Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Resistance to change among us human beings is an ancient problem!
We even allow a demand for change to keep us from our Creator. Surely, all the world would stampede to God if only He would relent on His insistence of changing us.
Then comes along the Christmas story, where once again our Savior is busy setting examples for us. This time, He demonstrates how love embraces change ...
"So the Word became human and made his home among us ..." John 1:14.
Did Jesus really change that much? Check this out ...
"In the beginning the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it," John 1:1-5.
Yes, He changed that much!
The Word was literally, physically born into this world as a human being. The Word desired to radically change Himself just so He could save us. Jesus did more than embrace change, He volunteered for it. It was His idea.
At Christmas, the Word changed Himself so that He could come into the world and provide us with the means to be changed into His likeness.
"And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes," Galatians 3:27.
Today, we may think of tradition when we think of Christmas, but that first Christmas day was awash in radical, wondrous, gracious, loving change.
All so that we could be changed.
Are you allowing God to carry out the purpose of Christmas in you --- to transform you into the likeness of Christ? Or are you holding to that ancient tradition of resistance to change?
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
There was a long pause and then one boy's face lit up as he said, "I know! Thou shalt not kill!"
In spite of the battles we have within our families, they are often one of life's greatest blessings to us. So much so many tend to turn their families into idols, a behavior radically contradictory to one of the first lessons we can learn from Christmas.
That's when God gave away part of His "family" for His glory.
The Christmas story is loaded with lessons and examples for us, but we tend to skip over this example of God giving His Son. Oh we talk about it often, we just don't see it as an example to be followed. It's fine with us for God to give His Son for His glory, just don't ask us to give our family to God for His glory!
But God does expect us to follow His example. Jesus put that expectation into blunt words for us:
"If any of you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine," Matthew 10:37-38.
For many, Christmas is all about family and giving to family, rather than Christmas being all about Christ and giving all --- including our families --- to Him.
What's the order of priority in your Christmas?
Monday, December 2, 2013
I usually want the bad news first, that way I can finish the exchange with some good news.
That's a little like the way God has communicated with us through Christmas. Before the world received the good news of the birth of a Savior came the bad news that we all needed one. Before there was, "Immanuel! God with us!" there first comes an indictment, one which the Apostle Paul describes like this:
"For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God's glorious standard," Romans 3:23.
That first Christmas was initiated from a very different reason that we exchange gifts today. Think about it --- how many people do you give Christmas gifts to who have rejected you and openly become your enemy? We exchange gifts with the people we love the most; on that first Christmas Day, God was giving His most precious gift to a world that had sinned against Him.
First, there's the bad news, then comes the good. Paul put them together like this:
"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord," Romans 6:23.
On Christmas, God didn't decide just to give away His Son to the world because He was feeling generous; He gave what was most precious to Him because we would be utterly lost without that specific gift. He loved us that much!
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life," John 3:16.
The great joy of the good news of Christmas can only fully be understood in the context of the bad news that precedes it. Putting the two together, we see the love and grace in God giving His gift.
Have you heard the good news?
Sunday, December 1, 2013
Most kids don't dream of doing something difficult and tedious.
Astronomer Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the planet Pluto, probably thought exploring the universe would be an exciting job. Yet, his significant discovery would come only after great persistence in his work.
After astronomers calculated a probable orbit for this "suspected" heavenly body, Tombaugh took up the search in March of 1929. Time magazine recorded the investigation:
"He examined scores of telescopic photographs each showing tens of thousands of star images in pairs under the dual microscope. It often took three days to scan a single pair. It was exhausting, eye-cracking work --- in his own word, 'brutal tediousness.' And it went on for months. Star by star, he examined 20 million images. Then on February 18, 1930, as he was blinking at a pair of photographs in the constellation Gemini, Tombaugh suddenly came upon the image of Pluto! It was the most dramatic astronomic discovery in nearly 100 years."
That doesn't sound like exciting work, although the outcome was dramatic. If you think Tombaugh's work was tedious, imagine God's job of executing a perfect plan to provide the world with a Savior. That took millenia of patiently working out a plan He had prepared before He had created anything. Throughout human history, God was executing that plan, and on Christmas Day, a particularly great moment in that plan had arrived ...
"But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children," Galatians 4:4-5.
"So the Word [Jesus] became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only Son," John 1:14.
So exciting was this moment in the execution of God's plan that the angels, who were watching God at work, just couldn't contain themselves any longer ...
"Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others --- the armies of heaven --- praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased'," Luke 2:13-14.
The birth of Christ is a wildly exciting part of God executing His plan. It's not the end of the story, though, albeit a pivotal part of it. The pinnacle of God's plan would take a few more decades before His strategy for saving the world would be culminated by Christ on a rugged cross.
But talk about an exciting moment! Even the angels couldn't contain themselves!
So why should you try?
This is the season to unleash your joy, worship, and praise in celebrating God doing the glorious, tedious work of providing us with a Savior.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
But before you start that list, take a moment to review how you did on your resolutions for 2013. Do you know a single person who achieved every resolution they made for this year?
I don't either.
There are a lot of contributing factors to such failure spanning from lack of discipline to having too many items on the list.
The key to any resolution is establishing a personal goal you are fully committed to turning into reality. In that case, one well-thought out goal achieved is better than failing at a long list of wishes you never really made as serious goals. Too often, our New Year resolutions sound more like a set of threats than personal goals, kind of like these "resolutions" from the late Erma Bombeck ...
- I'm going to clean this dump just as soon as the kids grow up.
- I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
- I'm going to follow my husband's suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
- I'm going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
- I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.
- And just like last year ... I'm going to remember my children need love the most when they deserve it the least.
"The purpose of my instruction is that all believers would be filled with love that comes from a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith," 1 Timothy 1:5.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy that he could narrow his ministry work to a single objective - that we all "... would be filled with love ..." Paul was concise about such a significant goal, describing that such a love would come from "... a pure heart, a clear conscience, and genuine faith."
Now that sounds like a resolution that would so impact our lives (if achieved) that we really wouldn't need a long list of wishes, would we?
So why not save some time and simplify your task of resolution-making by joining Paul in achieving this objective in 2014? I think we would all be blessed by the results.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
That's because they want different blessings than the ones God has chosen to give them.
Their complaints may include they aren't living where they would like to live, with the people they would prefer being with, or in the fashion they would like. Or they aren't doing with their lives what they would really like. Or they don't have specifically what they want, or as much as they want.
God has blessed them, but they insist on being miserable as long as they don't get what they really want.
To be unhappy with life because God hasn't given you life on your terms is to truly be ungrateful.
That was the problem with a rich young man we read about in Mark 10:17-22. He had about all a person could want in life, but there was yet one more thing he wanted.
"As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, 'Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Mark 10:17.
This young man was looking into the face of the very Source of life, and was having offered to him the very thing he was asking for --- a means to eternal life.
"Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. 'There is still one thing you haven't done,' he told him. 'Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me'," Mark 10:21.
Jesus answers the young man directly with a way to have exactly what he's asking for. But the young man didn't like the terms for achieving what he wanted.
"At this the man's face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions," Mark 10:22.
We can be a lot like that young man. We have a lot of things in our lives, yet we're still unhappy because God isn't giving us what we really want on our terms. We cannot be truly grateful to God when we're disappointed with what He has given us.
It's like a story told by Jeff Strite about a Polish railroad worker named Jan Grzebski who was hit by a train back in 1988. He lived, but only barely. For the next 19 years, Grzebski was in a coma.
Grzebski awoke from his coma in 2007 to a whole new world. Nineteen years earlier, Poland was a communist state. Grzebski noted back then meat was rationed and there were huge lines at nearly every gas station. And, "there was only tea and vinegar in the shops."
But 19 years later, he awoke to a free nation where he said there were "people on the streets with cell phones, and there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin!"
But something puzzled him.
"What amazes me is all these people who walk around with their mobile phones and yet they never stop moaning," he said.
These people had freedom, food, and wealth greater than Poland had had for decades, and yet Grzebski woke from his coma to find that all they seemed to want to do was grumble!
If you don't get into the habit of thanking God for what you DO have, you'll soon become ungrateful because of what you DON'T have. And you can't honestly be grateful while really wanting something different.
What are you doing today - genuinely thanking God for what you do have, or wanting something different on your own terms?
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
In Budapest, a man went to his rabbi and complained, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?"
The rabbi answered, "Take the goat into the room with you."
The man was incredulous, but the rabbi insisted, "Do as I say and come back in a week."
A week later the man returned looking more distraught than before.
"We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi, "The goat is filthy!"
The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. Then come back in a week."
A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful! We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat, only the nine of us."
Perspective is a human thing, man's "take" on reality. Fix your perspective and you'll discover much to be thankful for.