Saturday, December 27, 2014

Elephants and Angels

Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word.

-- Psalm 103:20

There's an old story about three blindfolded men who were asked to touch and identify an undisclosed object. And that object happened to be live African elephant...but no one told them!

The first man touched the elephant's Elephantmuscular trunk. The second man grasped the elephant's boney tale. And the third man--moving his hands across the beast's rugged hide--marveled at its rough exterior. Needless to say, their impressions about the mysterious object were way off the mark. A 10,000-pound elephant was right in front of them. But they failed to see the big picture.

Many people these days also miss the big picture when it comes to spiritual matters. And that's even true for some long-time Christ-followers. So to correct this common vision problem, God has throughout history communicated His message through prophets, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and of course His Son, Jesus.

God also uses angels to spread the word. These are His special messengers that can appear to you and me, remain invisible or communicate to us in dreams. The Bible actually advises us to be hospitable at all times because we might be entertaining angels without even knowing it. What a get-together that would be!

But God's messages through angels are more than the stuff of cocktail party conversation; His are words that change history. In the Book of Matthew, angels revealed to Mary that she would soon give birth to the Savior of mankind. The angels confirmed to Joseph (Mary's fiancé) that the Holy Spirit was indeed the source of her pregnancy. And angels celebrated the Good News of Jesus' birth to the shepherds, who had seen the brilliant guiding star as it hovered over the manger in Bethlehem.

It's through revelation, confirmation and celebration that God heals spiritual blindness--and not just 2,000 years ago in an obscure village somewhere in the Middle East. As 2015 approaches, His big picture message continues to unfold to the world, and often through Christ-followers like you and me.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Running on Empty

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

-- Matthew 11:28-30
We can learn a lot about ourselves by watching television. But not from the evening news, situation comedies or even historical documentaries. How about tuning in to Animal Planet?

Animal Planet's camera crews often find themselves in Africa filming lions and cheetahs stalking their next meal. And gazelles or some other cute animal are on the big cats' menu. Invariably, the gazelles gather by a muddy watering hole in search of refreshment as a hungry feline sneaks up from behind. But at the slightest rustle of Runnersgrass, the gazelles bound off to save themselves from certain death. It seems like they can never settle down and find peace.

Like the gazelles, we too can run into difficulty with finding places of refuge. And we also don't know who to trust. It's a jungle out there, with predators behind every tree and bush. Translated into the human experience, we all to some extent have trouble forming relationships with each other and with our Creator. The reason is one of the oldest in history. It's called sin.

If you go way back to Genesis--the first book of the Bible--God placed the first man and woman in a perfect, care-free existence called Eden. There were no job deadlines, traffic jams, illnesses or broken marriages. It was a place where God literally walked with His creation. But when the man and woman intentionally disobeyed God's instructions and sinned, things were never the same. Adam and Eve's eyes were opened and they realized the damage they had done. And then they literally hid from their Creator. Their sin had built a wall between them and God.

We're no different today. In addition to our own sins, we also evade relationships with others because of what they've done to us. We're determined to avoid being disappointed or hurt again. It's too easy to be let down, and it's even easier to run. However, the problem with this perspective is that God made us to be in relationship with Him and with others. So when we run, we shortchange our potential.

The Good News is that God has a two-fold solution to the problem. First, He re-established a relationship between Him and us through His Son, Jesus. As Christ-followers, we're literally God's sons and daughters--and with an incredible inheritance awaiting us. Second, there's the Church, which is the entire body of Believers from across the globe. It's a group of imperfect people just like you and me who are all looking for the same thing: a safe place to rest from the world, heal our spiritual wounds and catch our breath.

Are you tired of running? Then come on inside and accept Jesus' offer of rest for the weary. There's plenty of room here at the inn.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014


Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

-- John 14:6

Have you already had your fill of the holidays? The decorations went up in many stores before Halloween and the songs have been on the radio for weeks. So now that Christmas is actually just a few days away, it's a good time to consider what--or really Who--we will celebrate on December 25.
It comes down to the radical notion Partythat God loves His people so much that He sent His only Son to personally pay for the mess we've all made of our lives and a once unspoiled creation. With this immense price now cleared from our individual accounts, every Believer, through faith in Jesus, is free to serve as His hands and feet throughout the community and even the world. It's a universal body of Christ-followers sent to testify that it's nothing less than The Church on the Move.

So how has the church done on this mission over the last 2,000 years? The story goes that a missionary once asked Mahatma Gandhi--the pacifist Hindu leader called The Father of India--why he so often quoted Jesus but refused to become His follower.

"Oh, I don't reject your Christ. I love your Christ," replied Gandhi. "It's just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ."

Yes, we Christ-followers find ourselves in a predicament...and in the cross-hairs for criticism. Relativism rules America these days, and what's obviously right or wrong is no longer considered so black or white. Popular culture vilifies those who believe in Jesus and His teachings. And those who dare to point out our nation's retreat from God are called bigots and hate-merchants.

The world really is upside down. For many celebrities, musicians and sports stars, breaking the law or embracing immorality is just a career move. But if a Christ-follower--real or in name only--slips up and does something wrong, the word hypocrite soon appears on social media.

It should come as no surprise. After all, Christ-followers indeed hold some narrow and politically incorrect beliefs. One is that Jesus is the only way to God. Ultimately, the world's false philosophies and religions fall far short of His standards. And it's Good News that the world can't tolerate.

"Woe to those who call evil good and good evil," responds God, "who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

As we look forward to marking Jesus' birth on December 25, let's all strive to be salt and light for a world that's in dire need of guidance, truth and character. So many are watching us, and they're understandably skeptical. May it be that every Christ-follower celebrates The One through changed lives revealing love in action! 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Walking in Our Shoes

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

-- Luke 2:12

If you have a teenager, he or she has no doubt reminded you that you just don't understand.

As a humble parent, you're told that you're hopelessly out of touch when it comes to clothes, school, curfews and a hundred other things. But of course, you know a lot more than you're given credit for. You were also once Footprintsa teenager. And you probably said many of the same things to your own parents.

So, maybe you really do understand after all. At least a little bit.

With this in mind, do you ever wonder if God really understands all of the problems and trials you face every day? The familiar Christmas story in Luke's Gospel holds the answer. It's there that we read about Jesus coming into this world in the poorest of circumstances, with a manger--an animal's feeding trough--as His first bed.

But did it have to be that way? As the King's son, Jesus could have lived in marble palaces while enjoying only the finer things in life. And God could have commanded the people to worship and obey Him.

But it wouldn't have been the same. As our loving Father, God gives us free will and won't force anyone to accept His free gift of forgiveness and salvation. And since He knew from the beginning that men and women were without hope because of the way they lived their lives, God came to earth in the form of a man to live the perfect life. But not just any man: He came to live among us through Jesus Christ. Fully God and fully human, He walked in our shoes.

Jesus was born into poverty. And throughout His ministry, the religious elite despised Him and cursed Him, even though He was the Son of God. Soon, He would die in a most painful and unjust way--nailed to a cross between common criminals.

The circle of humility was complete. But by coming to earth, experiencing mankind's struggles and then suffering for all of us, God lived out the human experience and got to know each of us just a little bit better.

It was the only way He could really understand.