Monday, December 30, 2013

Along the way ... December 30, 2013

Yesterday I attended worship at the Rock Church in San Diego, CA.  Guest preacher Derwin Gray challenged us to write a love letter to God thanking Him for adopting us in Jesus.  So from here on that is what this post will do.

Dear Father,

I count it a privilege to call you Father and to be known as your son because of Jesus.   This year especially this privilege is a real gift.  As you know, a few months back I lost my earthly father.  He was a great dad, not perfect, but I am thankful he was my dad.  The day after he died, I was sitting alone preparing to take the first of two major tests in Officer's Training and I silently whispered, "Father you are now my only father."  And I cried a little.  Those tears were because I missed my dad, but also because I knew I would never be alone because you will not ever abandon one of your children.  I don't know what it was like for you to have to forsake your son in order to adopt me,  but I imagine it must have been extremely difficult.  Thank you God for not abandoning me, and thank you Father that no matter what may come I know I will never be alone.

Your loving and grateful son,


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Along the way ... December 24, 2013

"Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared.
This day is sacred to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!" 
(Nehemiah 8:10)

Nehemiah says these words as Ezra reads the law and God's people, who have just returned from exile, weep.  "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"

Many of us have heard those familiar words before, but what do they mean?

Most Bible commentators imply that somehow divine joy has filled you, so you can be strong no matter what.  But that does not seem to fit the context, in my humble opinion.   The people are weeping because they have broken God's law, they have offended Him, and they fear He will punish them again.   Yet Nehemiah says, "Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!"

This is obviously not some inner divine joy that chases the tears away, rather it is the LORD's joy (the joy God chooses to find; the delight He chooses to take, in His people, in spite of their sin) that is their strength (refuge or fortress).

The same is true for us today!

As we celebrate Christmas, we remember the LORD's joy, the same joy that enabled Jesus to endure the cross (see Hebrews 12:2), is our strength.   We can stand before Him and sing praises, we can stand before Him and present our thanksgiving and our requests because His joy is our strength!  We are forgiven and forever set free from condemnation because His joy (available to all who believe God's promise fulfilled in Jesus) is our strength!

Merry Christmas everyone, and may the LORD's joy be your greatest strength!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

… Along the way - December 3, 2013

Well it's Christmastime again.  As I prepare to celebrate the coming of the King, and anticipate His glorious return, I want to pause to consider the benefit of the "commercialization" of Christmas.

Yes, you read that right the "benefit" of the commercialization of Christmas.

So what possible benefit could there be to the commercialization and apparent devaluing of the Savior's birth?

Well to answer that question, I think we have to consider the benefit of commercials in general.

I recently attended military training, which involved 23 training days.  On Day 12 most of us began to recite a GEICO commercial where a camel walks around asking everyone, "What day is it?"  The answer of course is "Hump Day" meaning Wednesday.  However, in our context "Hump Day" was the halfway point of training.

I tell that brief story to illustrate the benefit or value of commercials.  Commercials make us all remember a company's name "GEICO" and their slogan that "you could save 15% or more on car insurance by switching to GEICO", but commercials also give us a common language, a frame of reference from which we can all relate.  I did not know any of the other 128 officers before I entered training, we all came from different places, different backgrounds, and even different career fields, yet the GEICO commercial was a common language we all spoke!

This is where I find the benefit or value of the commercialization of Christmas.  I think we could call it pre-evangelism.  I find that there are a lot of people in my community who would not know the name Jesus except for Christmas.  They know the general parts of the story.   They know him as a baby born in a stable, visited by shepherds and wise men, heralded by angels, and highlighted by a star!  They know the basics of the story because the commercials speak His name!

It seems we may have it all wrong.  Perhaps instead of lamenting the commercialization of Christmas, we should take advantage of it!  Everyone knows the name Jesus, now they need to know the answer to the question posed in a famous Christmas carol, "What Child is This?"  If they can come to know the true identity of the child in the manger, then they can have the opportunity to put their faith in Him - Immanuel (God with us) - the one who came to save His people from their sins!