Archives for category: Christmas

Porridge

 

The story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears is a classic, childhood fairytale.  In summary, Goldilocks stumbles into the house of the three bears.  She sits in their chairs, eats from their bowls of porridge and eventually falls asleep in one of their beds.  When Goldilocks ate from the first bowl of porridge, it was too hot.  The second was too cold, but the final bowl was just right.

 

When we think about the Christmas story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is probably the last thing that comes to our minds.  Yet, for me, the irony of the correlations between the two stories made me chuckle.  In Luke 1 of the Bible, we read about the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Both were up in age.  Both were descendants of the Aaron the priest.  The Bible said that both were righteous in God’s eyes.   However, in the eyes of man, the were barren and disgraceful, for they were an old, married couple with no children.

 

A few months later, in another town, a young girl named Mary would have a dilemma of her own.  Mary was young, unwedded and pregnant.  According to theologians, at the time of Mary’s pregnancy, she would have been between 12 to 15 years old.  By modern day accounts she was too young.

 

One woman was disqualified because she was too old.  The other was disqualified because she was too young.  The only thing in both of these stories that seemed to be just right was God’s timing.

 

The angel, Gabriel, had informed Zechariah that Elizabeth would give birth to a son.  Six months later, Gabriel gave the same news to Mary.  Two women.  One angel.  Same story.

 

According to ancient prophesy, a Messiah would be born, and he would be preceded by a messenger.   When Gabriel visited Zechariah, Gabriel told Zechariah that Elizabeth would give birth to the messenger, and they should name him John.  Gabriel told Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah, and she should name him Jesus.  Two great women—connected by God’s divine prophesy.

 

When Elizabeth became pregnant she was past child-bearing age.  Some texts hypothesize that Elizabeth was beyond her forties.  Therefore, at the very least, she would have been at least 30 years Mary’s senior.  That becomes a very important fact in God’s divine plan.  God had already preordained Zechariah and Elizabeth to be John the Baptist’s parents.  He has also pre-ordained John the Baptist to be Jesus’ predecessor.  So, here is God’s holy paradox! Had Elizabeth become pregnant in her late teens or early twenties, which would have been customary for women at that time, Mary would not even have been born.  On the contrary, Mary’s youth prevented Elizabeth from being stretched beyond the limits of her faith.  Perhaps, had Mary conceived a few years later, Elizabeth might have lost all hope.  Additionally, Mary would have been married by then, and there would have been no virgin birth.  Two women, one too young and one too old, proved to be just right in God’s plans.

 

1 Corinthians 2:26-29 says, “26Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God,” (NLT).

 

The world may have disqualified you because of your age, race, gender or financial status.  However, God has a plan for you.  His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  Remember, God always has a bigger purpose in mind.

 

Photo credit:

Isaac Andres

Advertisements

The Internet has revolutionized the world by allowing, for the most part, a free exchange of thoughts and ideas.  Information on the Web is instantaneous.  Long gone are the days when news took days, weeks or even years, to travel from one side of the world to the other.  Social media has also influenced our culture by encouraging the liberty of free speech.  However, the impact of social media has not always been positive. Oftentimes, it allows ill-spirited people to spew hatred from behind the protective shield of a computer screen and from behind the anonymity of a screenname.

A few weeks ago, I was thinking about King David.  In fact, I’m always thinking about King David.  He’s one of my favorite people in the Bible.  I love his naked transparency.  He was perfectly imperfect, if such a thing exists.  God loved him too, so much so that the Bible labeled him the apple of God’s eyes.  The stories of David teach us that even though God loves us and always forgives us, there are times when He holds us accountable for our actions.  In 1 Chronicles 21, David sinned against God.  He did something that God instructed him not to do.  As a result, God held him accountable.

God was very displeased with the census, and he punished Israel for it. Then David said to God, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt for doing this foolish thing.” Then the Lord spoke to Gad, David’s seer. This was the message: 10 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the Lord says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’” 11 So Gad came to David and said, “These are the choices the Lord has given you. 12 You may choose three years of famine, three months of destruction by the sword of your enemies, or three days of severe plague as the angel of the Lord brings devastation throughout the land of Israel. Decide what answer I should give the Lord who sent me.” 13 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is very great. Do not let me fall into human hands,” (1 Chronicles 21:7-21).

David’s response to God’s three choices has been something that I have held on to in my life.  David said that he would rather fall into the hands of God that into the hands of men.  Oh, how true!  As I read many of the pop culture news stories, I often ask myself the question, “How long should we be made to pay for our past mistakes?”  God said that we are new creatures in Christ, (2 Corinthians 5:17).  So often, people want to define us by our past.  So often, people want us to carry the scarlet letter of sin to the grave.  They want us to walk with our heads hung low for things we have done in our past.  I would rather fall into the hands of God than into the hands of man.  God makes all things new (Revelation 21:5).  Just as any good parent would, there are times when God does punish us for our sins.  However, the punishment is finite.  There IS an end.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us,  nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (Psalms 103: 8-12, NLT).

The heart of men tends to incline toward eternal condemnation.  Thank God, there is freedom in Christ Jesus.  We are not defined by our past.  We are not who we were.  Christ allows us the freedom to reinvent ourselves yearly, monthly, daily and even secondly.  In one minute, we could be the devil reincarnate and in the other, we could be ambassadors for Christ.  This is the freedom found in the blood of Christ.  Man does not define us.  They cannot.  Man cannot define what he did not create.

As we lean into God today, I want to remind you that you are not who you were yesterday.  During the next few weeks of this challenge, consider taking a break from social media.  Unfortunately, today, so much of who we think we are is tied up in other people’s opinions and validation, or lack thereof.  We need to reset our standards.  Over the next few weeks, learn who God says you are.  Learn who He created you to be.  Remember, when God created man, He created him in His own image.  When He was finished, He said, “This is good,” (Genesis 1:27-31).  God did not say, “Wow, this is bad.  Back to the drawing board.”  He said, “This is good!”  Therefore, He intended for us to see ourselves as such.  We are His masterpiece, (Ephesians 2:10).

Today’s prayer:  Lord, remind us who we are.  Never allow us to fall into the hands of man.  Lord, we know that when you punish us, your judgment is swift and fair.  Lord, allow us to learn who we are in you.  Remind us that Christ has made all things new.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen!

flowerOn the morning of Christmas Eve, I wanted to blog about the meaning of Christmas. I searched the recesses of my mind, but I just couldn’t find the right words. I wasn’t sure whether it was a case of writer’s block or whether I was just simply at a loss for words. For most of Christmas Eve, I mulled over the question, “What does Christmas and Christ really mean to me?” It wasn’t until later that night that I was able to finally answer the question.
A few days ago, I logged onto Facebook and happened to read a friend’s post on salvation. Days later, the words still resonated with my spirit.
According to this friend, if Christians truly believed in their hearts that Christ is the only way to achieve salvation, then it would be cruel of them to withhold the knowledge of Christ from those they love. He went on to say that if we use this line of reasoning, then the existence of Jesus is secondary to the point. The point is, if we, as Christians, believe that mankind is doomed to damnation without Jesus, then we should be falling over ourselves trying to disseminate the Good News to those we love. In other words, if we truly believe that Jesus Christ is the only way, then we should be telling all of our friends about Him. But many of us do not. Many of us do not share our beliefs because we don’t want to be viewed as imposing. We don’t want others to think that we are forcing our beliefs on them. Many of us would rather settle for the status quo than to ruffle a few feathers. But I would like to challenge all of us to consider the following scenario. Let’s assume that the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ (by the way, it is). Now, let’s imagine that time has faded and God has delivered His final judgment. What if your loved ones were eternally separated from God and sent to hell? How would you feel knowing that you ignored multiple opportunities to share God’s Word with them? How do you think they would feel? As your loved ones faced their darkened eternity, would they believe that you truly loved them? Would they care about your excuses—“I didn’t want to offend or impose.” Would the sounds of their wailing disturb you?
Luke 16:19-31 tells the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Lazarus died and was taken to heaven. The rich man also died. The Bible says that the rich man was “torment in Hades,” (NIV). He was in so much agony that he requested that the message of salvation be sent to his five brothers so that they would not suffer the same fate. Even from the grips of Hades, he tried to save the ones he loved. What about you? What will you do?
I am currently reading the book, Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman. In the prologue, Kyle describes an incident where he struggled to create a universally palatable Easter message for his congregation. However, before he could put pen to paper God convicted him of this simple truth: The Word of God can stand on its own and should not be watered down for universal appeal.  Many of us try to water down the Word in an effort to heighten its appeal.  Let’s be clear, watering down God’s Word is not the same as delivering His message with love.  We should always share God’s Word with a dose of sugar, but it should never be so diluted that the message is altered.
So, if I were to share the truth about God’s Word with those I love, this is what I would say: The Good News is Christ came to save ALL OF US and give each and EVERYONE of us life everlasting. Christmas is a reminder that God loves us so much that He sent us a Savior who came to Earth to save us and shepherd us back to Him. The challenge for all of us this Christmas is to share the Good News with everyone, including those we love. Unfortunately, even though salvation is free, not everyone will receive it or even want it. However, we still have to do our part, in love, to tell others that salvation is available to them and that Jesus loves them very much. In fact, so do I.  I love you so much that I wanted to share Jesus with you this Christmas.  Merry Christmas. 12/25/13.

“Talitha koum!”
“Talitha koum!”
“Talitha koum!”
A few days ago, I read a story on the news about a little girl in California who underwent a routine tonsillectomy surgery in a California hospital and is now on life support after profusely hemorrhaging post operatively. The little girl’s name is Jahi. On Friday, December 20,2013, Jahi’s family filed a restraining order against the hospital that would disallow doctors to discontinue Jahi’s life support despite being pronounced brain-dead.
The first time I read the story Jahi, my heart went out to this little girl I did not know. My prayer was that God would bring her back to life. If there were ever a perfect time for a miracle, this would be it. Christmas is always a time of hope and new beginning. That was my original prayer. However, today when I read the updated story, I zoned in on the little girl’s name. Immediately, my thought went to the story in the Bible of Jairus. It was not lost on me that there was a similarity in both the names and the circumstances.
In Mark 5:21-41 (and Luke 8:40-56), the story is told of a man named Jairus who pleaded with Jesus to save his dying 12-year old daughter. However, before Jesus could get to Jarius’ house, a messenger had sent word that Jarius’ daughter had died (Luke 8:49). Jesus instructed Jarius not to fear and told him that his belief would make his daughter well (Luke 8:50).

When Jesus arrived at Jarius’ house, everyone was mourning the loss of the child. Jesus instructed them:

 “Don’t cry; the child is not dead—she is only sleeping,” (Luke 8:52, NLT)!

When Jesus told them that the child was not dead, they laughed at him (Mark 5:40). Despite this, Jesus, his disciples and the girl’s parents went to the room where she laid. Jesus took her hand and he said:

“Talitha koum,” Mark 5:41, NLT)!

Little girl I say to you get up,” (Mark 5:41, NLT).

The truth is, no one knows God’s will. His ways and His thoughts are higher than ours. However, if it is in His will, today, my prayer for 13-year old Jahi is “Talitha koum!” Little girl, get up. I pray that those who are “laughing” (e.g. the doctors, the hospital staff and the naysayers) would be put to shame in the same manner as those who were laughing in the house of Jarius. In Jesus’ name, I stand on the promise of the Word of God.

“Talitha koum!”

Tonight, I had an interesting conversation with a friend of mine. We discussed the topic of pride, a simple, yet powerful word.
Pride is one of those things that sneaks up on us. Because it takes on so many faces, it is often difficult to recognize.  Tonight, I don’t want to get into a long, lengthy discussion on pride, but I do want to share two points that God laid on my heart.
The first revelation was, when God said that every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:9-10), He did not exclude the Christians. There is a tendency for us as Christians to think that the verse is applied solely in the context of salvation. Yet, we fail to apply it to our daily walk. Some of us, mistakenly believe that all we have to do is profess Christ’s Lordship. Such thinking is so far from the truth.  It is not enough to simply confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord of lords and King of kings. We also have to bow our knees. This require humility.  Part of this humility is realizing that we were made by God and for HIS purpose. It’s just that simple. While He does grant the desires of our hearts, our existence is not about making our flesh comfortable. It’s about serving Him. I think the problem with a lot of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, is that we miss one crucial fact. We BELONG to God. He OWNS us. We are His POSSESSIONS. We are HIS.  The truth is, if He wanted us to bark at the moon from now until the end of time, He would be perfectly within His right. Again, we BELONG to Him. We should know that even though His graciousness and mercy won’t allow Him to do so, He still has that right. Sometimes, our desire for self-expression and autonomy usurps that knowledge.
My second revelation is this: We should be cognizant of the fact that our insecurity and need for validation can sometimes precipitate our pride. When you and I become people pleasers, we place ourselves in positions where we constantly need to be validated by others. Here is where pride comes it. When we ask others to stroke our egos, we can sometimes get caught up in our own hype. I am not saying that we should not embrace the occasional compliment. I am simply saying that constantly seeking approval could be fertile ground for pride.
That’s it. That was my thought for the night.
Sidebar:
Two more weeks until Christmas!!! Tonight I want to say that I am most grateful for grace.

25

Wow! How quickly did we burn through the days of 2013? For many of us, January 1, 2013 is but a distant memory. So many of us started 2013 with a laundry list of goals and aspiration. For some, our enthusiasm and exuberance dwindled as the days faded. Now, with only 31 days left to the conclusion of the 2013, it’s so easy to give up on those 2013 dreams if they have not yet materialized. However, keep this in mind. The year is not over yet. In one instance, Jesus caused a fig tree to wither; He calmed a raging sea and He mended the skin of a leper. If he did that in one instance, imagine what He could do in 31 days! As we draw near to Christmas, instead of acknowledging all the couldas, wouldas, shouldas; let’s spend the next 25 days giving thanks for all the things that are going right. Over the next 25 days, I would us to embark on a 25-day thanksgiving journey. Each day, I will challenge you to list the one thing that you most grateful for in 2013. Here goes:

25-Day Thanksgiving Christmas Countdown
Day 25: Today I am most thankful for DISAPPOINTMENTS!