Posts made in December, 2016

God Always Goes First

Posted by on Dec 16, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

With Christmas upon us, I’ve had a phrase rattling around in my heart and head. We’re probably more familiar with it as a lyric in Handel’s majestic 18th century oratorio Messiah than we are with it’s place of origin. It’s  tucked away in a poetic segment of an Old Testament book (one of the prophets to be exact), pulled from the shelf and dusted off this time of year as part of our annual musical tradition.

gift boxAll by themselves, the words are a mere memo. But taken in the context of human history and the redemptive story of the Bible, they are among the sweetest words ever recorded.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” (Isaiah 9:6)

This was no every day birth announcement! This was a declaration that God the Father was making good on His promise to do for humanity what humanity could never do for itself. A death sentence was issued against Adam and Eve for their rebellion in the garden (“The Fall” -Genesis 3), a sentence passed down to every one of us. This child would serve as a substitute for any who would be willing to let Him die in their place, absolving them of their guilt before a holy God.

The giving of God didn’t begin at the cross, but rather the moment our Savior left the glory of heaven to “take on flesh and dwell among us” (John 1:14). I’m struck by the fact that God the giver always goes first. Before there was light, He gave light and life … He gave a completer to Adam when he was alone … He gave humanity all it would ever need in the Garden … After the Fall, He gave a promise that He would redeem … and He gave us His Son. “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.”

God always goes first and invites us to respond with humility, gratitude, obedience and generosity.

  • We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
  • Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor 1:3–4)
  •  “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Eph 4:32)
  •  “… the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (Matt 20:26–28)

Perhaps our greatest joy in giving (especially this time of year) is the profound reminder that all we have to give away was given to us by the One who always goes first.

 

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Broken Cisterns

Posted by on Dec 15, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Passion is not something we lack.

We do not need to be told or trained to crave. Instinctively, we know what we like, and we need only the slightest nudge to act upon our impulses.

Think for a moment about all that you have thought or even said you wanted in just the past week. Big or small, what made your list? What are you willing to give in order to have it? And what do you expect to feel once the deal is done and you acquire whatever it was that struck your fancy?

Do we truly believe that power, pleasure, popularity or possession ultimately satisfies? Why is it that those who have the most of these things seem never to have enough? Could it be that – as enjoyable as they might be – the temporal trinkets of this world are actually grotesque counterfeits promising fulfillment but ever failing to deliver?

hewn cisternMy people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13)

I, for one, have professed a deep longing to connect intimately with God along with a belief that He loves me more than I can imagine … and still settled for lesser, seemingly more accessible amusement. I have yet to make that concession and be glad about it afterward. Regret is always the cost of selling out.

If you’re weary of drinkin dust, I’ve got directions to a well that never runs dry.

“… Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7:37–38)

God offers us far more than we’ll ever find in this world. And while temporary things exact a huge price, God offers us Himself at His own expense. What more could we crave?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)

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Be Careful Out There

Posted by on Dec 10, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

It is intoxicating for those who drink it in, a rush that can inflate the mildest of personalities. But it leaves a stench in the nostrils of those who must endure it, or at the very least, observe it. It often taints what would otherwise be celebrated, admired and enjoyed. Strangely enough, it is easily recognized in others, but nearly impossible to self-diagnose.

I’m talking about P.R.I.D.E.

It goes by many names – arrogance, haughtiness, self-importance, hubris, vanity, and conceit – but in essence, pride is holding a higher view of one’s self than one should. In addition, it is also accompanied by a lower view of others than that which ought to held by fellow human beings. Ultimately, it is to assign a measure of importance to ourselves that rightly belongs only to God.

Pride forgets that we were formed from the dust of the earth, and it is to dust we shall return (Genesis 3). It assumes that our importance is the outcome of our own accomplishments, rather than the fruit of bearing God’s image, a gift given to all without distinction.

Make no mistake, this is an equal opportunity offense. Pride exists in every pocket of society regardless of how prosperous or poverty-stricken people may be. We all have a knack for striving after comparative superiority whether at the top or bottom of worldly achievement. For some, it’s large and in charge. For others, it lurks behind a congenial façade. Either way, and everything in between, the human condition is plagued with an independent spirit that longs to go its own way.

King Solomon offers a grave warning; a sobering admonition intended to deflate an ego destined for serious damage.

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18)

Arrogance is the Achilles heel of even the smallest degree of human greatness. It spoils the grandest of stories by transforming heroes into fools. Dress vanity up, put a good face on it, cover the stench with a fresh fragrance, and you still got a hot mess waitin to happen.

We are in our greatest danger when we are full of ourselves instead of humility. Pride dismisses our utter dependence upon the strength, wisdom and grace of God, and leaves us vulnerable to the defects of our own designs. To be sure, a haughty spirit doesn’t ensure an immediate fall – some ride their ego above the fray for years – but it ensures an inevitable fall. Hubris of any kind may very well work a room or work a plan, but it always withers the soul.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating victories. Success is an outcome worthy of congratulations. Our risk comes with finding significance in what we do, particularly when surpassing others, rather than in how we are seen by our heavenly Father, quite apart from our performance.

A word to the wise (for all of us!), “…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

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