Archive for December, 2014

24
Dec
14

Pretty Lights

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 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 5:14-16

One of our favorite activities at Christmas time is to drive around different areas to see the lights with which neighbors have adorned their homes.

Some people like multi-colored lights, some like all blue, and some like all white. There are those who like lights that blink on and off, others who like them running after each other, and yet others who prefer that they just stay on. Some displays are simple, with lights only around a tree or a bush, or maybe along their gutters. Other displays involve gutters, trees, doors, windows, stairs and bushes. Yet other light displays are vying for the Neighborhood Griswold Trophy!

The point is that there are many different ways to display lights around our homes at Christmas, and all are very pretty and attractive, or at least will get your notice. There is great deal of individuality and effort that goes into these chosen displays. Some people choose not to put any lights up at all. But when it comes to spreading the gospel, there is no choice, only a command.

Christians are told that we are the light of the world, and that we are to let our light “shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father.” Not everyone’s approach will be exactly the same. Just like some folks have their preferences about colors, action and amount of lights displayed, Christians will vary their own style and manner of displaying the love of Christ. Some Christians may feel led to serve food at the soup kitchen, some may work with the youth at church, and others may be led to be missionaries. But like all these houses are unified in that they display lights, we are unified in that we share the good news.

Let us determine to display our light for all the world to see!

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” – Mark 16:15-16

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23
Dec
14

Profiles of the Advent – Herod

“Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.” – Matthew 2:16

It could be accurately stated that Herod may have been the original Grinch. Why was he so mean, nasty, and hateful? Was it his lust for power? Was it his own greed? Maybe Dr. Suess said it best: “It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

From the Holy Bible, we do know that Herod reigned at the time of Christ. He learned of the birth of a baby whom the magi called “the King of the Jews.” This led Herod to believe that his throne was threatened, so he instructed the magi to let him know where the newborn child was located. When the magi never returned, Herod went ballistic and ordered all the baby boys under two years old to be murdered.

From history, we know that Herod was extremely ruthless and bloodthirsty. It is recorded that he murdered his favorite wife and son when his reign was threatened. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that Herod arranged for many Jewish nobles to be murdered upon his death in order to ensure that the land mourned his passing. Needless to say, Herod was way down on the bottom of many people’s Christmas card list!

If Christians are not careful, then we can become guilty of being like Herod or the Grinch, ourselves. We can get so caught up in the outside activities of life that we may neglect our primary calling: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” We are given new spiritual life in order that our witness will bear fruit of more souls who are won for Christ. In a world full of people who are spiritually dying and going to an eternal hell and lake of fire, we are guilty of murder, ourselves, if we withhold the message of so great a salvation.

What makes us so full of hate and animosity so as to refuse to proclaim the good news? Are we too timid or shy? Are we afraid that we may be mocked and ridiculed? Are our hearts “two sizes too small?” Maybe we need a renewed zeal and vigor, a vision of the tormented masses in the flames of hell to make our small hearts grow three sizes this day!

Let us resolve to be determined to spread the message of the gospel this Christmas season, and all through the year.

“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17

22
Dec
14

Profiles of the Advent – The Shepherds

“And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” – Matthew 2:18

There is nothing quite like experiencing the wonder and awe of God Almighty.

Look at the example of the shepherds who eventually visited Jesus at His birth. The shepherds were going about their business of protecting the sheep from predators at night. There didn’t seem to be anything unusual or out of the ordinary, maybe the cry of a distant wolf or the screech of an owl.

All of the sudden, the peace and quiet is broken by the sudden appearance of some kind of creature and probably a bright light as the “glory of The Lord shone around them” (Matthew 2:9). Naturally, they were scared out of their wits! A wolf, panther or mountain lion was one thing, but this was something entirely different! They were told not to be scared, and were told of the news that the promised Messiah had been born. Then this creature was surrounded by hundreds, thousands, maybe bazillions of other creatures who praised God.

The shepherds went into the city to find the newborn baby. They were so excited over the news that they left praising God and telling everyone about what they had seen and heard. The expression of their account so impressed those who heard it that they “wondered at the the things which were told them by the shepherds.”

Even more amazing than that news and experience is the very God Almighty whom we serve! Psalm 8:4 exclaims, “What is man that You take thought of him?” It is utterly amazing that the same God who made some 350,000,000,000 galaxies and spins them all in an orderly orbit still knows how many hairs are on my head! We should take time to wonder in the awe-ness that is God Almighty!

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan writes, “We are a culture that relies on technology over community, a society in which written and spoken words are cheap, easy to come by, and excessive. Our culture says anything goes; fear of God is almost unheard of. We are slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry. The wise man comes to God without saying a word and stands in awe of Him. It may seem a hopeless endeavor, to gaze at the invisible God. But Romans 1:20 tells us that through creation, we see His ‘invisible qualities’ and ‘divine nature.'”

Let us take time each day, before we start and end our day, before we pray, and in all that we do, to take time to wonder in the might and awe of God Almighty.

Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders which You have done, And Your thoughts toward us; There is none to compare with You. If I would declare and speak of them, They would be too numerous to count. – Psalm 40:5

21
Dec
14

Profiles of the Advent – Simeon

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about patience; and patience, proven character; and proven character, hope. – Romans 5:3-4

Patience is a virtue that very few of us seem to want to cultivate. In a world where we have instant mashed potatoes, seemingly unlimited information through the internet and gratification at a moment’s notice, there seems to be little need for this “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23).

To be patient is to endure discomfort without complaint. This makes us cultivate, develop and use other traits such as self-control, humility, and generosity. The Holy Bible says that patience, or perseverance and endurance, comes about through tribulations. Patience, after time deepens our trust in God, and gives us greater confidence about the future.

Simeon is another one of those characters in the Bible that we don’t know much about, except what the Scripture tells us. He is not a historically significant person, so there are not any other records to which we can go to learn of him. According to the Word of God, we do know that he was “righteous and devout…and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). He was so filled with the Holy Spirit that it had been supernaturally revealed to him that he would not die until he saw the Messiah (v. 26). We also know that it was the urging of the Holy Spirit that led him into the temple when he saw the baby Jesus (v. 27).

It would have been easy for Simeon to complain when he saw the Son of God and proclaim, “Well, it’s about time, Lord! All this time I’ve been waiting for this! Do you know how bad my gout has been? And I had to suffer that just so I could wait to see this?” No, his reaction was one of pure joy. Perhaps one of the most touching quotes about seeing Jesus comes from Simeon: “My eyes have seen Your salvation.”

It was obvious that Simeon was a man whose patience developed character, so that he could endure to see his hope. Oh, that we would spend more time developing the virtue of patience!

“Trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” – Moliere

20
Dec
14

Profiles of the Advent – Joseph

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

The Bible has very little to say about Joseph, but what it does say speaks volumes. We know that he was a builder. As such, he was likely poor, and it would have taken him a long time to save up money to properly start a family. He would have had to possess a dwelling, have furniture and be able to pay a dowry. We also notice that Matthew 1:19 says, “Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.”

First, it is significant that he is called righteous. Let’s face it, he had to be a pretty good guy. If the scriptures, inspired by the power of God, say a man is righteous, then he is righteous. But it is not just words that will proclaim righteousness, but deeds will bear out that assertion.

Joseph was in a difficult position to say the least. He had obviously saved money for a long time in order to prepare to get married. It would seem that he had been very patient to pursue his dreams and aspirations of establishing a godly family with a godly wife. It appears that he fell in love with a young girl and decided to become engaged.

The act of being engaged at this time was different than it is in our time. In Joseph and Mary’s day, being engaged was as binding as being married, the only difference being that they did not live under the same roof. So imagine Joseph’s grief when he learned that his betrothed was pregnant.

Under Jewish law, Joseph had every right to make a public example of Mary and have her punished. Who wouldn’t consider such an act? After all, he had saved money for years to fulfill his dreams and here this girl sends his dreams crashing down around him when she gets herself pregnant? Are you kidding? Who wouldn’t feel the anger and despair, and crave retribution?

But notice what Joseph did. He didn’t desire to disgrace her. That shows the love that he had for her. Next, he made plans to divorce her in secret, and not make a public example out of her. That is not only an act of love, but it is an act of selflessness.

Perhaps Jesus had His earthly father in mind when He said, “love your enemies, and do good…and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High” (Luke 6:35). Jesus taught us that selflessness is not exemplified when we love the lovable, but when we love the ones who hate us. Selflessness is putting others before ourselves. Talking about agape love in I Corinthians 13, it is written that “love is kind and is not jealous…does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.”

If our lives were examined under a microscope, would our actions, feelings and motivations be the definition of selflessness or selfishness? Let us take time to make sure we do not exemplify selfishness, but selflessness.

19
Dec
14

Profiles of the Advent – Mary

Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. – Luke 1:38

The general makeup of our society is one that loves attention. One can watch athletes make all sorts of gestures to draw attention after they make a play. It seems that many people will do anything to get their picture on television for a few seconds. On social media, individuals will communicate anything to get as much attention as they can draw. We live in a very self-centered society.

The Virgin Mary was “espoused to a man whose name was Joseph” (Luke 1:27). She was likely very young, perhaps 12 or 13 years old, as life expectancies were not long, and women typically started procreating as soon as their bodies reached childbearing abilities. One day, out of the blue, she was visited by an angel who identified himself as Gabriel. He told her that she would be carrying the fetus of the promised Messiah, and that she would give birth to him.

Naturally, she was curious how this could happen. Of course, she must have been startled at the appearing of the angel. And, if she had lived today, certainly she may have gotten a big head, after her cousin, Elisabeth, said, “Blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:42). One might expect a response such as, “Yeah, I know, right?”

But Mary’s response to all this news was very different. After being told that she would give birth to the Son of God, she submitted herself. After being called blessed among all women, her response was to utter praise to God. When she gave birth and the shepherds came to worship the newborn, the scripture says that she “pondered these things in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Now, let’s be honest, if any person, especially any woman, in all of history would deserve to draw a little attention to herself, it would have been the virgin Mary. But she chose a very different path. Mary’s reaction was humility.

Peter wrote in his epistle, “all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6). As the salt of the earth, we are called to be different, and to be an example of Christ to the world. We are commanded to be clothed in humility, which means that we should be covered with it. We wouldn’t dare think of walking out of our house completely naked, and neither should we even dare think of walking around without humility! And we are to be reminded that our humility on earth in this life will result in great honor later.

Let us follow the example of Mary. Instead of drawing attention to ourselves, let us reflect the attention to the Lord.




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