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Godly Friends

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart, so does the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

— Proverbs 27:9

I have been blessed in my life by the counsel of godly friends. Perhaps there is nothing more satisfying in this world than the close companionship of fellow Christians. God did not mean for us to walk the “straight and narrow” by ourselves. Some have been blessed by a faithful and wise spouse. I can attest that this makes life rich and beautiful. It doubles the joy and halves our burdens.

If you are in need of godly friends, pray that God Himself will supply some. He who supplies all our needs will also honor this prayer.

I remember once I gave a sermon, and I wasn’t particularly happy with it. I walked out the door, and the first person I met said, with a smile on her face, “That was magnificent.” Boy, did that lift a load off my back. There are many people who carrying a load that, as a “good-finder” (as opposed to fault-finder), you could uplift. If you do, they will be your friends.

Question to ponder:
Who are your most godly friends?

No One Like Jesus

The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore the Holy One who will be born will be called the Son of God.”

— Luke 1:35

The Virgin Birth is clearly taught repeatedly throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament in many different kinds of ways.

Once there was a newly minted young minister in a rural area. And there was a man in the neighborhood, an old farmer who didn’t attend church. One Christmas season he invited him to come. And the man agreed. The sermon was on the Virgin Birth. As they were discussing the sermon afterwards, the minister asked the farmer what he thought. (I have learned the hard way that is a big mistake for a pastor to make.) The farmer hemmed and hawed. Finally he said, “Well, now, my boy,” he said, “Let me ask you a question. If you heard about a girl today that got herself pregnant and then claimed that it was a virgin birth, would you believe that?”

Another silence. And the young man said, “Well, if he grew up to live a life like Jesus and came to die and rise from the dead, why yes, I would.”

Question to ponder:
How was Christ different than anybody else?

Born in Our Hearts

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

— John 3:5

Jesus came to the Jewish people, as their long-awaited Messiah. He came to the world as the Savior of humankind. But it is Him coming into our individual hearts that makes all the difference. To be included into those He came to save we have to receive Him and entrust our lives to Him as we humbly open our heart to Him, whether it is the first time or something we have done repeatedly. This Christmas season, let us surrender our lives anew to the Babe of Bethlehem.

Bethlehem is Hebrew for “House of Bread.” How appropriate that Jesus, the Bread of Life who came from heaven, was born in the House of Bread.

We see masses of people crowding into the malls and even our churches this season, and for those who have not received Him into their hearts, it is as if He did not come at all. It is a tragedy that so many people celebrate Christmas without Christ Himself.

I am reminded again of a little couplet which reflects this thought so eloquently and so unforgettably:

Though Christ a thousand times in Bethlehem be born,
If He be not born in thee, thy soul is still forlorn.

Question to ponder:
What does it mean to open our hearts to Jesus?

Born of a Virgin

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Listen, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and shall call His name JESUS.”

— Luke 1:30-31

The Bible tells us the miraculous birth of Jesus, of how He was born of a virgin. There are many modern, liberal theologians who deny the reality of the Virgin Birth. Does this theological debate matter?

We believe in the Virgin Birth of Christ because it is essential for the atonement and the redemption of mankind. It‘s necessary because of the sin of Adam, our first parent, which descended down through the whole human race, corrupting all of mankind. And it‘s necessary since the atonement for sin had to be accomplished by a sacrifice that was pure and without corruption—one without guilt which did not partake of the sin of all of men. And so someone separate from sin, someone pure and perfect, was needed to offer an atoning sacrifice that could be accepted by God.

Jesus was both the Son of Man and the Son of God. He was the infinite God-man, born of a virgin.

Question to ponder:
Do you think it matters that Jesus was born of a virgin?

One in Being with the Father

He is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of every creature.

— Colossians 1:15

Having demanded that no images of God be made, God, at length, in obscurity, in the little village in Judea, brought forth One who, when He was grown, was revealed as the Son of God. Jesus is not made after the image of God. Jesus is not made in the image of God. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.

Jesus Christ is the only babe that was ever born who was older than his mother when he was born.

This little baby was “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God.”

I talked to a man one time and asked him who Jesus was and he said, “Oh, He‘s the greatest man that ever lived.”

I said, “Anything more?”

He said, “Not that I can think of.”

I said, “Let me tell you this. He is the almighty eternal Creator of the galaxies; He is the everlasting omniscient God almighty.”

Immediately his eyes half-filled with tears, and he said to me, “I‘ve never heard that before in my life, but I always thought that is the way it ought to be.”

Question to ponder:
The divinity of Christ makes Him Savior. What does His humanity mean for us?

Noble Things

Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.

— Philippians 4:8

In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us that we must focus our thoughts on positive things. He tells us that human life is forwarded by thinking on things which are noble.

One of the great tragedies now seen in modern times is that through their separation from God, most in the media continually fill our minds with the very antithesis of all of these things. What we see on television and in most movies and novels today, is not that which is lovely. We see that which is unjust, unfair, and, ungodly; that which is unkind, untrue; that which is unlovely, crass, and ghastly; that which us horrible and unclean and vile, all set forth constantly before our minds and poured into our brains through the gates of the eyes and ears in the name of realism.

It is true that the gutter is real. It is equally true that the gutter is neither the only reality nor the highest reality. Life is ennobled by thinking on things that are above. Set your thoughts on those things that are above, on things that are lovely, and true, of good report and praise.

Life is made ignoble by fixing our minds on that which is crass and unclean and impure. If we would know real mental health and happiness, it is going to involve our thinking on the things that are above.

Question to ponder:
How do we keep our minds focused as much as possible on the things of God?

Looking Unto Jesus

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you. And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.

— Isaiah 43:2

In Matthew 14 we read that the disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, and they saw Jesus walking on water. They were terrified. They thought they had seen a spirit and they cried aloud. Jesus said, “Be of good cheer; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Impetuous Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, bid me come to You on the water.”

And Jesus said, “Come.”

Peter slipped first one foot and then the other out of the boat and found that he was walking on the surface of the waves. His eyes were full on the eyes of Jesus. Step after step he took on top of the water. Suddenly, a blast of wind stirred the waves into a frenzy. Looking down at the waves and the water that threatened to swallow him up, Peter began to sink. He cried out in terror, “Lord, save me.”

Instantly, Jesus reached out His hand and set Peter again on the surface of the water saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

As long as Peter kept his eyes on Christ, he walked above the problems created by the waves and the water beneath. As soon as he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the boisterous waves, he immediately began to sink.

Question to ponder:
How can keeping our eyes on Jesus affect all our problems and troubles?

The First and Second Advents

… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

— Philippians 2:10-11

During the Advent season—Christmas time—we remember the Advent of the Son of God. The term “advent” is taken from the Latin, ad ventre, which mean “to come to.” We remember that over 2,000 years ago, the eternal and uncreated Son of God came to this world, which He had fashioned with His own hands.

At Advent, we are reminded that there is another Advent of which the Scriptures speak. He who came once will come again. He who came as a tiny and weak babe in a manger will come as a conquering king with clouds of glory. He who came in humility, seen only by a few shepherds, will one day come in great splendor and majesty and every eye shall see Him. This is a great truth of the Scripture.

We live between the first and second comings of Jesus Christ. Note how He impacts history. We count time according to how many years ago He was born, and history is marching toward His return—the climax of all history.

At the first coming, we saw His humility. At the second coming, we will see His glory. As we go through the Advent season, which calls to mind His first coming, let us also remember to prepare ourselves for His second coming.

Question to ponder:
How does His second coming add meaning to Christ’s first coming?

The Name of Jesus

Therefore God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name which is above every name, …

— Philippians 2:9

When the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, he told specifically what the child to come was to be named: “you will … call his name JESUS” (Luke 1:31). The angel was but a messenger of God, who Himself chose the name of His one and only Son.

His name was Jesus. But why Jesus? Of course, to understand that, we would have to understand that Jesus is an English word. The New Testament and the Old Testament were not written originally in English, but in Hebrew and Greek, respectively. We get the name from the Greek.

His name was Jehoshua, or as we would say it, Joshua, meaning savior. That was the name of a great champion, a great hero of the Old Testament Hebrew people. It was the name of the great conqueror, the captain of the Lord’s hosts, who led the people of God into the promised land.

And so our Savior will lead us into the promised land.

At the name of Jesus, sorrow and sadness flees. At the name of Jesus, sinners are cleansed and converted. At the name of Jesus, saints are gladdened and strengthened. At the name of Jesus, evil is banished and fear must flee. At the name of Jesus, the wounded are made whole.

Question to ponder:
Can you think of anything else that the name of Jesus accomplishes?

The Light of the World

… the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.

— 1 John 2:8

Jesus did not say “I am one of many lights of the world;” He did not even say, “I am the light of the Jews;” or yet, “I am the light of the Gentiles;” nor did He declare “I bring unto you light.” But rather, He said without apology, “I am the light of the world.” What a tremendous and bold statement.

The occasion that brought it forth was the Feast of the Tabernacles. Jesus took every opportunity to use that which was about Him to illustrate and make clear His teaching. One of the purposes of this ceremony was to remind the Jewish people of the pillar of fire, which had gone before them throughout those desert wanderings. They had set up in the outer courtyard (the Court of Women) of the Temple two giant candelabra. Maimonides tells us that they were fifty cubits high, which is seventy-five feet. There, thousands of women carrying torches formed a procession into that court from Jerusalem and around this they enacted this pageant to remind them of the presence of God in that pillar of fire centuries before.

God’s presence is not only symbolized by light, He is the “Father of Lights,” and into our dark world comes Jesus who declares: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).

Question to ponder:
As the children of light, how do we walk in His light?