30 Nov

The Songs of Christmas – Hope

visitation2This week we begin the season of Advent by focusing on the thought of hope.  Our 2009 Advent theme is “The Songs of Christmas,” and each week we’ll be looking at a song from the gospel of Luke surrounding the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ.  Our song this week comes from Luke 1:46-55.  This is Mary’s song, the mother of Jesus:

46 And Mary said:  “My soul exalts the Lord,

47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.

48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name.

50 “and His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.

51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.

52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.

53 “He has filled the hungry with good things; And sent away the rich empty-handed.

54 “He has given help to Israel His servant, In remembrance of His mercy,

55 As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and his descendants forever.”

This week we focus on the hope of Christ.  This song that Mary sang came in response to her visit with Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist.  When Mary entered the room where Elizabeth was, John, who was still in Elizabeth’s womb, jump for joy, and Elizabeth began to prophecy, “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”  Indeed, Mary was blessed.  She would be used by God to bring forth the Messiah, the Christ, who had long been promised to Israel and to the entire world.  She knew that growing in her womb was her only hope and the only hope for the entire world.  In the knowledge of the hope to come, she overflowed with song from her heart, and her soul exalted the Lord.  This Advent season, may we be overwhelmed by the hope that is found in Christ.  We know that He is the only savior yesterday, today, and forever.  May we with Mary exalt the Lord!

24 Nov

Be a Thanksgiver

Well, we’re just a few short days from the annual day where we gather together for the purpose of giving thanks.  We’ll remember our American traditions, see family and friends we’ve not seen in a while, eat way too much food, and hopefully catch a nap somewhere along the way.  Truly Thanksgiving is a glorious day!

But more than just being a national holiday, Thanksgiving should be a state of mind.  In fact, for the follower of Christ, giving thanks is a central mindset.  The Apostle Paul asks one simple question that gets to the heart of giving thanks in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?”  This rhetorical question seeks to drive us to answer, “Absolutely nothing!”  And that’s so true.  Everything you have has been given to you by the One from whom all blessings flow.  That breath you just took was a gift from God.  That home you live in, those clothes on your back, all the people you hold dear—all are gifts from God.  Your salvation—especially your salvation—is a gift from God.

When we get to the point that we realize that everything we have is by grace, then we are ready to really give thanks.  A self-made man need not give thanks, but a grace-made man should never cease in thanks-giving.  Dear one, you are a grace-made man or woman.  Therefore, may thanks never stop being lifted up to our great and giving God.  To be a Christian is to be a thanksgiver.  So, be a thanksgiver Thursday and every day!

18 Nov

A God We Can See

Cowboy ZachDon’t your children just amaze you sometimes?!

Not too long ago, I was having a discussion with my older son Zachariah.  He just turned 4-years-old in October.  I was up against a deadline and had to get some work done immediately, but he really wanted me to play.  I don’t know if any of your children are or were like Zach, but he’s very social and doesn’t like playing alone.  He thinks a friend has to be there too, and since none of his buddies were around, and his little brother was napping, good ol’ dad was his anticipated playmate.  Our exchange went something like this:

“Dad, I want you to play with me.”

“Son, I’d love to, but I’ve really got to get this work done.  It has to be done today.  Why don’t you go upstairs and play.  Build a big house with Lincoln Logs!”

“Dad, I don’t want to go upstairs by myself,” he answered back, beginning that whiny voice that kids employ so well.  “It’s kinda dark up there and sometimes I get scared up there by myself.”

Looking for one of those teachable moments, I asked him, “Zachariah, why should you not be scared to go up stairs and play?”

He answered correctly, “Because God is always with me.”

“That’s right,” I said.  “You don’t have any reason to be scared.”

And then it happened, as matter-of-factly as possible.  “But, daddy, sometimes I wish I had a god I could see.”

Holy cow!  (Yeah, the pun was intended.)  Right there in the heart of my 4-year-old was the beginnings of something major.  To be honest, it takes a 4-year-old to say something like that because we adults wouldn’t have been so concise, profound, and blunt.  What was bubbling up in my son’s heart is what mankind has battled with since the fall, and it could lead to one of two things:  either idolatry or a hunger for the age to come.

Put your finger on almost any Old Testament page, or ancient history book for that matter, and you’ll see a multiplicity of this ancient sin of idolatry being lived out.  From the Garden of Eden to Egypt to Canaan, it’s on full display.

You probably see it most vividly in the scene in Exodus 32 when Moses had left the people of Israel for a while to go up and meet with God on Mt. Sinai:

1Now when the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people assembled about Aaron and said to him, “Come, make us a god who will go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” 2Aaron said to them, “Tear off the gold rings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” 3Then all the people tore off the gold rings which were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. 4He took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf; and they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 5Now when Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” 6So the next day they rose early and offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and rose up to play.

What a low moment for the people of Israel, but people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.  How many times have you said silently or even aloud in your fallenness, “I wish I had a god I could see”?  Honestly, what struck me so much when my son said what he said was that he just put to words what I’ve felt many times.  In my ye-of-little-faith moments, I’ve said in groans and sighs what he said in words.  We all groan at times inside wishing we had a god we could see right now.

Why is that?  The answer is that a god we can see requires no faith.  In that moment when you’ve just lost your job, and you cry out, “God, are you really there?” it would certainly be easier if we could just look up in the sky or over in the corner and see God sitting there.  Then we’d be quickly reassured that He is there.  But that’s not faith.  Remember how Hebrews 11:1 defines faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  Again, a god I can see requires no faith, and in this age, faith is the order of the day.  As the Apostle Paul said, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

So, fellow journeyman, as we walk, let us walk by faith.  Of course, this faith is not a blind one.  It’s an informed faith based upon objective truth revealed in Jesus Christ and the Scripture, but it’s nevertheless faith.  May we ever be on our faces before the throne of God begging Him for more faith so that we will endure, and dear one, He will supply.

But know this one truth:  the God that is invisible to us in this age will one day in the age to come be fully revealed to our very eyes, as Revelation 22:3-4 promises, “There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads.”  What a glorious day that will be when our groans and sighs will be answered!  Therefore, don’t let your wishing for a god you can see lead you to idolatry.  Let it lead to you to hunger for the age to come when we will behold our heavenly Father face to face.

Zachariah, thank you for being so honest and helping daddy long for the day when my faith will be replaced with sight.  I pray that you will come to faith and keep the faith so that the desires of your precious heart will come to pass as well.  Come, Lord Jesus!