As followers of Jesus, we continually examine the rhythms of our lives and make adjustments so that we are living as good ambassadors of his Kingdom. As you think about changes you want to see in your life this year, take time to run them through the Salt and Light filter of Matthew 5.
THE FLAVOR OF THE KINGDOM
“You are the SALT of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?
You can’t see flavor. It’s a quality that you can’t necessarily put your finger on but when you taste it you know right away if it’s good or bad. Your life has a flavor. It comes across in your attitude, your words, your gossip, your questions, where you take conversations, how you treat people, what you say about people when they are not around, etc. All of that stuff adds up to your own individual flavor profile. And that flavor is hard to fake. The best way to bring the true flavor of the Kingdom to your neighborhood is for you to spend time with the King so that he can change you from the inside out.
THE GLOW OF THE KINGDOM
“You are the LIGHT of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Can you imagine living in a world with no light? That would mean a lot of stubbed toes…and worse. The actions of your life give off a glow. Things like selfishness and greed and isolation are from the dark side. Kingdom behaviors like hospitality, sharing and generosity bring light. They show people what life in the Kingdom with Jesus really looks like.
Here are two questions for you to ponder as you plan the start of the New Year:
What flavor will my life add to the neighborhood this month?
What glow will my actions give off in the neighborhood this month?
Kick these questions around for a little while. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you two specific steps to take in January to help you live as Salt and Light in your neighborhood. Looking forward to a great 2023 with you,
Read and/or sing “praise to our God the King” together, celebrating our Lord and Savior’s birth!
O’ Little Town of Bethlehem
O little town of Bethlehem, How still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep The silent stars go by; Yet in thy dark streets shineth The everlasting Light. The hopes and fears of all the years Are met in thee tonight.
For Christ is born of Mary, And, gathered all above While mortals sleep, the angels keep Their watch of wond’ring love. O morning stars, together Proclaim the holy birth, And praises sing to God the King, And peace to men on earth.
How silently, how silently The wondrous gift is giv’n! So God imparts to human hearts The blessings of his heav’n. No ear may hear his coming; But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive him, still The dear Christ enters in.
Joseph was perplexed. The plans he had made seemed to be unraveling with the unexpected news that Mary was pregnant. Even more puzzling, an angel told him that the child had been conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. God’s purpose in this miracle was revealed by these words from the angel, “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins.”
On Christmas Eve, let’s remember and cherish the mystery of Christ’s birth. This miraculous conception meant that Jesus, while still God, took on human nature and remained pure from the curse of sin that plagues mankind. Why? So that he would be a suitable, substitutionary sacrifice. So that he could save his people from their sins.
Let’s also remember and treasure the cross for it is there where our promised salvation was secured. While Jesus was on the cross, the chief priest and scribes mocked him saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself!” (Matt. 27) They failed to realize that this was the very moment for which he had been born. He was saving his people from their sins!
Joseph’s plans were changed but God’s sovereign purpose remained. Thank you Lord for saving us. Thank you for Jesus!
Although we do not yet inhabit the new heavens and new earth of Revelation 21, God’s people can still be encouraged today as the apostle Paul encouraged the Corinthians when he penned this letter. During the season of Christmas, we celebrate the fact that Jesus HAS come and has ALREADY begun making things new! Notice that Paul didn’t say “If anyone is in in Christ, he will be a new creation… so hang tight until Jesus returns.” Rather, the truth is that if anyone is CURRENTLY in Christ, he IS a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) and can in this moment experience “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4)!
As one responds faithfully to the call of Christ and receives his “Spirit as a guarantee,” (2 Cor. 5:5), that person is immediately given a new identity, and it is completely undeserved. In union with Christ, our sin is not counted against us (2 Cor. 5:19) because Jesus took that sin on himself as he bore the wrath of God for our sin on the cross. Paul stated that in Jesus, God has ALREADY reconciled his people to himself (2 Cor. 5:18)!
Now, as we consider all that we have gained from the accomplishments of Christ, we should have peace. We should have joy. We should have love for Jesus. We should have hope. But as a result of all of that, we should also embrace the purpose to which we have been called! After freeing us from sin’s condemnation, he gave us a ministry to participate in (2 Cor. 5:18). Jesus didn’t become sin for us so that we can remain as we are and do as we will, but that “we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21)! Jesus took the punishment for our sin in order that we would actively enjoy using his gifts as his ambassadors in this world. We get to represent him to those who are without hope. We get to extend the loving hand of Christ in offering reconciliation to those who are unable to escape sin’s devastating grip. Not only that, as we walk in the footsteps of our Savior, he continues to transform us so that when the day comes that we are face-to-face, we will resemble him more than the day we first met him. In that moment of embrace, we will get to hear him say, “I love you, beautiful child. This is why I came.”
Imagine the joy and hope Paul must have felt as he reflected and wrote to the church in Ephesus. Just years before, he had planted the church (Acts 18:19) and spent several years teaching (Acts 19:8-10); now it was thriving. Paul’s message to the Ephesians is not just of praise, but of continual loving guidance. He wishes for them to know the hope to which Christ called them – to know the riches and glorious inheritance his holy people would one day obtain, and lastly to know the power we possess as believers in Christ. He reminds the Ephesians that the same power that resurrected Jesus lives within them…. and us! His words are simple, yet profound. They are also easy to say, but easy to forget. In a world that convinces us we need more power, more strength, more of everything – this is a reminder that we have everything we need living within us through Christ. Our prayer for you all this season is the same prayer
Paul had for the Ephesians: that you would feel the life- changing hope we are promised as believers, and the power that exists within us through Christ. Whatever this sea son looks like for you, know that no season, feeling, or moment lasts in comparison to the eternal gift we have waiting for us.
The blessings grace and peace came from God the Father – who willed to give us his son; and from the Son – who willingly gave himself for us. He gave himself from the cradle to the cross.
He gave himself in heaven. He did not hoard the glory he shared with the Father as something to be forcefully defended. Rather, he humbled himself, taking on the form of the lowly baby lying in a manger.
At Gethsemane he gave himself in obedience. He steadfastly prayed, and chose, not his own will, but the father’s… by this will, we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ.
Jesus gave himself for our sin on the cross that he might deliver us from this present evil world. Indeed, He has accomplished His mission. The angels gave glory to God. May that song – Christ’s willing, humble, sacrificial life – resonate in us forever and ever.
The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand! Those were the first words that Jesus used when he began
to preach. He went throughout Galilee, teaching and proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom.
He said that the Kingdom of Heaven was for the poor in spirit, for the meek, for the pure in
heart, and for the persecuted. He said that the self-righteous could never enter the Kingdom of
Heaven. He told us that the thing we should be seeking first and foremost in this life is the
Kingdom of God and his righteousness. If we do that, he will take care of everything else. Let’s
abandon our anxious pursuit of the treasures of this earthly kingdom and instead live as citizens
of the Kingdom of God.
The word ‘Advent’ comes from the Latin word adventus, meaning ‘coming’ or ‘arrival.’ As
Christians, we use the four weeks leading up to Christmas to meditate on the incarnation of
Christ; his first coming when he was born in Bethlehem. We should also be anticipating his
Second Coming; the time when our mighty King will return and every knee on earth will bow to
him. Let’s use this Christmas season to become more aware of what we are bowing down to.
What we are worshiping. Let’s make sure that our total allegiance is to King Jesus.
Praise and thanksgiving do not come naturally to us in our fallen condition. What comes to our
hearts and our lips with ease is complaining about what we don’t have and making excuses for our shortcomings. This happens because we forget who God is and what he has done for us.