The Gift that keeps on Giving: Who Says Christmas Only Comes Once a Year?

It’s that time of year that we leave Christmas behind, isn’t it? Gifts have been unwrapped (and exchanged), gift cards have been redeemed, and we are putting away Christmas lights and decorations until next year… Here’s the thing: don’t stop celebrating the season when the season is over!

When you think about it, for many of us Christmas was all about giving and opening gifts! It is a tradition that goes back to the gifts of the Magi, which were presented to Jesus as a young child sometime after he was born. Some folks relate it to Saturnalia, a pagan Roman festival which pre-dated the birth of Christ, and which was supplanted by the Christian celebration of Jesus’ birth. Since people gave each other small gifts during that winter festival, the custom was appropriated by early Church Fathers. (Although some Christians today refuse to celebrate because of those early roots, but I say, why let the devil have all festivals? It’s ok to celebrate the birth of Christ and give gifts!) Which gift was your favorite this year?

gift

We give each Holiday season to commemorate the actions of the Magi in Matthew 2:11: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” Gifts are a wonderful part of our Christmas celebration. But as you start enjoying the presents you received on Christmas, remember that there are gifts, and there are GIFTS:

There is the gift of life. There is the gift of love. And then there’s this: “For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, KJV).

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the GIFT of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV).

“But the free GIFT is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the GIFT by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded unto many.” (Romans 5:15, NIV)

“For God so loved the world that he GAVE his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, KJV)

No matter where you are and no matter what your circumstances today, never forget that Christmas is not about toys or things. It’s about a new history being made. It’s about new life. And it’s about a new KIND of life. To me, eternal life is an attitude that not only transcends time and space but it begins here and now! I like to think it is what Gus McCrae meant in “Lonesome Dove”: “It ain’t dying I’m talking about, it’s living. I doubt it matters where you die, but it matters where you LIVE.”

gift

This new year, don’t limit Christmas gifts to a single day. Celebrate it all year long! Embrace life wherever you are. Live with an awareness of the gifts that matter. Don’t get so caught up in your new iPhone that you miss the greatest gift of all! Merry Christmas!

A Christmas Rhyme

Sing Hosanna, peace on earth! Celebrate the Savior’s birth!
As Angels sing, Rejoice with them! This baby, born in Bethlehem,
Made every earthly power shift, and offered us His matchless gift.
Give “Peace on earth” and spread “Good Cheer”! But tell me, if this isn’t clear:
Since Jesus showed that “God came near”, why celebrate just once a year?
Don’t take your faith from Christmas nights and pack it away with the Christmas lights!
In winter, summer, spring, and fall, open the greatest gift of all—
At home, abroad, at work or play—Celebrate Christmas every day!
Whenever you recall this rhyme: it’s Him, it’s you, it’s Christmas time!

 

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

 

Love and The Deepest Theology: Four Dimensions of God’s Love

If you really want to define love, you can read the verse that everybody knows, John 3:16  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” This verse describes all of the dimensions of love– how high it is, how wide, how deep, and how long.

We talk about our perception of three dimensions around as we look at height, width, depth and length, but we all know there is more to it than that… How tall is beauty? How wide are feelings? Have you ever thought about all of the dimensions of God’s love? Way back in the day, Job was confronted with them in one of the earliest written parts of the Bible: “Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven— what can you do? Deeper than Sheol— what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9)

four dimensions of love

During Job’s discourse with the Almighty, God reminds him of the nature of the universe. We have boundaries and limits; God doesn’t. We think in terms of dimensions; God transcends them. It is that way in the physical universe we touch, see, and inhabit, and it is that way in the spiritual dimension that inhabits us.

We are made in God’s image, and whatever passions, values, and emotions we experience are reflections of Him–although as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 13, we see them incompletely in this world, as though “through a glass, darkly.” In that chapter Paul acknowledges the importance of knowledge and giftedness, and discusses the importance of hope and faith, all of which could be considered as the deep things of God, and reflections of his character. He ends by saying this (v 13): “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The end of theology is not proofs or precepts, and it is not about knowledge or discourse: it is about the way GOD LOVES YOU.

Have you really considered the depth of God’s love for you? Take a moment and reflect upon that. Do you feel loved today? You should. God loves you for who you are, and who you were meant to be. He loves you consistently, relentlessly, passionately, completely—enough to send his own Son to experience death on your behalf. He did it for everyone, and He did it forever. Bask in God’s love today, and remember that it’s higher, deeper, broader, and longer than you can imagine!

Four Dimensions of Love

How big is love? How strong, how tall?
Do we see love as far too small?
Our broken view of broken love
Can’t take the concept far enough—

Considering all that Christ has bought,
Could love be bigger than we thought?
Imagine love, the way you dreamed,
Romance and passion, all redeemed!

See love reflected in God’s face,
And feel it in His warm embrace.
For God so loved us, every one,
He sent His precious, only Son

To come and revolutionize
The depth and width, the lows and highs
Of love—so broken on the street—
In ways so intimate and sweet,
That in Him, we are made complete.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Nick at Night: Maybe the Most Important Conversation in History

“Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (John 3:1-2, NIV)

It has often been speculated that Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because of the risks involved. If the ruling council saw his actions as supporting or endorsing Jesus, it could have had serious consequences for him. Nicodemus could have been thrown off the council, or at the very least endured criticism and persecution.

On the other hand, perhaps he went at the council’s request, and was there as an intermediary to try to get a fix on Jesus and report back. But the fact that he went at night suggests that he was avoiding public scrutiny, and was not there on behalf of the council. If that was the case, then he was risking ostracism, persecution, and the loss of his social (and vocational) position in Jerusalem. Since he took such a huge chance, perhaps he was just an honest man seeking the truth about Jesus.

Nicodemus at night

Whatever his motives, this became arguably the most quoted and pivotal conversation in all of human history. It certainly contains perhaps the best-known and most quoted Bible verse. From this brief encounter we get “born again” (v 3); “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit” (v 6); and the fact that the Son of Man must be lifted up (v 15). And from this brief conversation, we get this:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (v 16).

If you’ve never read that verse before, read again and think about what it means. It’s the verse everyone knows, and the most quoted verse in the Bible. It rocked Nicodemus’ world, and it changed his life. From the snapshots we get of Nicodemus later in John’s Gospel, a story of transformation emerges. In John 7 he subtly advocated on Jesus’ behalf in the Sanhedrin. He was still on the council, but flies in the face of the overriding hatred of Jesus.

And then this: We see Nicodemus again in the terrible aftermath of the cross, helping to take down Jesus’ body to prepare it for burial (John 20:39). He has stepped out of the shadows of night to identify with him even when it no longer seems to matter. By performing this service, Nicodemus indeed places himself in the crosshairs of the Sanhedrin as a dangerous nonconformist. He risks his life and his reputation to identify with Jesus the crucified “criminal”.

This conversation from John Chapter three obviously meant something to him. The real question is, however: what does it mean to YOU?

Nicodemus

Late at night, he smelled the alleyways;
Secretly, he stalked the truth in silence.
Darkness fouled his progress with its murky haze;
The echoes whispered softly, and with violence…
The Inner Council would not see his coming here
As anything but blatant heresy;
His heart beat faster as he walked along in fear,
A lonely and conflicted Pharisee…
He paused before the doorway, now unsure,
Should this conversation even start?
He wavered now, so righteous, so impure,
Listening to the beating of his heart…
The quiet night created space for him to doubt;
What would happen to him if they knew?
What penalty awaited him if they found out?
Should he be here? Or run? What should he do?
He froze in fear of who he’d meet behind that door;
Confused anxiety almost made him run,
But Nicodemus knocked because he wanted more,
And Jesus smiled and said, “Come in, my son”.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Four Dimensions of God’s Love: Amazing Height, Width, Depth, Length

In yesterday’s post I challenged you to look in John 3:16 and see the four dimensions of God’s love that Paul mentioned in Ephesians 3:17; Take a moment now and read John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”)

four dimensions of love

Now ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? How deep? How long? After you have paused to reflect on that, make a list of the four dimensions–height, width, depth, and length–and jot down how John 3:16 applies to each one. Then compare your thoughts to my observations below:

How high is it? It is infinitely high, defined by the character of the one who extended it: GOD. It comes from above us in every way. It is purer than what we call love, more committed, more personal, more selfless, more complete and more complex than our earthly perception allows. Isaiah 55:9 says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Think higher than Everest, higher than the heavens, and beyond the vast reaches of infinite space…

You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above; Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…

How wide is it? It is so wide that it includes EVERYONE. Every color, creed, culture and character is under the span of God’s amazing love. “God so loved the WORLD (Yes, Grace is available to everyone) so that WHOEVER believes is saved…” Romans 10:13 says “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

2 Peter 3:9 says, “Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance.” God’s love is as wide as every person who ever had a choice.

No need to hide from love that cannot be denied, It changes who you are inside, And ultimately you become His bride– And not just you but everyone who believes, receives, Yes every. One. So if you wondered: that’s how wide…

How deep is it? It is so deep that God spared no expense and paid the ultimate price to extend it. He gave his ONLY begotten son. Salvation is free but it’s not cheap. It cost God his Son; it cost his Son his life. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

God is not an automaton without feelings or emotions, and yet the loving, jealous, passionate God allowed His Son to experience the cross in MY place. Read that sentence again. Seamlessly together for eternity past, they separated. The only perfect and unified force in the universe tore itself apart for us. Without any guarantee apart from His own character that everything would go as planned, God sacrificed his Son and Christ died. That, my friends, is DEEP.

How LONG is it? The verse concludes with, “So that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have EVERLASTING life!” How long is THAT? There was a song from 1957 by Johnny Mathis where he said he would love his girlfriend “until the Twelfth of Never. And that’s a long, long time.” EVERLASTING is longer than that.

A thousand, ten thousand years from now, we will all be somewhere, perhaps remembering when we first opened our hearts to the four dimensions of God’s love. I hope that you and I will be still be experiencing those four dimensions, and we will just be getting started.

There they are: John 3:16, the four dimensions of God’s amazing love. You are welcome.

You can speak with men and angels, you can search the heights above;  
Beloved, if you count the ways, the greatest of these is love…
That love is in God's Character, reflecting who He is;
So if you wonder just how high it is, remember this:
The love extends beyond the sky, as lofty as the world is wide--
Don't hide from love that cannot be denied!
It changes who you are inside, and ultimately you become His bride-- 
And not just you but everyone who believes, receives: Yes every. One.
It's as wide, you see, as Calvary, and that's how it was done.
God made the ultimate payment at a cost that was infinitely steep;
Salvation may be free, my friends, but it was never cheap:
God sacrificed His only Son for us. His love is deep.
That love will live beyond this world, forever and a day:
(The love that's higher, wider, deeper than these words can say!)
The love of God will far outlast the words within this rhyme:
Beyond the twelfth of never, friends! (And that's a long, long time!)

 

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Four Dimensions, Deeper Love: How God Loves You Back

In Ephesians, Paul mentions the four dimensions of God’s love as if everyone knew about them; so tell me, have YOU ever thought about the four dimensions of Christ’s love? In his book of superlatives, Paul talks about where God’s love is planted, and what it looks like; his description is a revelation!

four dimensions

In this eloquent prayer for his friends in Ephesus, Paul expresses the fervent hope “…that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” (Ephesians 3:17-18 NIV).

In this passage from Ephesians Paul calls out the four dimensions of God’s love. Have you ever thought about the dimensions of God’s love? Have you ever truly grasped the width and length and height and depth of the love of God? In this world, our perception of God is limited. We look at Him through a finite lens, and even when we think we see Him as majestic and incomparable, perhaps we are leaving something on the table…First Corinthians 13:12 confirms: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” Paul claims that there is more to love than we see, and that it has dimensions that go beyond our perception.

Paul’s definition of love is steeped in the Hebrew Shema, which reminded believers to love God with every means at our disposal: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Jesus quoted that passage in Matthew 22:37 when challenged to give the greatest commandment.). So do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind? Have you grasped the four dimensions of God’s love?

In this life we dabble about with romantic love, we cherish motherly love, we love our friends, and of course we love animals and food and possessions and things. And we talk about God’s love… But Paul’s picture of love suggests that God’s love is infinite and powerful and amazing: perhaps we can broaden our perception.

First, he says that we need to be ROOTED and ESTABLISHED in love. This suggests going deeper, taking nourishment, and transforming like a seed does when it gives life to a new plant. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” (John 12:24)

Paul says that when we connect with love’s transforming power, we will see the dimensions of God’s love. Read a verse you’re familiar with, John 3:16, and think about the four dimensions of God’s love: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The verse that everybody knows contains the truth and power about God’s love that everybody should grasp. Look in John 3:16 and ask yourself, How high is God’s love? How wide? How deep? How long? They’re in there. Go deeper.

Paul tells folks in Ephesus (and also tells the rest of us)
That perfect, Godly love will start with Jesus dwelling in my heart.
The love of Christ Paul mentions, he defines with four dimensions,
So awesome they can make you weep: it’s wide, and high, and long and deep!
Investigate what that must mean. Read John, the verse is 3:16,
And make a list right there beside: how long, how high, how deep, how wide?
It’s there, if you go deep enough: the four dimensions of God’s love…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread