Ah, Christmas is almost upon us. If one more person asks me, "Bought all your gifts?" or "Done all your shopping?" I do believe I will scream! I am all for Christmas. I enjoy the excitment it brings children, I enjoy the Christmas specials, the church musicals, and the like. But just what are we doing, folks?
Once as I was putting my young daughter to bed, she asked a very profound question: "Dad, if Christmas is Jesus' Birthday, why do we give each other presents?" Hmm...Just what are we doing? Who is giving what, to whom?
Jesus is OUR gift from the Father, and through faith in Jesus we are given the gift of salvation. Even the faith which enables us to believe, is a gift from God.
Luke 2:11 (NIV) Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
Ephesians 2:8 (NIV) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
Now you can say "okay David, what's the point?" Well, what does Jesus receive on His birthday (besides the gifts of gold, incense and myrrh given at His birth)? What can we give Jesus? Talk about not knowing what to give to someone Who has everything! Jesus has it all, except our hearts. Have you fully surrendered yourself to Him?
John 17:24 (NIV) Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Believers in Jesus Christ are gifts to Jesus from the Father. We are Christ's presents. Thinking about this makes me want to pour out love to Christ.
John 14:3 (NIV) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Colossians 3:4 (NIV) When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Our hope and faith lie in the above verses; they hinge upon being with Jesus forever. Jesus is preparing a place for us in Heaven, but only if we believe in Him and accept Him as our Lord and Savior.
My prayer for my fellow believers this Christmas is that we will take seriously our role as gifts to Jesus from the Father, and that we will take seriously the awesome gift of eternal life with Jesus. He takes very good care of His gifts. During this Advent season, churches will be filled with non-believers. I pray that they will see Christ in us and want to investigate Christianity further. For those of you who are not quite sure about all this "accepting Jesus" stuff, or about Jesus being a gift and us being a gift to Him, my prayers are for you to keep hanging around the church, keep seeking Jesus, and keep looking at and investigating Christ.
So who is giving what, to whom? God gave us Jesus, Who through our faith and belief gives us eternal life -- which in turn gives us to Jesus. Sounds like Christmas to me! It sounds like exchanging gifts... but these gifts never die, rot, fade, go out of style or burn up; they last forever!
David Massey 12/15/1997
The Christmas season is fully upon us. Just what was God's plan in bringing about Christmas? Why did He decide to manifest Himself as a human being? Why did He provide this wonderful plan of mercy, grace and love that I often cannot begin to comprehend?
Jesus came to reconcile man to God.
Hebrews 2:17 (LB) And it was necessary for Jesus to be like us, his brothers, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God, a Priest who would be both merciful to us and faithful to God in dealing with the sins of the people.
He came also to reconcile us with each other. Throughout the Bible, we find examples set by Jesus and others, of reconciliation between individuals. Jesus must have thought that reconciliation should be a high priority in our lives. Nowhere else in the Bible can I find an instance where a teacher instructs someone to leave the church and make up with someone before giving an offering.
Matthew 5:23-24 (LB) So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.
Esau and his brother Jacob were reconciled:
Genesis 33:4,11 (LB) And then Esau ran to meet him and embraced him affectionately and kissed him; and both of them were in tears! 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need." And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.
Luke tells about the reconciliation of Herod and Pilate:
Luke 23:12 (LB) That day Herod and Pilate became friends-before this they had been enemies.
This is hard stuff. It is difficult to do. But it is Biblical and I have seen it work in both my own life and other people's lives. So let's just go through this next passage and see the steps Jesus lays out for us to take, when trying to restore a relationship.
Matthew 18:15-17 (NIV) If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.
Step One is the most difficult one. Jesus is saying for us to go to the person with whom we have a problem, share our feelings and do it in private. Our natural inclination is to go tell everyone we know, except the person that we feel has wronged us. Before long, the situation has been stirred and changed into something even worse than the original version. And more harmfully, the telling of others can turn into gossip.
I am not a very confrontational person. Therefore this first step is very difficult for me. I have written short notes to people, and at other times called them on the phone. I once came out and asked for a private meeting face-to-face. But in the few times that I have invoked the Matthew 18 principle, the dispute was settled after Step One. The dispute never went any farther. Please don't think that all this happened very quickly. One reconciliation took me ten years to complete. Often we become paralyzed with anger and can never take this initial step, but if we really want to live as fully-devoted followers of Christ, we must try.
The second step, if necessary, is to take one or two people along with you to serve as witnesses to the process. I am assuming that this other person or two would help mediate the matter and provide unbiased opinions of the situation, in order to help start a process of healing and understanding.
The conflicts that I have seen, have been resolved with Step One, so hopefully the third step in this plan will not be necessary. When needed, its purpose is to shed light on the dispute. It serves as a way to reprimand the guilty party while hopefully setting up a means to restore him back to fellowship with others and with Christ. I recently witnessed a successful example of this step in action. The situation was somewhat different as it involved a church member and a pastor. The pastor had committed a sin. Another pastor confronted the pastor, who denied the charge. The pastor and an elder of the church then confronted him. Though the evidence against the pastor was overwhelming, he was still unrepentant. However, he did resign. The church was told of the reason for the Pastors' resignation and the healing has begun.
So there you have it -- a simple yet profound, three-step Biblical plan of reconciliation, given to us by none other than the great Reconciler himself, Jesus Christ. Now the question is: Are you ready to take the first step? Try it; it works. What better time than now, to start on a path of reconciliation with someone in your life?
David Massey 12/13/2003
Magnification of Emotions
Originally Published 1996-12-18
Matt 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison, and you came to visit me. (NIV)
I have made an interesting discovery during the holiday season this year. One of those "defining moments" in my life. Have you noticed, during the Christmas Season, how the lonely are lonelier, the hurting hurt more, the down and out, more down, the poor are poorer, and even the joyful, seem more joyous?
What are we as Christ followers to do?
John 13:34 "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (NIV)
I challenge each of you in the next few days to take being a Christ Follower to another level. Take HIS words from your head, move them to your heart, and then to your feet. Let's do something. Let's show the world what being a Christ follower is all about. Jesus' command to us is very simple. All He is saying is just love one another; just love. That's it.
Let's visit that person that is alone, let's feed the hungry, let's share with the poor, let's help the sick, let's just love one another. Smile at that person sitting alone on the bench; sit down and visit with them for a minute. I know one man that recently bought some flowers, went to a nursing home and gave them to a complete stranger who was all alone. He really touched that woman with the love of Christ. Just love one another.
Matt 25:40 "The King will reply, `I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' (NIV)
What an awesome thought.... "Whatever I do for others.... I do for Christ"
Genesis 1:26 (NIV) Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."
It is my belief that God rewards the diligent student of His word. When preparing to teach on this verse, two words kept jumping out at me. I just could not figure out why the Holy Spirit used two similar words to describe how you and I were made. Notice the words, "in Our image, in Our likeness." Image and likeness are closely related, yet they are not quite the same. Let me try to illustrate what the Holy Spirit illustrated to me recently.
In my work, I use a digital camera to take photographs of houses. When I click the camera, an image of the house appears on an LCD screen on the back of the camera. I, the one who "created" the image, can see it. Now, when I download the image and print this photo, anyone who sees the photo can see the "likeness" of that image.
God, our Creator, can see His image in us. His desire is for others to see His likeness in us, through our actions, words, deeds, etc. God sees His image through all our faults, our sins, our foul balls, and the like. Our Creator can see the image, when even we can not. Can others see His likeness in you? And just as importantly, can you see the image of God in others, the value that God places on others? More importantly, can you see that image, when others are not at their best? Can you see past the murky stuff and see the real value in people? All people matter to God; therefore all people should matter to us.
You see, we can not have the right values until we place the right value on others and ourselves.
Are you shortchanging yourself? Are you shortchanging others? When we grasp the value that God places on others, and as we grasp the right values, then hopefully then we being to do this thing call life, right. When we place the right value on others and ourselves, out of that value, flows a reflection, a likeness of God's image in us. All our actions and decisions in life are influenced by our value system.
Watch these examples with kids:
- "Not right now, son, I am reading the paper."
- "Sure I will come to your school play, someday."
- "No, Daddy can't go camping this weekend, I have work to catch up on."
- "As soon as the newscast is over, I will help you with your homework."
What is the value message in these examples? The message is loud and clear, even to a two-year-old. The message is , "I value the paper more than you, I value other things more than your school activities, I value my work, more than I do you, I value the newscast more than you. It shouts to them what your values are.
You can plug anyone and any example into the above examples. If you or I laugh at the racial or ethnic joke, we are devaluing one of God's image-bearers. If you or I mismanage our finances and can't give to God, we are placing a higher value on worldly items than God.
Do you get the picture? See the image, the likeness?
Sitting on the beach
Just staring at my feet.
Actually as I take in nature's sounds
I'm looking all around
I see is my past
The memories I thought would never last
I see my present in some
Wondering what journey they've come.
I see my future walking by
Grand kids running as I sigh.
Life goes by so fast
It's nice sitting on this beach watching my future, present and past.
Try this daily. Let someone off the hook. Start with little wrong, a forgotten returned phone call, a missed appointment, and so forth.
Give the person a "do over." In golf it's called a Mulligan. They are free to try again.
Respond with, "hey no problem, I forget things at times." Or, "Oh, I understand."
Meekness does not equal weakness. We can be strong and forgiving at the same time.
These small acts of quick forgiveness lead to an easier time at being quicker to forgive others, including ourselves.
Life is too short to be locked inside a room of resentments. A room created by an unforgiving heart.
My oldest daughter and I were driving past the house where we lived until she was eight years old and I asked her, "Do you remember living in that house?"
She said she did. So naturally I asked, "What do you remember?"
Her reply struck me as odd, yet somehow profound. She said, "I remember my third birthday party in the backyard and you had a clown come and we all cried, because the clown scared us."
What scared my daughter and her friends was the fact that they could not tell who was behind the mask.
Many of us wear masks every day. Depending on the occasion or circumstance we throw on a mask to fit our need.
We have become afraid of letting people see the real us. We are afraid of letting someone see our shortcomings out of the fear that they will not like or love us.
At work we may throw on a mask of authority and power in order to seem in control.
At home we may throw on a mask of contentment, a mask of everything is okay, out of fear our spouse may not love someone with problems.
In social situations we may throw on a mask of self-righteousness and pride, a mask of "I have my life together, so don't ask me how I am doing. I don't need any help; I don't want any fellowship with you people that are down and out. I am okay."
Maybe we even have a mask of rationalization that we put on in compromising situations, a mask that tries to show others, "I am really just like you. Please accept me."
On and on we go, shuffling our masks on and off from situation to situation, until one day our masks fail us. No matter how good we are at this game, eventually cracks develop from all the wear and tear of changing masks.
As the cracks develop people start seeing the real us in-between the cracks. Some may even reach out to help, but that mask of pride, which has now become a prison of pride, will not allow anyone inside.
All the masks will become prisons of guilt, resentment, self-centeredness and on and on. The prisons can become solitary confinement.
We find ourselves in isolation built in our mind, built by our actions, built by losing the real us somewhere behind these masks.
It takes a long time to build these prisons out of masks, so remember it will take time to tear them down.
Often, the most complex part of a solution is saying the simple word, "help."
Lost Your Glove?
Ecclesiastes 2:24-26 (NIV) A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? To the man who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Lately nothing has been more fun to me than practicing baseball with my seven-year-old son, Bobby, after work. We practice catching, throwing and batting. It energizes me just thinking about going home and playing. A few nights ago I dreamed that Bobby and I were going out in the yard to play, but we could not find our baseball gloves. We frantically searched the yard and house, high and low, for them. The dream ended with us frustrated and disappointed.
Have you lost your glove? What is your "happy factor?" Honestly ask yourself this question: On a scale of 1-10, where do you rank your happiness in life? I don't know what has happened to our society, but somewhere along the way we became a group of unhappy people. I used to think, "if I have just a faster computer, better programs and better technology, then I can get my work done faster and have more time for fun stuff." You know what happened? I get more work done faster, but people just want more of it and they want it back faster. It's a never-ending cycle.
Perhaps your happy factor is low due to trying to get that new car, that new house, that new something that Madison Avenue has led us to believe will make us all happy. Or even worse, maybe we are just trying to make more money so we can buy things that we don't need, to impress people that don't even care. Are you so wrapped up in your work that you have forgotten who you really are? Have you forgotten the real you, the fun you, the happy you?
Solomon, when he wrote today's verse, got it right. He figured it out. Anything done apart from God, anything done apart from bringing glory to God, anything done not to please God but only to please us, is meaningless. It's chasing after the wind. You come up empty-handed and empty hearted. Just like when we run the rat race, win or lose you are still a rat. Worst of all, you lose your effectiveness as a mother, father, wife, husband, brother, sister, etc. You lose your effectiveness as a Christ-follower. You lose the ability to show others that life in Christ brings joy. Lost your glove?
Father, help some of us to regain the happiness we find in You. Help some us to find that happiness for the first time. Help us to fix our eyes on You. Help us to regain our identity as Your children, and to not lose that identity to our work or circumstances. We pray this in Christ's name. Amen.
Negative attitudes are self-fulfilling prophecies. They can also be contagious. If we have a negative attitude, it will not only keep us down; it will also bring down the people around us.
Think negatively and the world around us seems negative. I call negative people drainers, because they drain the life out of others.
Conversely a positive, cheerful and grateful attitude will make everything seem right. They fill us up.
We all walk around life with two imaginary buckets. One is filled with fuel, the other with water.
We have a choice when we are ambushed by a negative conversation. We can either throw our bucket of fuel on it, igniting the negativism, or we can douse it with our water bucket.
Most negative people do not realize how negative their demeanors have become. But simply saying, "Gee Joe, you are so negative. You drain the life out of me", is not going to work. That will only throw the bucket of fuel on the situation.
When a negative attitude is displayed, try to take what is said, and make a positive statement back to the person.
Watch these examples. Negative person says, "That customer is such a pain. He drives me crazy with his demands." We could answer, "Yes he is very demanding, but that is why we have our jobs, to satisfy customers' demands." The negative person says, "This is not how we have always done this." A good response: "Glad you noticed we are making changes around here to improve our services."
One encounter like this will not change a negative person's attitude overnight. It takes time and patience, but after a while, it may click in their mind, "Hmm, no use in complaining around them or others. "
Ideally, they will start coming to you thinking, "Help me see the good in this."
Do you want to throw your bucket of fuel on the fire, or your bucket of water? The choice is ours.
Satan's pride was his downfall, and it is ours. God hates sin and God hates pride the root of all sins.
In Genesis we read what Satan says to Eve:
Genesis 3:1 He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?
Satan casted doubt upon Eve and then in verse 4 & 5 he adds the pride piece.
Genesis 3:4-5:You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Then in Isaiah we have Satan's five "I will" statements.
Isaiah14:13-14 You said in your heart,
“I will ascend to heaven;
I will raise my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly,
on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds;
I will make myself like the Most High."
Pretty boastful, eh? But don't we do the same thing? When we finally made a decision to accept Christ as our Savior, didn't we humble ourselves and say "Lord, I can't save myself, I need you Lord, take residence inside me Lord, I am nothing without You Lord."
But so often after we have been saved by His grace, we tend to say, "Ok God, thanks for saving me, I can take it from here." We are stating the "I wills."
When God creates something, what does He start with? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. We must become nothing, so He can use us, and we must continue in Him, abiding in His Word, and His truth. I am nothing apart from God. I have nothing to offer God. All that I have, all that I do, is from Him.
In contrast to Satan's 5 "I wills" we have Jesus' 5 "I ams." I don't know about you folks.. but I am betting my life on Jesus' "I ams."
John 6:35 Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.
John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.
John 10:9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.
John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
John 14:6 Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
John 15:5 I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. And finally Paul's sums it all up in 2 Corithians, saying he is nothing. When we come to that realization that we are nothing apart from Christ, there is no room for pride in our lives.
2 Co 12:11 I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the "super-apostles," even though I am nothing"
Father, humble us. Bring us back to nothing, so You can create in us all that You want us to be. Help us to resist the "I wills" in our lives, and keep remembering the only "I am." Father we ask you to forgive us for our prideful ways, as we repent from them. Humble us Lord, in Jesus' name, Amen.