Devotions

Monthly Archives: December, 2015

Friday | December 25

Merry Christmas

Imagine the angels wanting to get together and throw a baby shower for Mary and Joseph.  Angel 1 says, “Check the registry, where are they registered?”  They are scrambling around in excitement.  Angel 2 says, “Let’s find clothes for a king, matter of fact, the King of kings – Armani, Boss, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci”…his voice tails away as Angel 1 blurts, “They aren’t registered at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom or Saks Fifth Avenue, and actually I don’t see them registered at Bed, Bath an& Beyond or even Targets.”  The angel, Gabriel, enters the room.   He updates everyone that they registry is at a resale shop in downtown Holly where clothes are given for free.  The angels revolt, “This is a mockery of God Himself.”  “He deserves only the best.”  Gabriel reminds them of the awestruck humility involved in God becoming a man.  He is coming for all of mankind.  His entrance will be humble.  Angel 1 not willing to totally concede, “Sometimes those Second Hand shops have some pretty good stuff.”  Gabriel smiles and replies, “They are just going to tear the cloth up so He can have swaddling clothes.”  The room is at a hush.

Back to Angel 2, “Ok, ok, but his crib needs to be a throne fit for a king.  They have foam memory mattresses and the spindles come in a variety of woods and styles.  It must be amazing.  I want everyone to immediately see how beautiful His crib is.”  Everyone feels an uneasy silence.  “Nothing should distract from the baby, Jesus, God Almighty!”  Angel 1, with a little less wind in his wings, asks, “So where did they register for that?”  Gabriel promptly announces, “Isaac’s Livestock and Feed.  It will be perfect, grab any manger and a bail of hay.”  He continues,  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

A baby was born in a manger

While a bright star shone down from above,

And the world learned the depths of God’s mercy

And the comfort and strength of His love.

May the thought of that long ago Christmas

And the meaning it’s sure to impart,

Bring a wonderful message of comfort

And a deep new peace to your heart.

Helen Steiner Rice

 

Jesus arrives in a common area of the world around some common folk.  There wasn’t a great party or reception (even though one star got his way shining bright for Jesus).  Our response should be to welcome Him into our lives, follow Him and live like Him.  Humility and Love need to reign supreme.

Gabriel smirks at Michael and says, “You should probably return the Selfie stick as He won’t use it.”

 

 

Randy “Doc” Johnson
Growth Pastor

Thursday | December 24

Best Gift Ever

My mom shopped year around for the perfect gifts at the best price.  She often would get people items that were better than they hoped for.  My sister and I didn’t really need to make a list (other than I always wanted a new pair of basketball shoes).  Christmas Eve we opened 1 present.  It gave us a taste of the excitement the next day would bring. I have tried to follow this family characteristic.  There can be a struggle in giving and receiving a cool gift and the practicality of it.

Angela and I have been married 32 years ago, a few years before we got married she surprised me with a creative gift.  She took a board, covered it with black felt, strategically hammered in some nails and then intertwined different wires, threads and materials as a replica of my motorcycle.  It is amazing.  I was caught off guard and unfortunately speechless.  I am better at giving gifts than receiving them.  Hopefully, this admission will cover some 30 years of shame.

Sometimes as gift givers we need to learn how to receive a gift.  Matthew 7:11 reminds us about God’s gift giving ability, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  God is the ultimate gift giver.  2 Corinthians 9:15 says it so well:

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

Romans 6:23 explains this amazing gift, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Obviously, as Christians, we realize (but need to be reminded) that the greatest gift we ever received was salvation.  We are saved for the wrath of God and from eternal banishment from Him.

Jesus was very open with wanting to share this gift of eternal life with people of all walks of life.  In John 4:10 he shares with a woman who was alone at the well, “Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.’”  Her past was rough, yet you don’t earn a gift.  A gift is not a gift if you have to pay for it yourself.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is offered to us as a gift because God paid the extremely costly price.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas.  Remember the greatest gift ever came because of a babe, born in humble means, lived a humble lifestyle and died the lowest form of death.  His Selfie(less) life can be seen in that He gave.

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

 

Randy “Doc” Johnson
Growth Pastor

Wednesday | December 23

Undercover Boss

Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form…

The God of the universe, the creator and sustainer, who, in Genesis, “…formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life”, became a man. What a profound mystery that words would only fail to accurately describe. The incarnation…God becoming flesh. This is what we celebrate at Christmas, but not simply the profound theological implications and mysteries of the God-man. We celebrate what the angels declared to the shepherds as “…good news of great joy that will be for all the people” (Luke 2:10). All people! All nations, tribes, socioeconomic classes, races, and backgrounds are welcome at the manger, the throne of the newborn King. What a thrilling invitation!

But for just a moment I want to pause and ponder the amazing meaning of God “in human form.” Without a doubt there are great joys and celebrations in this world. Yet each of us knows that this world is filled with unbearable sorrows. The prophet Isaiah, hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus, described the Messiah, as a man “…despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, and as one from whom men hid their faces…he was despised….” (Isaiah 53:3). What comfort to know that our Savior knows, understands, and has felt the deepest anguishes of the human condition. The scripture explains that Jesus is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). The very name Gabriel declared “Emmanuel,” meaning God with us, points to the amazing truth that God is with us…He’s become one of us. At no point did Jesus cease to be God, but He willingly became a human. He felt loneliness, sorrow, grief, pain, hunger, betrayal, loss, poverty, fear, depression, and anxiety. He knows our weaknesses, not from a distance or from simple facts, but from His own experience. He was “in human form.”

When I was 18 years old, I had one of the most difficult seasons of my life. Looking back years later, I realized how depressed, broken, and on the brink of disaster I really was. I had just started my freshman year of college in Dallas, Texas. Less than a month into my first semester, my grandfather passed away. I will never forget that night when the phone rang and my Dad’s voice was on the other line telling me that my maternal grandfather’s fight with cancer had come to an end and he was now safe and sound in Heaven. I flew home for the funeral and then right back to Texas for school. A few weeks later, my Dad received horrible news from the doctor and we were fully prepared that he may pass away as well. So there I was, 1,200 miles from home, alone, mourning, scared, mad, depressed, and feeling absolutely helpless. I would love to tell you I had a deep spiritual awakening and realized that the Lord was there, but that wouldn’t be true. I literally felt that way for a long time…too long to even think about.

Maybe you feel that way right now…hopeless, alone, or afraid. Please know that no other person on earth may feel or fully understand your pain, but there is a God is heaven, who loves you and knows your pain. He experienced every part of our broken world (Including temptation, yet He remained sinless). In Psalm 34:18, David celebrates the character of God, declaring, “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

On Christmas Eve, we will be having a special gathering at 6 PM at our Holly location called “We remember yours.” This gathering will be a special time for us as a church to gather together and encourage one another, especially those of us who are mourning the loss of a loved one. We will come together to remember, most importantly, our Savior is “near to the brokenhearted.”

 

Josh Combs
Lead Pastor

Tuesday | December 22

The Manger and the Cross

From the moment the angel Gabriel made the announcement of the miraculous conception and coming birth of Jesus Christ, the message was clear, “…He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). I can’t imagine what Joseph and Mary anticipated this message would ever come to mean. For both of them, the proclamation must have filled them with awe and fear, certainty and mystery. But the plan was undoubtedly clear for Jesus. He would grow up in the home of Joseph the carpenter, with Mary his mother, among the biological children of these two godly people.

At the age of 12, Jesus would remain in Jerusalem several days, while his family, believing he was in the caravan, traveled back to Nazareth. When Mary and Joseph discovered Jesus was missing, they immediately traveled back to Jerusalem and began searching frantically for their son. When they found Jesus, He was having profound theological discussions with the teachers in “His Father’s House” (Luke 2:49). The gospel writer, Luke, gives us a brief but illuminating insight into Mary’s heart. He writes, “…His mother treasured up all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).

As Jesus grew into a man, He would call fisherman, tax collectors, zealots, and others to become His students…His disciples. As had been revealed to Joseph and Mary, Jesus would reveal God’s plan to them as well. In Matthew 16:21, the former tax collector turned follower of Jesus, wrote, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Shocked by this revelation, Peter rebuked Jesus saying, “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus, with great authority and love put Peter in his place. “Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus proclaimed. “You are a hindrance.” Just like his mother and legal father, the disciples could not grasp the destiny of the messiah or the design of God.

On the night Jesus was arrested, all of His followers abandoned Him and left Him to stand before Herod, Pilate, and a vicious crowd alone. Yet Jesus knew from the manger that this was the plan. Pilate questioned Jesus’ royal claim, and Jesus made it clear, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” (John 18:36). Jesus is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He is the sovereign ruler of the universe. He came to the world to redeem and rescue His kingdom of the domain of darkness, from the slavery of sin.

I can only imagine Mary’s heart at the cross, as it was pierced through with such great sorrow. Yet somewhere following the crucifixion and Christ’s glorious resurrection from the dead, she came to realize the significance of those words spoken nearly 34 years earlier, you “…will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Philippians 2:8: And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

(See also Hebrews 5:8; John 17:1-6; Isaiah 9:6-7)

 

Josh Combs
Lead Pastor

Friday | December 18

Party for Jesus

Often, when a celebrity comes to town, a big welcome party is thrown.  There are banners and the marching band leads the parade.  Jesus deserved such a welcome, but He didn’t receive one.  Isaiah 53:3 states, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Jesus was despised.  He wasn’t welcomed.  Many of us can relate to walking into a room and realizing that we weren’t wanted.  We want to be loved and appreciated.  Jesus would have enjoyed those feelings, too, but He was despised and rejected.  It wasn’t just at His death that He felt unwanted.

Early in Jesus’ ministry He came home to preach.  Mark 6:2-3 gives the response of the people, “And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.’”  The people didn’t give Jesus a warm reception.  There was no welcome-home party.  They took offense at Him.  He was despised and rejected.

Later during the Triumphal Entry, Mark writes in chapter eleven verse eighteen, “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.”  Jesus was so despised that people wanted to kill Him.  He wasn’t accepted in His homeland and He wasn’t accepted by the religious leaders.  There is not much one can do when he isn’t accepted at home or at church.

Luke 22:63-65 states how the guards treated Jesus,  Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.”  The guards mocked Jesus and insulted Him.  People who didn’t even know Him found their place in despising Him.  Jesus can relate to the mindset that feels “if they really knew me they would like me.”  But they didn’t.  They mocked and insulted Him.

It is horrible to feel unwanted.  We like to be liked.  It is typical for people to over-analyze why they are not liked.  We wonder if things would be different if we did something different.  We don’t like being left out, ignored or avoided.  Jesus chose to relate.  He was despised and rejected.

Matthew 26:67 is disturbing, “Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him.”  They hit Him, slapped Him and spit in His face.  Spit!  They spit in his face.  I don’t think there could be a greater insult.  They spit in His face and He allowed it.

The Message Bible paraphrases Isaiah 53:3, “He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.  One look at him and people turned away.  We looked down on him, thought he was scum.”  The New Life Version is consistent with this thought, “He was hated and men would have nothing to do with Him, a man of sorrows and suffering, knowing sadness well. We hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was hated, and we did not think well of Him.”  Jesus was treated as scum because He was hated.  Jesus came to die for us, but He also came to live for us, like us.

Have you welcomed Jesus into your life?

 

Randy “Doc” Johnson
Growth Pastor



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