Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Resolutions and the Presence of God

New Years is a time for resolutions. People resolve to lose weight. People resolve to spend less and save more. People resolve to invest more in there closest relationships. The beginning of the year is a time when people set goals for self-improvement.

Most of the time, when we think of resolutions, we think of will power and hard work. We think we need to make right decisions, work hard and accomplish the goals we set for ourselves. We assume that resolutions never become reality by accident.

While right decisions and hard work are not bad things, I wonder if Christians forget an important resource when making resolutions. We forget the power of the Holy Spirit. We forget that God has given us a guide to help us discern God honoring resolutions and power to help fulfill those resolutions.

Jesus promises this power to His people at the beginning of Acts. Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth,” (Acts 1:8). God gives God’s people the Holy Spirit to empower them in fulfilling the God given goals God calls them to.

As you make resolutions for 2016, soak them in prayer. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in setting resolutions. Seek the Spirit for power in fulfilling what God has called you to do. As you do, you will get a better sense of the resolutions God is calling you to. You will also find power for making them a reality in 2016 and beyond.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Christmas and the Hound of Heaven

I once heard an old preacher refer to Jesus as the “Hound of Heaven.” Though the name sounds odd, he wasn’t disrespecting the Lord. In fact, it was quite the opposite. This man loved the Lord and used the name as a term of endearment.

As it turns out, Jesus has pursued this man for years. The man had wanted to live his life, on his terms, doing as he pleased. But, he always had this sense that God was after him. God desired relationship with him. God intended to save him and change him for God’s purposes. God was relentless in His chase – like a hound from heaven. God indeed caught the man and called him to the work of the pastorate.

That pastor’s testimony reminds me of Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus. Paul writes, “For (God) chose us in (Christ) before the foundations of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him,” (1:4). Before all of creation God made a claim on us for God’s purposes. God pursues us for those purposes. So, in a way, God is indeed after us like a hound of heaven.

As you continue through the Christmas season, remember God’s pursuit of His people. That baby, born two thousand years ago, is the beginning of God’s chase. God is here and God is claiming those who belong to Him. That is good news for the wayward and the lost. It is good news for all celebrating that the wonderful Hound of Heaven started His chase at Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Good Lord and Good Decisions

A couple weeks ago, a 55-year-old Georgia man stole a beer truck and then proceeded to run himself over with it.  Gregory Miller stole an 18-wheel Coors Lite truck after finding that the driver had left the keys in the ignition.  Police gave chase until Miller jumped out of the vehicle while the vehicle was still moving.  The truck ran over Miller’s leg, leading to a hospital stay after his arrest.

Miller’s story is a bit extreme, but how many of us make bad decisions knowing that the results are going to be bad too?  We snap at a loved one, knowing it will lead to an argument.  We buy something we can’t afford, knowing it will stress us out later.  We bend the truth, knowing it will cause confusion and suspicion some other time.  If we are honest, we know our decisions will have negative consequences, but we press on.

The Apostle Paul talks about this struggle in Romans.  Romans 7 says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.”  Paul knows that bad behavior will lead to bad consequences, but he still does it anyways.  Paul’s experience is very human.  All people have a hard time choosing the right things in their own power.  It is as if we need help from something outside of ourselves.

Jesus at arrives at Christmas to solve that struggle.  Jesus takes on flesh and dwells among people who can’t resist bad decisions.  Jesus creates a type of human that is truly capable of making good decisions and enjoying the good results.  In Christ, there is a way to live a righteous life, free from the drama that comes with police chases and stolen beer trucks.

As you worship Jesus this Christmas, invite Jesus to make you into His image more and more.  Ask Jesus to help you make good decisions that yield good results – like Him.   As you do, you will find a life free of the drama that tends to accompany bad choices.  You’ll also experience the very reason Jesus came to us at Christmas in the first place.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmas Traditions: the Good and the Bad

Not all Christmas traditions are good. Growing up, I had a tradition of sneaking a look at my presents before Christmas morning. One Christmas, I went so far as unwrapping my presents and then trying to rewrap them before my parents found out. The results: several days grounded, frustrated parents, and a Christmas morning completely void of surprise. Not all Christmas traditions are good.

The same is true in our worship life. Not all of our traditions are good. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut and do the same old thing simply because we always do the same old thing. We forget the meaning and significance that started the tradition in the first place.

Christmas is actually a great time to enjoy good traditions and avoid the bad. Jesus shows up as the fullness of God’s revelation and serves as a sort of measuring stick for traditions. We can hold our traditions up next to Jesus and see which traditions focus us on God and which ones distract us from God.

As you continue through the holiday season, let go of bad traditions. Hold on to the good. Ask the Lord the show you which traditions are helpful and which are not. Study the arrival of the Lord in the scriptures and ask, “How do my Christmas traditions bring my attention to that?” As you do, you will find that the wonderful traditions of Christmas bless your life with Christ. You will also find a renewed focus on the reason for the traditions in the first place.