Our Mighty God: What We Need for Christmas…Part 3

According to James Boice (see first post in the series), if you asked people to honestly describe their needs, they might describe one as: “We…have wills, and because we have wills, we want to achieve something. We want our lives to make a difference. To do that we need power.”[1]  This is a second need of us all, according to James Boice.  In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus, the Christ of Christmas, is described as our Mighty God, who Boice says “will empower us for life’s tasks” – those tasks He points us to in His wisdom.

The word Mighty probably calls to mind miraculous events, military victory, or superhero-like powers.  But ultimately, His greatest objectives for us – to love Him and to love our neighbor – are what He uses His might to accomplish.  When our Wonderful Counselor (see last post in series) gives wisdom to make a choice in life, He actually wants us to act on that choice because He knows how it will turn out – for our ultimate good – but what if we don’t agree with the choice, or don’t have the willpower to make it?

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God, unlike Lucy in the Peanuts comics, will not tell us to kick the football, then pull it away at the last second, leaving us on our back.  To those who trust Him, He will provide the ability to make a loving difference in the world.  As Mighty God, He puts His own resources and power behind His recommended wisdom to produce the desired effect of loving, godly living.

Put another way: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,” as written in 2 Peter 1:3.  He does not empower us to do just anything, or to do whatever we decide; He will empower us to “life and godliness.”  In wisdom, He knows this is what is ultimately worthwhile, and His power creates a new desire and a new influence in us, molding our wills that want to make a difference but may not know how.  His power also works in others to provide what we need, or works to put in our path someone who needs us.

The gift of Jesus as Mighty God meets one of our deepest needs:
“To achieve something worthwhile! Jesus is the Mighty God who enables us to do that. We accomplish worthwhile things through his power.” (Boice)

Do you want to achieve worthwhile things this Christmas and in 2023?  Our Mighty God wants to enable us to love Him and love others.  Seek the wisdom of Christ and become empowered by Him to love as you have never loved before.

This is the second gift of Christ in Christmas.

The next post in the series is here.


[1] From “May 10.” James Montgomery Boice and Marion Clark. Come to the Waters: Daily Bible Devotions for Spiritual Refreshment.  (2017).

A Wonderful Counselor: What We Need For Christmas…Part 2

According to James Boice (see last post in the series), if you asked people to honestly describe their needs, they might describe one as: “We have minds. So we have a need to know things rightly, to understand. We need wisdom.”  In Isaiah 9:6, Jesus, the Christ of Christmas, is described as our Wonderful Counselor, who meets our need for wisdom.

But what is wisdom?  Wisdom is about taking the right action, not about being book smart, or accumulating facts.  You don’t need to be brilliant to have wisdom.  Wisdom looks forward.  It is proactive and specific to you.  Nobody else’s situation is your situation, and nobody else has the same history, relationships, abilities, and resources. Your path is your own.

Why do we need wisdom?  Because our inner conscience is not one, clear voice with the right answer.  It is a jumble of influences and desires, which I’ve described as a multi-voiced “Moral GPS.” How do you even choose from among your own wants?  Everyone is limited by time and resources.  Also, what if your wants conflict with each other?  “I love junk food, but I want to be healthy.”  Also, how do you decide what is “good” to do?  Who decides what is “harmful”?  What if someone else’s desires harm you?  Can you tell them their desires are wrong, or even disagree on what “harm” is, in a world where everyone just lives by their own messy conscience?[1]

We are never truly free.  Absolute freedom is not good, or even possible, and therefore we need a reliable filter and that is what wisdom is.  Wisdom enables us to choose the best possible path from among the many choices before us.  This is especially tricky as multiple paths may look “true” or “best” to us, and most paths have ripple effects we can’t possibly anticipate.  In our world information is more readily available than ever before, but many people just seem more overwhelmed by it all.

Only someone who knows us perfectly, who knows every possible consequence of our choices on us and on others, and who loves us with our best interests in mind is qualified to be our Wonderful Counselor and worthy of our trust.  Others can provide incomplete guidance – parents, teachers, ministers, writers, philosophers – but each of these also needs its own filter.

In the gift of Jesus as Wonderful Counselor we can satisfy one of our deepest needs: “To know the truth! Jesus Christ is the truth, and he is for us a Wonderful Counselor.” (Boice)

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As God, He has no gaps in his knowledge or biases and therefore His words to us are not an inadequate abstraction or wishful thinking.  He alone is perfectly trustworthy.  He does not want to scold or punish you, but to guide you in perfect wisdom that only He can provide.  He does not magically tell you everywhere to go, holding up signs, but desires a relationship.  To walk with you and guide you to life eternal. He wants us to invite Him into our lives, and He is Wonderful.

This is the first gift of Christ in Christmas.

The next post in the series is here.


[1] Keller, Timothy.  Making Sense of God (2016).  This paragraph draws from Chapter 5.

Thanksgiving is Good and Fitting

Since 1942, the United States have celebrated a holiday for Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of every November.  For Christians the holiday is a time to remember the source of their blessings, regardless of how large or small those blessings seem.  In Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, the Preacher recommends celebrating and enjoying our material things, and recognizing God as the Giver of them all, including the work needed to produce and prepare them:

Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot. Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.

However, as the Preacher wrote, even those with good jobs and plentiful possessions may find it difficult to truly enjoy them.  It is “good and fitting”, but it is also “the gift of God” to find joy in the now instead of chasing things we don’t already have.  It does not come naturally.

For many, time and events make each Thanksgiving different.  The company around the table may have changed.  The meal may be different.  The means of providing the meal may be different.  The familiarity of tradition may have been shaken by the pandemic and other circumstances.  Much has changed, and much will change.

Therefore, focus on the Giver behind the gifts you have, and seek contentment with thankfulness that He has provided everything you need. For now, and in eternity.  You are in good company.

Redeeming the Time

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Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca said that “People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”  Unlike other resources, time cannot be replaced.  If I waste a dollar of my income, another dollar can be earned to replace it.  If I waste a minute, it’s gone forever.

Psalm 101, penned by David, contemplates what is worthy of our time.  Verses 1-4 say:

I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
            to you, O LORD, I will make music.
I will ponder the way that is blameless.
            Oh when will you come to me?
I will walk with integrity of heart
            within my house;
I will not set before my eyes
            anything that is worthless.
I hate the work of those who fall away;
            it shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall be far from me;
            I will know nothing of evil.

In our modern, media- and current event-focused culture, the statement “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless” may be the most challenging.  Reading this verse recently, I had to ask myself whether the reason I look at worthless things is that I don’t think they are worthless?  If to “confess” means to say the same thing about something that God does, I have a lot to learn about what is valuable and worthy of attention.

Today, let us learn to love what God loves and hate what He hates.  Let us confess what really matters, and “sing of steadfast love and justice.”  Let us also “ponder the way that is blameless” that we may “know nothing of evil.

There’s no time to waste.

Letting God Pick Our Battles II

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The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me,” yet he also wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 that “to keep me from becoming conceited,” a “thorn was given me in the flesh.”  He writes: “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

The nature of Paul’s “thorn” has been disputed for centuries, but Galatians 4:13 suggests it was a physical problem, a “bodily ailment” rather than a moral shortcoming.  So, the lesson of the “thorn” is not that God prevented Paul from overcoming some specific sin to keep him humble – He wants Paul (and us) to be satisfied with nothing less than righteousness.

However, one lesson of the “thorn” is that Paul didn’t mean by “I can do all things” that he could do whatever he wanted and succeed.  Instead, the “thorn” is an example of a battle Paul would not win, because this “thorn” had a purpose in bringing Paul closer to God’s grace and power.  In God’s wisdom, Paul was better off with this ailment than without it.

Yesterday’s post said “Picking your battles, rather than trying to fight and win every fight that comes your way, is a good piece of advice.  However, who should pick which battles to fight?”  In the case of the “thorn”, God picked a battle for Paul not to fight, telling him instead to focus on growing in faith.  The thorn had a purpose in Paul’s striving toward righteousness, which was more important than any physical ailment.  Had Paul continued to insist to God that the thorn should be removed, he would still have the thorn, but he would also not grow in his relationship with his Lord.

Sometimes there are battles He wants us to fight in His strength for His glory, and sometimes there are battles He tells us not to fight so we can focus on His grace and power while in this life, in light of His promises to heal our physical ailments in Paradise.

Today’s post closes the same way as yesterdays: “Sometimes life is hard on purpose, so that God alone may be glorified in victory, and also so that we may grow in our faith in His strength.  When we let Him pick our battles, we learn that His righteousness is the only thing that will satisfy us.  Nothing less will do.”