Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 - The Year My Life Changed

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11
Do you have your list of New Year’s resolutions yet? Everyone has at least one thing they want to change about themselves. Most people attempt change at the beginning of a year. It could be losing weight, quitting smoking, or finishing a degree. Some will even try to gain more peace and self-control. Getting a grip on things like worry or a short temper are great as well.

Many will start new things January 1st but few will follow through with them. Health clubs love this time of year. But are you resolved to make a change or is it just another “good idea” that will never come to pass? Resolution means determination and strong will. It is having boldness, courage, and fortitude. It is being relentless and dedicated. Some have good intentions but “bite off more than they can actually chew.” I encourage you to progressively make changes in your life. Start small and gradually increase in the area you would like to see changed in your life. Find people who can hold you accountable in your endeavors. Whatever good habits you attempt to form, do not neglect the spiritual ones. These are the most important and can help fuel all the others.

Only God knows what 2012 has in store for you. He has great plans for you! His thoughts are of great peace, a good future, and guaranteed hope (Jeremiah 29:11). We cannot be scared of the unknown when we serve a known God (Corrie Ten Boom). Trust in God this year. No matter what happens, keep your eyes focused on Christ (Hebrews 12:2). If you do that, 2012 will be successful for you even if things do not go as you had planned.

I challenge you to grow spiritually this year. Start going to church. Begin praying about everything you encounter. Find Scriptures that deal with your situations and apply them. Discipleship is about regularly and steadily growing in Christ. Developing spiritually is done little by little, bit by bit, and step by step. It is about an unhurried and continuous progress in the Lord. Now is a great time to resolve to grow closer to Jesus Christ. Here are some resolutions of Jonathan Edwards that I believe will help you this next year.

(1) I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration. (2) I will do whatever I think to be my duty for the good and advantage of mankind. (3) I will not lose one moment of time but improve in the most profitable way I possibly can. (4) I will live with all my might while I do live. (5) I will never to do anything that I would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life. (6) I will never speak evil of any one. (7) I will study the Scriptures steadily, constantly, and frequently so I may grow in the knowledge of the Lord.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Greatest Gift Of All

How many of you wait till the last minute to do your Christmas shopping? I have to raise both hands on that one. I look for one store to buy all my presents for everyone on my list. This store has to gift wrap also. One stop shopping as close to Christmas as possible is pretty risky. There are sometimes few selections and long lines. Last minute shopping can feel like you are going through the motions or even an afterthought. Putting thought and purpose into our giving can show love and appreciation for others.
When God sent His Son Jesus to this earth to be born, creating the first Christmas, it was on purpose. God’s gift of Jesus was no last ditch effort to give a gift. It certainly was no afterthought. Long before God put Jesus in a manger He purposed Him to die for our sins. Jesus was born in a manger so we might have a home in heaven. God thought of sending Jesus long before He thought of creating Adam and Eve. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” God send Jesus at the perfect time to save man from their sins.

The old covenant, or time before Jesus’ death and resurrection, was a picture of what Jesus Christ would do. God was not short-sighted or ignorant. Genesis 3:15 prophesied to the first people ever created that Jesus would come. The first covenant’s purpose was to expose sin. Jesus’ purpose was to defeat sin. Jesus came to fulfill the laws of the first covenant, not to destroy them (Matthew 5:17). He became our High Priest (Hebrews 6:20) and ultimate sacrifice for sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).
God decided from the very beginning that Jesus would come to earth to be born, live, die, and rise from death for our sins. God’s gift of Jesus is the true meaning of Christmas. The gift of eternal life is no last-minute afterthought. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
God’s gift is far better than any gift we could ever give or receive. This gift was undeserved and unsolicited. We are not worthy of it nor did we ask for it. God saw in advance our need of salvation – “while we were still in our sin, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). This gift was unlimited and unspeakable. Hebrews 2:9 says Jesus by the grace of God tasted death for every man. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for us only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Paul wrote, “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

God never gives anything but the best. That’s why He gave His only Son for our sins. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God gave the most costly, precious, and timeless gift of all – Jesus. Human gifts will eventually disappoint and disappear but God’s gift will eternally satisfy and sustain.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Don't Miss Christmas

While Christmas can seem so far away all year long, it is here and gone before you know it. If you are not careful, all you could be left with this Christmas is lots of shredded wrapping paper, a wrecked house from all the Christmas parties, and credit cards that need to be paid off. After December 25th you can be left asking yourself, “Where did Christmas go?”

The activities of Christmas can be so hectic that “The 12 Days of Christmas” should be rewritten to say, 12 tangled light strands, 11 gifts to wrap, 10 days till school starts, 9 crazy in-laws, 8 AAA batteries!, 7 hours of driving, 6 play rehearsals, 5 hours of baking, 4 easy payments, 3 kids with fever, 2 office parties, and a fruitcake from two years ago. All kidding aside, it is easy to miss the real meaning of Christmas. Many good things can crowd out the one great truth that Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin, to save people from their sins. Jesus is the reason Christmas even exists.

People today are not the only ones who miss Christmas. Most people missed the first Christmas as well. People went about business as usual, even in the same city and on the same street that Jesus was born! Luke 2 tells us about an innkeeper who had no time for the birth of Jesus. Joseph and Mary came looking for a place to stay but his inn was full and all he could give them was a dark, smelly, animal-filled cave. If a pregnant teenager came to you looking for a place to stay would you make her stay in the barn or your dog house? You would if you were preoccupied with other things you thought were more important.

How could you miss the first Christmas? There was a HUGE star in the sky! Angels appeared to shepherds, who I’m sure couldn’t keep quiet. Could you be quiet if an angel appeared to you? I’m sure it wasn’t a silent night. There was lots of chaos that night. A pregnant teenage girl claiming to be a virgin came into town to pay taxes with a man fifteen years older who was not her husband. She said, “The Holy Spirit did it.” Would you have believed her? They placed a newborn baby just where cows and pigs had been eating slop. She was nine months pregnant riding on a donkey. I’m sure that was a sight to see as well. People had to have seen them.

Most people don’t miss Christmas today because they truly hate God or are anti-Christmas. They are distracted. Preoccupation with holiday preparations and immediate satisfaction of physical instead of spiritual needs causes people to miss Christmas. Have you made room for Jesus in your house? Are you saving the best for Him this Christmas or giving Him a backseat to human holiday traditions? It is not too late to prepare for Christmas. Jesus is no longer a baby in a manger but a risen and ascended Savior! He is seated at the right hand of God and His Holy Spirit is longing to be the center of your lives, not just your Christmas day celebrations.

Don’t miss Christmas! The best way to not miss Christmas is to not miss Jesus the other 364 days of the year. Make Him first in all you do and not only will you celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, you will fulfill God’s divine purpose for your life.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Virgin Birth? Really?

Science tells us that it takes both male and female reproductive materials to conceive a baby. Then why do Christians believe in a “virgin birth” when it comes to Jesus? Is it possible to be a Christian and not believe in the Virgin Birth? I would say the answer is no. Why? Scripture foretold this miraculous event. Isaiah tells us, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). The angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:30-35, “'Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His Kingdom will have no end. And Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be since I am a virgin?' And the angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God.’” You must believe the entirety of Scripture. Believing in the Virgin Birth is essential to believing that Jesus was God and man and that He was the Savior. The Virgin Birth doctrine was never meant to stand alone as a random truth. The story of Jesus’ birth is like a seamless garment woven by the Holy Spirit. Take out the miracle of His birth and you rip it to shreds.

Doubting whether a virgin can give birth could lead to doubting whether a man could come back to life. If you doubt the Virgin Birth then it could lead to doubting the Resurrection. Doubting either means doubting Scripture and the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who deny the virgin birth reject the authority of Scripture. They also deny the supernatural birth of the Savior and undermine the Gospel’s foundation. If one claims to deny the Virgin Birth then they discard the very deity of Christ. That person is either Scripturally ignorant or theologically incompetent.

Jesus was truly and fully human, being born from Mary. He was also truly and fully divine, being conceived of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not originate at His human birth but is eternal and sinless with God (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14-17). Jesus’ birth was caused by the working of the Holy Spirit inside Mary. The Spirit and Mary were both involved. Mary could not impregnate herself. God performed the miracle of the Incarnate Christ through Mary. We don’t worship Mary because of all of this but Jesus who came to be our Savior and King.

Christians must see that denying the Virgin Birth is denying Jesus as the Christ. The baby conceived by the Holy Spirit, born in a manger, grew up and died for our sins. This is why He was named Jesus, “for He will save the people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The Virgin Birth is essential to the person and work of Jesus and on it the Gospel hinges.