Four friends sit around the kitchen island. Each of us has jobs, schedules, responsibilities that pull us in different directions, and it isn’t often that we have the opportunity to hang out together. But on this evening we sit together and share life.
Have you ever felt like life took you down the wrong road, or that things just weren’t meant to work out for you? There was a time when my life didn’t seem to make any sense, like the tangled threads on the back of a tapestry.
A serious case of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, left me depressed as a child and then heightened the usual teenage worries about the future. By the time I was 15, I was on drugs. It was a wonder that I managed to make it through those troubled years when I couldn’t have felt more lost and helpless. God was the furthest thing from my mind.
One of the portions of the Nativity story that I find most beautiful and meaningful is when the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced Jesus’ birth, followed by a multitude of heavenly hosts praising God. It’s such a fitting entrance for the birth of the Son of God:
A recent study done by Charles Schwab showed that in the United States, $2.4 million is the number that makes a household feel wealthy, and just over $1 million is what it takes to feel “comfortable.” Sadly, that means that only about 10% of the population in the United States is “comfortable.” And then there’s the rest of us! And regardless of where a household fell on the income spectrum, nearly every household reported “needing” just a little bit more. Never mind the vast majority of the world’s population living in developing countries, where such amounts would be considered vast fortunes accessible only to the wealthiest.
Matthew chapter 7, the last chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, contains a number of succinct statements, which make important points for believers. The focus is on prayer, continued from earlier in the Sermon: not praying like the hypocrites who want to be seen by others1 or like the pagans who babble on, thinking their prayers will be answered if they repeat them over and over;2 but rather praying with the understanding that our Father loves and cares for us.3
The Bible covers God’s revelation about Himself, His love for humanity, the means of salvation, and the relationship He wishes to have with humankind. It also contains instruction on how to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him, which is the foundation for a happy, fulfilling, and productive life in harmony with God and others.
When the time was right, God sent his Son, and a woman gave birth to him. His Son obeyed the Law, so he could set us free from the Law, and we could become God’s children.1
God sent His Son into the world at a specific time and place to live as a human being, to die on a cross, and to be raised from the dead to redeem fallen humankind, so that humanity would have the opportunity to enter into His kingdom and into a special relationship with Him.
The Gospel of John doesn’t tell the story of Jesus’ birth, but it tells us the prequel—the story that precedes what we are told in the birth narratives. This Gospel takes us back to the beginning, before our world existed, and tells us something about our Savior that was true well in advance of His earthly birth in Bethlehem two millennia ago. Understanding this part of the story is what brings clarity to who Jesus was, why He came, and what He accomplished.
I was reading 1 Corinthians 13 today, and meditating on the practical application of the verses. I wrote down my thoughts and hope they’ll be an inspiration to you.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
“Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when He finished, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’”1
Prayer was an integral part of Jesus’ life and ministry. There are numerous references throughout the Gospels of Jesus praying. He taught His disciples to pray, they saw Him pray, they heard Him pray for them, and He gave counsel about praying. Before many of the major events, miracles, and decisions in Jesus’ life, and right up until the time of His death, Jesus spent time in prayer. The fact that Jesus made a point to pray and to teach His disciples about prayer indicates that it is an important part of discipleship.