Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Envy

  I think when most people struggle with envy it is over money, or jobs, or maybe someone has more toys then you. You know the saying, he who has more toys when you die wins. But, the envy I struggle with is the envy of the Sunday school kids and the AOB students at my church.

 When I was growing up the only experience I had with religion is a pastor telling me I was no good and would never be any good. My parents were divorced when I was 5 or 6 and I grew up in the projects, I didn't have a safe place to go to hang out and receive mentor ship. No one even tried to talk to me about God, they just wanted to tell me how bad I was and that I would never amount to anything.
 
  The kids that go to my church are loved and taught about God and how much God loves them. They are encouraged and told they can be whatever they want to be. But, the thing that I envy the most is the friendship they have with each other. I see them all hanging out together, laughing and having fun. The church has functions and field trips that they go on and they have a week of bible camp in the summer that the kids don't want to come home from. They hang out, help each other with home work, play sports together, grow up together. I never had that.

  I guess you could say I envy their childhood. I struggle with it every time I see them playing and laughing with each other. I try as hard as I can to make sure my daughter has a great childhood. I tell my daughter everyday that she can do or be whatever she wants to be, that with hard work and her faith in the Lord she can become whatever she sets out to be. But, first enjoy your childhood, be a child, and don't grow up to fast.  I didn't have the mentors in my life to help me choose the right paths and because of the choices I made and some of the adults I encountered, I lost my childhood. Don't lose yours.
 

Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas At Home

  If we really take the meaning of Christmas seriously, it seems that we are always called fanatics or something similar. But, Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace on earth and goodwill towards men. Read the words found in Luke 2:8-14 in the King James version of the Bible.

"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, & the glory of the Lord shone round about them: & they were sore afraid. "And the angel said unto them, `Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, & saying, `Glory to God in the highest, & on earth peace, good will toward men.’"
How wonderful do you think our homes would be if we put this into practice? How wonderful do you think the world would be if we put into practice the blessing of peace on earth and goodwill towards men? And as Christmas once again approaches, we think that maybe it's not impossible that our hearts can be filled with love and that maybe we can be kind to each other all the time.

 I am sure most everyone has started their shopping, I am sure most everyone also spends a lot of time and puts in a lot of thought into the gifts you choose. Then you go shopping and buy that special gift for someone, spending a lot more money then you planned. You spent time gift wrapping it and making it look really special, and then that someone opens the gift your sure they are going to love and their is no joy or delight for your gift. And, if there is no expression of joy or delight, you get disappointed because with the receiving of this gift they are receiving you. Or, if your gift is rejected, then you feel like they are rejecting you. And , if you are watching someone else's face to see how they receive your gift, then you can bet they are watching yours. Because, giving and receiving is an important part of the Christmas season.

  What do you think was God's gift to us at Christmas time? Most of you would probably say that He gave His only begotten son, and I could not say you were wrong. There are some who might say that He gave us evidence of His love, and I could not say that that was wrong either.  But what if we get a little more specific with this question? Because I believe that God gave us several gifts at Christmas.

  First, in Jesus Christ, God gave us the opportunity for the forgiveness of our sins. We will never have peace with each other until we have peace with ourselves, and we will never be at peace with ourselves unless we are at peace with God. And we will never be at peace with God unless we have forgiveness of our sins. I see it like a recipe in a cook book, God has given us his recipe for life. His recipe is finding forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and living by His rules and principles he has set. Because these are the ingredients that make it possible. Now if you stick in some worldly ingredients then what happens? Life blows up in your face. That is why there is so much rejection, depression, and suicide. Because so many are following the wrong recipe. So God offers his gift, not just a baby but  the offer of forgiveness and salvation.

  The 2nd gift that God has given us is help with our present situations. If you think of the shepherds sitting out on the hillsides keeping watch on their sheep through the night. Life was hard and harsh for them. They were poor, with not much hope of improving their lives. Then on that glorious night the angels appeared and made their life changing announcement, "Unto you is born this day in the City of David, a Savior who is Christ the Lord." And then suddenly everything had changed for them. God had become real to them, and had come to help them, to be their savior, to bring "peace on earth, goodwill to all men". Now , if you look at the other end of the ladder, you see the wise men, Magi, people with wealth, power, and authority. And they too had an emptiness in there lives, a hunger maybe that can't be filled. So when that star appeared to them, they followed looking for the one thing that can fill that emptiness.  So whether you are powerful or weak, rich or poor, you need help, no matter who you are.
God has promised that when we let Christ into our hearts and lives then we will receive his help. And when you are helped and filled by the Holy Spirit of God then we will bring "peace on earth, and goodwill to men".

   My wife and I were standing in line at the grocery store the other day and the man in front of us couldn't pay for all of his groceries, so he started to put some items back. A lady was leaving from the next line over heard what happened and used her change to pay for the rest of the mans groceries. The man looked at her in amazement and then thanked her. The lady answered with a smile and a Merry Christmas and then walked off on her way. For some reason we seem to be more sensitive to one another around Christmas time. So we go around delivering food to someone who is hungry, or reach into our wallets to help someone at the grocery store because God has sent His Son to help us and now we want to help others.

  I had heard a story from a High school in Paducah, Ky. 5 students were praying together and just as they finished another student started shooting, leaving 3 of the 5 dead and the other 2 critically wounded. It was a very terrible and senseless tragedy.  Then I heard about the mother and father of one of the students who were killed let the doctors use vital organs from their daughter to save at least 3 others who desperately needed them. I was moved by the tears of sadness, but also the tears of joy as they heard that their daughter's lungs had been successfully transplanted into a young man who's family had been told that he only had days to live.

  So, If we are moved by these stories of sorrow and joy, imagine how much more we should be moved when we realize that the King of Kings and the Lord of all Lords has visited us in our world to share our tears, but to also rejoice with us and help us to over come the hurts and hurdles of life itself.
When we realize this, then "peace on earth and goodwill toward men becomes more realistic.

  One of the final things that God has given us at Christmas time when he gave us Jesus Christ is hope for the future. What kept the sheperds going? It was hope. God promised the people that one day He would send a Messiah, the Anointed One. And when the Messiah comes, everything would be alright,
and that hope burned in the hearts of the people of Israel. Do you know what kept the wise men going? It was the hope of every night  that they would go out and find that star of a promise. And when they finally saw it, they knew they must follow it wherever it led them, because it was a sign from God that the promise of a messiah had come. Hope kept them going.

  God brings us hope at Christmas. " Peace on earth, goodwill towards men. Impossible dream?  Maybe. Maybe there will be wars or rumors of wars, maybe the homeless will always be hungry, maybe we will always have to deal with crime and violence we see everyday. But, there is one thing that will always give us hope. One day the gates to heaven will open up, and God will return and that promise will be fulfilled. "Peace on earth and goodwill for all eternity.

  Let me tell you a story about a 7th grade boy I knew. He was very big for his age and a little slow mentally. All the kids liked him because he was a great kid. When the news was put out for the Christmas play tryouts he tried out and wanted to be a shepherd.  Because he was so big the teacher thought he would make a better inn keeper, so she gave him that part. So, as the play went on and Mary and Joseph came looking for a room to stay he told them that there was no room at the inn. Joseph told him that Mary was pregnant and needed rest. There was a long pause and everyone thought the boy had forgotten his line. You could here people back stage telling him his line, but the boy was still quiet. He finally said " There is no room at the inn, you will have to find somewhere else". Mary and Joseph turned to leave and all of the sudden the boy shouted out "Wait, you can stay in my room and I will sleep in the shed". The crowd was stunned and the teacher thought the play was ruined. Then, she thought about the words the boy had said. Hadn't he just communicated the true meaning of Christmas in his words, "Wait, you can stay in my room and I will Sleep in the shed".

  Is that not what Jesus Christ has done for us? "No, you don't have to die for your sins. I will take your place on the cross". Christmas has made the difference, God wrapped His gift and gave it to all mankind.  Now he stands back to see what we will do with His gift. What we do with His gift is what we do to Him, we will receive this gift with joy and except His gift of forgiveness, or we will reject it and reject Him. God offers that gift to all, He waits to see what you will do. I pray that you will open yours arms and heart and receive His gift of salvation............Amen