A Shepherd’s Night

I am going to give a short prelude to this Sunday’s sermon with this blog. I realized something as I was reading the story of the birth of Christ in Luke 2. A thought hit me as I was reading Luke 2:8. It is not a normal thought from this passage – which is pretty much the norm for me as I read Scripture. I often see things that I wonder why I saw them, but some times they really help others experience the love of Christ in their lives. I hope this is one of those thoughts.

What were these shepherds doing? They were shepherding. They were just out in the field watching the sheep. It was not Christmas – there was no such thing. They were just doing regular stuff on a regular night living their regular lives. That is when I realized this, “God does remarkable things in the lives of regular people living regular days.”

Maybe you already knew that, but I think we forget that way too much. Often in our spiritual lives we want God to only do the extraordinary. We get busy looking for something big and awesome for us to do for God and fail to realize that the coolest stuff he does is most often in the midst of common life.

God revealed himself to this shepherds in a remarkable way but they had done nothing to deserve that. They had not worked up a plan for the mighty work of God. It is impossible for man to plan the revealing of the glory of God all we can do is participate in it when he moves. Sure we can pray for it. We can work toward the things we know he has called us to do. We can be obedient in our regular lives expecting God to do remarkable things. He will, however, not move because we say so. He moves because he already said he would. He is at work in the lives of men.

See that is the good news of great joy. There has been born to us a Savior that is Christ the Lord. The Chosen One of God has come in the flesh. Literally the Immanuel – God with us – is who Jesus is. He is doing the remarkable around us everyday. It is remarkable every time one life is redeemed. It is remarkable every time one of his followers responds to his grace. It is remarkable every time the people of God raise their hands and declare the worth of God even though those hands raised and those lips that move are not worthy of such action.

It is indeed remarkable that every regular day in our regular lives people like you and me have the great privilege of living redeemed. So don’t just live a regular life, live a redeemed life, but realize that the Redeemer will do the remarkable in the midst of the regular if you live constantly ready to respond to His work.

Allow God to do the remarkable through you by living redeemed in the midst of the regular.

What makes a gift great?

What is the greatest gift you’ve ever received? Don’t go Sunday School on me and say, “Jesus.” I realize he is the greatest gift but let’s be real about gifts we receive on earth for a moment. I would love to hear from you on this. Email me or facebook it. What is the best gift?
Then answer this question, “why?” Why that gift? What made it great?

Some gifts are great because of who gave them to you. Other gifts are great because of their actual value. Other gifts are great because of when you got them. Gifts can be great because of the personal meaning behind them. You can love a gift because the person that gave it to you put so much thought into it and knew exactly what you wanted with out asking. Maybe you love a certain gift because of the impact it has had on your life.

Gifts can be great for many reasons. There are only a couple of common threads among great gifts. The first is that you accepted it. A gift not received is not a great gift, it is just a great thought. The second thing is that someone gave it to you. Gifts are never purchased nor borrowed. They are given.

God has given you some gifts. Have you accepted them? They are great gifts if you will stop and see the value of them. If you will allow yourself the time to stop and reflect and consider what it means that God has uniquely gifted you for his purposes, it will make a difference in how you view that gift.

The first gift that we receive from God is faith itself. Then there are many others that follow. One that all Christ-followers have in common is spiritual gifts. We also all have our natural gifts or talents. The problem with these gifts is that many people never accept the gift. They never unwrap and put to use what God has given them and in so doing they miss out on so much of what life as a follower of Christ is about.

Do you understand the value that God has given you in being a part of His Body, the Church? There is great value in what God has gifted you to do. The issue is will you accept those as gifts and then give them away for the benefit of others. Will you allow yourself to become the gift that God uses to bless someone else?

Do you see those gifts as valuable? God did.

P.S. My greatest gift is difficult. My dirt bike when I was a kid. A mountain bike from my wife. My uncle’s entire theological library when he died. They are all great but for different reasons. But honestly the greatest gift anyone ever gave me was when my wife gave me her True Love Waits Ring on our wedding day. The ring symbolized a promise kept as a new promise began. It is a gift that is unique and priceless.

The Way of the Manger

Since I became a father, Christmastime always causes me to consider fatherhood as I think about the actions of God the Father. Those thoughts are mixed this year with some encouraging words I heard recently. I received a great compliment from several people recently. The compliment was that they saw me as a great dad. They had observed my love for my children and how I act towards them in such a way they felt led to tell me about it.

That compliment humbles me. I do truly love being a dad. It is pure joy for me. Honestly there are certain things that are no fun. Changing diapers always stinks – practically, figuratively, and financially. But in the midst of all the things you have to do, it is the things that I get to do as a parent that make it fun. Just today as my 3 kids sat and ate breakfast with me I sat there and thought about how beautiful they are and how much they bless my life. (It helps that all 3 were eating what I cooked without complaining.)

This has caused me to think about God the Father at Christmas. I am excited about Christmas. I get to bless my kids and others with gifts. It is always fun for me. What about Christmas for God? Was it fun for him? God the Father sent his one and only son from that place which is perfect to where everything is imperfect. He sent his son from the Holy, orderly, and peaceful world of Heaven to the unholy, chaotic, and fractured world of Earth. He sent his son to this world knowing that he would suffer all the pain and hurt it causes. He knew that Jesus would not become like the world ye he knew all about the world he would live in. God the Father also knew that the sole purpose of his birth was the same purpose of his death, yet he sent him anyway.

God sent his son into this world, not because he did not love him, but because he loved him enough to send him into the world to fulfill his purpose – to be the Savior of the World. He sent Jesus into a world that was not like him and would not like him so that we might become like him. We have now been lavished with God’s love so much that we have been given the title Children of God. (John 3)

As parents and people we must make many tough choices in this world. Choices we make are often about living in the protected environment of “Christiandom” or venturing out into the world at large. I hope during this Christmas season you will stop and consider the loving act of the Father in sending his son into harm’s way. As parents we must make choices about when and how our children will live in the world around them. I have learned from Daniel that he wants to be in the world and not of it. He desires (even as a 6 year old) for the world to see how much he loves God. If I do not allow the risk of the hurt the world could cause, I will prevent him from fulfilling God’s purpose for his life. I need great wisdom as a father.

I believe we learn this by doing ourselves. We, too, have been sent into a world that is not like us and does not like us. The truth is that God with us is still with us because he lives in us. This Christmas will you take that gift where it is needed? Will you take Jesus to the people who need him?

There is risk in this mission, but is that not truly the Way of the Manger?