It’s that time of year again. You can almost smell the
tailgating grills. Soon there will be a crispness in the air and we will be
cheering for our favorite team. As believers in “the Way” (a first century
description of the church), and followers of Christ, we are on a team as well.
We are on God’s team. Unfortunately, there has been some confusion over the
last 2,000 years. We are not supposed to be spectators. We are on the team!
When we accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, just like the
equipment manager handing out gear, we were given Spiritual gifts. Maybe it was
just one gift, but it is supposed to be put to use to honor the God Who saved
us from our sins. Oh, we all love Eph. 2:8-9, which describes the salvific gift
of God’s grace through faith and how it is not of ourselves or our works so we
can’t even boast about it. But for some reason we hit the brakes and often turn
a blind eye to verse 10—“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus
for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (NASB).
Think of it this way. If I applied to work for a company
that had awesome benefits (like eternal life insurance) and got the job, and I
was trained with a specific skill set the company needed, would the boss allow
me to just show up, clock in and then yuk it up in the break room all day
drinking coffee and eating donuts? Of course not! Then why do we think we can
get away with it in the Body of Christ?
If God gave us the ability to kick 60-yard field goals
(metaphorically), then why would we want to sit in the stands and watch the
game? We should be on the field making the coach proud. My observation of folks
in church who tend to be miserable, complain more often than not and are rarely
satisfied, is they are not serving and utilizing their spiritual gift(s).
Get in the game! God
will bless you for it and you will be so happy… it was what you were made to
The Christmas story from Luke 2 is often more recognizable to children as being from Charlie Brown than from the Bible. That is better than the little boy who saw a picture of one of my friends speaking to a senior adult group and asked what he was doing. When I told him he was telling those people about Jesus and asked him if he knew Who Jesus was he replied “No….” I said, “Jesus – baby Jesus – Christmas???” He said, “I know what Christmas is – but I don’t know who Jesus is…”
Sadly, that may be the state of most of the people we run into. Christmas is now a multi-BILLION dollar industry. Many businesses only survive if they do well on Black Friday whose name is derived from getting out of the red for the year on that day. How do we as believers of a different kind of Christmas deal with this material and spiritual challenge? I would suggest we look to the first Christmas for answers. Charlie Brown struggled with the same questions decades ago. Linus helped him out by reciting
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
In these verses we see the adversity Mary and Joseph faced. We also see God revealing Himself and sending a message. This divine approach through an angel bringing the “Good News” to “shepherds keeping watch over their flocks by night” still speaks to us and challenges us 2,000 years later.
The Gospel (Good News) is not only for the special, the rich or the fortunate among us. It is first revealed to the lowly shepherd who has to stand the night watch. It is “great joy for all the people.” This is a glorious moment! The first Noel!
With our ability to flip a switch and have light on demand, we do not understand how much Jesus being the light of the world meant 2,000 years ago. All the bad stuff happened in the dark. The wolves came out; the lambs got picked off; the bad guys did their thing; evil abounded. But at that moment, an angel lit up the sky with the good news of Jesus Christ. Are we angels of light? Do we take the Good News of Jesus to the lowly or reserve just for us, our friends and family or someone who is important enough to deserve our attention?
The shepherds realized how glorious a thing this really was. Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” This happens right after the angel tells them how to find Jesus. Why doesn’t that happen today?
Maybe people aren’t being told how to find Jesus anymore. When was the last time anyone was told about the Savior of the world outside of a formal church service? If we don’t realize what a glorious thing Christmas is, why should anyone else?
The Shepherds confirmed the story. “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. Here we are challenged to prove what is said to be true. They understood this was from God.
Just as Paul tells us to “work out our own salvation”, the shepherds wanted to see for themselves and verify what they thought they had heard. If we seek out God in our lives, He will make Himself known and His presence will be real to us. “Seek and ye shall find…”
Here we see our final challenge from the shepherds. They told. To be more accurate, they could not contain themselves. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. … The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Imagine that. It was just as God had told them. He is the way, the truth and the life! We have an amazing story that should come bursting forth from an overwhelmed heart that cannot contain it. We are challenged by these “lowly shepherds” to glorify, praise and spread the Word concerning what has been told us about this child.
Who gets amazed by what we say when they engage us in conversation today? Why do we keep this Good News to ourselves? It’s easy to sing praises to God in a church service or glorify Him in a Sunday School class, but what message do we send when we leave the church and enter the world? What does our body language say? Are we joyful? Are people amazed? Do we communicate the glorious event that has taken place in our life? Have you encountered Christ? Does anyone know, or are you able to contain yourself?
Last week we saw and heard the leader of the free world use language that should not come from a professional lectern. There are certainly wiser and more civil ways to express a viewpoint than to lower yourself to that kind of verbal behavior. Ironically, the “lowering” was in response to professional athletes not standing during the playing of the National Anthem. The President even called for a boycott of the NFL.
I understand the issues are big. One might say “huge.” I also understand there are very strong opinions on all sides of the discussions. I find it perplexing that men (most of them millionaires), who play for the NATIONAL Football League won’t stand during the NATIONAL Anthem (which honors the flag of the nation which made them millionaires). I do NOT however deny their right to protest in any way they see fit.
You see, I have served in the military (U.S. Navy), so I hurt with every other veteran who hurts while watching the Anthem protests. I had to stand in a movie theater (on base) every time I went to the movies, because the National Anthem was played before every showing. I had to stop at dusk every time “colors” was played and render a salute in the direction of the flag every time it was retired for the day. I also “served” and retired from a 25-year career in the Federal Government from an agency that both protected society and helped ensure the rights of citizens to protest and peaceably assemble among others. I am a defender of the constitution and as an American I live under its authority and liberties.
Interestingly, both in the Navy, as well as the government, and now as a pastor, (and quite frankly, everywhere I have ever worked), there was a Code of Conduct. I was and am not allowed to behave in a way that would embarrass or create a negative reflection upon my employer. Whether I watch another NFL game or not is my private decision, but my public behavior is open for inspection by all. Unfortunately, it does not look like there is a Code of Conduct in either the NFL or Elected Office.
Here are a few Codes of Conduct Christians should live by. I try but fail more often than I would like to admit.
- And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.
- Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
- Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.
- Treat everyone with high regard: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
I purposely left out the verse references so it would encourage you to read the “Code of Conduct manual,” because when you find it for yourself you are more likely to retain it. ….oh, and finally
Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Go forth and sin no more…
In the Old Testament, David’s music minister (or worship leader) was a guy named Asaph. Asaph was also was the band drummer. He was kind of like Bart from the Christian band “Mercy Me,” – wrote songs, sang, played percussion etc.
One day, after a struggle bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem (long story for another time), David directed Asaph to give thanks to the Lord. The first few lines found in 1 Chronicles go like this: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His holy name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done” (1 Chron. 16:8-12).
Our oldest son is a senior in college and will graduate in one more semester. He has a job this summer. It is more than flipping burgers, and he hopes it leads to some permanent employment next year. We spoke on the phone recently, and he told me about an assignment that, in some ways, was over his head and very challenging. He didn’t know if he would even be able to grasp a lot of it conceptually before the summer was over.
I tried my best to encourage him, to be up to the task and used my best Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh quote: “Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” I also reminded him that he and God were an unbeatable combination – because God can’t be defeated.
After we hung up I went into “dad-prayer mode.” “OK God, I can’t help him. I can’t do it for him. I can’t even work it out so he gets a second chance. You have to be God here. Prove to him You are by his side. Show him how mighty You are. Pour into him and give him the ability he didn’t even know he had. Take away any defeatist attitude. Give him confidence. Open his eyes to the solution.”
We talked on the phone a week later. There was an excitement and a buzz in his voice. Not only had he realized the solution and completed the assignment in less than a week, he had also devised a way for everyone to get access to the data at the computer on their desk. The division chief was so pleased he gave him full access to all the systems the full-time employees have.
My wife and I were so proud of him and just talked and giggled about his success. I am ashamed to say that it didn’t hit me until I was driving to work the next morning that God had answered my prayer and done MORE than I had asked of Him. I thanked Him and praised Him on my way to work this morning. So just like the 1 Chronicles’ song of thanksgiving, I am making known His deeds among the people…. I am singing the song of praise. God is a good, good God! He answers prayer. He deserves and gets all the glory.
It is worth repeating…..Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His holy name; Make known His deeds among the peoples. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; speak of all His wonders. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually. Remember His wonderful deeds which He has done.
In my last blog, I asked “How is your walk?” Do we walk around unashamed of who we are in Christ and knowing God goes before us?
As we face the big overwhelming challenges of life, we know we need God and turn to Him quickly. When the phone rings and it is bad news, when the doctor walks in with the test results, when arrangements need to be made at the funeral home, we turn to God and beg for His help.
How about in the smallest of things? I know I must confess I often hold up my hand and tell God “I got this.” No need to bring out the big guns, this is easily handled… or so we think. The problem with that thinking is we don’t worship a “break glass in case of emergency” God. If He is our “all in all” then He should be in all, and we should be all in.
Our Old Testament friends knew they couldn’t overcome the mighty walled city of Jericho without God’s mighty hand, so they turned to Him and obeyed every word in His commands. However, they made the same mistake many of us do when facing much smaller challenges. They chose to move without God. “We got this! Look how Jericho worked out. We just have to show up.” The actual text reads like this:
“Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water” (Josh. 7:2-5).
Ai (some pronounce it “aye;” I say “A. I.” like artificial intelligence) was a very small city, especially compared to Jericho. It might have had one stop light…maybe. It was so small it only had two letters in its name. Not only did they say “We got this, no problem,” look at what they didn’t do. No prayer, no Ark of the Covenant, no God-honoring plan, nothing was done in a consecrated, sanctified way. They tried to attack Ai like any other army would. How did that work out for them? They weren’t different. They didn’t go as God’s people.
If God is to be called on for our big things, shouldn’t He be called on for our small things? If we pray and make sure it is in His will before we buy that car or house, why don’t we do the same thing before we buy the shirt or shoes? We are called to be different, to approach all the things of life with a Godly perspective and a scriptural worldview. The world should have a different perspective of us. They should see that God permeates every aspect of our lives, no matter how big or small.
Fortunately God is the God of redemption and second chances. Josh. 8:1 says, “Now the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not fear or be dismayed. Take all the people of war with you and arise, go up to Ai; see, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, his people, his city, and his land.’” Ai saw that God was with Joshua and the Israelites, even though they were not a big deal in the minds of most people.
The question we must face is do others see God in the small things of our lives as well as our major challenges, or do we try to tell God “I’ll call you when I need you?” The difference could mean missing out on the daily victories God has prepared for you. We serve a God Who is big enough to help you with even the smallest detail of your life. Why don’t you let Him?