The Christmas décor is back in the Rubbermaid containers. The Christmas CD’s are put away for another year. The poinsettias are dropping their leaves. We are already two weeks into the New Year. Before this special parenthesis of time becomes another faded memory, maybe there are decisions you and I need to make. If we don’t, our deepest dreams may be put on “hold” again for another year. Plans that need to be put into effect may be in danger of just being “packed away” like they were last year and the year before.
At this “sacred” time of year take some time for yourself. Sit quietly with your own thoughts. Read through one of your favorite passages of Scripture. Let God bring new ideas to your mind – or bring back your dreams.
Paul challenges us to “make the most of every opportunity” (Ephesians 5:16). There are many applications for this challenge but I believe one of those “opportunities” is this unique time of year.
Make the most of this opportunity before it slip slides away.
|One thing that New Year’s Day teaches me is that I’m not very good at making resolutions. Actually, I’m good at making resolutions, just poor at keeping them for any period of time. The usual fair for my resolutions include anything from lowering my weight and TV consumption to more Bible/prayer time. All these things would be good for me to be sure.
As I have set up and ultimately failed the majority of my resolutions, I have noticed that I’m an all or nothing guy. If I can’t fulfill my resolutions perfectly I quickly give up on them; thus, Februarys of my past are filled with tombstones of long dead, but well intended resolutions.
Resolutions are attractive for a very good reason. They give you power. There is a part of your life that you have lost the ability to control. Otherwise you would not make the resolution at all. A resolution is a bid for you to take back what you may have lost or never have had.
In the book of Matthew we see Jesus talking to John’s disciples about fasting. He tells them that his own disciples do not fast because “people [do not] pour new wine into old wineskins.” The new wine is Jesus and the old wineskins are his disciples. Jesus is simply saying that doing new things doesn’t make you new. You must first be made new by Jesus. And anything after that brings you new life.
See the follower of Jesus knows that true/real newness comes only from the work of Jesus Christ. That is our foundation and our source of life. We are not made new from our work/resolutions (which are temporal) but by the righteousness of Jesus Christ (which is eternal).
Resolutions aren’t bad, but we must know that any true newnessonly comes from the one who has the power to make us new: Jesus Christ.
This past Sunday, Pastor Mark gave a great illustration of Immanuel Church. He said, “It’s the exact opposite of the NFL.” Mark’s reasoning is simple: the NFL is mostly preparation. Teams and coaches spend the majority of their time and energy training for a game that only takes place in a period of hours every week. Immanuel Church, on the other hand, takes a few hours to prepare for the entire week.
Granted, Sunday church isn’t the only way we prepare ourselves for ministry outside our church walls. I can’t help think that we have much less preparation time than we actually need. This is especially true when we think of how important our various ministries and responsibilities are outside the church walls.
What I find to be incredible is how Jesus prepared his disciples. In Mark 3, Jesus appoints his disciples to be with him so “that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.” Notice that this is the beginning of Mark and not the end. So Jesus has his disciples doing active ministry before they had extensive and comprehensive training. Had I been Jesus, I would have given the disciples authority when I knew they could handle the authority and not mess things up. But one thing I’m absolutely sure of is that I’m not Jesus, and his ways are infinitely better than mine. He gives his disciples authority not because they were ready but because that’s how they grow.
I believe that God does the same for us. There is not a graduation day were we get our official Christian diploma. We are already Christians who do work. We still have a long way to go, but we are doing his work all-along-the-way. Doing ministry is preparing, and preparing is doing ministry.
What has God put on your heart for ministry?Read More
This past Sunday we talked about our being; namely, our being is in Christ. Our being has to be somewhere, whether we are aware of it or not. If our being is not in Christ than our being is somewhere always inferior.
One of our problems is that we struggle to believe that our being is actually in Christ. When trials and temptations come along we topple like a tree with shallow roots.
Colossians 2:7 talks about being rooted in Christ. Trees and their strong roots are a great image for us. For not only do the roots feed the tree, but they firmly plant the tree to the earth like and incredible anchor. When the strong winds blow, trees are able to withstand the storm.
There’s another reason why trees and their roots are an important illustration. When a tree grows the roots grow. A tree does not first grow roots and then grow above ground. No, as the tree grows it needs further anchoring: the higher the leaves the deeper the roots.
That goes for our lives as well. The more we know Christ, the more we recognize our incredible need for him. That is why being rooted in Christ is so necessary. The more we grow in our faith the deeper and deeper our roots anchor into Christ Jesus.
When was the last time you acted or reacted to a situation that made you feel you were not rooted in Christ?Read More
C. S. Lewis writes this in his work, Reflections on the Psalms:
“I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise. The world rings with praise – lovers praising the ones they love, readers praising their favorite author, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game. I had never noticed either that just as we spontaneously praise what we value, so we spontaneously urge others to join us: “Isn’t she lovely?” “Wasn’t it glorious?” “Don’t you think that is just magnificent?” I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment. The delight is incomplete till it is expressed. When we act out our love and acknowledgment of Him in this way, we fulfill our purpose; and when we are rightly fulfilling our purpose, we have the best possible joy – God is pleased, our relationship with Him is enhanced, and He has rightly received what He deserves.”
We all can benefit from letting these significant truths soak into our souls:
- Praise is a natural response to God’s blessings
- Praise expresses, but also completes, the enjoyment
- Praise is not just suggested but commanded in Scripture
- Praise is part of the fulfillment of our purpose
Have a great week of praise!Read More
Whenever you watch an interview of a football coach who just lost a game, what does he always say? He says they didn’t do enough, try enough and sacrifice enough. Even if the other team was simply better, he still blames himself and his team. For some reason, that makes fans feel better.
There is a great big ugly problem with this mentality. The problem is, no matter the outcome, there always could be improvement. No matter how good a team does, there will always be mistakes and there will always be a need for improvement.
The sad reality is, most of us approach out spiritual lives in the same mentality. We know we need improvement, we feel we need to be better and even if we are successful in certain things we still beat our breast and say, “I’ll try harder next time.” Here’s the problem: we want God’s love to be directly correlated to how good we are. The reality is, we are never good enough, that’s why we try harder and harder. We approach our relationship with God like a losing football coach. We constantly admit we didn’t do enough, try enough and sacrifice enough. We blame ourselves. For some reason, that makes us feel better.
Here’s what we need to know. God’s love is not related to what we do. God’s love does not rise and fall with our successes and failures. God’s love is steadfast and complete. God does not love us anymore than he did 20 years ago. Why do we want him too? Do we think he is holding back some of his love until we are good enough to receive it?
This truth is most evident in John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.
That means the highest expression of God’s love was given at the point where we deserved it the least. God most showed us his love, when we most showed him our hate.
So rather than living as though we need to earn God’s love, we live knowing that God’s love is complete and we are sons and daughters of the living God. Our Father’s love is not something to be earned, but something to place our lives.Read More