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#ChristmasChallenge#Post14

Saturday, December 14th, 2019

In my last post, I mentioned the need we all have of Love, Joy, and Peace. As part of my #ChristmasChallenge I thought I would take each one of those needs and expand on them a bit.

My topic today is Love.

One of the top songs of 1984 (was it that long ago?) was by the group Foreigner called I Want to Know What Love Is. It was a moving ballad that even today still speaks to hearts and gets down to the root of what we all want...LOVE.  I think if we are all honest we would admit that we all want to be loved or to experience love. It doesn’t matter whether you are young or old; married or single; rich or poor; employed or unemployed; male or female-we all want to know what love is and what it is like.

Why? Because it is part of our DNA. Babies want to know they are loved and they don’t have a clue what it is. Every child wants to know they are loved and still they aren’t sure they know what it is.  As we get older and understand a bit more about how the world works, we still want to know we are loved.  Why else would someone sing a song with the lyrics of  “Looking for love in all the wrong places.”

So here is the million dollar question: why do need love? We all do things that make it hard to love us or we search for love depending on our feelings to somehow answer that question. Why love? I am taking a stab at 4 reasons:

  1. Love covers sin. When Joseph found out Mary was pregnant and he knew it wasn’t his, he could have walked out. In fact, he planned on it. But God changed all that. Joseph couldn’t throw Mary out on the street. I believe his love for her was enhanced by the message of the angel.
  2. Love listens to God. In the midst of his pain, God came to Joseph.  He still does that and if we are listening we can hear His still small voice in the pit of our heart.
  3. Love believes God. Joseph believed God that all would be right. I have to believe in love since John 3:16 says, “God so loved (me)…”
  4. Love obeys God. Joseph did not put Mary away; he loved her and took care of her. Just as God would have him do.

Love is the focal point of the Christmas season. John 3:16 becomes like a beacon shining brighter the closer we get to that miraculous night celebrated on Christmas day. 

“Father, help me to pursue love…real love. And help me to give love to others. There are so many people searching for love because we all want it. Help me to be your instrument to show love to others.”

#ChristmasChallenge#Post13#Gifts!#Don’tMissThem

Friday, December 13th, 2019

In his book When God Whispers Your Name, Max Lucado wrote about a fictional game called “What’s Your Price?” The contestants were presented with options and must choose one. The pot was fed more when the price was 10 million dollars. You might be shocked to know what some of the choices were:

  • 25% would abandon their family.
  • 25% would abandon their church.
  • 23% would become a prostitute for a week.
  • 16% would give up their American citizenship.
  • 16% would leave their spouse.
  • 3% would put their children up for adoption.

That’s not counting the 7% who said they would murder; the 6% who would change their race; and the 4% who would change their sex.  I realize some may choose to argue with those stats…that’s okay. But that leads me to a point.  For whatever reason, we are becoming (some have already become) people of no commitment.

As a result, we are often missing out on the three gifts most people would love to have: Love. Joy. Peace.  Those three ideas are probably the most talked about gifts people want and need for Christmas.

I’m posting this today and then will be using those three as “seed” for my #ChristmasChallenge. They are the crux of my sermon Sunday so I would appreciate your prayers as we get closer to Christmas and try even more to bring the focus on Jesus. Thanks.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post12

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

I have been blogging each day as part of a #ChristmasChallenge I asked others to participate in. Due to my schedule I have been using virtually the same post here and at my other blog. But this one is different. This will stand alone from my other blog.  So…I give you my thoughts on this sensitive topic.

Recently we have had two holidays together which emphasize family, love, happy times and togetherness. For many they are anything but. For various reasons pain, hurt, emptiness, loneliness and depression are more apparent than the aforementioned family, love, happy times and togetherness.

Consider why:

  • A divorce has rocked the world of a woman or a man or their children.
  • A downturn at work has left him or her out of work.
  • An ugly spat has taken away family unity.
  • A death of a loved one is a painful memory that crops up even bigger during this time.
  • Friends are visiting out of town.
  • Family is unable to make the trip to see you or visa versa.
  • Perhaps you can think of more reasons.

My heart aches for these people. I realize what the church does in offering a lunch at Thanksgiving and a hot breakfast on Christmas morning is a small token when compared to the price of loneliness or pain.  Making our presence felt is needed more than just those special times.

When I look around-when you look around- we see people all around us going through the motions of life. Aimless. Heartbroken. Lonely.  Out of sorts. And sadly, it is just as easy to miss them. Avoiding their eyes. Rushing past their pain. Ignoring their tears.

BUT…and this is a big BUT…if we are to have the heart of Christ, we can’t pass by unaffected or closed off.  Having the mind and heart of Jesus demands we see people through eyes of love and compassion.

So let me challenge you this year to keep your eyes and heart open to really “see” other people. Reach out. Invite them to your family gathering. Take them a meal or take them out for one. See if there is something they need done which they are unable to do, but perhaps you can help by doing it or having someone else help. Speak to people as you see them. Don’t ignore them or divert your eyes.

The following song is on one of my favorite Christmas albums. It is not a “spiritual” Christmas song by any stretch but does touch on my thoughts for this post. And yes, it was partly responsible for me writing what I have.

https://youtu.be/V3Z3-z8eXuM

If you have trouble with understanding the lyrics, underneath the video is a “Show More” tab.  Click it and the lyrics will show up.

I encourage you to check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge bloggers.

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

 

#ChristmasChallenge#Post11

Wednesday, December 11th, 2019

In Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share in his sufferings…”  I’ve always liked that verse than for no other reason than one word: know. Our English language fails us here because our idea of know is sometimes pretty shallow. But the Greek word goes much deeper. The Greek word means to know intimately. Simply put: there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.

It goes without saying that there are plenty of people who have a knowledge of Jesus. Many non-theists and atheists have a better knowledge of Jesus and the Bible (for the purpose of arguing) than many followers of Christ. But that is different than what Paul is talking about.

It is also different than the “Christmas experience” (for lack of a better phrase this morning). When Jesus came it was for many reasons, but one of the primary ones was so God could reveal Himself to us. So we might know Him. We will never “know” Him like we should-our ability falls short because we are humans with limited everything. While Mary knew her son because of the mother/child bond, she too had limited knowledge.

But the limits placed on us by our humanness should not inhibit our desire to pursue Him, to want to know Him. If anything it should fan the flame of desire in our hearts. So use this Christmas time to pursue knowing Jesus. More than a baby; the Son of God.

“Father, may my Christmas season be one of a desire to know You. Help me not to be content with the baby in a manger. Help me to want to get to know Jesus-the King of kings and the Lord of glory.”

Please check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge colleagues at their respective blogs:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post10

Tuesday, December 10th, 2019

One of the most beautiful scenes of Christmas is a decorated house. Even better, a house of lights with music! 🙂  (Check out the multiple entries for this). The lights transform a dull, dingy exterior into a wonderland of beauty. In our house, one of our traditions is a Christmas tree (now of the artificial variety) that goes up on Thanksgiving Day and stays up until after sometime after Christmas. It doesn’t just stay up; it stays on. That’s right. 24/7. The lights on the tree are never off. Growing up our lights were on Christmas morning when we came downstairs and then each subsequent evening. I suspect some of that was economically and safety-driven since both were suspect back then, but with the advent of smaller bulbs which don’t get hot or have you see your electric meter going nuts, ours stay on all day. We have certainly come a long way from the first lights on a tree…candles. Of course, many a house burned down back then. 🙁

The light displays are as numerous as the houses, as is the amount of work put into the display. Each year a local florist puts lights on their giant outside tree. I keep forgetting to ask him if he puts them up and takes them down or just unplugs them.

But those lights pale in comparison to “the Light of the World.” In John 8:12 Jesus calls Himself “the Light of the world.” If you are a Christ-follower the light of Christ has shown into your heart. Why not share that light with someone else this Christmas? Brighten their world.

“Father, your light transforms even the darkest scene and the darkest night. May your light shine in me and then through me to others.”

Please check out my fellow #ChristmasChallenge Takers:

Diane at Hadarah.

Ed at Word!

#ChristmasChallenge#Post9

Monday, December 9th, 2019

It is not unusual to hear or say-and I have-that Thanksgiving should be and is to be more than one day out of the year. Thanksgiving should be 24/7/365. The inference (although it is more than just inferred or implied) is that the spirit of Thanksgiving is so dominant in us that it weaves its way into every day of the year.

What would that mean if I said, “Christmas ought to be every day of the year? Does that mean we ought to have candy and cookies and eggnog and gifts and the other trappings of Christmas all year ’round? (I can say you will have a hard time with me saying no when it involves chocolate. But I digress… 🙂 )

In all seriousness, what does that mean? Seemingly endless shopping? No. Lights and decorations all year ’round? No. A tree in the foyer or living room? No on all counts. To say Christmas all year ’round is to have the attitude we find in Philippians 2: “Have this mind (attitude) among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Paul had just been talking about doing nothing out of selfishness or conceit. But instead, we are to look out for the interest of others.

THAT’S the spirit of Christmas! Humility. Selflessness. Who couldn’t benefit from an attitude like that displayed. Giving our lives away for the sake of the Gospel.

“Father, may my life exhibit the Christmas spirit of humility and selflessness all year ’round. May Christmas not be just a once a year event but a lifestyle of giving myself away on a daily basis.”

Please check out Diane at Hadarah and Ed at WORD! for other Christmas Challenge offerings.

#ChristmasChallenge#Post6

Friday, December 6th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Generosity vs Stinginess.

I think one of the overarching themes of this time of the year is generosity. The idea of Jesus’ words through Paul (“It is more blessed to give than to receive”) are, perhaps, never more prevalent than at Christmas. I know for me I get great joy in giving and seeing the faces when that gift if accepted and opened.

In many minds the “seed” for that generosity is a somewhat mythical creature named Santa Claus. I don’t get on the bandwagon about SC. I have bigger fish to fry. That is not a battle I choose to fight because, frankly, I don’t care. I really don’t. Those fools who say things like, “SANTA had the same letters as SATAN…they are just mixed up a little” are fighting a losing battle. That is just dumb. The legend of SC comes from the supposed inspiration of a real person, St. Nicolas. His idea? Generosity. Seeing a family or someone in need and trying to help.

Granted, some have taken it too far. Christmas is often more about trees, gifts, lights, etc than about celebrating the birth of Christ. But rather than protest in rebellion to that, we ought to use that as a springboard to be the most generous people around. Generosity ought to be one of the “calling cards” of the Christ-follower, not stinginess.

After all, the greatest example of generosity is the story we want to promote: the generosity of a loving God to lost humanity with the greatest gift of all.

“Father, help me to be a generous person not one who is stingy and wrapped up in himself. Help me to follow Your example.”

#ChristmasChallenge#Post2

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

My title for this devotion is Seriously? vs You’ve Got to be Kidding!

One of the weaknesses of someone with my personality (very much a Sanguine) is the tendency to take things at face value.  Some would call it naivete’. Someone says something to me and I tend to accept it.  Now, given some time I may change my outlook or perspective, but initially acceptance not skepticism is the order of the day.

That’s why the story of Zechariah (Z from here on) and the story of Mary are contrasts to me. Hence, the title.

  • Both were going about their daily life.
  • Both found themselves in the presence of an angel.
  • Both received a message so incredulous it was stunning!
  • One responded with doubt and skepticism; the other with acceptance.

Both Z and Mary received word of a baby on the way. Z balked. Doubted. Mary questioned. Believed. They both asked “Seriously?” but in their own way. Z’s ended up being more of a “You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me” moment, while Mary’s was “So be it. I am yours.”

What will mine be? What will yours be? Will mine be like Z: Seriously? You have got to be kidding me!” or will it be more like Mary’s: “Seriously? I’m yours Lord. Have your way.”

“Father, may my response to your message at this time of the year be like Mary’s. Stunned but yielding to You.”

Be sure to check out Ed’s post here.  He has accepted the Christmas challenge.

#NoFence#NoLimits

Friday, November 15th, 2019

I don’t think anyone would argue with this statement:

Being a servant often requires we step outside our box and do what doesn’t come naturally and or easily.

That is the basic premise of my sermon this Sunday. Being a servant often requires we become uncomfortable in our service. Sometimes it is disarming, in that we find ourselves in situations which try our patience; test our mettle; even call on us to make hard decisions.

Could there be any parable more in line with that thinking than the Good Samaritan? Talk about someone who went out of his way and out of his box! There was no love lost between the Jews and Samaritans so Jesus’ example really had to fry them. The fact He used two Jewish religious leaders as part of His story left little to the imagination. Amazingly, it was this man who wasn’t supposed to stop and help, did. It says he had compassion on him, bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, put him on his own donkey and took him to an inn to recover. When he needed to leave he even left extra money for further care.  I think I am safe in saying this Samaritan went way beyond what was expected, and certainly stepped outside the box to care for him.

The story is found in Luke 10:25-37. You now know where we will be studying this Sunday. And as always, your prayers would be much appreciated.

#Intangible#Watching#Waiting#Working

Friday, November 8th, 2019

I had totally intended on giving you a report of our prayer time this past Sunday but life happened. Some good; some not so good. But I will do that at the beginning of next week. For now, I’d like to just give you a heads up about Sunday’s sermon.

Almost every decade some false prophet comes along who claims to have figured out precisely when the Lord will return. The JW cult was founded on that premise, and even though their leader was wrong multiple times, it still thrives. (GAG!) Back in 1988 a book became popular with the title 88 Reason Why Jesus Will Return in 1988. Methinks he may have been wrong.

I find it fascinating that not even Jesus knew when He would return. What He was concerned with was preparing His followers until He did return. My sermon this Sunday morning will be three parables Jesus told to do just that. Here are the three parables with my emphasis.

  1. Two Servants (Expectant Watching) Scripture is Matthew 24:45-51
  2. Ten Virgins (Patient Waiting) Scripture is Matthew 25:1-13
  3. Three Stewards (Diligent Working) Scripture is Matthew 25:14-30

Of course, as you probably know each of these will stand on their own so my thoughts will be capsulized. I’m focusing on this month’s theme: Servants. So each of the parables will look at what or how a servant is to be. There  is one word which makes its way through all three of these parables: faithfulness. All three exhort us to be ready.

I’m excited about continuing this series on Servants and using these three well-known parables. Your prayers would be greatly appreciated. It has been a long and tiring week of ministry. I always need God’s Spirit when I preach.  This Sunday is an extra dose. I know He is sufficient. Thanks.