Archive for the ‘ Opportunity ’ Category

Reliving Responses to Christmas: The Least of These

It happens to be Christmas Eve!

Back in the first year of this blog, I did a short Christmas series, beginning with this post, and then this post and this post and this post and this post.
Shall we relive the memories? Okay!


This last part might be a bit fanciful, but one of the joys of Christmas is having some fun.

When Jesus was born, we read: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Immediately following His birth, we read: “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)

Eight days after He entered our world, we read: “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’” (Luke 2:22-24)

A while later, we read: “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 1:1)

What is connection in all of these?

Those are barely mentioned, if at all, in each segment of the story: the animals!

Think about it:

  1. Animals had to give up their place to eat for the night.
  2. Animals were left alone for the night.
  3. Animals had to die for the Lord!
  4. Animals had to help carry worshipers and gifts for the Savior of the world.

When Mary and Joseph laid Jesus in the manger, a feeding trough for animals, this meant that for at least that night and into the morning the animals gave up their dining table.

When the shepherds left their herd for the night, as I mentioned the other day, the sheep lost their security system for a while.

When Jesus was dedicated, two pigeons gave up their lives!

When the Wise Men journeyed from the East, it was their camels and horses who bore the brunt of the excursion and lose any comfort during the trip (though I am sure the Wise Men would have mentioned a thing or two about riding animals through desert and mountain paths).

Would you give up your dining table for a poor baby? Would you like knowing you were unprotected for the night? Would like to carry someone else’s belongings for hundreds of miles (or several dozen … no one really knows exactly how far they travelled)? Would you die for someone?

My take on these under-mentioned characters is this: they were unwilling participants … actually, more like unawares … in this story of our Lord’s birth, yet they can still teach us something.

There are times when God will call us to go hungry for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to give up our lives for the glorification of Jesus Christ.

I can almost guarantee you that these things happen frequently throughout our lives without us even realizing it.

Think of Chinese believers who are worshiping together in someone’s home, when authorities come in and break up the meeting.

Think of Asian/Arab believers who are going to church, and they get beat up as they walk for simply believing in Jesus.

Think of African believers who sit in prison for reading the Bible at home.

Think of the missionaries who die entering a town, yet their children are able to share the gospel with hundreds or thousands through their tragedy.

Think of that time you saw a man on the side of the street, begging for money, and you gave him or fast food sandwich to help him survive a couple more days.

We are all called to serve. We do not always get an angel or a star to warn us and guide us before our service starts.

Merry Christmas, and peace and joy from our Lord to you!

Laughing or Asking?

Asking for wisdom? Go to Proverbial Thought for some help!

How do you respond when God speaks?

Perhaps you say, “God does not speak to me.”

First, you are wrong; you simply are not used to listening. At the very least, He speaks to you through the Bible or through your pastor. There is also prayer, friends, and circumstances. For example, I was recently offered a teaching position in an elementary school, but I do not have a teaching license. How would you respond?

Here are three examples of how others have responded to God:

In Genesis 17-18, God told Sarah and Abraham that they would have a baby.

WP_20140621_001Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”
(18:11-12, ESV)WP_20140621_002

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”
(17:17, ESV)

Sarah basically rolled her eyes and was sarcastic. Abraham laughed in joy and sought understanding.

Likewise, in Luke 1 elderly Zechariah was told he and Elizabeth would have a baby, and young Mary also was told she would have a baby.

WP_20140621_001And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.”
(1:18)WP_20140621_002

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
(1:34)

Zechariah basically rolled his eyes and was sarcastic, but Mary wanted to more understanding!

In John 1 Nathanael and Philip were called by Jesus to be His disciples. When Jesus said, “Follow me” to Philip, he jumped up immediately to tell his brother.

WP_20140621_002Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good WP_20140621_001come out of Nazareth?”
(1:45-46)

Nathaniel’s basically rolled his eyes and was sarcastic, but Philip got excited!

When God speaks, when amazing opportunities arise that seem impossible, when you are expected to do something that seems crazy, how do you respond?

Do you laugh it off as nonsense, or do you get excited about what God might do through you?

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 03/30/2014

Each of, when we begin following Christ, have the calling the share Christ with others. It is what He has commissioned us to do:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20, NIV

The poem today is about desiring to live out this Great Commission.

Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.
Ephesians 6:19, NIV

|alone with a gift|

 

i am all alone

in the middle of a crowd

no one notices me

even when i cry out

my Lord has given me

a gift i cannot contain

it makes me different

among much staying the same

i now ask for boldness

and a voice that is strong

to proclaim the gift of God

which is His living only Son

 

Celebrating Re-birth

Before you read whatever I have to say, get some wisdom from Proverbial Thought!

Last year, I explained that this particular day is important to me. It is a day I celebrate with my friends and family.

To re-cap, I call it my Re-Birthday. It is the day I celebrate Christ getting a hold of my heart and my life! It has been 13 years to the day!

I make a cake. I share it with my loved ones … and even some I do not know particularly well, if at all.

Here is the thing …

I do not want presents on this day.

I do not want to go out to a restaurant on this day.

I do not want someone to make my favorite meal on this day.

I do not want an extravagant party thrown in my honor on this day.

Because …

Christ calls each of us to be a new creation.

Christ commands us to give up our own desires for His desires.

Christ asks us to be His ambassador of life, peace, and servanthood to this world.

Christ only wants to move through us to a lost and hurting world, to draw them closer to Him.

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.

You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Ephesians 4:17-24

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,

“In the time of my favor I heard you,     and in the day of salvation I helped you.”

I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
2 Corinthians 5:11-6:2

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16

While I take a day every year to focus on the gift of grace, forgiveness, and life our Lord has given me, this is really a daily thing. We should all be ready each day to thank Jesus for loving us so much. People should be able to tell that you have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

We should thank Him through our devotion to sharing His grace to the rest of the world, with every person we know.

Christ is the Light.

Let Him shine through you!

Responses to Christmas: The Least of These

This last part might be a bit fanciful, but one of the joys of Christmas is having some fun.

When Jesus was born, we read: “She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

Immediately following His birth, we read: “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.” (Luke 2:15-16)

Eight days after He entered our world, we read: “When the time of their purification according to the Law of Moses had been completed, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.'” (Luke 2:22-24)

A while later, we read: “Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 1:1)

What is connection in all of these?

Those are barely mentioned, if at all, in each segment of the story: the animals!

Think about it:

  1. Animals had to give up their place to eat for the night.
  2. Animals were left alone for the night.
  3. Animals had to die for the Lord!
  4. Animals had to help carry worshipers and gifts for the Savior of the world.

When Mary and Joseph laid Jesus in the manger, a feeding trough for animals, this meant that for at least that night and into the morning the animals gave up their dining table.

When the shepherds left their herd for the night, as I mentioned the other day, the sheep lost their security system for a while.

When Jesus was dedicated, two pigeons gave up their lives!

When the Wise Men journeyed from the East, it was their camels and horses who bore the brunt of the excursion and lose any comfort during the trip (though I am sure the Wise Men would have mentioned a thing or two about riding animals through desert and mountain paths).

Would you give up your dining table for a poor baby? Would you like knowing you were unprotected for the night? Would like to carry someone else’s belongings for hundreds of miles (or several dozen … no one really knows exactly how far they travelled)? Would you die for someone?

My take on these under-mentioned characters is this: they were unwilling participants … actually, more like unawares … in this story of our Lord’s birth, yet they can still teach us something.

There are times when God will call us to go hungry for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to step out of our comfort zones for the sake of the Kingdom.

There are times when God will call us to give up our lives for the glorification of Jesus Christ.

I can almost guarantee you that these things happen frequently throughout our lives without us even realizing it.

Think of Chinese believers who are worshiping together in someone’s home, when authorities come in and break up the meeting.

Think of Asian/Arab believers who are going to church, and they get beat up as they walk for simply believing in Jesus.

Think of African believers who sit in prison for reading the Bible at home.

Think of the missionaries who die entering a town, yet their children are able to share the gospel with hundreds or thousands through their tragedy.

Think of that time you saw a man on the side of the street, begging for money, and you gave him or fast food sandwich to help him survive a couple more days.

We are all called to serve. We do not always get an angel or a star to warn us and guide us before our service starts.

Merry Christmas, and peace and joy from our Lord to you!

When half-empty is a good thing

The Christmas season is called the most wonderful time of the year, the season of joy, and a time of love and giving.

Many people look at the figurative glass as half-full during this time of the year (unless, of course, they are standing in a line that stretches half-way around the Super Wal-Mart in which they have been shopping for that last gift).

As my pastor said this past Sunday (in the beginning of his message about Joseph, second only to Pharoah in Egypt, forgave and loved his brothers who sold him into slavery), for many people the Christmas season is not wonderful or joyful. The Christmas season for these people (I am sure some are reading this message) instead reminds them of broken marriages, lost spouses and/or children, being alone, or being close to death.

For these people, their glass looks half-empty.

Is half-empty always a bad thing, though?

When we have to take medicine that tastes disgusting, we would rather the cup be half-empty than half-full.

When someone puts food in front of us that we think tastes horrible (but we are being polite and eating it), we would prefer the plate be half-empty than half-full.

When riding on a city bus while feeling nauseous, other people are happy when the bus is half-empty rather than completely full!

In terms of our times of pain and longing, grief and loss, feeling like we are half-empty can be a good thing (though I know it does not feel like it).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3-5

We have a promise from our Lord that we will be with Him and comforted. The question remains, what do we have for now? It may seem selfish, but knowing we can receive comfort later does not always help in the meantime.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

God does comfort us in our times of need. He does not always do it immediately, and sometimes He waits until after our trials … sometimes for years.

However, we also have the promise that God will indeed comfort us so that we may comfort others in His name.

God can save us from troubles, but God often blesses us with the opportunity to help others by sharing His comfort and strength with them.

We could also say that God empties us through our troubles that we might be filled with Him to the point of overflowing.

Half-empty becomes good when we are re-filled with God.

I am not saying we need to get to a point of enjoying our pain and loss; that is masochism. Instead, we rejoice in our suffering, because we know that we are being used for God.

Christmas is a reminder that our God did not leave us alone to suffer. In his grace, He came to us, suffered with us, and suffered for us. He understands our pain and our loss and has overcome them. He alone can give us comfort and peace, but He also allows us to suffer that He may work through us to bring comfort and peace to others.

The Unlovable Jerk

Borrowed from The Jerusalem Connection (www.thejerusalemconnection.us)

A few weeks ago I discussed the Lovable Jerk.

The unlovable jerk comes in two varieties.

Haters

The first group came first, arguably starting with Cain or, at the very latest, during the time of the Apostles in the first century A.D. (or CE, for you PC folks … letters are fun).

These are the people who take offense at Christianity, whether for good reasons (abuse, deception, and/or bigotry from Church leadership, amongst other things) or not-so-good reasons (boredom, disagreeing with something/someone, having an ax to grind, etcetera). Cain was offended that Abel’s offering was accepted over his. The Jewish kings did not like prophets speaking of repentance and doom. Herod did not like John the baptizer saying his marriage to his sister-in-law was wrong. The Jewish leadership did not like being told by a carpenter that they messed up God’s Laws. The people and Roman emperor did not like these Christians telling them that their gods were not real.

In each of these listed, righteous people were killed. The response for these people:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Romans 12:14

But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Matthew 5:44

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Matthew 5:11-12

Un-lovers

The second group of unlovable jerks are those who are called to love but spread hate.

A group of unhappy former slaves were not happy about walking around in a desert and demanded a change in leadership. The nation of Israel was called to share God with the nations, but for centuries tried to cut themselves off (while and after mixing beliefs with surrounding nations). Judaizers demanded that the only true Christian was one who was circumcised. Church history is rife with people who demanded other people believe exactly as they do or be killed. Westboro Baptist Church preaches that God hates … basically everyone!

These are all people who were called to “Love your neighbor,” and instead they have caused dissension, hatred, and chaos.

You might not believe it, but the Bible has the response we are to show them, as well:

Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.
Galatians 6:1-5

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Matthew 18:15-17

Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:25-26

And in case they will not listen:

When you are assembled in the name of our Lord Jesus and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 5:4-5

In other words, no matter what, we need to love the unlovable jerks. From Matthew 5 we know that we should rejoice that we can suffer like our Lord, for He received ridicule, hatred, beatings, and death for being the Righteous One. This is why they are jerks: as I mentioned in “The Lovable Jerk” they bring us to give glory to God.

Likewise, if we love those who persecute us or are the Un-lovers, we may jerk on their heart-strings and lead them to give glory to God. This is why we should expel them if they are one of us, because, perhaps, the shame of being expelled will bring them to repentance.

So, “come on, people, now, smile on your brother! Everybody get together, try to love one another, right now!” Let us love each other, all people.

To make it more manly (for those of you who worry about such things): GET OVER YOURSELF AND LOVE OTHERS!