Living Backward

Posted in: Daily Devotional - Our Daily Bread

Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
Matthew 16:25

The Chicago River is unusual because it flows backward. Engineers reversed its direction over a century ago because city-dwellers were using it as a dump. Dishwater, sewage, and industrial waste all funneled into the river, which emptied into Lake Michigan. Since the lake supplied drinking water for the city, thousands grew sick and died before city authorities decided to redirect the river to flow backward, away from the lake.

When we look at the earthly life of Jesus, it may seem backward from what we would expect. As the King of glory, He came to earth as a vulnerable infant. As God in the flesh, He endured accusations of blasphemy. As the only sinless man, He was crucified as a criminal. But Jesus lived on earth according to God’s will (John 6:38).

As followers of Christ, to clothe ourselves with Jesus’ attitudes and actions may appear “backward.” Blessing our enemies (Rom. 12:14), valuing godliness over wealth (1 Tim. 6:6-9), and taking joy in hardship (James 1:2) seem to oppose worldly wisdom. Yet, Jesus said, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).

Don’t worry if living your life sometimes means operating in reverse. God will give you the strength to honor Him, and He will propel you forward.

Dear God, please give me the strength to go
against the flow of this world. Help me to resist
what is wrong in Your eyes and to act in ways
that please You, for the glory of Your name.
Clothing ourselves with Jesus’ attitudes and actions shows His presence in our lives.

Canceled Christmas

Posted in: Daily Devotional - Our Daily Bread

Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of [Jesus].
Luke 2:33

We felt as if our Christmas was being canceled last year. Actually, our flight to see family in Missouri was canceled due to snow. It’s been our tradition for quite a few years to celebrate Christmas with them, so we were greatly disappointed when we only got as far as Minnesota and had to return home to Michigan.

On Sunday, in a message we would have missed, our pastor spoke about expectations for Christmas. He caught my attention when he said, “If our expectations for Christmas are gifts and time with family, we have set our expectations too low. Those are enjoyable and things we’re thankful for, but Christmas is the celebration of the coming of Christ and His redemption.”

Simeon and Anna celebrated the coming of Jesus and His salvation when Joseph and Mary brought Him to the temple as a baby (Luke 2:25-38). Simeon, a man who was told by the Spirit that he would not die before he saw the Messiah, declared: “My eyes have seen Your salvation” (v.30). When Anna, a widow who served God, saw Jesus, she “spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (v.38).

We may experience disappointments or heartache during the Christmas season, but Jesus and His salvation always give us reason to celebrate.

How wonderful that we on Christmas morn
Though centuries have passed since Christ was born,
May worship still the Living Lord of men,
Our Savior, Jesus, Babe of Bethlehem. —Hutchings
Jesus is always the reason to celebrate.

A New Force

Posted in: Daily Devotional - Our Daily Bread

My eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples.
Luke 2:30-31

When Matteo Ricci went to China in the 16th century, he took samples of religious art to illustrate the Christian story for people who had never heard it. They readily accepted portraits of Mary holding the baby Jesus, but when he produced paintings of the crucifixion and tried to explain that the God-child had come to be executed, his audience reacted with revulsion and horror. They couldn’t worship a crucified God.

As I thumb through my Christmas cards, I realize that we do much the same thing. In our celebrations and observances, we may not think about how the story that began at Bethlehem turned out at Calvary.

In Luke’s account of the Christmas story, only one person—the old man Simeon—seems to grasp the mysterious nature of what God has set in motion. “This Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against,” he told Mary, and then he made the prediction that a sword would pierce her own soul (2:34-35).

Simeon knew that though on the surface little had changed—Herod still ruled, Roman troops still occupied Israel—underneath, everything had changed. God’s promised redemption had arrived.

The cradle without the cross misses the true meaning of Christ’s birth.