3 Great Christmas Devotionals!

three-great-resourcesChristmas is a fantastic time to celebrate Christ. Historically, the church has dominated the Christmas season. Though Hallmark movies, T.V. specials, and stories of an overgrown elf-man sporting a white beard and red suit have cut into the Church’s monopoly on the holiday, the word Christ still remains prominent. According to Lifeway, 6 of every 10 Americans will attend a Christmas service this year. If you and your family find yourselves drifting from the gospel, I encourage you to reengage with the gospel this Christmas season! I have attached links to three great resources below. These three little books will help you and your family refocus your hearts on the gospel!

1. Good News of Great Joy: John Piper

good-news-of-great-joyJohn Piper encourages our hearts by expounding the texts of the Christmas story. Piper begins each devotion with short Scripture passage. He spends two to three pages reflecting upon our glorious savior so that God may “deepen and sweeten” our adoration of Jesus. Christians looking for quiet-time books and family devotions will find this little book helpful. Click here to download the book for free! 

Quick Peek:

For it is implicit in Scripture that all the mammoth political forces and all the giant industrial complexes, without their even knowing it, are being guided by God, not for their own sake but for the sake of God’s little people – the little Mary and the little Joseph who have gone from Nazareth to Bethlehem. God wields an empire to bless his children.

2. The Dawning of Joy Indestructible: John Piper

the-dawning-of-indestructible-joyJohn Piper wrote his second Advent devotional to remind and stir up Christians who have found themselves forgetting the glories of the gospel during the Christmas season. Interacting with short Scripture passages, Piper highlights the great truths of the Bible by connecting them to the nativity store. Christians looking for a quiet-time devotion or for a family devotion will find this book helpful. Click here to download the book for free!

Quick Peek:

Look to Jesus this Christmas. Receive the reconciliation that he bought. Don’t put it on the shelf unopened. And don’t open it and then make it a means to all your other pleasures. Open it and enjoy the gift. Rejoice in him. Make him your pleasure. Make him your treasure.

3. Come Let Us Adore Him: Paul David Tripp

9781433556692Paul David Tripp seeks to restore our awe in Christ this Christmas season by helping us reflect on the amazing truths of the Scriptures. Writing with a counselor’s heart, Tripp encourages his readers by expositing the Scriptures of the Christmas story, by sharing illustrative stories, and by calling for readers to respond to the gospel with meaningful action. Tripp also writes with families in mind. He ends each three to five page devotion with a further study verse and with a “For parents and children” section that includes the day’s main theme and discussion questions. Lastly, Tripp separates his Advent devotion from others by penning devotions for all of December’s 31 days. Both individuals and families will find Tripp’s devotional to be a source of encouragement this Christmas season!

Quick Peek:

In truth, that beautifully decorated tree, those gorgeously wrapped presents, and all that tasty holiday food, which make us happy during the Christmas season, are poor representations of the world into which Jesus was born and what his everyday life would be like. Jesus didn’t show up for a celebration…It means something profoundly important that the cradle of his birth was a feeding trough in a borrowed barn….These conditions…announce to us that the Messiah came not to be served but to serve.”

Five Resources That Help Adults Keep Christ In Christmas!

five-great-resources-for-ChristmasThe Christmas season can be a stressful time filled with a barrage of parties, shopping trips, and community events. The Christmas season is often crazy busy for families, but it can and should also be a time of great refreshment.

Is there better news than Christ has come to save us from our sins?

If we hope to focus on spending quality time with our families and reflecting on the gospel this Christmas, we must first focus our hearts on the beauty of Christ. We must first bolster our walk with the Lord and then bolster our family worship times. In Deuteronomy 6:1, parents are told to keep God’s word in their hearts. To teach our kids about God, we must be learning about God and growing in our faith.

Finding good devotional resources for Christmas can be taxing. Below I are five great options.. While not an exhaustive, I hope my reviews will get you started in the right direction.

If you have a favorite Christmas devotion, I encourage you to mention it in the comment section below.

Come Let Us Adore Him: Paul David Tripp

Paul David Tripp masterfully interacts with the Christmas story, providing his readers with a wealth of practical applications.  His book seeks to help keep us from losing sight of Jesus during the holiday season. Derived from a series of Christmas tweets, each devotional includes a scripture reference, and ends with parent’s section that will help mom and dad bring the devotional into family worship times. If you are seeking to warm your heart and your family’s heart towards the gospel, I encourage you to grab a copy of Come Let Us Adore Him.

From Heaven: A.W. Tozer

A.W. Tozer’s book reflects his love for the Lord and for poetic expression.  The author masterfully paints pictures and shares illustrations that help readers understand that the Scriptures associated with Christmas are plum with meaning. The devotions which have been compiled from Tozer’s sermons and editorials cover all 28 days of the Advent season. I encourage you to read From Heaven this Christmas.

Hidden Christmas: Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller beautifully helps men and women think the both the dark and the bright side of Christmas in this 145 page book. Though not designed as a devotional, the book will help you grasp the major themes of the Christmas story and will fit nicely into your devotional life with heart warming gospel reflections. If you want to refocus your heart this Christmas or desire to be a better witness during the Christmas season, I encourage you to read Hidden Christmas.

The Dawning of Joy Indestructible: John Piper

John Piper helps his readers grasp the important themes of the Christmas story by focusing the secondary or theological texts of Christmas found in Acts, Hebrews, and the Pauline Epistles. It is a great resource, highlighting the beauty of our savior in short, two to three page devotions. My wife and I have found Piper’s works encouraging and though provoking. You will greatly benefit from reading The Dawning of Joy Indestructible.

God is in the Manger: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dietrich Bonhoffer’s words point the readers’ hearts to the true meaning of Christmas. Featuring the martyr’s sermons, poems, and personal letters, the book challenges readers to grapple with the Christmas story for the purpose of knowing God more. Arranged according to the traditional church calendar, the first four weeks are devoted to the themes of waiting, mystery, redemption, and incarnation. The final section features devotions for the twelve days of Christmas. If you are looking for a new and thought provoking devotion, I encourage you to grab a copy of God is in the Manger.

Is the Cross Plan A?

plan-1Is the cross plan A? It is a simple question and yet a deeply profound question. Did God always plan to die on the cross or was it simply a response to our failings? Is God’s divine plan playing out in the theatre of the cosmos or is he frantically attempting respond to our bumbling use of independence?

The theologians Gregory Boyd and John Sanders advocate for the later. John Sanders writes, “The path of the cross comes about only through God’s interactions with humans in history. Until this moment in history other routes were, perhaps open.”

Commenting on Judas’ betrayal Boyd adds,

If Judas had gone down a different path, he wouldn’t have fulfilled the prophecy of the Lord’s betrayal…perhaps no one would have betrayed Jesus, and the passages that are now read as predicting his betrayal wouldn’t be read as such.

In short, God does not control the universe and the destiny of men and women. There is no ‘blue print’ as Boyd likes to say. Rather, God is responding to our failures out of love, working as best he can through the broken vessels of humanity to accomplish good.

This view easily connects with our hearts. We very much like the thought that God loved us enough to radically change his plan for the universe. We love thinking that God changed to redeem us. But is such a thought biblical? Jesus says no.

In Mark 9:9, we read “And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Christ did not think his death, burial and resurrection were in doubt. He was not responding to the plans of men and women.

No, he had planned to die from the beginning of time. He knew Judas would betray him. He knew he would hang on a tree and die. He knew it because he had decreed it. Three times in the gospel of Mark, Jesus foretells and prophecies his death (8:31-33;9:30-32;10:32-34).

And, we should not be surprised that God can know the future. In Isaiah 48:9-10, we read

Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,

We are not constantly taking away from and adding to God’s plans. Rather, we are moving within God’s ordained will.

In Revelation 13:8, we read of the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Before Adam and Eve took a breathe, God knew they would sin. And even better, God had planned to rescue them and us. He had planned to send his son to pay for the sins of the world, so that Jesus might be the first of many brothers (Rom. 8:29).

And here is the great news for you and for me and for our children. God can be trusted. God is not simply bungling through life like some Greek god who has to manipulate men to get what he wants. We do not pray and call out to him hoping that God might somehow be able to overcome the odds and help us.

No, we call out to the God of the universe who rules all. What makes God so amazing is not that he makes much of us. What makes God amazing is that he redeems us to make much of him. God saves us so that we can experience the glory of the divine.

And this has always been his plan. He is not responding to us. He is doing what he always planned. “He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the other.” (Dan 4:35).

Such knowledge should excite all Christians. Because God rules, we can cry out to God with confidence.  As the Pastor Paul David Tripp wrote,

Your world is not a world of constant chaos controlled by impersonal forces. Your destiny is not in your hands or the hands of other people. You are held in the hands of your Father, who rules everything…Because he rules heaven and earth according to his wise plan, I need not live in anxiety and fear.

We can trust God’s promise to grow our faith. We can trust God’s promise to care for us when we get cancer and when family members hate us. We can trust his promise that sting of death has been removed. We can trust God because he rules.

There is no plan B,C,D. Yes, God reacts to us within the narrative of human history. Yet, ultimately that narrative is of his creation. He planned it, he guarantees it, and he accomplishes it. Because plan A was at work in Genesis 1, we can be sure it is at work in Revelation 1. We can trust God with all our worries and concerns. Do you believe in the cross is plan A?