Monday, December 28, 2009
Friday, December 25, 2009
I remember an old country song that said, "Lookin' for love in all the wrong places" and it made me wonder: how many times do we totally miss God because we are expecting Him to show up in certain places? We structure our lives around the idea that there are certain places where God is to be safely confronted, while making other areas in our life "God-free-zones" (places we would prefer He not show, where we can do what we want, when we want). But God has a way of breaking free from the confines that we try to put on Him. He has a way of making His presence known in some of the most obscure locations.
Take Bethlehem, for instance.The Magi, or the Three Wise Men, were intelligent men who had been studying the ancient reports and prophesies concerning events that would happen in their world--most importantly, the birth of a new king in Israel. They had learned the timing of his birth would come at the same time as a bright star. When they saw the heavenly sight, they went first to Jerusalem, the city of kings, of course. When they got there, they were told the king wasn't there, but in Bethlehem, which had been designated by the prophets as to where the Messiah would be born.
In many ways, Bethlehem was a small and insignificant town, yet it was the place God chose for the birthplace of His Son. Matthew 2:6 says, "And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; for our of you shall come forth a Ruler who will shepherd My people Israel." The prophet Micah had rebuked Israel, the people of God, for their rebellion. They had sunk to the lowest of low; their behavior was no better than the surrounding pagan nations. Micah confronts them in Micah 1:9 that they had been infected with the same sins that Samaria had been known for.
But in the midst of this dismal setting, we are given this hope; for it is right here that God promises to raise up a King to shepherd His oppressed people. I believe God purposefully chose Bethlehem for it's misery because it was the best place for God's glory to shine! In I Corinthians 1, Paul writes "but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, the weak things to shame the strong. The base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen...the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are." God chose to break out of the box, to reveal Himself where He wouldn't be expected.
Where in your life would you be most surprised for God to show Himself? A job loss...a spouse's layoff...among the conversation with your friends....as you pass a homeless man on the street corner...or maybe the cashier at the local store? God will not be confined and He is not predictable, but He is faithful. Therefore, we need to look for Him and make room for Him in all areas of our lives and at all times.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
The good news is, this cold front will be to our east by 9pm this evening. Most Christman Eve church services will go on without a hitch, although it could still be a bit windy. Skies will be clearing just in time for Santa Claus to come tonight.
Speaking of, I'll be interviewing Santa tonight on WLBT's 6pm & 10pm news. I'll be sure to ask him when he's planning on being in central Mississippi for you!
Monday, December 21, 2009
I spoke with a friend yesterday about her crumbling marriage. After 15 years, her husband left her and their four children. After making it on her own for the last year, he has returned to their house. She believes he's back only because he has no where else to go. "Every time I look at him, I have such anger and disdain for him and what he did to our relationship," she told me. "I want to forgive him and I know I should, but I'm just so mad that I can't right now!" And who could blame her?
Why is it that when we think about forgiving someone, we feel like we own our grudge? It's like a family pet that we are so attached to, if it were to leave we'd be so lost without it around? Instead of looking at our grudge as a prized possession that is mine, perhaps it may be easier to look at our forgiveness as a gift--a gift the other person needs.
Most of us hear the pleas of various non-profit programs begging for donations and gifts-for-the-needy. We hear them say, "Children won't have a Merry Christmas unless you give out of the kindness of your heart to those less fortunate." In that same way, you and I have a present, or a gift, that someone needs. They won't get it any other way, nor from any other person, if you and I don't give it to them. In that respect, forgiveness becomes a gift.
Philippians 2:5 says, "You must have the same attitude as Christ Jesus had." That's pretty straight forward, isn't it? No room for misunderstanding there.
So what is the first gift God gave us? Forgiveness. God's forgiveness was given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who came to earth that first Christmas morning.
For some, forgiveness is the best gift you and I could give this Christmas. It may be the only gift they truly need.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Wilkinson talks of a "God Pocket"--a special place where you keep money God has blessed you with so that you may bless others. The money in the God Pocket is not yours; it's God's, and is used only for Him.
Monday after having lunch at Gattitown with the kids for Will's birthday, I took the kids to the dentist for a check up. It is one doctor's visit they enjoy because they always walk out with some small prize for being still for the dental hygienist.
We walked out to the car to leave when we were stopped by a lady, who was sitting in car, trying to get my attention. She rolled down the window. "You know who you look like?" she asked. "Barbie Bassett on channel 3!" I smiled back at her. "You ARE her, aren't you?" I told her I was and Gracie confirmed it. "Yep, she's our mother," Gracie told her. The lady stayed in her car and we made small talk through her passenger window. That's when Will realized he better speak up if he wanted to get into the conversation. "Today's my birf-day!" Will said with excitement. "It is, baby?" she said. "How old are you?" Will held up his 4 fingers to show her. "Four years old?!" she said, acting surprised. "Hold on one second. I think you deserve a birthday present."
Just then, she opened her purse. I saw her dig around and find her wallet. She opened it up and pulled out one dollar. It was a lone dollar. I could tell she had no other cash with it. The inside of her car had the upholstery ripped and cracked and she was driving a car that looked about 10 years old. I saw what looked to be bills on her dashboard.
"Here, baby. You have this dollar for your birthday!" and she gave it to Will. His face beamed and he thanked her. I ushered the kids into their car seats and I pulled a large denomination out of my God Pocket.
I turned around and said to her, "Ma'am, you gave my son a dollar and I have something to give you." She looked puzzled. "Someone gave me some money and told me to give this to you," as I handed the bill to her. She reached out to take the money, looked at it, and started squealing. She jumped out of her car, still doing a screaming jig, and ran over to hug me. "How did you know? How did you know I needed this?" she cried. "God knew and He's the one who told me to give this to you."
Proverbs 19:17 says, "Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord. And God will pay back what he has given."
I'm learning through this process that when it comes to prayers for a financial miracle, Heaven depends on people for answers. God intends for us to use our money to display His goodness and faithfulness.
This time of year, it's easy to give to those who are in need. But imagine how God could use us if we did this 12 months out of the year? God is always at work behind the scenes, orchestrating the place and timing for a miracle connection, even if it's at the dentist's office. And He arranges the event so that when the delivery happens, the recipient knows in her heart that God intervened specifically for her!
Monday, December 14, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
How many Christians do you know of who act like they are a misfit? They had a broken marriage and can't seem to forgive their spouse? They were mistreated by someone and have come to believe they will never be accepted by anyone again? The dreams they once had for their life just dried up and haven't come to be? In some respects, we are all misfits. Because we feel broken in some sense, we can't seem to move on. We can't push forward with what God created us to do.
Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago." (NLV). Another version puts it like this, "Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It's God's gift from start to finish! We don't play the major role. If we did, we'd probably go around bragging that we'd done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do." (The Message).
God made us with a purpose, bruises as all. God still has a plan for your life and my life, although we may feel like He forgot about us quite some time ago. My favorite part in The Message version of this verse is, "All we do is trust him enough to let him do it." Scars should remind you of your past, not your future.
And at the end of the cartoon, Santa returns to the island to pick up the misfit toys to find them homes for Christmas. Isn't that what God does for us? God wants to put us in that special place of ministry--ministry to a family member, to a co-worker, or to a person who made different choices in their life than we did--God is just waiting on you and me to stop acting like a misfit toy.
Monday, December 7, 2009
I will begin book signings in late March. If you're interested in having me come to your town, you can also book a possibly signing through the Dogwood Press website.