God uses the insignificant!

At our church this week, one of my takeaways from the sermon was how God likes to use the common, the ordinary to do his work.  We began to talk about the birth of Christ and how God uses Mary, a young teenage girl (tradition tells us she was probably somewhere between 12-16 years old), from a small village of Nazareth, a village of probably around 500 people that was insignificant.  It was never mentioned in the Old Testament.

“Nazareth!  Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.  -John 1:46

A place so despised and insignificant that nothing good was expected out of there.  They asked back in that day, “Why would God bring use a young teenage girl from a backwards no good village to bring the messiah?”  Isn’t that what we ask often…..when we try to put God inside our neat little box, a box that we’ve built out of preconceptions of what God should do?   Do we ask that when we see others of no importance in our “human world”, doing big things for Christ?   Do we think about ourselves and say, “I’m just one person, I can’t make a difference in God’s kingdom, so why bother?” and then do exactly that and do nothing?

God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  -1 Corinthians 1:28

And why does God do that?

…so that no one can ever boast in the presence of God.  – 1 Corinthians 1:29

He does it so we can’t say, “Look at what we did for Jesus” or even “Look at what Jesus and I did to help those poor people”

He does it so all the glory goes to him.  So that in our weakness and lowliness, we can only point to Him and say it was all because of Jesus.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Our weakness, our insignificance brings glory to God when he uses us for his work.  I pray, that I can step aside and let god use my weaknesses, my insignificance for His glory.

 

 

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What does Christmas mean to you?

What does Christmas mean to you?  That’s a good question that is worthy of some time in thought these next few weeks.  We’ve just come off arguably the biggest shopping day of the year.  I admit, my wife and I did a little shopping on Friday.  No we didn’t shop at crazy hours and we didn’t cut into family time on Thanksgiving.  It was a matter of, we needed a few groceries (as a side-note, grocery stores are not that crowded the day after Thanksgiving…great day to go get some food if you need to)and while we were out, we stopped at a few places that were not very crowded.   After some more family time in the afternoon, my wife and I went to a charity Christmas auction that lasts until the wee-hours of the morning.  Didn’t buy much, but great time spent with her.  But is the shopping what epitomizes what Christmas means to me?

Christmas is about Christ!

Christmas remains for me a holiday about tradition, about family, about remembrance and about celebration of the birth of our Savior.  The shopping, the lights and colors, the commercialism is all at the bottom of priorities.  If we did nothing else than gather together on Christmas to share some simple gifts that were made or bought with love and to celebrate with some good food that would be enough.   Remembering the birth of Christ is what matters.  Without that, there would be no holiday, there would be no celebration, and honestly no hope beyond this life.

Christmas is about giving.

Christmas for me is a time for giving and being a blessing to others.  No, I don’t necessarily mean giving the best gifts, I mean giving of ourselves to those in need.  My regular readers you’ll know that I’m big on trying to be a blessing to others.  This can be as easy as a kind word or a simple service to someone else.  During the height of the “occupy” movement of protests around the country, I wrote a lengthy blog that I refer back to from time to time.  Occupy Charity at Christmas was a reflection on what it means to be a charitable and giving person (and nation for that matter).

With my goal of living a year of Thanksgiving, I’m announcing here in this post first that I’m in the planning stages of avenues for me to show my thanks to some local charities that I can in part be a blessing to my community that I live in.  Also in stretching myself spiritually and living with abandon, I am working on ways to have this blog and my other writings help me in this goal to be a blessing to others.   This is all still in the planning stages and the only reason I’m even mentioning it on here is so that my readers can lift this up in prayer that God guides me in the ways I can best serve his kingdom.  I hope over the coming weeks, I’ll be able to announce more concrete plans and thoughts here.

What does Christmas mean to you?

Ask yourself this question.  I think it is a personal question and the answer that I’ve come to above may not be the one that you arrive at.  But honestly ask yourself that question and reflect the direction that God leads you.

 

Thank You

thank you_tOne of the most touching, profound prayers I’ve ever heard uttered in my life went like this;

Thank you.

Yep, a simple “Thank You” to God, uttered by one of our pastors years ago.  Those two words, with so much meaning behind them.  I remember standing there with people filing out of the church around me, thinking why do we complicate our relationship with God so much?  In the Old Testament, Jewish people had an extremely complicated system of rules to relate with God, and even then it was a distant relationship.  Jesus changed all that.  We can come near to God and have a personal, meaningful relationship with Him.

Today is Thanksgiving day in the United States, a day that we gather together with family and friends, eat lots of good food and watch a little football.   It’s also meant to be a day to give thanks for all that God has given us throughout the year, something we can easily forget in the hype of the day.  Today, I start a year long journey of Thanksgiving, I’m not saving all my thanks for that one day in November.  Each day I plan to wake up and give thanks to God.  Each day I plan on going throughout my day giving thanks.  Each day before I lay down to sleep I plan on thanking God.

A simple thank you is often all it will take.  Two words, so much meaning.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Oh……and…..THANK YOU!

Putting God in a Box

I was blind and now I can see!   John 9 brings us the story of Jesus healing the blind man.  Let’s step back to this time.  We meet a man that has been blind since birth.  He undoubtedly had heard that Jesus was in the area.  I’m sure he had heard of the miracles of Jesus, saying a word and sick child is well, a word and a lame man walks again,  just a word and a man rises from the dead.  He’s heard the stories of this Jesus and the power of God that he contains.

When Jesus approaches him, his excitement must have risen….”This Jesus will say a word and my blindness will be healed.”  His excitement must have been hard to contain.  But what does he hear?  Jesus talking with his disciples about him.  Then Jesus spits on the ground, makes some mud and rubs the mud in his eyes.  The blind man could have easily said, “Wait a minute….Jesus had healed people with just a word, but all I get is some mud in my face.”   He could have thought, “I got a raw deal, this isn’t going to work.

But no, Jesus tells him to “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam“.  So what does the blind man do?  He goes and washes his face….and what miracle of miracles….he can see!   He could have thought, God works through Jesus by his words….but he didn’t put God in a box.  He believed that he could be healed and he was.

Expect the unexpected

Another step in my process of living with abandon to kick of my year of Thanksgiving, is to try and not put God in a box.   God works in wondrous ways, in ways that bring glory to His name.  He works in ways that we may not expect, but we can take comfort that God’s perfect plan is in motion and His ways are better than ours.  I often pray about a problem and I already have a solution in mind.  “This is the way God should solve my problem.”   We’ve just placed him in a box of our own making.  God can’t be contained.

The Jewish leaders in John 9 questioned the now formerly blind man and his family about his healing.  They had put God in a box and was convinced that God only operated in a certain way.  They said to the man while questioning him.  “Give glory to God by telling the truth, because we know Jesus is a sinner.”  Why did they feel that Jesus was a sinner?  Because their notion was that God didn’t heal in the fashion that Jesus did, or He didn’t heal on the Sabbath, or he didn’t heal someone who had been born blind or any number of stipulations and restrictions that they had put on God’s power to heal.

The blind man had a bigger view of God.  Listen to his words:  “Why that’s very strange!  He healed my eyes, and yet you don’t know anything about him!  Well, God doesn’t listen to sinners, but he is ready to hear those who worship him and do his will.  Never since the world began has anyone been able to open the eyes of someone born blind.  If this man were not from God, he couldn’t do it.”  This healed man believed that God could perform a miracle.  He didn’t place God in a box.

Expect the unexpected when praying to God about something.  Expect God to work in ways that are beyond what we can ever imagine and we won’t be disappointed.   Our God is bigger than any box!

Do Something Amazing in Your Day

The Lord replied, ‘Look at the nations and be amazed!  Watch and be astounded at what I will do!  For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.’  -Habakkuk 1:5

These words were spoken to the prophet Habakkuk when he cried out to God wondering where he was in his day and his world, which was filled with violence and corruption.  God responded with these words, “Watch and be astounded at what I will do!”  Isn’t that an amazing statement?  I can picture God sitting on his throne saying, “Just wait and see….this is gonna be cool!”

While I am striving to live with abandon, I am presented with so many opportunities to do amazing things.  I believe that God puts before us each day, situations where we have the opportunity to be a blessing to someone, to do something amazing in the name of Christ.  Something that will be glory to His name.  God is moving, he’s not waiting around seeing what we will do, but we are part of his plan.  I want to look for those opportunities that come before me each day.  Say a kind word to someone, help someone with something they are struggling with, pray for someone, work hard and cheerfully at something that is not fun.  I plan on doing something amazing in my day.

God is in charge and he has a plan.  Even when we in the midst of trouble and God seems silent and distant, he is moving.  His plan is in motion.  Just watch and you’ll be amazed at what God will do.  This is gonna be cool!

Live with Abandon

In my post yesterday on a year long Thanksgiving, I made mention of the song by the Newsboys – Live with Abandon, which struck me at the time to be a great tune on how to live a life that is a blessing to others.  Throughout the day today, the song kept repeating in my head and I reflected on what the meaning of the words live with abandon really mean to me.  I thought about what is it that is keeping me from fully living with abandon?

Living for self praise

Chasing after this world makes me tired
Praisin’ my own name leaves me dry

What am I chasing after in this world?  Chasing after fame, riches, notoriety is tiring.  I never quite have enough of any of it.   So much of my time and effort is spent in trying to achieve these worldly goals.   I think the second part of that verse “Praisin’ my own name leaves me dry”.  Many of the things I am part of are not bad in of themselves, but if I’m part of them to receive praise, then I’m in them for the wrong reasons.  A few years back I stopped writing this blog because I was too concerned about views and traffic and I felt that it was actually holding me back from doing what God wanted me to do with this blog.  I came back to it after I got myself in a right place where I was listening to God’s prompting in regards to this site.  None of my successes are my own and I have to be willing to walk away from one to something greater.  I can’t live with abandon when I’m worried about praising myself.

What are we holding onto?

I’ll drop everything to follow you
It’s only Your hands I hold onto

Am I willing to drop everything to follow Christ.  That’s a tough one.  The disciples lived with abandon, they gave up their careers, families and eventually their lives in following Christ.  Not an easy road to follow.  Is God calling me to that level of sacrifice?  I don’t believe at this time I’ve heard that word from God.  God has placed me here at this point to provide for my family, to help our tiny community and to share how God’s working in my life.  Where he has put me is where I’m meant to be at this time in my life.  Instead of seeking greater (by a human measuring stick) achievements, I need to live with abandon right where I’m at.  But what am I holding onto?  To truly live with abandon wherever I’m at, I need to let go of everything.  The hands of Jesus are all that I’m holding onto.  He will guide me to where I need to be when he needs me to be there.

Romans 12:2 says ‘Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.  Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.”  Let us be transformed by God and we will have the answers to how to live with abandon.  There is nothing in this world that can stop a person who is living fully abandoned to Jesus.  When we live fully abandoned, we find true freedom.

Don’t look back

I’m not looking back
I’m done with that
Wanna give You all I have

Now to move forward and live my life with abandon!

Year of Thanksgiving

As we begin this week where we celebrate Thanksgiving here in the United States, I see many participating in the week-long (or some do month long) posts of what we are thankful for.  I propose we do this year round, each and every day.  Why not?  We have so much to be thankful for.  In this year long celebration of Thanksgiving, I propose that we remember each day something that we are thankful for.  If we start each morning giving thanks, we’ll get the day out on a good start.  If each time we find ourselves in a difficult situation and we can pause for a moment and give thanks for something small, I believe it will make that difficult situation even just a small bit easier.

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever – Psalm 107:1

What will I do?

How will I be participating in this?  Just a few things I hope to do more of this year:

Start each morning with a quick thank you.   I want to wake up each morning and just simply say thank you.  Thank you to a God that has given me another morning to celebrate life, to serve him.

Say thank you to someone in my life.  This could be my wife, my children, a coworker, a friend, or just a stranger on the street.  Saying thanks to someone else lets them know they are appreciated, will brighten their day as well as yours.  It will keep you looking out for those areas in your life where someone has done something for you that you can be thankful for.  When you’re eyes are open and actively seeking these moments, you’ll be amazed at how many there are each day.

Be a person that others can be thankful for.  As I was writing this section, I was listening to a song by the Newsboys called, Live with Abandon.  When I listened to the lyrics, they made me think of how I can be a blessing to others.

Chasing after this world makes me tired
Praisin’ my own name leaves me dry

There’s gotta be so much more to life than this
A higher calling that I missed
I want my life to count, every breath

As I thought of how to be a person that others can be thankful for, these words struck me.  I don’t want to be that person that serves and gives with an attitude of “Look at me and all that I do”, but I do want my life to matter, I want to make every moment of my existence matter to someone.  Then they sing the chorus and the answer strikes me:

I wanna live with abandon
Give you all that I am
Every part of my heart Jesus
I place in your hands
I wanna live with abandon

If I live my life with abandon in the pursuit of Jesus, God will be sure to make me a blessing to others.  To be that person that others can be thankful for and I can draw closer to God.

Just three things on that list, but three things that can make a big difference to the world we live in.  I hope to document my progress as I try to do better in those areas.  Why not join me?  Join me in having a year of Thanksgiving!