Is the remix ever as good as the original? What about new words set to the same music?
One of my favorite things about Christmas is the music reserved for Yuletide—the familiar melodies we play and sing for a few weeks each year before we pack them away with the lights and porcelain nativity to be brought out and enjoyed again the next. Some are sacred and some are just for fun, while others aren’t really about Christmas at all. (Jingle Bells? Sleigh Ride? Walking in a Winter Wonderland?) The ever-popular Carol of the Bells falls somewhere in between. The majesty of its symphonic arrangement points to the Divine and the joyful lyrics hint at the Real Reason for the season, but it stays clear of the category of church music. Such a beautiful song...but do you know about the “other” version?
Originally a Ukranian carol about the New Year, Carol of the Bells (the English Version) was copywritten in 1936. A variant called Ring, Christmas Bells, written by Minna Louise Hohman, was copywritten in 1947, and its main message isn’t about bells, but about Jesus. (Here’s a popular rendition, recorded in 1962 by the Ray Conniff Singers.)
I never realized there was another version until this year. Imagine my excitement when I was listening to what I thought was Carol of the Bells and heard the line “Jesus is King!” on a secular radio station!
Comparing the versions, we find that both are beautiful and jubilant. The wonderful music is the same. They both speak of bells. But only one gives credit where credit is due. Only one proclaims the truth of the Christmas season. And we see the same concept in the lives of people and in the culture around us. Many will celebrate Christmas as a happy holiday, a joyful time of year to be with loved ones. But only some will acknowledge Him. Only some will actually celebrate the life-altering truth of "Unto you is born this day a Saviour!"
It goes beyond Christmas. It’s the difference between someone asking you to send “good vibes” and asking you to petition Heaven on their behalf. It's the difference between being a "positive person" and having the joy of Lord. So, I ask- what version does the world see when they look at you? Do you proclaim that Jesus is the source of Joy in your life, or do you assume it’s somehow implied?
Let's make Him known this Christmas. We can still enjoy Carol of the Bells. It certainly has its place. But take time to sing the other version, too. Sing out "Jesus is King!" with your life and celebrate the gift of His coming, at Christmas and all year long.
You open the mailbox and there's a card addressed to you. Someone's throwing the party of the century, and you're invited to attend! Whether you can make it or not, an invitation has been extended, and the sender deserves a response.
Jesus has extended many different kinds of invitations. Some of them even believers ignore. What will you do with your invitations? Respond affirmatively; say no thank you; or, ignore them?
Let's look at just a few of the things He invites us to "come" and do, from the examples of Scripture:
Jesus invites us to come and be saved, rest and be satisfied in Him, fellowship with Him, and inherit eternal life. What is your response? Please be polite. Don't ignore the invitations.
This devotion was adapted from notes for "Come Unto Me", a sermon by my father, Bobby W. Norman. He preached this great sermon at Central Full Gospel Church in State Road, NC on 9/16/18. I have consolidated and condensed several points from the message.
What is the essence of a person?
The dictionary defines "essence" as "the properties or attributes by means of which something can be placed in its proper class or identified as being what it is" and "the most significant element, quality, or aspect of a thing or person".
In the book of Matthew, we find a familiar story that describes the essence of Jesus:
And, behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole. But Jesus turned him about, and when he saw her, he said, Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole. And the woman was made whole from that hour. Matthew 9:20-22
A significant part of Jesus' essence is His power. His miracles help us identify Him as God. Certainly, the healing virtue didn't come from the garment. Jesus didn't wear a magical cloak, neither do I believe that his power was actually transferred to the fabric. I believe if the woman had reached out and come up ten feet short of touching the hem of his garment, she still would have been made whole. Because what she grabbed wasn't just the hem of His garment, it was the "Him" of his garment. Her faith wasn’t in the clothes. It was in who Jesus’ was, His identity as God in flesh. And her faith resulted in a miracle.
This story displays not only Jesus' power, but two other traits that describe his essence: He is omniscient and compassionate. People pressed in from all sides, yet He knew who had reached out in faith. He picked her out of the mob. And He had compassion on her, encouraging her to "be of good comfort". He reassured her that her faith had worked.
We may be reaching for His garment, for something that we need from Him, but we first need to grab hold of who Jesus really is. Meditate on his essence. Trust in his power, rely on his omniscience, and rest in his compassion.
It's easy to understand, breathing is necessary for life. God's design for all creatures includes standard functions, including respiration.
As a child, I had mild asthma which first presented at age seven when I had my tonsils removed and required oxygen after the sedative gas triggered breathing difficulty. Throughout my youth, asthma episodes were minor nuisances, usually brought on by physical activity. I used an inhaler only during P.E., and was never really sure if my shortness of breath was from being out of shape or truly because of asthma.
Fast-forward to age twenty-six. I hadn't carried an inhaler in years. Never needed one. Asthma was something "I used to have as a kid". Until pregnancy. Hormonal changes during my first pregnancy brought the condition back into my life with a vengeance. With each baby, my asthma either worsened or got a little better, but never left. Now after three pregnancies, it's a pretty regular part of my daily life. I never go anywhere without an inhaler, and it is a necessity often. Colds can trigger a bad asthma flare that requires steroid injections and pills, as happened recently, just to return my breathing to normal.
There is nothing like the relief of taking a complete lung-filling, complication-free breath after an episode of breathing difficulty. It feels miraculous. It makes me feel so grateful, so in awe of life!
Just as we couldn't understand love if there were no evil, or appreciate the beauty of life without pain, I never appreciated and understood the awesomeness of one clear, deep breath until the first time as an adult when I struggled to breathe.
One of the scariest moments of my life was during Sarah's delivery. The spinal block went high, and I couldn't feel my chest for a few minutes. The anesthesiologist told me I was breathing, but my brain told me otherwise, and it was a terrifying feeling for a few minutes.
In a way, it's like the difference between being spiritually lost and being saved.
Genesis 2:7 says, "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Every living soul is born of the breath of God, but every soul does not automatically have the breath of eternal life.
John 20, verse 2 says that after Jesus' resurrection, when he visited the disciples, "he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost". This was a new kind of life-giving breath from God.
Before Christ, we may have been inhaling and exhaling, but after Christ, we breathe deeply and experience the fullness and completeness of life in Him.
I'm not a very patient person. I think I get it from my father. Or, at least, since he has the same character flaw, I can claim it's a learned behavior or some undiscovered genetic predisposition and give myself an out. But I guess it really doesn't work that way.
The older I get, the worse my impatience grows. I generally show grace, but often fail when it comes to customer service hold times and waiting for a table at restaurants.
Lately, I find myself waiting for a lot of things.
The writing-related things on my list are normal. Just part of the process. So, I'm not complaining. No one has dropped the ball or has been too lax about anything. They are working on multiple projects for different authors, not just me. I'm just impatient.
The last item on the list, simply by nature of the process, takes a long time, too, although it's frustrating.
But I had a revelation today: I need to be waiting on something even more important than the things on my list. The words of Jesus in John 14:30 reveal the thing I should anticipate most anxiously.
"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also."
It's so easy to forget, or take for granted, or push to the back of our minds, the promise of Christ's return. But the expectation of His second-coming is fundamental to our faith. We are waiting. Not just waiting, but in a constant state of waiting, watching, and working, as we continue to live and enjoy the life He has given us.
I'm in a season of waiting now. But that's where I should live! Expectant!
When I stop and put things into perspective, the nearer-every-day reality of my blessed hope as a believer should make me more patient when it comes to all the other, lesser expectations in this life season. I'm thankful that, as with Jesus' return, God controls the times and the seasons. Everything works out for good, no matter my perceptions of "on time", "quickly", "slowly", or "delay". I need to trust God's timing every second of my life, even when I have to wait longer than I'd like for a book layout, a life-changing situation, or a pizza buffet. And may we all wait together anxiously for His coming.
We recently compounded the crazy in our house by adding a fourth furry friend to the family. The current dynamic is two parents, three kids, two cats, and two dogs, and the newest member has been an interesting life change.
My husband and I hadn’t dealt with the joys and trials of a puppy in a long time, since our good girl Maggie is far past that stage. Enter a sweet yellow lab mix we both couldn’t resist. His name is Rico, and since we brought him home, this now five-month-old, fifty-two pound puppy has taught me some things about who I am and who I want to be.
Rico is not 100% house-trained. He's learning quickly, but he's still a puppy, and he sometimes has "accidents" in the house. The most frustrating thing about potty training a dog is going a couple of days without any puddles or unpleasant surprises, getting excited about the break-through, then walking into the kitchen to find another mess. Three steps forward and two steps back in the process is discouraging.
While it might be the MOST UNUSUAL COMPARISON I've ever made, Rico's shortcomings remind me of myself. I've been a Christ-follower for a long time. I ought to know how this whole thing works, right? I know what sin is, and I should know how to avoid it. But do I always do the right thing? No, I make mistakes just like Rico. Maybe (definitely) not just like his mistakes, but I can easily find myself in a stinky situation when I'm not Christ-like in my words, thoughts, or actions, and this reality makes me want to be show Rico a little grace.
But there's at least one way in which I aspire to be like my lab. This dog is always by my side. If I'm on the couch, he's on the couch. If I'm working in the kitchen, he's in the kitchen. If I let him outside to potty in the fenced backyard, he won't go unless we come out and stand with him. He'll stay on the deck and bark to be let back in. He doesn't want to be left alone, or maybe he doesn't want me to be alone. Either way, he is loyal; a steadfast companion. He likes to be near me.
James 4:8 says, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you..." When we just nudge in close to the Father, he tucks in close to us right back. May I strive to stay near Him, never leave His side. Drawing close to God through reading the Word, praying, and meditating on Him is how I learn to be more like Him and avoid those "messes" that my sin makes. May I be even more loyal to the Lord than my dog is to me.
Thanks, Rico, for the lesson.
1.) Your mother loves you with all her heart.
2.) You are wonderful.
3.) Jesus Loves you.
I made this list for my children because it's important. These are the things I want them to remember when life gets tough. These are the truths I want them to carry into adulthood. To one day teach their children. To hold in their hearts even after I'm gone.
We practice the list sometimes. I quiz them on it: "What are the three things I want you to always remember?" They often respond with some paraphrased version of what I've taught them. But I'll take it.
It makes me think, if Jesus had a similar list, what would it look like? What does He want us to carry always? To never forget, no matter where we are in life? Based on Scripture, here's what I think He wants us to remember:
1.) I love you.
2.) Don't worry.
3.) You are valuable.
He said "I love you" by leaving the beauty of heaven, taking on human flesh, and being born into this world. To be near us. To walk among us. To know us.
He says "don't worry" over and over in the Bible. Don't worry about food, clothes, tomorrow (Matthew 6). Will we listen? He says "my peace I give to you" (John 14:27). Will we take it?
He said "you are valuable" on the cross, by redeeming us with his blood- a payment more precious than silver or gold (1 Peter 1).
When life gets complicated, go back to the list. It's proven in the Word. Hold it close to your heart. Meditate on the simple truths He wants you to remember.
My youngest child is mischievous, and hyper, and often unruly, but he is one of the wisest people I know. He has a profound understanding of God, and an amazing commitment to follow Him. Only four when he made a profession of faith in Jesus, he was baptized before he was five and a half.
Daniel wanted to be the first one in the river, and there wasn’t a hint of nervousness on his face until he got into position to be dunked. He panicked a bit but rallied quickly, and he came out of the water smiling. Later that day, this is what he told me:
“I just kept telling my brain, I’ve made up my mind.”
Wow. What resolve! He made up his mind and was determined to follow through.
It reminds me of a song I've loved since childhood which says, “I’ve got my foot on the rock and my mind’s made up.” My aunt sings it often in our church, and she delivers the song's message so powerfully. (I don’t have a video of her singing it, but here’s another good version for you to enjoy: Bowling Family YouTube Video)
When we’ve decided to do anything that we know to be the will of God, we have to follow through. Jesus said, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 NKJV) In a world full of wishy-washy, flip-floppers, it's important for us to have made-up minds.
I’ve started and stopped many projects. Sometimes I get excited about an idea and the next day it’s a distant memory. But I hope I will stay committed to the things that really matter. I want to be steadfast and immovable, like the scripture encourages: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV)
Certainly, I wouldn't have been upset if my son had decided not to be baptized that day. It was his choice to make. But his courage to follow through is an inspiration to me, and I hope it is to you. When you feel like turning back on the task to which you've been called, just remind yourself you've made up your mind!
An actor looks at his script and begins to read a scene from the second act. Because he jumped into the middle of the plot, he doesn't have enough knowledge of the character's backstory and mindset to perform the role believably. He can only infer the correct emotions based on the dialogue.
"What's my motivation?" the actor asks the director. "How did my character get to this point in his journey? What's his story?"
As Christians, we are instructed to do some pretty big things. The Bible says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself." (Luke 10:27) Of course, we do this with the help of the Holy Spirit, but as we strive to live out this verse, it helps to look at our motivation. Why do we love, serve, and obey Him? What pushes us to keep going?
The Word makes our motivation clear: "We love him, because he first loved us." (1 John 4:19) He loves us! That's what should motivate us more than anything to follow Him. Especially since we didn't have to earn His love, and we certainly didn't deserve it. Romans 5:8 says, "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Whenever the journey seems hard and you find yourself asking "Why should I?" do this or "Why should I?" do that, remember your motivation: He loves you. The God of the universe loves you unconditionally, and that's enough to keep you going.
There are some big promises in the Word of God, and sometimes I think we miss them. Maybe we just get so caught up trying to fill our scripture quota that we miss the truth of what God is saying to us. But I found a really big promise this week, wrapped up in two itty-bitty words: All things. Through His word, I want to look at how God has promised us EVERYTHING (all things) we will ever need.
One of my favorite verses has always been Romans 8:28, which assures us that “all things” work together for good to those who love God. But my study on our sufficiency in God came from 2 Peter 1:3. Here we find that God has “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” through the knowledge of Jesus. He has given us all things! That’s a big thought! When we know Jesus, we are fully equipped with everything we need, not only to live, but to live godly lives.
The promise of total sufficiency through God began in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 9:3 says, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” This is an example of God not holding any good thing back. He provided completely.
This idea of abundance in Christ has nothing to do with a “prosperity gospel”. That’s a very narrow way to look at the blessings of God. The Bible says, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;"(1 Timothy 6:17) What does “all things” mean? What exactly do we have? I believe it means literally everything. We have access to everything we could possibly need or want, according to His will. The sky is the limit...if God wills it. And if He doesn’t will it, I don’t want it!
Another of my favorite passages is this beautiful sermon from the Apostle Paul found in Acts 17: "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring." (Acts 17:24 – 28)
He made everything, he owns everything, and he gives everything to us as his children. Bottom line—when you have Jesus, you have everything.
Check out these other applicable “all things” verses: Psalm 8:6; Philippians 4:13; Matthew 19:26; Matthew 6:33; 1 Corinthians 3:21
What do they mean to you? I'd love for you to share in the comments!
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