Archive for December, 2008
People like new things. If you don’t believe me, look at the advertising around you. New product. New formula. New look. New smell. New taste. New and improved. Brand spanking new.
People love the smell of a new car. Most of us don’t even know what that smell is. Some scientists say the chemicals that cause that smell are potentially harmful to us! Still we like to enjoy that aroma that says “New!” to our senses. People like it so much, in fact, that you can buy bottles of “New Car Smell” to spray in your not-so-new car, just so your nose can be deceived.
For some reason, we tend to like new years as well. There is a promise of a fresh beginning. We have a clean slate just waiting for us to reach out and make our mark. Or so it seems. At some point, however, we come to realize that turning a page on a calendar doesn’t really change our lives. The problems that were there the year before don’t magically disappear when the clock strikes 12 midnight on New Year’s Eve. It’s a new year, but it’s the same old us, living the same old lives.
I want a new start. I don’t want “New Life Smell” sprayed on my old life; I want a real new beginning. And I know where to find it. The apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In another letter, he told the Christians in Rome: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Romans 6:4). God doesn’t merely spray a new smell on an old life. He lets us be born again, giving us a completely new life. The old has passed away; the new has come.
Those of us who are already in Christ can also get that new beginning. The apostle John wrote: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Jesus purifies me, wipes the slate clean, forgives my sin and lets me start all over. Continually. As long as I stay in contact with him.
This is the time of year when people wish one another a happy new year. Instead of that, I’d like to wish you a happy new life, new life in Christ.
We love Christmas at our house. We always have. Our children learned to love it too. They are both married with children of their own and it is a big deal in both of their homes. We decorate like crazy: outside lights all over the trees and house, big tree inside, decorations everywhere. We can’t wait for cold weather, crackling fires, and driving the neighborhoods to look at lights. We cherish the memories of Christmas past, remembering the times when the kids were young.
But what really makes Christmas special are other things … especially the spirit of giving and sharing at Christmas. We love the time we get to spend with friends and family. It is exciting to see the new additions every year … babies, in-laws and new friends. Much of our Christmas time centers on eating together. We feast, we laugh, we tell stories, and we love being together. People think about Jesus at Christmas and I like that. I wish I could have Christmas all year round.
Which is why being part of a church family is perfect for me. Christianity is based on giving and sharing. God gave his Son to make us part of his family, and we share that good news with as many people as we can. We think about Jesus all the time. We gather around a meal every week, tell stories and celebrate together. We get to see new members join our church family. We love being together.
I do have Christmas all year round. So can you.
Each year during the holiday season we witness nativity scenes dotted around our cities and towns. Perhaps because of the familiarity of the depiction of the birth of the Savior we fail to focus on just what an impact it had on the lives of all mankind. To many people, it is simply a story, a reason to gather with family, the depiction of a baby lying in a manger. To know the real Jesus, our minds must take Him out of the manger and see Him as a man, yet deity; a King who came to show us how to live; a Savior who came to seek and save the lost.
Jesus was God come to earth. He came as a baby, and grew to be a man, one with power and authority. He came with a gentle, loving, and forgiving heart. Because of this, our culture has created a Jesus who is a “love only” Jesus. This “fantasy” Jesus overlooks all sin and never condemns. Yes, Jesus is gentle and loving—so loving that He calls us to Him and condemns sin to bring joy into our lives. Sin, with all its promise of glitter and glamour, ultimately brings misery as we yield ourselves to it. The story of Jesus is more than just a story of a baby born long ago in a faraway place, to bring the offer of forgiveness. It is the story of a Jesus who longs to be your Lord. He offers grace and mercy. He demands loyalty in return.
This same Jesus who was born long ago to bring salvation to those who seek Him and follow His leading still lives today. He has the power to transform your life.
Are you seeking to know the “real” Jesus? Do you long for the transformation in your life that comes by following Him?
“Saved alone. What shall I do?” Those were the chilling words Horatio Spafford read in the telegram from his wife. It was November, 1873. Anna Spafford had been traveling to Europe with the four Spafford children; Mr. Spafford was to join them later. The ship the family was traveling on, the Ville du Havre, was rammed by a British iron sailing ship, the Lockhearn. Mrs. Spafford was rescued by the Lockhearn, but the four children were taken by the waves.
Mr. Spafford was a prosperous lawyer and real estate developer in Chicago until his fortunes were reduced to ashes by the Great Fire of 1871. Still reeling from that financial disaster, now Spafford faced an even greater crisis. He was a man of faith, but these were times that would try even the greatest saint.
Making the Atlantic crossing to join his wife, Spafford was shown the location of the wreck that had cost him his children. Reflecting on that moment, he wrote his wife’s half-sister saying “On Thursday last we passed over the spot where she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep. But I do not think of our dear ones there. They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.”
During the crossing, Spafford sat and wrote the words to one of the best-loved songs of all times. The first verse reads:
When peace like a river attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot
Thou hast taught me to say
“It is well with my soul.”
It’s an amazing story. Most of us would have trouble reacting in such a way. When faced with loss, when dealing with grief, the common reaction is to fall back on self-pity. What enabled Spafford to respond as he did? Faith. Spafford believed that death was not the end for his dear children. He believed that the grave was a stopping point, not a destination. To him, his children lay, not beneath the cold waters, but folded safe in the arms of Jesus.
Without God, such hope is not possible. Without God, death is the end. But God has overcome death, through the history-changing resurrection of his son. We can read in the New Testament: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Do you have this hope? Do you share this faith? If not, let me tell you about the God that can fill you with peace in the most trying of times, that can trace a path of hope through the darkest hour.
I want to find a church like this:
The building committee approves the building of a stable instead of a multi-million dollar edifice. I know you can’t have much of a crowd in a stable, but I like the idea of simple and functional as opposed to grand and expensive.
Animals are allowed in the building. Maybe that is not really practical, but it would be great to be in a church that dealt with real life and not just “church” life.
The message is about good news of great joy. It seems to me that is what most people I know are looking for: a life of joy.
Farmers and intellectuals worship together. I believe people everywhere are pretty much the same. We generally need and want the same things. I want a church where people of every race, economic status, or profession are welcome.
It started out like that you know. Church is really about a simple message. God’s son came to earth and lived among us. He was born in a stable among real animals. He lived a real life.
That’s the good news: that God wanted us to be in a relationship with him so much that he let His son leave heaven and come to earth to make that relationship possible. For everyone that wants it.
It is not complicated. It is not elaborate. It is good news of great joy. Do not be confused by the church pomp and circumstance you see this time of year. Do not let the competing message of the world’s view of Christmas hide Jesus, who came to earth to find you.
So how did he find you? Why does it seem so difficult to find him today?