Categories
Theology

A Prayer for Christmas Morning

Father in Heaven,

We thank you for Christmas, and we thank you for gifts, good food, and family fun. But while these things are nice things, they cannot do any ultimate good to us because they cannot take away our sins. What is ultimate is that your Word, the eternal Christ, took on flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. He emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. He was found in human form in a manger, such a lowly birthplace for a King. Yet he did not remain a baby. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. And though he died, he did not stay dead. Father, you highly exalted him by raising him from the dead, giving him the name that is above every other name. So we thank you for the gift of a suffering servant who took our iniquity so that we might be clean.

Father, at Christmas we hear many stories about kindness, peace, and being “good for goodness’ sake.” But if we are honest, our goodness is nothing to showcase, nor has it ever been. We praise you that you do not look upon us and give us favor because of our goodness. You could never do this because before we knew you, we were slaves to sin: we were held captive by the law, which we could not keep. Thank you Father that when the fullness of time had come, you sent your Son to be born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law. You redeemed us through your Son and made us sons and daughters. He redeemed us by fulfilling the law in our place and giving us a righteousness we could never earn. So we thank you for the gift of a righteous man whose record is credited to our account.

O Father, would your Holy Spirit impress these gospel truths on our minds and hearts today, and everyday. As we open up gifts, let us remember that Jesus is the greatest gift that has ever been given. As we eat food, let us remember that the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. As we spend time with family, let us remember that we now belong to a new family which is bound together more tightly than our earthly families ever could be.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Categories
Life

Don’t Hide Behind Your Giving

In my last post, I talked about taking Jesus literally when he tells us to sell everything and give to the poor.  One frustration that I have with the Christian American Dream is that sometimes we are urged, albeit unknowingly, to “hide behind your giving.”

Let me explain: Some people think that giving lots of money excuses them from actively engaging in God’s mission.  I know that my heart can be susceptible to this. Americanized Christianity tells us that if we write a check every other week, then we are the senders, we are the givers, we are the ones who don’t have to get our hands dirty because we pay others to do it for us.

But what I see in Biblical Christianity is quite different. People who give are still called to get their hands dirty. People who give should still engage in God’s mission with their neighbors, their family and friends, their coworkers, and the pagan culture around them. If we trust in Jesus as Lord, then we are supposed to be on his mission, not ours. This doesn’t always mean going overseas of course. It means doing it in your city, your church, your workplace, your neighborhood, and your home.

In order to do this, we cannot accumulate money and possessions and call it “blessing.”  When we make money, we give it away. When we get stuff, we share with others and sometimes even give those things away. But we never seek to accumulate. And we never give so we can say, “I give; they are sent.”  Jesus said, “Go and make disciples” (Matt. 28:19), and Paul reminded us of Jesus’ words, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). This means everyone.

Let’s not hide behind our giving. We are all sent. And Christianity will never be biblical until we embrace that.

Categories
Life

God’s Party and Our Praise

God is going to start a party with the best food and finest wine.  Isaiah 25:6 says, “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine.” I imagine that there will be some decent music at this party as well (because every good party has good music).

One of the songs that will be sung is in verse 9.  God’s people will sing, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.  This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

This verse reveals 4 things about God and his people:

  1. God comes to us. We wait on him; we do not go to him.
  2. God saves people; we do not save ourselves.
  3. Salvation results in our gladness and joy.
  4. Our salvation is a reconciling of our relationship with God — not “getting into heaven.”

Let’s think about the fourth one for a moment.  Whenever Scripture mentions “the salvation of the Lord,” it is God bringing us to himself. God’s people are not simply rejoicing in the fact that God allows us to live in heaven and receive good things from him.  That is certainly part of it.  But it is not it. The redeemed are rejoicing because God has brought them from and oppressive enemy and destruction (which in the larger context of Scripture is sin, Satan, and death) to himself.    This is why they are singing, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him.”

Those who are truly redeemed wait for Jesus.  John Piper wrote, “Those who would be happy in heaven if Jesus wasn’t there, won’t be there.”  Is your rejoicing in God or in his gifts?  Is your gladness in the fact that God has brought you into relationship with himself or the fact that you get a lot of benefits from knowing him?  We need to examine ourselves daily and seek to make him our complete satisfaction.  Otherwise, we are making God out to be a divine genie and not the supreme treasure of the universe.