Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Happy Birthday Jesus!

When I worked as an associate pastor at a church in Florida, I often got to help with the chapel service for the church’s preschool. Every Christmas we would sing a song called “Happy Birthday Jesus.” It went something like “Happy birthday, Jesus. We’re so glad it’s Christmas. All the carols and bells, and the tinsel is swell but the real gift is you. . . .” I’ve been thinking today about how we celebrate Jesus’ birthday, or at least how He would want us to celebrate it. I mean, what do you give to the One who creates everything in the first place? It’s kind of the same difficulty as trying to buy for people who don’t really need anything and who go out and get what they want when they do. In some ways gift giving would be so much easier if we were all children.

Yet there is a wonderful answer to this question in scripture, from Jesus Himself. It says this:

Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundstion of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. . . . Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me. Matthew 25:34-40

When we want to give Jesus a gift, we simply give to those who need it. It can be stocking stuffers for young men whose families won’t give them anything, who may not even speak to them; it can be a doll for a young girl on behalf of a relative in prison who just wants her to know she is loved and remembered; it could be a cookie to a neighbor you’ve never met, who may have lost hope; it could be singing “Silent Night” to a someone on campus who has felt completely isolated and alone on a campus of nearly 20,000. I just know that when we reach out to others with love, Jesus is blessed. He smiles in wonder and joy the way a child does when seeing brightly colored presents under a tree. We love Jesus best by loving others, especially those who cannot repay us.

If you want to experience that special joy of knowing you have made a difference beyond yourself, knowing you have touched Jesus’ heart, come and join us. It is sure to be wonder-full fun.



Wednesday, November 16, 2005

True Words

have been slowly reading Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. He says in his chapter called “Grace” one of the most beautiful and profound things I have ever heard:

If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bride that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with the passion of His love.

Isn’t that beautiful? There is such tender mercy in the touch of Jesus Christ upon our lives. We experience true tenderness and true mercy so little in this fallen world, that it is often hard to recognize the voice and the touch of our Savior. And yet something primal in us years for grace and mercy, tenderness and understanding. The good news, the news Jesus left heaven to bring us and died on a cross to demonstrate for us, is that this grace and mercy, tenderness and understanding is God’s heart for us. God’s heart breaks for us to experience what we are so hungry for. Did you know it breaks God’s heart when He sees us suffering, yearning for a soft word of encouragement, and instead of hearing His words of grace, we instead open our ears to words that demolish our spirits and kill all that is beautiful within us?

I’ll be honest. This is a time of transition and change for me personally. It’s not easy. But I am learning that Jesus is so gentle and tender and forgiving as He engineers my transformation. I am learning there is nothing to fear in submitting to His hand in my life. I can say to you with good conscience there is nothing to fear from the Lord. He loves you. And in doing the hard thing in our lives, He always takes the hardest thing upon Himself. He shares our burdens. He gives us His strength. He surrounds us with people who love Him so they can love us with His love. I am so thankful.

Do you need a place where you can see His love for you personally? Just come on down. We have some good news we just can’t wait to tell you!



Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Becoming a Goldfish

Strange things are happening to me. After years of hating goldfish crackers and applesauce, I find myself eating both on a regular basis. It all began when Noah (my little boy) became a picky eater and we were looking for easy things to feed him that traveled well. All the books say that you must introduce a new food to a baby a total of seven times to get him or her to eat it. Well, I don’t know how it works for babies (we’re still working on Noah’s eating habits), but apparently it worked on me.

What does this have to do with Jesus? Well, in a very real sense we are what we experience. The things we pack into our lives are the things we wind up feeling comfortable around. Making a life of faith feel right has more to do with living in it a while than having a natural liking for “spiritual stuff.” People may say, “Yeah, I tried the Jesus thing, and it just isn’t for me.” But did they really give it a genuine chance? It’s not enough to go to church once in your life to see if it’s for you. In many ways it’s like planting seeds; we must allow time for them to bring forth fruit. The same is true for anything in life. One can just as easily begin to feel “at home” in dangerous activities (or at least not good for you stuff) by spending time around un-Godly influences.

Scripture says this: “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:20). Things of God are going to produce good fruit, i.e “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22). If your life is not producing these things, take a look at how you are spending your time. Your life will produce exactly what you are cultivating in it. If the produce is not what you want it to be, begin to make changes. I promise that if you get invested in a Jesus-centered community of faith, you will begin to see peace and joy like you’ve never seen. If you don’t know where to start, then look for a person whose life demonstrates the qualities you want in yours, and hang out with them. Just don’t give up. Eventually you will find that you will even enjoy being a part of a group of people who love Jesus. Besides, if I can start loving goldfish crackers, anything is possible.

Hope the rest of your week is fabulous!