When you're a child, Christmas is all about receiving gifts. In December, your head is swimming with nothing but images of your favorite toys. But the true message of Christmas is not the presents we give to one another.
This Christmas, don't miss the point of celebrating Christmas. Don't be like the innkeeper who missed Jesus because he was too busy (see Luke 2). Make time for the Lord. Don't be like King Herod who was too afraid to let Christ rule his life (see Matthew 2). Turn your heart over to Christ.
Although it has been more than three decades, I still remember clearly the day I was joined in marriage to my wife, Cathe. She walked down the aisle looking beautiful. I, on the other hand, resembled Jeremiah Johnson with my shoulder-length hair and big beard.
What does the Bible mean when it says that we are sealed with the Holy Spirit? In the apostle Paul's day, when goods were shipped from one place to another, they would be stamped with a wax seal, imprinted with the signet ring of the owner. This was a unique mark of ownership. People could look at the crate, see its wax seal, and know they had better not open it.
Why has the Spirit come into this world? What does God's Holy Spirit want to do in the life of the unbeliever? The Holy Spirit is very involved in the actual work of conversion. You see, before we were Christians, it was the Holy Spirit who convicted us of our sin (see John 16:8). Another way to translate the word convict in John 16:8 is "convince." Notice this verse doesn't say that He will convict the unbeliever of a specific sin. Rather, He wants to convince him or her of sin in general, the root cause of all sins.
Have you ever tried to explain something to someone and couldn't quite find the words? Have you ever tried to describe something complex to a child? For God to describe heaven to us in a way we could understand would be like trying to describe the beauty of Hawaii to a three-month-old child. We're not able to comprehend, in our finite human understanding, all the infinite glories of heaven.
Jesus spoke of people who hear the Word of God, but it never quite takes root. These people appear to be converted and even motivated. They seem to be living on an emotional high and even try to bring others to Christ. Yet they are a picture of soil embedded with rocks. The good seed of God's Word breaks ground and shoots up, but no fruit ever appears. No real change ever results. Theirs was not a true encounter with God.
A while ago, I ran into a guy that I once hung out with in school. I hadn't seen him in about twenty-five years. He had called to say that he was coming to hear me speak, so we arranged to meet beforehand.
If intellectualism alone were the major key to purpose and fulfillment, then our universities and college campuses would be bastions of peace and purpose. Yet as you walk around your typical secular university today, you will see the emptiness of academic pursuit without God. On these campuses you will often find the most bizarre and aberrant ideas circulating today.
When Scripture says, "Love your neighbor as yourself," it is not saying, "First learn to love yourself, and then love your neighbor." Rather, it is saying, "It is obvious you already love yourself. Love your neighbor in the same way."
For the time being, I don't have a complete knowledge of life beyond this life. The fact of the matter is, there's so much about the person of God, His ways, and His dwelling place that I don't know. But one day in a new body, I will see Him face-to-face, and all of my questions will be answered.
An interest in life on Mars seems to run in cycles. At this writing, our nation has a new exploration robot prowling around and digging little holes in the dirt near the Martian north pole.
Many of us will put ourselves into situations we don't need to be in. We hang around with people that we don't need to be hanging around with. We watch movies that we don't need to be watching. We listen to music that we don't need to be listening to. And it will affect us.
God can work in spite of sickness. He still answers prayer and heals people today, and He still does miracles. In sickness and in hardships, He can work in a person's life. Even if a person still has the sickness or problem, God can work in spite of it and give them a special strength.
Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" — Acts 8:30 Tell me, was the prophet talking about himself or someone else?
Philip was used to leading others to Jesus because he was obedient. How easily Philip could have argued with the angel who gave him these instructions from the Lord: "Arise and go toward the south." But why? Philip had been preaching in the city of Samaria, and revival was breaking out. And now God was sending him alone into the desert?
As you get to know your Shepherd, you will come to realize that when He calls you, it is always worth obeying. When He says something, it is for your benefit. If He says, "Go this way," it's because He has green pastures and still waters for you.
It's a funny thing how we find sleep more and more appealing as we get older. When I was a kid, I hated to go to sleep. I still remember kindergarten, with the lukewarm milk in little cartons and having to lie down and take naps in the middle of the day. Interestingly, the Bible describes death for a believer as sleep.
When I was eighteen and a new believer, I quickly came to understand where the phrase starving artist came from. All I knew how to do was draw cartoons, so I was doing that as well as some freelance graphics on the side. I was trying to make ends meet, but most of all, I longed to be used by God. So I would hang around Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, waiting for an opportunity just to do something.
In many ways, we have lost the meaning of the word hero. We throw it around so casually. If you can put a ball through a hoop, you're a sports hero. If you can play eight chords on a guitar, you're a rock and roll hero. If you can pretend to be something you're not, you're a Hollywood hero. We have a strange concept as to who our heroes really are.
You remember how God fed the Israelites with manna. Every morning they would wake up, step out of their tents, and there would be the manna just waiting for them. But this "bread from heaven" had one limiting characteristic: it wouldn't keep overnight. God didn't want His people to live off yesterday's manna. The Lord wanted them to be dependent on Him on a regular basis and gather it fresh each day.
I have discovered that I never will find happiness by chasing it. But what we will find is that as we chase God, if we will, as we pursue God and walk with Him, then one day we will realize we became happy people.
Only humanity has a longing for meaning in life. I can assure you that my dog doesn't sit around pondering the reason for his existence. He won't be looking back on his life and saying, "You know, I tried it all as a dog. I chased cats. I drank toilet water. I tried bones. But deep inside of me, there was a void." Dogs don't think that way. They mainly think, Food . . . sleep.
When I travel, I take my laptop with me to work on my messages. But often I must work off the battery, so whenever I have the opportunity, I will plug in to the nearest electrical outlet. Why? Because my battery runs down and needs a recharge.
Sometimes the Lord will step in and say no to even the most loving and carefully considered of our plans. There are many ways, of course, that God can stop or redirect us. Sometimes it's through the warning of a respected friend.