Month: December 2013

What are You Expecting?

CHRISTmas is almost upon us! Are you excited? I was thinking about it and rereading the blessed account in Luke chapter 2. Like traditions that lose their meaning with sheer repetition, we can lose our awe of that miraculous time in earth’s history having heard it year after year; especially if it is all but relegated to a reading in a prescribed liturgy.
For instance, do any of you remember this in verses 8-14? “And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace among those with whom He is pleased!”
Wow! What a picture this brings to mind! It makes me wish I had a grandparent who could have relayed this story to me verbally as a small boy, filling my young heart with vivid imagery and the excitement that would naturally accompany it! I don’t even remember this at all: an angel appearing in the night, in a field, with the dazzling glory of the Lord around him, telling this great- yet perhaps unexpected- news, along with a multitude of heavenly beings in plain sight of these shepherds! This is awesome!
It makes me ask myself if this appearance was at all expected, prophesied or foreseen by these simple men. Were they expecting it? If not, what did all this mean to them? If they were, what did this fulfillment mean for them in their hearts? Whether they were expecting it or not, their hearts must have “burned” with joy at the sight and words! Similarly, Simeon had been told in the Holy Spirit that he “would not see death until he had seen the Lord’s Christ” (verse 26). And contrastingly, Herod wasn’t envisioning this at all, nor was he the least bit pleased. In fact, it was in direct contradiction to his life’s plans and was an obvious stumbling block and obstacle to him. So strong was his heart’s opposition to God coming into the world that his reaction to the same blessing was to “search for the child, to destroy Him” (Matthew 2:13b).
Let’s help others around us over the coming days to see this time as the shepherds and wise men saw it; not as Herod and others (Freedom from Religion Foundation, Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, American Humanists Association, American Atheists Association, etc.) fear it. So strong and visible is the CHRISTmas message whether embraced or rejected, that it is seen and celebrated globally. May the Lord of all take root in their hearts and in those we know, love and pray for! God Bless you & Merry Christmas †

RECOGNITION IN THE RIGHT PLACE?

I was catching a glimpse of “CNN HEROES” recently just in time to see what one woman did in order to bring a small, but significant change to an area of the world far away from where she lived. Had I more time, I would have several more examples.
We sometimes hear about people of wealth, fame and influence who use their celebrity to further a good cause like foreign adoption; Angelina Jolie comes to mind. Some people do things that win them the recognition of the Nobel Peace Prize. Some deserve it and some don’t. Many religions have some positive influence on and in the world, but all of these are limited to the world. I am not against the good they do, but I have to wonder what their motivation is. Are they trying to find some sense of purpose and fulfillment? Is it still “me” in the forefront and “them” in the background?
Consider the people over the last several millennia who have a different motivation, may never see the fruit of their labor, don’t seek recognition for themselves, are many times harshly persecuted in certain areas of the world, and- here in America- are beginning to be called bigots, intolerant, haters, anarchists or are waved off as they try to approach others with eternal, life-saving words. What these people do is for, or about, others and God. In fact, they are able to do it from a purely selfless motive solely because of the love of Jesus Christ indwelling them. What is a Christian’s motivation for sharing the oft-times unwelcome message of forgiveness of sins, salvation of souls and completely undeserved everlasting life? To begin with, we find ourselves in total agreement with what the Bible explains in 1 Peter 2:9 which says, “that (we) may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” We have been in darkness due to our sinful nature since before we were born, while still in our mother’s womb. David said we were “conceived in sin” (Psalm 51:5). We have never known what it is like to be in the light. So, Christians do it out of a sense of reconciliation and restoration as God wants us to make us like Himself, like He first intended before disobedience entered the world, and sin and death.
Secondly, as it also reveals in 1 John, that you may have fellowship with us and so our joy may be complete. What that means is that we want you to share in the incredible peace and joy of God that we have in Him. It’s excellent and we don’t want to keep it to ourselves. Thirdly, because God has given us the loving command to preach and to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. His gift of salvation is for all mankind, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). And, “The Lord is…patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Most importantly, “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
The pure, selfless and unconditional love of Almighty God is given to us through the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross for you and for me. Our agenda is other-centered as opposed to the me-centeredness of the unsaved world, those who do not know Jesus and Lord and Savior. So, our drive and incentive in doing things for others is to have them be forgiven of their inherent sinfulness by the cleansing blood of Jesus that was shed for you and for me. Some regularly face unwarranted prison sentences, torture, and death in countries which restrict the sharing of the Good News. They don’t do it for recognition, for reward or anything else but to show God’s love as they have received it!