I Am My Father’s Stage Name

Today (April 18th) marks 6 years since my father passed. 

I miss him greatly, but thankfully, most of my mourning has passed, and my heart has moved on to celebration. 

I attempted that transition mere months after he passed when I wrote the book, “I am my father’s son”.  There I wrote this small tribute to him entitled, “I am my father’s stage name”.  I hope you enjoy it…

Somewhere in the mid to late 60’s, my father packed up the family (I was not born yet) and moved to California.  Reportedly, Dad did this for two reasons:  my mother’s asthma would improve on the West Coast and Dad wanted to be an actor.

Hearing these stories and looking at the pudgy, balding man who told them, I always scratched my head.  

Actor?  Are you kidding me?

But he gave it a shot.  Though he doesn’t have an IMDB profile, he did some modeling (???) and had a few gigs.  But one of the things his agent told him was that he had to change his name.

Thomas Duncan was taken. Thom Duncan was taken.

For a while, he went by the name Duke Duncan as we had an uncle who played pro baseball by that name, but his agent said that Duke was John Wayne, and dad couldn’t use it.

So, my father became Gordon Duncan for a period of time. 

Legend has it, my parents were at a swanky dinner party one night, and over the course of the evening, Mom called him “Thom”, “Duke”, and “Gordon”.  She couldn’t keep up.

At this point in the storytelling, Mom would always say that she was sure that everyone at the party thought she was some floozy that Dad picked up because she didn’t know his name.

Dad always smiled at this and kept telling stories.

Well, the acting career didn’t work out, and the Duncan crew moved back across America.  A few years later, I was born.  They named me Gordon.

I am my father’s stage name.  

I’ve always thought of it as something pretty cool, but somewhere in my twenties, I realized that my naming was something that I needed to live up to and not just be nostalgic about.

Honoring my father meant honoring the name he gave me.  It meant joyfully living out some of his dreams.  Now, my father never pressured me into any job or endeavor.

Never.  I mean it.

He didn’t place on me the “Be a pastor like me” or “Be a musician like me” or any of that.  I was free to be who I wanted which is pretty rare these days.

But as I matured, and I saw God draw similar lines in my life like He drew in my father’s, I gladly walked in paths that my father frontiered.  

I am happily my Father’s stage name.

I ask God to enable me to honor both my heavenly Father and my earthly father in the doing…

Thanks for walking down memory lane with me.  If you would like to hear more about Sam, as I called him, I recently recorded an episode of my podcast about him, and as always, you pick up a copy of “I am my father’s son” on Amazon.

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready. 

If you want to follow more of what’s going on with Gordon, check out the website www.jgordonduncan.com and his recently launched podcast at

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Easter and Your Fragile Relationships

Please enjoy this excerpt from the Gospel Rich Book’s release, “It is Finished”.

Relationships, even the strongest of them, are fragile things.  At work, you can be rocking and rolling along, hitting all of your goals, getting good reviews, and then one day your boss doesn’t interact with you like he or she normally does, and you think, “Uh oh, is my job in jeopardy?”

When parents correct their children, even when they do it biblically, a child can still think, “Mom and Dad are upset with me.  Do they still love me?”

But it is probably Mom and Dad, husband and wife, who have to work through these insecurities the most.  We ask questions like:

“Honey, do these jeans make me look fat?

“Do you still think I’m pretty?”

“Don’t you appreciate all the hard work I do for this family?”

Sometimes, there is great fear attached: “Are you cheating on me?”

I’m hesitant to give too specific examples because I fear it might dredge up fears that you have finally conquered.  But the reason I mention this is that so often, we structure our lives around the fears we have in relationships.  Our lives are governed by the “eithers”.

We either slavishly give ourselves over to try to win people’s approval or at times we stand as far back emotionally as we can from folks to say, “I don’t need you.”

Either direction you take there, you are living your life based upon your relationships with others.

Either slavishly going after approval or standing off from others – either one is still saying, “Hey I am directly based on you.

Either you are loving me or I’m proving to you I don’t need you, I’m still basing things off of you.”

These patterns cause so much damage:  alcoholism, porn addiction, co-dependency, slavish work habits to prove you can provide.  Entire personalities are built around these issues.  Whew, it sounds almost like there is no hope in these things.  And I will say, “There isn’t except for one thing, and that one thing is Jesus.”

As we approach Easter where we gather to celebrate Christ’s finished work for us on the cross, we need to recognize that Christ has made our relationship with the Father secure.  Every single thing necessary for you to be loved, accepted, and forgiven, Jesus has done.  You don’t need to, and cannot, add one thing to what Christ has done for you.

That truth, that realization, should give you rest, should enable you to find that peace that you have never had in any other relationship and it should also free you up to love and live in other relationships with vitality.  The question is, “Do you believe Jesus has accomplished everything for you?  Do you live out that belief?”

“It Is Finished”  is a sweet meditation of the scriptures surrounding the events from Good Friday all the way to resurrection morn.  You can find it here.

The second is “Easter – Simple Sermon Solution”.  This book follows the same themes, but its focus it to help any who might have the privilege of speaking or leading a Bible study around the Easter Season.  It offers a great methodology for organization and delivery.  You can find it here.

No matter what, please take this Easter season to rejoice yet again for the finished work of Christ.  It is our sole hope and joy for this world and the world to come.

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.

If you want to follow more of what’s going on with Gordon, check out the website www.jgordonduncan.com and his recently launched podcast at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/this-is-gonna-hurt-the-podcast-of-j-gordon-duncan/id1356352968

 

 

 

The Gospel of a Runner’s Sacrifice

Acts of selfless charity are rare these days.  Sometimes, they make the biggest impact, and no thanks is even possible.  It is in those moments, we are most reminded of God’s grace and goodness.

This past weekend, I ran the Emerald Isle Marathon.  My goal was to qualify for the Boston Marathon, and to do that, I needed to run 26.2 miles in 3:24:59.  Along the way, I wanted to honor God, inspire my family/friends, and give hope to other epilepsy fighters out there.

I qualified by less than 30 seconds, and I have an anonymous Good Samaritan to thank.

The Emerald Isle Marathon is small.  There are typically less than 100 runners, and this year, there were only 73.  Despite the race’s size, there were lots of folks helping out along the course to make sure everyone was hydrated and making the correct turns.  That’s where my story begins.

Somewhere around mile 6 or 7, I made a turn, grabbed water on the run, and nearly ran into a young boy on a bicycle.  My first reaction was frustration, but I decided to just keep my head down and not let it worry me.  A few moments later, someone tapped me on the shoulder.  It was a runner who I had just passed.  Apparently, the young boy on the bike was there to make sure that no one missed the turn.  I didn’t know that and had run off course.

I quickly turned around and thanked the runner for her selfless act.  She didn’t have to come after me.  She could have just run her race.  By doing what she did, she sacrificed her time, and I passed her again soon after.  I have no idea what would have happened to me if she hadn’t run me down.  I would have continued in the wrong direction to I have no idea what.  I’m sure I would not have qualified without her help.  As it was, I qualified with less than 30 seconds to spare as it was.

After I crossed the finish line, I looked for her because I wanted to say thank you.  Unfortunately, after an hour of looking at every finisher I could, I never saw her to say thanks.  I hope she finished and met her goals like she enabled me to do.

Showing kindness and being selfless is rare these days.  This runner’s kindness was a sacrifice of her time for the sake of me, a stranger.  In the Gospel, Christ sacrificed Himself for me, and I was something more alien than a stranger.  I was His enemy. And while I will not be able to say thanks to that runner, I want to live my life thanking Jesus and reflecting his selflessness to others…just like that one runner did for me.

If you want to follow more of what’s going on with Gordon, check out the website www.jgordonduncan.com and his recently launched podcast at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/this-is-gonna-hurt-the-podcast-of-j-gordon-duncan/id1356352968

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.

 

 

Gordon Goes To Vegas Part Four – Final Recap

You can read my earlier recaps of Gordon Goes to Vegas at Day One, Day Two, and Day Three.

I woke Day Four in Vegas knowing that it was going to be a long haul ahead.  This day of the 10XGrowthCon was packed, and I was flying all night long back to VA.  But I was no less excited as there were a few of my favorite speakers on the docket.

I began my day with 25 minutes of stretching in the hotel room because I knew I was going to be sitting a ton in the next 36 hours.  Feeling great, I packed up my hotel room and checked out.  Thankfully, one of my three buddies from the day prior invited me to meet for omelets again.  A genuine friendship was established.  We talked about ministry, business, and family struggles and have kept up since the event.  That alone was one of the best takeaways from the trip.

With all that done, I headed into the event. Coach Burt began the day.  Don’t know Coach Burt?  He is a former high school teacher and present social entrepreneur/coach.  I loved him.  He was less, “Let me sell you my product,” and more, “I want to see you grow in each and every area of your life.” His genuineness from a stage to 9,000 people made me examine the way I speak, causing me to wonder if I connect with my 100 folks like he did to thousands.

Tim Storey spoke soon after.  Tim Storey is often called Hollywood’s pastor, preaching each week in the hills and even spending time as Oprah’s life coach.  His message was upbeat, genuinely faith-filled, and inspirational.  I am not much for clichés, but sometimes a crowd just connects with them.  He talked about how, once you achieve goals and move into a new area of growth and faith, you don’t want to go backward.  He said, “Once you’ve touched the flames, you can’t live in the smoke.”  Not how I would say it but, wow, 9,000 people ate it up.  I was fortunate enough to meet Tim later in the day.  He made a point to tell me that he was emphasizing faith in this conference, and he hoped it made an impact.  I believe it did.

Following Tim Storey was Lewis Howes.  Lewis is the host of the “School of Greatness” podcast.  I love this podcast and have listened to nearly episode.  Lewis’ quiet humility and confidence are infectious.  His story of missing out on the NFL because of an Arena Football injury and living on his sister’s couch is inspiring.  His talk was a bit similar to others I have heard, but it was fun and full of energy.  Just by chance, as I was walking around the arena to stretch my legs, I bumped into Lewis.  He and I had a real conversation. Lewis’ father is dying, so I asked how he was doing.  I shared the story of losing my father.  It was a nice moment and probably my favorite of the whole trip.

There were other speakers, but I will admit after 24 plus hours of talks, I was beginning to lose focus.  When the time came, I headed to the airport.  If you paid, there was another day of speakers, but I chose not to pay and stay.  I headed to the airport for the long trip home.  I got through security easily which never happens to me, and I walked around talking to Amy and the girls.  Processing had already started because I didn’t want this to just be another conference without any real change happening.

I settled in for the long wait for my flight.  I was sleepy which made me hopeful for dozing off on the plane.  That wasn’t going to happen.

On my flight, I was stuck way at the back.  After an hour or so in the air, I dozed off.  About 15 minutes later, I woke up with a start.  The stewardesses were literally handing a fellow passenger up over everybody, crowd-surfing style, to the front.  He was unconscious.  Anyone who was still awake (or awoken) was shaken.  I eventually found out that the young man fell into unconsciousness, and they were trying to revive him.  He was reportedly alright.

After what felt like the longest night in the world, we landed.  From landing to home took 2 hours.  With just a tiny bit of sleep, I needed to stay awake for the drive home.  Thankfully, my Uber driver was talkative.  A young Nigerian man, he spoke of faith and opened up about the questions of Catholicism versus Protestantism.  Thankful for the conversation, I still struggled to stay awake.  When he dropped me off at my car (with another 40 minutes of drive time ahead), he kindly asked if I was going to be okay.  I was, but barely.  I got home and slept for 3 hours.

All in all, I’m glad I went to the 10XGrowthCon, and I would like to go next year.  I doubt I will ever find a ticket that cheap again, though rumor has it that the conference will be in Miami which would be nice.  I think the talks and notes will continue to affect me, and I imagine processing them here and on my upcoming podcast, “This is Gonna Hurt”.  Look for it on iTunes.

We’ll see what the long-range benefit of the conference was, but I know I’m changed in many ways from the talks, the sharing of the gospel, the lessons in public speaking, and lots more.

Thanks for reading all of these updates.  Feel free to interact with any thought you might have.

Gordon

You can find all of Gordon’s adventures at www.jgordonduncan.com

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.

Happy New Year! Here are Three Tips to Help You Get Started

Happy New Year!  I hope your holiday season was enjoyable for your family.  I also hope that you have had the time to reflect on the past year and pray for the new.

As you think about the New Year, did your hopes come to fruition?  Did you enjoy your time with your family?  Do you feel like you were faithful and able to honor God in 2017?  Are you making plans for 2018?

Planning is not condemned by God.  Instead, we are only asked to present our plans to God to be sifted by His will.  For example, James says:

James 4:13-15,“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life?  For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’” 

Knowing these things to be true, the real question for the New Year is, “What are you going to do to achieve the highest joy while being as faithful to God as possible?”  We offer this encouragement:  Plan your days to align with your goals.

Take some time and design what you want your life and work to look like.  Then align your life around those goals.  Follow the “Streamlining” pattern.  Take time each day to:

Reduce – These are planned times when you focus on one singular, important task at a time.  You will get so much more done when you reduce distractions.

Reuse – These are planned times when you multi-task on things that you can do at the same time.  For example, meet your goals of exercising and listening to podcasts by doing them simultaneously.

Rest – Even if it is for 15 mins, plan moments in your day where you can rest.  Remove all distractions, nap, walk, just do whatever it takes to find rest so you can be the best you.

Doing these things will transform every aspect of your life.

Gospel Rich Books has partnered with ProSight Success (a business resource publisher) to help you accomplish these plans.  This joint partnership is a book called “Streamlining” which is intended to help you plan your days around the Reduce, Reuse, Rest cycle.  Originally, it was published as part of a 7-book system for Optometrists, but for the New Year, we are offering “Streamlining” in e-book format for $19.99.  Get your copy here.

Additionaly, we have created the “Streamlining” planner which enables you to plan your days with the Reduce, Reuse, Rest pattern.  This great planner is fully customizable and is also $19.99.  Grab your copy here.  Once you order yours, if you email us proof of purchase, we will email you a digital copy of the “Streamlining” book for free.

However, you approach the New Year, we hope you find great joy with your family and in your relationship with God.

If you want to pursue any of the other Gospel Rich Books for your New Year, you can find them at our Amazon page.

Look for emails and posts regularly.  Also, if you are interested in publishing your own book, email us at gordon@jgordonduncan.com.

We can’t wait to serve you.

Gospel Rich Books

Contemplation and Joy – A Christmas Devotional

Have you ever experienced something that moved you to both quiet contemplation and boisterous celebration? I think those moments are pretty rare, but when they happen, they are pretty special. These are those moments that have depth thus requiring great thought and they also have an overwhelming sense of jubilation that require you to tell everyone in the world about it.

  • The birth of a child is like that. You are overwhelmed with the intensity of the moment while also wanting to call everyone you know.
  • Graduating from High School or College can be like that. Your hard work has paid dividends, but now you have to get a job or grow up a bit.
  • Getting married should also take on those same qualities. This other person actually wants to spend their life with you, but now you have to love them and no one else forever.

The exuberant jubilation is easy. We learned how to jump up and down for joy starting all the way back with games of kickball or even checkers. But learning to be quiet and contemplate is not generally most people’s strong point. Because of that, we often do not process or grow in light of meaningful experiences. We often just don’t know what to do with them.

Make it a complex experience that requires both joy and deep thought, and we might just jump up and down and leave the deep thought for someone else.

Well, this week, we are going to look at the birth of Jesus, and that my friends, requires both celebration and contemplation. We need to do the hard work of both honestly celebrating while also mining the depths of riches that are in this experience. So, as we approach the holiday season, we should ask how we can celebrate the Christmas season with both joy and contemplation?  Luke 2 helps us.

Luke 2:8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 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. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

I love the setting of the proclamation of Jesus’ birth. Jesus himself speaks to it later on his ministry when He said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor; to set free the downtrodden to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Jesus arrived to proclaim the favor of God to the poor.

Now plenty of ink has been spilled about who the poor is. Is it spiritually or physically poor? Well, Jesus lets us know in His Sermon on the Mount. He says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God.” But we also learn from the focus of Jesus’ ministry that He spent great deal of time with the physically poor. Look at who Jesus spent time with: prostitutes, lepers, the maimed and the blind – absolutely destitute and poor in Jesus’ day and age. So, it is both. Jesus came to proclaim the good news to the physically and spiritually poor. What do the physically and the spiritually poor have in common? Humility which is the essential element in relating to Jesus Christ.

So, in light of this, the first message of Jesus was delivered to poor, humble shepherds. They were a despised group of people (no one likes to hang out with smelly people, right?). Their occupation made it difficult for them to observe the law (no one wants to hang out with people who will make them ceremonially unclean). They were considered distrustful and not allowed to give testimony in court (no one wants to hang out with traveling nomads who will still your hubcaps).

So, these outcasts worked in shifts. They kept watch meaning someone had to stay up and watch the sheep, so they would do that taking turns. And the language implies that suddenly, in the midst of that incredibly boring task in the middle of the night, an angel appeared to them and they were filled with fear. At this point and time, it’s hard not to think of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. The angel makes several declarations. The angel says… “I bring you good news” – I bring you a joyful gospel for all people. “For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior who is Christ the Lord” Now in the Greek there is no article before Savior so it the announcement has much more punch in the original language. It reads “Born today in the city of David, Savior who is Messiah, the Lord.” The Gospel is that Savior has come.

Now, let’s stop for a second and think about these events in terms of celebration and contemplation.

I imagine many of you have celebrated that Jesus, Savior has come, and if you claim the name of Christ as your Savior, you have celebrated His birth in some way. However, have you ever contemplated it?

  • Have you sat in silence and considered what it means that the Savior has come?
  • Have you sat in silence and considered what it means that the Kingdom of Heaven is here and advancing against the kingdoms of this world because Jesus has arrived?
  • This moment merits such contemplation and you would be better off the more you sat and considered these things.

We often miss out on so much because we fail to properly contemplate what God is doing. For example, I remember graduating from ECU with such joy. The long road of living off of canned biscuits and generic canned soup for dinner had come to an end. I teared up and enjoyed the celebratory hugs and gifts from my family. But where I succeeded in celebration, I failed at contemplation. I did not contemplate in any real depth what had just happened…at least not in the way the circumstance merited celebration. Because of that, within 48 hours of getting my diploma, I was home for the holidays, confused wondering what to do next. In fact, I was nearly depressed. I thought I was an abject failure less than two sunrises from walking the platform and receiving my diploma. Graduation required both: celebration and contemplation, and I had skipped one and indulged the other, and I was the worse for it.

This is often the case for many of us when we fail to grasp the large intersections of our lives. We need helpful questions to guide us when we struggle with discouragement and disillusionment is. Let me give you a few questions to ask yourself while your enduring difficult or in depth times.

  • Have I properly contemplated what the work of Christ means in my life?
  • Am I viewing this circumstance purely from my own benefit?
  • Do I see larger purposes even in the minutiae for my life?
  • Do I just celebrate and celebrate but skip out on the hard work of contemplation?

Maybe we would all be a bit healthier if did both singing for joy and sitting and thinking. Look at verse 12.

12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 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!”

The sign that Savior has come will not be triumphant or accompanied by a press release and there won’t be a cute photo session for the newborn king. He’s not going to have the photogenic black and white pictures taken. He’s not going to be dressed up like a bumble bee for an Anne Geddes coffee table book. The sign that the Savior has come will be His humble birth, His lying in a manger. And about the time the shepherds get used to one angel speaking to them, a multitude of them appears.

They sang “Glory to God in the highest”

Now why is this their song? Why should God be glorified in the absolute highest sense now more so than any other time? Well the reason glory should be given to God in the highest sense is because God is so perfect and so powerful that He could become a man and still be God. Theologically, this is called the incarnation. Emmanuel. God with us.

Humans were created in the image of God, so we bear some resemblance to God.  Yet because of sin, that resemblance is scarred. Our humanity, our life, has honor because of the dignity conferred on it by bearing God’s image but our sinfulness dishonors that dignity. And now Jesus has arrived fully God and fully man fully the image of God. And that deserves praise. The angels go on to declare, “On earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” This is different than what we have often heard which goes “peace on earth, good will towards men” This is a more faithful rendering of the Greek. This verse could also be read “peace on those with whom he shows his grace” or even “peace on those whom he has sovereignly chosen”

The central idea here is this. Yes, there is a central benefit to the entire world that Jesus, God with us. Jesus walked among so many and healed and fed thousands, yet, not all of them believed or proclaimed faith in Him. Those who did, found Him a rest for their weary soul. Those who didn’t, found in Him their judge. Both Isaiah 28:16 and Roman 9:33 say this, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Folks, take a moment to contemplate and celebrate those two truths. Peace on earth and good will turns those upon whom Jesus finds favor. Rejoice and celebrate. A stone upon which to stumble and a rock of offensiveness to any who do not cast their cares up on Him. Pray and contemplate.

Who is Jesus to you? Is He the Savior upon whom you cast your every care and you dwell with Him without shame? Or is Jesus the stumbling block who is a rock offense to you? We find who He was to the shepherds in verse 15.

15 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.” 16 And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. 17 And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child.

Vs 15 implies that they went to see Jesus immediately – they immediately obeyed. “Let us go over to” implies that there was a decent distance that had to be covered. They immediately went and told Mary and Joseph what the angels told them. The proper response to hearing the Savior has come is to go be with him. The shepherds got it. They had celebrated with the angels and could have just sat around and celebrated the fact that that heavenly angels had visited lowly sheep herders. But they got it. They knew, far better than we do most of the time, what the experience merited. They knew that their celebration would fall short if it was just surface level exuberance. They knew that true celebration deserves proper contemplation and going to see this baby promised, this baby who would provide a path by which they would be forgiven of their sins, they knew they could better celebrate if they considered in depth what God was doing. So, they went to sit and contemplate and consider this wonderful Savior.

Think about for a minute. Think about what we celebrate. If you get a raise, or if you get to go on vacation or if Cowboys win or Redskins win or your child’s soccer team wins if your favorite sports teams wins, we jump up and down, men hug men, maybe even a few tears are shed. Now, there is no deep contemplation needed for the Yankees winning the World Series or for any other win for that matter. The most contemplation that happens there is how to avoid the burning cars and riots in downtown New York. Aside from bragging rights, there is nothing to contemplate. The same goes for defeating someone on Modern Warfare or World of Warcraft. Jump up and down, beat your chest, brag to your friends online. I imagine the only contemplation appropriate for a video game win is asking yourself if you are wasting your time.

But when you do have appropriate moments, do you celebrate and contemplate?

  • When your child was born, how much time in prayer did you spend?
  • If you are getting ready to graduate, how much time in prayer did you spend?
  • If you are about to get a promotion, how much time in fearful thought and prayer have you spent?

We short change ourselves and do disservice to our gracious God who orders extraordinary events when all we do is jump and down. Look at who really gets it. Look at verse 18.

18 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Mary, who just celebrated the birth of Jesus, is now greeted by shepherds who tell her that angels have visited them and have declared her newborn son the Savior of the world. What does she do? She gets it. She treasures these things and ponders them in her heart. Can you imagine the full story? Mary has more than likely been mocked and ostracized for what the world thought was getting knocked up. Angels have appeared to both Mary and Joseph telling them that this baby was the savior of the world. Now shepherds, complete strangers, come and tell them the same thing. This baby is the Savior we have longed for. Not only is what is being said amazing, it is also amazing that God is speaking again after 400 years of silence. Remember God has been silent since the Old Testament, and now He is speaking to so many people.

And Mary ponders? This great woman of faith is having every promise of God affirmed to her. She knows she is a virgin. She knows that the messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, and now she has shepherds telling her the same things that Gabriel told her. In a motherly way, she probably wants everyone to back off her child. In a human way, she wonders how this child might be her savior. So, she treasures and ponders appropriately. She doesn’t waste this incredible experience by jumping up and down and thinking that posting a couple of pictures on Facebook is celebration. She ponders just what God might be doing in this incredible moment.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

The shepherds didn’t see that Joseph and Mary were poor or in a lowly estate and freak out. They didn’t turn away from the promised savior because He was meek and lowly and breastfeeding. In fact their faith was strengthened because everything was as the angel said it would be. And oh, by the way, they can relate to a meek and lowly savior. So, after celebrating and contemplating the birth of their Savior, they acted appropriately. They declared to all that would hear that Savior had come. They went home glorifying and praising God all that they had seen and experienced.

So practically, how do we do this? How do we both contemplate and celebrate what God has done? I think a good picture of this for us is found in I Peter. First Peter recommends to all of us that we properly contemplate what Jesus has done.

13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

Simply, if you want to properly celebrate the work of Christ, then be sober minded and set your hope fully on the grace of Jesus brought by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The revelation of Christ is His advent, His arrival, to us in our time of need in living a life of righteousness and dying a death for sin. You are to prepare you mind for action just as an athlete prepares. You are to be sober minded and set your hope on the only place that you have hope: the grace of Jesus Christ. Meditate on the fact that Jesus forgives and gives you His goodness. Then and only then, we can properly celebrate.

And how do we do that? Verse 14 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions you had before you knew Jesus. Instead, live a life of holiness and obedience. Since God is holy, you are to be holy. Your passion for Jesus Christ should affect every single aspect of your life and it will if you properly pray and contemplate what Jesus has done. You’ll begin to ask questions like:

  • How am I treating children, poor people, minorities, the last, the lost, the least, my enemies?
  • Am I loving my neighbor and creating opportunities to spend time with them?
  • Am I treating my body in a way that reflects a concern and care for what God has created?
  • Am I pursuing entertainment or sports in a way that reaffirms the values of Christ?
  • In my workplace: Am I we serving the wrong master? Do I serve money rather than God and am I pursuing money in a Godly fashion?

We must imagine that God is using ordinary, dirty spaces as extraordinary sacred places for the fame of Christ to be proclaimed. We must be faithful stewards in both celebration and contemplation of every event of our lives but especially the profound ones where we know God is moving among us. Then we can be as I Peter commands and as the Shepherds and Mary demonstrated, we can be obedient children who live holy lives as our Father in heaven is holy.

Final note: This holiday season, before you open a single present and start the craziness of Christmas morning, stop and contemplate what God is doing. Ask Him to show you how you might be more faithful and holy. Ask Him to give you heart of thankfulness that properly ponders and celebrates the great work of Jesus Christ.

Everyone at Gospel Rich Books wishes you a Merry Christmas

To celebrate these truths, Gospel Rich Books is excited to announced the release of our newest title:

A Christmas for Each Stage of Life by Gordon Duncan

This paperback will walk you through the above stages (and more) to help you more greatly celebrate Christmas this year – no matter where you are in life.

Additionaly, Gospel Rich Books also has four Christmas devotionals available on Kindle for $.99 each.  They come from the series entitled, “More than Gifts”.  These are quick reads that will encourage you each week of the holiday season.