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Christmas 2019

In 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas made its Television Debut on CBS. I was five years old and my mom and I watched it together every year until I left home for College. (Yes, as I became older, I did not want to sit with my mom and watch a cartoon show, but I’m glad I did!) It was a wonderful Tradition for us, and it never got old. To this day, I make sure to watch it at least once during the Christmas Season. I think of my mom and the joy our little tradition brought her and really the joy it still brings to me. 

My mom was very wise and very smart. She saw something in the TV Special that took me a couple of years to understand. She saw the story of Love being born and she wanted to make sure I knew the story and understood it. 

The producers tried to persuade Charles Schultz to not include this scene in the Special. They were convinced that it would be a failure and lose money for them. Schultz won the disagreement and the scene remains in the show. It’s now one of the most often quoted events from the show. Let’s walk through this together. 

Luke 2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” 

Neat to me that the first thing the angels said to the Shepherds and really to us is “Do not be afraid.” 

AND, notice if you watch “It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas” Linus recites this passage and drops his “security” blanket when he comes to this verse… 

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.” 

Of course, Linus is correct, Christmas is a lot more. It’s the Birth of Love. 

It’s the Birth of a Baby that separates us from our fears. 

The Birth frees us from what we are unable to break free from ourselves. 

The Birth of Jesus allows us to open our clinched hands and drop our false “security blankets.” It allows us to open our hands to real and eternal security. 

The Birth brings us peace. 

He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. (Ephesians 2:17 NLT) 

Peace to you and your families this Christmas Day! 

David Massey

Word for Wednesday…Christmas Demotion

Philippians 2:6 (NCV) Christ himself was like God in everything. But he did not think that being equal with God was something to be used for his own benefit. 

Christmas is approaching quickly. For some of us, it is a time of happiness mixed with sadness. We Christians are certainly joyful about celebrating the birth of the Christ child. At the same time, there are empty chairs at the dinner table. Maybe this year will be the first one for a vacant chair around your family’s table. Lost loved ones, broken homes and illnesses are represented by the empty chairs and the silence that rings in our ears. 

Every year as my family decorates our Christmas tree, my face reflects to me from an ornament hanging on the tree. As I look at my reflection, I remember the Christmas that my grandfather died. As kids, we tried to be happy by making funny faces appear on the round colorful balls hanging from the tree at Grandmother’s house. That was over forty years ago, yet the powerful emotions of Christmas make memories linger on. 

My family has many traditions. These traditions are the constants during the hectic time around Christmas. Christmas Eve morning, my mom always prepared a huge brunch before we exchanged presents. While mom is no longer with us, her tradition remains. Her memories remain, but yes I miss her! 

Christmas must bring bittersweet memories for God the Father, too. I cannot imagine a pain greater than losing a child. I do know the great joy and blessing of seeing my own children born. I cannot imagine God sending His Son, knowing that He would be killed. 

Philippians 2:7 (NCV) But he gave up his place with God and made himself nothing. He was born to be a man and became like a servant. 

Don’t skim over the above verse. Jesus was equal in every way with God. Grasp the significance. Jesus gave up His place with God. He was there before the beginning of time, receiving the praises of the angels. 

He gave up his position, to become like you and me. Would you and I have done that? 

The Christ child’s birth was a divine demotion. It is hard for us to understand as we scratch, claw and climb ladders for promotions in the world. Christ was counterintuitive in every way. Why? He became like us, to share all our emotions and experiences. He became like us to be able to be a very personal God — a God that fully understands us spiritually, emotionally and physically. He became like us, to die for all of us. 

Philippians 2:8 (NCV) And when he was living as a man, he humbled himself and was fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death-death on a cross. 

If painful memories and sad emotions grip your heart this Christmas season, I pray you will remember the divine demotion that Christ took for us. Whatever emotion you are feeling, He has felt. 

Whatever troubles you, He has been there. Friends and family members sometimes abandon us, but He never does. Those of us who are Christ-followers know that we truly have a friend in the Christ child. 

John 15:15 (NCV) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends. 

David Massey

Magnification of Emotions

 

Matthew 25:35-36 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. (NIV) 

I made an interesting discovery during an earlier Holiday season of my life. One of those “defining moments” in life. Have you noticed during the Christmas Season how the lonely are lonelier, the hurting hurt more, the down and out, more down, the poor are poorer, and even the joyful, seem more joyous? 

Our emotions are magnified by the season. For me it’s the busyness and crowed Highways and Stores. It’s a stressful crunch time as another year ends. It’s three holidays jammed in together in a space of two months. It’s the struggle to balance good memories of past traditions with gratitude for new ones, although they look and feel different. 

What are we as Christ followers to do? 

John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV) 

I challenge each of you in the next few weeks to take being a Christ Follower to another level. Take HIS words from your head, move them to your heart, and then to your feet. Let’s do something. Let’s show the world what being a Christ follower is all about. Jesus’ command to us is very simple. All He is saying is just love one another, just love. That’s it. 

Let’s visit that person that is alone, lets feed the hungry, lets share with the poor, lets help the sick, let’s just love one another. Smile at that person sitting alone on the bench; sit down and visit with them for a minute. Let that car or person go in front of you. I know I man that recently bought some flowers and went to a nursing home and gave them to a stranger who was all alone. He really touched that that person with the love of Christ. Just love one another. 

Matt 25:40 “The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (NIV) 

What an awesome thought … “Whatever I do for others … I do for Christ” 

Dear Father, help us move Your word from our head to our heart and on to our feet. Keep us mindful of others during this season and all year-round, Father. Help us understand the magnification of emotions that goes on during this season. Lord, we thank You for your Son, Jesus Christ, the greatest gift ever given! We are so grateful, yet we fail to show our gratitude. Use us this season; we are willing. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

David

Belief Versus Faith

Faith is a word we sometimes throw around loosely. It’s one of those words that we use so much, that the meaning becomes worn and unclear.

People say, “just have faith” or “keep being faithful.” At times, people will say to me, “I have faith in your work, David.” I will always reply, “just have confidence and belief in my work, not faith.”

 Webster’s defines belief as “trust or confidence.” 

Think about it a minute: How would you define faith? Just what is the real meaning of faith? The writer of Hebrews defines faith for us.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Faith is much stronger than belief. Faith is an active word; belief is passive. 

Belief in something is when you are stranded on the top of a burning building, and down below are First Responders with a large net. In your mind, you believe you will be able to jump just the right distance; the net will hold you and you will be safe. You can believe all you want, but belief alone will not rescue you. Faith is when you jump. Faith removes you from the pending disaster. Faith is acting on your belief.

We often build buildings not out of brick and mortar, but rather out of images in our minds. We build buildings of guilt, worry, resentment, jealousy, anger, despair and so on. We stand on top of these buildings and look out over the edge, and we have a choice. We can choose to stay on top of our burning buildings and simmer, or we can act and have faith in God and His Word. We have a choice: Simmer and build the building higher in our minds or take a leap of faith into God’s waiting net. 

Some of us just need to get off the “I believe in God” bandwagon and onto the “I have an active, alive faith in God” wagon. We need to move from simply watching, to doing. 

James says it best:

James 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

Father help us to move from merely listening and believing Your word, to having a more complete and active faith in You. Forgive us for falling short of the mark. Give us Your wisdom and strength to carry on. In Christ’s name, Amen.

David Massey

Hearing God’s Callings – Part Six

Deuteronomy 1:6-7 (NLT)When we were at Mount Sinai, the LORD our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. It is time to break camp and move on. 

When temperatures plummet during the spring, I drape sheets over the trees and ornamental plants that have budded out, to protect them from the sudden change in weather. When God has a calling in our lives, He places a hedge around us to protect us and guide us along the way. Unlike my plants, we can still make our own decisions, which may be contrary to God’s plan for us. However, whether we do it our way or God’s way, He remains faithful to us. 

Do you go around seeking change in your life? Do you like change? I have found that most of us do not enjoy it. Change brings stress, uncertainty and fear into our lives. But God also uses change in our lives to propel us toward His callings. 

Change is the fifth characteristic of a calling from God in your life. Think about this for a moment. When we seek to earnestly follow God and He intercepts our paths, change is evidence of this interception. Sometimes we are moving in one direction toward a goal that is ours and not God’s. Then God, through whatever means, redirects us along the way toward His plan for our lives. 

Sometimes change involves God redirecting us within a calling. He wants us in a particular situation awhile until it’s time for Him to move us again. I call these “seasons of preparation.” God is simply preparing us for the next phase of our calling. The direction we were going in was within God’s will, but now He is moving us farther along to another place in the calling. 

The big question remains: How do I know if it is God calling me to change my direction, or if it is just my own desire? If you still have this question, review the first five devotionals in this series. 

Below is a summary: 

1. All callings from God are direct one-on-one callings in the first person. You will never hear God’s callings unless you are presently where God has already called you. 

2. All callings from God have clear direction. If we are moving in the direction that God has called us, He will continue to move us in that direction. Where God guides, God provides. 

3. All callings from God are in the form of Authoritative Commands. God is NOT a God of ambiguity or confusion. 

4. All callings from God have a great promise attached. This promise gives us hope, hope gives us faith and faith give us belief in the calling. 

5. All callings involve change. If you are moving in a direction contrary to God’s plan for your life, He will intercept your direction and move you toward His plan. God will never move you in a direction that is contrary to His word. 

The prophet Jeremiah prays a great prayer, a model prayer for all of us today. Constantly pour your hearts out to God, asking for His guidance. 

Jeremiah 10:23-24 (NLT) I know, LORD, that a person’s life is not his own. No one is able to plan his own course. 24 So correct me, LORD, but please be gentle. Do not correct me in anger, for I would die. 

My prayer for you is that this series has blessed and will continue to bless each of you. 

David

Hearing God’s Callings – Part Five

A Great Promise 

Genesis 15:5 (NLT) “Then the LORD brought Abram outside beneath the night sky and told him, ‘Look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that-too many to count!'” 

When my Mom and Dad celebrated both their 70th birthdays and their 50th wedding anniversary years ago, they bought books, visited travel agents, and talked with friends who have been and were like little children waiting for school to end for the summer. They had great expectations and great promises that the trip will be all they hope for and more. It was interesting to me to see them transformed and renewed with energy over this trip. They seem alive again and full of enthusiasm for life itself. I didn’t know if their expectations would be met, but I did know that God will always honor His promises. 

When God call us, there is always a great promise made along with the calling. In Genesis 12 when God calls Abram to leave his country and go to the land, He will show him, God also makes a promise to Abram. He promises Abram that he will be the father of a great nation. As we read through Genesis and follow Abram on his journey, we can see that his faith, hope and life all center on God’s promise. This promise is the motivating factor in all of Abram’s decisions. Think about it: God is not going to call you to do something just for the fun of it. God has a plan for your life. All of God’s callings in your life have a promise along with the calling. His promise is to be a loving Father and to provide for all our needs, wherever He leads us. 

I often struggle with the “promise” part of a calling. I believe most people do. Think about it for a moment. Try to visualize a calling God has in your life. What is keeping you from acting on that call? Is it the promise from God? Are you saying, “yeah God, I hear Your call, but I just don’t know if I can do that.” Let’s take the most basic call in all our lives, the call for obedience to God. God is such a loving God, that He wants to give us an “abundant life.” We often think, “but I have to give up so much to be obedient.” We do not focus on what we are gaining. It’s like the alcoholic that just cannot imagine life without that next drink. He clings to his destructive behavior because he doesn’t believe that there is much to gain by giving up, letting go and seeking the help he needs to end his self-destructive ways. 

Have you heard the promise that goes along with your calling? More importantly are you listening to the promise? Even more importantly, do you trust the promise? Do 

you trust God? Do your really trust Him with your life? God’s tests in our lives are simply God asking, “Do you trust Me?” 

The promise gives us hope and hope gives us faith and belief in the calling. Lose sight of the promise, you lose hope and then you lose faith in God. 

In today’s Scripture God is answering Abram’s question to God about God’s promise to him. God is reassuring Abram about the promise. It is okay to question God, folks. It is okay to ask specific questions of God. It is okay to shout out to God that you don’t understand, you don’t hear, you don’t listen, or that you don’t want to do something. It’s okay to be very specific in your crying out to God about your calling. Even Jesus, before He was crucified, prayed to the Father, “take this cup from Me.” Jesus was questioning the call, but submitted to His Father’s will in the end, not his own. How about you? 

Dear Father, we hear Your callings, but help us to listen to Your promise and help us to trust Your promise. Forgive us for clinging to our own ways, for thinking we can do life better without You. Give us Your wisdom to focus on the promise. In Christ’s name, Amen. 

David