Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Advent part 1-joy

I can’t believe the Christmas season is already here! I can remember as a child the excitement this time of year brings. I would count down the days until Christmas morning. Indeed, it is the one morning where children have no trouble waking up early. To the dismay of parents, kids get up at 5:00am and wake up their parents to tell them Santa has come. They go rushing into the living room and start picking up packages, shaking them, sniffing them…trying to get a picture of what each box contains. Finally, they tear into the gifts with great joy.

I imagine this is what the shepherds looked like on the first Christmas. I can see them around their fire on that hillside after another normal night guarding their flocks. All of a sudden heaven opens up and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounds them. Angels appear to them and say, “Don’t be afraid, for we bring you good news of great joy for everyone. The Savior, yes the Messiah has come.” They begin singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” Then the angels declare that if they run quickly to the city, they will see a child who will change everything. They will experience personally the greatest event of all time. The angels then disappear, as quickly as they came.

The shepherds look at each other stunned for a second, but then take off to Bethlehem to see this Savior. I think they ran with the same excitement that kids run on Christmas morning. There was excitement and joy with every step. This is the reaction of everyone who receives the advent of Christ. Mary, Simeon, Elizabeth, the Wise Men, and the Shepherds all respond to the advent of Christ with joyful worship and praise of God. Likewise this season should fill us with joy as we remember the coming of Christ and anticipate his second coming.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Practicing Gratitude

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it consists of my two favorite past times: eating lots of food and watching football. However, I also enjoy Thanksgiving because literally the name itself reminds us to take time “to give thanks” for all our blessings. As Christians, “thanksgiving” should not be a once a year event. We always have much to celebrate and therefore should have hearts full of gratitude.

Gratitude is a way of life that characterizes God’s people. Gratitude means we remember who God is and what He has done for us. We live as a blessed people because we have been blessed. We pass on what we have received because when a person has good news you share it! Saint Augustine was right when he said that “a Christian should be an alleluia from head to foot!” Gratitude begins with a heart that is open and receptive to God’s grace. Then gratitude affects the way we see others and the world. We become more appreciative, more caring, and more compassionate. In response to all God has done, we live lives that give Him thanks and glory (also called worship).

“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.” –Ephesians 3:20-21

* a great book on this topic is "Radical Gratitude" by Mary Jo Leddy

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Undivided Heart

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your name.” –Psalm 86:11

This is one of the most significant prayers to be found anywhere in Scripture. What a great verse to memorize? What a great verse to pray each morning? I think anyone who really knows God will begin to hunger for this reality. This is the deep hunger of our soul—to have a heart completely united in commitment to God. We want to be faithful to him as he is faithful to us. The promise of scripture is that Christ not only forgives our sin, but he also gives us the power to overcome sin. Thus, it is not necessary that sin should control and dominate our lives. Holiness is possible.

The psalmist knows this to be true and therefore asks God for a united heart. He doesn’t want to be divided any longer. He wants a heart that his wholly devoted to the Lord. I don’t know about you, but I yearn to have an undivided heart. I look forward to the day when all the pride and ego inside of me is gone. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way. God is faithful…he will carry out his promise if we let him.

“May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this” (1 Thessalonians 5:23).