Wearing Tom Brady’s Jersey (& Other Craziness)

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I grew up in the era of Cleveland Browns running back Jim Brown, and I’m convinced he was the best football player of all time. Yet I never had a Jim Brown jersey. In fact, except for the players who were actually on the team, I don’t remember people wearing NFL jerseys back then.

From Boston to Houston this weekend, thousands of people will be wearing Tom Brady jerseys. Last year our hometown Carolina Panthers were in the Super Bowl, so Cam Newton jerseys were a big thing. Sadly, Cam didn’t play so well in the Super Bowl—nor ever since, for that matter. His jersey sales have probably declined as a result.

Frankly, I don’t really get the jersey thing. When someone wears a New England #12 jersey, everyone can tell it’s not the real  Tom Brady. It’s an impostor…a wannabe. No one is impressed by impersonators, nor is anyone fooled when you wear the jersey of your favorite sports star.

So what’s the point of wearing someone else’s jersey?

The Bible has some interesting examples of this principle…

King Saul tried to give David his armor to wear, but the young man realized the armor simply didn’t fit. It was the king’s  “jersey,” not his own. So David decided to go against Goliath instead with his own armaments—a slingshot and five smooth stones. He explained to Saul that he preferred to use weapons he’d already tested in his own life, when defeating lions and bears (1 Samuel 17).

In another case, Jesus rebuked the believers in Sardis for not living up to the label on their jersey:  “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead”  (Revelation 3:1).

You see, it’s considered hypocrisy when you have a great name on your jersey, but your lifestyle doesn’t match. Perhaps that’s the true meaning of the 10 Commandments precept, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Instead of being a rule against profanity, perhaps the deeper meaning is that we shouldn’t wear the Lord’s name on our jersey if we’re not committed to seeking His will.

Putting Jesus’ name on your jersey is not something to do lightly. As the apostle Paul warned, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord must turn away from unrighteousness” (2 Timothy 2:19 HCSB).

Nevertheless, the Bible says that as believers we’ve “clothed” ourselves with Christ—we’ve willingly taken His name and put on His jersey (Galatians 3:27 NASB). And even though NFL jerseys are expensive, wearing the name of Jesus is certainly a much more expensive and courageous step than wearing Tom Brady’s jersey.

There’s something we desperately need in order to successfully wear the name of Christ. We must heed His offer to be clothed with “power from on high” (Luke 24:49 NASB). To live as true Christians, we must be anointed—like our Savior—with the power of the Holy Spirit.

Wearing Tom Brady’s jersey will never enable you to become like him. But when you clothe yourself with Christ and the power of His Spirit, you’ll increasingly be transformed into His likeness (Romans 8:29). That bodes well for winning your personal Super Bowl.   

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Love-Starved but Love-Resistant

Love hard heart

I recently discovered a strange phenomenon: People who are the most starved for love usually are resistant to receiving love when it’s offered to them.

This is like California or Texas after a long-term drought. When rain finally comes, the ground is so hard that it can’t properly soak up the water. Instead of being a blessing, the rain sometimes causes a flood!

Have you ever tried to show love to someone who was extremely love-starved? If so, the person probably either rejected your love or latched onto it in a completely unhealthy way. If you doubt me on this, talk to some of your friends who’ve ventured into the world of online dating…

The love-resistant principle is illustrated in the life of one of the Bible’s most fascinating characters, Mephibosheth. This son of Jonathan was crippled at age five and after his father’s death on the same day, he was exiled to a desolate wasteland called Lo Debar.

One day King David started wondering if any of Saul and Jonathan’s heirs remained, and he was told about this woeful, exiled prince (2 Samuel 9). David was intent on finding this forgotten young man and showing him kindness.

But although kindness was something Mephibosheth desperately needed, there was just one problem: this crippled son of David’s friend Jonathan was love-resistant. Like a Type 2 diabetic who’s insulin-resistant despite needing more insulin, he was emotionally unable to absorb the very thing he so clearly needed.

We really shouldn’t be too surprised. For several years this man had grown up in squalor and hopelessness. Lame in both legs, he was completely dependent on others. Day after day, his condition reminded him of his great loss, which occurred at no fault of his own.

So what happened when Mephibosheth was brought before the king?

Shuffling and stammering, not looking him in the eye, Mephibosheth said, “Who am I that you pay attention to a stray dog like me?” (v. 8 MSG).

How sad. After years of deprivation, this dispirited, love-starved man judged himself to be a loser, unworthy of kindness from the king or anyone else. Instead of being heir to the throne, now he felt of no more value than a stray dog!

Can you blame him? After all, he couldn’t hold a job…couldn’t produce anything…couldn’t even walk! In the eyes of most people in that period of time, he was WORTHLESS, plain and simple—and that’s how he saw himself as well.

As the story makes clear, Mephibosheth was crippled in both of his feet. But if we read between the lines, we realize that he was even more crippled emotionally. Instead of seeing himself as a prince, he was a pauper, completely unlovable.

Oh, but David’s love—like God’s love for us—was not to be denied. Despite the deplorable condition of this man, both physically and psychologically, the king persisted in his plan to RESTORE him to what he had lost.

That’s good news, because we’ve ALL suffered losses of various kinds. Thankfully, King Jesus offers to bring us from Lo Debar, bringing us restoration rather than judgment.

This story has a beautiful conclusion: “So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem, for he ate continually at the king’s table” (v. 13). No longer dwelling in the spiritual wasteland of Lo Debar, the crippled prince once again ate at the king’s table, just like one of David’s sons.

Are you starving for love today? Remember the story of this dejected young man whose hard emotional shell finally gave way to the relentless kindness of God. When you let the King shower you with His love, it will open the corridors of your heart to experience love from other people as well.

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Job’s Melancholy Birthday

Job's birthday

At my age, birthdays are something I would prefer to forget rather than celebrate. Yet the greetings of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” continue, and I’m always grateful for the nice sentiments.

This got me thinking of the story of Job. He had a happy life at the beginning and the end, but the middle was pretty rough.

Thankfully, we don’t have to get stuck in the middle of the story.

At one point, Job was not a big fan of his birthday. A season of incredibly severe trials had begun, and he cursed the day he was born:

Obliterate the day I was born.
    Blank out the night I was conceived!
Let it be a black hole in space.
    May God above forget it ever happened.
    Erase it from the books!
May the day of my birth be buried in deep darkness,
    shrouded by the fog,
    swallowed by the night.
And the night of my conception—the devil take it!
    Rip the date off the calendar,
    delete it from the almanac.
Oh, turn that night into pure nothingness—
    no sounds of pleasure from that night, ever!
May those who are good at cursing curse that day
(Job 3:1-10 MSG).

Wow. An extreme reaction, don’t you think? But at that moment Job had forgotten his past blessings and wasn’t anticipating a better life in the days ahead.

I hope you  never have a melancholic birthday like Job was experiencing. But even if you do, his story provides good news—a happy ending!

God blessed Job’s later life even more than his earlier life…Job lived on another 140 years, living to see his children and grandchildren—four generations of them! Then he died—an old man, a full life (Job 42:12-17 MSG).

How cool that 140 years after Job wanted his life to end, everything had changed. He was experiencing a full, blessed life, all the way to the end.

So…I hope all your birthdays are happy ones. But even if they aren’t, you can find hope and comfort in the story of Job. God is a God of turnarounds and new beginnings. Your “later life” can be even more blessed than your earlier life!

Like Job, you may be facing pain in your body or losses of your property and relationships. But we’re told that “God restored his fortune—and then doubled it!” (Job 42:10 MSG). Yes, Job got double for all his trouble.

It may take 42 chapters, as it did for Job, but your story can have a happy ending too. You don’t have to get stuck in a melancholic birthday. The Lord can restore what you’ve lost—and even given you more.

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Defusing Your Emotional Land Mines

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My friend Ron is a divorced man in his 50s who has ventured into the world of online dating the past few years. He’s a good man who sincerely would like to find a new wife. But although he’s met a number of good prospects, each new relationship has exploded after a month or two, often suddenly and unexpectedly.

Ron typically explains the breakup in terms of “overemotional” or “hypersensitive” women. “They all say on their online profile that they’re baggage-free and drama-free,” he tells me with a grimace, “but they all have issues. They’re either kidding themselves or outright lying.”

Hmmm…interesting that guys always think it’s the women who have all the baggage.

While pondering Ron’s puzzling experiences, I remembered a news report I saw on the problem of land mines in Cambodia and Vietnam. Although the wars there ended decades ago, numerous land mines still remain, maiming and killing many innocent people each year.

The more I thought about these hazardous military land mines, the more I understood about the emotional land mines contributing to Ron’s situation.

A land mine is defined as “an explosive charge concealed just under the surface of the ground, designed to be detonated by pressure.” A minefield typically looks like an ordinary, harmless piece of land. It’s only when pressure is applied that the hidden mines are detonated, usually by completely innocent people who’ve unwittingly entered the danger zone.

So why haven’t all the unexploded bombs in Southeast Asia been removed by this time? Unfortunately, the people who laid the mines have often forgotten where they are. It’s a slow process to detect the unexploded mines with metal detectors or other devices, and great care must be taken not to unintentionally detonate the bombs while attempting to remove them.

Poor Ron, I thought to myself as I understood what had been happening. And even worse, I felt extremely sorry for the women he had dated. None of them deserved any of this.

But here are the sad facts about emotional minefields…

Just as the unexploded mines in Cambodia and Vietnam are the result of wars occurring 30, 40, or 50 years ago, we’ve all sustained emotional scars as we’ve walked through life. Many of them happened during our childhood, sometimes so early that we don’t even consciously remember the event. Other scars happened in our teen years or through shrapnel from a failed marriage.

Just like military land mines, our emotional land mines are detonated by pressure. At times the pressure comes through something like a health crisis, lost job, or financial setback. But as in Ron’s case, emotional land mines are frequently ignited when a person embarks on a close personal relationship.

Usually everything seems fine in the early stage of a relationship. But greater intimacy brings greater pressure. Like a ticking time bomb, the relationship is destined for detonation unless it can successfully cross the minefield of unresolved issues of the past.

Nothing is more bewildering than to detonate a land mine. One minute you’re walking innocently on a seemingly safe roadway, and the next minute you find yourself bleeding from an unforeseen explosion. You didn’t anticipate it…didn’t deserve it…but it happened anyway.

Although I’ve usually seen myself as an emotionally healthy person, I’ve been deeply jarred by Ron’s story. I’m horrified by the thought that my emotional land mines could detonate unexpectedly, doing great damage to someone I care about.

If you’re like Ron, hoping for a healthy new relationship, you should pray to find someone with lots of unconditional love. Why? Because land mines will inevitably be exposed in time. And to paraphrase 1 Peter 4:8, “Love covers a multitude of land mines.”

Also take some time, as I’ve been doing recently, to let God search your heart and expose hidden scars and forgotten minefields. You owe this to yourself and to those you love. Don’t let past wars and traumas sabotage the happiness of your present and future relationships.

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Reminded About Who I Really Am

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Have you ever had a “voice from the past” remind you about important aspects of who God created you to be?

That’s what happened recently when I was contacted by Matthew Donovan, a friend I hadn’t seen in the nearly 20 years since he moved away from Charlotte. We were able to spend several hours together at the Panera Bread Company, catching up on things and then praying for each other.

Part of the conversation was especially illuminating for me…

“Have you been speaking at many churches lately, Jim?” Matthew asked. Back when we were hanging out in the 1990s, he once traveled with me to minister in a church near Houston, Texas. I preached, he led worship, then we prayed for people and gave some input to the pastor. It was a very memorable and impactful time.

“No, I rarely speak at churches these days, Matthew,” I admitted. “Although I love to preach, the opportunities have been very few.”

“What about being a church consultant?” he queried. “You always enjoyed that sort of thing.”

“No, I’m not doing much of that either,” I said.

“Well, I know you’ve always had a heart to mentor young leaders,” Matthew reminded me. Back in the 1990s, he was one of those young leaders I tried to help and encourage.

“I have a few young guys I get together with, Matthew. Yet I surely would like to impact a lot more.”

You can pretty much see where the conversation was headed, but Matthew went on to ask a final question about my current activities.

“Have you written some good books in recent years, Jim?” he wanted to know. I think he may have remembered that I wrote my classic book on leadership many years ago, Walking the Leadership Highway—Without Becoming Roadkill!

“I’m writing more books than ever, Matthew,” I told him, “but only as a ghostwriter, not as the author.”

Our conversation was a surreal experience for me. Through his questions, my friend was reminding me of the person I used to be in days gone by. He was painting a clear and challenging picture of the Jim Buchan he used to know.

Reflecting on my time with Matthew, I’ve concluded that the Jim Buchan of today still has the very same passions, but somehow I’ve gotten off track the past decade or so. To make matters worse, I’m not really sure HOW I got off track, nor do I fully know what it will take to reverse course and revitalize my diminished vision and functionality.

At this point in the blog, you’re probably expecting me to write about some epiphany I’ve had about how to regain my lost calling. Well…stay tuned. Right now I don’t have any solution other than drawing near to the Lord and listening for His instructions on my new assignments. It’s clear that returning to my true calling must begin by a return to my “first love,” my personal relationship with Him (Revelation 2:1-4).

Surely I’m not the only one who has ever experienced this troubling sense of having drifted from my spiritual gifts and true calling. In fact, Paul advised his protégé Timothy, “Fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you”  (2 Timothy 1:6 NLT). Our spiritual embers inevitably grow cold in time if we neglect to maintain them.

What about you? Like King David, can you truly say you are serving the purpose of God in your own generation? (Acts 13:36 NASB) Are you serving in your true spiritual gifts and making the maximum impact on the lives of others?

If you have some advice for me on how to get back on track, I would love to hear from you. We’re in this together, after all. And I’m still hoping the rest of our life can be the best of our life.

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Rediscovering My ‘True North’

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When I was a kid, we didn’t have all the cool video games and technology of today. Some of my most memorable toys were marbles, magnifying glasses, and gyroscopes.

Recently when I was praying, God spoke a powerful message to me through two of my other childhood toys: a compass and a magnet.

First, I recalled the amazing attributes of a compass. When set on a level surface, the needle rather mysteriously points to “true north.” Somehow the compass detects and automatically points toward the invisible magnet field emitted by the North Pole.

But as I pondered this wondrous ability, the picture changed. I saw a compass surrounded by various magnets. The needle was spinning, no longer able to discern the correct direction of true north.

Like this compass, I realized I was in danger of losing my sense of true north. When I gave my life to Jesus and His Spirit came into my heart, I was given an internal guidance system much like a compass. And whenever I look time to quiet my heart and rid myself of external distractions, my spirit automatically pointed toward the Lord and my true north calling.

However, life is full of external magnet fields. While the compass needle initially points northward, it can be swayed by relationships, addictions, materialism, stress, and busyness. Many of us end up trying to please people rather than God. Or our lives become consumed with the quest for a paycheck so we can pay our bills. Even the good  things in our lives can emit magnetic fields that divert us from God’s highest will.

Let’s be honest: the North Pole is a lot farther away than the external magnets around us. Yes, the Lord is very near to us (and even in us), but the attraction from what we see, feel, touch, and taste can appear much stronger at times. And the voices of people often drown out the voice of the Lord.

So how can you regain your sense of true north if your compass needle is spinning out of control? What can you do when you detect confusion in your heart about God’s plan and purpose?

Periodically, you must leave behind all the external distractions and take a personal retreat. You need to make sure your internal compass needle isn’t being influenced by anything other than the Spirit of God.

When can you take time to do that?

I know, it’s difficult to find time to rediscover your true north. But what’s the alternative? Do you want to continue living a life that lacks direction, impact, and satisfaction?

One of the great benefits of finding true north is that the other directions become clear as well. Once you know which way is north, it’s easy to find east, south, and west. Your relationships and priorities are much easier to sort out once you’ve established which way you’re headed.

When you rediscover your true north, you’ll no longer drift through life like a sleepwalker. No longer confused or purposeless, you’ll gain new appreciation for Solomon’s advice about finding divine direction:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB).

Straight paths are only possible if you’re clear about where you’re going. And your internal GPS will only function properly if you’ve first established which way north is.

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The Parable of My Unbalanced Tires

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A few years ago I purchased a new set of tires for my car. They weren’t the highest-rated tires, but they came with a 60,000-mile warranty, which seemed like a safe bet at the time.

As I drove away, I patted myself on the back for getting such a great deal. It was good to know I wouldn’t have to deal with buying tires again for at least 60,000 miles.

Everything was fine as I drove down the road, 25 mph, 35 mph, and 50 mph. But when I took my new tires on the freeway, my satisfaction soon turned to dismay. At 60 miles per hour, the car began to bounce and shake. Not a good feeling at all.

At first I wondered if the stretch of freeway just had some rough spots. But no, there was nothing wrong with the road.

It turned out that my shiny new tires were unbalanced and had hidden defects. Rather than surviving for 60,000 miles, I had to quickly return to the tire shop and replace them with some better tires.

Many lessons can be gleaned from this dismal experience. You probably would point out that, in some ways, I got what I paid for. In the end, I would have saved both money and time by purchasing better tires in the first place.

However, another lesson has come to mind lately: My defective, unbalanced, cheap tires would have been just fine if I was content to only drive 25 miles an hour!  There wasn’t a noticeable problem until I pushed down on the accelerator and embarked on the freeway.

Do you see why this lesson goes far beyond the automotive realm? Look at these examples:

  • A person’s career may seem to be doing quite well when it’s only moving at a slow speed. But what happens when the speed increases, the responsibilities build, and the expectations rise? If there are latent imbalances or defects in the person’s character or capabilities, they’re exposed by this added stress, often in rather shocking ways.
  • It’s dangerous for a person to be raised up in ministry based on their charisma and gifts, without sufficient regard to proven character and experience. The harsh roadway of ministry will inevitably reveal character flaws and vulnerabilities that weren’t apparent when the person was merely coasting down the road.
  • When a new relationship forms between a man and a woman, things often are relatively easy in the early stages. But when superficiality is replaced by vulnerability, the underlying dysfunctions come to the surface. High speed in a relationship tends to carry with it an even higher risk, as the personal weaknesses of each person come to light, often in startling ways.

How does all of this apply to your  life right now? Are you already experiencing some turbulence because of dysfunctions and imbalances in your foundation? Is everything going smoothly at the moment, yet you’re playing it safe because of fear that trouble may be ahead if you venture out at higher speeds?

Although there isn’t always an easy way to test your “tires” before entering the freeway, David had it right when he prayed, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23-24 NASB).

You see, David was like a long-distance runner who knew he should get his heart checked out before trying to run a marathon. Lots of problems could be avoided if we prayed his prayer and followed his example.

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Silencing the Cicadas

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A few months ago, the Holy Spirit spoke a concise but powerful word to my heart during a personal retreat: “Jim, you need to silence the cicadas!”

If you’ve never been around any cicadas, you may want to visit YouTube and check them out. Cicadas are large, ugly insects that cluster together in trees to make an almost-deafening sound, especially at night.

The Lord advises us in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” But how do you do that when you’re surrounded by cicadas?

The cicadas can take a variety of forms today:

  • Our constant connectivity to our phones, emails, and social media.
  • The 24-hour news cycle, which seems to spew out a large percentage of “fake news,” slanted toward the political bias of the network.
  • A society where political correctness is on the rise, while personal analysis and investigation is quickly waning.

Although these surrounding noises are increasingly prevalent, the worst cicadas of all come from our own emotional baggage. It’s one thing to disconnect from societal noise from time to time in order to preserve our sanity. But what about the internal noises that so often threaten our peace and serenity?

Perhaps you’ve never thought of your internal noise as cicadas, but here are some examples:

  • Fears or insecurities that arise and drown out your faith and your ability to take risks.
  • Anxiety that drowns out your enjoyment of today and your confidence in a happy future.
  • Unforgivenss or bitterness that distorts how you see the people around you.

The next time you see me, I encourage you to ask me how things are going in silencing the cicadas in my life. Well, let’s just say it’s an ongoing process at this point…

Before you get too wrapped up in putting together your resolutions and goals for the coming year, you may want to take some time to quiet your heart. Dealing with the pesky cicadas—both externally and internally—is the best way to prepare for a great new year ahead!

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Ready for an Honest New Year’s Assessment?

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These 5 Connections Hold the Key to the Life You’ve Always Wanted

A pivotal moment in my life occurred around this time of year in 2010. My friend Don Wright and I were taking our usual walk around the track of Weddington High School, and I told him quite earnestly, “Don, some things have really got to change in my life next year.”

Don has a way of getting to the heart of a matter, and he reminded me of a sobering truth: “I think you said the same thing last year at this time, Jim!”

How terrible it was to see that many areas of my life had become STUCK. Year after year, I had complained. I vowed that things would be different in the coming months and year. Yet nothing really changed.

I hope you have a friend like Don Wright—someone able to provide a mirror to your life and hold you accountable to making the necessary changes to get unstuck. Otherwise, I have bad news: Your New Year’s resolutions are unlikely to bear much fruit.

But what if you’re not even sure about what’s wrong with your current life? Maybe you’re feeling apathetic and dissatisfied, but you don’t know where to start in diagnosing the problem or making any changes.

After years of studying what the Bible says about having an abundant and impactful life, I’ve concluded that these 5 areas hold the key:

CONNECTION TO GOD: Before you worry about any other changes in your life, this should be the starting place. Without a vital connection with the Lord as your “higher power,” your best efforts will surely fall short.

Since I work for a Christian ministry, you might think this area would never be a problem for me. Not true! I’ve discovered that even when you’re surrounded by “ministry,” your connection with God will be anemic unless you spend time cultivating your personal relationship with Him. There must be intentionality and a constant hunger to keep growing in your intimacy with the Lord.

CONNECTION WITH PEOPLE: Unless you’re a hermit, you already have a number of connections with other people. But are they the right people—those helping you become a better “you” so you can fulfill your highest calling in life? Perhaps you need to delete or minimize some relationships in your life, especially any that are toxic, negative, or overly draining.

In my case, although I have great friends, I find myself desiring to spend more time mentoring the next generation of leaders. I also would really value an older mentor in my own life. Once again, changes like these will require some intentionality on my part if they’re ever going to happen.

CONNECTION WITH TRUTH: In the early days of my Christian life, I spent lots of time studying the Bible, which helped provide me with a strong spiritual foundation ever since. However, I’ve slacked off in recent years. Instead of learning new things, I’ve been relying far too much on my previous studies.

Successful people are nearly always lifetime learners, continually reading, studying, and growing. What are your plans to keep learning and growing in the coming year?

CONNECTION WITH CHARACTER: Knowledge and hard work will only get you so far. Perhaps you need to deal with long-standing issues of character and maturity that have robbed you of joy and hindered your fruitfulness. Has an addiction been undermining your life, or do you need freedom from some negative emotion like fear, anger, or depression?

The Bible has a lot to say about the type of “fruit” coming from our lives (e.g., Matthew 12:33, Galatians 5:19-23, John 15:1-5). A new year is a great time to assess the quality of our fruit and do any pruning that may be necessary.

CONNECTION WITH SERVICE: God put each of us on this earth to make an impact in some way. An ingrown life is inevitably boring and unfulfilling, so it’s crucial to identify our place of service. Ideally, our service should flow from the spiritual gifts and passions the Lord has given us, but sometimes we’ll be called upon just to fill a need we see. As we reach out to bless others, more of God’s blessings are released in our own lives as well (Genesis 12:2, Acts 20:35).

I encourage you to assess these 5 areas of your life as you head into the new year. And if you’re in some kind of leadership or management role, you can encourage your team members to grow in these areas too.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

I’ve developed an entire curriculum around these 5 connections, complete with an assessment test to see how you’re presently doing in each area. If you make a tax-deductible gift of any amount to Crosslink Ministries by clicking the DONATE button above, I will be happy to email you some of these great discipleship resources upon request.   

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The Surprising Christmas Story in John’s Gospel

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7 Life-Changing Christmas Facts in the First Chapter of John

When we think about the Christmas story, we usually start with the Gospel of Luke and Gospel of Matthew. There we see the shepherds, the magi, and the angel Gabriel’s stunning declaration to Mary. Other colorful characters appear, including Elizabeth and Zacharias, Simeon and Anna.

But John’s Gospel presents the rest of the story. As the final of the four Gospel accounts, it reveals the deeper meaning of the events in Bethlehem that first Christmas.

In the first chapter of John, we see 7 important facts about the true meaning of Christmas…

  1. Christmas is about eternity, not just about Bethlehem.

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 nothing was made that was made.

You see, Christmas didn’t start with Gabriel’s appearance to Mary or with the manger scene. The Son of God stepped out of eternity as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Numerous Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled by Him, and these amazing predictions came through several different people over the course of five centuries from 1000 to 500 BC. Twenty-four specific prophecies were fulfilled in just the 24 hours before Jesus’ death.

Just as your Heavenly Father could look down through the centuries and foresee the details of Jesus’ life, nothing in your life is catching Him by surprise. The same God who fulfilled His promises in intricate detail in the life of His Son Jesus will be faithful to fulfill every promise of His Word for YOU today!

  1. Christmas has been under attack since its inception, but Jesus and His message are invincible, destined to prevail.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not [overcome] it.

King Herod massacred babies in an attempt to eliminate the newborn King (Matthew 2:16-18). Throughout history, others have tried to diminish the memory or message of the Messiah.

But John’s Gospel points out the wonderful fact that darkness is powerless to overcome the light. That’s very good news if you are facing some kind of darkness in your  life today.

  1. Although we love the Christmas stories about Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, and the magi (people who loved Jesus), many people either were unaware of Jesus’ coming or else completely rejected Him.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.

Even today, there still are billions of people in the world who have never heard the name of Jesus even once. Others know about Him, but have rejected His message.

Instead of being offended by this rejection or taking it personally, we should be motivated all the more to proclaim the name of Jesus, the only One who can save humanity from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

  1. Christmas ultimately is not just about a baby born in a manager; it’s about His power to give a new birth to anyone who receives Him as Lord and Savior.

12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

As C.S. Lewis well said, “The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.” Our physical birth is not enough, Jesus told religious leader Nicodemus. We must receive a spiritual birth too, being “born again” in order to see and enter God’s kingdom (John 3:1-7).

  1. Christmas is the story of Immanuel, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14), and His presence is always characterized by both grace and truth.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

God loved the world so much that He didn’t just send a letter, a postcard, an email, or an Instagram. He became flesh, personally stepping into our world.

In contrast to the example of many of His followers today, Jesus was full of BOTH grace and truth. This is a great reminder that we’re called to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)—never shrinking back from sharing the truth, but always communicating it with grace.

  1. Christmas would be a meaningless event if it hadn’t been for Jesus’ death and resurrection.

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

The baby in Bethlehem grew up! John the Baptist accurately discerned His calling as God’s sacrificial Lamb—the Savior who was born to die (Isaiah 53).

  1. Christmas illustrates the promise of an open heaven, with God not only sending His Son, but also every other blessing we need (Ephesians 1:3, Philippians 4:19).

49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

Jesus was referring to Jacob’s vision of an open heaven, with a ladder between the heavenly and earthly realms (Genesis 28). As John’s Gospel unfolds, we’re told clearly that Jesus Himself is the ladder or bridge to heaven, and there is no other pathway but Him (John 14:6).

Yet Christmas is about more than just getting people to heaven. Jesus also brought some of heaven down to US, and He told us to pray for heaven to be revealed through our own lives as well (Matthew 6:10).

Along with Jesus, we’re privileged to receive everything else that’s included in God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:33). That’s why Paul could say in Romans 8:32, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us ALL things?”

This Christmas, I hope you’ll remember that the God who loved you enough to give you His Son will also hear your prayers and give you the other things you need in life. The next time you hear someone say, “Merry Christmas,” keep in mind that it’s not just about a historical event in Bethlehem. It’s a transcendent reality meant to change your life today—and your future in eternity as well.

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