THE LION AND THE LAMB

It would be near impossible to think of two animals more unlike each other than a lion and a lamb. When we think of a lion we think of strength, conquering and the king of the jungle. When we think of a lamb we think of weakness, gentleness, and the constant need of someone to care for and protection. Can you even imagine trying to keep and lion and a lamb both in the same pasture? How long do you think the lamb would survive that set up?

Think about that combination for a moment in light of Revelation 5. In chapters four and five of Revelation John is caught up into heaven and first sees God the Father on the throne with the 24 elders surrounding him. His appearance was of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne. In the center around the throne were four living creatures who constantly were saying, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come.” The 24 elders fall down before him to worship him and lay their crowns before the throne and say: “you are worthy, our Lord and God to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will, they were created and have their being.”

In chapter five the scene changes. The one on the throne is holding a scroll written on both sides with seven seals. A mighty angel cries out “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll? But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside.” John wept and wept because no one could open it when one of the elders said to him, “Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals. Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth.” When he took the scroll they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth.”

So, both the Father and the Son were called worthy. But think of the picture that John paints for us of Jesus as he appears at the throne of the Father. If this is a picture of the ascension of Christ then it is certainly a picture of triumph. But focus on the fact the elder referred to Jesus as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David who had triumphed. This is the picture of power, majesty and conquering. Jesus had taken on the devil at his strongest point, death and had overcome in the resurrection. He is the Lion who reigns. But when John turned to see the mighty lion, he saw a Lamb. It wasn’t just a lamb but one that looked as if it had been slain, standing before the throne. The Lamb had the seven spirits which refers to the Holy Spirit. He isn’t just the strong, conquering Lion, He is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The elders and creatures fell down before the Lamb. “Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.”

The picture John gives us isn’t of the elders or creatures falling before the Lion, but of the Lamb. He was worthy because he had been slain, and his blood purchased for God people from everywhere of every background. He made those who he bought with his blood a kingdom and priests to serve God and reign on the earth. Jesus is certainly the conquering Lion but it was as the lamb he paid the price that changed everything. As the Lamb slain, he opened the door of salvation to everyone. No longer did it matter whose family you were in or what nation you came from or what language you spoke. It mattered instead that you had been washed in the blood of the Lamb. But his picture of the people saved by the blood is astounding. They are a kingdom and priests of God, who are bought with the blood so they can serve God. It isn’t a place of royalty so we can sit down and watch or expect to be served by others, it is so we can serve God.

But there is one more huge point in this that stands out. The reign as a kingdom and priests of God is on the earth, not after we get to heaven. We are part of the kingdom of Christ right now. Every Christian serves as a priest of God in the kingdom as they live on this earth. They are ones who are striving to bring God to the hearts of others and to carry others to God as they serve him on the earth. It is no wonder that the elders and creatures then sang out: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”

On this earth we go through tons of trials and challenges as we deal with life but it is vital we remember who we are as a kingdom and priests of God serving him on the earth all the time. What an amazing privilege to have been purchased by the blood of Jesus and be his priests on this earth, to serve in His kingdom with Jesus as our mighty king.

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WHO CAN YOU TRUST

This morning I was reading the paper, well, I don’t suppose it is really the paper any longer since it comes to us on an I-Pad and looks a little like the paper used to look. Anyway, as I looked at different articles and ideas that people shared, I kept reading stories that I had already heard about on the news or read on some news app on my phone or computer. The amazing thing is that if you check different news sources that tell about the exact same event or speech that someone made, you get all kinds of different things than you did from some other source. How in the world can you know what really went on or even what anyone said if you weren’t able to listen to the entire speech or attend the event when the reports on them all go from an angle that fits with what the person writing it thinks rather than just telling what happened.

What is crazy is that before I got to work this morning I had read or heard the report of an event that took place yesterday, from three different sources and if one accepted anyone of the reports as true they would have to believe the other two reports were either of some other event or were totally mistaken in what they had to say. It is almost to the stage that one must first decide what they wish to believe and then go to the source that will tell it from their point of view. Or if you go to multiple sources to get the different ideas on what is happening in the world, you will live in total confusion because none are the same.

But, it does make me wonder about something. I wonder if I do the same thing when I’m telling about something that I have seen or been a part of. Do I tell the story from an angle that fits my belief system or what I think of the people involved or do I simply tell what I saw happen and heard said without putting a spin on it that leads to the way I would interpret the event. When I am listening to or watching the news about an event, I don’t mind having some commentary on the event. But I also want a clear distinction between what is the news and what is commentary. If one mixes the news with commentary the truth is one may never know what has really happened but only what the prejudiced mind of the reporter happened to hear and tell. Too often it is a million miles from the truth.

What if some reporter goes on a news program and tells what they think a person said at a certain political rally but it isn’t even close to what was really said by the person speaking? No matter how often the original speaker denies ever saying it, the people who first heard the news report will tend to believe that the speaker said what they claimed they said. Very little that the person does can ever change the opinion of those who first heard the report.

I seldom watch political debates because I can’t stand hearing people make accusations against each other and often tell things that contradict things they have said earlier to a different crowd. But I happened to have tuned in to the debate last week for a few minutes when something happened that made me turn it off quickly and question my sanity forever tuning in. The reporter was asking Bernie Sanders about a comment he was accused of making that a woman could never become president. Supposedly he said it to Elizabeth Warren. Bernie totally denied ever saying anything like that and declared he never had believed such but had promoted the idea that a woman could be president. Immediately, the reporter turned to Elizabeth Warren and asked how she felt when Bernie said that a woman couldn’t be president. I didn’t wait for her answer. I just turned it off and thought how utterly ridiculous that a man could deny with such fervor ever saying a thing and immediately have the reporter act like he had admitted to saying it.

I wonder if Jesus were here in the flesh today and going about preaching the same kinds of messages he did 2,000 years ago, how the news would cover him? Imagine how they would handle such simple truths as the beatitudes of Jesus given in Matthew 5. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.” “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.” “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be filled.” “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God.” “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now, these are pretty easy to follow. They set up much of the ultimate teaching of Jesus for the remainder of his ministry. But how do you think they would be covered by the media in our time? I’m certain there would be tons of commentary on the whole topic and probably every beatitude would be criticized and rejected by the world. Some might have explained in some detail what he was actually trying to say, but just didn’t get it across as it was meant to be.

One thing for certain should stand out. Truth is truth no matter who says it or whether anyone believes it. You don’t get to have your truth and me have mine. It is just the truth. When judged by the Lord it won’t get one anywhere to tell the Lord he just didn’t feel it. We will be judged by the deeds done in the body according to what we have done whether good or bad. It will be based on the word of God and Jesus Christ will be the judge. One can declare they don’t believe in a judgment or they don’t accept the idea that Jesus will be the judge or that the Scriptures will be the standard, but it doesn’t change a single thing. Judgment is real and it will come for everyone. If we think with any clarity at all we will go to the word of God to find out what to believe and then strive to live by what we read in his word since there isn’t a single chance in this world that God will change his mind about what is right or wrong.

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APPROVED BY GOD

How can you know when what you do is approved by God? Every time I read the Book of 2 Samuel and come to the story of David becoming king and wanting to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, I am puzzled again on this topic. It’s in chapter six of the book. David carried a group of able young men of Israel to Baalah to bring the Ark home. There were thirty thousand in all who went for the task. They set the Ark on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the cart and David and all the others were celebrating with all kinds of musical instruments before the Lord. It must have been a sight to behold as they were taking the Ark of God to where it belonged. They certainly had no doubt that what they were doing was approved by God. “When they came to the threshing floor of Nakon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled.” Wouldn’t that seem like the right thing to do? You sure wouldn’t want the ark to fall off and be damaged. Probably if David had seen Uzzah reaching out he would have commended him for his saving the ark from falling at such a time. “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down, and he died here beside the ark of God.” David was frustrated, angry and afraid. It had seemed like the right thing to do. But God had given very strict instructions on how to move the ark of God from the time it was constructed and it involved Levites carrying the ark with poles through rings that had been placed in the sides of the ark. Surely someone in the crowd remembered that God had given such instruction but in their zeal to get the ark and bring it home, they overlooked the means God had given and what they thought was the approved and godly thing to do turned out to bring tragedy.

The ark was left there in the House of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months and God blessed him and his entire household. So David decided to bring the ark down to Jerusalem again, but this time he made certain to do it as God had instructed and it was brought with celebration, blessing from God and tremendous joy from the people of the Nation.

If this story shouts any lesson for us it is that the fact something seems good and right to us and something that God would surely like or be thrilled with, doesn’t always mean it is true. I have no doubt that Uzzah was a good man and had the very best of intentions when he reached out to keep the ark from falling from the cart. But the truth was, it shouldn’t have been on the cart to begin with. They should have stepped back long enough to see what God had said about moving the ark and followed his instructions. The best of intentions, by the nicest, kindest and most caring people doesn’t necessarily mean that a thing is approved by God. Even if we take a vote and everyone there votes for a thing and everyone means well by the vote it doesn’t demonstrate God’s approval.

Look at a New Testament passage in which Paul was writing to his young mentee Timothy and see if this gives us some insight. “Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” The Holy Spirit led Paul to push his young friend to do his very best to be approved by God. This could literally be translated, “Make it your ambition in life to be approved by God.” Obviously, if God had Paul to make such a plea to Timothy it is possible for one to live in a way that does have God’s approval.

Look at some of the things in these two verses that Timothy was told were necessary if he was going to have God’s approval. First, he needed to keep reminding God’s people of some things. Do you ever get tired of telling those you love the same things they need to do over and over again? How often as parents have we said, “I just told you yesterday how to do that.” But when matters are vital and have to do with living for God we must not stop reminding people of the things that are right. Second, warn people against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. We seem to live in a time when a major part of life is carrying on a good quarrel. People can get into a quarrel about the least significant things imaginable and make it in their minds so important that everything in life seems to hang on it. Wouldn’t it be great if in every Christian family we could get across the lesson, STOP Quarreling about things that don’t matter anyway. You are just doing harm. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if in every church family you could have it a requirement of membership that you not quarrel about words or things that don’t really matter anyway. Realize that such quarrels are from the devil and are tearing apart the church.

Third, “Do your best to present YOURSELF to God as one approved.” What a major point! Too much time is spent in most of our minds on how we can get others approved by God. We certainly need to be sharing the good news of Jesus to help people come to the Lord, but if my efforts involve my judging the other person to push them in the direction I think will make the pleasing to God it is likely I’m really trying to make them pleasing to me rather than to God. I’ve learned that if I focus on correcting the things wrong in my life, I don’t have much time or energy left to focus on the things others are doing wrong.

Fourth, be a worker that doesn’t need to be ashamed. Do you know that God never gave anyone the spiritual gift of being a critic? Encouragers? Oh yes. One’s that build others up in the most holy faith? Yes! But he calls me to be a worker in his kingdom. Sitters, watchers, audiences all miss the point. The idea is for every person to be a worker for God so that they have nothing to be ashamed of in their life for the Lord.

Fifth, be one who correctly handles the word of truth. God’s word is “God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). How does a person handle the word correctly? Read it often. Take it personally. Apply it freely to your own life. Talk about what you see in the word with others. Be open to seeing things you have never noticed before and when you see you’ve been wrong, change immediately with no excuses. Read from different translations so you will notice things that you may have overlooked before. Make the word the authority not your interpretation of the word.

Being approved by God is to be a life ambition. Be sure to put it at the top of your bucket list.

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IS IT FROM THE HOLY SPIRIT

There is no question that one of the greatest blessings God gives us when we become Christians is the Holy Spirit to dwell in us with our bodies becoming the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the apostles he wouldn’t leave them as orphans but would send the Spirit to be with them and to guide them into all truth, to remind them of the things He had taught them. He even told them it was to their advantage that He go away so the Holy Spirit would come. When you read through the Book of Acts and the different letters of Paul, Peter, and John there are tons of references to the work of the Spirit in the lives of those who follow Christ. He strengthens us with His Spirit in the inner being, He leads us by the Spirit and helps us in our weaknesses. He even bears the fruit of the Spirit in our lives as we follow him. But how do you know when it is the Holy Spirit that is leading you in a given area and not some other spirit or just your own desires?

In Acts 16:6-10 Paul had just taken Timothy to become a companion and fellow preacher of the word of God and began their travels to strengthen people in the faith and the result was the numbers were growing daily. But look at what follows in these verses: “Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. during the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us. After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”

Does it not strike you as odd that even though Jesus had commanded them to make disciples among all the nations or every ethnic group and to be witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the uttermost parts of the earth, that the Holy Spirit would keep them from going into some places to preach the gospel of Jesus? Did God not want the people of Asia to hear the message of good news? Was the Spirit somehow prejudice against the people in Bithynia? The truth is we don’t know for certain why the Spirit didn’t allow them to go into either of the places. it could have been that the people just weren’t ready or there may have been other disciples that the Spirit was leading to go to those places. But what is most intriguing to me is that during the night Paul had a vision of a man from Macedonia saying to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” The next day they seemed to have had a meeting with the group and Paul told them about the vision that he had and they concluded that God had called them to preach the gospel to the people of Macedonia. Did some of the group question the decision or if this was really what the Spirit was calling them to do? I don’t know. I don’t know even how the Spirit communicated with the group that they weren’t allowed to go to Asia or Bithynia. But somehow the Spirit was guiding them and both closing doors and opening a door for them in the preaching of his word.

So, how do we know when the Spirit is guiding us in a particular way or to a particular person or place? We certainly need to spend time praying for God to guide us in our decisions and choices. We can’t decide if the call from the Spirit is real for us or not based on how we are treated by people when we get there. If you look at Paul and his companions and how they were treated in Philippi it wouldn’t seem like it was such an open door. Their first conversion was a lady named Lydia who was a traveling salesperson. Then they had a young lady who was demon-possessed. with the ability to tell fortunes and she followed them around shouting these men are the servants of the Most High God until her actions irritated Paul to the degree he cast the demon out. I would guess it led to her conversion even though Luke doesn’t tell us for sure. But it did lead to Paul and Silas arrest and being beaten horribly, then thrown into jail where they were placed in the inner prison and their feet in stocks. They may have been questioning by this point if that vision really did mean that God was calling them to Macedonia. But at midnight they were singing praise to God and the people in prison were all listening as they sang and prayed. God sent an earthquake that opened the prison doors, and broke loose the stocks and brought the jailer running with a sword ready to take his own life because the prisoners had been freed. When Paul told him not to harm himself they were all there, he wanted to know what to do to be saved and they were able to teach him and his whole family about Jesus and baptized them sometime during the night.

Let’s face it if you looked at the converts you might have thought that this wasn’t a very successful work. But as years went by that church in Philippi became one of the favorite churches of Paul and one that supported his work wherever he went.

How do you know it is the Spirit leading? You certainly need to take time to make certain that what you believe the Spirit is leading you to do harmonizes with what the Spirit wrote in the Scriptures. Since the word of God is God-breathed or inspired by the Holy Spirit, and he hasn’t learned anything new since that time if what I believe the Spirit is leading me to do contradicts the Scriptures then I am mistaken. That spirit may be from the devil or it may just be my allowing my own thoughts and motivation to affect my thinking.

The third thing that one should always ask when trying to decide if the Spirit is the one leading us, is will whatever is being considered result in us and other people involved bearing the fruit of the Spirit? Will it lead us to be spiritual people that are working to restore those who have been overtaken in a fault? Will it lead to sowing to the Spirit rather than to the flesh?

When the Spirit opens doors it may well be with many adversaries (I Corinthians 16:9). When we listen to the thinking of a group of people who are telling us that a thing is true, we had better be checking closely to see if this is the Spirit’s guidance or just people and usually our estimate of how many people are involved will be highly exaggerated. Through the years when people have come to me to say that a lot of people are complaining about something, my immediate thought is that it is them and two other people whom they are seldom willing to name.

The Spirit leads! But not everything that people think is from the Spirit is really from the Spirit of God. It is always worth taking the time to pray, to search the Scriptures and to question if it is really God leading or some other spirit.

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ONE DAY AT A TIME

How much of your life is spent either thinking about the past and either the glory of things as you remember them or the disappointments that you have a hard time getting off your mind? How much is spent planning for all the things that you can see happening in the future and you want to get ready for them? It is easy to spend so much of our time either focused on what has happened or what will happen that we have no joy or fulfillment in what IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. It should float through my mind at least, that what has happened is done and can’t be undone. I may repent of past mistakes and have them forgiven, but even that doesn’t change the reality that they took place.

I can plan for the future every day and think that I have everything prepared so that we can live lives in later days that we have always dreamed of traveling, enjoying events and sports and activities of all kinds. We can lay back the money that the financial planner tells us we will need for full retirement. But how many people have you known that things actually turned out the way they planned? We had a neighbor when I was growing up that was getting ready to retire from the Air Force. He and his wife had saved their money and he had a good retirement coming in every month. They had planned to build their dream house out in the country close to where she had grown up. They came every time either of them could to work on the layout of the house, For over two years they worked as often as possible to build this house for them to move into the very week he could retire. The house was completed, they moved in and two days later he had a heart attack and died. She lived on in the house for a little while but it wasn’t long before she couldn’t stand it anymore and moved on to sell the house to others. We can lay back money, take out insurance and do all those things we are encouraged to do, but we have no control over health, circumstances in our life or even whether we will live or die.

Someone has said that every time we talk about our plans for the future God laughs since He is the only one who holds the keys to the future.

Jesus, in the greatest sermon ever preached made this statement in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” In one of Dale Carnegie’s books, he had a chapter of living in “Day tight” compartments. His point was to live fully today instead of spending your time and energy worrying about what you didn’t do in the past or about what might happen in the future.

The truth is the only time we have to live is today. You could be even more specific and say you only have “NOW” to live. What if I got up each day thinking of what I could do today that would do good and have meaning and then spend that whole day doing what I could to put the most meaning and purpose into that day that I possibly could? At the end of such a day, I would be pleased with what had happened and could lay my head down in satisfaction knowing I had used the day the Lord had given me to the full and now rest would be easy.

The Psalmist declared, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” That is a powerful statement that is worth repeating every single day of our lives. If memories are haunting you, then do what you can to correct the mistakes made asking God to forgive you and others that you may have hurt to forgive you and then move on to live today. If you are worrying yourself sick about whether or not you are prepared for the future, lay it in the hands of God, who holds the future.

When Solomon wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes it is a story of the wealthiest, wisest and most powerful man alive in the day, yet as he views life everything is meaningless or emptiness. He tried all the ways he could think of to fill his life with fullness and meaning. He tried things and had a mansion to live in with beautiful gardens all around. He tried wives and sex and had more wives and women at his disposal than anyone else ever did. He tried accumulating more and more things and then it hit him he would soon die and whose would these things be? Over and over again he declares it was all meaningless. Strangely, it is the last chapter when he actually demonstrates wisdom by saying, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, I find no pleasure in them.” He ends that chapter with these words, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

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OTHERS

it is a difficult lesson to learn obviously because Jesus had an extremely difficult time getting it through to the twelve men who walked with him, watched his actions, saw him heal and care for people in trouble and love on little children. They heard the sermons over and over again. Yet, for them to think in terms of others rather than themselves was almost impossible. I wish it were possible to step inside the minds of these twelve men for just a few nights as they laid down to go to sleep and began thinking of who they were and what they were doing. I’m certain different ones had different thoughts. But the reality that the argument about which one of us is the greatest is recorded as happening on at least three different occasions says a whole lot about where their minds were much of the time.

Imagine as Jesus confronted them about what they had been arguing about as they walked along and they had to admit it was about which one was greatest or perhaps, the leader of the group. Jesus took a little child and had them stand there in the middle of the group. He said to them, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” What if you and I had been in that crowd and heard Jesus lesson to the group, would we have picked up on the point? Would the concept of humility, trust, dependence on others or compassion have come to mind? It is difficult to get our minds off ourselves and really think about others and what they need.

Whatever passed through their minds, it didn’t change their thinking. It’s just two chapters later in Matthew’s account that James and John bring their mother with them to plead with Jesus that they can sit at his right and left hand when he enters his kingdom. He explained they didn’t really know what they were asking. He asked if they could drink the cup he was going to drink and their response was “Sure thing, we can do that.” He informed them those places would be reserved for the ones whom the Father had prepared them. Now we might look at James and John and their mom and think, well, it was just them. Others didn’t feel that way. But when the word got out that they had made the request it made the other ten very angry at them. “Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

God came to live among us in a human body, going through our pains, suffering, rejections, and concerns. He had all the power. He could cast out demons, still, storms, cause the blind to see or lame to walk. He could raise the dead and feed the massive crowds with meager amounts of food. Yet, as God among us, he served. He forgave those who were guilty of terrible sins and gave them a fresh start. Even though this band of disciples continued to mess us, have bad attitudes and fuss with each other right down to the end, he continued loving and working with them. The very one who denied him three times was given the chance to confess his love three times and given a mission to feed and tend his sheep from then on in his life.

Jesus, even on the cross, kept thinking of others. “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” He told the repentant thief, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

As hard as it is to think of others rather than ourselves and how we can promote ourselves, it is the only way to become like Jesus. Think about different aspects of your life today and determine a time you are going to focus completely on others and not think of yourself. It is tough to do. Even in our worship when our whole purpose is to be to please and glorify God, it is difficult not to become frustrated when things don’t go our way or some leader does something that I don’t really like. If it is hard there, it will certainly be a challenge in other aspects of life. But I want to follow Jesus and be great in his thinking so I long to get my mind off me and on to others.

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IS IT ABOUT CHRIST

Do you get a little frustrated when someone says to you, “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas?” It is interesting to me that we get interested in Christmas trees, Christmas programs, and Christmas gifts, but I sincerely wonder how much our focus is really on Christ? Some who get all excited about saying Merry Christmas haven’t really focused much on Jesus Christ all year long and whether someone says Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas isn’t going to change who is at the center of your life. Let’s be honest, what are the things that really become our main interest during this season of the year? I don’t know exactly when Jesus was born and I know there is nothing in the Bible about the exact time of that birth or even us celebrating it. But I am grateful for anything that leads us to focus on Jesus more in life.

Gifts, family, dinners, church events, lighting trees, and going to programs and plays that supposedly reenact the birth of Jesus all seem like good things to do and they may well be. But I sincerely doubt that most of them leave me thinking more about Jesus in my life as Savior, Lord, and redeemer. Perhaps the best thing we could do would be to actually open the Bible and read the story of Jesus’ birth. But I must remember that while Jesus’ birth was a wonderful thing, it was his life as God in the flesh that made the difference. It was his death on our behalf on the cross that made it possible for us to be saved. It was his resurrection from the dead that demonstrated most powerfully that he had fought Satan in his most powerful arena and came out the victor over death, over the last enemy to be destroyed at his coming. It was his ascension to set down at the right hand of God and reign as king over his kingdom, head of the church and the mediator for us because he wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth that gives fullness of joy. Just before Jesus ascended back to the Father he not only gave us the great commission or mission for the church and for each member of it, to make disciples as we go about in the world, by baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.

I’m blessed as a dad to have three daughters, who all have husbands and each of them had three children all but one of which are now married and from that group, we have nine great-grandchildren, so far. What if when our family gathers during the Christmas season, all I focused on was the birth of all these grown children and grandchildren and talked about how great they looked as babies?

While I certainly have no problem with celebrating any aspect of Jesus birth, life, reign or return, it is vital to remember that Jesus in a manger was only a tiny part of the story and that if I’m to think as I should I need to celebrate “Christ” in all points of his life from before creation to heaven when he leads us by eternal fountains of water and wipes all tears from our eyes.

Two things that are extremely important to remember always are that no single part of Jesus’ life is enough. I need to see his whole life and ministry. Second, no one day of thinking about any aspect of Jesus is nearly enough. We may have wonderful celebrations of Christmas and Easter or other such great days of vast importance, but what God is always calling us to do is to focus our lives on Him and being like him, following him and leaning on Him every day in everything that I think, say or do. “Christ in you is the hope of glory.” Paul pictured his ministry as one of having Christ formed in the lives of those who were followers of Christ.

With the angels shout, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace and goodwill toward men” at his birth. Sing with all your heart, “Jesus is Lord”. Glory in the fact that “He is risen”, and “Because He lives I can face tomorrow.” Jesus is just as much with us today wherever we may be as he was in Bethlehem for his birth. I hope you have a great Christmas, but I hope you think every day that the one born in Bethlehem was “Immanuel” which means “God with us.” We never need to walk alone in this world or the next. Merry Christmas!

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