Archives for December 2015

God Makes Somebodys Out of Us Nobodys

The Bible is full of nobodys like me. God loves to make somebodys out of nobodys. It is so refreshing to know this.

Three amazing “somebodys” I had never really noticed are only mentioned in the Gospel of Luke 2 story of Jesus’ birth–the shepherds, Simeon and Anna.

We will focus next week’s whole message on the shepherds. Earlier in Luke 2,  the Lord transformed “nobody shepherds” into “somebody shepherds” as they were the first witnesses of Jesus’ birth. They spread the word of seeing Jesus, “and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:18)

In Biblical times, the shepherds were considered outcasts. I love that God gave voices to the voiceless. He still does.

A few verses later, 40 days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the temple for His purification. Enter another nobody named Simeon…

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

‘Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.’  Luke 2:25-32

Go Simeon! What a courageous, anointed man! The passage goes on to say that Mary and Joseph marveled at what Simeon said about Jesus. These verses are the only time Simeon is mentioned. What an impact he made on God’s Kingdom.

Then another nobody named Anna enters the Luke 2 stage:

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” –Luke 2: 36-38. 

Wow, Anna! What an amazing example. What a leader. What a somebody.

It’s exciting to look at a few common traits, I believe, between the nobodys God transforms into somebodys–the shepherds, Simeon, Anna, and so many others in the Bible. All these “nobodys” wholeheartedly display that they are:

  1. Available to be used by God
  2. Attuned to the Holy Spirit
  3. Agile–Age is not an excuse
  4. Humble

Each one of these traits is a high calling. I pray to embody more of each. It’s a journey. I’m no expert. Here is what I believe to be true about each trait:

  1. Available to be used by God: God wants our availability, not our abilities. Like Simeon and Anna, they were in the temple waiting on baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Even the shepherds “hurried off” and found Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger. They were flexible and available. May we be ready for God’s service, saying, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10).
  2. Attuned to the Holy Spirit: Simeon was “righteous and devout.” Three times in slightly more than a verse the Bible mentions how the “Holy Spirit was upon him.” How do we get more attuned with the Holy Spirit? The short answer is to pray and fast, like Anna did; to spend time in God’s Word “listening” to God speak and answer us; worship regularly in a Christ-centered church; and to live a life of integrity. It seems like a tall order. That’s what grace is all about, at least in my life. 🙂
  3. Agile–Age is not an excuse: Whether you are five years old or “very old” like Anna, we can be used by God. Simeon was also older because the passage said the Holy Spirit said he wouldn’t die before seeing the Lord’s Christ. Nowhere in the Bible does it talk about spiritual retirement. Whatever your age, whatever God calls you to do, He will equip you. No excuses.
  4. Humble–Each effective person in the Bible and in today’s world who is the most effective leader embodies humility. Simeon prayed “now dismiss your servant in peace” (Luke 2:29b). Anna “gave thanks to God and spoke to all about the child” (Luke 2:38). They decreased as God increased (John 3:30).  Please, Lord, I pray daily to decrease as You increase.

May we be encouraged that God can use each of us for His service. As the old Christian song says, “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody about the Somebody who can save anybody.”  Happy New Year, friend.

Reflect:

–Name other “nobodys” in the Bible and/or your life who God has transformed into “somebodys” for His glory. Please comment.

Renew:

–“…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” –Ephesians 4:1-2.

Recharge:

–Which of the four common traits will you focus on this week? You are a somebody.

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The IN-Keeper–Preparing Room

The Inn-keeper in the Bible Story of Jesus’ birth intrigues me. Not much is written about him. He leaves much to our imagination. With the census going on for the entire Roman World, you know his inn must have stayed jam-packed at 100 percent occupancy. He was truthful to Mary and Joseph.

He certainly wasn’t a mean man. In fact, I can sympathize with him. Guests checked out, then more guests with reservations checked in.  He was trying his best to be hospitable by offering a stable/cave and manger out back.

Little did he know he was too busy and lacked room in his life for the Savior of the World’s birth. Ouch. Doesn’t that hit close to home?

“While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” –Luke 2:7 NIV

Anything of value in our lives requires us to make room.

We make room in our time schedules, our budgets, our hearts for a new relationship we value. Even for Christmas we make room, don’t we?

To bring in our new wonderful-smelling Christmas tree, we move over our comfy chairs, reading lamp, plants–whatever it takes. Box after box of Christmas decorations require us to move our year-round décor and replace with our valued Christmas festive decor.

In the Bible Story of Jesus’ birth, the Inn-Keeper had no room for Jesus. Mary and Joseph resorted to a hay-filled stable, along with the smelly animals. Our Savior of the World Jesus was born in a tiny manger. The tiny manger was plenty of room for the King of Kings and was truly the first King-Size Bed. 

Even the favorite Christmas carol “Joy to the World” exclaims, “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

The big question is: Do I make enough room in my heart, my schedule for Jesus? He wants our whole heart, my whole heart. So many times I don’t make enough room with my hurried schedule, my shortened quiet time, quick prayers.

Jesus is our only Way “In” to eternal life. He is the Door, the Gate. “Therefore Jesus said again. ‘I tell you the truth, I am the Gate for the sheep.” –John 10:7 NIV

We who believe are all “IN-Keepers.” Jesus loves us so much and wants to reside in our hearts for eternity.

How much room am I making in my schedule, my budget, my heart for Jesus, the Savior of the World, my Savior?

Please forgive me, Lord, for being too busy. For not making room for You. Take my whole heart, Lord. Lord Jesus, move everything else out to make all the room You want and need in my heart. You are the only way IN to eternal life. I desire to be a true “IN-Keeper.” In Jesus’ name, by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

“I’m prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.” –Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing

 Reflect:

–“Make room for us in your hearts.” –2 Corinthians 7:2a NIV

–“ ‘Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples? He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’” –Mark 14:14-15 NIV

Renew:

–How can I make more room in my heart, my schedule, my life for Jesus? Please comment.

Resource:

-“But this I do know. My own true love. All your life long, you wait for your own true love to come–we all do–our destiny, our joy, our heart’s desire. So how am I to say it, gentlemen? When He came, I missed Him. Pray for me, brothers and sisters. Pray for the Inn-Keeper. Pray for me, and for us all, my own true love.” –from the Inn-Keeper’s perspective, taken from Frederick Buechner’s  “The Birth.” Magnificent Defeat.

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What Do You Want for Your Birthday?

December is a month for some significant birthdays in my life. My precious Mom’s birthday was last week on December 6th. Two dear high school friends’ birthdays are this month.  The birthday of one of my Godly mentor friends is December 26th.

Oftentimes, a simple question is asked to those we love before their birthday: “What do you want for your birthday?” If you are like me, I just want to ensure my loved one is honored in the most meaningful way. Isn’t that what we want for our birthdays…to  know we are loved and cherished?

The most significant person in my life, really in this world, celebrates His birth each December 25th. Isn’t it wonderful that we all adorn our homes in Christ-mas finery and decorate the inside and outside with bright lights in honor of His birthday?  We bake treats, buy gifts and send cards to our most significant loved ones , friends, and coworkers (and even strangers), and go above and beyond to volunteer and do “random acts of kindness” this time a year. Why? Perhaps it truly is all part of His birthday celebration, honoring the Light Of  The World.

However you may feel about Him, one fact is irrefutable. History sets its time stamp of demarcation with Jesus’ birth—BC, “Before Christ”, and AD, “Anno Domini,” Latin for “In the Year of Our Lord.”   Even the Old Testament prophesied Jesus’ birth (especially in the book of Isaiah) at least 700 years before He was born! Isn’t it fitting that we give Him our best as we celebrate His birthday?

When I was growing up, we baked a birthday cake for Christmas Day and sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. I will always remember those sweet memories.

So, on this December 15, 2015 AD, in the year of our Lord, 10 days before we celebrate His birthday, I  encourage you to ask Him a simple question:  “Lord, What Do You Want For Your Birthday?”

Then listen…

Could His birthday gift be:

–to reconcile with your loved one…

–to rake the yard of and sit with an elderly neighbor…

–to babysit for a worn-out married couple to have a date night…

–to share your testimony and love of Jesus with your co-worker…

You can almost hear His still, small voice, can’t you?

“Your Heart, Dear One. That’s all I want. Your Heart.”

Reflect:

  • How will this Christmas, Jesus’ birthday celebration, be different from years past?
  • How can we listen and act more intentionally after asking the question, “Lord, what do You want for your birthday?”

Renew:

  • “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” –Colossians 3:23
  • “I am sending Him—who is my very heart—back to you.” –Philemon 1:12.
  • “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the Truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart.” –1 Peter 1: 22

Recharge:

  • After asking, seeking, and listening, what intentional actions in your life have you been prompted to take?
  • Consider baking a birthday cake on Christmas Day and singing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. Let’s party!
  • Please leave a comment.
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