Monday, December 22, 2014

Where Would We Be Without Christmas?

Where would we be without Christmas?

This question was posed at church this weekend.  At Easter we emphasize the empty tomb but at Christmas the manger must be filled.  Both locations are vitally important.  Together they encompass the gospel - Jesus put on flesh, lived a sinless life, died for our sins and rose from the dead.  He qualified Himself to be our Redeemer by becoming man and He defeated death by raising from the grave. Both the filled manger and the empty grave are essential truths upon which our faith is built.

So here is my latest observation - we really do live in a world void of God. Oh, I know He's here and the only reason we can take the next breath is because He is alive and ever present.  But we live in a world that ignores God.  Ignore isn't even the right word - the world is filled with people who live without a second thought toward God.  Their lives are completely void of an awareness of God's presence, His deity, His will, His holiness, His activity, His precepts, His way and His hand.

Maybe this sounds obvious, but for some reason it's really hit me hard this past week.  I might just be a bit slow, but let me show you what I mean:
  • When's the last time you watched a sitcom that mentioned Jesus that wasn't in the context of swearing?
  • What about music?  How much secular music has no hint of God's presence or even a mention of His majesty?
  • Movies, books, magazines, websites - all filled with stories and information but no mention of the Creator or His goodness
  • Weathermen surely don't credit or thank God and news reporters don't mention Him, as well
  • Politicians make laws and policies without considering God and His law
  • Detective shows and mysteries only throw in religion to add to the mental instability of the suspect
Seriously, day after day after day people eat, drink, work, converse, think, decide, travel, create and cry without thinking about God.  This is such a strange truth for a believer because our first waking thought is of Jesus and the last words in our head are prayers of thanksgiving.  We meditate on scripture, talk about sermons, think "what would Jesus do?", listen to worship music and cry our troubles out to our Savior on a daily basis.  But life around us is operating completely void of God.

In essence, the world's manger is empty.

They don't understand the gospel and they don't see God when they look in the manger.  They don't see how that baby has anything to do with them and they aren't even sure it's a true story.  And they don't really even give it a thought, to be completely honest.

So this is bad enough, right?  But lately I've been noticing how many believers live as if the manger was empty as well.  We aren't thinking of Jesus when we awaken, we aren't spending any time in the Word, we can't remember what the pastor preached on the day before, we never consider what Jesus would do, we pride ourselves on knowing the top 40 and we worry about anything and everything - going to Jesus is a last resort because we're not sure He's really paying attention or cares anyway.

So now it's Christmas week.  We have a choice to make.  We can live as if the manger is empty and let this week fly by without even as much as a nod in the baby's direction, or we can celebrate the life that has been purchased for us because of the filled manger.  It's never too late to change our focus and start living the transformed life that Jesus paid for - like the Christmas gifts that sit under the tree, will we simply look at the beautiful wrapping or will we open and use them?

Remember, friends - we do what we do and we feel how we feel because we think what we think.  Let's set our minds on the manger this week and each of us answer the question - where would we be without Christmas? Pondering the answer can be life-changing.

Monday, December 1, 2014

It's a Mind Issue

"For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh CANNOT please God."
Romans 8:5-8

What occupies your mind?

It's as simple as that.  Your actions and your feelings are controlled by your mind, so what is on your mind?

In Philippians 2:12, Paul urges the church to work out their salvation with fear and trembling.  He is not telling you to save yourself, but he is telling you not to take your salvation for granted.  I have had many ask me, how do I know if I am truly saved? That "fear and trembling" thing is pretty sobering, isn't it?

Well, according to our verses above, if we are in the Spirit, our mind will be set on the things of the Spirit.  That's a great test.  During the day in your mind are you worrying about life, arguing with your spouse, fuming about your children, complaining about your boss, longing for what you don't have, imagining what you shouldn't, cussing out rude drivers or stressing about the holidays?  

Or are you meditating on scripture, asking the Lord how you can please and serve Him today, longing for heaven and confessing your sin?  Are you choosing to forgive, laying down your rights for others, seeking out ways to show Christ to your children and discussing how to apply what you learned at church to your daily walk?

Can you see the difference in the mindsets of these two examples?

It is a dangerous place to be "according to the Spirit" but setting your "mind on the flesh."  Is that even possible?  According to our passage above, the mind set on the flesh is death, hostile to God, unwilling and unable to submit to God's commands and unable to please God.  Is that the picture of someone who has traded places with Jesus and received His gift of eternal life?

So as we head into December, this is a great time to check our minds.  With all the holiday lights, music and craziness surrounding us, let us choose to set our minds on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth.  For we have died with Christ and now our lives are hidden with Christ in God - it is not us who live, but Christ who lives in us.  If we truly believe this, then what should we be thinking about and how will our thoughts change our actions and feelings?