Thursday, January 9, 2020

The Offer of a New Life to Begin a New Year

The new year is an opportunity for a new start.  I once heard about a leader that regularly took a block of time in December to engage in planning and goal setting for the next year for his organization.  The way our annual calendar is set up, it provides a vision for that.  It is the end of the old and the beginning of the new.  Not only do we see this concept in view of time, but in nature too.  In our part of the globe, we are blessed to have four seasons.  When fall and winter come, it is the end of the old.  But when spring and summer come, it is the beginning of the new.  We see this concept in life itself.  In a family, when great grandpa has passed away there is sorrow in saying goodbye, but then later there is joy in welcoming a new little infant to the family.  And we also see this in spiritual terms.  For people outside of Jesus there is spiritual death and darkness, but once they are in Jesus, there is spiritual life and light.  One writer from the Bible put it this way, “. . . if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18) 

You may not realize it, but if you are outside of Jesus, you are living in the old.  All that is in you is death and darkness.  Though that sounds grim, it is true.  And that may explain some things happening in your life and family right now.  They are the consequences or by-products of it.  We may try to “Instagram” our life to others, but we cannot escape the reality of our condition.  No amount of busyness, noise, praise by others or positive self-talk can hide the truth.  This is the old. 

Jesus declared He is life and light.  He is the one who can make all things new.  He conquered death and darkness through His own death and rising again.  For all who come to Him, He is willing to make new.  But to receive the promise of being made new, there is a great cost.  To receive what Jesus died to give you will cost your very life.  What does that mean?  It means you are no longer willing to put your desires, wants and needs above, beside or to the exclusion of God.  It means that you deliberately choose to follow Jesus as your own Lord, King, Master and Ruler.

A new year, a new life is waiting.  The empty blood-stained cross of Jesus is what it took to bring you new life.  Commit all to Jesus and receive it today.                     

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray you will make the reader a new creation.  May they live the promise of newness you rose again to give them.  I pray they would turn from their ways and give all they are to you.  There is no cost too great for us, compared to what you did on the cross.  May they see that and humble themselves before you. In Jesus’ name.  Amen.”

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Miracle of the Virgin Birth

The center piece of the Christmas season is the birth of Jesus. Popular Christmas songs, various figurine displays and holiday sermons all make it prominent. But what about Jesus’ birth specifically, makes Christmas, Christmas? His virgin birth.

The virgin birth became the method through which Jesus came from heaven to earth. It was how God became a man and humbly lived among us. Often Jesus referred to Himself as being sent by His Father in heaven. The virgin birth is how that happened.

Jesus eternally existed in heaven until one marvelous day. It was then He left His Father and the angels in His celestial home, to become a seed planted inside of a young virgin’s womb. I cannot imagine what heaven must have been like, seeing Him go. And Mary became God’s chosen instrument to bring His Son into the world. She was a woman in her teenage years when she and her fiancĂ©, Joseph, were preparing to wed. It was during this time Mary had an encounter that would change her life and the world, forever. An angel appeared to her and communicated a message from the Lord God. "…you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus" (Luke 1:31). Thinking logically, Mary could not understand. She replied to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). The angel explained, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy—the Son of God . . . For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:35, 38).

The virgin birth was necessary because of who Jesus was, a holy, perfect, and sinless Being. And God the Father chose Mary to bring Him into the world. Mary was faithful to the Lord and a virgin. One who was pure and had never lain with a man. Though Mary was not sinless herself, God made her holy, which prepared her to receive the Son of God.

The virgin birth was also necessary because of the cross. Only Jesus could have died on the cross and provide forgiveness for the sins of the world. In all the universe there was no one so good, so right as was He. There would be no resurrection, no cross if there was no virgin birth.

The virgin birth was no myth, legend or allegory. It is a historical fact, albeit, a miraculous one. No scientist can explain or fully understand it. It is a complete miracle in how a virgin can give birth to a child. Do you believe in the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus Christ? Jesus came from heaven to earth for you and your household. For it is only through His birth and resurrection, both miracles, that you can have the hope of forgiveness and be spared from the judgment of God.

A prayer for you - "Lord God, I pray you will help us to believe in the virgin birth of your Son. It is a miracle. It defies human reasoning and logic. How could this be? Help us to believe and to yield our lives fully to you. For you are the God of the impossible. Do the impossible within me. Change my heart. Change my life today. In Jesus’ name.  Amen."

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

What Happens When We Refuse to Thank God?

The Bible is my favorite book.  I love to read it and hear it read.  It is filled with compelling stories.  One in particular is about a man who had been born with a disability and was unable to walk.  Friends would carry him from home to the entrance of a local religious temple where he would spend the day begging.  In a single moment though, his whole life changed when he met two men walking into the temple.  He asked them for money, like everyone else.  But these two, Peter and John, responded differently.  Peter stared deep into the eyes of this beggar, seemingly looking right through him, then boldly spoke, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” (Acts 3:6)  And so he did!  For the first time he stood up on his own power.  He was so excited he not only walked but jumped, hopped, skipped and ran all over the place. 

That story has impacted millions of lives.  Notice the part which described his reaction.  He was “walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8).  In a word the man was “thankful.”  More like two words, “extremely thankful.” 

Notice how he acknowledged the true source of his miraculous healing.  Was it the two men, Peter and John?  No.  It does not seem as if he was much of a religious man, but he knew enough to realize God was behind it all. 

It is normal to thank a person who does something nice for us, because we can see them.  But do we ever pause to honor the one who is truly behind it all?  We may attribute the positive report of cancer going into remission to early detection and excellent treatment.  We may consider it good timing that the 12-point buck finished crossing the road just as we zoomed by.  But our conscience knew there was the unseen, humble presence of a divine being behind it all.  Our conscience knew it was God’s kindness.  

What happens when we sing the praises of medicine, technology, skill, education, determination, or good karma, instead of acknowledging the invisible hand of Almighty God?  When we give thanks to another source and dismiss our Creator it has a very real effect. 

It is plain to all who God is, because He has revealed Himself to everyone.  And because of that, people are without excuse.  As a result, not honoring Him has a negative impact.  When a person forgets God, the Scriptures say they become “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts [become] darkened” (Romans 1:21). 

A refusal to see and praise the King of the Universe is dangerous.  It adversely affects our lives in practical ways.  Thanksgiving toward God is not about an American holiday.  It is necessary for the sake of our eternal soul.  Jesus came from heaven to earth, died and rose again to reveal His Father to the world, that all might know and worship Him.  If you do not praise Him now, then on judgment day you will be forced to.  You know it is the right thing to do.  Praise Him today!  See Jesus in laughter and in sorrow.  See Him in the gains and losses.  See Him in the times of peace and chaos.       

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray you will open our eyes to see your invisible hand in our lives.  Let us see we are mere mortals at your mercy.  Humble us.  For we are not as wise and able as we think.  We turn from our independent and selfish ways.  Forgive us.  Cleanse us by the work of Jesus on His cross.  Draw us close that we might know you afresh and anew this hour.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen."

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Where to Find Happiness

Have you ever said to a friend or family member, “I just want you to be happy”, as they were considering marriage, a new job or some other major decision? 

Recently I watched a documentary on a highly accomplished NBA basketball player from the 1980s and 90s.  The program ended with the camera on him as he said, “I have five NBA Championships and I’m world famous.  Is that supposed to make me happy?”  Then he bowed his head and began to weep. 

Happiness is that inner experience some label as a state of contentment and well-being.  How many of us want that for ourselves or wish it for those whom we love?  It often seems the inner experience of happiness is tied to something external.  Like if we find marriage or love externally, that will provide us happiness internally.  If we find success externally, that will provide happiness internally.  As a result, we search the world over for something that will provide us that inner happiness. 

I firmly believe we were all created to want this happiness for ourselves.  This is the common human experience.  Rich or poor.  No matter our race or religion, we hunger to be happy. 

Jesus once made a startling claim to a crowd about Himself, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).  These words of Jesus show His understanding of the human heart.  He knew people were searching outwardly for what they longed for inwardly.  Sometime after these words were spoken, Jesus went on to suffer, die, then rise again.  After He arose and ascended back to His home in heaven, He sent His Spirit to live on the earth.  His Spirit indwells anyone who turns from their evil ways and trusts in Jesus alone for complete forgiveness for all they have ever done wrong.  When this happens, the Spirit brings the life of Jesus into that individual which gives, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).  Right there, that is what every human truly longs for.  It is something deeper and more profound than superficial happiness.   

What we are looking for is not found in marriage, success or any other earthly human experience we can control or create for ourselves.

The contentment, joy and meaning in life we seek is found in Jesus and nowhere else.  And it is not something He dispenses outside of Himself.  He embodies it all.  When we come to our senses and realize we have been going after the wrong things and receive the Spirit of Jesus within us, we receive all of who He is.

Are you ready to stop going here and there looking for temporary happiness?  Are you ready to surrender all to Christ?  

A prayer for you - “Lord God, I pray you will lead those who are searching for contentment and inner well-being to Christ.  Open their spiritual eyes to see that Jesus is all they are looking for, that in Him all their desires and longings will be met.  Bring them to surrender all, to turn from their ways and trust in You with all their heart.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.