Gabriel, God’s “PR Man”

Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be there with Joseph and Mary at Christmas? Every Christmas and Easter I preach in the first person as a character from the biblical accounts of those events.  This Christmas I preached as the angel Gabriel.  If you’re interested in it, here it is in all its goofy glory.

In a first-person message, the intent is to see a familiar story with fresh eyes and bring the importance and the truth of it to the hearers in a new way.  I would love your feedback on this sermon!

Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with the blessing of knowing that God is at work in your life.

So what are you thankful for?  This year, I am grateful for some unusual stuff.  It’s been a very difficult year for us in some ways.  I have had my eyes opened to some significant pride issues in my own life and some ways in which I thought I was honoring God and was instead standing in His ways.  I have watched Laura go through some difficult struggles and had to stand by while she did.  I had to resign my position at Phoenix Seminary to have more time to be at home and be a better husband and father.

Here is where you’d expect me to list some balancing blessings.  Instead, I am actually grateful for the paragraph above and all it entails.  It has been difficult, but it has been necessary.  God has used it to grow me and grow my family in some amazing ways, and for that I am very grateful.  We are different in November 2011 than we were in 2010; that change came and continues to come via these revelations.

How about you? Where is God at work in you this year? What are you thankful for that others might not understand or appreciate?

“Love” is such a misunderstood word…

Today is Valentine’s Day.  Or “Singles Awareness Day” if you’re tired of the mushy-gushy talk.  We’ve made a holiday out of love, and Americans will spend MILLIONS of dollars today on flowers, chocolate, balloons, cards, and dinner to celebrate how much they love someone. 

But what, pray tell, does it mean to love someone?  We have been told that to love someone is to feel warm and fuzzy for them.  It’s being twitterpated.  Having affectionate feelings or getting lightheaded in the presence of another.  Not being able to control your emotions for them.

Really?  That’s not God’s definition of what love is.  Check His definition of what it means to love someone:

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ” (1 Corinthians 13:1–7, NAS)

 
Look at what Paul says biblical love is.
 

  1. It’s patient.  Love = patience.  How patient are you with those around you, especially those closest to you?
  2. It’s kind and not jealous.  Biblical love doesn’t demand all of the attention of the loved one.
  3. It does not brag and is not jealous.  How much Valentine’s Day celebratory work is done to show others how much we love our significant other or to keep them close to us so no one else takes them?
  4. It does not act unbecomingly. Love doesn’t make an idiot of itself or act in ways that belittle or shame the loved one if they don’t live up to the love given.
  5. It does not seek its own.  Simply put, love looks out for others at its own expense.  It is other-serving, not self-serving.
  6. It is not provoked.  Love can’t be goaded into getting angry and calling the whole thing off.
  7. It does not take into account a wrong suffered. In other words, love is unconditional.  It’s not give and take, it’s give and give.
  8. It does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth.  Biblical love never okays offending God.  Instead true biblical love is grounded in and flows from the truth of God.

So with God’s definition in mind, how are you doing this Love Day?  Biblical love is not an emotion; it’s an action and a way of life.  How can you shine a little love into the life of those around you, whether the relationship is romantic or not?  And what part of the definition of love can use the most work in your own life?

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas from my family to yours!  The holidays at the Correias have been a bit out of whack, at least partly because it’s been unseasonably warm in Phoenix.  It’s sunny and about 65 degrees right now!  So Bing’s “White Christmas” isn’t exactly hitting home right now.

What I love about Christmastime, though, is that it really doesn’t depend upon whether my experience matches up with the utopian songs of my culture.  It doesn’t depend upon whether the tree is trimmed perfectly or the gifts are expensive.  It doesn’t depend on whether I get to see my extended family or roast chestnuts over an open fire. 

What I love about Christmas is Christ.  Whatever else happens, tonight my family will gather with other families who are near and dear to our hearts and worship God.  We will sing, pray, and hear a message (okay, I will give it, but that means I have heard it in my head a hundred times already) about the great God we have.  He saw nothing redemptive in us, and yet sent His Son to live among us and die in our place because of His great love.

We will have the Christmas traditions that many have.  The kids will open a gift tonight before bed, and Laura will wrap gifts feverishly after they hit the sack.  (notice I said Laura will wrap gifts.  I will probably watch recorded episodes of Million Dollar Money Drop or Albert Finney in “Scrooge”, the GREATEST Christmas Carol adaptation in history)

We will open gifts in the morning, call family, and cook all day. 

The center of all of that tradition, though, is the gift of Christ.  We will read the Christmas story in Luke 2 together.  I will remind each of us that the gifts we give each other are a token of the gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus and a reminder of the gift that God has given us.  And hopefully, between Christmas Eve services at church and focusing in the morning, we will celebrate Christ this Christmas.

Merry Christmas from me to you!

How about you?  How are you trying to keep Christ in Christmas this year?

Nothing Says “Merry Christmas” Like Yelling

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How’s your Christmas season starting?  Have you got the tree up and decorated and cards on the mantle?  I am starting to see some Christmas cards in the mail which is awesome, and really trying to get in the spirit of Christmas.

I really wonder, though, about whether this Christmas is different in some way than many in the past.  We are supposed to be coming out of a recession any day now, and apparently retailers are happy with the amount of money people are wasting spending on stuff no one will remember in June meaningful gifts for their families.  So why is it that I am not seeing more Christmas spirit?

I will illustrate with my experiences over the last week.  On Black Friday I went over to my mentor’s house to help him with his Logos Bible software (he is quite the Luddite and I am a Logos nerd).  I had a great time with Fred and his wonderful wife, and since I was on that side of town I wanted to make one stop to perhaps pick up an item on a crazy Black Friday sale.  I finally got to the store at about 11:15 AM, and the place was hopping as I expected.  I found the sale item I wanted and, when the clerk addressed me, I wished her a Merry Christmas.  She smiled nicely, thanked me, and said that I was the first person who had said that to her this year. 

Well, I thought, it’s just the day after Thanksgiving.  No harm done!  I asked her about her day in retail and she said it had been pretty crazy (naturally), and that people had been really upset when they ran out of “door buster” items.  (This was at Scottsdale Gun Club, which means frustrated armed people; then again all the employees are armed so they probably aren’t too worried about angry customers!)  I bought my item and thanked the clerk and again wished her a Merry Christmas.

Fast forward to today.  I had to take my wife’s laptop to the electronics mega-giant we bought it from (Fry’s Electronics for those who are familiar) for service, as it was having BSoD-level errors.  (actually the CMOS battery died and it perhaps has a motherboard fault for those who are computer geeks)  I had to stand in line for about 10 minutes to get to the service counter, and while I was waiting a lady in front of me approached the counter with a digital camera.  The service guy explained to her that the camera had a cracked view-screen, and that the warranty didn’t cover misuse or being dropped or issues like that.  He was quite polite.

Well when her husband came up and heard what was going on, you’d have thought the clerk had called his wife a dirty name and then punched her in the face.  He hollered and shook his fist.  He turned red and used language that made me glad I didn’t have my kids around.  “WELL WHY WOULD I BUY A WARRANTY IF IT WOULDN’T COVER DROPPING THE CAMERA?” He yelled loudly enough for the words to echo through the store.  He quaked in indignant rage that their warranty wouldn’t cover being dropped and that the salesman didn’t explain that to him!

Every sane person in the store was thinking what I was thinking.  Dude, warranties don’t cover you drop-kicking your camera.  If I decided to play Frisbee golf with my laptop I wouldn’t expect the store to replace it when it broke!  Furthermore, it certainly wasn’t the poor service tech’s fault that you didn’t read the warranty paperwork.  And…in case you hadn’t realized…it’s three weeks to Christmas.  Simmer.

As I was standing there, I thought of two reminders from the book of Proverbs and a third from James:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.  (Proverbs 15:1)

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things. (Proverbs 15:28)

And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. (James 3:6)

I spent 5 Christmas seasons in retail, so my heart went out to that poor guy who had to take the abuse from a jerk with a chip on his shoulder.image The clerk handled himself like a professional, and after dealing with the Grinch he came back to the counter.  I shook his hand and told him that he should be commended for holding his temper, and then wished him a Merry Christmas as well.  I dropped off the laptop and went to get another item we needed, (surprise, surprise, the techs were very helpful with my issue after I was kind to them!) then headed for the exit.

The checkout line at Fry’s is like the line for Santa at the mall.  it snakes on forever at the holidays with an employee at the end directing customers to the next available teller when it is their turn.  When I got to the head of the line the lady who was in charge looked a tad bored and somewhat frazzled.  No shock there, as it’s the holidays and she works retail!  So as I approached I wished her a Merry Christmas as well.  She was pleasantly surprised and said thank you.  When I asked why she was surprised, she said that I was the first person all year to wish her a Merry Christmas.

Okay, that’s getting old.  Fast.  That’s not what the angels announced to the shepherds:

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:14)

Peace among people.  Joy and love and respect, laughter and lightheartedness and worship of the God who loved us so much He became a man to pay for our sins.  What a concept to spread this Christmas!

So join me, will you, on a Christmas crusade?  Not a crusade to crush secular humanism or to make everyone remember the finer points of the narrative in Luke 2, as important as those might be.  Join me in the crusade to help everyone slow down a minute and enjoy Christmas a little.  Join me in wishing people a Merry Christmas and asking them how their day and their holidays are going before being frustrated that they don’t have another Tickle Me Elmo.  Bring some joy with a nice handshake and a heartfelt wishing of God’s blessing on someone this Christmas.  Take that time especially with those in retail, and your mailman, and the people who serve you who you don’t pay a lot of attention to.  It’s Christmas, so let’s act like it and spread a little “peace on earth” around, shall we?

How about you?  Have you been experiencing the Christmas Grinch this year?  Is it just me, and you’re seeing the Christmas spirit all over?