Monday, December 31, 2012

God's Way Home

"I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."   John 14:6, NIV

Jesus did not say that He knew the way to heaven; He said that He Himself is the only Way to get there!

During the Vietnam War, a story was reported about a paratrooper who had been air-dropped into the jungle and couldn't find his way out. A native guide had to be sent into the jungle to find the lost man then lead him safely to his base. The guide became the man's way to safety-his "way home." In the same manner, Jesus is "God's Guide," heaven-dropped into the world to lead lost sinners safely "Home." It stands to reason that if you refuse to acknowledge that you are "lost," then you will not accept God's Way home. But for those of us who know we have been lost, our overwhelming gratitude for the Guide is enough to compel us to tell others about Him - about the truth of their lost condition and the truth about the Way out.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

Created Equal

As we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.   Galatians 6:10, NKJV

When God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being" (Gen. 2:7, NIV), all human life became sacred because it came directly from God. Whether a person is a murderer on death row or the most beloved person in town, each one is to be treated with respect if for no other reason than human life comes from God.

Are you prejudiced toward someone? A person of a different race or educational background or economic level? Someone from another culture or denomination or religion? Someone with a different language or social status or skin color? There is absolutely no room for prejudice of any kind in a life that follows the Creator's directions. All men are created equal, not in abilities or opportunities, but in the eyes of God because all men derive their lives from God.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Do You Believe This?

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies."   John 11:25, NIV

Do you believe this? Do you believe that . . .

when there is no hope,

when there is no recourse,

when there is no answer,

when there is no help,

when there is no way,

when there is no remedy,

when there is no solution,

when there is nobody,

.........there is hope if you have Jesus?! 

Do you believe that Jesus can make a way when there is no way?

With Jesus, all things are possible!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty GOD, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the 
throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with 
judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the 
LORD of hosts will perform this.   
Isaiah 9:6-7

The Christmas Perspective


The Christmas Perspective
It was a Saturday afternoon; a man is relaxing, reading his paper. His wife walks in and gushing with excitement says, "Honey, you know your brand new sports car? Well the air bags work." And with that, she marched out of the room.
That's one perspective isn't it? The air bags work.

There's a cartoon I found several months ago that I thought was worth keeping. A couple is being welcomed into eternity with these words: "Welcome to eternity. Please note our super wide screen television that plays non-stop football, pro wrestling and Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks."

The husband pumps his fist in the air and says, "Yahoo! I made it to heaven!" His wife standing next to him thinks to herself, "Yikes, I ended up in hell." It's all a matter of perspective, isn't it?

What's your perspective, your outlook this morning? Without the right perspective, without the correct outlook, it's easy to miss something important.

Wilbur and Orville Wright repeatedly tried to make their plane take flights. It was design, experiment, failure, redesign, experiment, failure, and so on till one December day, off the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they did what man had never done before. They actually flew. Elated they wired their sister Katherine. "We have actually flown 120 feet. Will be home for Christmas." Hastily Katherine ran down the street and shoved the telegram - with the news scoop of the century - at the city editor of the local newspaper. He carefully read the telegram, smiled and said, "Well, well, how nice. The boys will be home for Christmas."

Perhaps the most tragic example of some wrong perspective occurred as two US soldiers observed something on radar. They reported it to their supervisor, a rather young, inexperienced Lieutenant. It was a peaceful Sunday morning, nobody else around and this young man, thinking it was planes on maneuvers from California said, "Don't worry about it." Those 353 planes were still a couple of hours away from Pearl Harbor when first spotted on Dec. 7th, 1941 but one person's perspective was, "Don't worry about it!"

How about this for an insightful perspective on more recent happenings?

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed after the September 11, 2001 attacks. She was asked, "How could God let something like this happen?" Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful answer. She said, "I believe that God is deeply saddened by this just as we are. But for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives and being the gentleman that he is, I believe that he has calmly back out. How can we expect God to give us his blessing and his protection if we demand he leave us alone?"

What's your perspective on God's involvement in the world? What's your perspective on the endless rounds of debates as to where we can hold a baccalaureate service or where we can post the 10 Commandments or where we can display a Nativity scene? Isn't it sad that our courts feel those are issues they need to rule on and restrict?

The events of September 11 notwithstanding, public schools across the nation are again squelching the Christmas spirit. The Washington Times cited several examples of school officials overstepping their bounds, inconsistently banning expressions of Christmas while allowing symbols of other religions:
* Frederick County school employees were prohibited from handing out Christmas cards because those with a Christian message "may not be a legally protected right on a public school campus."
* Two middle school students in Rochester, Minn., were disciplined for wearing red and green scarves in a Christmas skit and ending the presentation by wishing the audience, "Merry Christmas."
* A teacher in Plymouth, Ill., was warned not to read a book about Christmas to her second grade students even though it was in the school's library.
* Students in Silverton, Ore., had to remove "religious" holiday decorations from their lockers, but were allowed to leave secular ones.
* The county school board in Covington, Ga., deleted the word "Christmas" from the school calendar after the ACLU threatened legal action.
* A New York public schools policy allows the display of the Jewish menorah and the Muslim crescent, but not the Christian nativity. A memo from the general counsel of the New York City Public Schools chancellor said, "The display of secular holiday symbol decorations is permitted. Such symbols include, but are not limited to, Christmas trees, menorahs, and the star and crescent."

A preacher friend of mine said he's getting tired of all the controversy from people who don't want any religious emphasis in Christmas that he decided that maybe we should just give in to the secular crowd and cut a deal. He said we'll give them all the non-religious stuff and we'll keep the things of Christmas that promote all the controversy, the religious side. The way he figures it, here's how it will work out. First of all, he's not a politically correct kind of guy so he says bluntly; "They get the fat guy in the red suit." But, they don't get his name because that's a derivative of Saint Nicholas, an obvious religious connection. Further, they don't get gifts because that traces back to the wise men. So now his sack is empty. We get most of the music, in fact we get the best music (Handel's Messiah, the great Christmas Carols) and they get Rudolph, Frosty and Jingle Bells. My friend says they get Christmas trees because they aren't in the Bible but I have heard that it was Martin Luther, a religious leader, who popularized them and put candles on to represent Christ, the light of the world so the trees are debatable. In fact, we get most of the decorations, including lights and tinsel because tinsel represents the gold given by the wise men. He says they get the date because it's really unknown as to when Christ was actually born so maybe we can just join the Orthodox brethren who celebrate on January 7th.

They can call their celebration Sparkle Season or Winter Celebration but we get Christmas because obviously the name Christ is right in it. So when you break it all down, they get a date, an anonymous fat guy with an empty sack, accompanied by Jingle Bells & Frosty oh and they get the fruitcake! The point is that obviously without Christ, there just isn't much left to Christmas.

Last year around this time, I received a wonderful perspective on Christmas. It's entitled, "How terrible if My Dream was Real."
     "I had a dream, Joseph. I don't understand it, not really, but I think it was about a birthday celebration for our Son. I think that was what it was all about. The people had been preparing for it for about six weeks. They had decorated the house and bought new clothes. They'd gone shopping many times and bought elaborate gifts.
     "It was peculiar though, because the presents weren't for our Son. They wrapped them in beautiful paper and tied them with lovely bows and stacked them under a tree. Yes, a tree, Joseph, right in their house. They'd decorated the tree also. There was a figure on the top of the tree. I think it was supposed to represent an angel. Oh, it was beautiful. Everyone was laughing and happy. They were all excited about the gifts. They gave the gifts to each other, Joseph, not to our Son. I don't think they even knew Him. They never mentioned His name. Doesn't it seem odd for people to go to all that trouble to celebrate someone's birthday if they don't know Him? I had the strangest feeling that if our Son had gone to this celebration He would have been intruding. Everything was so beautiful, Joseph, and everyone was so happy, but it made me want to cry. How sad for Jesus - not to be wanted at His own birthday party. "I'm glad it was only a dream. How terrible, Joseph, if it had been real." 

What's your perspective? What will your Christmas celebration be like this year? The one whose birth we celebrate also said this, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that." (Luke 6:32, 33)

If our Christmas celebration is limited to an exchange of gifts with those who love us, we haven't even begun to take the first steps of faith in our Christmas celebration. Be sure to keep the right Christmas perspective this year.

Have you ever done anything to deliberately celebrate the birth of Christ during Christmas? Or is your Christmas celebration the same thing you've always done - the same traditions your family has always observed? Perhaps the same traditions your family observed even before you or they were Christians? If you were not a Christian, would your celebration be any different?

In the Denver zoo some years ago they were undergoing a major renovation. The polar bear enclosure was being changed to a natural environment. A polar bear arrived before renovation was completed so the new bear was enclosed in a small cage that allowed it to take three, nice swinging steps in one direction, whirl around and take three steps back in the other direction. Back and forth it went, month in, month out till the renovations were complete. The bear was then let loose in it's new environment and do you know what it did? Three steps in one direction, whirled around and back the other way. Three steps in one direction, whirled around and back the other way. Over and over without stopping, the polar bear continued as if the cage was still there.

That's how people can be. That's how Christians can be. Some call it a rut. We do the same thing over and over without varying. That's how our Christmas celebration can be. We do the same thing year after year. Ever watch people while they're in the mall or store, you know the long lines waiting to see you know who - the cashier. Ever hear them talk - how hurried they are, how frustrated. What would it take to give you a new perspective on Christmas? What would it take to celebrate the birth of the one who said as a man, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?" There's nothing of a Christian perspective in buying expensive gifts for our own family and friends - that's loving those who love us. Challenge your Christmas perspective this year. Challenge yourself with the words of the one whose birth we say we are celebrating.

Matthew 10:32, 33 "Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven."

Perhaps there's someone to whom you can share a word of witness - what an opportunity when someone speaks of how hectic their Christmas preparations are - what an opportunity to say, "Hey, have you forgotten about what the season is all about?"

Matthew 6:14, 15 "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Is there someone you need to forgive? What a gift to Jesus that would be! To just say, Lord, I don't know how I can do this but in faith I'll trust you if you will help me to forgive this person.

On Dec. 7th, 2001, survivors of the attack on both sides met and shook hands. A Japanese pilot was there - who knows how many Americans he killed but 60 years later, he shook hands with some of those he had once fought against. How meaningful your Christmas would be to Christ if you forgave from the heart - a note, a phone call, a prayer, a visit to say, "Hey, let's put this old quarrel to rest."

You know we all get a bit weary this Christmas season. We all get a bit weary buying gifts, waiting in the lines, cleaning the house, decorating the house, bringing a live tree into the house so we can have a bigger mess to clean later, so we can step on pine needles in March. We all get a bit tired of the baking, cooking and it's so hard, it's just too hard, preacher to squeeze in time to visit the shut-ins, preacher. I've heard that - we're so busy celebrating Jesus' birth that we can't do the things Jesus said. Isn't that a bit strange?

Matthew 25:35, 36 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Does your Christmas perspective include any room for those who are hungry, thirsty, sick, shut-ins, in prison etc?

Friends of ours once worked the night shift in a kind of a halfway house that was run by a Christian organization. Dave and Vicky said they felt they had to do that to tell Jesus how thankful they were for their home. That's an interesting perspective isn't it? They also said later that you get a new perspective talking with people there in the house; some grateful for the service they were receiving, some angry at the world and wanting even more and feeling that the world owed them a living. What's your perspective this morning? What's your Christmas perspective? Is it just a holiday, a day off, a day of giving and receiving gifts? Or is it the celebration of the one who has drastically changed your life and provided eternal life for you? And does your celebration include acts of gratitude to the one who gave his life for you? With all the blessings we have received and continue to reap, is it too much to ask for a bit of sacrifice, a gift to Jesus even now when we feel we're just so busy. Sure we all get a bit weary in this Christmas season, but isn't the King whose birth we celebrate worth whatever sacrifice and gift we can give, isn't the King of Kings worth all of that and even a bit more?

Isn't that the right perspective?

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Coming into the Presence of God

In His Hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.  The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.  
                                                                       Psalm 95:4-6

Whenever we come into God's presence, we must come with thanksgiving. The Lord is to be praised; we do not want matter, it were well if we did not want a heart. How great is that God, whose the whole earth is, and the fullness thereof; who directs and disposes of all!, The Lord Jesus, whom we are here taught to praise, is a great God; the mighty God is one of his titles, and God over all, blessed for evermore. To him all power is given, both in heaven and earth. 

He is our God, and we should praise him. He is our Saviour, and the Author of our blessedness. The gospel church is his flock, Christ is the great and good Shepherd of believers; he sought them when lost, and brought them to his fold.

Attracted to Weakness

It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God.  1 Corinthians 1:30, NIV

Who do you say you can't witness to because he or she is an intellectual, or highly educated, and you are not? Or maybe the person has a seminary degree and you have just started going to church. Remember, it was Joseph, a Hebrew teenager and slave, not the wise men of Egypt, who interpreted Pharaoh's dreams. It was another Hebrew slave, Daniel, not the wise men of Babylon, who deciphered the mysterious writing on the wall of Belshazzar's palace. It was the unlettered fishermen, not the Scribes and the Pharisees, who were taken into the confidence of Christ and used of God to build His church.

Do you feel inadequate intellectually, educationally, socially, theologically? Good! God can use you! He states clearly that He "chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things - and the things that are not - to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1 Cor. 1:27-28, NIV)

God is attracted to your weakness!


Friday, December 21, 2012

The Destructiveness of Sin

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:11, NKJV

The longing of God's heart, if it can be expressed as such, is to be known, loved, glorified, and enjoyed by His creation. Although in His plural nature God has ultimate fellowship, love, and harmony within the Trinity, He also desired fellowship and friendship with Adam and Eve.

But early in their lives Adam and Eve made one choice that broke their relationship with God and cost them their happiness at the present and their destiny for the future, devastating their family for every generation to come. This devastation was inevitable because life is made up of relationships with God, with others, and with ourselves, and the choice to sin through disobedience destroyed all three relationships. Sin destroys our relationship with God through guiltiness. It destroys our relationship with others through lovelessness. It destroys our relationship with ourselves through meaninglessness. 

What sin is worth such destructive consequences?


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The God of All Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . who comforts us in all our tribulation.   2 Corinthians 1:3-4, NKJV

Medical studies have proven that worry attacks the central nervous system, the circulatory system, and the digestive system of our bodies. Charles Mayo, of the Mayo Clinic, said, "You can worry yourself to death, but you cannot worry yourself to a longer life."

Noah was exposed to such frightening experiences he could have worried himself to death; after all, he survived the equivalent of a nuclear holocaust. While Sunday school stories conjure up in our minds the picture of Noah as a quaint, folksy, old zookeeper with a plump, rosy-cheeked wife, he was in fact a very strong, courageous man of character and faith who could have been tremendously traumatized by the most violent catastrophe in history.

Surely Noah knew the paralysis of fear and the total paranoia of worry. But he also knew by experience that the God of the storm is also the God of all comfort, able to calm his fears as he kept his faith in God and his focus on God.


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Choice to Rejoice

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Philippians 4:4, NIV

The apostle Paul knew the secret of victory when he and Silas were thrown into the inner cell of a prison, their feet fastened in stocks, because they had preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ. "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God" (Acts 16:24-25, NIV). As a result of their praise, an earthquake collapsed the prison, the jailor was converted, and they were set free! Paul maintained that spirit of praise until the end of his life when he once again found himself in chains in a Roman prison, yet emphatically declared, "I will continue to rejoice" (Phil 1:18, NIV).

I doubt if, during either of those imprisonments, Paul felt like praising. But he had learned to walk by faith, not by his feelings. And today he commands you and me to exercise our will, making the deliberate, conscious choice to "rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Pass It On

You are a chosen generation, . . . that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.   1 Peter 2:9, NKJV

"By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did. . . . And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead" (Heb. 11:4, NIV). Abel's life, although brief, was not wasted because of his faith in God, expressed through his witness.

Have you ever wondered what people will think of you when you're gone? What will your grandchildren know about you? Wouldn't it be wonderful, if, like Abel, you are remembered throughout all the generations to follow as one who lived by faith in God?

Abel passed the baton of truth that leads to faith to the next generation, which was represented by his little brother, Seth. If you are single or childless, you are not exempt from the privilege as well as the responsibility of relaying the baton. While unable to relay it to your own children, you can relay it to someone else's. The possibilities are limitless. So . . . pass it on!


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Mighty Name of Jesus

"I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father."   John 14:13, NIV

Jesus' name has meaning that reveals Who He is. His name is LORD, which means Jehovah God. He is the Jehovah of the Old Testament Who revealed Himself to His people. Today Jesus reveals God to you and me. His name is also Jesus, which means Savior, because He came to save us from the penalty and power of our sin. And His name is Christ, which is the New Testament equivalent of the Old Testament name Messiah. He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy that pointed to the Anointed One of God Who would come down to reign and rule on the earth.

To pray in Jesus' name means we come to God believing that Jesus is our Lord -- believing He has revealed God to us and in response we have submitted to His authority. To pray in Jesus' name means we believe He is our only Savior Whose death on the cross provides atonement for our sin. And it means we acknowledge that He is the Christ, Who is coming again to rule the world in peace and righteousness. Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Consider the Consequences

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  Galatians 6:7, NKJV

Satan never mentions the consequences of sin. He never mentions the psychological trauma that follows an abortion. He never mentions the dirty feeling of being used after sleeping with your date that haunts your marriage relationship years later. He never mentions the panic and fear that grip you every time you answer the phone after cheating on your tax return. There are serious consequences to sin. Always. Without exception. Adam ate the forbidden fruit his wife had offered, "Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked" (Gen. 3:7, NIV).

Satan had told Eve her eyes would be opened and she would be like God, knowing good and evil. In one sense he had been right. Eve's eyes were opened, but in a grotesque way. She knew good, but also that she was separated from it. She knew evil because now she was saturated in it. She knew good and evil in a way God never intended her to know -- through her own experience. And she was deeply ashamed.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Washed in the Blood

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, . . . be glory and dominion forever and ever.   Revelation 1:5-6, NKJV

In our pleasure-seeking, anything-goes, feel-good society, guilt is anathema. We run from it through frantic activity, drown it in alcohol, escape it through entertainment, talk about it to a therapist, blame it on someone else, suppress it through mental gymnastics, but we can't rid ourselves of it! It's like a stain that won't come out of our clothes no matter how many wash cycles we put it through or what kind of detergent we use because the stain has become part of the fabric! The only thing that can "wash away" our sin and guilt before God is the blood of Jesus Christ. So God has given us a conscience with a guilt alarm that goes off when sin enters so that we might go to Jesus Christ for cleansing.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Risk-Taking Obedience

We ought to obey God rather than men.   Acts 5:29, NKJV

At the wedding in Cana, Jesus issued a command to the servants that seemed to have nothing to do with the shortage of wine: "Fill the jars with water" (John 2:7, NIV). The servants must have stolen furtive looks at each other, but without question, resistance, or argument, "they filled them to the brim" (John 2:7, NIV).

Why did the servants obey? What made them risk their reputations and their jobs and carry out His instructions? Surely it wasn't just because Mary told them to do whatever He said. It must have been something about Jesus Himself that thrust them out on the limb of risk-taking obedience.

Was it His clear, firm gaze of authority?

Was it the quiet confidence of His demeanor?

Was it the unwavering strength of His tone of voice?

Whatever the reason was, they obeyed and experienced the thrill of seeing the water they poured into the jars, pour out as wine!


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Trust Him!

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.  Psalm 37:5, NKJV

At times our understanding is limited. We simply have to trust our heavenly Father to know best. We have to trust God's silences and respect God's mysteries and wait for God's answers.

When we pray for the healing of a loved one, and he dies . . .

When we pray for release from a financial burden, and we go bankrupt . . .

When we pray for reconciliation, and we are handed divorce papers . . .

When we pray for our career, and we get laid off . . .

When we pray for protection, and we are robbed . . .

We just have to trust Him. Trust Him. Trust Him!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Our Heavenly Home

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.  John 14:3, NKJV

The first book in the Bible, Genesis, gives us an unforgettable picture of the Lord God. After at least five "days" of intensely creative work, He "planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. And the Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground -- trees that were pleasing to the eye" (Gen. 2:8-9, NIV). In my mind's eye, I can see Him on His hands and knees, grubbing in the dirt, planting trees and flowers and shrubs and grass, watering and pruning and landscaping. God Himself was the first homemaker, preparing a place for His children, Adam and Eve, that would be pleasing to the eye. We can only imagine the joyful eagerness of the divine Gardener as He presented Adam with his lovingly prepared home that was not just adequate or sufficient to meet his needs, but extravagant in its lush beauty and comfort.

But the preparations made for that first earthly home . . . are nothing compared with the preparations being made for our heavenly home!


Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Pattern for Discipline

A faithful man will abound with blessings.  Proverbs 28:20, NKJV

Our society is increasingly becoming undisciplined. We work if we want to, show up on time if we can make it, and see a job through to the finish if we feel like it, all the while complaining about the pay or seeking more lucrative benefits. God worked persistently and consistently every day, all day long, until the job of creating everything was finished. God understands what it's like to begin each day in the morning, go to work, apply yourself to the project at hand, accomplish a portion of the goal day after day until you complete the job satisfactorily. God's weekly work was timely, orderly, precise, neat, thorough, planned, and goal oriented.

How closely does the way you do your weekly work reflect His?