It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas! Yay!

While I cannot stand it when retailers start putting up Christmas decor the day after Labor Day, I’m always ready and anticipating Christmas. And since Santa Claus came to town at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, it’s okay to start decorating!

This year it’s a Coca-Cola Christmas in my house. (I wasn’t ready to use the Coca-Cola theme the last 2 Christmases, but it’s time this year!) So, this one’s for you, Steve! Merry Christmas in heaven.

Christmas 2018

So, as I sit here knitting by my tree, I’ve been thinking about Pastor Scott’s sermon the other week, how, without Good Friday and Easter, Christmas loses its meaning. If we forget that the reason the King of Kings humbled himself to become a mere mortal like us was so that he could be humiliated, die, and then blow death and sin to smithereens by rising again, immortal and glorious, then Christmas has no meaning. After all, if God did not have a plan to bring salvation and restoration to His creation and execute that plan, then what reason would He have to become like us? Why go through all the pain and trials of being a human unless there was something bigger, more important to Him at stake?

So, as you celebrate the birth of Jesus, remember His death and resurrection, and give thanks!

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And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.

Luke 5:28

As I was reading this morning, this simple passage struck me powerfully, Here was a Jew, Levi, who worked as a tax collector for the very people, the Romans, who were holding the Jews in oppressive circumstances. Levi was viewed by his own people as a traitor and one of the oppressors. He might have been demanding more in payment than the Romans required, thereby enriching himself. He was not esteemed by the Romans, either, as he was still a Jew and not considered their equal. But he was most likely wealthy because of the habit of extortion by the tax collectors and obviously quite liberal with that wealth, at least among the ‘lowest of the low,’ as seen in the next paragraph when he threw a great feast for them.

BUT GOD, in the person of Jesus, met up with him in his “office,” a booth in the marketplace, and simply said “Follow me.” That is amazing enough in and of itself, that God would call an outcast among his own people, a man who was probably dishonest and robbed these people. But what I find even more amazing is that Levi heard Jesus and merely (merely?!) got up from his desk, left everything behind and followed after Jesus! Imagine the scene if you will:

Here is the despised tax collector, Levi, sitting there in the market as one by one his neighbors and relatives reluctantly come up with their hard earned coins to pay those horrid Romans their required taxes which are used to support the troops that keep the people in line! As the Jews come to Levi’s booth, they give him their money, but he asks for more. They both probably know that Levi is keeping the extra. But then the next person comes up WITHOUT a coin for the Romans (or Levi!) and Levi looks up. This man he may have never seen before says “Come. Follow me!” Outrageous! Incredible! But what does Levi do? He actually gets up, leaves his possessions, the money for the taxes and his own pockets, EVERYTHING, and follows! The people still in line would have been confused, puzzled. But there’s all this money sitting there – what did they do? Did they rush the table and take it back? Did the Romans intervene? We don’t know, but we do know it would have been chaos at the very least.

Why? Why would what our standards would have considered a successful businessman get up and abandon it all? Because he heard the voice of God in Jesus. Levi may have heard about this preacher from Galilee before, may even have heard him speak, who know? But in that place, at that moment, Levi knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was all that he, Levi, needed. And he did the only reasonable thing – he left behind the encumbrances of his former life and went after the most precious thing!

How about any one of us? Do we seek out the most precious, important thing, or do we run after things of this world that do not last, that rust away and decay? Do I seek out Jesus each and everyday, to sit at His feet and learn what He has to teach me, or do I busy myself with busywork that leads no where? These are things we need to consider daily and decide how we chose to live. The choice we make has eternal repercussions, so choose wisely!

Oh, how did Levi’s story turn out, you ask? Well, he never went back to being a tax collector. Instead, he continued to follow Jesus for three years, becoming one of his inner circle of 12. He was one of the men Jesus chose to be his ambassadors and to tell the world about Himself. And just how, do you ask, did Levi fulfill this mission? Well, Jesus changed his name to Matthew. Matthew then went on to write down everything he had learned from Jesus so that others could come to know, as he Matthew did, that Jesus was the promised Messiah to the Jews, the one foretold by the prophets and promised to Levi’s ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob!

Not FOR me unless IN me

As I read the article for October 29 in My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers, I realized I too often think wrongly about why Jesus died.

It’s too easy to say, and too often taught that Christ “died for me.” But truly, the Bible doesn’t say that, as Chambers points out. 2 Corinthians 5:15 says “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (Emphasis added.) Jesus died for ALL, and those who believe and accept that live! Even a verse that nearly everyone can quote, albeit erroneously or incompletely sometimes, says “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…” But the verse following highlights the fact that the death of Jesus was to be INCLUSIVE: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

The world. Not me individually. Jesus’ sacrifce was for any, all, everyone! BUT..

Yes, there is a but. It is for me, but only if I first, acknowledge and confess that I am an unholy mess – sinful, incapable of saving myself; second, ask God to forgive me of that sinfulness; and third, accept and believe that Jesus’s death conquered all sin and death, and that in His triumph over sin and grave, I, too, live again forever. Then and only then does Jesus’ death have anythong to do with me personally.

I can do nothing to gain freedom from the grip of sin – even as a believer, sin creeps in and I battle to allow the love and mercy of God to be that which determines my actions, thoughts and attitudes, not sin. BUT GOD graciously and freely grants me that freedom from sin’s bondage because I choose to allow Jesus to dwell in me. I choose to allow His desires and ways become mine. I choose to try and walk as He walked. I choose to allow Him to fill me with His love, wisdom, mercy, forgiveness. I choose to accept the gift offered at such a high cost to the giver. I choose to believe that the Light of the World is stronger and more powerful that Satan and his lies and deceptions. I CHOOSE – LIFE and FREEDOM!

What will you choose?

Flesh or Spirit?

for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?
1 Corinthians 3:3ESV

How do you handle inter-personal relationships? Our tendancy is to say, “Okay” or”I treat people right.” But are we looking at all our relationships, or just the good ones? What about the co-worker who drives me nits, or the family member who challenges everything you say, or the person at church who shoots down every idea someone else comes up with?

Do I greet them with a smile (s real one!) and a friendly word or do I grit my teeth and groan inwardly when I see them coming? Do I choose to always give them the benefit of the doubt when they make an overture of frinedship, or do I remember old hurts and grievances?

we, myself included most of all, need to examine ourselves very closely in the handling of our relationships. For if we truly seek to walk as disciples, as followers of Jesus Christ, we need to treat others the way He did – ever patient, ever kind, always seeking to bring out the best in them, to draw them to Himself. The excuse “Well, I’m only human” jusst doesn’t fly – not if you are a follower of Jesus. We should strive to be “CHRIST-like” not “human-like” if we want to do what Jesus did and show the world around us who He is!

Choose – flesh or spirit? Life or death? Your choice.

WWW Wednesdays – September 12, 2018

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme was formerly hosted by MizB at A Daily Rhythm and revived by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the three questions below and leave a link to your post in the comments for others to look at. No blog? No problem! Just leave a comment with your responses. Please, take some time to visit the other participants and see what others are reading. So, let’s get to it!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Current reads for me are:

  • The Daniel Key by Anne Graham Lotz. Based on Mrs Lotz study of the book of “Daniel,” this book examines Daniel’s various prayers and why they were effective. So far it is as solid and encouraging as other books of hers that I have read.
  • Captain Wentworth’s Diary by Amanda Grange. I just started this, but have enjoyed Ms. Grange’s other Austen-inspired “diaries” so expect this one to be as enjoyable.
  • Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: My Life by Sophia Loren. So far a very enjoyable autobiography.

Recently finished: not much. I’ve been knitting a lot trying to prepare for a community craft fair in November.

Next read:

  • Good Vibrations: My Life as a Beach Boy by Mike Love. Hope I like this book as much as I like the Beach Boys!