21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
Remember God is moving you by grace to grace.
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26
Everyday we live we exist in grace. God withholds his wrath and judgment because of unmerited favor. He looks down on us with love not condemnation.(Romans 8:1) He sees not only who we are now but who we will be one day and remembers the end result is the one that counts. I don’t know how He will do it but I cling to verses like Philippians 1:6 that says “and I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” I certainly place no hope or trust or faith in myself to complete this “good work”. It is sheerly and simply a gift from God to me.
Jesus didn’t come because it was just a noble thing to do. He didn’t do it to just show He was a “nice God”. He came because we were caught in a sin cycle that would lead us to death and destruction. Jesus came to extend to us the grace of God. This Christmas, may I encourage you to readily accept this gift from God? Let Jesus be your Savior. There’s no need to save yourself. Even though it may be nothing for us to buy ourselves a gift at Christmas, salvation from our sins only comes through Jesus Christ and the grace of God. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Remember Jesus came to give us grace freely.
As Christmas Eve is here, it is essential to remember that Jesus was born for me; a sinner in need of God’s grace. Yep! I am the reason Jesus came. I stand in need of grace…and so do you. Jesus was God’s gift to us; the embodiment of God and all that is God. Freely given. FREELY. As if “grace” could ever be bought, deserved or earned?
I remember growing up and thinking I had to be “good” for Santa to come and bring me everything I wanted. This thought is not lost on Jesus. Many people, myself included sometimes, feel like we have to do good and be good to earn God’s blessings and favor. Yet this is not the meaning of “grace”. Christmas is not about getting what I deserve or even want. It’s about getting something I could never fully understand and certainly never afford or deserve. Christmas is not about how “good” I can be but rather how truly bad I am and yet how supremely good God is. God doesn’t save me because I am good but because He is. Jesus doesn’t come because of any other reason that we all needed Him as our Savior. He’s the Good One! And if there is anything good in me, it is Christ alone.
The greater I realize my depravity the more I appreciate God’s grace! It’s like a kid a Christmas who loves opening up costly presents but has no idea how much it really costs because he has no concept of money, yet. But when we reach adulthood, all-of-a-sudden, we have a completely different view of cost, don’t we? Opening up gifts and treasuring the thoughts, efforts, and costs have so much more meaning. God’s gift to me is free but I cannot be ignorant of how great His cost! Unwrapping Jesus at Christmas needs to be done with the excitement of a child and the understanding of an adult.
Remember the “Giver”
Another crucial thing to remember is that Jesus is the gift, not just through whom other gifts come. It’s easy to overlook the Giver sometimes, isn’t it? We’ve all done it to our parents at some point, where we’ve taken them for granted, just wanted to “use” them to get things and not really valued or appreciated the kindness and love which motivates them. Don’t make that mistake this year with God. Don’t look to Him for his blessings of grace, mercy, love, generosity etc. alone. Look to Him. Jesus is the gift. He is the blessing. It’s not just the salvation from our sins or the grace we receive; it’s the person of Jesus. Spend some time with Him today. Enjoy His “presence”.
Herod heard people had come to worship…but just not to worship him.
The Pharisees and Scribes were right about a lot… but just not worship.
4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”
The Wise Men are called “wise” because of their “worship”.
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them,“What are you seeking?” John 1:35-38
What do you want?
Is no secret that at Christmastime, this is one of the most asked questions by far. But the question doesn’t find it’s origin with Santa or even parents for that matter. The question actually finds supreme meaning and significance because of Jesus.
John the Baptist is not only one of the main characters centered around Jesus and his birth but he is also related to Jesus. John is Jesus’ cousin. It’s possible that maybe they saw each other during their childhood although no one can really document that. Nonetheless John was brought into this world in a very unique and miraculous way, similar to Jesus in that his birth was announced by an angel, and he was being born into a family that did not expect to have children.
As John grew he understood his purpose and place in life was to point others to Christ. He did that faithfully.
John’s ministry grew and he acquired disciples, student who followed him and took up his teaching. They listened to John’s words and emulated his lifestyle. Then something happened one day. John baptized Jesus, pointed out once again that Jesus was the Lamb of God who had come to redeem mankind, and en encouraged his followers to follow Jesus. Who does that? Who gives their ministry away? What can we learn from John.
Christmas, ministry and life should be about Christ.
It’s easy for any of us to get caught up in the season and forget the person of Christmas. Even in ministry things can change where it becomes about programs…and even helping people as opposed to why we help people, why we have programs and why we are even serving in the first place. John the Baptist reminds us that at Christmas, we need to make sure all we do points to Christ. That every program we have, every song we sing, every gift we give, is out of our hearts of love and gratitude for Christ, who he is and what he has done.
Christmas is about becoming less and having less so others can have more.
It’s easy at Christmas to want more stuff that we don’t need. It’s easy to buy into the accumulation mentality that we need more, more, more. John was such an awesome example of living on less. The man was dressed in camels hair and ate locusts for goodness sake! He wasn’t out buying the finest linens as a cousin and forerunner of Jesus! He was investing his time, energy and money into pointing others to Christ. He lived on less so he could focus more on what was important and that was Christ and the Kingdom of God. John actually encouraged his disciples to follow Jesus diminishing his own ministry to build Jesus’. John was really in it for God and not himself. At Christmas, let’s make sure we are doing things for Jesus and not ourselves.
Christmas is about what you want.
Jesus doesn’t waste any time asking this all important question: what do you want? In all honesty, we come to Santa as kids with a list a mile long of all the toys and items we would like to have at Christmastime. That list is not that dissimilar to lists we bring to God as well. We treat God as a “ Santa” all year long making requests that are selfish and consumeristic in nature. What is surprising is that God allows us to come to him with any and all requests! But he never promises to just give us everything we want. Nonetheless Jesus asks these new disciples what they want. That question goes much deeper than just a new camel or sandles.
Is it possible that this Christmas Jesus could be asking us all that same question? For those who are really willing to search their hearts and souls, the answers you find will be very revealing. Deep down, we want love, peace, hope, joy, and all the things that Christ coming actually brings. What is great is that Jesus the Messiah is willing to give us these very things when we come to him and push aside the junk that we don’t really need and the stuff that we don’t really want and realize in the deepest part of our being will never satisfy. This Christmas, what is it that you want? Santa, nor anything other than Jesus can actually promise you that this Christmas.
6 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. Luke 2:6-7
How does something like this happen? Angels travel to announce to an unsuspecting couple that isn’t even married yet: “you’re gonna have a baby”. This couple has to start their travel back to Joseph’s hometown because of a census order. As they “happen” to be traveling back, her time comes to give birth. I understand that there are several prophecies centered around the birth of Jesus, along with a number of miracles. However, it strikes me that God would go to such extreme measures to land this “surprise” on Mary and Joseph, work with extreme care to organize the census so that the baby could be born in Bethlehem but then seemingly not orchestrate for there to be “room in the inn”.
Was this a surprise to God? Absolutely not! Perhaps a surprise to Mary and Joseph, although they did not balk at the idea of Jesus being born in the stable. But then again, the baby’s coming so it’s best to just get the mother as comfortable as possible as soon as possible.
This surprise “no vacancy” sign really is as planned as anything else surrounding the birth of Jesus. Here are a couple of things to consider.
No room in the inn showed Jesus’ connection with the poor.
He wasn’t born in a fancy hospital or ritzy hotel. He was born in a lowly manger…with a stable full of animals. This was all part of God’s plan. From the beginning of his earthly existence, Jesus was able to identify with the poor. He gave up the riches of heaven to come and live among us. It was for our sakes that he became poor. (2 Corinthians 8:9). No matter what our status, Jesus can identify with us. Jesus never “owned” a home during his time on earth. In Luke 9:58 Jesus says he has no place to lay his head, meaning that once again he would be pulling up a rock for a pillow under the open skies. Since some mangers are stone maybe Jesus was conditioned to having a stone for a bed?
No room in the inn showed Jesus’ connection with Calvary.
Jesus’ life was destined for certain things. Being born in a manger was nothing compared to dying on the cross. Yet a simple thing like being born in a manger helps us remember that it is even in the smallest of details of our lives, God is in control. Just as the “no vacancy” sign was part of God’s plan so was Calvary. The sign went up that said no room, not even for the Christ Child, was similar to the one that went on the cross which read “this is the King of the Jews”. Jesus leaves this world much as he came, humble, poor, wrapped in a cloth. Since some mangers are wood, and Joseph was a carpenter maybe Jesus was conditioned for the cross?
No room in the inn symbolizes our lives.
We are not unlike the innkeeper at all. Perhaps he was just minding his own business. He could have been a very gentle and honest business man, operating at full capacity, meaning no harm just stating a fact: there are no rooms available. We find ourselves being good-well meaning people, whose lives get crowded with all kinds of “guests”. We get busy. Our lives get over scheduled and God gets pushed out of his slot time and time again. Maybe this Christmas season it’s time to “prepare him room”? Jesus didn’t come to the planet to be born and die for no reason. He came and did all of this so that he could have an intimate personal relationship with each one of us. Since Jesus had no place to call his own, maybe your heart can be his home?
16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,17and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
Advent is a time to prepare the way for The Lord. In the same manner that John The Baptist was the forerunner, Advent serves that purpose as we approach Christmas each year. With 12 days left to go before Christmas, how do you need to prepare to celebrate and worship the newborn King? Here are a couple of suggestions to consider.
Prepare Him room.
7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. Luke 2:7 NIV
When Mary and Joseph were traveling, time came for her to give birth but they found no room for themselves in the inn. How horrible to have been the innkeeper, realizing at some point that there was no more room for the mother to give birth but a lowly stable?
How much room are we giving to Christ this Christmas? Is our heart more like a stable for Christ or a home? How would you best prepare for Christ to take up residence in you? How can you prepare your life as worship for the King?
Prepare the way.
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” John 1:23 NIV
3 A voice of one calling:
“In the wilderness prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
5 And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5
When John the Baptist came onto the scene, he was preaching this message: prepare the way of The Lord. Every valley was to be raised and every mountain leveled so as to give the King a straight path to walk and travel. What needs to be leveled in our oaths today? What needs to be raised up? What is obstructing the King’s path to our hearts and lives? Are we somehow preventing others from finding their way to Jesus this Christmas?
Prepare a people.
John the Baptist was used to bring people together and ready them for the message and the salvation of Jesus. He diverted attention off himself to Christ as evidenced in his preaching and his life, (John 3:30). He was used as an example of a godly leader, radical preacher, spiritual family member and ministry partner of Christ. God used him greatly to proclaim and promote the coming of Christ. How can God use you this Christmas season? As a godly leader? Radical preacher? Spiritual family member? Ministry partner? Let God be glorified through you this Advent season. Prepare yourself and others for the coming of The Lord!
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23
Surrounding Jesus’ birth there are many surprises and miracles. Many prophecies are fulfilled and promises of God kept because of the arrival of the Christ Child. Consider these surprises in relationships that occurred.
A Surprise In Relationship with Mary and Joseph.
There is no doubt that Joseph felt cheated and used. He had to wrestle with a ton of emotions and questions upon hearing that his fiancee’ is expecting a baby and he is not the father! But Joseph was a good and nobel man and did not want to embarrass Mary. Moreover he could have publicly shamed her and had her stoned, which was in his right to do but instead, he was looking for a way to quietly dismiss her. This surprise was an act of true love from Joseph to Mary. He sincerely loved her by trying to care for her emotionally and physically before he really understood all that was happening. If Mary ever had a wonder if Joseph loved her, she had no doubt now. Sometimes it is during the most trying of times that love can surprise you. Their relationship was evidently much deeper than anything physical. The unexpected pregnancy lead to the wonderful surprise of a love that was deeper than doubt, speculation, and fear. How are your relationships? When surprises pop up, how does your relationship with your spouse hold up? Are you fighting for your “rights”? Are you seeking what’s best for your spouse? Why not let love deepen and surprise everyone who’s watching, waiting for you to respond. Surprise them with your godly relationship.
A Surprise in Relationship with Mary and God.
Mary didn’t choose this herself. In fact, if she had been offered the choice, she may have given any number of excuses:
“I’m too young”
“I’m about to be married”
“Isn’t there someone else?”
“I have my whole life ahead of me…can this wait a little while longer?”
Yet God chose her, at her age, with her situation, at this time. She’s just a simple teenage girl…no mothering “experience”, yet qualified enough for God to give her the job. Perhaps God looks at us much differently than we look at ourselves? Maybe God’s relationship with us should be looked at as God’ choosing us, awaiting us to choose Him back? At the end of her conversation with the angel, Mary submits to God’s choice of her. She surrenders her life and will to obedience and acceptance of all that God wants to do with her. She exemplifies what we should be like in our relationship with God. Has God chosen you for something that seems bigger than you? What excuses have you been giving to God lately? How would your relationship to others change if you had this kind of open full acceptance of God’s choosing in your life?
A Surprise in Relationship With God and Man.
Early in the Garden of Eden we are told that God was walking in the cool of the day with earth’s first created beings. However, after the Fall, God doesn’t walk with mankind in this way again…until now. The title given to Jesus is Immanuel (Emmanuel as some may write it). This name is significant because now God is walking, breathing and in human form among his creation once again. This is HUGE for the entire human race. God pulls a surprise on us that no one would have ever expected. Sure there were many prophecies about the coming Messiah. For hundreds of years, prophets, priests, kings, wisemen, and even common people longed for and looked for the arrival of the King. It’s just no one expected Him to come as a baby in a manger.
God showed up in a way that changed everything. And still affects everything to this day. Mankind now not only has a God in Heaven but one who walked on earth. Because of this relationship, God can say He knows what we are going through. He understands what it’s like to feel hunger, sadness, pain, sorrow, suffering, along with the myriad of other emotions we deal with on a daily basis. Now that God has surprised us in coming to form a new way of relating to us, we never have to fear being far from Him again. Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift! Do you feel close to God today? Why or why not? Does your relationship with God ever change? What does it mean to you that God is with you? How does having a relationship with God change your outlook on life?
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
The news of her being chosen to bear the Christ Child leads her ask many questions. To be sure she was filled with wonder and awe, prayers and praise as she journeyed to visit Elisabeth. Upon her arrival and hearing her cousin’s proclamation, Mary cannot contain herself any longer. She must sing praise. She must proclaim for herself the goodness of God. As Mary bursts into a surprise song, there are a few things we are challenged to remember from her example in this passage.
The song is from her soul.
There is no doubt that music is catchy. Rhythms and beats are constructed by artists to make lyrics more memorable. But this is not a song that has been passed down through the ages. This is a song that rose up from the depths of her soul. This was a song that had never been sung before. This was a song that only Mary could sing. This was her anthem, her song of praise and adoration. This was her proclamation of God’s goodness not only to her but all people. Her song was full of soul, not just head-knowledge. She was not only tapping her foot but tapped into her deepest innermost being. When you sing praise to God, where does it come from? Is it just memorized words? Do you ever sing from your soul?
The song is of her Savior.
I’m not knocking music of today but let’s be honest about what we listen to and sing about. Much of it is self-centered. Sure, Jesus is mentioned but the crux of what it is about is “us”, not God. This song of Mary is Jesus centered and her praise is about what He will do. Her song includes what God has done but not just by “choosing her” but for all people. My personal challenge is to make sure that I sing songs that don’t just make me feel good about God loving me but about what God has done and is doing around the world. Soul songs include praise and adoration of God, elevating God to His proper place in our lives.
The song flows from knowledge of scripture.
Her song has images from history past. She knows her scriptures and alludes to them in her song speaking of “generation to generation”, and “Abraham”. How often are our songs replete of God’s word and scripture? As we sing, we should remember the things God has done and our songs should be able to be authenticated with the Word of God.
The song is one anchored in service.
In Mary’s song she refers to herself as a “servant” and to Israel as “servant”. This surprise song that erupts from her soul is one that is anchored solidly in her full willingness to serve and be of service to her God. At Christmas this year, may the songs we sing, the works that we do, be out of and from a heart that is completely abandoned to service for our God. May we truly live the songs we sing.
Mary didn’t waste a minute. She got up and traveled to a town in Judah in the hill country, straight to Zachariah’s house, and greeted Elizabeth. Luke 1:339-40 The Message
Christmastime is filled with hurry and scurry but Mary did a different kind of hurrying. She didn’t rush about buying gifts, preparing a house for a newborn. She did a couple things that we can heed as we look at this verse.
Don’t waste a minute!
With so much to do and so little time, we can get caught up doing things that don’t matter much, especially in light of eternity. Mary got the news from the angel and immediately made a few plans and acted on them. She realized how important time is with family and how important action is. During the holiday season, take advantage of the joyous occasion to visit family, sharing in the awesome wonder of the Christ Child. Don’t hurry about buying things without being together with those you love. We all know it’s not about the stuff so let’s make sure that we keep our focus on Christ and our loved ones. Use the holiday season to share love and create memories together that will far outlast the latest fad, toy or electronic device. Spend time with those you love. Don’t waste a minute!
Don’t get sidetracked!
The verse says Mary went “straight to Elizabeth’s house”. There is no doubt with all the Christmas parties, shopping, commercials, and gifts we can all be easily distracted. Mary’s direct line to her cousin’s house reveals that we must make a conscious effort to be with family and friends and loved ones during this time of the year. Traveling during the holiday rush can frustrate anyone, as can shopping, parties and the commercialism surrounding Christmas. But don’t get sidetracked by all of that. Stay focused on the One this is all about: Jesus. Celebrate Him with your loved ones and enjoy the journey together.
26-28 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.
29-33 She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.
He will be great,
be called ‘Son of the Highest.’
The Lord God will give him
the throne of his father David;
He will rule Jacob’s house forever—
no end, ever, to his kingdom.”
Luke 1:26-33 The Message
Who doesn’t like a surprise, especially at Christmas? Sure we make our lists, submit them to parents, Santa and even God, hoping to get exactly what we have asked for. But what about that gift under the Christmas tree that is unexpected? Or maybe it’s not under the tree but hidden in the garage? Most people love surprises when it’s something they secretly longed for. Good surprises are often welcomed, embraced and celebrated. It’s not quite so when a surprise catches us completely off guard, though.
Consider the following surprises: laid off from your job, death in the family, or new addition to the family, as is the case with Mary, the now expecting Mother of Jesus. She wasn’t expecting to be expecting! Not this soon. Not now. And certainly not like this. But there she was the young teenage bride-to-be hearing news that she would be pregnant and give birth to the Son of God.
How would you handle…or did you handle an unexpected visitor? Pregnancy? Surprise? What kind of thoughts race through your head when someone surprises you, dropping in for a visit? Gives you news of a soon-to-be-new-family-member?
A Visitor has arrived from another world to announce a huge surprise to Mary, and honestly, she handles it very well. What is it that we can take away from this young teenager to help us handle life’s surprises?
Surprises may surprise us but never surprise God.
We may be shocked, stunned, at a loss of words even, but we can rest assured that nothing is a surprise to God. Some things may catch us off guard but God will prepare, sustain and prove Himself to be God through whatever your surprise may be. It’s wonderful to know that God sent an angel to Mary to announce to her this good news. She may not have seen it as good news at first…her plans would be changed, her life would be changed, even her reputation and marriage were at stake over this “good news”. Mary welcomed the surprise as a humble servant of the Lord, trusting everything about herself to God. God will most certainly prepare you for whatever He is going to allow in your life and even though it may seem a “surprise” to you, He’s been readying you for it all along.
Surprises are not always what we want or expect.
This was certainly a surprise to Mary and would be a surprise to everyone around her, especially Joseph. She had probably dreamed as many young girls do of having that special wedding day experience. However, this was not anything close to her wildest imagination. Yet Mary willingly submitted her will to the will of God, embracing God’s choice of her to bestow this wonderful surprise. She was willing to lay aside her dreams, desires, expectations, hopes, plans, all of it, at the altar of God. Mary somehow knew even at this young age that God doesn’t always give us what we want or expect but that everything that comes from God is ultimately for our good. As a humble servant, Mary chose to believe in God’s plan over her own.
36-38 “And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God.”
And Mary said,
Yes, I see it all now:
I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve.
Let it be with me
just as you say.
Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:36-38 The Message
Surprises will require faith to accept and believe
Can you see it now? Mary finally could see it happening right before her very eyes. She had faith to believe and accept all the angel was telling her. She had the faith to believe that nothing was impossible for God. When surprises hit you, even this Christmas season, remember that nothing is too hard or impossible for God! When out-of-the-blue, you are caught off guard, remember that God sees everything and He’s not shaking or surprised at all. Ask God to give you eyes to see what He’s doing. Ask God to help you embrace the new birth that’s about to happen. Ask God to prepare you for the arrival of something new. Then move forward in faith knowing that even though things may be unexplainable, misunderstood and mysterious, they are what God wants to give you this year. It may not be what you’re asking for but it may be exactly what the world and you need.
And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. Colossians 3:23
In a world where Sunday worship is filled with lights, cameras and videos, how is it that we can exit church on a Sunday and not feel let down with the mundane, “ordinary” lives we live? Is it possible to encounter God in our everyday, business-as-usual lives?
As Jesus was preparing to exit this world, he left a very clear and concise mandate for his disciples:
“As you are on your way go and make disciples…” Matthew 28:18.
It seems to me that Jesus was not into all the hype and spectacle that we usually associate with living an “exciting”, adrenaline filled life. We as Christians are not exempt from this “event”- driven desire to have something extraordinary intersect and collide with our common lives. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus did some incredible, hype-worthy events:
Feeding the 4,000
Feeding the 5,000
Walking on water
Rising from the dead
And the list could go on and on! But as Jesus departed, he didn’t tell his disciples to go and do “extraordinary” things. He simply commanded them to make disciples as they lived out their daily lives differently than those around them. Jesus was commissioning them to take the ordinary, mundane things of this world and look at them completely different. Is this not what Jesus did?
He turned WATER into wine.
He used SPIT AND DIRT to HEAL
He FED THOUSANDS with a FEW FISH and a COUPLE of LOAVES OF BREAD
He consecrated the common. He is the God of the mundane. With Jesus the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
In Colossians 3:23, Paul tells us to do whatever we do as unto the Lord and not to men. The word “whatever” connotes that anything can be made holy. It is not just “religious” things that are “holy” but “whatever” we do unto Him. Whatever is given to God can and will be made holy and fit for his use. Here a few helpful suggestions in viewing God as the God of the Mundane.
Whatever means whatever.
We tend to categorize things as secular or sacred. Yet, when Paul was dealing with food offered to idols, he gave permission to people to eat the food if their conscious allowed them to and if it was practiced in such a way as to not cause another to stumble.
6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
7 However not all men have this knowledge; but some, being accustomed to the idol until now, eat food as if it were sacrificed to an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. 8 But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat. 1 Corinthians 6:6-8
With this being said, we have been freedom to use whatever we encounter in our daily mundane lives as a way to worship the Lord. We can use whatever form of music, whatever form of service, whatever place we are in and transform it for use as unto the Lord.
Let’s be gut-wrenching honest here: much of our worship is not done with a full, whole heart! But what is done like that at all for that matter? Do we study heartily? Work heartily? Serve heartily? Live heartily? The Shema from the Old Testament says:
4 “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4-5
Jesus repeats this in the New Testament:
29 Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ Mark 12:29-30
Is it possible that God wants us to take all of our ordinary activities and transform them into exciting, life-generating activities? Is it possible that we could experience God when scrubbing out a bathtub or taking out the trash when we do it with all of our heart?
As unto the Lord and not men…
Realizing who and why we do what we do can certainly change everything. When we bring God into a situation or circumstance, it is immediately made holy unto the Lord. Remember Moses approaching the burning bush? He was told to put off his sandals because that ground had become holy from the Lord’s presence. When we take a look at the plain things in our lives, let’s not look at them as such but begin to look at them from the perspective of the Lord’s presence in and near us. Realizing that God is able to use a bush, donkey, or anything else he has created brings a new awareness to the ordinary things in our lives. The handwriting of God could be on the wall or his voice could be heard in a conversation at a water cooler. Either way, any way, God is the God of the extraordinary as well as the mundane. Let’s not miss him!
How have you seen God in the mundane, ordinary, plain things of life?
Popular Teen App Spotlight: Ask.fm
In elementary school, I remember being tapped on the shoulder and handed a note. The note had my name on it and had been passed anonymously from someone in the room. Opening it up it read something like this: “Do you like A) Christina, B) Sally or C) Jen?” I was to circle who I liked and then send the note back.
As I moved into middle and high school, the same style of anonymous questions continued. But now they were often asked by a peer who had been sent on a secret mission to figure out who I liked for their friend.
I remember two distinct feelings during these situations. First I would usually blush, get embarrassed and a little gitty inside thinking that someone may like me more than just a friend. My second feeling was that of uncertainty and fear. “What if I circled a name and it was not the person who sent the note? Would they be upset? Would they tell the person whose name I circled that I liked them?”
These experiences, although somewhat anxiety ridden, felt more like a childish game than anything else.
Times have changed since I was young. Youth’s ability to utilize technology and social networking sites causes these types of encounters to be more secretive (as far as who is asking the questions) and more public (who can see the questions and answers) through apps and websites.
A few years back, the website Formspring (now going by Spring.me) was all over the news. It is a website popular with teens that allowed users to ask each other anonymous questions. It quickly got on the radar of all parents and youth workers because of the harassment that was occurring on the site.
Now a new website and popular app called Ask.fm is gaining popularity with teens for the same reason. It allows users the ability to ask anonymous questions of each other. If this was available when I was a teen, I am sure I would have received the questions from those hand written notes in this advanced format.
Ask.fm is a question platform site and app that is highly integrated with Social Media where users can pose questions anonymously to other users through the site or on other social networks. Apps like this can be great fun with questions like, “What movies have you seen lately?” or “What did you do this summer?”
Ask.Fm allows teens to express their thoughts or share information without having to share who they are. This allows them the opportunity to ask questions without embarrassment or consequence; a potentially dangerous combination for teens.
When the site is abused it can lead to intentional harm and embarrassment to others. Based off of what I have heard from teens, bulling incidents, harassing and creating embarrassment for others is widespread.
It is also important to note that there are not many privacy settings on Ask.fm. Meaning, anyone can see what questions are being posed and how they are being answered; even if you are not a user of the site.
Parent and Youth Worker Tips:
- Engage your teen in a conversation about what sites they are using and how they and other teens use them. Ask them if they have used Ask.fm and what type of questions they see their peers asking and answering.
- Work with your teen to set up guidelines for their behavior online. Focus on what they will do if they encounter a situation that upsets them or makes them feel uncomfortable. Talk about what respecting others looks like online and what you expect from them. It is important to note that engaging your teen in coming up with these guideline will empower them to take ownership of their behavior and consequences. Every teen is different and you need to set guidelines based on your teen.
- Discuss what the consequences would be if they violate your agreement. Teens feel that if they alert an adult to something that occurs online, even if they did not do it, they will have their internet or technology privileges taken away. And that is the last thing they want. Be clear that reporting something to you will not get them in trouble.
Please share this with your co-workers, fellow parents and teachers. As we begin the school year I see the potential for drama created by this app to spill over into our schools and afterschool programs. There has already been at least one teen suicide linked to harassment that occurred on this site and we do not want any more.
Dave Blogs can be found at http://daverozman.com/ He has for the last 10 years been working for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America (5 as Teen Director at a local Club and the last 5 for the National Organization focusing on teens)
Check out pictures from previous George Camps. George Camps will be hosted in Miami, FL and Fayetteville GA this year. More information coming soon! Also check out this promo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6JUQGvoTco
This week I’m in Miami. I was able to perform at Kendall Presbyterian Church. For years, Mike Liebler has been trying to work the schedule so that I could make it to his church for a performance and it finally worked out! Here’s a link for the song I performed in the morning service: Watch The Lamb.
After performing, I went with the children’s ministry, which is also run by a dear friend Gail Knight. During that time, I talked with the kids about sign language, mission work in Africa and how Christ is our Living Water. It was a great time of worship!
How harmless can a ghost be? Snapchat is a picture/video text messaging app launched in 2011 that lets the user send a picture or video of themselves and set a time limit as to how long the message will last. Hence the ‘ghost” icon. It has become known as the app made for “sexting”. Boasting 50 million “snaps”-a-day, Snapchat is something your kids have certainly heard about if they are not using.
How it works:
Snapchatters take a picture or video of themselves, called a “selfie”. They then determine how long the “chat” will last, which ranges from 2 to 10 seconds. After determining to whom they will send the message, they initiate the message and that’s it. Once the receiver gets the message, they can view it for the determined amount of time and then, “poof”, it’s gone. Unless the receiver takes a screenshot of the pic, that is. If this happens, the pic can be reposted on websites, blogs, or messaged to others via similar messaging apps or tools.
With this being the case, one can easily see why using Snapchat can be dangerous for kids and students. An unwise choice sending a pic, even as a joke can resurface in places we don’t want to think about. Why not take some time today and talk to your child or students about Snapchat?
If you are into trends and studies, you might really want to check out this slideshow. From the jrhighuthguy, this is a well rounded resource for anyone involved in youth ministry! To see the slideshow, simply click the pic above or this link( 100 Things) and it will take you to it. Then click the right arrow to advance the show.
We have our summer mission interest meeting on January 26th at 5pm. Anyone who has a slight interest in attending one of our summer mission projects this summer needs to make plans to be with us at New Vision Church on the 26th.
Our annual fundraising event called Fast Forward is coming up. This year we are making our goal $4000, which will be divided between Nigeria, El Salvador, Nicaragua and a missionary to The United Arab Emirates to reach muslims. Please join our effort to make disciples of all nations by raising awareness, generating support and participating in the fast!
High school football is back on the calendar for every Friday night from now til November. Who knew that it would also be on court dockets and the place where so much controversy would take place? In recent years there has been much debate of the practice of religious prayers held at games, before games, in locker rooms or on the field. The latest firestorm surrounds a LaFayette high school football coach who reportedly ” violated the first Amendment by allowing local churches to prepare meals for team members.”
The claim against coach Mark Mariakis also stated that he had prayers with players, used motivational Bible verses and that he was heavily involved in Fellowship of Christian Athletes. But the question I have is what is the difference in using Jesus as a role model as opposed to Ghandi, Martian Luther King Jr. or some star professional football player? Why is it wrong to use Bible verses to inspire but quoting Vince Lombardi is ok?
What if Jesus said:
“Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority. “
The quote is actually from Vince Lombardi, legendary coach and for whom the Super Bowl Trophy is named. Why is it wrong then to take a quote from the Bible that says:
3 But not only that! We even take pride in our problems, because we know that trouble produces endurance, 4 endurance produces character, and character produces hope. Romans 5:3-4
The verse above could have easily been said by Lombardi but because Jesus said it and it’s recorded in a sacred book it becomes wrong to quote or use to encourage and motivate?
Vince Lombardi also said: “People who work together will win, whether it be against complex football defenses, or the problems of modern society.” Sadly groups like the Freedom From Religion Foundation are working against many positive and transformative people within our school systems. The task that will make a difference is the very thing that has sparked this debate: prayer.
In light of it being 9-11 let me remind us all of what really is important here by using the words of Brett Farve:
“But when you lose a family member or something tragic happens, that stays with you forever. You never get over it. Knowing that you have to deal with that for the rest of your life… Football is important, but not as important as you once thought it was.”
We cannot forget the power and importance of prayer. As Christians and as Americans, we have to remember God, prayer and understand that our battle is not on a foreign field alone. It is transpiring on every campus, field and home today and everyday. Our enemy is not Islam, atheists or the FFRF. Our enemy is Satan and we cannot be unaware of his schemes!
Please join me in prayer for our country, schools, and especially this latest battle that is being taken to Christians who practice their faith in all aspects of their lives. Jesus was clear that persecution would come and therefore we all need to be ready. Are you ready for some spiritual football?
Please be praying for me. I’ll be speaking to the Whitewater High School football team on Friday night before the game. Thanks!
The phrase is not new with me but it is a great and true principle for anyone in leadership: leaders are learners. Leaders understand that they don’t know it all and put themselves in a position to learn from anyone at anytime. Being humble enough to seek wisdom, counsel and knowledge from others is in itself a smart thing to do. Here are a few ways I would suggest to increase your learning ability.
9 For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you. We are asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, 10 so that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God. Colossians 1:9-10
In the book of James chapter 1 verse 5, the author makes it clear that we can ask for wisdom if we are lacking.The passage above indicates that praying for others spiritual enlightenment along with our own is an important thing. Paul communicates to the people at Colosse that it is God’s will for them to know God’s will and have knowledge and understanding of God’s movement around them. Leaders take time to pray for wisdom, knowledge, understanding and the mind to process information so as to lead according to God’s will.
As I’ve heard leaders are learners I have also heard leaders are readers. In a video age where reading is becoming less and less emphasized, I have to encourage would-be leaders to be people who still read. The array of information accessible to us is untold! At our fingertips via the internet alone is literally a wealth of information, knowledge, understanding unlike any other period in history. Leaders take advantage of this information, reading through local, statewide, national and international news and events. This is something I have to work on more and more as I am personally not a fast or avid reader. But as I am getting older, I realize the importance of being keenly aware of wider variety of information. Reading is a discipline any leader must adopt.
As a leader look at yourself as a teacher. When we have to teach someone a task or subject it requires us to have done our own homework. Putting ourselves in positions to teach, mentor, tutor or coach is a great way to increase our own learning and knowledge.When teaching we are able to practice new study habits, develop our skills in communicating and extend our influence. Taking on the position of a teacher will most certainly remind you of how to be a good student!