Archive for December, 2009

Dec
03

Regifting Christmas

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“For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 (NLT)

The first phrase of this wonderful verse of Scripture tells us that God loves the world. Love has to have an object in order to be authentic love. God loves the world! It’s been said that “God doesn’t love all of us, he loves each of us.” I like that because it reveals both the scope of God’s love as well as its personal and intimate nature. God’s love is limitless and without border.

Who do you love? Jesus was confronted by a young attorney one day who inquired about the greatest commandment. Jesus replied that the greatest commandment was to love all of God with all of oneself. But he didn’t stop there. He added, “The second is like the first, love your neighbor as yourself.” Even 2,000 years ago citizens of the Middle East were consumed with understanding who their neighbors were. Intrigued by the response, the attorney bit and asked, “Who is my neighbor?”

Jesus then unpacked the famous story of the Good Samaritan. The basic story line conveys a traveler who is overtaken by bandits, robbed, beaten and left for dead by the side of the road. A priest walks by on the other side, then a Temple assistant who follows suit. The third to happen upon the scene is a Samaritan who stops and offers aid. “Who was the neighbor?” Jesus asked. “The one who showed mercy,” replied the attorney.

When we teach this story to our children, the outcome is usually something like “everyone is your neighbor.” But that’s not the force of Jesus’ point. Jesus’ point is that my neighbor is the least likely of persons…the last person on earth you’d want to be stranded on a desert island with, so to speak. My favorite definition of community is “what happens when the person I love least moves next door.” That’s your neighbor. Real love crosses lines. Jesus modeled this by loving those who were different, those who were outcast, and those who were selfish. He loved those who fabricated lies about him, those who denied him, those who betrayed him, and those who would reject him. He loved those who would condemn him to his death.

Have you ever wondered why your life is filled with difficult people? I think God fills our lives with difficult people to show us something about ourselves. Think about the most difficult person in your life right now. That probably didn’t take long, did it? Instead of wondering how to fix that person, maybe we should think about what that person reveals about our own hearts.

We’ll never love like God loves until we’re willing to cross lines. To do that means we will have to eliminate the conjunctions from our claims. Conjunctions are words like “but” and “however” that make our claims of love conditional. For example, you may hear people say, “I love you, BUT…” or “I love you HOWEVER…” Conjunctions establish conditions. Yet Jesus did not love that way. John 3:16 proclaims that “God so loved the world,” without conjunctions or conditions.

Do you love like God loves?

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Dec
01

Regifting Christmas

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Are you a “regifter?” According to Wikipedia, regifting is when “goods that have been received as a gift are offered to others, unbeknown to them that it was originally a gift to the person offering it.” The Seinfeld episode made the term popular, but I think we all know that regifting is a practice that dates back to the beginning of human history!

Why do people regift? I think it boils down to two reasons. First, you get a gift that you don’t like, or, you get a gift that you don’t need. If either one or both of those scenarios is in play, you have a candidate for recycling. We usually keep the best gifts for ourselves. But what if the best gift of all is meant to be passed on?

John 3:16 is the essence of the gospel of God. You may not think of John 3:16 as a verse that is fitting for Advent, but if you think about it, you’ll see that the verse describes the best gift ever! God has given his Son to us and for us. God’s intention is that we pass the gift along.

Categories : Advent, Christmas, John 3:16
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Dec
01

Suffering and Hope: 1 Peter Seven

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“You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” — 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NLT)

Peter uses architectural language to describe our relationship with God, one another, and the world. Clearly he has the Temple of Jerusalem in his mind as he unfolds this imagery. In the analogy, Peter cites Jesus as the cornerstone. Several years ago I participated in a mission trip to Haiti, where the chief objective was to build a church in a small village. When our team arrived, we discovered that the floor had been poured in preparation for construction of the block building. I stood and watch for what must have been two hours as the team leaders laid the very first cornerstone. It had to be placed perfectly because that first cornerstone was what would bring the entire building to square.

That experience added color to my previous understanding of Jesus as the cornerstone. He is the first stone laid, and his work brings the entire Kingdom to “square.” As Peter fleshes out his analogy, he states that the believing community of faith are living stones as opposed to the dead stones of the Temple. Believers are the living stones of a new temple that house the presence of God. We are built on top of the foundation of Jesus Christ, the cornerstone, and we lean on one another as we rest on the cornerstone.

Peter then switches gears and suggests that the living stones of the new temple also have a second function: serving as priests to the world. Old Testament priesthood was a position of privilege. To be a priest one had to be born of the trive of Levi. Today we are qualified as priests by rite of the new birth. Peter makes the argument that every believer functions in the role of priest, offering the spiritual sacrifices of their bodies in continual service to God (cf. Romans 12:1-2). As living stones and priests, we house the presence of God’s Spirit who empowers and guides our work. We live as the incarnational presence of God in our communities and our world.

As believers, we are to function as priests in a world in desperate need of priesting. How can you be a priest to the world today?
Categories : 1 Peter, Hope, Suffering
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