny, take, and follow requires deliberate, selfless action.  You miss the mark as a disciple if you’re more concerned about preserving a way of life that is comfortable for you and inoffensive to lost sinners, than you are about giving your life wholly to The Lord.

So, here is the challenge: to choose obedience to The Savior over the temptation to compromise in the face of opposition, giving top priority to Christ’s will and purpose, above and before personal agendas.  Just as The Son denied Himself, took up His cross, and followed The Father’s will (to bring us salvation), let us be husbands and wives that embolden one another to maintain a deny-take-follow attitude, and to represent the cause of Christ in every aspect of life.

To Perceive His Glory

O God, You are my God;
Early will I seek You;
My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You
In a dry and thirsty land
Where there is no water.
So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.

Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.
Thus I will bless You while I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.
When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches.
Because You have been my help,
Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice.
My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand upholds me.  — Psalm 63:1-8

The words of this Psalm reveal the difference between a person who is merely religious and one who possesses a relationship with The Lord.  As you read these verses, you can practically visualize the writer — or yourself — experiencing a range of perspectives and feelings about God: from a deep longing to sense the strength and glory of God in a time of corporate, vocal worship… to meditation on the provision of God during the quiet darkness of a bedroom at night.  Clearly, faith in The Living God is more than a passive, intellectual pursuit; it’s a heart-and-soul interactive involvement with The Creator who personally loves you with an immeasurable, sacrificial, unconditional love!  Wow!!

Consider your own personal walk of faith.  Is fellowship with Christ — including a hunger to know and apply His Word — integrated into every facet of your life?  When that is true of our lives and husbands and wives, then we (like the psalmist) can find ourselves ready and willing to joyfully praise The Lord!

Stormy Weather. Sturdy House?

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 

“But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” — Matthew 7:24-27

In this text, we find the conclusion of a discourse known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus had been teaching the multitude on a wide range of subjects – from wealth and anxiety, to prayer and salvation.  He even touched on the subjects of lust, adultery, divorce and remarriage.  Now, consider the imagery of His summation: two buildings, only distinct in the type of foundation upon which each was built; both subjected to the same severe rains, winds, and floods; one endured and the other suffered a catastrophic collapse.  What a vivid picture!

Of course the question here is, “which kind of builder are you?”  For the house that is your marriage, have you been building on rock, by remembering the Biblical truths you’ve learned and putting them into practice?  Adversities and challenges are unavoidable, but they should not lead to the destruction of your marital union.

Perhaps you’ve been building on sand — having heard truth, but persisting in believing the lies that your personal happiness is an entitlement, and that your spouse owes it to you to meet your needs to your satisfaction.  With that kind of mindset, it’s no wonder that conflicts and disappointments can eventually destroy a marriage.

Yet it’s never too late to begin transitioning to a secure foundation.  Absolutely, attended the marriage retreat! By all means, learn Biblical truth through your local church!  Then become intentional in adopting the attitudes and actions that you have been taught from God’s Word.

He Hears and We Praise

Hear my cry, O God; 
Attend to my prayer. 
From the end of the earth I will cry to You, 
When my heart is overwhelmed; 
Lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 

For You have been a shelter for me, 
A strong tower from the enemy. 
I will abide in Your tabernacle forever; 
I will trust in the shelter of Your wings. 

Selah 

For You, O God, have heard my vows; 
You have given me the heritage of those who fear Your name. 
You will prolong the king’s life, 
His years as many generations. 
He shall abide before God forever. 
Oh, prepare mercy and truth, which may preserve him! 

So I will sing praise to Your name forever, 
That I may daily perform my vows. 

  • Psalm 61 – A Psalm of David

During the course of our nightly Bible reading, my wife and I encountered this Psalm this week. As you were just reading it — if your experience was like mine — you may have only seen the text for its informational value, without genuinely identifying with writer’s perspective.  After all, the life of David was nothing like ours, right?  He was a shepherd, a warrior, a fugitive, and ultimately king over Israel.  And although the low points in David’s life as a husband, father, and leader are well-known, his fierce devotion and reverence for The Lord was exceptional — so much so that God declared that his lineage would lead to The Messiah, who Himself, is destined to occupy David’s throne eternally (2 Samuel 7:16; Luke 1:31-33).

So, “what” you may be asking, “does this have to do with me?”  Although the specifics of David’s life and times are far removed from ours, virtually all of us can relate to the adverse emotional and spiritual effects that he suffered.  Like the psalmist, we too can feel so overwhelmed, defeated, vulnerable, and abandoned, that we cannot help but plead to God alone for His intervention on our behalf.  Like David, we also can find security in the truth of God’s Word, encouraged by His record of faithfulness to those who know and trust Him.

The Lord is more than able to hear — and lovingly respond to — our longings for His compassion and mercy.  Does that hope give you the desire to sing praise to His name forever?

– Peace –

Practically Speaking

Selections from Proverbs 15: 

A gentle answer turns away wrath, 
But a harsh word stirs up anger. 
The tongue of the wise makes knowledge acceptable, 
But the mouth of fools spouts folly.  (1-2) 

 
A soothing tongue is a tree of life, 
But perversion in it crushes the spirit.  (4) 

 
The lips of the wise spread knowledge, 
But the hearts of fools are not so.  (7) 

 
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, 
But the slow to anger calms a dispute.  (18) 

 
The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, 
But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.  (28) 

 

A couple does not have to be married for very long before they realize that conflict is inevitable.  No matter how romantic the courtship, wedding, and honeymoon may have been, there comes a time when a wife and husband find themselves disagreeing with each other and/or behaving in ways that fall short of each other’s expectations.

Now although conflict cannot be avoided, “fighting” — as in raised voices, demeaning words, threatening actions, hostile feelings, and such — certainly can be avoided.  These excerpts from Proverbs 15 show us that the Scriptures are rich in practical applications for how to speak with righteousness and wisdom, rather than foolishness and wickedness.

As you might imagine, a whole day’s worth of writing on the subject of conflict-resolution in marriage would not cover all there is to say, but our challenge to you is this: Take time to re-read those verses (out loud, together) and compare them against your typical, characteristic behaviors.  Do you — or does your spouse — find that you are more at the slow-to-anger end of the spectrum, or the hot-tempered end?  Let’s be wise enough to recognize where there is room for improvement; not foolish enough to “justify” our communication short-comings.

Peace –

His Passion… for You

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.

But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” — Mark 16:1-7

 

… He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. — Acts 1:3b

 

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! It is an amazing foundational truth with implications for every aspect of our lives, including our lives as wives and husbands. Building on the reality of the resurrection of Jesus, consider these truths from the Book of Romans, as well:

–  all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3:23)

–  God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (5:8)

–  the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord (6:23)

–  if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (10:9)

–  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (12:1-2)

 

Therefore, if Christ is your Lord and Savior, He has:

–  authority to decree and establish His expectation that marriage is to be a life-long covenant between a husband and wife

–  power, through The Holy Spirit, to enable you to apply what He taught concerning marriage

–  wisdom, revealed in The Scriptures, that we can fully trust as He has exemplified what it means and how it looks to lead through humbly serving; to submit willingly to the headship of another; to love intentionally, sacrificially, and unconditionally.

 

It is our prayer and our heart’s desire that the knowledge and significance of Christ’s resurrection is an integral dimension of your life, both today and everyday!