Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Blessings of Christmas

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
-- Luke 2:10-11 ESV

To kids, sometimes all Christmas means is toys and presents.  They get easily distracted by these gifts and forget everything else.   Don't we sometimes forget as adults too?  We can get so distracted by travelling, by gift purchases, by sending out cards, and by preparing for the feasts that we lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas.  Christmas was invented by men long ago to celebrate the birth of Christ.

The Christmas season is one where we do get very busy but we are also reminded of the birth of Christ by what is all around us.  Even though it may not be a religious day for many people, they do acknowledge that it is a day about the birth of Christ.  As Christians, we need to remember the birth of Christ not only during this busy season when our minds are overly occupied, but at all times throughout the year.  For without Christ's birth, we would not have the blessing of his life to model ours after. Without Christ's birth, we would not have the blessing of his life story and the story of his disciples to read.  Without Christ's birth, we would not have the blessing of his death on the cross to purify us before God. Without Christ's birth, we would not have the blessing of his resurrection to show us death is defeated for those who believe.  Without Christ's birth, we would not know the true extent and depth of the grace and love of our Father.

We must remember Christ's life and let it dwell richly in our hearts if we are truly to call ourselves Christians, not just on Christmas day or in the Christmas season, but all of our lives.  Jesus is Christ the Lord. He came to Earth to find lost people and offer them salvation from themselves.  And he did just that, perfectly.  We can help each other remember Christ all year round.   We can help each other live our lives in the love of God and the joy of Christ's life.  We can share Christ's light with one another and all we meet if we always remember that it all started with the birth of the son of God in a lowly manger in Bethlehem one night thousands of years ago.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
-- Luke 2:14

I Need To Test All Things

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
-- Acts 17:11 NIV

We are all on our own spiritual journey through this life and have to work out things for ourselves and live by our choices (Philippians 2:12-13).  We are taught the way that God wants us to live our lives through His words in the Bible but sometimes we feel the need to answer the callings of our heart and learn things for ourselves.   We come to believe that God would want us to be happy in whatever we want to do and so we step out on our own understanding.   Or we can think that God is not there for us because He wouldn't make life so difficult to bear so we tend to forget Him as we live our lives as best we see fit.  But as in the parable of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32, in all these times God is there waiting for us to turn to Him.  God is the source of eternal life and has revealed His nature and ways through His word and His love for us all through His son Jesus (1 Timothy 2:4, 2 Timothy 3:16-17, John 3:16-17).

I became a Christian late in my life, just 13 years ago, but I almost always knew that God was there.  I never truly doubted Him, I just ignored Him and did things my own way often times choosing a dark path.  Since becoming a Christian, there have been many times where I wished God was different and wanted different things for me, that He would understand me and my needs better and not make it so hard on me.  But then I remember, wait, this is the creator of the universe who didn't have to create me but did, a loving father who sacrificed His own son that I might be in His joyful presence eternally.  I don't understand why, and many times I know I don't deserve it, but He did that for me and for all of us.  And He continues to be there for me even still.  I don't have all the answers, not even close.  I just know my life is so much better since I decided to follow Jesus as I read about Him in the bible.  It is my constant prayer that I seek God where He is and not just where I want Him to be, and that I remember that His love is always available to those who walk in His light (1 John 1:6-10).   I will keep on praying no matter what is going on in my life, good or bad,  and sincerely try to always look to scripture to find out if the things that people say are true (Acts 17:11).  I want to embrace His Spirit in all that I do (Colossians 3:17) and do that which He asks of me in scripture, always loving Him with all my mind, heart, soul and strength (Matthew 22:36-40).   I hope that as I walk on my journey I can share God’s light within me by showing others the way and offering the hope they need (2 Timothy 2:15, Mark 16:15).  If together we test all things against God’s word and align our hearts with God’s nature, even though we stumble, we can never fail.

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.
-- Jude 1:24-25

Listen to Our Hearts

But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child.  
-- Galatians 4:4-7 NLT

I write software for a living and as such have a pretty logical mind.  It helps in my line of work as the computer will do exactly what I tell it to, no more, no less, and it will do it very fast.  It doesn’t care if what I tell it to do is right or wrong; it has no emotion about it at all.  It won't do anything but what I tell it, even if it is wrong and turns the computer into a smoking hole.  So getting things in the right order and having all the steps needed to do something is kind of second nature to me at work.  And I find that sometimes I treat my study of God’s word and what He wants me to do in this life in that way.  All the steps are there in the Bible for me to follow.  If I just do those in that way, then it will all work out.

We tend to think that logic and emotion are two separate things, that they don’t coincide.  People might say “if you could just put aside your emotions for a second we could talk rationally.”  But we can’t seem to do that.  Some emotions are very logical.  Things like loving your child , being attached to your family, and disliking evil are all emotions but are very logical for survival.  They all make sense on both on a personal level and on the grander scale of humanity.  This is all because this is how God designed us.  In Matthew 22:37-39, Jesus said “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  God created us with both emotions and reasoning and He intended that we should use both.  We're not meant to be robots reasoning things through without feelings.  We are instead meant to be so much more.

If we read Luke 10:25-37, we see the story of the Good Samaritan.  The priest and the temple assistant (Levite), men of great wisdom and learning of the day, walked on by.  The Samaritan felt compassion for the man who was attacked and so he helped him.  It was his emotion that made the logical action of helping the man seem so natural.  So remember that God wants us to listen to our hearts.  He wants us to know that feeling the Spirit within ourselves and sharing that joy is just as important as knowing what it means to be a Christian and living the life.  Share your joy today and watch as everything else just seems to make sense.