Monday, December 26, 2011

Mary Didn't Keep Him to Herself

Joel Pankow shared an illustration recently that seemed so appropriate for the Christmas season. Because it inspired me I wanted to summarize his words hoping it would do the same for you. Whenever a farmer in western Kansas buys a new truck a combine or something, he is hesitant to bring it out or tell anyone about it. I’m not quite sure why that is - but I think a part of it is he doesn’t want the other farmers to get jealous over his purchase and certainly doesn’t want to come off as being arrogant…. However, Pankow says, if God has blessed you with the ability to get a new truck why can’t you let people see your gift from God? He then compares this example to the birth of Jesus. Mary realized there was no way she could keep this gift hidden in a garage - that it wasn’t just for her - but for the world. She had to admit she had been given a wonderful gift. Soon after she gave birth, she realized what a PUBLIC thing this really was. The Shepherds came first and then they told others about it. So multitudes came and saw the baby. Here she and Joseph had all these strangers coming in and visiting the manger on the same night as the birth. Some months later the Wise Men came also. But she didn’t say, “Come back tomorrow - I just gave birth for crying out loud or I don’t like having strangers in my house.” No, she knew that all generations would know about this event and needed to experience him. Mary refused to keep Him to herself and so should we. More than ever, during the Christmas season we need to play the role of those who witnessed his birth and go tell everyone we see. Release the gift. Don’t just keep Him to yourself!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

"The Ultimate Gift"

One of the things my wife and I enjoy doing during this time of the year is watching Christmas movies. A favorite of ours is “The Ultimate Gift.” While the film is not dedicated to this season alone it contains all the thematic material to make it apropos. If you haven’t seen it as yet I would strongly encourage you to do so. And less I ruin it for you I will avoid giving the details of the story. However, in general the plot has to do with a Grandfather who prepares a will prior to his death. Eventually he dies and the time comes for his will to be read before all the family members. One by one they gather to hear about their part of the inheritance. Finally, the family lawyer turns and addresses the surviving grandson. He has been included in the will but various stipulations have been set forth that must be met before he can receive what has been willed to him. The wise grandfather realizes that unless his family member learns the importance of life in general no gift will be sufficient or satisfying. As the grandson completes each assignment given, he moves closer and closer to receiving the greatest gift of all. Is that not the story of Christmas? God sent the gift of His only Son that we might receive the “Ultimate Gift” of eternal life. We often forget that each test we experience and each trial we overcome moves us closer and closer to the greatest gift the Father desires to bestow upon us. Mary, Joseph, the Shepherds and the Wise men all learned this great lesson. They sacrificially gave of themselves, and completed their tasks but in the end realized the incredible worth of their obedience. They received “The Ultimate Gift.” May we do the same so we can receive the same, especially during this Christmas Season.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Building Memories

This is the time of the year when we focus upon building memories. When God sent His son to earth in the form of flesh, He etched into the mind of humanity a memory that has never been forgotten. That’s why thousands every year celebrate with Christmas plays, nativity scenes, and the giving of gifts to others. While we give attention to our family and friends let us not forget the greatest Giver. May we follow the example of Mary, who broke open the alabaster box of ointment in order to give the ultimate gift of worship to her Savior. Acts such as this are important because they build memorials for the future? In the words of Dr. Jerry Vines, “Jesus took what Mary did and He put it in ‘His memory box’. That’s not all God has in there! He has the two mites that widow gave at the Temple. His has that broken ointment bottle. He has the gold, frankincense and myrrh of the wise men. He has the worship of the shepherds. He has the testimonies of the Gaderene demoniac, the tenth leper, the man who was born blind, the man who lay at the Pool of Bethesda for 38 years, and many others. He has the faith of the dying thief, the Roman centurion, and Zacchaeus. He has the gratitude of the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus, the widow of Nain, and a myriad of others. He has all this and more in His memory box. He never forgets and they will all be rewarded for their love, their faith and their worship of the Lord Jesus Christ!” What an incredible thought it is to think that by certain acts or gifts we can leave the same indelible imprint upon the mind of God as He leaves on us, now that’s a great way to build memories!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Why not be Extravagant?

What do you think about when hearing the word “extravagant?” Most of the time we equate it with people who spend $250,000 on an automobile, two million dollars on a wedding, or someone who spends $10,000 for one night in a hotel room. These examples certainly fit the definition of the word which means spending excessively or wastefully beyond that which is reasonable. It is true that the term has negative connotations, especially in the spiritual sense when we see people take God given blessings and squander them on themselves. However, not all extravagance is bad. For instance during this time of year we emphasize the gift of God in the birth of His son, Jesus. Or during Easter we reflect upon Mary’s gift of “spikenard” poured out upon the Lord prior to his crucifixion. What greater demonstration is there than this? In these we see God and humanity giving their best. While we cannot repeat the act of Deity we can duplicate that which is offered in flesh and spirit by the anointing of our worship. Jesus is worthy of everything we can render to Him. No gift is excessive; no expression of love is over the top, and no form of worship should ever be considered too extravagant. Yet far too many times when it comes to God we mince words and contradict ourselves by our actions. Far too many of us are like the fellow who called his girlfriend up one day and said, “Darling, I love you! I would climb the highest mountain for you! I would swim the deepest river for you! I would fight a jungle full of lions for you! I love you! And, if it doesn’t rain tonight, I will be over to see you.” When you truly love Him nothing causes you to come short in your worship. You do your best and give your best; that’s being “extravagant.”