Today is Tuesday, the 27th of December, in the first week of Christmas. It is the third day of Christmas.
May the peace of the Lord be with you always!
Five days until 2023!
Today is my first day back to work at the library since last Wednesday. Then I don’t go back until Friday. I am scheduled off for New Year’s Eve. The library will be closed next Monday for New Year’s Day, but I never work on Mondays. I will be in at my normal time of 4:15 PM, today.
Today’s header photo is taken by Paul Militaru. Please visit his site at the link provided, and view more of his photographs!
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (Psalms 119:68 ESV)
Jesus tells us that God, alone, is “good.” And if we believe correctly, we believe that everything that God does is also “good.” We sometimes call people “good,” but it is only good, relative. No one but God is truly good. Once, when answering the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people,” R.C. Sproul was quoted as saying, “There are no ‘good’ people.” Perhaps that is a bit extreme, but in comparison to God, none of us can be said to be “good.” When we call each other “good,” we are comparing ourselves to other humans.
Lord our God, dear Father in heaven, we come into your presence and ask you to show yourself to us as the true, great, and almighty God, who can shed light into our misery and change it all, letting us find reconciliation and redemption in Jesus Christ. Protect and help us with your mighty hand. Let every country and nation see your grace and see the victory over all sin and injustice. Let your justice come on earth, and let peace fill every heart and show in every life. May all that happens to us serve the good. Help us always look to you, our Lord and God, for you have power to rule everything and to turn everything to its right purpose. Amen.
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David. Luke 1:68–69, NIV
Today I am grateful:
- that some of our friends are having a wonderful time celebrating Christmas in New York City
- that everything that happens to us, in some way serves the good (Romans 8:28)
- for the possibility of peace in every heart
- for the love of God, that makes us His children, rather than slaves who fear Him
- for the Incarnation, the Word being made flesh and dwelling among us
As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" (Luke 3:4-6 ESV)
God was kind and decided that Christ would choose us to be God’s own adopted children.
(Ephesians 1:5 CEV)
God’s Spirit doesn’t make us slaves who are afraid of him. Instead, we become his children and call him our Father.
(Romans 8:15 CEV)
Think how much the Father loves us. He loves us so much that he lets us be called his children, as we truly are. But since the people of this world did not know who Christ is, they don’t know who we are.
(1 John 3:1 CEV)
John Henry Newman writes this on the birth of Christ:
“The Son of God Most High, who created the worlds, became flesh, though remaining what He was before. He became flesh as truly as if He had ceased to be what He was, and had actually been changed into flesh. He submitted to be the offspring of Mary, to be taken up in the hands of a mortal, to have a mother’s eye fixed upon Him, and to be cherished at a mother’s bosom. A daughter of man became the Mother of God–to her, indeed, an unspeakable gift of grace; but in Him what condescension! What an emptying of His glory to become man! and not only a helpless infant, though that were humiliation enough, but to inherit all the infirmities and imperfections of our nature which were possible to a sinless soul. What were His thoughts, if we may venture to use such language or admit such a reflection concerning the Infinite, when human feelings, human sorrows, human wants, first became His? What a mystery is there from first to last in the Son of God becoming man! Yet in proportion to the mystery is the grace and mercy of it; and as is the grace, so is the greatness of the fruit of it.” (Parochial and Plain Sermons, quoted in Spiritual Classics, by Richard J. Foster and Emilie Griffin)
Will you not revive us again, so that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalms 85:6 NRSV)
What is “revival?” When I read that verse from Psalm 85, I immediately thought of an old hymn, “Revive Us Again,” written in 1863 by W.P. Mackay.
We praise thee, O God, for the Son of thy love, for Jesus who died, and is now gone above. Refrain: Hallelujah! Thine the glory, hallelujah! Amen! Hallelujah! Thine the glory, revive us again. We praise thee, O God, for thy Spirit of light who has shown us our Savior and scattered our night. We praise thee, O God, for the joy thou hast giv'n to thy saints in communion, these foretastes of heav'n. Revive us again, fill each heart with thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above.
In my early years as a “music minister” (that’s what it was called in Southern Baptist life, back in those days), I took part in half-week to week-long meetings that were mistakenly called “revivals.” They were not revivals, I eventually learned. They were evangelistic rallies. The problem is, there usually weren’t very many people at those meetings who needed evangelizing. It was the essence of “preaching to the choir.”
I eventually learned what true revival means. You see, you can’t “revive” someone who has never been “alive.” Paul, in Ephesians, says that, before we came to know Christ, we were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). I believe that this hymn captures the true spirit of revival, in the last verse.
They whole hymn is a prayer. It is a prayer of praise, primarily, but with the added phrase, “revive us again.” And then, in the final verse, comes the real prayer for revival, as we ask the Lord to fill our hearts with His love, and rekindle our souls “with fire from above.”
This is a prayer by the Church, asking for God to revive His Church, rekindling our hearts with His holy fire. In the fame way, Psalm 85:6 asks for revival, “so that your people may rejoice in you.” Revival is no more for the lost than Revelation 3:20 is an evangelistic verse. But that’s a topic for a different day.
Psalm 85 is also a prayer, as are many of the Psalms. This is fitting, that both this psalm and the hymn are prayers, because true revival will not happen without prayer.
“An extraordinary spirit of prayer, urging believers to labor fervently in their supplications, is a sure sign of approaching showers and even floods of blessing. . . . If there is to be revival–a true, divine outpouring of God’s Spirit–it will correspond with wholehearted prayer and faith.” (Andrew Murray, The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer, quoted in Power in Prayer)
As 2023 approaches, I will be spending some time reflecting on the past few years. That right there is a scary thought. For the most part, I would just as soon forget every year since 2019. And not just for the pandemic. But, as I reflect, I try to keep my spiritual eyes turned on myself, not toward others. It is far too easy to be critical of other people. I struggle with that, and always have.
My reflection needs to be on what I have accomplished or failed to accomplish. And as I look forward to another year of prayer, I will be praying for true revival in God’s people; praying that the Church can step away from nationalism and “patriotism,” and focus on God’s Spirit being active in our lives. But here’s the thing. It needs to begin in me. Hence that bit about focusing more on myself than on others (understand that I’m speaking about reflection and self-assessment, not about loving others, here). And that reminds me of yet another old hymn that says, “Lord, send a revival, and let it begin in me.”
Father, I am grateful, beyond measure, for Your great love for us, the love that has given us the right and ability to be Your children, to call ourselves by Your name, and to walk in Your kingdom. However, we get too easily distracted by the things of this earth. I love the old hymn, Father, that tells me to turn my eyes upon Jesus, so that the things of the earth will “grow strangely dim.” Lord, Your Church needs this now, more than ever.
I pray that as a new year approaches, You will send revival to Your people. I pray for a Spirit of encouragement upon us, that we might be encouraged to dwell with You as You dwell with and within us. I pray that we will truly turn our eyes upon Jesus. And let this begin in me, Lord. I have been praying for and hoping for a “love revolution” within Your people, Father. That, too, must begin here, in my heart. I cannot force someone else to love, but I can hope to inspire.
Help us to embrace the Spirit of Christ in our lives, and consider, daily, what He sacrificed in order to come to us. It was more than the death on the cross. We see that as the primary sacrifice, most of the time, but John Henry Newman gave us so much more to think about, as we consider what He left behind to place Himself in the hands of mortal human beings.
Thank You, Father, for this indescribable gift.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
Grace and peace, friends.