Holy Impossibility

Before that night nearly everything seemed impossible. Man, created for relationship with God, found himself in a state of sin which made it impossible to stand in the presence of a Holy God. 

Sure, there was a system of sacrifices designed to address individual infractions, great and small, but as soon as one sin was dealt with another arose. It was the sin nature that was the problem and the law did nothing to address that. It was all Holy Impossibility until that night.

On that night, in the form of a tiny babe, the impossible became possible. Man who was unfit to stand in His presence became a candidate for sonship, not just any relationship but ultimate relationship. The law system of sacrifice to be replaced by an ultimate, one-time-for-all sacrifice. It was not all perfected that night. It has not all been perfected even now. But it became possible. Hope was reborn. Into the darkness, there came a great light.

If today you face what seems impossible, this is your remembrance. No hill is too high. No relationship is too broken. The babe brought hope. Him crucified brought salvation. His return will bring completion. 

All is now possible. It’s Christmas.

Be blessed.

Nick

Mary Did You Know

Several years ago Michael English wrote and recorded Mary Did You Know. It was not released at Christmas nor was it meant to be a Christmas song, but over the years it has become a Christmas favorite. It explores the question of just how much Mary knew about who Jesus was and the enormity of what He would do.
I don’t think Mary had complete knowledge of Jesus. I don’t think any of us really understand all the possibilities that a relationship with Him means. Nor do we understand the enormity and life long impact of what we do.
Michael English won numerous Dove awards. Just days after one of the award presentations it was discovered that he fathered a child for a woman to whom He was not married. The scandal seemed to ruin His career. His marriage ended in divorce and he was not heard of for several years. The scandal had enormous impact in the Christian community, shaking the faith of many.  After several years of repentance He  re-emerged as a force in Christian music, remarried and started his life over.
We don’t alway know the impact of the good, and the bad, we do. We need an appreciation of how our lives are like pebbles tossed in a calm lake, creating ripples that move outward endlessly. 
Drop some pebbles of blessing this Christmas. Know that as much as you may know Jesus, you don’t know the enormity of who He is and what He does. Know, too that you also have a great and long lasting impact on the world in which you live.
Merry Christmas.
Be blessed and be a blessing.
Nick

Moma’s Cornbread Dressing

I didn’t normally eat very well when I was a kid. If you find that hard to believe, you need to know I was very thin when younger. I was the oldest of nine kids, we were poor and my mom was not a great cook. Let me rephrase that: she wasn’t even a good cook. Meals were not normally something I looked forward to. We certainly ate to live and did not live to eat.

Except for the holidays, my mom had inherited a great cornbread dressing recipe from her mom. Best I could tell it was the only thing that she inherited. This wasn’t one of those awful chicken broth based dressings, or one of those dry corn bread dressing casseroles. This was “real” corn bread dressing made with ground beef and pork and lots of beef consomme’. It was juicy and delicious. I remember the smell of it cooking. I remember sneaking tastes out of the pot before it was ready. I remember having huge servings during holiday meals. I remember it heated over with other left-overs for days after. 

There were many Christmases when we didn’t have much. We usually got to pick out one present from the Sears catalogue with a price limit based on how poor we were that year. Some Christmases were better than others but it seems we always were able to have that cornbread dressing. For me, it’s what the holidays are all about. It’s a treasured memory that still makes me smile and warms my heart. 

I don’t know if my parents realized they were making memories each year with the dressing. For them it was probably just a precious memory from their own childhoods. I am not sure we can control the memories we are making for our families, children and grandchildren.

I am convinced that we need to provide plenty of material for good memories to be made. We should strive to fill our lives with good and enriching things. A good place to start is our own treasured memories. We won’t be able to hide what’s special to us and it may become special to those we love. 

But like I said, we can’t control what becomes a precious memory for others. We need to be prepared that things that are special to us may be special to no one else. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Maybe the personal uniqueness of memory is a big part of what makes it special.

Christmas is a time for memory making and honoring the memories that have become special to us. Enjoy some memories and make some more and 

Be blessed.

Nick

Of Phil Robertson, Sexy Sins and Stuff

It seems Christians are lining up to support Phil Robertson, of Duck Dynasty. Phil was asked in an interview about sin and chose to talk about the “sexy” sins, like adultery and homosexual acts. These things are listed as sins in scripture. Phil was right to include them. He chose not to mention much more frequent sins like acts of pride, murder, dishonesty, gluttony, and bearing false witness. 

Of course, the supporters of gay rights are in arms  because they like to read out  certain clear portions of scripture. However, they aren’t the only ones who skip certain portions of the word that hit too close to home. 

Conservative Christians are taking up Phil’s cause in support of “free speech” however, these same folks would like certain others to “just shut up.” 

Many Christians are proclaiming that it’s about time someone talked more about sin.

Well, let’s step back for a minute. Jesus didn’t talk that much about sin and when He did. it was usually in connection with forgiveness. It’s true that some are preaching a watered down gospel that is really no gospel at all. Repentance is clearly a necessary step in the salvation and redemption process. We have to recognize ourselves as sinners and turn away from our sin. However, those who cry that we don’t talk about sin enough, aren’t too happy when we talk about their sin. It’s just the sins of others that rile them.

Now Phil Robertson is a millionaire with an estimated net worth of over five million dollars. Just walk around any Walmart if you don’t believe that. Ending a television show that probably has pretty much run it’s course anyway isn’t going to kill Phil or any of his family. On the other hand there are millions who are being killed because of what they believe. Why aren’t Christians up in arms about that?

It’s great to see Christians take a stand against sin and for free speech. Let’s exercise our free speech rights to talk about Jesus and what He means to us. For that Phil, deserves a hand. Let’s just take a stand against all sin, including our personal favorites, not just the ones we personally loath, but the ones we can’t seem to stop committing. Let’s focus on forgiveness, salvation and redemption like Jesus did. Let’s be as worried about those who are willing to lose their lives for Jesus as much as we are  for those who are willing to live out their lives on television. 

And by the way, Phil, get a haircut.

Be blessed.

Nick

Great Joy

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11
With a week to go until Christmas, how’s your Great Joy meter? This is where the stress level explodes. It’s when we realize that we forgot several someones who bought us something and now we need to go back to the Mall. It’s when we begin to think that we should add another dessert or vegetable to the Christmas day menu or that our choice for the main dish now sounds weird instead of exotic. It’s when Christmas cards start coming in from folks we didn’t send cards to, and we have run out of the pretty personalized cards we bought. 
Is the joy slipping away? What can we do?
1. Remember everyone else is stressed. It’s your chance to be a hero. 
2. Remember stress is mostly self-imposed.
3. Forget the illusion of the perfect Christmas. If you do Christmas too well, you’ll just make some folks you love jealous.
4. Commit to reducing the stress of as many as you can. Make it a mission.
5. Revel in the many opportunities to forgive: the person who gives you the same gift they gave you last year, the person who gives you the present you gave them last year, the person who believed you when you said you really didn’t want anything this year, the person who takes the last special item from the shelf just as you grab for it, the family member who says “hope you are making X this year” when you hate X and did not plan to make it.
6. Consider that lack of joy may be rooted in that sin in your life that you just can’t seem to beat. 
7. Instead of driving through the richest neighborhoods in town to look at lights, (which always makes me feel lazy and poor) try driving through the poorest sections and pray for those who live there and get a new perspective on how blessed you are. 
8.  Set your eyes on Jesus; the author and perfecter of your faith. Look again at the manger not as a cute cradle but a feeding trough.
9. Hug someone and wish them a Merry Christmas, tell them you love them and do it loud enough for someone else to hear. You get extra points if that someone really needs a hug and really doesn’t deserve one.
I feel the joy returning.
Be blessed.
Nick

How Much Jesus?

It seems the world is having more trouble than ever accepting the babe born in a manager over 2000 years ago. It seems the tiny one whose parents could not even get a room in an inn or provide a clean place for his birth scares the hell (yes I said “hell” pun intended) out of most. Maybe it’s because like the Magi they recognize this child for all that He is. 
They gave Him gold in recognition of his kingship, not just earthly royalty but divine. This little one possesses great power. He is ruler of the universe, a role hidden in a dingy manger and not fully realized until His final return, but ultimate ruler nonetheless.
They gave Him frankincense because they knew Him as priest, not just any priest but the Great High Priest who would advocate for lowly man with the Most High God. He would replace all the rituals and ceremony of religion with the reality of relationship.  
They gave Him myrrh because they foresaw Him as murdered sacrifice for sin. They recognized this child in His most mysterious yet most marvelous role of all, the greatest gift ever given by a God whose capacity for love is beyond our meager understanding.
So let us not be too self-righteous when we hear “Happy Holidays” or hear Christmas described as an over-commercialization of a ancient pagan feast.  Unless we are prepared to receive Him as Emmanuel, and king and priest and bloody sacrifice for sin, we are no better than those who reject Him as babe in swaddling clothes. 
Just how much Jesus are you prepared to accept?
Take Him all and be blessed.
Nick

Fun at Church

I had fun at church last night. I feel slightly naughty just saying it. Don’t we believe that Church isn’t supposed to be fun? Don’t we believe that if it is fun, you must not be having real church? You must be doing it wrong. Don’t we think if you have fun at church  you must be going to one of those seeker-friendly churches that aren’t really churches at all? 
Now, I have to admit that last night wasn’t a church service, it was a senior group party. We had a pot luck dinner and played a gift exchange game. There was prayer and testimony and fellowship. All that was very nice, but what I really needed was some fun. 
Christmas season hasn’t really been much fun for me so far and I needed a laugh. Shouldn’t church really meet our needs? Well it really did last night. I needed a reminder that having Christ in Christmas doesn’t mean taking out all the joy, the fun. It means taking it to a higher level.
Church really needs to be more fun, even at the regular services. We have somehow painted Christianity as an exchange for a fun life now for joy in heaven later. Some people think that the best deal would be to live like hell for most of your life and come to the Lord at the last minute, something like the good thief. We need to begin to demonstrate that although all life involves challenge, some suffering, some hard times, that there is more joy in the Christian life HERE ON EARTH as in any other path. 
Sack cloth and ashes are out. Smiles and joy are in.  There is joy even in carrying a cross.
Last night church was fun. That’s the way it should be.
Have fun and be blessed. It’s really okay.
Nick

Eternal Christmas

Usually about this time of the year I post an encouragement to Keep Christ in Christmas or something about avoiding Christmas stress. Not going to do that this year. In the past I was usually talking mostly to myself and without much success. It seems a losing battle. In fact, this year I’m suggesting we accept the commercialism and take joy in the stress. These things arise from futile attempts to create something artificially, that is only truly possible for those who are in Christ.

Consider this. The great thing about Christmas is that it celebrates the Incarnation, the fact that Jesus came to earth, Emmanuel, Christ with us. Christmas is a remembrance of that miracle. But now Jesus isn’t physically here. He’s present spiritually with those who, by faith, are in Him. How can we expect a world that doesn’t know Christ to “keep Him” in Christmas? We have to have understanding and pity for those who struggle to create through material means something that is profoundly spiritual. We are unable, on our own, to generate the love and good will that Christmas promises. That is genuine only in a relationship with Jesus. In our keeping of Christmas, in the agape love we show each other, we can only demonstrate the blessing that is knowing Him.

The Christmas experience is a very personal thing. We each have our Christmas memories, our beliefs, our relationship or lack or relationship with God. These things work together to make Christmas for us. The Lord’s brief physical presence on this earth and all that he did gave us a deposit of hope, a longing for that  time when He returns and, at last, we have Heaven on earth. Until then each Christmas will be a reminder, a glimpse into the wonder He has in store for us when He returns, not as a baby and a sacrifice, but as Lord and King. Then will God be with us for ever in a form we can see and touch and love: Eternal Christmas. What a glorious day that will be.

Until then, keep Christmas as your circumstances and relationship with Him permits and pray for those who must be satisfied with less.

Be blessed.

Nick