Archive for December, 2010

29
Dec
10

the adventure called life

It’s 1:30 in the morning the day after Christmas and I’m sitting in the great room in front of the fireplace in a cabin somewhere on the side of a mountain in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Someone is snoring very loudly in one of the lofts and the view across the valley to the next mountain is truly amazing. There’s somewhere around eight inches of snow on the ground and they don’t really plow in Tennessee. We enjoyed all the leftovers from our Christmas Eve party and Christmas dinner today and, if we don’t get off this mountain tomorrow, it looks like apple pie for breakfast, more barbecue for lunch, and ham and turkey for dinner again. I’m the only one with four-wheel drive, which works great going up – it’s the other direction that is a little challenging. We’ve gotten to know our neighbors well as often happens in a crisis. Every few hours we’ll walk out to the road and catch up on the latest news coming up the mountain.

As my brothers and I, as well as our sons, were shoveling cars out today and trying to figure out how we were going to get down from here (as was observed by one of our wives, “There is nothing as dangerous as a bunch of bored rednecks.”), I was thinking about how much fun we had growing up. It has been great spending a few days together. Life happens so quickly I don’t want to miss any of these moments. Talking about the old memories to keep them alive and creating the new is an important part of life.

That’s probably what God had in mind when he told his people in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.”

That instruction tells us two things. We must remember the instructions of the Lord and we must communicate them in fresh ways looking with anticipation to what God will do here and now. I think sometimes we make our faith too religious rather than weaving it into the fabric of our everyday life the way God intended for us to.

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21
Dec
10

party!

Please don’t take this the wrong way, but God’s people are generally pretty lame when it comes to partying. This observation comes from 48 years of personal observation and participation. I’m as guilty as the next believer. We talk about celebrating God’s love with exuberant joy, but pretty much our parties consist of sitting around church basements, engaging in superficial small talk, watching with amusement (the more tolerant of us at least) those who might really engage in behavior that would convince someone that a party was actually occurring around them.

Then there is our worship style. I’ll be brief, but do you remember what the Bible said about David’s worship style? 2 Samuel 6:14 tells us “David danced before the LORD with all his might.”

Now, I am aware of what some of you are thinking. You are justifying your “reserved behavior” as just the way you are. I know this because I relied on that excuse for a long time myself. There is no question that some of us are more extroverted than others, but I began to realize something. When I wasn’t being “churchy” I acted differently – I had more freedom. That really bothered me. I wondered what was wrong with me spiritually. I wondered if I was in some backslidden condition and didn’t even realize it. The only problem with that line of reasoning was my devotional life was more fulfilling than it had ever been and, through his word, I was hearing from God in ways I never imagined possible. The Holy Spirit was convicting me of attitudes and behaviors that I didn’t know were offensive to him and real life change was taking place!

Finally the thought occurred to me, “What if that’s not the way God intended me to be? What if my fallen nature and that of those who had influence in my life had caused me to be that way? What if God created me to express the joy he had given me in an openly demonstrative way? What if he really did call me to be free?” Then I had a very sobering thought – “What if I have been pretending before God the way I do other people? If the truth really does set me free (John 8:32), what am I missing out on in my relationship with God because of my lack of authenticity?”

I mention all this because we have a pretty important celebration coming up this week and we ought to “party” in such a way that everyone we have any contact with will quickly notice the “joy beyond expression” (1 Peter 1:8) that is ours because of Jesus!

14
Dec
10

the word

John explains the coming of Jesus this way in his Gospel narrative: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV)

What are the implications of Jesus being the Word of God dwelling among us?

To answer that question we must simply examine the Scripture to see what the Word of God accomplishes in our lives when we give it the proper place of reverence and influence.

When we take the time to look we see that the Word is food that feeds us spiritually. The idea of Matthew 4:4 is that just as we must have food to survive physically, so we must have spiritual sustenance to survive spiritually. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20 that if we will open the door of our heart to him he will come in and bring a banquet feast with him.

Luke 8:11 tells us “The seed is the word of God.” The obvious inference of this passage is that if we are going to flourish spiritually then we must plant the right seed in our lives. David tells us the same in Psalm 1 when he says that those who plant the Word in their life shall prosper in whatever they do.

The writer of the book of Hebrews (4:12) tells us that the Word is like a surgeon’s scalpel that cuts away everything that is diseased and infected so that true healing, both spiritual and emotional, can occur in our lives.

One last example, and there are many others in Scripture, is found in Matthew’s Gospel (7:24, 25). There we are told that the Word is a firm foundation on which we can build our lives. So strong is this foundation that even if tornado-like circumstances come into our lives (and they will come on occasion) we will not be destroyed.

The biblical account says that Jesus came as a baby born in humble surroundings and that is how we must receive him: “like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow.” (1 Peter 2:2 NASB)

06
Dec
10

joy to the world

I was meeting with my small group the other day and the subject of our favorite Bible verses came up. I was really encouraged as people mentioned verses that had to do with God’s grace and the wisdom that comes from internalizing the word. One of the newer members of our group mentioned that his favorite verse was one he had recently learned in a sermon I had preached just a few weeks ago. (It’s always encouraging for any public speaker to know someone is listening and being impacted by what they hear.) It came from the writings of David in Psalm 32:1: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!

As we talked about that verse and the joy that is promised to every believer, I realized, how, as a “seasoned disciple”, I often take that joy for granted. I wonder sometimes how much wide-eyed wonder I have lost as I have grown “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) Don’t misunderstand me, as Peter points out, if we are not maturing in our faith and our understanding of spiritual things then we are living stunted lives, spiritually speaking, and the Bible makes it clear that we are not living up to the expectations God has for us.

However, as we mature, we cannot lose our sense of awe over the great love that God has “lavished upon us” (1 John 3:1) through Jesus Christ! Every once in a while it is important to rekindle that sense of awe that the shepherds had two thousand years ago when, all of a sudden, the angel appeared and announced to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.” (Luke 2:10, 11)