Here it is, the last day of the year. As we look back we wonder if the next year with be any better…or will it be worse? As we see the world changing in frightening ways it’s difficult to view the future in a positive way. Need a new year’s resolution? Start with, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We celebrate Christmas as the birthday of Jesus. What we need to focus on is the reason for His birth. He became a man in order to pay the penalty of sinful man. Romans 5:8 says, “while we were yet sinners, He died for us.” The price He paid is beyond comprehension. We cannot, in any way, redeem ourselves. The reason He sacrificed Himself–the Son of God–was His incomprehensible love for us. The primary desire of God is for us to love Him and to love our neighbors as ourselves. He died for us, He also was brought back to life that we might live in Him. This act of love was for nothing we deserved, but by God’s grace. We may not deserve a better year, but God still loves us. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to begin the year in a life of love? In John 15:9 Jesus says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commands, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” Jesus’ love is sincere and His joy is lasting. The apostle Paul summarizes love in 1 Corinthians 13. Whatever we do or say–without love–is nothing. He finalizes the chapter by saying, “…these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” There is so much more. Let’s enter 2018 in a life of love, a love that changes lives, not only those whom we love, but ours as well. Living is action. So is loving. Have a joyful New Year.
Even if you are a believer in Jesus Christ you may occasionally feel like you have little value or worth, or that you are not worthy to be a member of the Body of Christ. You might also question whether you are really saved, because you’ve sinned in some way. If so, think about this. The gospel of Jesus tells us that He came to this earth for the purpose of saving us from our sin. The Bible is clear that sin must be dealt with. The penalty of sin is death–spiritual death. The result of that is eternity in Hell–forever separation from a loving and caring God. Some say this is conflicting. They ask, “How could a loving God let anyone suffer in Hell?” God is love, but He is also holy and just. That’s what He is. He can’t change from what He is. Holiness and sin cannot merge together. Justice must deal with every sin. That’s the bad news, but there is good news. Jesus, the Son of God, came as a man, one without sin. He came to pay the price for the penalty of our sin. When Jesus died on the cross He paid the greatest price ever paid for anything. He suffered physically, before His crucifixion and on the cross, in ways that cannot be comprehended. However, His greatest suffering was the destruction of His relationship with His Father. Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” That relationship was far beyond our comprehension. Think of a relationship you may have that would ruin your life if broken. Jesus’ loss was far beyond what you would experience. Think about the price you have paid for a home, a car, or anything else that is valuable or worthwhile in your view. You pay the higher price for a better quality, or extended value or just because you think it’s worth more. God paid the highest price ever paid for anything. He gave His life (the life of His Son) to pay for our sin. Jesus died under the weight of all the sin that ever existed or that will ever exist. A sinless man became the sin of all men. Have you ever felt bad because of a sin you committed? Think, if you can, how it would feel if all the sin ever committed or that will ever be committed was dumped on you.
If you doubt your value and worth, think again. Would God give the life of His Beloved Son for you if He didn’t value you? He not only paid the price for your sin, He bought you for a price that is incomprehensible. We belong to Him. He has set us free. He wants the best for us. He has gifted us in ways beyond number. We are His children. We are His heirs. He has made it possible to be like Him. Amazing. Not ‘holier than thou’, but loving, humble and living in eternal peace with Him.
Celebrate the birth of our Savior. He is worthy.
I have been attempting to sell my book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith, at my local Farmer’s Market. An interesting thing happened yesterday at the market. A man walked up, picked up two paperbacks, glared at the title and threw them back onto the table. As he walked away, he said, “Oh, it’s about the invisible man who flies in the sky.” I thought he was joking at first, soon realized from the look on his face that he was serious. I wanted to say something to him, but he was gone. The vendor next to me said the man comes almost every week, but he has never smiled. This morning as I was sitting down in church, a friend leaned over and whispered, “I just now reading your book and I love it.” You can imagine the different feelings I had. Transformation is a book that is aimed at believers who are serious about their relationship with God, and want to deal with anxiety, insincere love, and pride. Not all who claim the name of Jesus want to get involved, unfortunately. I’m grateful for those that do. I’m especially grateful for the influence that the book had on a man who ultimately gave his life to the Lord and became my friend. How we look at things has a great effect on how we live. It’s especially true for followers of Christ.
Today the message in my church had a great deal to say about being content. The Bible advises Christians to be thankful in all circumstances. To me that is one way of saying be content. For those who claim to be followers of Christ, being content and thankful cannot be avoided in all honesty. Having had the penalty for our sins paid for by the sacrificial blood of Jesus as an expression of His love should bring life to the concept of thankfulness and contentment. He has given us something that cannot be equated. If we have a loving relationship with Him, grumbling for more worldly things goes out of the picture. Nothing should mean more to us than His love. Jesus promised that if we would seek His kingdom and His righteousness he would provide everything else that we need. Need, not want! Unfortunately, getting older makes one think more along these lines. I can testify to that. I’ve got more clothes in my closet than I’ll ever wear in the few remaining years (or days) of my life. That is just one example. I confess that I am guilty of thinking how good it would be if I could just have this or that thing–things that I don’t need. I’m supposed to be reflecting the light of Christ in a dark world, not wanting more of this and that. When non-believers observe Christ followers they should see people who are thankful for the blessings that God had poured on them, people who are content with their lives, dependent on God, not on the stuff at the Mall. In addition to that, a lack of content can bring trouble. For example, getting into debt. I’ve been there and done that. Looking back, I know it didn’t make my life any better. Be thankful; be content. I would be more content if I could sell more copies of the book I wrote (more money), but if someone is helped by what I wrote, I am more than satisfied and very thankful.
Yesterday I heard something that really struck me as being the key to the Christian life. It not only confirms the truth, but challenges us to live as Jesus said. We were created in God’s image and lost it, but God’s desire is to restore us to that position.
A little girl went to Sunday school. The teacher taught that God is bigger than we are. After Sunday school was over she went to the church service with her parents. Included in the pastor’s teaching was the statement that God lives in us. The little girl was confused and when they got home she asked her mother how God can be bigger than we are and at the same time live in us. Before her mother could answer her she said, “If God lives in us and is bigger than we are, then people should see Him.” How much more is there to say?
My father was a farmer. It was what he grew up wanting to be and what he did all his life. He produced good crops through hard work and wise methods. Two things come to mind when I think about him. They can be considered as humorous but they were also serious. Crop rows had to be straight, and he hated weeds, especially Morning Glories. This was back in the days when weeds were hoed by hand, but he had a device that directed a poisonous chemical to the roots of the Morning glories, but they they always came back. I inherited his hatred for Morning Glories. They are everywhere and, amazingly, are just ignored by many. They have beautiful flower blossoms, but they take over where they grow. Pulling the weed or cutting it off only encourages it to grow up again–fast. Spraying them works, but they come up again because of seeds stored in the soil. It it said that the seeds can take up to fifty years to get into action, so there’s never an end to the fight. The same goes with sin, especially pride. It sneaks in so subtly that we don’t realize it’s there until it takes over. Like with Morning Glories, we need to be on the watch and ready to fight back. Morning Glories creep up the stems and branches of other plants, winding around them and squeezing the life of them, so to speak. Pride does the same. It squeezes the life of Christ out of us. Paul said in Philippians 2:5-8 that we need to be like Jesus, living a life of humility. It takes desire and determination. Pride hides like the seeds of the Morning Glory, ready to pop out at any time, especially when we least expect it. I’m glad my dad left me with that thought. It’s a never ending fight, but we can win. 2,4D and Roundup will take care of the weed, but we need the power of the Holy Spirit to fight our battle. We can win.
As time goes by we hear or read about how certain things we eat or that compose a part of what we eat affect our health. One example is coffee. There have been times when we are told that coffee is not good for us. Then we are told that nutritionists have found that it is good for us. The latest is sugar. I have read that sugar is the major cause of cancer. It certainly is a problem for diabetics, of which I am one. I have to be very careful to limit carbohydrates, including sugar, to prevent all the horrible results of diabetes. Another problem is salt. I could go on and on. Too much is bad stuff.
On the other hand, there are two things–not food–that cause serious physical problems: a lack of forgiveness and a lack of thankfulness. Books have been written describing how physical illnesses are very often caused by emotion, worry, fear, etc. If you are a believer in what the Bible has to say about these two issues, you will agree. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Why? Because it is God’s will. One reason is that in spite of the fact that we live in a dark and evil world God is at work. Today the culture calls evil good and good evil, but the Bible says that God takes evil and uses it for good. We don’t always know why or how, but if we know God at all, we know it’s true. He took the evil desire of the Jewish leaders to be rid of Jesus and used it to complete His purpose of providing salvation for all who believe. Thankfulness is a connection to the One who loves us. This leads to forgiveness. Do you find it difficult to forgive someone who has mistreated or insulted you? Do you ever think about what Jesus did for us on the cross? He gave His life as the penalty for our sin. He forgave us. Why? Because He loves us and wants all people to be a part of His family. Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Jesus said as He was dying in unbelievable suffering on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Amazing, but true. Can we do any better?
I have heard or read about anxiety being just a normal thing we have to put up with now and then. According to the Bible it is not normal. At least, it shouldn’t be. Anxiety for many reasons breaks into our thinking often, I agree, but it doesn’t have to rule over us. My book, Transformation The Servant’s Heart–A Life of Faith speaks to this problem. A lesson I prepared for my cell group lead me to write the book. It begins with the solution for anxiety, fear and worry. The key is belief and trust in God. That might worry some, but it shouldn’t. Philippians 4:6, 7 tells us not to worry about anything–that’s right–not anything! There is an alternative. In every situation that may cause worry, we are to turn to God in prayer and supplication. That requires a relationship, one that is open to anyone who desires it. God invites us to bring the problem to Him. There is another key word. Come to Him with thanksgiving. In other words, come to Him in trust. Believe He will do what He says and thank Him for it. The result is peace of heart. This may sound strange, but God’s peace is described as being beyond our comprehension. A lot of God does is beyond our understanding, but He is trustworthy. The part of Transformation that talks about this subject goes deeper, laying a foundation for a knowing God and knowing Him better. God bless.
I started turning wood a few years ago when my son offered me a lathe at a very reasonable price. About two years ago I got serious about learning to do a good job at it. Like anything, practice makes perfect. Well, hardly perfect, but with much improvement in the quality of my creations. Turning wood is kind of like the Christian life. Study and practice is important in both. To turn a chunk of wood into a beautiful bowl or a vase requires following certain procedures. Living for Christ requires knowing through His Word and practicing His desire and will. It results in a beautiful relationship. It turns darkness into light. Yesterday I was nearly finished with a bowl that was different than any I had ever made. The reason was that I had some new scrapers that made it possible to do something different. Suddenly I had a “catch.” A catch occurs when the gouge or chisel catches on the spinning wood and you lose control of it. The result can be disastrous. At the very least, the smooth cuts you are making on the wood are scratched, torn, even ruined. It happens because you aren’t making the proper contact with wood. My wood was not harmed, but the base of the tool rest broke off, making the lathe useless. I was doing it my way and not following the procedure that prevents such errors. Kind of like our Christian life when we do things on our own self sufficiency or trusting ourselves. Ephesians 2:10 tells us that God has prepared the work for us to do. Amazingly, when He calls us to do something, He enables and prepares us to do it right–as He wants the work done. As far as my problem with the lathe, I prayed that God would help me fix the problem. Guess what? I got online and found on eBay the tool rest base, the exact one for that model of lathe. The amazing thing is that my lathe is very old and replacement parts are not available–except on eBay. When we need what we don’t have spiritually, don’t turn to eBay, but to the Creator and Sustainer of all things. All things are possible with Him.
Years ago I worked in a mine in Northern Idaho. One day I was working alone and the thought came to me: What would it be like if I didn’t have light. The only light I had was a head lamp. I switched it off. The darkness was like a gigantic black weight falling on me. I waited for my eyes to adjust. It suddenly dawned on me that there was nothing to adjust to. There was no light to adjust to.
The day I made the choice of accepting Jesus as my Savior was the day I moved from darkness into light. My life changed immediately. I had no more desire for alcohol. I began to think differently. My life is still changing and will continue to do so. There is no end to learning from the Word of God. I find something new repeatedly. One of the things I realized long ago is that Jesus not only becomes my Savior, but must become my Lord. That is a difficult thing for many, including myself at times. We are so self important, so self sufficient, so prideful. We don’t need any help. We belong to Jesus. We were bought with a price, His death on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, which are many. Can you imagine a holy, sinless God sacrificing Himself for the sins of people who don’t deserve what He did? Some think that we must do good things to earn our salvation. Think about it. How could we give or do anything that would excel what God has done. It’s impossible. Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and don’t do what I commanded you?” A good and serious question. His command is to love Him, that is God, and to love our neighbors. Not only that, we are to love those who persecute us or are our enemies.
Some would reject the idea of becoming the servant of God, but Jesus laid aside His Glory and came to earth to die for us. He came in an attitude of humility, doing nothing except what His Father told him to do. In the end He was exalted and we are promised the same. God doesn’t make promises that He doesn’t fulfill. Jesus is the light of life and promises eternal life, beginning now and going on forever in the perfect way that He originally created to be. Think about it.