Like Father, Like God

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11, ESV). Merry Christmas! Someone has said, “Most people spend their lives avoiding God because it is a re-encounter with their own father who was nonbonding and non affirming.” One of the main reasons people hold false perceptions of God is our tendency to project onto God the unloving characteristics of the people we look up to. One psychologist found that this spiritual development of the God image is more of an emotional process than an intellectual one. She brings out the importance of family and other relationships to the development of what she calls one’s “private God.” She says that, “No child arrives at the ‘house of God’ without his pet God under his arm.” And for some of us the “pet God” we have tied on a leash to our hearts is not very nice, nor is it biblically accurate. This is because our negative images of God are often rooted in our emotional hurts and destructive patterns of relating to people that we carry with us from our past. In contrast to the negative perceptions many people have about God, let me give you several positive character qualities of a father. These are the real characteristics of God. First, God is patient. You are the recipient of God’s time and concern. You are important to God and He is personally involved in every aspect of your life. Second, God is kind. God acts kindly and graciously on your behalf. God helps you and intervenes on your behalf. God loves you deeply and He wants to relate to you personally. Third, God is giving. God gives to you and supports you. God supports and encourages you. God will give you what is best for you. Fourth, God accepts you, what you have done or will do. God doesn’t dump on you or reject you when you struggle, but understands and encourages you. Even when you blow it or don’t perform up to your potential, God accepts you. Fifth, God protects. You can be His care and rest in His security through the grace of His Son, Jesus Christ. The first Person of the Trinity is Father.  When you accept His work of grace on your behalf through faith in Jesus Christ, you are born into a new family with God as your perfect Father....

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Mary Had The Little Lamb

Mary had the little Lamb, who lived before His birth; Self-existent Son of God, from Heaven He came to Earth. But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village in Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. (Micah 5:2) Mary had the little Lamb; see Him in yonder stall— Virgin-born Son of God, to save man from the Fall. All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel – ‘God is with us.’ (Isaiah 7:14) Mary had the little Lamb, obedient Son of God; Everywhere the Father led, His feet were sure to trod. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do what I want. (John 6:38) Mary had the little Lamb, crucified on the tree The rejected Son of God, He died to set men free.  For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. (1 Peter 1:18) Mary had the little Lamb—men placed Him in the grave, Thinking they were done with Him; to death He was no slave!  He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. (Matthew 28:6) Mary had the little Lamb, ascended now is He; All work on Earth is ended, our Advocate to be. That is why we have a great High Priest who has gone to heaven, Jesus the Son of God. Let us cling to him and never stop trusting him. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:14-16) Mary had the little Lamb—mystery to behold! From the Lamb of Calvary, a Lion will unfold. But one of the twenty-four elders said to me, “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has conquered. He is worthy to open the scroll and break its seven seals.” I looked and I saw a Lamb that had been killed but was now standing between the throne and the four living beings and among the twenty-four elders. He had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God that are sent out into every part of the earth. (Revelation 5: 5,6) When the Day Star comes again, of this be very sure: It won’t be Lamb-like silence, but with the Lion’s roar. Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. And the one sitting on the horse was named Faithful and True. For he judges fairly and then goes to war. His eyes were bright like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him, and only he knew what it meant. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in pure white linen, followed him on white horses. From his mouth came a sharp sword, and with it he struck down the nations. He ruled them with an iron rod, and...

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Simple Math

Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20, ESV). Did you hear the story about the Three Stooges? It seems that Moe, Larry and Curly had been selected as candidates for an intelligence test! A whole battery of doctors, educators, psychiatrists and psychologists examined them. It came to the math section of the test and the chief mathematician asked Curly, “What’s three times three?”  Curly did calculations on his hand and in the air. Rubbing out a portion and starting over. Finally tallying up the answer, Curly proudly announced, “274.”  The doctor shot him one of those astonished looks, wrote down the answer and then turned to Larry. “OK, it’s your turn. What is three times three?” Larry had gone into one of his vacuous daydream states and didn’t really hear the question. When the doctor nudged him and said, “You can answer, today, if you’d like,” Larry smiled and said, “Tuesday.”  The doctor shot Larry one of those astonished, what tree did you fall out of looks, wrote down the answer and then turned to Moe. Moe of course had been watching all of this and called his partners “Imbecile, numbskull” and all those other Stooge words of endearment. The doctor asked Moe, “OK, let’s get it over with, it’s your turn. What’s three times three?” Moe smiles real big and says, “Ahh, that’s easy. Nine.”  “That’s great,” says the doctor. “How did you get that?”  Moe says, “It was simple? I subtracted 274 from Tuesday.” Now, I’m not very good at math. I have trouble doing math with a calculator. But even I know that the math in today’s Scripture doesn’t add up. We talk about God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “God in three persons, blessed Trinity.” And yet, while we talk of “God in three persons” we speak of God as one God. We use the ancient Hebrew formula of the Shema found in Deuteronomy to profess our faith in a single God. “Shema, Israel, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Echod.” Or to translate “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” When Jesus was born, God became a man.  The fullness of the Trinity was later expressed at Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Our difficulty is in understanding the Trinity.  There are a few observations for us to note this morning. First we have to realize that the Trinity is a mystery that has to be taken on faith. We’re not called to unscrew the inscrutable. Some things can only be accepted as a mystery of the faith. Yet, while we can’t fully comprehend it, we CAN understand some of it. There are three basic assertions in each of the Persons of the Trinity.  Meditate on these three principles of truth: First, God is Father.  He cares for us as no other has or will.  He desires to show us eternal love and acceptance. Second, God is Son.  As the only begotten Son of the Father, He is Savior.  He has paid the price for our sin and given us the...

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The Real Gender of Santa

Humor is one of the cornerstones of life.  With that fact in mind, I offer the following story.  It seems that someone has published a very careful and thorough research paper determining that, in spite of what we have been led to believe, Santa Claus is probably a woman. “I think Santa Claus is a woman,” the investigator writes. “I hate to be the one to defy sacred myth, but I believe he is a she. I can buy the fact that other mythical holiday characters are men. Father Time shows up once a year unshaven and looking ominous – definite guy. Cupid flies around carrying a weapon, typical male behavior. Either of these individuals could pass the testosterone-screening test. But not St. Nick. Not a chance.” And then the report goes into a lot of technicalities and complexities, which, I’ve summarized with the eight reasons why Santa is probably not of the male gender. No way a guy could pull off a warm, fuzzy, nurturing, social event like Christmas all by himself. A male Santa would get lost in a snowstorm somewhere and then refuse to stop and ask for directions. A guy wouldn’t be caught dead in that red velvet suit. Santa couldn’t be a man because men can’t pack a bag. Men also don’t answer their mail. Santa not a guy because being responsible for Christmas requires a commitment. Hanging out with elves is too threatening to a sense of masculinity. And, the number one reason to conclude that Santa is probably a woman: If Santa was a “he,” all the reindeer would be dead, gutted, and strapped to the rear bumper of the sleigh! It is humorous, but the point of all this is that it’s very easy to get so attached to a tradition that you don’t really think about it. Traditions, whether they are Christmas traditions, family traditions or even church traditions, are like a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they add meaning to life because they call us to remember significant people or events – and that’s good. On the other hand, they can become so routine that they wind up being little more than just “going through the motions.” We do the church routine because, well, we’ve always done the church routine. We do the family stuff because we’ve always done the family stuff. And we do the Christmas thing every year because we’ve always done the Christmas thing. There’s no real meaning attached – and that’s not so good. In fact, the Scripture has a word to say about those kinds of traditions. At one point in the history of Israel, the tradition of worshipping God had become so routine for the people, that they actually lost touch with God: ”The Lord says, ‘These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. And their worship of me amounts to nothing more than human laws learned by rote.’” (Isaiah 29:13). There is meaning to Christmas traditions. Begin to rediscover the true meaning of all you do this Christmas. Look for the symbolism in the customs of Christmas. Try to find Christ in all that’s going on around you. He’s there if you’ll look for Him. For example, how could you connect Christ with buying and decorating a Christmas tree? Is there any way that could communicate Christ to you? It does to me. When I see a Christmas tree, it reminds me somewhat of the cross that Jesus died on. It was made out of a tree. And the fact that...

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I Do

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. (Genesis 2:18, 21-25, ESV). Today, forty-four years ago, in Bryan, Texas, Mary and I said, “I do.”  While there are many experiences that could be shared from those years, this morning I want to draw your attention to the Scripture and the promise of life.  Marriage is a definite part of God’s plan for providing us with lives full of joy.  Yet, with many people, joy is the last word they would use to describe their relationships with their spouses. Perhaps the college students in an English class were correct.  It seems the professor wrote the words “Woman without her man is a savage” on the blackboard and directed his students to punctuate it correctly. The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is a savage.” The women wrote: “Woman! Without her, man is a savage.” There is a vast difference between a man and a woman and their individual views of what a marriage ought to be. Certainly you have heard of the man, who at work decided to show his wife how much he loved her, and before going home, showered, shaved, put on some choice cologne, bought her a bouquet of flowers. He went to the front door and knocked. His wife answered the door and exclaimed, “Oh no! This has been a terrible day! First I had to take Billy to the emergency room and get stitches in his leg, then your mother called and said she’s coming for two weeks, then the washing machine broke, and now this! You come home drunk!” How can we ever find the way to joy in our relationships?  What is the key?  While I do not claim to have all the answers, there are some that we may find and apply in our lives. Marriage loses its joy when one or both of the partners feel devalued or less than fully alive. They are bored. Overburdened. All of us have a child’s deep longing to be touched, caressed, held, hugged and kissed, whether we admit it or not. We all want happy surprises. That might mean a sentimental unexpected gift every once in a while. Though, more importantly, it is the dependable gift of time and caring. The present of shared ideas, experiences, stories, nonsense and games. We want the world to butt out. We want a loving friend, a pal who isn’t judgmental. We want someone to convince us we’re still loved, lovable and very special. For a little while, now and then, we want out from under the grown-up responsibilities that have become predictable, dreary and difficult. By working together to accomplish these things in our relationships, we can become the kind of “companions” God intended us to be toward one another.  This is true love, the...

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The Magnificat

When Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist), she broke out in a wonderful hymn of praise.  It has been called the Magnificat.  It serves to remind us of the incredible miracle of Jesus’ birth.  Read Luke’s account: After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:46-52, ESV). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could celebrate Christmas with nothing but joy and peace? We all want that kind of Christmas. But, don’t set yourself up for disappointment when others don’t, or can’t, buy into it. You’re not going to single-handedly turn your town or family into a movie version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  Just accept things and people as they are, understand that you aren’t going to change anyone to your way of thinking, and appreciate the fact that from the other person’s point of view that the holidays can be the “hellidays.” What can you do to avoid strife and turmoil and survive all this? Here are some practical suggestions to keep the peace in your Christmas. First, relax and stop pressuring yourself. Don’t set your expectations too high — either in giving or receiving. Roll with the punches and bite your tongue when there are times things should be left unsaid. And don’t be hard on yourself. Don’t look in the mirror and ask yourself why you aren’t having a better time. Don’t spend money you can’t afford. The best gifts are the ones that cost the least. Second, find some time to be alone. If there are times you need your own space and time, try to escape to your privacy and do something you enjoy. Retreat to a comfortable place and read a book or a favorite magazine. Write that letter to a long-ago friend you haven’t seen in a while. Take a walk. If you have to take a step back to get your bearings during this busy time, go ahead. Do what you can to be of service to others, but don’t get yourself unwittingly swept into a maelstrom or tizzy. Third, remember it was anything but hectic at the first Christmas. There were no malls, traffic jams, blinking lights, big feasts, loud music, parties, relatives at each other’s throats, football games or television. It was very peaceful. It was quiet. It was a simple giving time. Take a deep breathe and have confidence that God will indeed “work all things for good” as we trust in Him. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright once told of an incident that may have seemed insignificant at the time but had a profound influence on the rest of his life. The winter he was 9, he went walking across a snow-covered field with his reserved, no-nonsense uncle. As the two of them reached the far...

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