The Greatest Gift

December 24, 2012

Christmas is a time of giving. And that means Christmas is a time of shopping. Ever since the wise men from the east showed up at the stable carrying gold, frankincense, and myrrh, people have been exchanging gifts at Christmas. Of course, it’s much more complicated today than it was for the wise men. For one thing, they didn’t have to contend with shopping malls, all packed full of parents going from store to store to store, desperately searching for a Nintendo Playstation 2. The magi didn’t have to worry about sizes, or colors, or return policies. There were no razor scooters in those days, no life-size Barbies, and definitely no robot dogs. Just plain old gold, frankincense and myrrh. Not to mention the many gifts which went bad such as the (Pet Rock) for those of us remembering the seventies!

Well, this year, just like every year, millions of people, both children and adults, will open millions of gifts. Some won’t fit. Some will be the wrong color. Many will be returned or exchanged. But there’s one gift that meets everyone’s need, one gift that will never wear out, never break or need repairing. A gift that is appropriate for a small child, or a teenager, or an adult, or a senior adult. Boy or girl, man or woman, it makes no difference. The gift we all need, the most valuable gift of all, is that baby in the manger. The one that this whole season is about. On Christmas, we celebrate the fact that God gave us the gift of Himself through His own Son, Jesus Christ, so that through faith in Him we could be forgiven of our sins and have eternal life.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NIV)

For this special day, I’d like to make three points about this gift, this incredible, priceless gift.

1. The gift is Jesus Christ himself

First, the gift is Jesus Christ himself. The gift God offers us is to know Christ. To know Him as a friend, to have fellowship with Him, to have a relationship with Him. The gift God offers us is to be known and loved by Christ.

Jesus states “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” – John 15:15 (NIV)

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” – John 17:3 (NIV)

Let me ask you a question: Have you received this gift? Do you have this kind of relationship with Jesus Christ? Do you know Him as a friend? Is He someone you can talk with, confide in, seek counsel from? Do you feel at ease in His presence, like you would with a close friend, or do you feel like you have to rush around cleaning up your spiritual “house” before you can welcome him in? If the answer is “no,” if you don’t have this kind of relationship with Christ, the good news is that you can. All you have to do is ask. Come to him in prayer; confess your sins, ask His forgiveness, ask Him into your heart. That’s all you have to do.

Maybe you’ve never heard the Christian life described in this way before. Perhaps it sounds a little strange to talk about spending time with Jesus Christ, as if He were a flesh and blood person, someone you could see and hear and touch. Well, no it isn’t like that. We don’t claim to see visions or hear voices. But that doesn’t make our fellowship with him any less real. Christ is present with us. His Spirit lives in us. He speaks to us through the Bible. And we speak with him through prayer.

“We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” – 1 John 1:3 (NIV)

People sometimes think of Christianity as nothing but a set of burdensome responsibilities. Doing things you’d rather not do. Like going to church, when you’d rather be home reading the Sunday paper. Some people see the Christian life as a lot of rules, a lot of “do’s” and “don’ts” (mainly “don’ts”). Or if they view Christianity more positively, they might see it primarily in terms of the benefits it can bring – improved relationships; stronger marriages; guidance in raising children; emotional strength to deal with difficult circumstances. And that’s true, but even this misses the mark. The essence of Christianity isn’t rules, or “do’s and don’t’s”, or even blessings. The essence of Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yes, the Christian life brings many benefits – joy, peace, hope. But they all come through Christ, they all flow from our relationship with Him.

Your greatest gift to your children isn’t a few boxes wrapped in colored paper, on Christmas or their birthday. The most valuable thing you can offer them is a relationship; your love and care, your time and attention, your commitment to always be there when they need you. Right? Everything else flows from that. In the same way, God’s greatest gift to us is a relationship with Jesus Christ, and a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

2. The Gift Has Great Value

The second point I want to make is that this gift has great value. Although there is truly nothing more desirable than knowing Christ, many people just can’t see it. Their eyes haven’t been opened. They look into the manger and they don’t see a king. They don’t see the Savior of the World. They don’t see “the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace,” as the Hallelujah chorus puts it. They don’t see anything special at all, because they don’t have eyes of faith. All they can see is an ordinary human being. And so, they pass by the child in the manger and instead seek after the gold, and the frankincense, and the myrrh sitting at the side. They don’t want the baby, they want the presents. Which do you value more, the toys and trinkets of this life that will all eventually crumble into dust or a relationship with Jesus Christ that will last forever?

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” – Matt. 13:44-46 (NIV)

Knowing Christ is worth more than anything else in this world; in fact, knowing Christ is worth more than everything else in this world. We will never be disappointed by Him. He is that treasure; He’s that pearl of great value. God’s gift to us, this child in the manger, is worth more than anything else we could ever possess. Does your life reflect that truth? Do you know Him? Are you seeking Him?

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” – 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV)

3. The gift must be received

Finally, the gift must be received. It’s available to everyone, but God doesn’t force it on anyone. We have to receive it. We have to take the package, and open the box, and accept it as our own. We each have to make the decision to receive Jesus Christ into our lives.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1:12 (NIV)

Not all who heard about him agreed with his teachings or received salvation. Not all who attended church. Not all who tried to follow the golden rule. But only all those who received him. Some people imagine that God’s love has to be earned; that we have to do something to deserve His forgiveness. That we have to somehow be good enough to merit His acceptance. But a gift you have to pay for is no gift at all. Imagine your wife, children, family or friends trying to pay for a gifts which you gave them.

Now, maybe you opened that gift years ago, but lately it’s been sitting on the shelf. You’ve been too busy, or too distracted, or too hurting to give Christ the time and attention you know He deserves. Or maybe for you that gift is still under the tree, wrapped and ready to be opened. My appeal to you this most Holy Christmas season is this: Don’t leave Christ on the shelf; don’t leave Him under the tree. Take him into your heart and into your life, do it today. That gift from God has a tag with your name on it. What better day than Christmas to renew your commitment to Christ; or what better day than Christmas to begin a new life of fellowship with Jesus Christ, a new life of joy and peace and love?

The wish from our family to yours is that God, Abba Father will grant to you and yours a very blessed Merry Christmas and a joyous Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

A TIME FOR PRAYER

September 8, 2012

The Word

As we begin to prepare for the fall and winter season, we find that it is hard to get out of our summer mode of relaxing, laid back care free attitudes and living. Most of us are not accustomed to hearing that early morning alarm clock going off for a while now. Yet it is time to get back into our routine of getting the kids off to school, husband/wife off to work and life goes on in an uneventful manner. Or does it? It is time to dust off our Prayer Warrior Arsenal and be mindful that the enemy of our Soul, Satan, is waiting for that one time when our guards are down for our family or ourselves to bring about his sneak attack. Also, an election for the highest office of the land is impending and is at stake. Saints of the Most High God it is time to Pray!

Text: Luke 11:1-13 (KJV)

Probably nothing hinders an attitude of expectancy in prayer more than the supposition that to be effective, prayer has to take a long time. Inherent in our nature is the conviction that to get anything from God, we have to work hard to earn it. Most of us are at least superficially convinced that everything hangs on God’s grace, that we can be forgiven solely by free favor shown through the Lord Jesus Christ. But beyond that beginning, even the most sincere person will still be inclined to believe that great prayer requires great amounts of time.

The stories of powerful men and women who have prayed and shaped lives and nations through hours of intercession and lengthy travail seem to buttress the case against my being effective in prayer. But Jesus taught a pathway to effective praying that any one of us can walk. It may lead eventually to experiences like those of the great prayer warriors whose dedication so intimidates us. Yet their arrival at those heights began with early steps on the flat lands where they learned basic attitudes toward prayer—and, no doubt, where they cast off many false notions about it as well. Let us begin in the same way.

In Luke 11, Jesus tells a story that ought to be the primer on prayer. The message of the story is that God wants us to ask Him freely and boldly for whatever we need. Ironically, however, its original intention has been seriously distorted. The principal reason for this is one word in verse eight: importunity.

Importunity appears in the King James Version, while the word persistence is the unfortunate translation in most modern versions. Perhaps the best way to discover the simple power of what Jesus was unfolding in His preliminary teaching on prayer is to retell the story:

“Suppose a friend of yours arrives at your house in the middle of the night, after traveling all day long. Because he hasn’t had anything to eat, you go to prepare something for him, only to discover that your pantry is empty. Because the shops are closed at that hour, you decide to go to the nearby home of another friend, and although it’s a horrible time to arouse anyone, you bang loudly on the door.

“Now answer me,” Jesus is saying, “which of you has a friend who would stand at his bedroom window and shout out to you, say, ‘Don’t bother me. The whole household is in bed’?
None of you! It’s not even a question of friendship. The man will get up and give him what he needs because of the simple fact that the neighbor had the nerve to ask.

“And I’m telling you—ask, and it shall be given unto you!”

That’s the uncluttered version of Jesus’ story. It tells how to learn to pray well. To begin, you need to learn to have the nerve to ask boldly.

A look at the original language supports this simple approach, so much so that it is mind-boggling to understand why this passage has been used to show that prayer must earn answers through overcoming God’s reluctance, as if our persistence could overcome God’s resistance. In fact, Jesus is saying that your first barrier isn’t God—it’s your own hesitation to ask freely. You need to learn the kind of boldness that isn’t afraid to ask—whatever the need or the circumstance.

The lesson revolves around one idea: shameless boldness. The word employed here occurs only twice in the Greek New Testament, once in its positive form and once in its negated form. In 1 Timothy 2:9 aidos is used to describe a posture of propriety and reverence. It means “modesty” or “respect.” It applies to the adornment of women that should distinguish them from the brassiness of the worldly woman. The Elizabethan English
word, “shamefacedness,” which appears in the King James Version, is literally correct, but its flavor has changed too much in 350 years to be helpful any longer when it comes to ladies’ garments.

But Jesus’ use of the word in this parable is in its negated form—anaideia. The “alpha privitive” of the Greek language has the same force as English prefixes like “im” or “un.” Negated, “possible” becomes “im-possible”; “likely” becomes “un-likely.” Jesus said the reason the midnight seeker gets what he needs is because of his anaideia–not his reverence, not his modest sensitivity to the hour, not his caution, nor his respect for propriety, but his bold unashamedness—indeed, his brassiness.

It is the brassiness of a smart aleck making demands, but the forwardness of a person who is so taken with an awareness of need that he abandons normal protocol.

There is nothing in the text that lends itself to the idea of persistence. The contrast is clear: the awakened friend gets up and gets what is needed. He doesn’t carry on a war of words from the upstairs window. Nor does he smolder silently in irritation under the blankets while his friend downstairs insistently beats the door and shouts his need into the unresponding darkness.

The only other point of confusion lies in a misunderstanding of the verb “ask.” Its tense in Greek conveys the idea of continual asking. But that is not a command to ask repeatedly for the same thing in order to force God into action. The continuality which Jesus wants is in ceaseless petitioning. In other words, you need never hesitate to ask for something just because you asked for something else earlier. Any hint that heaven “gets too busy” with earlier requests to have either time or supply for the next is pure folly.

Here’s the message of the parable:

1. You have a friend in the heavenly Father. He’s on your side, and available anytime, in every circumstance.
2. Boldness is your privilege. Your assignment is to ask; His commitment is to give—as much as you need.

This is the beginning. “Seeking” and “knocking” are further steps as one walks the pathway of prayer. But we need to get started, and this is probably the greatest need facing us today: too many hesitate to pray. They hesitate through a sense of unworthiness, a feeling of distance from Deity, a wondering about God’s will in the matter, a concern of “if it’s okay,” an uncertainty of how much to ask for, a fear that God won’t hear.

Jesus strikes the death blow to such hesitancy: ask. Ask with unabashed forwardness; ask with shameless boldness! He commands. And when you do, He clearly teaches, “you friend, My Father, will rise to the occasion, and see that everything you need is provided.”

Our Country

August 12, 2012

Our country is in a sad state of affairs today! Crime is up, taxes are rampant, broken families in the Church equal that to the world, murder is at an all time high, the traditional definition of marriage is under attack, immorality, abomination is applauded and wrong is right and right is wrong and the blame for this pathetic state of affairs can and should be laid squarely at the feet of those who say and call themselves Christians!

Why, because all the laws we live under are the direct result of the people we so called Christians elected to office! Whether it be the Judges, Congress Person, Senate or President, we voted them into office!

So you say I’m not responsible! O yes you are! Whenever you choose not to vote for the person which equals or is as close to Gods principles as contained in Scripture, you are clearly the blame and reason our country finds its heritage being rewritten, babies being murdered in abortion clinics, prayer o…u…tlawed in our schools and public places and the name of Jesus under attack!

So you say no one is running for office that perfectly equals the principles of the Bible! That is when you use the God given common sense you are suppose to have and vote for the lesser of two evils!

It’s that simple! You make the choice! And if you are truly a follower of Christ, then vote for Christ! Or stop saying thank you Jesus, Hallelujah, God is good and all that other phony stuff because nobody is listening! Your actions are drowning out the sound of your so called witness and profession of faith!

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