Archives For Devotional

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas

by Mike Riccardi

As you celebrate the incarnation of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ, enjoy the Christmas story from this blended harmony of Scripture, originally prepared by Frank Turk. Merry Christmas from all of us at the Cripplegate!

Merry Christmas

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

    “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

    “Let all God’s angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

    “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

    “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to her. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But Mary was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God. … For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.

A decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. (this fulfilled what the prophet Micah had said, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

And at the end of eight days, when [the child] was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

(they said this because the prophet Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, and he did not go, as at other times, to look for omens, but set his face toward the wilderness. And Balaam lifted up his eyes and saw Israel camping tribe by tribe. And the Spirit of God came upon him, and he took up his discourse and said,

    “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;”)

After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.

The concerts are over and candle-light services are nearly complete. No more caroling, food drives, corporate holiday parties and the sound of Salvation army bells are quickly fading. The world will soon say goodbye to “the holidays” and will soon pivot its attention to New Year’s and Super Bowls.

The world may soon have Christmas almost in it’s rear view mirror, but for Christ’s church the wonder and joy of Christmas never ends. Isaiah prophesied that a virgin will conceive and bear a Son whose name will be Immanuel, God with us. He came to earth that day, and remains with us in every day. The Creator of the universe stepped aside from the full display of His majestic glory and dove headlong into His creation.

The day Christ was born slipped by, uncelebrated throughout the world. It was not for lack of Instagram, satellite communication or weak cell phone coverage. It was not because the postal service lost His birth announcement or a webpage failed to update. Christ entered time and space as planned. The seclusion from the abusive prying eyes of the world kept King Herod from carrying out yet another satanic attempt to assassinate the Savior.

Beyond the safety of our Savior, the world did not see the eternal significance of the first Christmas for the same reason that it cannot understand Christmas today. “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Eyes that are blind to the truth can never see the glory of the Savior who was born.

The world cannot see Jesus, but the world can see Jesus in you.

Here are five windows through which those without hope are able to see Jesus in our lives:   Continue Reading…

Glory of the IncarnationIt’s a joy to reserve this part of the year to remember and celebrate the birth of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. This, of course, is what Christmas is about in the truest sense. Amid all the tinsel, the gingerbread cookies, and the trees and stockings and gift shopping, true Christians pause to reorient our thoughts and our affections to what Christmas is really about: the incarnation of the Son of God.

And that kind of theological shorthand has become so familiar to us that we cease to be amazed at the truth we speak of when we speak of the incarnation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

God. Becoming man. The infinite, eternal, self-existent, self-sufficient, almighty God, without shedding His divine nature, taking upon Himself—in addition to His divine nature—a human nature—truly becoming one of us. In the incarnation of the Son of God, it can properly be said that the immutable, unchangeable God became what He wasn’t, while never ceasing to be what He was.

The incomprehensibility of that thought alone is sufficient to bow our hearts and intellects before divine wisdom in worship. This kind of mind-bending wisdom is so lofty—so far beyond our natural understanding—that we wouldn’t believe it if Scripture didn’t teach it so plainly. We already referenced John 1: The Word was God, and the Word became flesh. We also see it in Philippians 2:6–7, where Paul tells us that while Christ was existing in His very nature as God nevertheless assumed to Himself the very nature of a servant, and was born as a man.

Continue Reading…

Christmas eveChristmas is almost here. It’s a time to celebrate what God did. He brought everything together to do what we could not. He brought salvation to ill-deserving humanity in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ. Like a perfect conductor, God orchestrated all things for the arrival of heaven’s King.

That night, some 2000 years ago, God pulled off a jaw-dropping display of sovereignty. He demonstrated himself the hero as he conducted his plan that he made before creation for the arrival of the God-man. The arrival of the long-ago-promised, long-awaited-Messiah was a stunning demonstration of God’s sovereign grace towards sinful humanity. Despite the obstacles of humanity’s sin and contrary historical events, God was moved by his own mercy to sovereignly orchestrate history in order to bring us the Christmas Gift; the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Consider the majesty of God in his heroic demonstration of sovereignty in bringing us the Person of salvation:

Continue Reading…

Hey Christian! Please stop talking about gun-control, just for a second, and think.

At least fourteen people were shot in San Bernardino, Ca. and Terrorism has not been ruled out.

keep-calm-and-close-your-mouthIf your first thought in reading that first line is something like,

“Ha! So much for strict gun control laws! or “I thought California was a liberal state!”

then I just have one request. I beg you: Please don’t talk to anyone! don’t update your status on Facebook. Don’t talk to anyone at work. I don’t care what you have to do, whether it’s take a cold shower, turn off your internet, go on vacation, or whatever it is, please don’t say a word.

14 people just died, and if they didn’t know Christ they are suffering divine judgment in hell. 

Do you realize that? Do you believe that? Sometimes I wonder whether Christians truly believe in hell. It’s so important to train our minds to think eternally!

Continue Reading…

November 25, 2015

A Thanksgiving Pause

by Eric Davis
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It’s almost Thanksgiving. But, there is still today, which is considered the single busiest travel day in the US. AAA estimates that 47 million Americans will travel more than 50 miles for the holiday. Airlines report that over 90% of their seats will be filled today.

With all the hustle and bustle, thankfulness may flee a bit. It doesn’t always come natural for various reasons. Some of us may be immersed neck-deep in immense trials. Perhaps giving thanks right now seems impossible. Others of us may be struggling to have a thankful heart towards God for no apparent reason at all. Whatever the case, Thanksgiving is an opportune, and, perhaps, a necessary time, to grow in the grace of God-ward thankfulness. In Christ, we are never without reasons for gratitude, even in the darkest of life’s valleys. But thankfulness is less of a pixie-dust emotion felt, and more of a grace cultivated through discipline.

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So, whether you are standing in the TSA line, running to catch a connecting flight, in between trains, or on your way to grandma’s, here are a few of my favorite quotes and meditations on thankfulness which I hope will prepare our hearts for tomorrow’s wonderful holiday; Thanksgiving Day.

Continue Reading…

Judging from Facebook and Twitter, It seems like everyone has the Refugee crisis figured out. Very few have come up with a balanced and cautious view like this one. It seems like most people including Christians are on either extreme of the pendulum. Some say things like.

You should let everyone in! Jesus wouldn’t deny anyone. Quit being a coward!

Or.

You shouldn’t let anyone in! You need to protect America from the terrorist, do you want another Paris?

I think its OK for us to sit down, take a deep breath and actually say “I have no idea what the right thingshut up and pray to do is.”

Our government seemed to possibly make the right call for once, and that is to take a quick pause and say “based on the fact that several people shouting Allahu Akbar just murdered over a hundred French people in public, we need to rethink and make sure we want to take in others who like saying Allahu Akbar a lot.” The dilemma lies in the fact that 25% of muslims in the world (if we believe the lady in this video and just simple math) are actively trying to murder those who are not. That leaves 75% who are probably harmless and whom we (if we have the means) probably should help!

No one person has the right answer yet, and it’s probable that if our government continues down the path that it’s been going that it will make the wrong call, but that doesn’t change the fact that you don’t know better than the government that God has sovereignly put into place. So here are my three suggestions on what we should do next regarding the Refugee Crisis.

Continue Reading…

I have very fond memories of my grandmother, but she had one strange taste: an inordinate love of taxidermy. Her house was infested with a menagerie of stuffed animals. From the menacing buffalo head that greeted me at the door, to the glassy-eyed kudu bull who guarded the staircase, to the yellow-billed kite keeping watch over me while I played with trains. It was a pretty freaky and intimidating place to spend a weekend, and goes a long way to explain my latent agoraphobia that favors hotels over the outdoors.

But the most terrifying trophies were the leopard and lion skin rugs. My dear grandma made no effort to allay my fears that these creatures were able to maul me if I got too close.

Thankfully, none of this scarred my psyche; I still wanted to own a dog. My first puppy was a pavement special, a mutt of note. Ugly, scrawny, and dumb as dumbbell, but I’d still choose that mongrel any day of the week over a stuffed leopard, lion, or anything.

Everyone understands that a living poodle is better than a dead lion. (Of course a dead poodle is not a bad idea either). King Solomon offers us this eccentric serving of sideways wisdom in Ecclesiastes 9: 4But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion5 For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.

Continue Reading…

By now you’ve heard that ISIS has struck again, and again they have directed their hate towards Paris. Over 100 people enjoying dinner, enjoying entertainment struck dead without a thought.

Before you think this is only a French problem, know that there are over 1000 active ISIS probes in the United States.

So many men and women, probably living in your neighborhood, are actively plotting someway to kill as many people as they can.

It doesn’t end there. There are earthquakes happening. Tsunamis are coming. There are tsunamiburglars murdering pregnant pastor’s wives.

There are mentally deranged killers walking on our college campuses.

There are thousands of people all over the world actively driving drunk. There are people who have no idea, but their bodies are filled with a sickness that will take their life at any second.

How do we deal with this reality?

Continue Reading…

November 11, 2015

When Affliction is Stacked

by Eric Davis

stacked afflictionYou’ve probably been there. Unprecedented affliction enters your life. Along with it, all the new experiences. The anxiousness. The sleeplessness. The darkness, loneliness, anger, sorrow. Things compound.

By God’s grace, you seem to make it through. The storm seems to end. There is that huge relief with the breaking sun. Tears of joy come in humble rejoicing at the storm’s passing.

But then it happens. Another life-storm moves inland to your life. And another behind it. And another. Maybe it’s a reoccurrence of a previous trial. Or a compounding of differing trials; a financial on top of a spiritual. Or a physical trial consequent of a previous physical trial. Or all of the above.

The questions: “Ok, Lord, did I not meet my suffering quota for the year? Is there not some sort of trials-tap that can run dry from time to time?”

The frustration: “This just cannot be happening, again.”

The despair: “How in the world will I be able to keep going and be faithful to all the other stuff in my life with these constant storms?”

These are all normal. Perhaps not all excusable, but normal nevertheless. And there are not pixie-dust solutions to these problems, of course. We’re talking about a crux par excellence of life, after all.

Though not an exhaustive list, here are some possible explanations for the multiple afflictions God allows in our lives:

Continue Reading…