Sunday, December 23, 2007

God's Stocking Stuffers

Well, it’s Christmas time and if you are reading this you are aware that Jesus is the reason for the season. There is a propensity for many Christians to get radical in their fight against rampant commercialization and Santa worship. And that is a good thing. Jesus is truly the reason for the season. And there could be no better gift to mankind than the Messiah.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (King James Version)

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (King James Version)

Like all Christmas celebrations with the family, there is usually a gift given that is exactly what the receiver wanted or desperately needed. There was one Christmas where I gave my daughter a new Ford Focus. She had been driving a piece of junk Kia Sephia without complaining. And she lit up like a well adorned tree when she saw the car. Years later she still talks about how great that Christmas was. But something else happened that day. She looked in her stocking to receive many smaller gifts that were also well pleasing and much needed. They are called stocking stuffers, and we love getting them. I love getting Red Hots candy in mine. The small stuff is just the icing on the happiness cake.

God gives us stocking stuffers. The big gift is Jesus. The smaller gifts are also a sign of his great love and generosity towards us. And they are the icing on our spiritual cake.
“Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” James 1:17 (The Message)
How about the gift of work? If you have a good paying job, a career that you love, and lots of stuff, that is nothing but a pleasurable stocking stuffer from the Lord. His provision for us usually comes in the form of labor that helps us survive.
“That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 3:13 (New International Version)

“Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19 (New International Version)
How about the gift of the comforter? Jesus called the Holy Spirit the comforter. And the gifts that the Spirit brings with Him are amazing.
“Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38 (New International Version)

And the Holy Spirit continues the Yuletide tradition by putting his own gifts into your stocking. There was an old story about getting a lump of coal in their stocking if a person was bad. We have all been bad, but the stocking is always full of goodies for us to play with.
“And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues.” 1 Corinthians 12:28 (New King James Version)
How about wisdom? Ever need direction or guidance in your life? Those are also gifts we can find in our Christmas stocking if we need them. If you lack in those areas then maybe you didn’t put it on your Christmas list.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5 (New International Version)

So if you find that you were Scrooged this year, maybe it is time to do a personal inventory of your spiritual condition. God fills all the stockings of His children with yummy spiritual stuff. But like Santa, He knows who has been naughty or nice. He is making a list and checking it twice. Hit your knees, and ask. Maybe you will find that this will be your best Christmas ever!

“So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:11 (New Living Translation)

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Heroe or Creampuff Weenie?

Heroes still exist! And though they are few in number, they walk among us and sometimes sit right next to us in church. There are men who find that they must face overwhelming adversity with courage and determination in order to show both the spiritual and earthly realms that, though they might look just like any other man there is something different about them. Such are the amazing soldiers of World War II who took a stand at Bastogne, Belgium. If you haven’t seen “Band of Brothers”, rent or buy it today. There is no better way to show what I’m talking about than by watching that series. Here is a sneak peek from the ten part show. During Hitler’s last offensive push of the war named “The Battle of the Bulge”, the true warriors had to make a stand and dig in. Watch the clip below and focus more on the spirit of valor and perseverance than on a couple of cuss words you might hear.

There are days approaching when you are going to have to make a resolute stand. Yes, YOU! Maybe those days are already here and you find yourself in the trial of an enemy bombardment. Maybe you are at ease. But either way God has plans for you to show what you are really “all about” regardless of the religious diatribes or holy pontifications that tend to proceed out of our mouths. The kingdom of heaven is not in word, but in power. And talk is cheap.

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3 (NIV)
The trying of your faith is more precious than gold, and there is no better way to show the type of faith that pleases your God than to face adversity with might and bravery. The kingdom of darkness has lost the war and yet still they push with a powerful offensive until their total and complete demise.

“Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Revelation 12:12 (NKJV)
There is a reason why so many of your Christian brothers are falling by the wayside, and living powerless and ineffective lives: they haven’t done all.

“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13 (NIV)

Are you doing everything? We are told to pray without ceasing. How’s your prayer life? Is it sparse, weak and wimpy? Or are you firing back at the enemy daily with effectual fervent prayers? Are you clean from sin? Or have you let the enemy march right in and steal your victory? Do people see a warrior when they look at you? Or do they see a spiritual creampuff weenie? Would your neighbors and coworkers even know that you are a Christian? Are you the one to call when Satan’s Panzers roll in?

“But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 (NIV)

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NIV)

The war is almost over and your reward is at hand from our great general Jesus. But until then, we are to dig in and not be moved. We are to suffer with joy because that is what Jesus did. We are to crucify our fleshly desires because they weaken and distract us. We are to hold the line and not fall back. WE are the front line of defense. WE are the victors through the cross. WE are the warriors! And there is one more stand which is mentioned in the Bible.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life:” Revelation 20:12 (KJV)

God believes in you! He loves you, strengthens you, and will give you everything you need to live triumphantly in authority, beauty, and holiness until the war is over. Dig in deep and stand strong! You are not alone. You have great men in the trenches with you.