Wednesday, December 23, 2009
My Annual Christmas Post
Here is a little meditation I wrote about 6 years ago that sums up for me what is the "Mystery of Christmas" as I meditated on the Incarnation. The very idea of God becoming "one of us among us" (Immanuel, anyone?) still fascinates and overwhelms me. God, the creator of all things, entered his own creation so as to renew and redeem us (and, ultimately, it as well). As you celebrate the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, I hope you enjoy this rerun! Feel free to make comments if you'd like!
A little over 2000 years ago, a tiny child was born in the bleakest of conditions. Oh, he wasn’t the only one born in a bad state. In fact, in some ways, he was one of the lucky ones. He and his mother actually survived childbirth and thrived. Still, this story is unique and amazing on several levels.
First, this child would literally change the way time is reckoned in the world. His life and abilities would so impress generations of others that a brand new movement would be created, one that would radically change the very face of the earth (sometimes for good, sometimes for bad). His name would become recognized among the names of the greatest of humans, yet he never forgot his humble beginnings or lost a sense of who he was.
The second thing about this child is tied to the first in that this baby, this helpless lad full of spittle and mush, was born as the very Son of God. When Mary held his little head to her breast, he drank human milk. Yet, he was (and is) the God of the universe. Can you picture this simply ridiculous, yet somehow poetic scene? God, who calls the stars by name, pressed to the human breast for sustenance. Humble, yet almighty, is how most folks would no doubt recall this child.
A little over 2000 years ago, God proposed that the only remedy for the human condition of sin would be if he humbled himself, stepped out of eternity and into human flesh, and suckled at Mary’s breast in preparation for the greatest, most impressive conversion of all. God, in Mary’s arms, toddling around Joseph’s shop, learning to talk, learning to walk, tasting and touching things with human hands. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 139, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for us, we cannot contain it.”
God knew that the only way to redeem us was if he did it himself. Haven’t you ever had that thought? You know, the one where you say, “If I want something done right, I’ll just have to do it myself?” Imagine God having that thought about bringing us back to proper relationship with him. Imagine again that the only way he knew he could do that is if he came to earth as a baby. Think of it—-how vulnerable the almighty God was at that moment, how paradoxical that the God of all creation had to learn to walk! And why did he put himself in this situation? Out of his inexpressible love for each of us he acted in this manner.
He became insane that we may be sane. He became flesh so that we might walk in the Spirit. He became sin that we might be righteous. He became poor so that we might be rich. He became a toddling, dribbling, helpless babe so that we could become mature humans in the image of almighty God. What wondrous love! What humility and service! How then can anything he asks of us be too difficult?
Lord, in this Christmas season, remind me of your sacrifice and love so that I might be a light shining in darkness to others. May the grace of God and the peace of Christ rule in my family and my life.
Thanks for reading!
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Pathways to Peace: Philippians 4:4-9
I teach an Adult Bible Community at Thomas Road Baptist Church called the G.A.P. (for Graduates and Professionals), and each week I post the outlines and discussion questions from my lessons on the G.A.P. page on Facebook. A few weeks ago I started posting these notes on the blog too. So, here is the outline and questions for our meeting on December 13. The lesson is on Philippians 4:4-9 and is entitled "Pathways to Peace." If you have any questions or would like to add a comment or two, that would be great!
Pathways to Peace
Isaiah 9:6 & Luke 2:9-14
Jesus is described in these verses as the “Prince of Peace” and the one who will bring “peace on earth”
1. What comes to mind when you hear the word “peace”?
2. Describe a moment/time/situation in your life where “peace” would be the best description
3. When life is hectic, what tends to happen to “peace”?
The background to our passage in Philippians 4
1. The church had division (Euodia and Syntynche; Phil. 4:1-2)
2. Epaphroditus almost died (Phil. 2:25-30)
3. False teachers threatened the church (Phil. 3:2)
4. Paul was in prison (Phil. 1:12-14)
Yet Paul claimed to be content (Phil. 4 :11-14)
Philippians 4:4-9—Pathways to Peace: Praise, Prayer, and Practice
Peace follows Christ; he is the path
Pathway 1: A Proper Attitude of Praise
Paul tells us that attention determines perspective.
a. In spite of the issues with which Paul and the Philippians are dealing, he tells them to rejoice, to practice praise
b. Praise focuses our attention off of our circumstances and on to God’s abilities
c. Praise helps us pay attention to the Prince of Peace as our foundation
When we focus on Jesus, we are better able to practice “graciousness” or “loving consideration” towards others as we learn to love and act as Christ loved and acted
An attitude of praise is the proper starting point for a life of peace
Peace follows Christ; praise focuses on him
Pathway 2: Prayer is an Antidote to Anxiety
Paul tells us that attention can determine our peace
Anxiety is a thief to peace, it will rob us of peace and burden us
When we focus on anxiety, we usually find ourselves lacking peace
This passage commands (it is an imperative) to avoid anxiety by following Paul’s advice
a. Worry about nothing
b. Pray about everything
c. Thank God for anything
If we follow Paul’s path here, we will find ourselves under the guard of God’s peace
Just like Paul is currently under the garrison or guard of Roman soldiers, the Christian who learns to pray and praise in the presence of God can find protection in God’s peace
Peace is a strong place, a place of protection
It guards our hearts (seat of the emotions)
It guards our minds (seat of decision)
Peace follows Christ; Prayer points to him
Pathway 3: Proper Practice Leads to Peace
Paul tells us that attention to what we think and do can lead to peace
Right thinking and right living create an environment for peace to invade our lives
Pay attention to these things
What is True
What is Honorable
What is Just
What is Pure
What is Lovely
What is Commendable
Things that contain moral excellence or lead to praise
Then do them!
Do what you have learned from God’s Word
Do what you have learned from others
If you do, God’s peace will follow
Peace follows Christ; do what he does to gain his peace
Quote from Wiersbe
Sow a thought, reap an action
Sow an action, reap a habit
Sow a habit, reap a character
Sow a character, reap a destiny
Peace follows Christ; his peace is our destiny
1. Life has a way of stealing our joy. Yet Jesus and his love and grace never change. Therefore, we should rejoice even if things are difficult.
God has said that he will never leave us or forsake us, and that is the reason we can be joyful. Take the command to rejoice seriously! Spend time this week praising God.
2. If we truly want the peace of God, let us pray and bring our burdens, requests, and needs to him.
Spend time in prayer daily. Make a specific appointment for it. Do it as an expression of your desire to know God and to experience his peace.
As you pray, do it with a thankful heart. Thankfulness is central to the Christian faith. An attitude of gratitude can create an atmosphere of peace. Find specific things for which to give thanks to God.
3. In this season of Christmas, the idea of peace is on the minds of a lot of people. The war against terror, the problems with the economy, and the cares of everyday life cause many to look for a pathway of peace. Look for things you can do that will show the presence of Christ in your life.
Look for opportunities this week to share your experience with Jesus (the Prince of Peace) as the means for true peace in our world today
As you hear Christmas carols played, focus on the words that mention Christ’s role in bringing peace and find ways to be an instrument of peace to others
Focus on commendable things and things of moral excellence as a means to share the truth of Christ and his gospel with others
How can we have peace when we are not at peace with one another?
What relationships does God want to work on with you right now?
Do you focus on your demands, or on being patient and kind with people around you?
Can you trust God with the concerns of your life? If not, how can you start?
What is it in God’s character that makes him worthy of our praise and of our trust? How can you show your praise to him? How can you show trust?
Who in your realm of influence needs peace? What can you do to introduce them to the prince of peace?
What will the church look like if we do what Paul commands us in Philippians 4?
What will the world think if we did it?
How can you live a life of peace? Will you?
Thanks for reading!