Jesus’ Birth in a Humble Bethlehem Had You in Mind

What His ignoble birth means for you.

It must have seemed really strange. Honestly, it still does. Two thousand years of waiting for the Messiah, and He is born in a barn and laid in a feed trough.

Jesus' Birth in a Barn Had You in Mind

(Shepherd in modern Israel, courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

If it had been up to us, we would have given God’s Son a room in the finest five-star hotel in Bethlehem. But Jesus got only a one-star motel—and God had to provide the star!

When the shepherds hurried into Bethlehem to find the baby of whom the angels spoke, the wonder of God’s power must have seemed a strange contradiction to the conditions they found.

  • No halos hovered over Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
  • Instead, they saw a poor couple surrounded by animals and the smell of manure.

Actually, the crudity of Jesus’ birth story offers really good news.

Because it had you in mind.

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7 Christian Christmas Readings for Download

Remember these essential truths in your spiritual life

It’s a good thing we have holidays. Without these forced pauses in our hurried schedules, we would plow through life with only a headstone to stop us.

7 Christian Christmas Readings for Download

(Photo by Photodune)

Christmas certainly offers us a time to take a break from work. It’s also a time for family to reconnect. But most importantly, the holiday reminds us of essential truths in our spiritual lives.

Here are 7 Christian Christmas readings from Scripture with suggested themes for personal reflection or group discussion.

You can also download these Christian Christmas Readings if you prefer to print them.

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When You’re Waiting on God in a Weary Land

How your place of confusion can become a place of refuge.

Sometimes waiting on God feels like you’re dying of thirst. That’s what David thought as he wandered in the Judean wilderness, running from a problem he couldn’t solve.

Waiting on God in a Weary Land

(Photo: The Wilderness of Judea. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Chased by the jealous King Saul, David took refuge in the Wilderness of Judea and prayed, “My flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

This barren land is a picture of our own challenge with waiting on God.

It also pictures the place of refuge God provides for us while we wait.

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What My Dumb Dog Taught Me about the Greatness of God

Welcome to the spectrum of all we don't know.

As I left the house early one morning recently, I turned on the garage light to make my way out. Our dog, Carlie, who sleeps in the garage, immediately stood up, walked over to me, and leaned against the wall.

What My Dumb Dog Taught Me about the Greatness of God

(Photo: Our dog, Carlie)

Her wagging tail slammed against the wall repeatedly—and the other side of that wall was my bedroom. I knew the pounding would disturb my sleeping wife.

I had tried to keep quiet. My dog ruined that. I got frustrated fast.

“Dumb dog,” I muttered under my breath.

Then it hit me.

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How to Deal With It When God Says NO

Sometimes living with the tension is an act of faith.

You prepared your plans with prayer. For many, many months. You even asked others to pray as well. As far as you can tell, you did everything right and with right motives. But still God said no

How to Deal With It When God Says NO

This just happened to me. Cathy and I just returned from a tour to Israel. It took more than a year to prepare for the tour, and part of our preparation included much prayer. Among other items, our prayer list contained two specifics:

  1. For good weather.
  2. For no one to get injured.

God said NO to both of these in the span of five minutes.

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Why God Allows Us to Crash and Hurt

Our assumption misses an astounding part of God’s love.

I will never forget the day when one of my daughters learned to ride her bike without training wheels. (The “fall” was an appropriate season for this event.)

As she sped down a hill toward a huge ravine, I saw written all over her face the message: “I’m not in control!”

Why does God allow us to hurt?

(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)

As she raced by me, I reached out and lifted her off the bike—saving her from the ravine but causing her to fall. As the bike launched into the abyss, my rescued daughter hopped up hotter than a hornet!

“Why did you do that, Daddy?!” To answer, I simply pointed to the bottomless gorge I saved her from. But that didn’t matter. All she could see was that I caused her to fall.

Years later, I pondered how we can carry this same attitude into our relationship with God.

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Start Looking at What You Want to See

How to stay aware of the positives you long for in your life.

We’ve all experienced it, haven’t we? We buy a car and suddenly, we see our car’s model everywhere on the road. We notice what we have on our mind. This is true in all of life.

Start Looking at What You Want to See

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

On a recent trip to Israel, one man on our bus mentioned he saw beehives everywhere. Really? Beehives? I had never noticed. He was a beekeeper. We see what we’re thinking about.

  • As a woodworker, I notice furniture everywhere I go—whether it’s made well or not.
  • My daughter always notices a person’s shoes first.
  • A girl-crazy guy walks in a room and in five seconds has the most beautiful girl pegged.

What you focus on will be what you see. It’s how God made us—regardless of how we use that ability. What do you see in these key areas of your life?

  • Your job
  • Your spouse
  • Your children
  • Your parents
  • Your church
  • Your life in general

Be honest. When you think about each of these areas, are your initial thoughts positive or negative?

What do you see?

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Envy Grabbing You? Here are 4 Tips for Freedom

And why getting what we want doesn't fix us.

For some reason, we tend to envy others. Big time. Be it a car, a position, a house, or a spouse, we want it. There just seems to be part of our nature that sees what we don’t have as what we need.

Envy Grabbing You

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

No matter what season of life we’re in, we tend to feel dissatisfied with who we are, or what we have, compared to someone else.

  • The teenager wants to be an adult.
  • The single wants to be married.
  • Those with no kids want kids.
  • Those with kids look forward to the empty nest.
  • The retired person longs for the seasons past.

If you’re not enjoying where you are today—and always looking for something better, something new, something else—then you’ll never have freedom in life.

Never.

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Where the End of Hopelessness Begins for You

Theology offers something essential in your struggle.

There’s not much we can be sure of today. We live in a culture of broken promises, broken relationships, shallow friendships, and flawed leaders. And that’s just at church.

Where the End of Hopelessness Begins for You

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

After a number of stabbing disappointments, we can come to the place where we expect little else. We can choose to hope for nothing in hopes we won’t be disappointed. When we focus on the here and now—and especially on all the pain life has handed us—the black hole of hopelessness sucks us in and surrounds us.

To the marvelous promise that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,” we need to ponder the rhetorical question that follows: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom. 8:28, 31).

The question gives context to those painful parts of God’s sovereignty in our lives.

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Why Your Life in Christ is Supposed to Hurt

Finding the key to pressing on in spite of your pain.

Any woman who has experienced childbirth understands. Any helpless man who has witnessed childbirth, like me (twice), gets it to a degree. That’s why the Bible uses the experience as a metaphor of our lives.

Why Your Life in Christ is Supposed to Hurt

(Photo courtesy of Unsplash)

 

The whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves . . . groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. —Romans 8:22–23

We would all love to have an emotional epidural to where we didn’t feel the pain of life. But that won’t happen.

God doesn’t give us a way to avoid the hurt.

But He does tell us what to think so we can make it through the struggle.

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