The Christmas Baby

The Christmas Baby

Merry Christmas! 

As you spend time today focusing with family and friends on Jesus, the reason for the season, the Christmas baby that was born so long ago and the hope that he brings, reflect with a thoughtful post by Don Wilton.

Surely no birth has ever garnered more publicity than the birth of our Christmas baby. How well acquainted we are with all the hoopla that surrounds the announcement, the nine month wait and the birth of that little person – so wonderfully made by the specific design of our Lord and our God.

Every baby, without exception, fashioned by the foreknowledge of God and designed to look like God, love like God and live with God forever.

At least this is how God intended every baby to be. But sin interrupted His mighty plan. And so it is that from birth not one single baby is ever born with an ability to look like God or love like God or even live with God.

Here comes the Christmas baby.

This baby, according to God’s gracious love for man, is the only means by which all sinners can be reconciled to a holy and righteous God. (Click to Tweet!)

It was because he was born that all people can look like God and love like God and live with God forever. So, this Christmas baby is well worth seeking after. A visit to his birth manger is not optional if, in fact, any person has any prospect of looking like God and loving like God and living with God forever.

What a story unfolded . . .

First, there was the announcement of the birth.

Mary’s world must have been rocked, to say the least. God chose one very precious young lady to carry the Christ baby. Extreme surprise must have been followed by extreme shock. “Horrors” she might have thought – especially considering the potential scandal.

But God was involved all the way – just as he is involved in the birth of every child. Only he is the giver and taker of life. So Mary’s horror was quickly soothed into a contented silence that always comes when God speaks.

Second, there was the birth itself.

How very unkind of the Inn Keeper to turn his back on a very pregnant young lady. My, how times have changed. Today he would be sued! We would all have it in for him -with no pun intended!

But what if we really understood he said “sorry young lady, no room here,” because he could not help but say this? To what extent was God involved in His master plan for the redemption of all mankind? Unless, of course, we want to imagine some sorry little Inn Keeper had enough power to interfere in God’s sovereign plan.

Anyway, he said “no room” because God fully intended for the Savior of the world to “suffer in all points just as we do” – yet without sin. This suffering was the very suffering Jesus would carry with Him all the way to the cross. There our suffering and sin would be put to death with Him and then buried in a grave to rise no more. This Christmas Baby would identify with us in every way.

Third, there is a  very important thought about the birth of the Christmas baby. 

Everyone in the world was impacted by it.

At the time when this all happened, there were a bunch of people who found themselves immediately caught up in this beautiful little baby’s birth. A close examination of them takes us exactly where God intends for us to be taken.

Think about the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, the King (Herod) and his court, as well as the by standers who we will never be able to properly identify.

These people represented a cross section of society. They were commoners, small business owners, shop keepers, academics, camel riders, court servants and rude monarchs! Just like Jesus! Right there at the manger it all came together.

One humble young lady giving birth to one precious little baby boy in a smelly stable while covered in a mixture of hay and cow poop!

This is Jesus. The Son of the Living God!

He was the same one who would go to a cruel Roman cross and take upon himself the sin of the world. He was the same one who would conquer sin and death and the grave. And he was the same one who would ascend to be seated at the right hand of the Father and now making intercession for you and for me.

Who exactly? It was the “you and me” who first heard the news about His birth. It was the same “you and me” who sent him to the cross. And it was the same “you and me” who, because of His glorious resurrection, will be raised up to walk with Him in newness of life. 

The same “you and me” who will come back with Him when He returns to this earth – not to be surrounded by the difficult and the damning, but to be clothed in the robes of the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

This is the Christmas baby.

———

Don Wilton is the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He is the founder and president of The Encouraging Word, a broadcast ministry, and is passionate about hosting teaching tours to the Holy Land each year including Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and Rome.

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Joy to the World

Joy to the World

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time to reflect today with a guest post by Nancy Guthrie, an influential Christian author and teacher. She teaches the Bible through numerous Bible study books, at her home church, Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as at conferences around the country and internationally.

In the 1700s, when Isaac Watts lived, most people sang psalms from the Bible set to music in their worship services.

Watts didn’t think that the psalms that had been arranged well for singing, so he set about the task of trying to do better. The song we sing today as “Joy to the World” is Isaac Watts’ rendering of Psalm 98.  Psalm 98 is about the coming of the Lord. But when we listen carefully to the words, we recognize immediately that it is not about the first coming of Jesus.

We sing, “Let earth receive her king!

But when he came the first time, earth did not receive her king. They crucified him. (Click to Tweet!)

We sing, “he rules the world with truth and grace.

But when he came the first time, he did not come to rule the world with truth and grace but as the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world.

We sing, “and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness.

But when he came the first time, he did not make the nations prove the glories of His righteousness. Instead, he took upon himself the punishment for our unrighteousness.

Perhaps most significantly, at least for me, and for anyone who has experienced the pain of living life in a world that is broken to the core because of the curse of sin that came over all creation when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, we sing, “He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found.

And we realize that while Christ accomplished everything necessary to put an end to the curse when he took the curse upon himself on the cross, we still live in a world profoundly impacted by the curse. We are experiencing the new creation as we are called from spiritual death to spiritual life. But his blessings do not yet flow far as the curse is found.

But when Christ comes again, all will be different.

Every knee will bow to him; there will be no more resistance to him. It won’t be just people who will celebrate his coming; the earth itself will celebrate.

The curse will finally be gone so that all of creation will be set free from decay to worship Christ. People from every tribe and nation will gladly crown him as King.

This is why there is so much joy in “Joy to the World”! It is not about the joy of Christ coming the first time, but anticipates the joy when Christ comes the second time—when the Kingdom he established at his first coming will be the reality we will live in forever.

When we understand what we’re saying when we sing this song, we realize that this song celebrates the essence of our Christian hope as believers. Our hope is not simply looking back to treasure Christ’s birth or seeing what Christ accomplished on the cross. (Click to Tweet!)

It is not only in our experience here and now of Christ changing us as we put our faith in him. Our greatest joy is centered on our future hope of the day when Christ will return in glory to this earth. On that day, all who are dead in Christ will be resurrected.

This is what we read in Revelation 21:1-5 about that day that “Joy to the World” celebrates:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!”

That day, described in Psalm 98 and sung about in “Joy to the World,” will be a great day! Because God fulfilled his promises to send Jesus the first time, we can sing, “Joy to the World” confidently and expectantly, sure that he will come again.”

———

Nancy offers companionship and biblical insight to the grieving through Respite Retreats that she and her husband, David, host for couples who have faced the death of child, through the GriefShare video series, and through ebooks such as Holding on to Hope and Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow. She is also the host of the “Help Me Teach the Bible podcast” at The Gospel Coalition and is the editor of a collection of writing on the incarnation called, Come Thou Long Expected Jesus. 

Interested in reading more by Nancy? Get her advent devotional, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

 

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A Christmas Reflection: Seeing Like a Little Child

Seeing Like  A Child

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time today to reflect with a guest post by Tim Cameron, who currently serves as headmaster at Metro Christian Academy and as an elder at Believers Church.

Two years ago before Christmas, my wife and I downsized and moved back to our former home. It was a little house we had been using as a rental property.

Just a few doors down on the block was a residence poorly cared for. You can guess some of the low spots: grass never mowed, trees overgrown, tires in the front yard, and the house in a sad state of disrepair. To top it off, a few strings of Christmas lights were thrown haphazardly around trees and left turned on year-round. I confess, my comments to my wife were not the most edifying every time we drove by that house.

Over the course of a weekend when our four-year old grandson was staying with us, we repeatedly drove by this run down residence.

On one of those trips, my wife turned to our grandson and said, “What do you think about that house?” He immediately responded, “It’s beautiful.” Of course, he was only seeing the bright Christmas lights.

Similarly, we know very little about Jesus’ childhood.

The only incident chronicled in the gospels is of Jesus at twelve years of age. It’s the simple story of Jesus being left in Jerusalem during the Passover, and his parents finding him in the temple three days later among the leaders.

Luke 2:40 describes Jesus’s development from infancy to age twelve: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom. And the grace of God was upon him” (MEV).

We know about Jesus’s childhood that He was similar to any growing boy in His natural maturing. He was completely human; however, He was completely God, one of the many majestic mysteries of the gospels.

I don’t think most of us fully appreciate Jesus’ humanity while here on earth. He had all the emotions, temptations, and physical feelings that we have. The point is, Jesus knows experientially what it is like to be a little child. (Click to Tweet!)

He was a baby, and a little child; He grew in stature and wisdom. He knows all the marvelous qualities of little children, firsthand.

Like my grandson, who saw only the beautiful strand of bright Christmas lights in the middle of a huge mess, Jesus looks into the messes we can make of our lives and sees the beauty and great possibilities remaining.

“For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11, MEV).

Christmas is such a majestic time of the year. It is a time of wonder for little children and a poignant time for adults to contemplate our Lord’s birth and childhood. The beauty of Christmas always reminds me of what the beauty the kingdom of heaven must be like.  

However, we need to be mindful that the kingdom of heaven isn’t some ethereal land in the good old bye and bye.

The kingdom of heaven is within us (Luke 17:21). Whether it is the kingdom heaven to come or the kingdom of heaven within us, it will only be seen and experienced through the eyes of a little child. “Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:2-3, MEV).

We must become like little children.

Jesus knows little children don’t judge one-another. They don’t see themselves better than other little children, unless they are taught to do so. Little children don’t gossip or criticize each other. They don’t ascribe worth to anyone based on the color of their skin or the square footage of their home.

Let’s reflect this Christmas on the wonder of Jesus’ birth!

———

Get Tim’s ebook, The Forty-Day Word Fast, which focuses on several biblically-sound mechanisms to help you change your words and your life. Not only will your vocabulary change, your heart also will be transformed in just 40 days!

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An Advent Reflection: Old Nelson’s Nephew

Old Nelson's Nephew

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Spend time reflecting with an Advent devotional by Dr. Alicia Britt Chloe. She  takes a unique perspective on the birth of Christ, she explains her piece in this way: “Many of us cannot count how many times we have heard the story of Jesus’ birth. In this devotional, I have attempted to retell the story through the eyes of a salty shepherd. Read the story again (Luke 2:10-18) and spend a few moments considering the long-term affect that miraculous night must have had upon the shepherds and all who saw Jesus.”

Don’t worry, after a while you get used to the smell—even grow to like it, I say. Sort of makes you feel alive. Watch for that—oohh. There is a lesson for you lad, always look before you sit.

So, you are the new shepherd they spoke of. Welcome, I say. Yes, any nephew of Old Nelson is welcome here. How can I help you son? Anything you’d like to know?

Oh! Now that was a long time ago. But it’s as fresh in my memory as, well, as other things around here. Let’s see, thirty-three—no, thirty-four years ago it happened.

“Joy,” he said. “Great joy.” And he was right lad. He was right.

Nelson, Sparks, Red, and I were watching the sheep over in that pasture past the creek. We were just kids then, though I was the eldest. Used to tease the others that they were good for mutton. Ha!

You know, good for nothing, good for mutton?! Never mind.

Anyway, we had settled in for the night around the fire when suddenly it was as though someone turned the sun on. Bright as day it was. I was so scared, thought I was going to die!

Right in the middle of the light we saw a big old angel and he said, “Do not be afraid.” (Easy enough to say when you’re twelve feet tall and floating in sunshine!) “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

A Savior. Lad, he told us of a Savior.

Then a whole flock of angels appeared and sang together about God and peace and goodwill and such. Never seen anything like it.

When they left, Old Nelson was the first to speak. “I’m going,” he said, and we all followed him. Words just aren’t big enough to tell you what it was like to find the Savior. Nope. But I can tell you that seeing Him changed us all.

Joy.

Yes, the angel said it best. Used to think Joy was like being surprised on your birthday. But it’s more like burning hope deep in your soul; it keeps you warm, like a clean fire living inside you. (Click to Tweet!)

Joy kept burning, even when I lost my best friend, your uncle, Old Nelson. You see son, Nelson still lives because that Savior we saw still lives. Crucified he was, but God didn’t leave Him there. And that’s a story for another day.

Rest now, lad. I’ll tell you like the angel told us, don’t be afraid. We watch over the sheep, but that Savior I saw watches over us. And I bet Old Nelson’s close by His side.

Luke 2.8-18 The Message Bible

There were sheepherders camping in the neighborhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly, God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide: A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises: Glory to God in the heavenly heights, Peace to all men and women on earth who please him. As the angel choir withdrew into heaven, the sheepherders talked it over. “Let’s get over to Bethlehem as fast as we can and see for ourselves what God has revealed to us.” They left, running, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger. Seeing was believing. They told everyone they met what the angels had said about this child. All who heard the sheepherders were impressed.

———

Dr. Alicia Britt Chole is a speaker, mentor, and author who lives with her family off of a quiet, country road in Missouri. Her book, Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours, is highly regarded by leaders around the world and her next book, 40 Days of Decrease, will be released in January, 2016.

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O Come, Let Us Adore Him

O Come Let Us Adore Him

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Focus on the true meaning of the season today with a reflective guest post by Jessica Thompson

O come, see Him loving you before He was ever even born. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

O come, see Him planning our rescue. (Genesis 3:15)

O come, see Him being born into brokenness, poverty, and bloodshed. (Matthew 1:18-25)

O come, see Him living in utter obscurity as a boy, teenager, man. (Luke 2)

O come, see Him changing the water into wine. Changing the ordinary into extraordinary, saving the best for last. (John 2:1-11)

O come, see Him confounding those that thought they had it all together. (John 10)

O come, see Him loving the damaged. See Him as Friend of Sinners. (Matthew 9:10)

O come, see Him drawing near to women. (Luke 10:38-42)

O come, see Him welcoming children. (Luke 18:15-17)

O come, see Him longing to be in relationship with the outcast, the sick and the lonely. (Click to Tweet!) (Mark 1:40-45)

O come, see Him weeping at the grave of his friend Lazarus. (John 11:1-44)

O come, see Him praying, asking for the cup to pass, and finally surrendering to the forever plan. (Matthew 26:36-46)

O come, see Him riding into the city on a donkey, receiving the praise of those that are about to turn on Him. (Luke 19:28-40)

O come, see Him being questioned, mocked, beaten. (Luke 22:63-23:25)

O come, see Him taking upon himself every single sin you and I have ever committed. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

O come, see Him experiencing the separation from the Father you and I deserve. (Matthew 27:46)

O come, see Him taking care of his mother while he breathed His last breath. (John 19:25-27)

O come, see Him crying out the three words of good news that changed everything: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)

O come, see Him defeating death, conquering hell, sealing Satan’s fate. (Click to Tweet!) (I Peter 3:18-22) 

O come, see Him calling out Mary Magdalene’s name and healing her broken heart. (John 20:11-18)

O come, see Him lovingly teaching his disciples and loving them through their fears. (Luke 24:14-49)

O come, see Him interceding for you and me at the right hand of the Father. (Romans 8:34)

O come, see Him sympathizing with us in our weaknesses, and being touched by our infirmities. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.

———

Jessica Thompson is co-author of Give Them GraceCounting the Days Lighting the Candles: A Christmas Advent Devotional and the author of Everyday Grace, Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for Families. Her heart is to see women, families, and children freed from the bondage of moralism.

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A Savior was Born and the People Rejoiced!

The People Rejoiced!

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time to reflect today with a guest post by author Dee Travis, written with the purpose to encourage and help celebrate life with loved ones.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  People everywhere are filled with Christmas happiness and cheer. All the Christmas lights and festivities of the season make our hearts merry! And oh the joy on Christmas morning when children find the presents they dreamed about under the tree!

It was also a time of rejoicing and happiness and exceeding great joy for the people in Bethlehem when a Savior was born that first Christmas many years ago. Find the stories in Luke 1:26-2:38 and Matthew 2:9-11.

An angel appeared to a virgin girl named Mary and told her she would give birth to the Son of God, the longed for and promised Messiah.

Mary rejoiced in knowing God had blessed her and she humbled herself before God with joyful praise! 

Because of a census during that time Mary and Joseph had to travel many miles to the city of Bethlehem and they were weary and tired and needed a place to sleep. Because there was no room for them in the inn that night Mary gave birth in a cattle stall. Mary knew Jesus was more than just a baby and she rejoiced!

In the same area near Bethlehem there were shepherds out in the fields with their herds of sheep. They were probably resting peacefully under the stars when an angel appeared in front of them and God’s glory was so bright around them that they were terrified! The angel urged them not to be afraid because he had good news of great joy!  

Then a great multitude of heavenly hosts appeared with the angel and together they praised God saying “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and good will to men!”  The angels knew this baby boy was God’s Son and they rejoiced!

Suddenly the angels were gone and the shepherds knew they needed to go to Bethlehem and see this baby the angel had told them about. They found Mary and Joseph and their baby who was sleeping in a manger and told them about how the angels had appeared to them. The shepherds had seen the baby Messiah God had promised and they rejoiced!

After a time Mary and Joseph took Jesus to Jerusalem to present Him before the Lord and to offer a sacrifice. There was a man there named Simeon who was a devout and righteous man who loved God and was waiting on the promised Messiah. He had even been told by God that he wouldn’t die until he had seen Christ. When Simeon came into the temple he was filled with God’s spirit. When he saw Mary and Joseph with the baby he took Him in his arms and blessed Him and then asked the Lord to let him now depart in peace. He had seen the salvation and glory of Israel and he rejoiced!

There was also a widow in the temple whose name was Anna. She was a prophetess and served the Lord in the temple faithfully days and night with fastings and prayers. When she heard Simeon she began giving thanks to God telling everyone that the redemption of Israel they had been waiting for was here! Anna, a faithful servant of God, rejoiced!

And then there were the wise men from the East.  They followed a star which went before them and it brought them to were the Child (Jesus) was and they rejoiced with exceeding great joy! When they saw the Child with Mary His mother they fell on the knees and worshiped Him.  The wise men knew this Child was the King of Kings and they rejoiced!

Sometimes I try to put myself into each scene.

  • Mary was a young girl ready to have her first baby in a smelly barn.
  • The shepherds were resting on a hillside watching sleeping sheep.
  • The angels were joyfully singing praises.
  • Simeon and Anna were waiting patiently see the Messiah.
  • The wise men followed a moving star.

They were each so devoted to God that they saw God revealing His plan and got to be a part of it.

There were others that night who missed the whole thing. I don’t want to miss seeing what God wants me to see.

This Christmas with all the festivities lets’ be looking for the Savior and rejoicing like these devout followers of God did many years ago. (Click to Tweet!)

They knew God, they all saw Jesus and they rejoiced!

 ———

Read Dee Travis’ newest release, Celebrate Life: Living to Serve God and Encourage Other as We Celebrate Life Together, an ebook that explores the good things in life and the different ways to celebrate them with your spouse, children, church family, and friends.

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While We Were Still Sinners

While We Were Still Sinners

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time to reflect today with a guest post by Brett Parks, the founder and president of Second Shot Ministry. Brett travels around the nation speaking to schools, businesses, and churches about hope, faith, and how he overcame a 99.999% mortality rate.

Christmas’ Gift To Us: Cleanliness

December 24, 2015: Cold gusts of wind races down the empty streets as I sit within the warm confines of my home, basking in holiday cheer.  In the background, Bing sings the old familiar tune of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” the way only Mr. Crosby can sing it.

Its Christmas Eve and my wife and I just finished setting up a plastic red “Radio Flyer” wagon (for the third time).  Sitting on our couch, staring at our Christmas tree, illuminating the living room like a beacon of hope, I can’t help but think about the true meaning of Christmas.  

Romans 5:8 “While we were still sinners…” kept playing over in my head and I pondered my “need for Jesus”.

In a nutshell, this world was made perfect as we were made perfect.  Then, a guy named Adam and a girl named Eve sinned against our God (or our creator).  

Because of that, it knocked this world and human kind into chaos, opening our eyes to good and evil. God (our Creator) told us from the moment Adam and Eve chose to sin, that He was going to send someone to be the ultimate sacrifice so that, those who recognized their need for Him, would become clean and be able to enter Heaven.

That someone was Jesus of Nazareth.  He was our creator’s son who was sent to earth for one reason: to become that ultimate sacrifice.  

Jesus lived a perfect life and took on the sin of everyone that had sinned in the past, sinned in the present and would sin in the future, and placed it on Himself; as he was nailed to a cross and died (fulfilling many prophecies that were recorded hundreds of years earlier).

This is what Christians mean when they say that we all have the “need for Jesus”.

As a Christian, I understand the “need for Jesus”.  I’ve experienced my share of pain and heartache to the very brink of death, only to be comforted by my “need for Jesus”.  

But this verse in the bible, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Gives me so much encouragement.  

We are all train wrecks, are we not?  Some more than others, but, train wrecks nevertheless.

We are, by very nature, selfish creatures.  From the moment we are conceived, we take.  It’s called survival, really, and we could explain it away as such in hopes to justify our actions.  But this isn’t what God wants us to do.  

He wants us to go against everything that feels natural to us and do what is right in his eyes: live according to his principals. (Click to Tweet!)  

This is why it’s so important to recognize our “need for Jesus”, because in order to truly live the way our Creator wants us to live and become clean the way he wants us to be, we have to understand our “need for Jesus”.

But here’s the amazing thing about our creator:  He didn’t wait until we got our act together to send Jesus to die for our sins.  

God didn’t look down from the sky with his arms crossed and his face contorted in disappointment and chastise us about how he wouldn’t move a finger until we stopped sinning, and let me tell you something, I am so glad he didn’t.  If he did, we would still be waiting for a savior and we’d never get to experience true salvation: true cleanliness.  Honestly, we’d still be sacrificing animals on alters.

But we have a God that loves us so much, that he sent his son (Jesus) to die on the cross, for our sins, allowing us a second shot at life. (Click to Tweet!)

He allowed us a second shot at being clean.  

We know this, because of what Paul said in Romans 5:8:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The “Christ” in this verse is Jesus and the “sinners” in this verse are we.  We is you; it’s me, it’s all of us.  

From the worst of the worst to the kindest and the most selfless, we are all sinners.  That’s why Christians express the “need for Jesus”.  

It would be great if we could just keep on living forever and not have to worry about the next stage in our life.  But, unfortunately, the expression is true: “Death and Taxes” are the two things that cannot be avoided.  Your lifeline will end.  You will cease to exist in this world.  What happens after you pass on is what we need to be thinking about at this moment in our lives.

On Christmas day, a little boy was born in an environment that would make even the toughest stomachs turn.  On that Christmas day, the world as was known, was changed forever.  

Jesus, the Christ child, was introduced to a world of sin: a world of need.  He would grow up blameless and die an innocent man.  But, in His death, there was life for all of mankind: past, present and future.

I have a “need for Jesus”; you have a “need for Jesus”.  This was the Creator’s purpose all along.  It wasn’t an easy decision for Him, but one He made out of love for us.       

So enjoy this holiday season.  Enjoy the winter wonderland/Santa Clause atmosphere.  Enjoy Bing Crosby and Michael Bublee’s Christmas album, but never forget the reason for the season: the gift that our Creator gave us, and our “need for Jesus”.  Merry Christmas!

———

Find inspiration about God’s goodness in Brett’s story, when he was shot in the abdomen while breaking up a robbery, spent 20 days in a coma, and woke to find he lost a kidney, a third of his colon, and the lower part of his right leg. Read more about Brett’s life-changing experience in his ebook, Miracle Man: A Bullet That Ignited a Purpose-Filled Life today.

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More than You Ever Wished For . . .

More than you wished for..

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Spend time reflecting with an excerpt from Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul, published by Zondervan

Discover today’s devotional, written specifically for the Advent season by author Susanna Foth Aughtmon.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20–21 (NIV)

Recently we watched an old video of a Christmas that took place nine years ago.

Our boys were so small and sweet. Our oldest son, Jack, will be fourteen this year.

He couldn’t take his eyes off his five-year-old self. In the video, he was so excited about each present he opened he could barely contain himself. He was especially thrilled with an art kit he had received. He looked straight into the camera and said, “Hey! I think I wished for that!” I heard myself, off camera, laugh and say, “You did wish for that, Jack! How fun that you got it!”

More often than not, we don’t expect the things we wish for. We are not sure they will come to pass. We are incredibly surprised when the things we wish for come true, just like Jack was when he got the art kit he wanted so much.

But what is even better than getting what we wish for is when our hopes and dreams are surpassed and we receive more than we ever thought possible.

As Christ followers, we get far more than we ever asked or hoped or wished or dreamed for. (Click to Tweet!)

When we asked Jesus to save us from our sins, He didn’t stop there.

He is an over-the-top gift-giver.

He didn’t just save us, He offered us forgiveness, mercy, restoration, grace, healing, freedom, hope, joy, peace, a new way of thinking, a new way of living, a clean heart, and the list goes on . . . and on . . . and on. He does more in us and for us than we could ever begin to wish for.

FAITH STEP: Thank Jesus for five different ways that He has exceeded your expectations in your life.

———

Interested in getting encouragement like this daily in 2016? Get Zondervan’s Mornings with Jesus 2016: Daily Encouragement for Your Soul today!

 

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How Long, Lord?

How Long, Lord?

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Take time today to reflect with a guest post by Sally Lloyd Jones, a New York Times bestselling children’s book writer.

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
  

but you do not listen?
 

Or cry out to you, . . .

but you do not save?”—Habakkuk 1:2

“Your eyes are too pure to look on evil…”—Habakkuk 1:13

Fighting, suffering, sickness, tears—all the things God hates most—are everywhere in our world. And in our own hearts, too.

God is so holy and pure, the Bible tells us, that he cannot even look on evil. And yet God can look on us. And love us.

How is that possible?

Because of the kind of God we have. Most people think they know what the Bible is all about. And it’s not good.

Most people think it’s about a vengeful God who is constantly punishing people. Who has a set of rules you’re supposed to follow so he will love you. Or a bunch of heroes you’re supposed to be like.

As a child I knew I wasn’t brave like David, or like Daniel. And I knew I wasn’t good all the time. So I thought God must not be pleased with me. He couldn’t love me. I wasn’t doing it right. He was like a big judge in the sky looking down at me.

But that is not the God of the Bible.

We don’t have a God who turns away from us. We have a God who draws near to us. (Click to Tweet!)

Who calls himself our Father, and us his children.

A God who can’t stop loving us—who moves heaven and earth to be close to us!

Because God doesn’t just look down at the mess we’ve made. He comes down. Not as a judge to punish us—but as Rescuer to save us.

Advent celebrates God’s Great Rescue!

Now, if you were mounting a Rescue Operation—who would you send? A fierce warrior? A strong king with armies? A politician?

Do you know who God sends?

He sends a baby.

He sends a baby to rescue the world.

The Mighty God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, makes himself small and comes down as a baby.

Advent celebrates the coming of the one who came to destroy evil—whose whole reason for coming was to die. (Click to Tweet!)

The baby born in the manger is born to die.

The eyes that were too pure to even look on evil would take the evil of the whole world upon himself, into himself—become the thing God could not look on. The thing God has to turn his eyes away from.

We have a God who listens to us and saves us—because Jesus becomes the punishment. He takes the evil on and into himself, and destroys it by dying.

It is Jesus who calls for help—and no one listens.

It is Jesus who cries out—and no ones saves him.

So that now we, his children, need never again wonder how long.

“How long, Lord, must I call for help,
  but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, . . . but you do not save?”

How long? No longer!

Call for help and no answer? Never!

Cry out and not be saved? No! Not ever!

Prayer

Thank you that you are a God who sees us.

Thank you that you are a God who listens to us.

Thank you that you are a God who saves us.

Thank you that you are a God who draws near to us.

Thank you that you are God who didn’t just look down

You came down.

Thank you that though you cannot look on evil,

you can look on us—because of Jesus.

Thank you!

———

Get Sally Lloyd Jones’ Christmas ebook, Song of the Stars. Don’t miss her other popular titles such as The Story of God’s Love for You and The Jesus StorybookLearn more about Sally at sallylloyd-jones.com

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The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt among Us

In the Begining

This advent season, check the Vyrso blog each weekday for advent reflections that will inspire and encourage you to reflect on the true reason for Christmas. 

Reflect today with an excerpt from Jefferson Bethke’s new ebook It’s Not What You Think, published by Thomas Nelson, an ebook that presents God’s truths from the Old and the New Testaments as the challenging and compelling story that it is—a grand narrative with God at the center. 

[After the destruction of the temple] until the last sentence of the Old Testament, the Israelites are left wondering, when will God return to dwell with them?

He promised he’d come back and be with his people.

His very presence in their midst.

Can you imagine the hundreds of years of longing, aching, and praying for this to happen? With every year that passed, the expectation that God would do a new thing, a big thing, a monumental thing got larger and larger.

And then it happens. Just not the way they expected.

The Gospel of John, while the Jewish people are still waiting for the glory of Yahweh to return to his temple, says the first three words are

In the beginning. . . . .

Any faithful Jew would have immediately recognized the book’s introduction as the same introduction to Genesis—the book of beginnings and creation, when God sealed the earth with his presence. John is invoking the Genesis language to get his readers ready for a new story about another beginning, or a new beginning, in the same way you’d know what I was invoking if I might start a speech with, “I have a dream, that one day.”

Skip down a few verses from that first verse and we see one of our most famous Christmas verses. In the beginning there is this “Word” being, John says. And this Word being is somehow like God, with God, and is God. You’ve probably quoted John 1:14 right before sipping on hot chocolate and turning on Kenny G’s Christmas album; it’s a classic advent verse:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

But the Greek word translated as “dwelt” in that verse is eske­nosen, which can literally mean “to fix a tent.”

John is saying loud and clear that Jesus himself is pitching his tent (that is, his holy tabernacle) among us. His body is now the place where heaven and earth crash together. The temple system has reached its fulfillment and was always a signpost pointing to the great temple Jesus. The glory of God has returned to his temple, and it looks like a Jewish rabbi in Judea. How strange is that?

So John, in just a few verses, is purposely saying things to draw strong echoes.

Jesus is the new genesis, the beginning of a new creation; and God himself is pitching his tent with usto be with his people. (Click to Tweet!)

What if we believed that?

Growing up I believed that Jesus was very far away. That he was standing up in heaven with his arms crossed waiting for me to get it right. Or even if he did show me grace, I imagined it with rolling eyes saying, “Ugh, not the same mistake for the twenty thousandth time.”

But John’s words say otherwise. God really does want to dwell with me. He really wants to pitch his tent in my life. And when I continually fall, he says, “Hey, I’m in this for the long haul.”

———

Bethke is the author of New York Times bestseller, Jesus > Religion. Bethke’s message connects at a heart level with an audience ranging from atheists to nationally-recognized religious leaders.

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