Archive for January, 2014

What about the Gift?


As I watch the snow begin to fall outside my window, I am reminded of how swiftly the "Holiday Season" has passed. The lights on the houses and winter-themed lawn decorations have seemed out of place with no snow on the ground.

As I thought about the holiday season that is falling farther behind us, I was once again reminded about how we treat gifts. We all look forward to receiving presents, whether for Christmas or a birthday. What was the best thing you received? An expensive electronic device? A wonderful trip to some place you've always wanted to go? Something with too much "Assembly required"? Whatever it is, we often don't respond to those gifts the way we ought.

And what about the gift of salvation-a just and perfect God who sent His only Son to live in the world He created, and become sin for us, and die the death we all deserve? How do you treat that gift? Do you even think about it at all? Are you too preoccupied- like the busy innkeeper in Bethlehem that first Christmas. Are you so caught up in all that you need to get done in your busy life, that you fail to see what Christ really commands you to do?

Or are you like the religious leaders in the Nativity story? The ones Herod asked about the birth of this "King of the Jews" in Matthew 2:2-6. These men were very learned and knew what the prophecy said, and replied that He was in "Bethlehem of Judea". And that was it. They did no more than quote the prophets. They did not jump at the chance to go see this fulfillment of the prophecy, they did not offer to have Herod follow them as they rushed to see this newborn King…no, they were INDIFFERENT.

Maybe you are the same way- living around religion your whole life, but not really caring for any lasting impact on your life. You know the right answers, but they mean nothing to you. You are indifferent to the gift. The indifference of the religious leaders of Israel grew until they eventually sought to kill Him. What will your indifference lead to?

Working with young students, I appreciate the excitement I witness when they first see the snow start falling. As we grow older, though, the snow becomes an annoyance and frustration. We’ve seen it all before, and we become familiar with it. And you know the cliche: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The people Jesus grew up with felt that familiarity and ended up seeing nothing special about the carpenter’s Son. They didn’t appreciate the gift. They also, tried to kill Jesus. What about you? Are you familiar or contemptuous, viewing salvation as a crutch for the weak and helpless?

The gift should be appreciated. Like Mary (Luke 2:19), we ought to keep these things in our heart [meditate on them]. If we have received the gift, we ought to be thankful, and how is that gracefulness shown? By sharing it with others! Like the shepherds who were “watching their flocks by night”, let us not be afraid to “Go Tell It on a Mountain, that Jesus Christ is born.”


New Year-New You!


As we begin 2014, there are all sorts of commercials for diets, clothing styles, and more designed to bring out the “new you this New Year!” Seeing some of these things got me thinking, “Is there a way people can really become new?” Obviously, changing your style, diet, or activity level does not make a changes to your actual identity. You will still be the same person, even if you change the words on your birth certificate.
Well, in the Bible there is a verse that addresses our spiritual “identity crisis”. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” So, somehow we become a new creation in Christ Jesus. The problem is that most of humanity does not see their need to be made new. They see no need to become a new person- New Year’s or not. In speaking to some people, many have responded to the Gospel with “Christianity is a crutch, and those who believe in it are weak.”

Well, last summer, I was trying to be daring in my wheelchair. I tried to jump a curb, and mistimed the jump, quickly snapping my front wheel clean off, and ending up on the patio. If someone had come up and offered me a new $4000 wheelchair, what would you say to me if I said, “Are you kidding? You’re trying to give me a wheelchair?! That means admitting I can’t walk on my own! I’d never stop so low!” I hope you would show me my arrogance and foolishness! But that is what we do when we think we are “too good” to accept the only means to become a new person.
The Bible says we are “dead in our trespasses and sins.” (Ephesians 2:5) . DEAD. However, Christ, “The Great Physician” is able to make us alive again.

But How?

In Ezekiel 36, there is a verse that says, “I [God] will give you a new heart…I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and will give you a heart of flesh.”
No matter what you do to a rock, it will have no response, and will not do what you want it to. As babies, we learn “NO!” very quickly, and as we grow, we come up with increasingly “creative” ways to get out of doing what we know we ought to do. We need that “heart of flesh”, and we get that through what Paul told the Philippian jailer- “Believe on The Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31) Remember, the belief is not enough on its own, though. If I believed…REALLY believedthe food in the cafeteria was contaminated, I would actually stop eating my own plateful and keep others from eating it as well, even to the point of making a loud announcement and being an annoyance. If you believe that Christ can give you a new heart, that belief must be joined with turning from the lifestyle your old self used to be involved in. Don’t let another year go by without praying for a New You!