Gods of the Christmas List By Mark Driscoll , Special to CP

As a father of five with four brothers and sisters of my own, I  know Christmas shopping can be a daunting task. In order to help you out this  season, I put together this brief guide to some of the most popular gifts now on  sale. Times being what they are, I also included price ranges so that you can  budget accordingly. You’re welcome:

The go-getters on your list will be thrilled to receive “power and control,”  available for just $60 in the new videogame NBA 2K13.

For the romantics in your life, prepare to spend a bit more. Money can by  love after all, but it costs at least $100 at Zales.

Greatness is very expensive, which makes sense. The 2013 Jaguar XJ is not for  everyone, but if you’ve got $70,000 to burn, who wouldn’t enjoy a machine that  not only makes you greater, but also more alive?

Granted, a car may be a bit much for most. Good news! The going rate for  happiness is only a dollar. Just buy some from Coke for everyone in your  family.

Finally, we all know at least one person who is notoriously hard to shop for.  Thankfully, Expedia offers “whatever you’re looking for,” including innocence, religion,  strength, and understanding (rates will vary, of course).

The irony of Christmas is nothing new. Advertisers pushing product by  appealing to the deepest desires of the human heart are now as much a part of  the holiday season as Santa, Frosty, and Chevy Chase. From Black Friday (when  everybody starts buying presents) through December 26 (when everybody exchanges  their presents for what they really wanted), it’s that special time of year when  we all get a chance to abandon our old gods for new.

Yes, gods-also known as “idols.” Idols in our culture rarely come in the form  of a golden statue. Rather, they’re usually something with a screen, something  you can eat, something you can wear, or something that makes you feel good about  yourself. Idolatry in our culture is when we take a good thing and turn it into  a god thing. Things like sex, money, food, a house, a car, or a new toy, become  deified when we look to them for fulfillment and as a source of identity.

In this way, consumerism is now essentially the American religion. Consumer  culture is so pervasive that we take it for granted, and almost no aspect of  life is untouched. Everywhere we turn, we run into advertising telling us to buy  things we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t  know.

Consumerism isn’t just a behavior but a worldview that tells us who we are.  If possessions define your identity, then the brand name on your clothes and the  maker of your car are vital. Products are not simply valued for their usefulness  but rather play a central role in the cultivation and maintenance of our  identity. This is why Zales sells love and not jewelry; Jaguar sells greatness  and not cars; and Coca-Cola sells happiness and not soda.

The point is that in today’s consumer culture, our goods are carriers of  meaning. They define us, send social signals to others, and construct our  identities. As I explain in greater detail in my latest book, Who Do You Think You Are?, wearing non-designer clothes,  driving an old car, and using anything but the latest technology somehow  devalues us as human beings.

When consumerism is your religion and stuff is the object of your worship,  “the things you used to own, now they own you,” as Chuck Palahniuk wrote in  Fight Club. The problem is not in the mall but rather in us. It’s not a sin to  purchase items or even to appreciate and enjoy them. But when those things  become the source of our identity, we become guilty of idolatry.

Every Christmas, an onslaught of new products arrive with the promise to  fulfill our deepest desires for fulfillment, love, meaning, and identity. While  advertisers make as much noise as possible to draw our attention, everything  we’re looking for is waiting patiently, quietly, and humbly in a manger.

In Jesus, we have eternal life in the future, and freedom from sin and  striving in the present. Unlike any other present you receive this year, the  true God will fulfill his promises, and his gift is freely available to  everyone.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/gods-of-the-christmas-list-87077/#QBdTtWzXUd87vUu8.99

Dirty Windows

“Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8

A friend of mine, Bud Wood, founded Shepherds Home in Wisconsin for boys and girls with developmental disabilities. The original ministry opened its doors in 1964 to 36 children, providing them a loving residential environment and a school that would focus on their unique needs, helping them to reach their potential. Most importantly, this ministry started with a primary goal of sharing God’s love with the residents and encouraging them toward a personal and growing walk with Jesus. Many of those original residents, now adults, still reside at Shepherds. The home, now known as Shepherds Ministries, has grown to include vocational training and a variety of other ministries all clustered around that central passion for delivering and living out the gospel.

I remember Bud asking me one time, “Hey, Joe, do you know what our biggest maintenance problem at Shepherds is?”

“I have no idea,” I replied.

“Dirty windows. Our kids press their hands and faces against the windows because they’re looking to the sky to see if today might be the day that Jesus will return for them and take them to His home where they will be healed and complete.”

I love that! Talk about having your priorities in the right place. One of the hallmarks of a committed follower of Jesus is a longing for His return.

That’s what Paul anticipates as he writes to Timothy in the waning days of his earthly ministry. He acknowledges that he is “being poured out like a drink offering” and humbly states, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:6-7). But rather than spending his last days looking in the rearview mirror, Paul continues to look forward to the “crown of righteousness, which the Lord . . . will award to me on that day” (2 Timothy 4:8).

Notice that the crown isn’t some merit award for Paul’s years of distinguished service. It isn’t the “Church Planter of the Year” trophy. And it isn’t exclusive to Paul. He makes that plainly clear when he adds, “and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” The “crown of righteousness” is available to all followers of Christ who live righteously because they have organized their lives around longing for Him to return—with the expectation that it could be any minute now!

That longing and expectation will change our priorities as well. It will make us think a whole lot less about how to build our kingdom and a whole lot more about His. It will pull our attention away from materialism and the accumulation of earthbound possessions and point us toward investment in that which is eternally significant. It will lift us from our anxieties and even the weight of this life’s difficulties, reminding us each day that something better awaits us. And 1 John 3:2-3 reminds us that our hope in the Lord’s return will motivate us toward purity, so that we want to be righteously pure and ready when Jesus comes for us.

You may have decorated your windows for Christmas, but have you gone to them recently to see if the Jesus of Christmas is coming back again for you? Go ahead, smudge up a window or two! Life will be wonderfully different if you keep your eyes to the sky!

YOUR JOURNEY…

  • How often do you spend time thinking about the return of Jesus?
  • How would it change your plans for the next 24 hours if you genuinely believed that Jesus could arrive at any moment? How about the next week? What about the next year?
  • What steps can you take to regularly remind yourself that Jesus could be returning at any moment? What would it look like to “smudge up some windows” as you watch for Christ’s return in your home?

http://getmorestrength.org/daily/dirty-windows/

 

Sharing in the Atonement

God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . —Galatians 6:14

The gospel of Jesus Christ always forces a decision of our will. Have I accepted God’s verdict on sin as judged on the Cross of Christ? Do I have even the slightest interest in the death of Jesus? Do I want to be identified with His death— to be completely dead to all interest in sin, worldliness, and self? Do I long to be so closely identified with Jesus that I am of no value for anything except Him and His purposes? The great privilege of discipleship is that I can commit myself under the banner of His Cross, and that means death to sin. You must get alone with Jesus and either decide to tell Him that you do not want sin to die out in you, or that at any cost you want to be identified with His death. When you act in confident faith in what our Lord did on the cross, a supernatural identification with His death takes place immediately. And you will come to know through a higher knowledge that your old life was “crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6). The proof that your old life is dead, having been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20), is the amazing ease with which the life of God in you now enables you to obey the voice of Jesus Christ.

Every once in a while our Lord gives us a glimpse of what we would be like if it were not for Him. This is a confirmation of what He said— “. . . without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). That is why the underlying foundation of Christianity is personal, passionate devotion to the Lord Jesus. We mistake the joy of our first introduction into God’s kingdom as His purpose for getting us there. Yet God’s purpose in getting us into His kingdom is that we may realize all that identification with Jesus Christ means.

http://utmost.org/sharing-in-the-atonement/

“Every morning I will put to silence   all the wicked in the land; I will cut off every evildoer   from the city of the LORD.”—Psalm 101:8

Judaism’s oral tradition teaches the following story: Once, a group of Sages was having a discussion regarding the most important verse in the Bible. One Sage suggested, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Indeed, belief in one God is a cornerstone of the Jewish faith. But another Sage proposed, “love your neighboras yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) because belief in God is not enough. One must also act appropriately toward man.

Finally, one last Sage made a third suggestion. He said, “Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight” (Exodus 29:39), in reference to the daily sacrifice that was offered in the Temple. What a strange choice! Even more strange is that everyone else agreed with him!

As you may have guessed, there is a deeper meaning to the verse about sacrifices. It’s about consistency – of doing the same thing day in and day out. One sacrifice is offered in the morning and another in the afternoon – every single day. This sacrifice, called ‘the daily sacrifice,’ is symbolic of consistent righteous behavior. It’s one thing to have exemplary faith in a particular situation or to perform an extraordinary act of kindness at one time. But righteousness is not determined by what we do once in a while. Righteousness is determined by all the little things that we do day in and day out – whether we feel like it or not – rain or shine, every single day of our lives.

The last Sage was suggesting that what we do is not as important as how consistent we are at doing it. Real spirituality is constant and consistent. Otherwise it’s as fleeting as a rainbow, even if beautiful while still in the sky.

In Psalm 101, King David asserts that Every morningI will put to silenceall the wickedin the land.” The Sages explain that David was emphasizing that he did his job every single day with the same enthusiasm as on the first day. He didn’t take a break on Tuesday because he did a good job on Monday, and he didn’t skip Thursday because he had a late night on Wednesday. David was constant and consistent in his service of the Lord and that made him righteous.

Like David, we need to wake up every morning, jump out of bed ready and willing to be our best. Even if we are tired or uninspired. Especially if we are tired or uninspired! If we are consistent and give 100 percent every day of our lives, then God will be there for us, too.

http://www.holylandmoments.org/devotionals/any-given-morning

The Capture Of Jericho And Ai

Now Jericho had closed its gates because of the Israelites, and no one went in or out. But Jehovah said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho to you with its king and its able warriors. You shall march around the city, all the soldiers going about the city once. You shall do this for six days, and on the seventh day the people shall make the attack, each man going up straight before him.”

Then Joshua said to the people, “March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of Jehovah. You shall not shout the battle-cry nor let your voice be heard; not a word shall escape from your mouth until the day I say to you, ‘Shout the battle-cry’; then you shall shout!”

So he had the ark of Jehovah carried around the city once; then they returned to the camp and spent the night there. The second day they also marched around the city once and returned to the camp. Thus they did six days. The seventh day they rose early at dawn and made the circuit of the city in the same way, only on that day they marched about the city seven times. The seventh time the priests blew the trumpets, and Joshua said to the people, “Shout the battle-cry; for Jehovah has given you the city. The city and all that is in it shall be sacrificed to Jehovah; only Rahab and those who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.”

So the people shouted the battle-cry and the wall fell down and they went straight up into the city and captured it. But Joshua spared the lives of Rahab and her father’s family and all that she had, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to explore Jericho; and they have lived among the Israelites even to this day.

Then Joshua set out with all the warriors to go up to Ai. And he selected thirty thousand brave soldiers and sent them out at night with this command, “Hide somewhere beyond the town, not very far from it, but be ready to act. I and all the people who are with me will go toward the town, but when they come out against us, we will flee before them. They will come out after us, until we have drawn them away from the town; for they will say, ‘They are fleeing before us.’ Then you shall rise up from where you are hiding, and take the town. When you have captured it, set it on fire.”

So Joshua sent them out, and they went to the place where they were to hide and placed themselves on the west side of Ai. Joshua spent that night among the people, and rose early the next morning and gathered them, and he went up, together with the rulers of Israel, before the people to Ai. And the warriors who were with him went up and came before the town. When the king of Ai saw it, the men of the town quickly rose up and went out to fight against the Israelites, but the king did not know that men were hiding behind the town to rise up and attack him.

Then Joshua and the Israelites pretended to be beaten and fled toward the wilderness; and all the people that were in the town were called together to pursue them. So they left the town unguarded and pursued the Israelites. Then the men who were hiding rose quickly out of their place and set the town on fire. When the men of Ai looked back, they saw the smoke of the town rising to heaven; and they had no chance to flee this way or that, for the Israelites who had been fleeing to the wilderness turned back upon those who were following them. When the smoke of the town rose up, the rest of the Israelites came out of the town against them; so they were surrounded by the Israelites, some on this side, and some on that, so that they let none of the people of Ai remain or escape.

http://kids.ochristian.com/Childrens-Bible/The-Capture-Of-Jericho-And-Ai.shtml

This day is a day of good tidings. 2 Kings 7:9

IT was indeed. The enemy that bad so long hemmed them in had dispersed, leaving a great spoil behind. The famine which had driven the people to awful straits was at an end, and there was now plenty of everything. It was inhuman for these four lepers to be content with eating and drinking, and sharing out the spoil, when hard by a city was in agony. Common humanity bade them give information of what had happened.

Let us take care lest some mischief befall us, if we withhold the blessed Gospel from a dying world. We know that Jesus has died and risen again, and that his unsearchable riches wait for appropriation. We have availed ourselves of the offer; but let us see to it that so far as we can, we are making known that the wine and milk may be obtained without money and without price.

Mischief always overtakes a selfish policy; whereas those who dare to share with others what they have received, not only keep what they have, but find the fragments enough for many days afterwards.

Let us tell men that the Saviour has overcome our foes, and has opened the kingdom of heaven to all who believe. Let us speak from a full heart of all that He has proved to be. Let us invite men to share with us the grace which hath neither shore nor bound.

One ounce of testimony is worth a ton weight of argument, and overpowers all objection. The Lord, on whom the king leaned, derided the possibility of the prophet’s prediction; and no doubt had plenty of adherents. But the leper’s report swept all his words to the winds. They had known, tasted, and handled. Let us remember that we are called to be witnesses of what God hath done for us.

http://devotionals.ochristian.com/f-b-meyer-devotional.shtml