Tag Archives: Jesus

Whose Party Is It?

21 Dec

Very few people believe Jesus of Nazareth was actually born on December 25, yet that’s when most Christians celebrate His birth. I get that. I was born December 24, a date easily remembered but difficult to celebrate. I was never short on birthday wishes, but my only “non-family” party happened when I was in the 7th grade. I didn’t care that it wasn’t my actual birth date. What mattered was celebrating with friends.

I’m a flexible celebrator for another reason. My dad was a “locomotive engineer on the Santa Fe Railroad.” That title was both a source of pride and humility. Papa loved his job and was very good at it. However, he didn’t want anyone to assume he was an electrical, mechanical, or any other kind of engineer. Driving a train occasionally took Papa out of town on December 25, yet somehow Santa always knew if he needed to arrive on the 24th or 26th. We didn’t care that it wasn’t actually Christmas day; what mattered was celebrating as a family.

What do you think matters to Jesus? Decorations, presents, parties? We can get a pretty good idea by looking at how God the Father orchestrated Christ’s first birthday. The venue seemed low on His priorities. Or perhaps the smelly stable intentionally introduced a humble Servant-King. Humility and unselfishness undoubtedly matter to Jesus.

Father outdid Himself on the invitations. He decorated a lonely pasture with brilliant light while angels announced the party with shouts of praise. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:13–14 NKJV).

No matter the celebration location, I think Jesus would like candles and lights, beautiful music, and most of all, a sense of wonder. How can it be that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would invite lowly shepherds and us to this amazing event? Last Sunday as my husband conducted John Rutter’s Gloria for choir, brass, and percussion, I fought back tears as we sang. I think the Lord Jesus Christ was glorified and pleased with our offering, and the congregation was inspired. I wondered if it might have been a tiny taste of what we will experience in heaven.

The shepherds’ reaction went from intense terror to eager expectation and curiosity. It’s not every day angels declare a treasure hunt for a king wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a feed trough. The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and searched until they found Mary, Joseph, and the Baby King. They amazed their friends with the story of this most miraculous birthday party. When they returned to work the shepherds continued “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20 NKJV).

Jesus must long for more awe and less commercialism surrounding His birth. I think He would be pleased to hear us eagerly share His story with those who haven’t heard, rather than carefully consider whether to proclaim “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” I’m certain He doesn’t want this to be a one-day celebration. Rather, He would have us search daily for Him in the common places of our lives then celebrate and share our Discovery.

Never doubt you’ll find Him—if that’s your desire. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV).

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus. I hope you like your party.

Forgiving Myself

14 Sep

“You must forgive yourself.” I’ve heard those words more than once. Maybe you have too.

I really enjoy the Patrick Bowers thrillers by Steven James. In his fifth book, The Queen, Bowers’ stepdaughter struggles with guilt. Her psychiatrist tells her, “You have to learn to forgive yourself.” Tessa threatens to break his glass coffee table, and then makes a profound statement. “Look, if I break this thing, you can forgive the debt I owe you if you want, or you can make me pay for it, but how can I forgive myself for the debt that I owe you?”

 Until I read that novel, I assumed I should/could forgive myself. However, I’ve come to understand that I have no power to cancel a debt I owe to another, nor can I pardon or excuse my wrong behavior. However, I can pursue forgiveness. I can humbly apologize, ask forgiveness, and where possible, make restitution. But there’s more.

David’s story reminds me of the heart of any offense. You remember David the teenage shepherd who slew Goliath. He grew up to be a mighty warrior king who surrendered to adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11, 12). Finally repentant and broken, David composed Psalm 51.

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are justified in your sentence and blameless when you pass judgment” (Psalm 51:1–4 NRSV).

Although we hurt others, we sin against God. Yet we have God’s merciful promise, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NKJV).

So why can’t we get past it? Perhaps it happened long ago, but the shame, guilt, and humiliation remains a festering wound of unworthiness. How can I forgive myself?

I find only one answer:  I can’t. I have no power to forgive myself. Instead, I need to accept the forgiveness that God offers in Jesus Christ. God forgave David, therefore, He can also forgive me and “restore to me the joy of [His] salvation (Psalm 51:12a).

“ Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NIV). If I believe it, I will joyfully live it.

I close with wisdom from Andrée Seu, who wrote the following blogMonday, October 5th, 2009 | 7:47 AM

An Insomniac’s Psalm 103: Verse 11 “For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him.”

The Christians I admire most—and I know precious few of them—are those whom I can see are so confident of God’s undeserved love that they are not constantly revisiting their sin or crime, but they have moved on with their lives and have peace and joy. Oh, if the matter of their past comes up, they will not deny it, and will be the first to call it evil. But you will not suck them into a morbid dwelling on it.

I pray we will live courageously “confident of God’s undeserved love.”

Say Yes to Confrontation

24 Aug

Recently, I’ve prayed for several people in conflict. Some situations are heart-rending. Others are frustrating or irritating. None of these people enjoyed conflict or desired confrontation. Here are some reasons used to avoid confrontation.

  1. Christians are supposed to be self-sacrificing. Confrontation seems selfish.
  2. He won’t listen anyway.
  3. She will get mad.
  4. They might not come back to visit.
  5. I’m afraid I’ll lose her love.
  6. I don’t know how to confront. I’ll only make things worse.

As a recovering people pleaser, I understand how dreading confrontation can immobilize us. Jesus says staying in biblical truth sets us free (John 8:31–32), so for the next few posts we will renew our mind regarding conflict and confrontation.

First, let’s be specific about terms using the Encarta Dictionary. Conflict is “a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles, or people.” Confrontation is “a face-to-face meeting or encounter, especially a challenging or hostile one.” It’s often necessary to confront someone regarding a conflict.

The Bible has much to say about conflict because it’s unavoidable. We’re not clones or cookie cutter Christians; neither are we perfect. Since we can’t avoid disagreement, God wants us to utilize His way of managing conflict.

I believed all six reasons above, so I “handled” conflict by rolling over and playing dead. Experience taught me some hard truths.

Refusing to confront

a)      Conveys silent agreement and approval.

b)      Denies truth and the impact of the other person’s behavior.

c)      Withholds relevant information necessary for decision-making.

d)     Is disrespectful because it assumes the worst response from the other person and doesn’t give him/her the opportunity to change.

The depth of relationship determines our level of confrontation. We confront our children who exhibit poor manners in a restaurant and ignore the person at a nearby table doing the same thing. We must earn the right to offer constructive criticism.

This is probably a good time to say not every conflict is worth confrontation. Remember love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). Many times a conflict isn’t a question of right or wrong; rather, it’s a question of preference or opinion. In such cases, compromise and trade-off is appropriate. Love doesn’t insist on its own way (1 Corinthians 13:5) and in many cases we are to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39). However, people sometimes behave in a way that is detrimental to the family, the community, and themselves.

Jesus didn’t avoid conflict. He went head-to-head with religious hypocrites calling them a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 18:15) and “blind guides” (Matthew 15:14). John 2:13–16 tells how Jesus drove out the moneychangers who turned the temple into a marketplace. I’d call that some pretty intense confrontation.

However, the thing that freed me from my fear of confrontation was realizing reason #1 above was incorrect. Confrontation can be the most loving response to conflict. Most people would agree that ignoring drunken chaos in the home enables the behavior to continue. Yet we overlook disrespect, irresponsibility, or verbal abuse because we don’t want to appear selfish. In fact, our silence says, “Go right ahead. I approve of your behavior.” We have to care enough to confront. It takes emotional energy and courage to confront someone we love.

I hope some of you will confront my opinion. Please respond with comments and questions. We will continue the discussion in future posts.