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Henry Blackaby said, "You never find God asking persons to dream up what they want to do for Him...Without doubt, the most important factor in each (Biblical) situation was not what the individual wanted to do for God. The most important factor was what God was about to do." (Experiencing God, page 66)
He adds, "God reveals His purposes (His tasks) so you will know what He plans to do... When God came to Noah He did not ask, 'What do you want to do for me?' He came to reveal what He was about to do. It was far more important to know what God was about to do. It really did not matter what Noah had planned to do for God. God was about to destroy the world. He wanted to work through Noah to accomplish His purposes of saving a remnant of people and animals to repopulate the earth." (page 99)
This morning I want to focus upon some new yearís resolutions that each of should consider for ourselves, but before we delve into our topic, I thought you might enjoy a few stories of failed resolutions: A story is told that At the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachersí new yearís resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. "Why werenít my resolutions posted?" She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacherís first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year. Or how bout this oneÖA son called his parents to wish them a happy new year and when his Dad answered the phone, He asked his dad,Ē well Dad, whatís your new yearís resolution? His dad replied, To make "To make your mother as happy as I can all year," When his mom got on the phone he asked. her the same question. His mom replied my resolution is "To see that your dad keeps his New Yearís resolution." Or some of you may have given up on resolutions taking the same attitude as the characters in the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes: The cartoon character Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes once said, ďGod put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now Iím so far behind Iíll never die.Ē
There’s another beautiful picture of baptism given here: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Did you catch it? Baptism clothes us with Christ. We’re wrapped up in Jesus and all of his goodness in baptism. We’re clothed with his work and his righteousness. Armani, Gucci, Abercrombie and Fitch – none of those designer labels can compare with the garments we have in Jesus’ name. God “clothes” us with forgiveness and salvation. In other words, he says that these things are ours. They’re real, just like a change of clothes. All who believe that these garments are theirs have what’s needed to be part of God’s family.
The Lord offers a wonderful wardrobe for his people. It’s his Son’s life, death, and resurrection. These are ours to “wear” spiritually. God does have a dress code for his family. This is what identifies the Christian as such. Let’s face it. People often wear the clothes they do because the want to be noticed. Quite often it’s the label or the name brand that supposedly makes a person a “somebody.” Well, you want to be labeled as a “somebody”, then be labeled as one who is wrapped up with Jesus. Be labeled with Christ. Be proud that you are a Christian. Don’t be ashamed of all the Christ has done for you! God has made you part of his family.
ďCheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace withou...
There was a certain old recluse who lived deep in the mountains of Colorado. When he died, distant relatives came from the city to collect his valuables. Upon arriving, all they saw was an old shack with an outhouse beside it. Inside the shack, next to the rock fireplace, was an old cooking pot and his mining equipment. A cracked table with a three-legged chair stood guard by a tiny window, and a kerosene lamp served as the centerpiece for the table. In a dark corner of the little room was a dilapidated cot with a threadbare bedroll on it.
They picked up some of the old relics and started to leave. As they were driving away, an old friend of the recluse, on his mule, flagged them down. “Do you mind if I help myself to what’s left in my friend’s cabin?” he asked. “Go right ahead,” they replied. After all, they thought, what inside that shack could be worth anything?
The old friend entered the shack and walked directly over the table. He reached under it and lifted one of the floor boards. He then proceeded to take out all the gold his friend had discovered over the past 53 years – enough to have built a palace. The recluse died with only his friend knowing his true worth. As the friend looked out of the little window and watched the cloud of dust behind the relative’s car disappear, he said, “They should have got to know him better.
I wonder, as we reflect on this Good Friday, as we watch the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died a criminal’s death 2000 years ago that we too have missed out on the gold. Do we know our Friend’s (Jesus) true worth? Do we treat Him as if he’s some old relic of history that lived somewhere in strife-torn Middle East long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far way? What’s that gotta do with me? Yeah, sure He died, and maybe he’s some tragic hero and we drive away, walk away empty from this assembly this day or do we wanna walk out here with the gold? Have we missed the gold? Will someone one day say of us that we should have got to know Jesus better?
The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury (3) tells a story of a little girl was wasnít easy to love. Her name was Phyllis, and her Sunday School Teacher tells this story about her: "Phyllis wasnít an easy child to love...sometimes I did wish she wasnít in the particular Sunday School class that I taught...She never sat still. She hated to be touched, and she always had to have the last word." Her teacher tried to give Phyllis a speaking part, but Phyllis refused ""Iím probably going to a party that night," she said grandly. "Lord," I prayed silently, "please help me love Phyllis". "Well I do have a few more parts if you change your mind." "I wonít" Phyllis said, and she didnít." At the rehearsal, the teacher heard ""Mary doesnít act like sheís going to have a baby" muttered a husky little voice behind me. Phyllis might not have any desire to be in the program, but she wouldnít miss the rehearsal. "Shhhh" I whispered, reaching back to pat Phyllisís hand. She jerked it away, saying "Okay Okay" In the last scene, only a spotlight shone on the holy family, and the children hummed "Silent Night". It was beautiful-- but who was that moving in front of the manger? Phyllis You never knew where that child was going to pop up next. Now she stuck her hand into the manger, squeezed the dollís arm, and disappeared back into the shadows. "Phyllis", I called, "what are you doing uup there?" "Iím just looking," she said, "Besides itís not a baby. Itís just a doll. I felt it." "Lord, please help me love Phyllis". ...By 6:45 the air was bristling with excitment backstae...There was no Phyllis to be seen and I began to relax... As the organ chimed the beginnning of the service, I took my prompters seat in the front pew. With the opening strains of "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night", the lights came up on the manger scene, and the narrator began... I felt something bump my knee and give a little shgove. "Move over," muttered an all too familiar voice. "I decided not to go to the party." ... The angels sang to the shepherds. The shepherds went to Bethlehem and took a lamb for the baby. The wisemen went to see herod and then to the stable. And Mary sat there, "pondering these things in her heart." It was lovely. Phyllis sat beside me so quietly that I forgot all about her, and when I realized she was gone it was too late". She stomped her way right up to the manger, just as she had done during rehearsal. But this time she stiffened, awe-struck, then turned, eyes wide with wonder, and came hurrying back to me. "Heís alive" she said to me in a penetrating whisper. Across the aisle, someone asked, "What did she say?" "She said, "Heís aliveí "Lile ripples in a pond, the word passed from pew to pew, all the way to the back of the sanctuary. "Heís alive...alive...alive." ... I put my arm around Phyllis... "You wre the best part of the program" I said into her ear... "It wasnít in the program" she said, but she didnít push me away. Christ was love (3) - The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury, "Christmas - As Mysterious as Ever", by Doris Swehla, pp. 78-81
Whenever a farmer in western Kansas buys a new truck or combine or something, they are hesitant to bring it out or tell anyone about it. Iím not quite sure why that is - but I think a part of it is they donít want the other farmers to get jealous over what theyíve got and they donít want to come off as arrogant. So they keep it to themselves as long as possible, or just donít buy new trucks so as not to come off as being better than their neighbors. It seems rather ridiculous to a point - almost like a false modesty. If God has blessed you with the ability to get a new truck and you are still generous with your offerings and giving, why canít you let people see your gift from God? Why canít you use it? As long as you arenít arrogant and flashy about it, why not enjoy it? Let them look at it and do the ďoohs and aahs.Ē
Mary realized that there is no way she could keep this gift hidden in a garage - that it wasnít just a gift for her - but for the world. She had to admit the bare truth of the matter - she had been given a wonderful gift. She said, From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for meó holy is his name. Soon after she gave birth, she would realize what a PUBLIC thing this was. Shepherds first came and then told all kinds of people about it. So they came and saw the baby. Then Wise Men came some months later. Here she had all these strangers coming in their house and visiting the manger on the same night as the birth, but she didnít say, ďcome back tomorrow - I just gave birth for crying out loud.Ē She knew that all generations would know about this birth, but she didnít want to be arrogant and flashy about it. She wanted to make sure that they kept the praise where it belonged - to the Mighty One - for doing great things for her. She didnít want any of the credit.
AN HONEST QUESTION
Ravi Zacharias, in "Questions I Would Like to Ask God," writes:
I have often referenced the quote by the talk show host Larry King, in his response to a particular question: "If you could select any one person across all of history to interview, who would it be?" Mr. Kingís answer was that he would like to interview Jesus Christ. When the questioner followed with, "And what would you like to ask him?" King replied, "I would like to ask him if he was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me."
Ravi Zacharias then writes that when he requested permission thr...
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!
GODíS GLORY AT MARANATHA
At the 2009 Kansas high school state track championship, an unusual thing happened. The team that won the girls 3,200-meter relay was disqualified. But what happened next was even more unusual. The team that was awarded the state championship by default turned right around and gave their medals to the team that had been disqualified.
The first school, St. Maryís Colgan, lost first place because judges ruled that a runner had stepped out of her lane as she handed off the baton. That meant the second team, Maranatha Academy, moved up to first. After receiving their medals, the girls from Maranatha saw the downtrodden looks on the faces of the St. Maryís girls, so they gave them their individual medals.
Why did they do this? As Maranathaís coach Bernie Zarda put it: (Illustration by Dave Branon, Our Daily Bread)