Monday, December 19, 2011

Tis’ the Season for Fear!

We don't normally associate fear with Christmas.  But, as you read the Christmas story you will see that almost every participant in the birth of Christ experienced fear, uncertainty, or danger.  And, many times they were told to not be afraid.

Here are some examples, in chronological order:
Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him.  But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.”  Luke 1:12-13

But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God.”  Luke 1:30

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”  Matthew 1:20

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;”  Luke 2:8-10

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled and all Jerusalem.  Matthew 2:3

And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.  Matthew 2:12

Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.”  Matthew 2:13

But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”  Matthew 2:22-23

We’ve taken the FEAR out of Christmas.  After all, the birth of the Christ was an amazing event that was both wonderful and fearful.  We should, on one hand, remember the terrifying sight of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth.  And, we should not forget the murderous rage of Herod. 

On the other hand, we should “not be afraid” as we trust God and marvel at His awesome plan to bring salvation to earth through the birth of His Son.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What if Joseph played for the Denver Broncos?

During the past few weeks I've read many articles about Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos.  It seems like people all over the country have an opinion regarding the cause of the Bronco's success.  Success being defined as winning seven of their last eight games.

Some people believe the offensive line or the defense should receive credit.  Some people believe the changes made by the coach are the reason for the improvements.  A few people have said that they think God is on Tim Tebow's side. 

Wayne Hanson, identified as "a pastor at a Colorado church with ties to the Tebow family"* went as far as to say that God is the source of the victories.  According to Hanson, "God has blessed his hard work."  The pastor believes Tebow is winning games because God is blessing him for being a strong believer.

In many articles and reader comments I have seen people express a wide variety of reasons for the recent success of the Denver Broncos.  With all this discussion I find it curious that no one has mentioned Joseph.

That's right, Joseph.  If you are looking in the Bible for some indication that God is involved in our daily work efforts, you need to look no further than Joseph.  You do remember Joseph, right?  Young boy, colorful coat, envious brothers…And, an unexpected trip to Egypt.  Yep, that Joseph.

Here is the passage that talks about Joseph, and God's blessing in his life:
The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man.  And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian.  Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.  So, Joseph found favor in his sight and became his personal servant; and he made him quarterback over his house, and all that he owned he put in his charge.  It came about that from the time he made him quarterback in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptians's house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD's blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.  (Genesis 39:2-5)

That's right, you read it with your own eyes.  The LORD blessed the Egyptian's household “on account of Joseph.”  Sometimes God's grace-blessings are so great that they extend beyond one person of faith to include an entire household, business, perhaps even city or nation.  In this case, God chose to bless not only Joseph, but his Egyptian master and his entire household and fields.

So, are the Broncos winning because God is making it happen?  How about we change the question a little.  Are the Broncos winning because God is grace-blessing many through the faith of one man?  I think there is evidence this happened in Joseph's life.  So, maybe the real question is, "What would happen if Joseph played for the Denver Broncos?"

Scripture taken from The New American Standard Bible, except I changed “overseer” to “quarterback.”

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Acknowledging God’s Good Gifts

On Father’s Day it’s a new tie.  On Valentine’s Day it’s a box of chocolate.  And, on Christmas it’s a Lifesavers Hard Candy Sweet Storybook.  These are the gifts you receive, but they might not be the perfect gift.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. (James 1:17, NASB)

Without using the exact word, this verse gives us the essence of being thankful.  The Greek words that are translated “thankful,” “thankfulness,” and “thanksgiving” are derived from a compound word consisting of “well” and “grace.”  When we say that we are thankful for a gift, we are acknowledging the appropriateness of that gift.

God’s grace gifts to us are always the exactly right gift, at the right time, given for the right reason.

When we receive a tie or a box of candy we say “thank you” because we appreciate the act of giving.  When we say “thank you” to God we are also saying, “This is the perfect gift and your timing is perfect.”

Beyond just expressing our thanks for God’s gifts, we need to acknowledge that they are good gifts.  Here are a few verses from the New Testament that teach us to be grateful to God.  For the purpose of illustration, I’ve added a phrase whenever we are told to be thankful.  There is no intention to diminish being thankful.  Rather, I hope to show you the power of continually acknowledging that God’s gifts are always perfect.

Ephesians 5:20
Always giving thanks (acknowledging the goodness of God’s gifts) for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.

Colossians 3:17
Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks (acknowledging the goodness of God’s gifts) through Him to God the Father.

1Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks (acknowledge the goodness of God’s gifts); for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 2:6-7
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude (acknowledgement of the goodness of God’s gifts).