Shrewd In Finding The Defects In Others

My strongest spiritual gift is the gift of criticism. What’s that? Criticism is not a spiritual gift? You could have fooled me with how naturally it comes to me, especially when I got my Christian on. I cannot only inspect some fruit, I can tell you how it was planted, on my worse days that is.

Being judgmental is so easy, it’s like I have a fault radar that sweeps out to a range of 50 miles finding all the faults of others all the while me being at the main bang (the center of the radar as we air traffic controllers call it) and missing any notice of me.

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A Cottage Was His Palace

During Christmas we dwell on the birth of Christ and we also add in an event that happen some two years after His birth. The visit from the Wise Men from the East, men known as Magi. The Apostle Matthew gives the account:

    “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’ When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. So they said to him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: “But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are not the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.”’ Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.’ When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.” (Matthew 2:1-12)

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A “Bethlehem” For The Son Of God

The Prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Christ in a way that surpasses human understanding:

    “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

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A Strange Way To Save The World

One of my all time favorite Christian groups is 4Him and one of their best songs ever is a Christmas song titled “A Strange Way To Save The World,” a song written through the eyes of Joseph, and the first verse and channel go like this:

    I’m sure he must have been surprised
    At where this road had taken him
    Cause never in a million lives
    Would he have dreamed of Bethlehem

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A Difference Between The Precious And The Vile

So by all accounts the earth is still spinning on its axis and evil has not prevailed. You would think that evil had triumphed by looking at the headlines, but evil is just having its heyday. As I wrote earlier, Satan knows his time is short and he is emptying out hell. But his time is short, nevertheless. Solomon wrote of evil’s fullness and finality:

    “For I considered all this in my heart, so that I could declare it all: that the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God. People know neither love nor hatred by anything they see before them. All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1-3)

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Desiring Gracious Words

Jesus’ first sermon in the synagogue was a rejected one. As you read the words, one would think those in attendance would have embraced Jesus’ words and rejoiced in their hearing:

    “So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ So all bore witness to Him, and marveled at the gracious words which proceeded out of His mouth. And they said, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:16-22)

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When Piety Decays Times Are Bad

How do we deal with the horrors wrought about the people of Newtown, Connecticut and our nation as a whole? Where do we turn to in such dark times? The ever-present punditry are spewing out their normal tripe, be it right or left-leaning, like an unstoppable sewer. Neither side has it right because each is looking to man.

It is my natural inclination to look to my own wisdom and opinion to determine the right course in such dark times but I am trying to learn to no longer rely solely upon myself. I am untrustworthy; at best I am a depraved man saved by grace and molded by the Holy Word of God. So that’s where I’ve turned these last few days; to prayer and my Bible.

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To Best Serve the Lord

I wanted to share an encouraging note I received from one of my devotional readers; she is somewhat new to our group (now numbering 212). Tara wrote in response to my taking a devotional hiatus, and I publish this somewhat unwillingly because I do not want to draw attention to myself, but I felt a strong urging from the Lord to share this with you.

This dear sister-in-Christ so clearly addresses what we all struggle with; how to best serve the Lord. Here is her response:

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Devotional Hiatus

Beloved,

I will be taking a two-week hiatus from writing devotionals as I work on another project. I’ll give you a hint of what it is; it is a sequel to my book Understanding Evangelicals: A Guide To Jesusland. If you don’t have a copy of the first one, you get one in paperback or Kindle at Amazon.

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