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A FULL LIFE
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long," answered the Mexican.
"Well, then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.
"You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?"
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."
Reinhold Niebuhr, a famous American Protestant theologian in the 20th century, served as both a working pastor in Detroit and a respected professor at Yale University. He told the story of a flatland farm boy who, all his young life, dreamed of being a sailor on a tall-masted sailing ship. He slipped away from home, made his way to a port city, and enlisted as an apprentice sailor. The third day out to sea, the captain commanded that he assume the watch in the crow’s nest. The boy climbed halfway up the mast and then froze, going neither up nor down. He took an option that was not an option. He feared the ridicule of the seasoned sailors on the deck beneath him, so he would not go down. He feared the heights above him, so he would not go up. He froze between the options and took neither. He is the very illustration of the one-bag servant. The servant neither risked the money nor threw it away. He simply kept it and did nothing with it.
YOU’RE GOING TO PLAY BASEBALL THIS SUMMER
Joshua 14:12, James 2:26
A little boy named Jimmy was about 13 years old. He grew up with his brother in a very poor family not too far from downtown. Their dad was very sick and could not work. They had food to eat every morning and evening, but he and his brother wore jeans with holes in their knees. Both boys had paper routes so that they could have some lunch money at school.
One day in early spring, Jimmy’s dad called him into his room. “Son,” he said, “your mother and I have been saving up money all year so that you can play on a baseball team. I just wanted you to know that you’re going to play baseball this summer.”
Jimmy jumped to his feet and hugged his dad. He could hardly believe it. But, he knew that playing baseball cost a lot of money. He needed baseball shoes and a glove. He knew that his dad couldn’t afford all of that. He couldn’t believe that his dad had the money for the signup fee. But he knew his dad said that he would get to play baseball this summer. It was all too wonderful.
Jimmy immediately ran to the neighbors to see if he could cut their lawns and sweep their driveways. It didn’t take too long for him to have enough money to buy some cleats. So he went to the store and came home with a brand new pair of baseball cleats. He tried them on to show his dad. He was so excited.
Next, he saw a baseball glove at the corner drug store and began to work and save his money for that. It wasn’t long until he had it. Now he could begin practicing.
Every day after school, he threw an old tennis ball he had found against the side of the garage so he could practice being a baseball player. He thought he could be a pitcher so he drew a square on the garage wall out of chalk and began throwing the tennis ball at the square.
Soon he could put the ball in the square every time. Finally, the day came for signups. He and his dad walked down to the park and waited in line. The boy looked at all the coaches and wondered who would pick him to be on their team. He was the happiest boy at the sign ups. He loved his dad.
That was the last time Jimmy’s dad would take him to the park. Right after signups, he got extremely ill. He would lie in bed and wait for Jimmy to get home after every game so he could hear all about it. Right after baseball season ended that summer, Jimmy’s dad died. He never got to see him play in one game. But Jimmy never forgot about the day his dad told him, “This summer you’re going to play baseball.”
Because his dad told him that, Jimmy believed it. He trusted his dad. Then he worked hard toward what his dad had told him. Finally, he received what was promised.
Jimmy played baseball that summer. Later on, he played in high school and college.
Faith and works. James 2:26 in action.
One of America’s greatest poets is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The year 1860 found Longfellow happy in his life, enjoying a widening recognition, and elated over the election of Abraham Lincoln which he believed signaled the triumph of freedom and redemption for the nation.
The following year the Civil War began. On July 9, 1861 Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing locks of her daughter’s hair, using hot sealing wax. Suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awaked by her screams. As he desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife, he was severely burned on his face and hands.
Fanny died the next day. Longfellow’s severe burns would not even allow him to attend Fanny’s funeral. His white beard, which so identified with him, was one of the results of the tragedy – the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible. In his diary for Christmas day 1861 he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”
In 1862 the toll of war dead began to mount and in his diary for that year Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.”
In 1863 his son who had run away to join the Union army was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.
But on Christmas Day 1864 – at age 57 – Longfellow sat down to try to capture, if possible, the joy of the season. He began:
I heard the bells on Christmas day.
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
As he came to the third stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But...
THE CATERPILLAR JOURNEY
I heard a quote in college that struck me: "The caterpillar is the most confused creature which roams the planet, because undoubtedly stamped in his soul is the call to fly."
Caterpillars must go through four stages before their metamorphosis is complete. They begin as eggs, next they hatch as caterpillars, then they go through a stage where they eat, and eat, and eat some more. Eventually, they become a chrysalis before the transformation is complete and they can finally emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Often, we want to walk straight into the calling God has for us. We want to do and be everything God wants us to be and not only that, but we want to skip the journey that takes us there and do it NOW! We want to go from being caterpillar eggs to butterflies! However, we all know that there are risks to anything being born prematurely. In order for anything to be birthed, whether it is a vision or a calling, we who are to fulfill it must go on a journey. We must go through stages and seasons of preparation.
For weeks, our class would observe the caterpillars I had ordered. We would begin to notice that each day they would crawl to the top of the aquarium and stand upside down. It was as though they were saying "Is today the day? Is today the day my transformation will begin?" When they realized it wasn't, they would walk back down and eat the day away. Every morning upon returning to the classroom, we would always be amazed at how much the caterpillars had grown.
Sometimes our lives can reach a point where they seem routine and mundane. Like the caterpillars, we are walking up and down, up and down. We may feel bored with where we are, like God has forgotten us, or as though we are not accomplishing much with our lives. We go through the day wondering. Is this the day? If we find it's not, our response should be like the caterpillars. It's not the day, but God has promised it, so I'm going to prepare for it nonetheless! We should eat, and eat, and eat from the Word of God. We should spend daily time in prayer and worship. We should be building, preparing, and strengthening our spirit man to accomplish the things which God has stamped on our souls to do.
After about two weeks, we would usually come to class one morning to find that many of the caterpillars had formed a chrysalis. From the outside of the chrysalis, it always seemed to my students as though nothing were happening. After a while, they would lose interest in the chrysalis. It wasn't fun to watch, and it wasn't spectacular to look at.
I'm convinced that like the caterpillar, God wants to take us on a journey. I'm convinced there is a process. Job said "For He knows the way that I take, and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Sometimes there is pain in the process. Sometimes the journey is difficult, but God knows and sees exactly where you are. When others look and see an ugly cocoon, He looks inside and sees the beautiful creature that is being transformed. Before David became king of Israel, he was first a shepherd boy. Some of his brothers were more handsome than him and greater in stature, but God did not choose them. In the Bible God spoke in 1 Samuel 16: 7 concerning David "for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God chose the young, ruddy shepherd boy who had a heart after Him. All those years David spent alone in the field, God was preparing him. Don't despise the cocoon. God may simply be waiting for your character to catch up with your calling.
It is in the difficult process of breaking out of the chrysalis that the butterfly becomes strong. However, if the caterpillar breaks its way out of the cocoon prematurely, he will never survive. His wings will not be developed enough to allow him to properly fly. God does not want us to simply arrive at our calling, He desires for us to be successful in it. You may be a caterpillar with the word 'butterfly' stamped on your forehead wondering "When is it going to happen?" Consider this thought.is it possible that you have yet to visit the cocoon? If you're having trouble waiting for the moment that you break out into your calling, just remember. "He has made everything beautiful in HIS time." (Ecclesiastes 3: 11)
I sat down and looked through some magazines this past week. I discovered that if I want to feel right, I need to get a NordicTrack. I don’t have a NordicTrack, just a membership down at the gym, so I suddenly realized that I didn’t feel as healthy as I thought I did.
I then read that if I wanted to be stylish, I would need to buy a Toyota Camry. Our family van was in the shop, so I had been driving our old Mercury Sable. That felt bad enough. Real men drive SUVs or bright red sports cars. I’ve got four kids, so I don’t have the luxury of driving what real men drive. So I found out that I couldn’t be stylish with the cars I owned.
Then I saw that if I wanted to really feel the spring season, I had to dress for the spring season, and the only place for that was at Dillard’s. I knew I wouldn’t have a chance to go to Dillard’s that week. Suddenly the beautiful weather just didn’t seem that beautiful. I just wasn’t dressed for it.
It didn’t get any better. I learned that I needed to be opening my mail with knife from Oneida. I only had a two-dollar letter opener from Office Depot. Now even my mail was disappointing. On top of that, I discovered that I couldn’t have a good meal if I wasn’t in Texas – at least not a meal that would satisfy me. So much for my Lean Cuisines. Then I read that if I wanted to be a man, at least a manlier man than my neighbor, I had to drive a Yard-Man mower with a Briggs and Stratton engine. At least it was cheaper than a new SUV.
I like my house until I saw the new development’s ad. I thought my family and I were close until I realized we didn’t have season passes to the amusement park. I even thought I loved my wife, but since I hadn’t bought her a diamond necklace from the jewelry store, I was informed that I didn’t. I found out that I can’t even be romantic with my wife unless we use Sylvania light bulbs. Wouldn’t you know, we have GE.
By the time I got finished with those magazines, I wasn’t just depressed – I needed counseling. Ever felt that way? We all have. It’s the sad fruit of living life that covets.
James Emery White, You Can Experience an Authentic Life (Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000), 139-140
For thousands of years the Israelites had been looking for the coming of the Messiah. There in Bethlehem by the miraculous power of God, Mary, a young virgin, gave birth to the Savior of the world. Most people missed that glorious event, but a few did not.
Who are the Biblical examples for us to follow in showing adoration to the Lord Jesus Christ?
1.) Mary... having a heart that is completely surrendered to the will of God. Mary, the chosen mother-to-be of Jesus, responded to the angel Gabriel's startling announcement with, "I am the Lord's servant... may it be to me as you have said."
We do not know all Mary went through after she conceived the Christ Child by the Holy Spirit. We do know that Joseph, not understanding at first how his beloved Mary had become pregnant, had it in his mind to quietly divorce her. But God intervened for His faithful servant, Mary. An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and told him not to be afraid to take Mary home to be his wife, that the Child in her was of the Holy Spirit. Joseph and Mary obeyed God even at personal expense (Matt. 1: 18 - 24).
2.) The shepherds... believing, responding and witnessing. Believing the announcement of the angel of the Lord, the shepherds hurried to find the Baby Jesus lying in the manger. Then they spread the word concerning what had happened and what was told them about the Child (Luke 2: 16, 17).
3.) Simeon... living a Holy Spirit-led life full of praise to God. The Holy Spirit had led Simeon, a righteous and devout man, to go into the temple courts just as Joseph and Mary came to consecrate Jesus to God when He was eight days old. Recognizing that Salvation had surely come to both the Jews and the Gentiles, Simeon took Jesus into his arms and praised God (Luke 2: 21 - 28).
4.) Anna... being thankful and always about the Lord's work. The elderly prophetess, Anna, never stopped worshiping the Lord in the temple. She often fasted and prayed. When she saw the Baby Jesus she gave thanks to God (Luke 2: 37, 38).
5.) The Magi... physically giving of themselves, their hearts, and their gifts to the Lord. The Magi from the East had come on a long and dangerous journey with one purpose in mind, to worship a newly-born King. Having thus presented themselves in worship, they then gave their gifts: gold, a tribute worthy of a King; frankincense, a fragrance often used to honor God with the smoke of incense; and myrrh, a spice used to embalm the dead, foretelling Jesus' sacrificial death to come (Matt. 2: 11).
Like these before us, if we are sincere in the surrender of ourselves to Him, we, too, should not be unwilling to part with all that is dear to us for His glory and worship--our reputations, our finances, our time, our plans.
How will you show your adoration of the Lord Jesus Christ this Christmas season? Start with inviting Christ into your heart to be both Savior and Lord!
Oh come, let us adore Him... Christ, the Lord!
GOING NO WHERE FAST
In his book "Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life", the author Charles Swindoll tells a story about the 19th Century agnostic Thomas Huxley (some of you might know that it was Huxley who promoted Darwinism and Humanism in his attacks on Christianity). Huxley was in Dublin and was rushing to catch a train. He climbed aboard one of Dublin’s famous horse drawn taxis and said to the driver -"Hurry, I’m almost late ... drive fast". Off they went at a furious pace and Huxley sat back in his seat and closed his eyes. After a while Huxley opened his eyes and glanced out the window to notice that they were going in the wrong direction. Realizing that he hadn’t told the driver where to take him he called out ‘do you know wher...
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The Significance of Nazareth
"God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee." (Luke 1:26)
Many Christian historians tell us that by the time of the birth of Christ, Nazareth had become an unimportant town. It was the home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39) and Nazareth was where the angel announced to the virgin the birth of the Messiah. (Luke 1:26-28) Nazareth is where Jesus grew to manhood (Luke 4:16) and where He began His public ministry in the synagogue. (Matthew 13:54) Unfortunately, Nazareth around the time of the birth of Christ had established a rather poor reputation in morals and religion. Nazareth and the people living in her were despised by Romans and Jews and those living in her were considered a conquered people. Evidence of the citizen's spiritual condition in Nazareth is found in their treatment of Christ during His ministry. When He told them things they could not tolerate they drove Him out of town, they even tried to throw Him off the cliff. (Luke 4:16-22)
Symbolically, the significance to all this is that Nazareth in Jesus' time represented no reputation for religion. Jesus, having His connections to Nazareth shows us symbolically that God is just as able and willing to send His message to a people that are not willing to receive the message as well as to a people searching for God.
Gabriel can mean "the strength of God." Let the Holy Spirit place this truth deep within your heart. Gabriel's message informed Mary that she had found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
Even though you live in a world that has no reputation for the things of God and no desire to worship Christ in spirit and truth, the Lord can get His message to you anytime and strengthen you to accomplish your part of the Great Commission this Christmas season. No matter where you live and no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, the Lord can reach into your life and make you a valuable part of the building of the kingdom of God.
If you find yourself in Nazareth, in poor reputation in morals and dead religion, then let the Holy Spirit open your heart to the Christ of Christmas, be strengthen enjoy the favor of God in your life.
Let Christ be Significant In Your Life!
Many people find beetles and bugs somewhat creepy, but if here’s one beetle in the world that could turn you into a beetle lover - the jewel scarab.
Jewel scarabs live in the jungles of Honduras and have the shape of your regular Christmas beetle. But their colours are so dazzling and beautiful that they can sell for up to $500 a beetle.
Beautiful flaming reds, bright golds, silvers that resemble bright, shiny chrome. Even the beetle hater finds jewel scarabs dazzling and beautiful!
But the jewel scarab’s beauty doesn’t come automatically. Every scarab has modest, even ugly beginnings.
The scarab starts life as a soft, mushy, grey-white grub growing inside a rotting tree stump.
They spend their life like this for around a year, until finally, when the rainy season arrives, the adult scarabs emerge soft bodied and pale.
Then within hours, their bodies harden and their splendid colours show.
They only live for another three months, but what a glorious existence it is.
People are just like scarabs. We may not feel terribly beautiful and attractive. In fact there may be parts of you that feel distinctly ugly – and I’m not talking just about your body, but about your spirit, your mind, your thought life, your character, your home.
But it’s the work of the Spirit of God to make us beautiful.
It may seem to take a lifetime, but as the Spirit works on us, we will emerge as beautiful, dazzling, shining creatures gloriously bearing the image of our Creator.