Waiting for an Invitation

A Christian is one who follows Jesus as his Lord.  Instead of serving our own desires and conforming to what our surroundings tell us to be and do, we have found the freedom and life found in Jesus alone! How wonderful it is to follow our Master, for he is loving and His burden is light.  I never realized what a load I had been carrying until I came to Jesus and found strength and rest.  But what about the many people around us who have not yet learned of Christ and the hope and strength He offers?  Sure, we know God has told us to share the truth with them, but what if they think we’re weird?  Surely if they want to know what faith in Jesus is, they’ll just ask?  No.

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A Needed Invitation

Though you may not believe it at first, there are many people all around you who want to know spiritual truth.  They would gladly converse with you on the subject and even come to your church with you to see what it’s all about.  But guess what, they’re not going to tell you that!  And you can’t identify them by just looking.

What Do the Numbers Say?

According to a Scott McConnell of LifeWay Research “…many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).”  (Read these stats in detail here.)  The difficult part for many Christians about asking a friend or acquaintance to church is this:  what if they say no???  Allow me to let you in on a little secret.  Most will say no.  Gasp!  😀

Collecting No’s

The stats are going to vary greatly for any specific person and set of circumstances, so for simplicity let’s just assume that 20% of friends you invite via personal invitation will actually attend church with you.  Of those who attend, some will never return, some will return a few times, and some will be radically changed and become followers of Christ.  How many people will say no to your invitation in order for you to find one person who will hear the Holy Spirit’s voice and turn from sin to faith in Jesus?  Ten?  Sixty?  Two thousand?

Does it matter?  Is it worth it to bring one lost soul to the feet of your loving Savior, so that he may taste the love and salvation of Jesus as you have?  Can you imagine yourself standing before your Lord at the end of your life saying, “Jesus, I would have told people about you, but I just didn’t want to hear anyone tell me no.  It felt awkward.”

Ambassadors

We Christians need to trust God that He has people out there He is going to save.  He has put us where we are in our lives in order that we would take His Word to these people, to be the means by which they hear the gospel.  Christ died for sinners, and anyone who will place their faith in Him will be washed clean and declared righteous.

Go Get More of Both

Instead of viewing negatively an answer of, “no,” to our invitation to come and see Jesus, we should view it as a victory—that’s one more person in the denominator.  For every 100 friends you ask, some percent of them are just waiting to be asked, to come and hear, and to find rest and peace for their souls.  It is God’s plan that they will be saved.  And it is God’s plan that a Christian would share the good news with them.  Will you be that Christian?  Or will God use someone obedient?  Embrace the no’s, they are part of the process.  The more invitations, the more no’s, and naturally, the more yeses.  Let’s be the church we are called to be: let us come together for equipping and encouragement to take the gospel out to the very ends of the earth.  Lord Jesus, lead us on, show us how, and may your will be done.

A Beautiful Bride

A beautiful bride walks down the aisle, radiant in beauty and wearing a magnificent white dress.  Her family and friends look on in delight and hopeful admiration—this is the day when she will be joined in marriage to the love of her life.  The couple stands before the pastor with stars in their eyes and vow exclusive devotion to each other above all others, and commit, “till death do us part.”  Fast-forward nine months and we’ll often find an altogether different scene.  This same woman shouts at the top of her lungs, “You’re always leaving your stuff all over the house!  Do I need to give you a map to the laundry basket?”  Her husband, the one who stood at the altar confessing his undying devotion, shouts back as he slams the door in her face, “screw you, I’m going to the bar!”  What has happened?  Why do couples go from starry-eyed lovers to enemies, and how can we create thriving marriages that last?

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The Right Atmosphere

Look around you.  Of the ten people you spend the most time around, how many are couples with strong and healthy marriages?  We make small choices each day, such as who we spend time around, without realizing how these choices significantly affect our outlook, worldview, and habits.  If the people around you typically belittle and mock their spouses, this will begin to seem to you to be normal and acceptable behavior.  Over time, speaking negatively about your spouse will start to program your brain to think less of your spouse.  Conversely, spend time around couples who speak well of each other, and you’ll start speaking more positive, and begin thinking more highly of your spouse.  When you recognize how wonderful your spouse really is, you’ll appreciate what they do more, and you’ll naturally give them more praise and affection.

What we’re really talking about here is creating the right atmosphere.  When godly people spend time around each other and living out the Lord’s way day by day, it creates this incredible atmosphere that lifts each and every person.  We strengthen and challenge each other to reach greater heights, and we make excellence the norm.  It’s a beautiful and constant growth process, and it’s how those wise and loving couples who’ve been married for 50 years became what they are.  Brick by brick, step by step, getting around other winners and creating an atmosphere for everyone to build a thriving marriage.

Making the Time

In addition to getting around credible leaders, it’s important that we make time to enjoy our spouse.  With work, kids, the house, friends, and getting involved in the community, it’s really easy to let activities and commitments take over your calendar.  While these things are all good things, if they cause us to neglect our spouse, we’ve traded the great for the good.

A wise friend taught me the following great habit: once a day, once a week, once a month.  Once a day, kiss your spouse.  And I don’t mean just a peck—it had better last more than 20 seconds.  Once a week, spend time together talking (while looking directly at each other and not doing anything else).  And when your done talking do something fun just the two of you.  Go for ice cream, play a game, have a cup of coffee and recount fun stories.  Once a month do a real, extended date.  Dinner and a movie, or take her to a show she’ll like.  Or maybe have a picnic at the park.  Be creative, be romantic, and make it fun!

The Third Cord

The final piece is by far the most important.  Think of your marriage as a rope.  You are one piece of string, and your spouse is another piece of string.  The point of marriage is that the two become one.  But if you have only two cords to twist together, it will unfurl in the tough times.  Only when a third cord is in the marriage can the cords be braided and the marriage have the full strength needed to stand firm.  That third cord is Jesus, and the main purpose of marriage is to serve and honor Him.  A marriage that is entered into for some reason other than Christ is ultimately done for self.  If I marry my spouse because I want her to make me happy, I will have a big problem when she ceases to make me happy.  If she’s no longer pleasing me and giving me what I want, the marriage has no reason to go on.  I’ll simply want to file a divorce and go out and find someone else who will fulfill my needs.

If, on the other hand, I enter into marriage for the purpose of worshiping and honoring Christ, my commitment is not based upon my spouse’s performance.  I will love her and remain faithful to her for the sake of Christ.  Even when she fails to love and respect me well, I will continue loving and serving her anyway, for this is my charge from my Lord.  My life belongs to Jesus and I serve Him because that is my purpose.  God, help me to live out this high calling you have given me, each day and every day for You.

A Life Well Lived

Mildred Timmerman, a beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother said goodbye to this mortal world earlier this week, and is now in the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  We who knew her were blessed for the time we shared with her here, and she left an indelible impression on so many who had the privilege of spending time with this wonderful lady.  What did she have that caused her to live the way she did?  From what source did she draw for her seemingly infinite patience, love, and wisdom?

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She Lit Up the Room

Grandma Millie was a person who instantly lit up a room simply by walking into it.  Her face was ever-smiling and her disposition ever-encouraging.  At the same time, she was a woman who stood for something.  I can remember times when grandma would catch word that I my grades were falling in one class or another, and she would react in such a way as to indicate she knew I was capable of better.  She knew it was wrong of me to misuse my gifts, but she didn’t seek to motivate me through guilt or nagging.  She simply exuded wordlessly:  “Chris, you were created by God for a purpose.  He has given you a great many blessings, and you ought to be developing and using them in serving Him.”

When I did well, grandma was lavish with praise.  She appreciated the important things in life—time with family, the love we show to each other and importance of nurturing unity.  She would always brush away the peripheral and unimportant matters that brought conflict, and without being forceful, her words carried weight.

A Living Demonstration of Real Love

The more I think of the person grandma Millie was, the more I appreciate her and the more I realize how incredible a model of godliness she really was.  I can think of no better way to express it than by quoting her Lord, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 5:16).  Millie truly lived this way—she loved people, really loved them well, and brightened their lives when she was around them.  At the same time, she stood for truth and devoted her life to her Lord and Savior.  She would build relationships, deep and meaningful relationships with people around her, and in those moments when our ears were open to her advice, she would speak the truth into our lives.

Millie’s Source

Oh that we each would learn from this godly woman’s example and follow her path.  She was loving and good because she followed One who is the source of all love and goodness.  She wasn’t perfect, and she is righteous not because of her own morality but because her sin has been washed clean.  Christ died for sinners, among whom Millie was one; when He died on the cross He willingly took the punishment she deserved.  Jesus was without sin, and his suffering atoned for all those who place their faith in Him.  His resurrection on the third day demonstrates his dominion over death, and it is in His power that we rest and know that death has not overcome Mildred Timmerman.  Through her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, Grandma Millie is righteous and without spot or blemish.  Her mortal hindrances are now no more, and she stands in the presence of the Lord Jesus right now, in this very moment!  We await with joy the day that we too will leave this mortal body of death and join Millie in the throne room of Jesus, to worship Him forever beside her!  Will you be there too?

Turn and Follow

Jesus calls any who will come to draw near to Him in faith and find cleansing.  Give up on living your own way and for yourself—do as Millie has done and turn from your own path, turn to His path.  He will take you as you are and give you a new nature, a nature like His, and you, like Millie, will begin to grow more like Him each day.  The Savior is calling, come to Him today!

Could Four Minutes Really Matter?

Have you ever had a day get off to a rough start, and you felt behind all day?  Maybe your coworker rushed into your office before you’d had a chance to check your email, upset and needing your immediate assistance.  Your plans for the day get all thrown off, and you may feel like control of your time and activity perpetually eludes you.  Anything here sounding familiar?  How did you respond?  Are there things you and I can do in these circumstances to not only get through the day, but actually thrive?  How can we take such a day and still use the time to make progress towards the growth we want and the goals we’re pursuing?

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What Truly Must Be Done?

If you’re anything like most of us, you have some daily habits and routines that feel like they’re essential. For example, I usually check my email messages in the mid-morning then head up to the coffee machine for a tasty brew.  Although these are my typical habits, they aren’t absolutely necessary, and on days where large unexpected demands fall on me, they can be jettisoned.  The key when stuff is flying at you is to stay clearheaded and in control.  Even if people around you are getting frantic, take five minutes to get away.  Use this time to identify the three most important priorities that must happen before the end of the day, and write them down in order.

Forgo the Unnecessary First

Once you’ve put out the preverbal fire, get going on your first priority right away.  Taking back control of our day is going to involve forgoing some of our usual routine, but often this is what it takes.  Unfortunately, some days there is simply more to be done than can possibly fit.  Rather than running frantically from one task to the next, and spending our whole day out of control, we can be intentional and spend our time first on the most important things, and since something will fall through the cracks, let’s choose the lowest priority task to be the one.

Resist the Couch

Finally, on days like these, when you finally finish your work, get home and eat, clean up and do whatever chores need doing, we face the last challenge of the day:  the temptation to neglect our personal growth and pursuit of our goals.  On a day that was particularly hectic, I probably didn’t get a workout in, and I’d really like to lounge on the couch and watch a show for twenty minutes before bed.  I probably don’t feel like reading, connecting with my spouse, or spending time in the Word and in prayer with my Heavenly Father.  Now is where I have a choice:  do I throw in the towel for the day, or do I commit to doing these vital activities that will cause me to grow and move closer to my goals?

Don’t Forgo the Important

Never underestimate the difference a small amount of focused activity can make in your life when practiced daily.  I can absolutely and personally attest to the huge difference that even a four-minute workout can make to one’s fitness and health.  Many times in my life, I’d succumbed to the easy solution after a hard day at work, and plopped down on the couch.  When a one- or two-day break from my exercise regimen turned into a four- or five-day break, I found I paid a heavy price on the day I finally did make it back into the gym.  But I have since learned that even a very quick workout—perhaps nothing more than a few minutes of pushups (pushing myself as fast and hard as possible) can get my blood moving, my muscles and lungs working, and can sustain me until the next day when I can get a full workout in.  It seems like such a small thing that it couldn’t possibly matter, but it truly does.  And the same goes for my other habits in contributing to my growth.  Maybe I only read 8 pages of a good book when I’ve had a super busy night.  But I can focus on learning to the best of my ability during the short period of time, and the benefits are undeniable.

As the following article suggests, remember to be grateful: https://www.positivehealthwellness.com/beauty-aging/9-self-care-tips-will-help-become-confident/ Sometimes when we get busy, we are apt to forget to be grateful for the many incredible blessings we enjoy. Take the time to thank God for the many wonderful things He has given you–and you might step back into your day with an entirely different perspective.

Building Blocks

Chose to avoid statements like, “I just don’t have time to work out,” or, “I’d love to read good books, if only I had the time.”  Let’s all make a  commitment to each other never to waste our time speaking such nonsense—just use the time you’re saving by not spewing such ignorance to be that four-minute workout, 8-pages of reading, or time of prayer.  These are the building blocks we use to build our thriving life, and I thank you for coming with me on this journey of growth together!

How We Program Ourselves

On your way into work tomorrow, what thoughts will run through your mind?  If you’re like most of us, your natural inclination will be something like, “here comes another day at the grind!  I hope I don’t see Jim today, he’s such a loudmouth!  I can’t wait till the weekend’s here!”  But do these thoughts help you? Or are they helping to create the very kind of day you dread?

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Want Control?  Take It!

Setting our expectations and our outlook for the day—or even for the next moment—is totally within our control.  Would your morning be better if you chose to speak something better to yourself while walking from your car to the office?

Let Wise Men Teach You

Zig Ziglar once said, “Positive thinking won’t let you do anything, but it will let you do everything better than negative thinking will.”  This is great advice from a great man!  When’s the last time you took control of your circumstances and made a decision to have a great morning?  Why let circumstances dictate our life to us? Do you really believe that telling yourself that your coworkers are rude and your work is boring does you any good? How about when you say things like, “it doesn’t matter how hard I work or what good things I do, no one notices anyway.”  Do these statements help you, or hurt you?

Attitude and Response

Simple as it sounds or silly as it sounds, you make the choice every day whether your day will be great or a dud.  Things outside your control will still happen.  Some may be pleasant, others not—but your attitude going in and your response coming out are both things you choose.  If you’re really interested in living a thriving life, right now’s a good time to start!  What kind of day will you make today?

The Root of Anger

Anger, disappointment, resentment, hurt:  these are emotions we’d prefer to avoid.  If we could choose, we’d rather live happy, content, and fulfilled, wouldn’t we?  What if there was a way to significantly reduce the amount of time we spend angry or hurt?  If we understand the root cause of these negative emotions and the negative situations they lead us into, we can find victory and spend more of our time cultivating excellent relationships and enjoying the time we have.

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Our Many Gifts

We enjoy so many incredible blessings in our everyday life.  Just think about the comfortable bed you slept in last night, the delicious dinner you ate, and the people around you that truly and deeply love you.  We could spend all day listing all the great things in our lives—things given to us by the Maker of all things.

We desire good things—and there’s nothing wrong with that.  In fact, it is good to enjoy and appreciate all the wonderful blessings we have every day.  But there is a good way and a bad way to hold these blessings.  One will give us great fulfillment and thankful hearts, while the other will produce the harmful emotions listed above.

With Open Hands?

The difference is this:  do you hold your gifts with open hands or closed fists?  You see, when our desires are met, we have a choice.  We either recognize that the blessing that we received is a gift of God, or we start to close our hands around it and begin thinking we own it.  As we neglect to thank God for a particular blessing, we slowly close our grip around it, wishing to keep it within our possession.

The Enemy works gradually, taking some new blessing and day by day inducing us to feel more and more that we earned it, we deserve it, and we need it.  Once we view that blessing as something we need, we will react in anger when it is threatened.

Thankful to Expectation to Need

Consider the simple act of a man writing a love poem to his wife every week.  When he first begins this act of love and appreciation, his wife may be delighted!  She feels loved and cherished, and expresses her thanks to him.  But over time, as the notes continue to come week after week, this blessing may turn into an expectation in her mind.  She begins to think she deserves these notes, and her husband owes them to her.  If he misses one week, she will feel emotions of disappointment, resentment, or even anger.

But this is all rooted in a choice—if the woman in the story above simply appreciated the love notes as a blessing, she will each week feel the emotions of thankfulness, happiness, and love when her husband gives the poem.  If one week the husband should fail to present a poem, she will miss it, but that’s all.  She only feels anger, hurt, and resentment when the gift is expected and assumed.  Put another way, she will feel anger and disappointment when her need for her weekly poem isn’t met.

What’s Yours?

Perhaps this seems silly to you, that a woman should come to need an expect a poem from her husband every week.  But what about you and me?  Are there not blessings in our life that we one didn’t have, now have, and now expect we shall always have?  God has bestowed amazing gifts upon you and me—do we hold them with an open hand?

The Example of Open Hands

Job is was one of the richest men in the world in his day—not only in material wealth, but also with many children, as well as the love and respect of his neighbors.  In one day, it was all taken from him, and yet his response was this:  “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21).

Are there things you expect from those around you?  Do you need and demand that your coworkers speak well of you, such that when they disparage you you become angry?   Do you expect your mentors to have perfect understanding in everything they teach and council you?  Do you expect you spouse to always be there to meet your needs and do the things you want them to do?

What Perspective Will You Choose?

Let’s make the decision today to stop letting anger have root in our hearts.  If we will recognize that the blessings we enjoy each day are gifts—gifts that are not promised to be there tomorrow—we will increase our reliance upon the Lord, our appreciation of His grace, and the moments of life that bear the hallmark of peaceful contentedness.

Does Intelligence Always Win?

Intelligence is highly valued in our culture—call someone intelligent and he will be delighted!  Are there more important things though?  Is a man well loved who is intelligent yet rude?  Or, does someone who is very intelligent necessarily have right understanding?  Could it be that a man of lower intelligence may actually beat out one of higher intelligence when it comes to living a thriving life?  How could this happen?

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Two men at work

Consider the following story.  I hired John, a very intelligent man I know, to take care of a few things at my home. One day I instruct him to work on a retaining wall in my yard and pick up an important package arriving by train from Chicago.  Our agreement states that he will be paid based upon how much of the wall he finishes and he will receive a fixed amount for retrieving the package.

On another day, I hire Bruce, a man of low intelligence yet a man of practical experience and common sense.  I offer the same terms to him that I agreed to with John.

The two men, given their differing intelligence, come at the task very differently.  John has a mind like a steel trap, and has the train schedules memorized.  He knows the Chicago train arrives at the station every day at 4:30.  He also knows that the route to the train station becomes congested during that time, and accounts for this, calculating that he must leave the house by 3:50 to make it on time.  This gives him the maximum time to work on the wall.  He has also studied engineering and foundation design, so he knows the latest methods for efficient and sturdy retaining wall construction.

Bruce, on the other hand, does not possess all this intelligence and knowledge.  He knows the basics to build a retaining wall, as his father had taught him years ago.  He doesn’t know the train schedules or the route to get to the station.  So, his first action is to call the station and ask the representative when the train arrives.  The representative informs him that a derailment yesterday has thrown off the usual schedule, and the Chicago train will be arriving an hour later than usual.  In addition, the main freeway into the station is currently under construction, so the rep informs Bruce of an alternate route.

You can guess how this story ends:  our intelligent man John spends a little over an hour sitting in traffic, arriving just too late to get the package, which is instead sent via courier.  When it’s all said and done, John spent more time in the car than Bruce, so despite his more efficient process, he didn’t accomplish more of the wall than Bruce did.  On top of that, he missed picking up the package, so when his invoice is totaled, he actually made less than Bruce.

What’s the Cause?

Now how did this happen?  John was smarter than Bruce, had more knowledge, and had worked out an ideal plan to maximize his efficiency.  How did he come in behind Bruce?

John simply did something that a great many people—people of high intelligence and people of low intelligence—do every day.  He did not test his assumptions.  It’s not that his plan was bad, in fact, his plan was probably better than Bruce’s.  But it was based on something false.  It was based on the train arriving at a time other than the true time, and it was based on the route to the station being open as usual.  Both of these falsehoods are rooted in John’s own mind.  He thought he knew, and so he didn’t take the time to check whether or not his beliefs were true.  Ample evidence and resources existed for him to test his beliefs and assumptions, yet he failed to use them because he wrongly believed he didn’t need them.

Could This Really Happen?

Perhaps it seems unrealistic that such a smart man as John would so foolishly neglect to check such an important component before making his plan.  Surely a smart person would know better, right?

Sadly, there are a great many people, people we meet and talk with every day, who are neglecting something far more important than a train schedule.  There are a great many important topics to be studied in this world, and many intelligent people study them each day, but none are more important than questions like these: How did I come to exist?  Who made me, and for what purpose?  And this one who made me, what is He like?

It Happens Every Day

As with the train schedule in our story, much evidence exists, and many reliable resources are available to answer life’s most important questions.  The Holy Bible reveals many things to us about what God is like and what He has done.  The historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible are facts clearly demonstrable through the archaeological records and the science of textual criticism.  The evidence is available for any and all who will take the time to investigate it.  But what do most people do?  Do they take an honest look at the Bible and the evidence that it is a document of divine origin?

Most people choose to reject the Bible as their foundation, not because they have looked at the evidence and do not find it compelling, but rather because they have never examined it at all.  Like the intelligent man in our story, many people think they know the train schedule, so they just assume the ideas in their mind are right.

The Right Foundation

The sad reality is that if we build our lives on the assumptions in our minds, we will have a grand structure sitting on a foundation of sand.  When time reveals the truth of God’s Word and Christ’s promises, many will regret their failure to seek and find the truth.  What about you?  Are your beliefs about God rooted in reliable foundations or untested assumptions?  How much time have you spent investigating the claims that the Bible is God’s Word, reliable and written for you?

The answers and the evidence are out there, and great resources like www.equip.org will help you sort out the truth.  The question is, will you seek the truth or will you live tomorrow as you lived today—confident in your belief that the train arrives at 4:30?  John’s consequence for being too late was simply losing a little money; realizing Christ is Lord too late will cost you your soul.

Two Archers

“What is truth?”  These words, uttered to Christ by Pontius Pilate during the trial of Jesus are an old-world example of a “new” and popular view in our culture today.  It goes like this:  “what’s good for me is good for me; what’s good for you if good for you.  There’s no real standard, we just make it up ourselves.”  Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  What could be wrong with such a friendly and tolerant worldview??

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A Story of Two Men

Two men entered an archery contest. In the first year of competition, both men missed the bull’s-eye with every shot. A few shots missed the target entirely. In the year that followed, one man learned of a master archer, one who’s arrows had never missed the bull’s-eye. The man then heard that the master’s score and the purse associated with winning the contest were available to him for free, should he submit himself to the master’s instruction. He immediately discarded his former ideas on archery and went to live with the master and learn from him.

The other man spurned the master, caring nothing for his instruction. Instead, he told himself that the target in the contest was incorrectly placed, and much too small. He sought to convince others to ignore the standards of the archery contest, and introduced different targets of his own making.

The first man spent his year training from the master. Though he did not hit the bull’s-eye very often, He never denied that the target was real. His shots improved week to week to week, and he came to resemble the master more and more. The second man continued his delusion for the entire year, and led many who followed him astray.

The Day Comes

When the contest came, the folly of the second man was evident. For all his smooth arguments and denial of the standards, the target was indeed real. The second man was incapable of hitting the bulls-eye, and went away dejected. The first man was also incapable of hitting the bull’s-eye. The master stepped up and hit the bulls-eye with every arrow, and when he received the prize, he gave it to the first man, as he had originally promised to do. The first man’s arrows had not hit the bulls-eye, yet he received the prize based upon the work of the master. He did not earn the prize; he simply submitted himself to the master and devoted himself his teaching and received the prize as a gift.

Our Holy and Awesome Maker

God is perfect, He his love.  He is truthful and compassionate, caring and just.  His very person is the root of all goodness and truth.  He shows us in His Word what He is like, and sin is defined as anything that is against God, or runs contrary to his character.

Our Need

We are all sinners. By our nature, we desire to live in rebellion against God and do what we want. We don’t love His commands or His Word, we want nothing to do with them. In this state, we will never seek God, and we certainly do not desire to spend eternity worshiping Him.

God’s Solution

And yet, while we were sinners, God acted. God humbled Himself to become a human, even taking the humility of being born in a stable, as we just finished celebrating. Jesus lived the life we were incapable of living, perfectly keeping the Law. He was then tortured and killed, taking on our punishment and taking our place. If anyone will place his faith in Christ, his sin is washed away. Our debt of sin is paid, and we are free!

Your Choice

Faced with this truth, the gospel, we have two choices. Embrace the Lord Jesus Christ, love Him, and live His way, or reject Him. He will either be our Lord and Savior or not. When we die, God allows us to keep our choice for eternity. I choose to follow Christ, to have faith in Him, and do all I can to share this truth with my neighbors and my family. Will you this day turn from living your own way and trust Him? He is gentle and humble of heart, and in Him you will find rest for your soul.  The Master invites you, will you follow Him?

What is Christmas?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year—Christmas!!  We all have our favorite things about the season: caroling, amazing food, candy everywhere, time with family, parties, and lots of other delightful traditions.  With so much going on, we can sometimes get so busy and overwhelmed that we can miss some important things, perhaps even the most important things!  So what is Christmas really about?  What is it that holds all these activities and traditions together?

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Time with Family

If you’ve seen any of the famous Christmas movies, you’ve probably caught on to a recurring theme.  Christmas isn’t about amassing stuff for yourself.  It’s no time to be a recluse or a Scrooge or just treat Christmas like just any other day.  So often in these stories, the mixed-up main character finds through a series of events that all the money and selfish living are empty and hollow, and he finds the value of friends and family, coming back to those who once loved him and adopting a loving and giving attitude.

This is part of what Christmas is all about, but as an ultimate meaning, even good things like friendliness and loving family fall short.  Indeed, we should love others and value and appreciate our families all year long, and especially so at Christmas.  This is a key part of what Christmas is all about.  But why should we live this way?

Selflessness

Christmas is a time of giving.  A time when we seek out others who are in need and bless them generously and graciously.  Maybe we volunteer or buy gifts for the local homeless shelter.  Or perhaps we team up with a program at church to deliver a turkey and loads of groceries to a needy family. These activities come even closer to the true meaning of Christmas, but as an ultimate meaning, even these will not do.  Again, why are we to graciously love and give to the undeserving?

The Root

The root of all the good things we do at Christmas can be found in the very name of the holiday:  Christ!  The word means Messiah, the one sent by God to save His people.  And that is exactly who Jesus is.  The first one to be gracious, to love those who didn’t deserve it was God.  You see, we were enemies of God, estranged from Him because of our sin.  We are naturally in rebellion against our Maker due to the sin of our father and patriarch Adam, and our first desires are to please ourselves and live our own way.

He Loved the Unlovable

It was when we were in this sinful state, far from God and wanting nothing to do with Him or His Word that God sent the Christ.  Jesus, eternal God from before the beginning of time, humbled himself and became a man.  No time in history has such a momentous and glorious event occurred—the Creator of all things came to earth to be born as a baby.  He did this not because it would be pleasant or easy, in fact it would be painful and difficult.  Ultimately, he would be tortured and nailed to a cross to die a slow and agonizing death.  This was God’s gracious plan to bring mankind back to Himself.  You see, God is holy and perfect.  He is Just.  He cannot and will not ignore sin and sweep it under the rug.  In order for you or me to be brought back into relationship with Him, punishment must be rendered.  Jesus came to take that punishment—anyone who trusts in Him and accepts His substitutionary payment of our debt can be forgiven.  It’s as if you were found guilty in court, but Jesus comes in and pays your fine for you.  Your case is legally dismissed and you may walk out a free person!

We Love Because He Loved

We should be loving during Christmas and all times for the principal reason that God was loving to us.  He didn’t wait for us to clean up and earn good things; He sent His Son to save us even while we were dirty and rotten, full of sin.  We should love our families and be kind to each other because love and kindness are who God is.  When we accept Jesus as Savior, we also accept Him as Lord.  He is our shepherd, Father, and example.  We read His Word to learn what He is like and how He desires us to live, and we make choices each day to live His Way.

This Christmas, let’s let the true meaning of Christmas undergird everything we do.  Yes, let’s love others, value time with our family, and graciously give to those in need.  But let’s do it with the understanding that it was God’s gift of His only Son that causes these actions for His Glory.  Merry Christmas!!

The Greatest

How do you define greatness?  Is a person with a sharp suit and a fast car great?  Or is it a popular and loved person who is truly great?  Maybe someone who follows all the rules of the Bible?  Or maybe it’s the one who works hard and becomes CEO of his company.

nice car!

What Standard?

Could it be that all of these definitions are wrong?  Could someone be winning in his fitness, family, financially, and career, and yet lack what it takes to be great?  Let’s take a moment to look at what the world’s greatest teacher had to say on the subject:

Luke 9:

46 An argument started among them as to which of them might be the greatest. 47 But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart, took a child and stood him by His side, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in My name receives Me, and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me; for the one who is least among all of you, this is the one who is great.”

I’m better!  No, I’m better!

We see in this scene men arguing with each other as to who is better than whom.  Have you ever, perhaps in your mind, compared yourself to those around you and decided that you really are greater than they?  It is easy for us to overlook some of our own shortcomings and see ourselves favorably.  “If only others were more like me,” we think, “this place would be a whole lot better…”

The problem is, besides becoming puffed up with ourselves, we are apt to have a very mixed-up view of greatness and what it takes to be great.  Like the disciples in the Luke 9 story, we focus on external accomplishment and things that impress men.  Jesus taught the disciples, as He teaches us, that God values highest what men often esteem lowest.

Why waste my time with kids?

Children are often looked down on in our society—and not just because of their stature!  😉  Adults will often think of children as silly, naïve, and simple.  Rather than have a conversation with a little kid or tell a story from the Bible, we adults will prefer to spend time on “important things” like washing dishes, paying bills, or even surfing facebook.

In contrast, Jesus defines greatness by one who receives a child in His name.  When we accept children, we accept Jesus, and when we accept Jesus we are accepting God.  To be great, we must be willing to, and take the time to, tell kids about God, about Jesus, and about what He has done.  When is the last time that you shared God with a child?

Will you serve, even if no one cares?

Perhaps we won’t impress those around us with speech about how we told kids about Jesus.  Maybe teaching a Sunday School class of second graders or volunteering to lead game time on Wednesday night will not be rewarded with the thanks of your fellow church members.  Maybe no one will care.  But isn’t that the point?  Do we really love God for who he is, and desire to serve Him and do what He says for that reason only?  Perhaps this is one reason Jesus defines greatness in this way—who will value a child, take the time to pour truth and love into him, even if he must do so thanklessly.  Lord, teach us to be great!