Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

How do you put Christ at the CENTER of Christmas? How do you keep Jesus the REASON for the season?

We love to decorate our house for Christmas. Inside & out, it’s completely transformed. Sometimes I swear we need a PODS storage unit just to hold all of our Christmas stuff.

  • Inside = snowmen, garland with lights, trees, animated fiber-optic Christmas village, etc.
  • Outside = Entire yard covered in lights. Featuress Icicle motion lights, Twinkle lights on trees, inflatables, Snowflakes, Candy Canes, etc. We even have Santa pulling reindeer skiers on a lake of lights, It is an all-LED display that we spend a couple weeks on.

Our display is so crazy, we even had to add extra outlets just to make sure we had enough ‘juice’ to power our yard. It just may be one of the FEW SITES VISIBLE from OUTER SPACE.

Well, a couple years ago, a storm came through town and the rain tripped all the breakers except one.

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Sometimes, God has a way of reminding us of what’s most important. In the light of the illuminated Nativity, we made two observations:

  1. We couldn’t believe how BRIGHT it was when NOTHING ELSE was lit.
  2. We couldn’t believe how much it STOOD OUT when we removed all the CLUTTER.

Now, we actually rig up our lights differently. Today, each dimmer is timed to turn off so that eventually, each night, only the nativity is lit two hours longer than the rest.

One of my favorite verses of the Christmas story, is when the angel appeared to Joseph and said:

Matthew 1:21 (NIV) She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

This is a simple reminder not only that Jesus came into the world, but that he gave his life for our sins. That is the reason for the season.

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One of my favorite Christmas films of all time is “A Christmas Story”. You know the one I’m talking about, with Ralphie & his Red Rider BB Gun. Apparently, I’m not alone. According to the web, it has been ranked as the 3rd most-watched Christmas film of all-time, and has been seen by millions of people around the world.

This past week, I learned that a man in Cleveland bought the house the movie was filmed in, and had it completely restored to it’s original appearance in the film. He also turned it into a museum, complete with several props used in the movie. But that’s not all…each year, a person can  bid on a 2 night stay in the house on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day.

Package (4 people) included:

  • Two night stay in the Christmas Story House
  • Bunny suits for your entire group
  • Secret Santa Decoder pens
  • A keepsake leglamp delivered in it’s trademark FRAGILE crate.
  • And a picture of you holding the Red Rider BB gun prop used in the film.

Interesting, huh? What was most interesting to me was that this year, the winning bid closed out at $8,700!!–and that did NOT include the airfare to/from Cleveland.

Some people will literally go to great lengths to insert themselves into the Christmas Story.

But God went to great lengths to insert himself into OUR STORY.

Over 1000 years before Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah foretold:

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. (which means “GOD WITH US”)

God would fulfill his long-held promise to live with us when Jesus was born.  But Jesus was born with a PURPOSE…

John 3:16,17 (NIV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son. That whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.  For God did not send his son to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

This season, we remember not only HOW he came, but WHY he came. That is the real story of Christmas.

The film that everyone is talking about this weekend is the new STAR WARS movie: “The Force Awakens.” The hype around this movie has been unprecedented. I’m sure you’ve noticed this in your Christmas shopping—there’s seemingly a STAR WARS everything! From toilet paper to toothpaste, it’s an all-out marketing blitz. On facebook, many of our self respecting adult friends probably have their profile pics featuring a costume or a lightsaber. Even the AZ Dept. of Transportation has joined the hype through their creative signs posted all over the Valley.  The movie has easily eclipsed the biggest opening weekend of any movie in history, topping $100million dollars in the US alone.

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Yet over 2000 years ago, the most significant event in human history took place without hardly any fanfare.

In fact, the prophet Isaiah foretold…

Isaiah 7:14 (NIV) Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 

The Bible tells us that on that night Jesus was born, the town of Bethlehem was packed with people. Because of the census, the town swelled with 5x it’s normal population. The streets were crowded with people hustling about. While just outside the city, in a quiet manger–Jesus, the Savior of the world was born.

Isaiah 53:5,6 (NIV) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Yet on that night in Bethlehem, no one realized that an event with ETERNAL IMPLICATIONS was taking place. No one stopped. No one paid attention. They were AROUND this great story of God unfolding at their doorstep, but they were caught UNAWARE. They missed Christmas.

I wonder sometimes if we don’t suffer the same tendency. Amidst our the hustling about, if we’re not careful, we’ll MISS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EVENT in human history.

Our hope is that through Christmas, we will AWAKEN to God’s redemptive story being played out through his son Jesus Christ.  May we become AWARE of the love and forgiveness we experience through his sacrifice for us on the cross. And may the hope offered through Jesus allow us to COME ALIVE in the way that we live, serve, and give.

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This post needs no commentary. I only pray that you’ll allow this truth to change your eternal zip code…

From Max Lucado’s book, He Chose the Nails:

“Through the eyes of Scripture we see what others missed, but what Jesus saw. Colossians 2:24 NLT says, “He cancelled the record that contained the charges against us. He took it and destroyed it by nailing it to Christ’s cross.”

Between his hand and the wood there was a list. A long list. A list of our mistakes: our lusts and lies and greedy moments and prodigal years. A list of our sins.

Dangling from the cross is an itemized catalog of your sins. The bad decisions from last year. The bad attitudes from last week. There, in broad daylight for all of heaven to see, is a list of your mistakes. … He has penned a list of our faults. The list God made, however cannot be read. The words can’t be deciphered. The mistakes are covered. The sins are hidden. Those at the top are hidden by his hand; those down the list are covered by his blood. Your sins are ‘cancelled’.

This is why he refused to close his fist. He saw the list! What kept him from resisting? This warrant, this tabulation of your failures. He knew the price of those sins was death. He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without you, he chose the nails.

The hand squeezing the handle was not a Roman infantryman.

The force behind the hammer was not an angry mob.

The verdict behind the death sentence was not decided by jealous Jews.

Jesus himself chose the nails.

So the hands of Jesus opened up. Had the soldier hesitated, Jesus himself would’ve swung the mallet. He knew how; he was no stranger to the driving of nails. As a carpenter he knew what it took. As a Savior, he knew what it meant. He knew the purpose of the nail was to place your sins where they would be hidden by his sacrifice and covered by his blood. So, Jesus himself swung the hammer.

On Easter, remember:

The same hand that calmed the seas, calms your guilt.

The same hand that cleansed the Temple, cleanses your Heart.

This is the hand of God

And as the hands of Jesus opened for the nail, the doors of heaven opened for you.”

Chilean mining disaster

On Thursday, August 5th 2010, 33 miners at the San Jose mine in Chile became trapped under several tons of rubble when the mine caved in. They were over 2000 feet beneath the surface.

Initially, the outlook wasn’t good. Even if they had lived through the collapse, they would most likely starve to death before being found.  So bleak were the circumstances, that when other miners heard about their plight, they came to the site and hammered 33 crosses into the ground, fearing the mine had become their tomb.  (after all, they 8 people had died in the mine years prior to this accident)

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On the slim chance that they could locate the miners, crews drilled 9 holes into the ground in hopes of finding any evidence of their survival.  Miraculously, 17 days later, one of the drill bits hit a hollow spot deep below the earth where the miners had gathered. As the tiny drill bit retracted from the chasm, attached was the message “We’re great down here in the refuge—the 33”.

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What ensued was one of the largest search and rescue operations in world history.  Chile would enlist the help and expertise from countries around the world. They would combine their resources. They would coordinate their efforts. Their plan was radical: drill down to them and build an escape capsule large enough to hoist them out. NASA would design the capsule. The process took over two months.  It cost tens of millions of dollars.

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But finally, 69 days later, with 1700 journalists from 39 countries assembled,  all 33 of them were pulled to safety one by one.  And when they reached the surface, who do you think was more excited?  The ones who had found life again?  Or the rescuers who had given it to them?  The answer is: BOTH of THEM!

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This remains the single most-watched event in human history, captivating a worldwide viewing audience of over 1 billion people. Why?

Because the world loves a great rescue story!

John 3:16 reminds us, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him, shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

What’s your response?  Have you “staked a cross in the ground” and given up on reaching your lost friends & neighbors? Is it easier to “stay on the surface”?

Let’s be a part of God’s great rescue.

What will it take?  The largest coordinated effort in history.

What if EACH ONE REACHED ONE?

This was Jesus’ plan.  He started with a FEW and he’s counting on YOU.

Eternity is worth the effort!

This story has changed my life. I hope it changes yours!

“The Room” by Joshua Harris

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one wall covered with small index-card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read “Girls I Have Liked.” I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was. This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match.

A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching. A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have Betrayed.”

The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird. “Books I Have Read,” “Lies I Have Told,” “Comfort I Have Given,” “Jokes I Have Laughed At.” Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger,” “Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.” I never ceased to be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my 20 years to write each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To,” I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts,” I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh. And then I saw it. The title bore “People I Have Shared the Gospel With.” The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key.

But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him. No, please not Him. Not here. Oh, anyone but Jesus.

I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn’t bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own. He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one?

Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn’t anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn’t say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card.

“No!” I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was “No, no,” as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn’t be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood.

He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don’t think I’ll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side. He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, “It is finished.”

I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

 

 

The King Has One More Move!

Two men stand staring in front of a painting in an art gallery.  In the painting, a man is playing chess with the devil. The devil is grinning ear-to-ear because he has the man cornered. The title of the painting, “Checkmate,” indicates that the game is over. The devil has won. His opponent has failed. He has no more moves.

The first man looking at the painting wants to move on to view other paintings in the gallery. But the second man, an international chess champion, wants to look at the painting longer, so he waves his friend on and tells him he will catch up later. The chess champion stares and stares at the chess board, then suddenly he steps back, flabbergasted. “It’s wrong!” he exclaims. “There’s one more move.” He runs to his friend and together they look at the painting. “We have to contact the painter,” the chess champion says. “It’s not checkmate. The King has one more move!”

Throughout the Bible, this game has been played:  The Israelites found momentary freedom only to face the formidable Red Sea with Pharoah and his armies in hot pursuit.  The King had one more move!  Daniel was lowered into den full of hungry lions for defying a tyrant and standing up for his faith.  The King had one more move!  A 9 ft. tall fighting champion named Goliath called for a winner-take-all, one-on-one fight to settle the war. A little shepherd boy took him on. The King had one more move!  Jesus was tortured, crucified, and buried for 3 days. But the King had one more move!

Ever feel like life has you beat?

The King has One more Move!

Ever feel like Satan has you trapped?

The King has One more Move!

Ever feel like a failure? Like you’re out of options? Like you’ve lost hope?

Jesus, the King has One more Move!

Tell me your story!  How has the King moved in your life?

 

[picture is probably that of Friedrich Moritz August  Retzsch on Goethe’s Faust (above); Louvre Museum in Paris, France;  story has been told by numerous speakers, the oldest reference I could find is from Billy Graham in 1955. More recently, Bishop Ken Ulmer]