Christians in the World: Archived December 2014
It is Christmas!
December 25, 2014
It is Christmas! I looked around the church on a recent Sunday. A great deal of time and effort was spent decorating it for the holiday.
The children gathered in the front and sang several of the songs from the program they had been working on for weeks. Hands were raised in praise as we sang familiar Christmas carols. A thought came to mind, planted by Satan I am sure. God is somewhat conceited as He laps up all this attention. Over and over we praise Him, and it is never enough. Why does God want us to worship Him? Is He on one big ego trip?
Before you think I am blasphemous or have lost my mind, God has a reason and I think I have figured it out. Satan’s attempt to thwart my devotion failed. As our loving father, what God really wants is our companionship. He walked in the garden with Adam and Eve. Imagine! But God, in His wisdom, knew we would be tempted away from His companionship.
Our souls crave something higher, a meaning to the chaos. We ache to fill that gap. God intended that we fill the need with fellowship with Him: a good long walk in the garden and a heart-to-heart talk on a regular basis. But the world has created many synthetic gods – personal vanity, possessions, time constraints, too many good things to do, and more.
When we worship we remember who created all of the synthetic gods. We acknowledge our need to spend time with the Real Thing. God loves our praise – it is a sweet savor to Him. But more than that, we need to praise God. Through our worship we are reminded of our priorities.
May you not fall prey to the synthetic gods in your lives. Remember to spend time with God during this rushed and busy holiday season. Blessings of Peace and Joy this Holiday Season!
Trusting God when times are difficult
December 16, 2014
This is one of the busiest times of the year, as we prepare to celebrate Christmas. We know the end of the story – we know that in a few days Jesus will be born. We know how the story progressed, Jesus’s ministry, his miracles, his death and resurrection.
Mary and Joseph didn’t know any of this as they trudged the 90 miles on foot (and pregnant!) to Bethlehem. All they knew was God was using them in some strange way.
The neighbors still gossiped. Some probably shunned them because of Joseph’s refusal to obey the law and deal harshly with Mary.
Life was not good for the couple. God didn’t make the way easy. He expected them to trust Him while He worked out His plan. Many of my friends are struggling right now. I know you wonder about God’s will in the midst of your suffering.
I have friends in unhappy marriages, unfulfilling jobs, poor health and financial issues that make them wonder “where is God?” God doesn’t owe us an explanation for our difficult times. What He expects is that we will trust Him with our future. We will wait as He works to put all the pieces in place so that He can bless us. Be steadfast, my friends. God is good, and at the end of your story you will see His hand. But today as you struggle, I will pray for your needs.
Tending to our “suckers”
December 11, 2014
My father always has a garden. He and my mother can the vegetables and enjoy them during the long Pennsylvania winter. He taught me about suckers. Tomatoes have suckers, those extra branches that rob the plant of nutrition and prevent it from producing fruit.
I did not inherit my father’s green thumb, but I do like to play in the dirt. My tomato plants last year were tall and straggly. The tomatoes were small. The plants probably had suckers, so this year I decided to remove them. I called my dad for an explanation of exactly what a sucker looked like, and then headed to my small plants. As they grew, I continued to chop off branches that I suspected were suckers.
My crop was worse than ever! My guess – I removed the fruit bearing branches and
preserved the suckers. The Farmer’s Market loved me as I loaded up on someone else’s wonderful globes.
People can have suckers too: those things that you do that rob you of productivity, joy, or a solid relationship with God. Sometimes it’s not easy to tell the difference between a good branch and a bad one. To my untrained eye, all my tomato branches looked great. That is the key – the untrained eye.
We need to train our eyes (minds) so that we can tell the difference between what is holy,
and what is robbing us of fulfillment. That means prayer and bible study.
If we are trying to walk in the Lord, most likely all of our activities are good. But are they necessary? Do we need to sit on twenty committees and run all church events? Do we need to always volunteer at PTA, AWANA, ACFW, SCWW, and any other set of letters you are involved in?
Maybe we need to prune our activities to give more strength to a few, rather than allowing them all to have stems, but no real fruit. My guess is most of us have suckers that are draining our joy. Find yours and take the courage to trim them off. I will be praying for courage!
Are you willing to be God's slave?
December 2, 2014
HEWN TIMBER CABIN, FRANCIS MARION UNIVERSITY, FLORENCE, SC ...
I live where history never quite dies; where people believe the South will rise again. Modern exists alongside the old. I recently visited a farm that still had the remnants of the slave cabins on the property.
As much as history is romanticized, I never hear anyone say “I want to be a slave.” The thought of being owned by another, to give that person total control of your life, regardless of
the pain or humility it might bring is abhorrent to us.
But that is exactly what a young girl named Mary did when she said, “I am your slave. Do as you will with my life.” We know the end of the story, but when Mary uttered these words of agreement to the angel Gabriel, she had no idea what God had planned.
I would have prefaced my agreement with “make sure to keep me safe … help my community not to gossip about me … maintain my good reputation.” But Mary did none of these, even though she faced potential death, shunning or divorce by her agreement to God’s request.
I wonder what Mary thought. She had to know the consequences. It is hard for me to imagine the kind of faith it would take to say “I am your slave, God. Do with my life as You will.”
God is asking much less of me, but how much of my life am I willing to give to Him? I find it hard to come up with time for bible study and prayer. What if God someday asks for more? Will I have the courage to say “I am your slave, God.” As I glanced from the slave cabins to the main mansion house, my throat thickened over the inequity. As God’s slave I am not promised a mansion. My lot may be a slave cabin. But I am promised a mansion at the end of the journey.
God is asking you to be His slave. Are you willing to move from the mansion to the cabin?
Praying that God will reveal His will to all of us this week.