Monday, December 31, 2012

The End is Better than its Beginning

The end of a thing is better than its beginning;” Ecclesiastes 7:8 “
As I reflected on the end of the year 2012, I thought of Solomon’s words.   Now I know some would like to say that a proper translation of that verse is that the end of a sermon is better than its beginning and while I am not sure that is sound translation, I can’t disagree with the point.  I have also preached a few sermons in which I was simply glad to make it to the end. But even more than in sermons, this point can be seen in life.

Maybe you traveled over the Christmas holidays. If so, you know that the end of a trip is infinitely better than the beginning. It always feels so good to come back home and know that all the hours in the car are behind me.  Imagine a ship that leaves for a far port.  When it returns with all its cargo, the captain knows just what storms they weathered in the trip.  He remembers nearly running aground or being swamped.  He recalls the three nights they spent without ever seeing the stars and three days without the sun.  For him, the end of the voyage is clearly better than the beginning.

Or perhaps, we should think of a soldier, going off to war.  Is not the end of a thing better than the beginning for that soldier?  How he longs to complete his tour and be safely home!  This point is obviously true in so many instances in life but it is not absolutely true. It must be taken with a grain of salt.  Some people look at the beginning and ask, “Will the end really be any better?”

Maybe you know the storms of 2012 and you are afraid of what the storms of 2013 will bring.  Will I be able to bear up under them?  Will I have less or more at the end of the year?  How will my family be affected this year?  Yet, Solomon says, no matter how bad the beginning is, the end is always better.
In our growth as believers, most Christians have more trials early in their Christian walk rather than late.  And all of us are growing in our Christian walk.  Lamentations 3:27 “It is good for a man to bear the yoke in his youth.”  If you wake up in the morning and the sun is behind the clouds, you don’t assume that the sun will never shine again.  And, if you are in a dark period of your life, don’t despair, the sun will shine again.

Take this verse from The Message as a prophecy to give you hope and dispel your fears: I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out--plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The end of the matter will be better than the beginning. God is still in charge.   The past is history, the future’s a mystery, but God has given us this moment, that’s why it’s called the present.  It is in this time that God will move us toward that end that He has promised.  So let’s keep our eyes on the prize and move into this year with the understanding that God has a plan and a purpose for today and our future.

Have a Blessed New Year!

Scripture to Claim:
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40:31)

Sunday, December 30, 2012

“If Only” vs. ”Next Time”

Isaiah 43:1-3a, 16-21
The text at which we are looking today is a good text with which to live as we begin this New Year.  This background of God’s intervening in history and doing a “new thing” leads us to look at two very different approaches to life—“If Only vs. “Next Time.”
In Ephesians 5:15 17 Paul Tells us to:
1.     Make the most of every opportunity.
Time is the resource we spend for the accomplishment of a successful life.  Wasted time is sin.
2.     Understand What the Lord’s Will Is not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Establishing priorities and gaining direction and control is a mandate for living successfully today.
3.     Learn How To Live Today  …live not as unwise but as wise
“If Only” vs. ”Next Time”
1. "If only" looks backward; "Next time" is a look forward
2. "If only" is a word of defeat; "Next time" is a word of hope.
  I.     The “If Only” Approach to Life…
“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past.”

·      Is a life dominated by regrets.

·      Creates discouragement which leads to defeat.

·      Causes us to be preoccupied with revenge.

·      Is always an expression of self-pity.

·      Ultimately, self-pity is a protest against God.

II.     The “Next Time” Approach to Life… 
“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?”

·      Forgets what you have done for others and concentrates on what others have done for you.

·      Digs a grave and buries negative thoughts so that you might cultivate a garden for positive ideas.

·      Looks beyond the surface of things to the reality of life.

·      Trusts God to meet our needs with His supply
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.

Faith overcomes fear, it doesn’t remove it.

·      Remembers the works of God and Praises Him. 
The people whom I formed for Myself Will declare My praise.

It’s not WHAT we look at that determines our experience but HOW we look at it.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Mary and Joseph Treasured their Relationship with Jesus

"And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart." Luke 2:51
Yesterday we read about how the birth of a special baby, Jesus, changed his parents’ lives forever and He can change your life forever too. For that to happen we can’t just leave Jesus in the cradle all year long or pack Him up with the rest of the Christmas stuff and put Him in the attic.  We have to have a relationship with Him, nurture that relationship and learn from His wisdom for our lives to be changed. 

In Luke 2:19 the bible tells us "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  Luke 2:51 says "And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart."  In the one verse Mary kept all that was said about Jesus in her heart and pondered them, and in the other she kept all that Jesus said in her heart.  Can you see the significance here?  The others just visited the baby, rejoiced and celebrated a while, and went back home but Mary and Joseph took all that was said and done both about Jesus and by Jesus and meditated on them in their hearts.  They were changed forever by the words spoken by Jesus AND THE WORDS SPOKEN ABOUT JESUS!

Not to learn from our experiences can lead to future disaster.
On January 23, 1909, a small invention played a crucial role in the lives of 1500 people. The New York-bound ocean liner the "Florida" rammed into the "Republic." Jack Binns, the Republic's new wireless radio man, reassembled his contraption which had been destroyed in the collision. He sent out distress calls for the next 12 hours until the crew and passengers were rescued in the dawn light of Sunday morning. Only a few died.

Jack Binns became a national hero. He was given a ticker tape parade. Songs were written about him. He even testified before congress on the importance of regulating wireless technology on all ships. Congress listened politely but ignored his message. Binn gave up his quest, accepted no profit from his celebrity, and went back home to England to await reassignment. Three years later he received an assignment aboard a ship that he turned down. He had fallen in love and was soon to marry. The turned down assignment? The Titanic.

It is now felt that Binn's message was ignored because so few lives were lost on the Republic. It took tragedy on the scale of the Titanic for the importance of wireless to be understood.

Why are we like this? We ignore wisdom to our own peril. I wonder what would have happened to Mary had she ignored the message told her. We shall never know. We learn in our lesson that she did not turn a deaf ear. She believed what she had been told and as a result she is called blessed.

Scripture to Claim:
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. ”
1 John 3:2, NASB

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mary and Joseph Established a Relationship with Jesus!

"He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" Matthew 18:2-4
That Christmas night when they first met Jesus, was for them only the beginning!  From then on, every night, for the rest of their lives, they were with Jesus Christ!

They did have to leave Bethlehem, but they took Christ with them. We know, for instance, that they moved from Bethlehem to Egypt.  Then they moved from Egypt to Nazareth.  But they never moved without taking Jesus with them! There was one time, they slipped up and left Christ behind in Jerusalem.  But, as soon as they realized He was missing, they immediately went to find Him! 

In Christmas services around the world millions of people came to worship Jesus. But the great majority will simply leave saying, "That's nice!"  And they went on with life as usual. Only a few who, having seen Jesus Christ, determine never to leave His side again!

We should always be aware that Christianity is not a religion...IT IS A RELATIONSHIP!  And, if we do get sidetracked and misplace the Lord in our lives, make a beeline back to Him as soon as we figure it out!

For Joseph and Mary, Christmas was more than a once a year celebration, It was a day by day reality. Does the presence of the Messiah change things?  Only if you enter a relationship with Him. Christmas is only a holiday if you do not receive the gift of God and live in His presence. The promise of faith is peace, joy, love and salvation.  Are those now ours in experience or did we leave Bethlehem without Him?

Mary and Joseph Nurtured Their Relationship with Jesus!
Raising Children is a growing experience!  Anyone who has raised children knows the parents grow up almost as much as the child does!   As they grow up, they change, and so do you.  A relationship requires constant attention to keep it strong! For one thing, YOU HARDLY KNOW THE CHILD THAT FIRST DAY YOU BRING HIM INTO THE HOUSE! You have to get to know that kid growing up in your home...AND THE TRUTH IS, YOU NEVER KNOW THEM FULLY! You have to learn to be a good parent.

While the shepherds returned to their flocks... Mary and Joseph stayed there, responsible for the rest of their lives to nurture and develop their relationship with Jesus Christ!  The same is true with our relationship with Christ.  We get to know Him only a little the day we are first introduced to Him as our Savior! We are glad for the relationship, to know we are going to heaven.

Nurturing – Completing what God has purposed
Mary and Joseph spent not only Christmas, but the rest of their lives growing in their relationship with Jesus! There are too many Christians, who are great people but THEY AREN'T GROWING ANYMORE IN CHRIST!  They know a certain amount about Christ, they are happy with what they know, AND THEY AREN'T INTERESTED IN KNOWING ANY MORE!  Now that Christmas is over, will you simply return to life as normal, perhaps praising God for the chance to celebrate Christmas, but really, no different than you were before? Or will you, like Mary and Joseph have your lives radically changed by Christmas? God has a purpose for all He does…and it will always result in a change in our lives

Scripture to Claim
Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift. 2 Corinthians 9:15 (KJV)

Devotional Archive