Monday, December 19, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas, #2

The Reason-of-Christmas stood before a disheartened woman at a well in Samaria (John 4) and said these words, “If only you knew the gift of God...”  I would love to go back in a time machine to view that scene; a snapshot just doesn’t do it justice.  I’d love to hear the soft, gentleness of Jesus’ voice as he spoke, see the look on his tender face, and observe the openness of his body language.  The words on a page seem so matter of fact.  Yet Jesus saw deeply into the well of this woman’s soul.  He knew her brokenness, her shame, her suffering, her sadness.  He recognized the wounds that had scarred her life; understood her search for satisfaction.  She was so very thirsty; and, Jesus, also knew, he possessed exactly what she needed.

“If only...”  How many times do you think she had uttered those words?  “If only I’d made better choices...”  “If only I’d not gone to...”  “If only I hadn’t picked up that first...”  “If only he’d been...”  How many of us have uttered those words?  “If only...” and life would be perfect.  Not really.  The woman at the well was a contradiction in beginning again.  Trying and failing, at least five times, in the hope of change; but, trying and remaining unsatisfied.  Those words had to have cut deeply as Jesus uttered them.  They were simply a reminder of what could never be...after all, “you can’t change a leopard’s spots (Jer.13:23).”  Have you ever related?  Have you ever told yourself that your situation is an impossibility – it will never change – you will never change? 

HOWEVER, the rest of the sentence tells a different story.  Jesus’ words address the possibility of change...  “If only you knew the gift of God...”  What was Jesus offering her?  John 7:37-39 expounds.  If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.”  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him...would receive (please keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list):

The gift of God - the fullness of the Holy Spirit - all of Jesus, and more, can dwell in me.  There is no hope of change apart from the Holy Spirit who abides inside of us.  Think about what His gift provides for the believer in Jesus:
  • He counsels (John 16:7) Greek this word is “parakletos,” meaning to comfort, encourage, exhort.  The Holy Spirit is our advocate, our intercessor, our advisor.
  • He convicts (John 16:8)...and as a result we avoid judgment, and receive righteousness.
  • He guides in all truth (John 16:13) we know with confidence that we receive perfect guidance, and what he speaks to us is always truth!
  • He sets us free (Romans 8:2) chains are gone; I’ve been set free...!
  • He gives us life and peace (Romans 8:6) in the “abundant life” that Jesus promised (John 10:10).
  • He gives us much needed power for victory over sin (Romans 8:11)... “the Spirit of the One who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in me!”
  • He offers a spiritual gift, uniquely mine, in which I can serve effectively and glorify God (John 16:14, Romans 12, I Cor 14).

This is the true Gift of Christmas available to any who receive…all of us stuck in the impossible “if only” of life!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thoughts on Christmas, #1

John 15:22 begins with these words by Jesus, “If I had not come…”  Have you ever thought about that?  Christmas is just around the corner.  The “season” has been in the air since Halloween was over.  Every year, we celebrate a holiday centered on the coming of the Christ child.  But, what if He had not come?  What would be different if there was, in fact, no Christmas?  Let me start a list…maybe you can complete it – this certainly can’t be exhaustive:

  1. There would be no New Testament, the Bible would end with Malachi.  Listen to how that book closes…”I will come and strike the land with a curse.”  Everything would end with a curse! 
  2. As a result of #1 on the list, there would be no hope.  In fact, where Malachi ends, God’s voice quits.  Between that verse and the first verse of Matthew, God went silent.
  3. So…God would be totally and completely through speaking to us…we would never have the opportunity to hear His voice.
  4. There would be no hope of a glorious resurrection.
  5. No victory over death and the grave.
  6. No victory over sin…
  7. We’d still be butchering animals on an altar of sacrifice.  Think how many animals would have to die…we certainly are a sinful lot!
  8. But then, it wouldn’t matter for us, because there would be no inclusion of Gentiles, so we would remain alienated, doomed to living in darkness.
  9. We would have no opportunity for a new identity.
  10. No deliverance.
  11. No heavenly home.
  12. There would be no “Joy to the World.”
  13. No Christmas lights…
  14. No Christmas music.
  15. No gifts.
  16. Oh…and, no churches.  We wouldn’t need places of worship, for there would be no one for us to worship.
  17. So, there would be no need for worship music.
  18. No need for pastors and youth pastors.
  19. No need for Bible teachers.
  20. No need for going on with life...because “I couldn’t” keep going on without “Christ in me the hope of glory” who helps me do “all things through Christ who strengthens me.” 
  21. No need for ___________________________________?

What if Jesus had not come?  What then?

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Am...the One and Only!

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14

Thanksgiving?  Over!  Christmas? On the horizon.  Over the next few weeks, our minds will be engaged with the coming festivities.  As, I close this series on the “I Am’s” of Jesus, these three words highlight what the season is all about for me.  Jesus – my One and Only! 
My One and Only...who created the world in which I live.
My One and Only...who gives life and breath.
My One and Only...who is the perfect shepherd, &
My One and Only...who is the perfect lamb of God.
My One and Only...who sacrificed for my salvation.
My One and Only...who redeemed my soul.
My One and Only...who offered me complete forgiveness.
My One and Only...who chose me to be adopted by grace into a new family.
My One and Only...who loves me endlessly.
My One and Only...who prepares eternity for me.
My One and Only...who set me free.
My One and Only...who declares me “not guilty,” accepts me unconditionally, and whispers you are not condemned (“Go! Sin no more!”)
My One and Only...who provides all that I need.
My One and Only...who knows my end from my beginning.
My One and Only...who has a good work ordained for me – a purpose and value to my existence.
My One and Only...who is full of grace.
My One and Only...who speaks truth, gently but firmly.
My One and Only...who sets my feet upon a righteous path.
My One and Only...who offers me an abundant life.
My One and Only...who speaks words of intimacy to me.
My One and Only...who assures me of His presence.
My One and Only...who blesses me beyond measure.
My One and Only...who calls me “friend.”
My One and Only...who heals my broken heart.
My One and Only...who sustains me in his massive, supportive hand.
My One and Only...who knows just what I need, when I need it, and doesn’t always answer yes to my heart’s desires (because my best is always what's put first).
My One and Only...who is at work completing me – thank you, God!

May this holiday season find you daily contemplating your One and Only!