Happy New Year – a Devotional

A New Year dawns, and because of Christ in the manger and on the cross and in the grave … and risen on high and in our hearts, we can look forward with hope, knowing that He has a perfect plan for our lives and for the lives of those we love.

Nothing is too hard for God.

No prayer is too small.

And no person is too far gone.

Happy New Year. May we step forward with hope and faith, in the knowledge that Christ makes all things new!

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This reading is taken from Finding Christ in the Carols, inspired by lyrics from well-known Christmas Carols. Available for only $2.99 this month, this devotional will help you find refreshing moments of devotion and reflection during the busy holiday season.

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Bright and Morning Star – A Christmas Devotional

Star of Bethlehem

Lord, help me to follow You today, even if at times it makes about as much sense as following a star.

Let me never fear to seek for You, and to seek after more of You, knowing that You draw near to those who draw nigh to You.

You were called the Bright and Morning Star.

Be my star on the nights that are dark and lonely and cold.

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This reading is an excerpt of a devotional from Finding Christ in the Carols, a devotional inspired by lyrics from well-known Christmas Carols. Available as an e-book on Amazon, Finding Christ in the Carols will help you find moments of personal devotion and reflection during the busy holiday season.

Who Has Been Forgiven Little?

Readers of the Gospels marvel at Jesus’ ability to move with ease among the sinners and outcasts. Having spent time around “sinners” and also around purported “saints,” I have a hunch why Jesus spent so much time with the former group: I think he preferred their company. Because the sinners were honest about themselves and had no pretense, Jesus could deal with them. In contrast, the saints put on airs, judged him, and sought to catch him in a moral trap. In the end it was the saints, not the sinners, who arrested Jesus.

Recall the story of Jesus’ dinner at the home of Simon the Pharisee, in which a woman … poured perfume on Jesus and provocatively wiped his feet with her hair. Simon was repulsed–such a woman did not even deserve to enter his house! Here is how Jesus responded in that tense atmosphere:

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for me feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”

Why is it, I ask myself, that the church sometimes conveys the spirit of Simon the Pharisee rather than that of the forgiven woman? Why is it that I often do? – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?

The Ladder of Grace

Friedrich Nietzsche accused the Christian church as having “taken the side of everything weak, base, ill-constituted.” He scorned a religion of pity that thwarted the law of evolution and its rule favoring power and competition. Nietzsche put his finger on the scandal of grace, a scandal that he traced back to “God on the cross.”

Nietzsche was right. In Jesus’ parables, the rich and healthy never seem to make it to the wedding feast, while the poor and the weak come running. And through the ages, Christian saints have chosen the most un-Darwinian objects for their love. Mother Teresa’s nuns lavish care on homeless wretches who have mere days if not hours left to live. …Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement admitted to the folly of her soup kitchen: “What a delightful thing it is,” she said, “to be boldly profligate, to ignore the price of coffee and go on serving the long line of destitute men who come to us, good coffee, and the finest of bread.”

The Christian knows to serve the weak not because they deserve it but because God extended his love to us when we deserved the opposite. Christ came down from heaven, and whenever his disciples entertained dreams of prestige and power he reminded them that the greatest is the one who serves. The ladder of power reaches up, the ladder of grace reaches down. – Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?

The Mark of a Christian

Jesus reduced the mark of a Christian to one word. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples,” he said: “if you love one another.” The most subversive act the church can take is consistently to obey that one command.

Perhaps the reason politics has proved such a snare for the church is that power rarely coexists with love. People in power draw up lists of friends and enemies, then reward their friends and punish their enemies. Christians are commanded to love even their enemies. … Our best efforts at changing society will fall short unless the church can teach the world how to love. – Philip Yancey

A Colony of Heaven

“In the world the Christians are a colony of the true home,” said Bonhoeffer. Perhaps Christians should work harder toward establishing colonies of the kingdom that point to our true home. All too often the church holds up a mirror reflecting back the society around it, rather than a window revealing a different way.

If the world despises a notorious sinner, the church will love her. If the world cuts off aid to the poor and the suffering, the church will offer food and healing. If the world oppresses, the church will raise up the oppressed. If the world shames a social outcast, the church will proclaim God’s reconciling love. If the world seeks profit and self-fulfillment, the church seeks sacrifice and service. If the world demands retribution, the church dispenses grace. If the world splinters into factions, the church joins together in unity. If the world destroys its enemies, the church loves them.

That, at least, is the vision of the church in the New Testament: a colony of heaven in a hostile world.