Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sense of Adventure

“Where’s your sense of adventure?” After three smacks on the snooze button, a reluctant climb out of bed, a shaving nick on my chin and an extra-long soaking in the shower one recent morning, my wife had the nerve to ask me, “Where’s your sense of adventure?” This was after we had stayed up well past normal sleeping hours wrapping Christmas gifts, writing notes, copying tapes of the church Christmas services, doing dishes and folding laundry. I wasn’t really up for much more adventure.

We’d already wrestled with the boys to get them to sleep which was challenging enough because Tyler’s Sunday School teacher sugared him up at a Christmas party before bringing him home, and Toby was still on a cookie high from the night before at a church fellowship. The goal of finishing our Christmas cards and cleaning house would not be fully accomplished this night. I’d had all the adventure I could take!

Maybe I’m getting old. The adventure of late night movie dates and going out or staying up with each other into the wee hours of the morning just don’t happen as often anymore as they did in the B.C. years (Before Children). Even pulling the occasional all-nighter in seminary seems distant past adventure. And when was the last time I went up on the mountainside and spent the night praying to God?

Yeah, she asked a pretty good question, “Where’s your sense of adventure?” Maybe it’s not in the context of household chores and gift-wrapping, but I don’t ever want to lose the sense of adventure in this life!

Living the Christian faith according to the Word of God is the most challenging and thrilling adventure anyone could ever embark upon. When you’re abiding in the Lord Jesus and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ, and He’s revealing more of Himself, more of His heart, more of His will – there’s nothing more satisfying and sweet! When you’re bowing down in worship, yielding your life in obedience as a living sacrifice and communing with the Almighty Maker of the heavens and the earth in purposeful, passionate prayer – you’re never more fully alive. When His Word becomes the lamp unto your feet and the light unto your path, and when the Holy Spirit of God fills you and teaches you and guides you on the way – you’re never more at peace or so full of joy.

If you think the Bible is boring or the Christian life is dull, then you’re missing out on the adventure of a lifetime.

The Bible tells of adventure from the words “God created in Genesis 1:1 to the promise of Christ’s soon return in Revelation 22. Just look at what adventurous lives the heroes of the faith led! Look at Noah, who sailed on a high seas adventure for over a year riding out the greatest storm in history. Look at Abraham, who left his home when God called him to go to a land He would later give to his descendents, promising to make him into a great nation and blessing all the peoples on earth through him. Look at Moses, whose young life led him in a papyrus basket down the banks of the Nile and who later stretched out his hand over the Red Sea as God parted the waters to save the His people. Every story reverberates with action and adventure, drama and tragedy, revelation and salvation as God makes Himself known to those who open their hearts to receive Him.

One of the greatest accounts of adventure in the Christmas narratives involves some unnamed “Magi” from the east who came searching for the newborn King. Somehow God revealed the truth of His Son to them and gave them a burning desire to follow the star in order to find the baby Jesus. Just try using your holy imagination to recreate the scene in which these wise men decided this journey was one they knew they had to make. “Dude, where are we going?” “I don’t know – just follow that star!” Just imagine the stories they told when they came home. There’s the encounter with Herod in Jerusalem, the dream warning them to return by another route, and then, there’s the object and delight of their adventure – the child, Jesus, whom they came to worship. The Bible says they were “overjoyed” when God led them to Jesus, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with the best gifts they had to offer.

Where’s your sense of adventure? Follow the star that leads to Jesus and bow down to worship Him as Savior and Lord. Then give Him your life in faith and obedience, and you’ll be living the most thrilling adventure known to man.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gabriel and Mary

“Mary, you have a valid question there, young lady,” smiled the angel Gabriel. “Naturally, since you are a virgin this would seem a very impossible thing. Indeed, how on earth could you possibly be expecting a child now – and the Son of the Most High, at that!

“Oh, Mary, if only you knew the overwhelming measure of God’s grace and unending love toward you! If you only knew the indescribable power of His very presence with you! You, my dear Mary, have found favor with God! You have been uniquely chosen as the recipient of the sweetest of heaven’s joys, the richest of delights, the greatest of honors among women!

“Mary, God is fulfilling His plan for the salvation of mankind – and He’s giving you a special role. The time has come for the Messiah to reign upon the throne of David, and over the house of Jacob forever, with His kingdom which will never end. This is the moment all Israel has been waiting for! As the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah long ago: ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.’

“Your Deliverer is coming to your rescue! Your Savior comes bringing the hope of salvation! Do you see it, Mary? You will call Him Immanuel – God with us – Jesus!

“‘Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is He, this King of glory? The Lord Almighty – He is the King of glory.’

“So, uh-hum, back to your question at hand. I guess I was getting a little excited there. Here’s what’s going to happen. The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

“And I have some more good news for you, Mary. Even Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a child in her old age! No one ever thought Elizabeth and Zechariah would have a child. You know how old they are – Elizabeth is well past child-bearing years. Yet, God has answered Zechariah’s prayer, and Elizabeth is already in her sixth month, expecting a boy!

“I want to tell you something, Mary. You may not understand it all, and I can’t even explain the mechanics well. But I do know this, and I don’t want you to ever forget or ever doubt this one thing: Nothing is impossible with God. Nothing! What He wants to do, He will do. What’s impossible with man is possible with God. He is the Sovereign Lord who made the heavens and the earth by His great power and outstretched arm. He is the One who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. He is the One who parted the Red Sea to rescue His people and rained manna down from heaven to feed them. He is the One who delivered Daniel from the mouth of the lions and walked in the fire to save the three Hebrew boys. Nothing is too difficult for God. What God is doing in you is nothing short of amazing, spectacular and miraculous. But nothing is impossible with God. Nothing!”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary replied with the kind of humble faith and willing obedience that comes from a heart joyfully delighting in the grace of God. “May it be done to me according to your word.”

May the joy of Christmas be yours as you worship the Savior, Christ Jesus – the One for whom nothing is impossible.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Great Christmas "Presence"

“Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14

One of the great “Christmas” truths that serves as a wonderful reminder to God’s people all year long is the name given to Jesus – Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Those who have received God’s greatest gift of all – the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord – can with humble thanksgiving also praise Him for the following wonderful "presents" that come with such a great salvation, through our Lord IMMANUEL.

I – Inheritance
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have the assurance of a heavenly, eternal inheritance.
"In Him [Jesus], you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation – having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” – Ephesians 1:13-14

M – Message
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have been entrusted with the world’s greatest message.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

M – Mission
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have received the calling of the greatest mission.
“And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20

A – Advocate
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have a sympathetic advocate with the Father.
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrew 4:14-16

N – Never Alone
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we are never alone through the comfort of the Spirit.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:15-18

U – Unveiling
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have an unveiling of the very image of God.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – Colossians 1:15

E – Everything
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have everything we need for life and godliness.
“Seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.” – 2 Peter 1:3

L – Leader
Because Jesus is Immanuel, God with us, we have a strong, faithful, loving Leader to follow.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” – Psalm 23:1

May the “presence” of God’s Son – Immanuel – fill your heart with tidings of comfort and joy now and forevermore.