Friday, December 24, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
Living here in the western world, most of us have images of Christmas that would include a tree decorated with lights, ornaments, and garland, with lots of presents piled high underneath. From childhood we are enamored with the vision of an abundance of gifts with our name on them. Gifts coming in all shapes and sizes filled with every imaginable thing that would satisfy our every wish. Things that not only meet all our needs, but things that bring us comfort and keep us entertained. Not only are we enamored with the things in the gifts, but we are also obsessed at the thought of getting them at no cost to us. That’s why we love lotteries, grants, and other kinds of handouts.
Unfortunately, this kind of thinking carries over into our Christian walk as well. We often treat God as if He is our personal genie in a bottle, we expect to rub the lamp of prayer, and out should pop the answer to our every wish and desire. Like a child at Christmas we will seek vigorously for God’s presents to be piled high under our prayer tree, and like a child we get anxious and irritated that Christmas morning and the revealing of our gifts has not yet arrived. Sadly, we are much more interested in God’s presents, then His presence. The Bible clearly states that God “gave gifts to men.” (Eph. 4:8) However, God's presents are not to become a substitute for his presence.
I love my grandkids immensely, and our tree is piled high with gifts for them. But if the day should come when instead of running to me with hugs, kisses, and a big “I Love You Papa;” they came running to me, feeling in my pockets, and declaring with a stern tone, “Where are my presents?” I am quite sure they would cease to receive presents until their love and desire for me, exceeded their desire for the gifts I could give them.
So the question we must ask ourselves is this, “How much time do I spend thinking about how badly I need God’s presents vs. how badly I need God’s presence? How much time in prayer do I spend seeking God’s presents vs. seeking God’s presence?” It is right and good to seek God for the answers to our needs. However out greatest need is not about earthly things, or even the healing of our earthly bodies. Our greatest need is to have our hearts and souls flooded with God’s presence; to be flooded with His grace, and His love, to know God, and to be known by Him. When we get enveloped in God’s presence, concern over things and problems will melt away as we marinate in His glory. There is no substitute for God’s presence, but it doesn’t come without a cost. We must seek in order to find, we must knock in order for the door to be opened. (Matt. 7:7) There is no fast food version for God’s presence, but it will be worth the time, effort, and the wait.
“Lord, make us hungry for you! May we desperately thirst for your presence. May we aggressively seek your face, and expectantly wait to experience your glory. Above all else that we do today, may we seek your Christmas presence.”
“As the deer pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God. My inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God.” (Pm. 42:1-2) Amp
O God , you are my God, earnestly will I seek You; my inner self thirsts for You, my flesh longs and is faint for you, in a dry and weary land where no water is.” (Pm. 63:1) Amp
“When you said, seek My face (inquire my presence as your vital need). My heart says to You, Your face (your presence), will I seek, (inquire for and require of necessity and on the authority of your Word).” (Pm.27:8) Amp
“I wait for the Lord, I expectantly wait, and in his Word do I hope. I am looking and waiting for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning.” (Pm. 130:5-6) Amp
“Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matt. 5:6)
Thursday, December 16, 2010
Christmas is that time of year when our minds are scrambling, trying to figure out what kinds of gifts to give to the people we love. Gifts that would meet our loved ones needs. Gifts that would bring them joy and speak to who they are. For some this process is exciting and fun; for others it is frustrating and stressful. For me, not having very many gifts to give, (as my wife takes care of most of that) Christmas has become a season that I can spend my time reflecting upon the magnitude of the greatest gift ever given. A gift that came packaged as a new born baby, wrapped up not in gleaming ribbons and colorful paper, but in swaddling clothes. A gift not place under a tree, but in a manger in a smelly barn. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) It is one thing for us to give gifts to others out of our abundance, it is quite another to give to someone what we value most. To give up our most valued treasure. That is what God did. He gave what he deemed most valuable, His only son in “whom he was well pleased.” God gave us his best while we were still rebelling against Him. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom. 5:8)
Not only did God love us so much he gave us his most valuable treasure, but scripture teaches us that Jesus gave us his most valuable treasure as well, his very life. “The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal.2:20) Jesus considered you more valuable than himself, so he gave his life blood in order to redeem you. When Jesus was dying on the cross those watching from the crowd made a very prophetic statement, for they said, “He saved others; himself he cannot save.” (Matt. 27:42) And that was true. He could save us or he could save himself, but he could not do both. For if he chose to save himself then we would be doomed to eternal death. Amazingly he chose to save us by giving himself.
Christmas can be a time of physical and financial drain; we can easily lose perspective and get lost in the hubbub of activities. We often view giving as a burden rather than a blessing. However, try to remember as you go about your Christmas busyness- you are never more like God, you are never more like Jesus, than when you love and when you give. Love is who God is; giving is what he does. So when you love, and when you give, you are being like Jesus. Give to your friend; give to your family but don’t forget to give to those in need and those who are hurting, not just those in your neighborhood but everywhere in the world hurting people are found. Look for opportunities to give to people you don’t even know, just to let them know God sees them and cares about them. Giving is not restricted to finances, but also includes our time, talents, and energy. If we are to give as Jesus gives, we will freely give love and grace, forgiveness and encouragement; even to those who seemingly least deserve it. How can I withhold forgiveness, when God has forgiven me so much? How can I withhold grace when Jesus has lavished so much grace upon me? How can I withhold love, when Jesus gave his very life blood for me?
Once you learn to give from a heart filled with love and gratitude, pouring yourself out for others, binding up their wounds and carrying their burdens; then you will be just like your Father in heaven, who is the author of both love and giving. “For God so loved…he gave.” Then when your old aunt from Ohio shows up at your house this Christmas, pinches you on the cheek and says in a high pitched voice, “You act just like your father,” you will smile brightly on the inside and think, “That is what I was hoping for.”
“If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12