The Nativity

Source: more-sky.com – Click image for a larger view.

Among the oxen (like an ox I’m slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with the ox’s dullness might at length
Give me an ox’s strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Savior where I looked for hay;
So may my beast like folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baaing nature would win thence
Some woolly innocence!

 C.S. Lewis, Poems

Present Your Bodies: Mouth

Photo by Katy C

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  –Romans 12:1-2 ESV

In this very well-known verse, Paul is pleading with us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. But in the very next verse he points out something we all know to be true: the only way that our bodies can be a living sacrifice is if they remain connected to our minds. Otherwise, they would be like all the animal sacrifices made in the past. They would be dead.

James puts it this way:

faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. –James 2:14-17

The only way to offer our hands, knees and eyes as a living sacrifice is by being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

This may be doubly true when it comes to offering our mouths.

It’s true that the entire body is controlled by the mind and expresses what is in the mind, but what other part offers such clear and immediate access its contents? One time when Jesus was scolding the Pharisees, he said to them, “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) A few verses later he warns: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37)

I don’t know about you, but I find that last sentence pretty sobering.

There’s much more to offering our mouths than opening them up to sing on Sunday morning. Don’t get me wrong, I believe it definitely includes that. I mean, whether the music is your favorite style or not, if the song is pitched in your range or somewhere in the stratosphere, whether or not you appreciate the fashion sense of the worship leader…none of these things are really the point. It’s the leader’s responsibility to take these things into consideration. That’s on them.

But what comes out of our mouths is our responsibility. That’s on us.

But, as I said, there is much more to offering our mouths than singing in church. Every word we speak aloud, every meme we post on social media, every political discussion, every Facebook status, every Tweet, every attempt at humor, whom we decide to speak to and why…all must be a living sacrifice.

It’s our spiritual act of worship.

Consider these words of Jesus:

Matthew 15:11
 “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Matthew 15:17-20
“Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.”

So, here’s the question we need to consider:

What comes out of our mouths?

Encouragement or criticism?

Mercy or anger?

Love or hatred?

Kindness or cursing?

Faith or doubt?

Peace or animosity?

Joy or hopelessness?

Bottom line:
Have I offered my words to God as a “living sacrifice,” or do I continue to use them strictly for my own selfish purposes?

Psalm 19:14
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.

That should be our prayer as well.

Lloyd


I also wrote about offering our handsoffering our eyes, and offering our knees.

Monday Picks ~ 12-19-2016

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

This is pretty much where my family lands…

Putting Christmas Back in ChristHannah Ploegstra
The Bible never once suggests that the birth of Christ ought to be celebrated; the early custom of birthday celebration was so rooted in magic, astrology, and pagan idol worship that Jews and early Christians would have had nothing to do with birthdays. That said, if someone wants to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Jesus on December 25, I think Jesus gets it. The nations have come to him and they’ve brought him some of their quirky customs; the nations are worshipping him in ways that make sense to them.


Sometimes I need this encouraging reminder…

5 Reasons To Read The Bible When You Feel Absolutely NothingStephen Altrogge
http://theblazingcenter.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/pexels-photo-69004-1700x1133.jpegReading God’s word is usually like planting seeds. I won’t see the fruit of it immediately, but eventually, that fruit will come forth. If you ever wonder why a particular Christian is so mature, it’s because they’ve spent many hours planting seeds in the soil of their heart.

Growth is slow. Fruit is slow. But it will happen.


You’ve Reached the BeginningSeth Godin
Image result for seth godinI was paging through a photo set that someone sent along and when I hit the left button one too many times, the screen popped up and said, “you’ve reached the beginning.”

I guess that’s right here.

And right now.

Always.


If you didn’t see this segment 60 Minutes last night you can watch it here, and I highly recommend that you do. These men are amazing. They are a powerful reminder that hate cannot ever win…

The White Helmets60 Minutes
http://eaworldview.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/CYSx0CuWsAETYub-680x365_c.jpg
“If there is meaning to the word courage,” said a Syrian journalist, “it is represented by the Civil Defense.” Also known as the White Helmets, the trained force of 3,000 rescue workers offer Syrian civilians their only hope. Scott Pelley reports.


Another way of putting things into perspective. This kind of stuff fascinates me…

While you’re there, make sure you click on the little “Speed of Light” icon in the bottom right of your screen.

If the Moon Were Only One Pixel

The model only goes to the edge of our own solar system then ends with these words:

Might as well stop now. We’ll need to scroll through 6,771 more maps like this before we see anything else.


Can you relate?
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Bizarro

Luke 5:12-26

The idea of these little devotionals is simple. I want to approach scripture with the understanding that God is speaking. I’m reading through the Bible and listening for God to ask me questions. I expect these questions to be fairly open-ended and plan to carry them in my mind throughout the day. I’ll share these questions with you in the hope that you find them challenging and helpful.

Luke 5:12-26
12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy.[a] And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus[b] stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.

17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.[c] 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

From this passage I hear God asking me:
Who do you identify with most in this passage?
The leper?The lame man? The friends? The Pharisees?
The owner of the house whose roof was destroyed?
About those friends who lowered the lame man in:
What was their reaction when Jesus said,”Your sins are forgiven”?
Was that what they were there for?
But, was that what was needed?
What are you here for?
What do you need?

Weekend Picks ~ 12-16-2016

xmas-weekend-picks

This is some stuff I found helpful, challenging, interesting, or amusing today that I think may enrich your day as well...

I was just talking with someone about this last night. I always find these posts by Joe Carter helpful…

9 Things You Should Know About Aleppo and the Syrian CrisisJoe Carter
https://tgc-cache.s3.amazonaws.com/images/remote/http_s3.amazonaws.com/tgc-ee2/articles/8211986232_63f6a929f9_b.jpg
The recent struggle for control of the Syrian city of Aleppo has brought renewed attention to the ongoing war crimes that have devastated the Middle East nation. Here are nine things you should know about Aleppo and the Syrian crisis…


When Christmas isn’t Good NewsRob Tims
6491-fx-6-0-12-6-8-0Christmas was not good news for Herod. Jesus was a threat to all he held dear.

And Jesus could be that for you and I today.

King Jesus wants my hard-earned crown.


No Gullible Bumpkins Here: Christmas and the Virgin Birth
Mike McKinley
…roughly a century ago influential theologians began to doubt whether or not that was actually true. They pointed to the virgin birth of Jesus as a superstition that intelligent, modern people simply couldn’t accept. After all, we all know that there is no such thing as a baby being born to a virgin. That’s impossible! If Christianity was going to flourish in the scientific era (or so the thinking went), it would need to jettison these kinds of “myths” that were an insult to our reason and intelligence.

On the surface, that might sound reasonable. But if you look closely, you will see that it does not really do justice to Luke’s narrative. Mary and Zechariah and Elizabeth were not gullible bumpkins who didn’t know how babies were made and believed fantastical stories (nor, for that matter, were Luke and his original readers). They found the whole idea just as unlikely as you and I might, but that’s exactly the point! The great theological truth that Luke is bringing to the forefront by including these events in his “orderly account” is that God’s salvation will come in a seemingly impossible way.


This is an excellent, thoughtful and encouraging article…

If Abortions Are Declining, Why Keep Fighting Roe v. Wade?
Aaron Earls
pregnancy abortion pro-life pro-choice
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the current rate of 12.5 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15-44 years is the lowest since 1971.

From a pro-life perspective, this is undeniably good news. But should this lead us to change our tactics in the work to prevent abortions?

With this news and previous stories like it, many Christians have taken this as an opportunity to step out of the public and political fight against Roe v. Wade and move toward easier cultural and political wins that could lead to a continued reduction of abortions…

My ultimate desire would be to see us so change the narrative that abortion is all but eliminated prior to any laws ever being changed, and the laws are changed to reflect the perspective of the citizenry.

But that final part is more than ceremonial. It matters what our laws say about life. Pro-life absolutely means more than outlawing abortion, but it doesn’t mean less.


I have a very good friend who has ministered in the same small town in Ohio for several decades. I doubt that I will ever have the kingdom influence that he has had…

A Word of Encouragement to the Small Town Pastor
Ron Edmondson
Many times the small city pastors compare themselves to the big city churches. They compare numbers rather than progress. They compare size rather than context. They compare notoriety rather than influence.

And, because of that, many times, they don’t know how well they are really doing.

I see the connections, networking and influence the small town pastor has and I wish I could have this kind of Kingdom influence in my city. I see the respect they command in their community and know, in my context, in many ways they are miles ahead of me.

Small city pastor. God is using you. You are making a Kingdom difference. You just sometimes don’t know how well you are doing.


Forgiveness…
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Pearls Before Swine – Click image for a larger version.