Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Every year, on the first Sunday of the year, we hand out Epiphany stars. Each star has a word on it. As you receive this star, it is supposed to be your "word" for the year. It is God's encouragement to you for the year. There are many words; words like faith, support, encouragement, surrender, etc...
My word for this year was "opportunity." The fun thing about getting the word in this random manner is to see what God might do in and through me. This year I have seen how God has given me many opportunities. Opportunities for service, opportunities for new friendships, opportunities for mentoring, opportunities to make a difference. I believe because of this word, I have been more aware of the opportunities placed before me.
How about you? If God were to give you a word, what might that word be? How have you felt God prodding you? Leading you? Challenging you? I encourage you to think through these questions. It will help you to know how God has been with you throughout the year.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
When you look around, it doesn’t take long to realize that there are many people who are lonely. They are lonely for several reasons. Some are lonely because they isolate themselves from the world. Others are lonely because they have trouble opening up their heart to others. And still others are lonely because they aren’t loved as they should be. People can be in a crowded room, with many people, and still be lonely, because they are not connecting to others.
In this Christmas season, we have a good reminder that we need not be lonely. In Matthew 1:23 we are told about Mary fulfilling the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14: "Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel." which means 'God with us.' God is with us. Not just 2000 years ago when Jesus was born, but even now.
God is with us. This means that we always have someone walking with us. This means that we always have someone to turn to for help. This means that we have someone who understands us. This means that we have someone who can act on our behalf. God is with us.
This Christmas season I hope you open yourself up to the presence of God through Jesus Christ. But I also hope that you pray that God would bring others to you to love and love you. God is with us in this way as well! God bless.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
We are in the advent season (as it is known in many religious settings), and this current Sunday is to be the Sunday of "love." With this in mind, as we think about love, I wanted to tackle the question "Does God only love Christians?" This is an important question, because people believe Christianity to be so limiting, and the God of Christians to be so narrow and unloving (since He condemns people to hell).
The truth is that God loves everyone. In the book of 1 John, in the New Testament, we are told that "God is love." So the essence of God is love itself. If God's essence is love, then the nature of God is to love. The Bible also tells us that God does not want evil to befall anyone.
The most profound scripture is a very well known one; John 3:16, which says: "For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God loves the world; everyone. And because of this life, He allowed His Son, Jesus, to come to this earth and live amongst His people. That is what Christmas is all about; God's love; God's coming to us; and ultimately Jesus dying on the cross so that we might not be penalized for our wrongdoings.
It seems that the world wants to live without accountability. They want a God who loves, but who doesn't punish. If you were to look at families where the children misbehave without any punishment, you see a family in chaos, and children who have no sense of right and wrong. These children not only wreak havoc in their families, but in the world around them.
God doesn't only love Christians, God loves the whole world. God created the world and said that it was good. It is not God who put us in the position we are in, we did that on our own; we got ourselves lost from God and God's love. God's love is there for all to receive, they just have to reach out to God and accept it. As Romans 3:23 says, "For the penalty of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ." Let us grab hold of this gift. The best gift you can have this Christmas!
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
We are coming into the Christmas (Advent) season, and all the decorations are starting to go up. Christmas season is my favorite season of the year, because I love the decorations and the spirit it brings. And yet, there is a spirit that exists that is not good, and that is the spirit of materialism. The stores are advertising and hoping that people will buy, buy, buy. And we all join along and spend lots of money.
So I want to deal with this question: Why does materialism feel so good? It is always fun to get new things. And it is so easy to get caught up in wanting what is new. Why is this? I believe it is because we get so easily bored. Anytime we work at the same job, or drive the same car for any length of time, we begin to get bored with it. And so we get antsy and begin to want a new car, or a new stereo, or a new job.
But on top of that, the new products usually have upgrades. The new cars have all the new gadgets (GPS, TV screen to see behind the car, etc...) And as we look at these new products, all shiny and fancy, we get that itch to have it. And once we get these "new things" we have to brag about it to others. Then those who don't have the new things want them as well.
I believe at the core of overcoming this desire for materialism is learning how to be happy with what we have and with where we are in life. As the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:11, "For I have learned to be content with whatever I have." Until we learn how to be content, we will always want something more, something different. We will never be able to enjoy life.
SO, this Christmas season, even in the midst of getting and giving, try to sekk out a bit of contentment for what you have; try to allow yourself to be content. Maybe even give away some of what you already have, because when you give, then you come to appreciate what you already possess. Believe me, contentment is much better than always wanting.
And all the more, receive LOVE Himself; Jesus Christ. This season really is about knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In Christ, we can be content, and know that love is more important than things!