Monday, December 31, 2012

Scraps Have Value

“We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this treasure.  This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.”  (2 Corinthians 4:7 NLT)
            In Paul’s day when a vessel of clay was broken the scraps and shards were cast aside as useless.  Archaeologists spend many hours in search of shards of pottery and bones from ancient civilizations to piece together a story of a lost colony, city, or nation.
            What do you do with a garment that has become tattered and torn?  Most people will discard the old for a new one.  These scraps are looked upon as having “seen their best day,” and are thrown aside as worthless.
            My quilter wife, on the other hand, is always on the lookout for scraps of material.  When the need is made known her neighbors and friends save material scraps for her.  Last year we were in Townsend, Montana and passed a quilting shop.  There in the window was a sign which read: BAG OF SCRAPS $2.00.  You guess it!  I had to stop and allow her time to satisfy her curiosity and look for a bargain.  After waiting for what seemed like hours (probably thirty minutes), I went in to the shop to find her sorting through the bags of scraps to find the best bargain. 
            One year my wife took a “Log Cabin” double bed size hand sewn quilt down to Wycliffe Associates to donate for their annual auction.  During the live auction two parties began bidding on it and much to our amazement it sold for a little over $2,000. 
            It never ceases to amaze me how a person can take scraps of material that our “throwaway” society has discarded as worthless, and fashion an item of great value.  This pictures how God, the Master Quilter, takes the scraps of broken lives and human failures that are turned over to him and fashions a purposeful life with great value that ultimately brings glory to His name.
            King David was a miserable broken man until he repented and became a comfort to millions of others who look for value in their own bad choices.  Paul who persecuted Christians became the apostle of grace. 
            What about the bad choices we have made?  Can God do anything with the worthless scraps of our lives?  Absolutely!  By repenting and turning them over to the Master Quilter, God can create a garment that will radiate his glory.  

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Bits and Pieces

God has handed me over to sinners.  He has tossed me into the hands of the wicked.  I was living quietly until he shattered me.  He took me by the nick and broke me in pieces.”  (Job 16:11-12 NLT)
            What’s in your closet?  My closet contains shirts, sweaters, coats, shoes, blankets, quilts, luggage, and an assortment of puzzles and games.  Out of all the “stuff” that inhabits my closet, not one single item is made from a single piece of material.  Every item is fashioned either from bits and pieces of fabric, leather, vinyl, or other materials. 
            My wife, Elaine, is an excellent quilter.  Every one of her quilts is a collage of bits and pieces of fabric sewn together with random seams.  I don’t have a single item in my closet that is seamless and flawless.  If a close inspection is made each item will reveal some kind of flaw.  None of them are perfect.
            What is true of garments can also be applied to our lives as well.  None of us can claim to be seamless and perfect.  We are a collection of bits and pieces – broken relationships, shattered dreams, unfulfilled promises, dashed hopes, and sinful practices. 
            Jesus faced his share of trials and difficulties: brothers who denied his deity, religious leaders who accused him of blasphemy and plotted against him, one of his chosen disciples who betrayed him, and one who denied that he even knew him, while the rest ran away in a blatant act of desertion.  Yet, like us, Jesus took the bits and pieces of their lives and fashioned them into a worthy garment.  We are Jesus’ “Opus!”
            The only perfect seamless garment ever made was worn by Jesus: “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece.”  (John 19:23 NASB)  This seamless garment was symbolic of his life – a life lived with perfection, a life uncomplicated by sin, a life void of bad choices, a life without broken dreams, and a life that was well pleasing to the Father. 
            This same Jesus is busy shaping the bits and pieces of our lives into a beautiful, seamless image of him that the Bible says he will keep from stumbling, and present in his glory faultless with great joy. (Jude 24)
            Jesus is the master tailor who is fashioning the garment we call “You.”

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Unexpected Gift

He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.”            Luke 2:5 NLT
            Have you ever received a strange gift?  One that was a shocker – totally unexpected!
            It happened to me one year while teaching fifth and sixth graders.  Children love to give a gift to their teacher at Christmas: a hankie, a tie, an ornament, or some other trinket.  But on this one occasion I received a shoe box wrapped in Christmas paper (newspaper comics).  It felt rather heavy and I wondered what possibly could be inside.  It rattled when I shook it, and my curiosity was rising by the minute.  It was given to me by a small boy that I knew came from a very poor family.   As I opened the box, I steeled myself for the unexpected.  Inside was a small bundle of black coal.  Without hesitation, I smiled and said, “This is the most practical gift I’ve ever received.”  Little Jimmy gave me the most valuable possession he could find in his home. 
            When God gave us His Christmas gift it took people by surprise and came in a totally unexpected manner. 
            Who would have expected a Holy Righteous God to choose a young virgin teenager to bear his long awaited Messiah?  When the angel Gabriel came to Mary at Nazareth he said, “Greeting favored one!  The LORD is with you.”  (Luke 1:27)  This greeting caught Mary by surprise and she was confused and disturbed.  I’m sure she wondered, “What kind of greeting is this and what does it mean.”  Fortunately, Gabriel didn’t leave her in that state of mind, but said, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.  He will be very great and will be called the son of the Most High.  The LORD will give him the throne of his ancestor David.”  (Luke 1:31-32 NLT).
            Was Mary shocked at this announcement?  Yes!  Did she consider herself worthy?  No!  What kind of thoughts entered her mind?  Did she wonder, “Why me?”  Don’t we tend to utter the “why God” questions when the unexpected happens?  To think that God would entrust his most valuable possession to an inexperienced young Jewish teenager baffles the mind.  But we learn from history that Mary did a remarkable job of raising Jesus from babyhood to manhood.
            What will you do with the unexpected gift of Jesus Christ this Christmas?  Will you keep his Messianic birth to yourself or share it with others?  

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Unwanted Gift

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.  And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly.”  (Matthew 1:18-19)
            Have you ever received an “unwanted” gift?  How did you respond?  Did you send it back or dash to the gift exchange as quick as possible?  Or did you put it away where no one would see it?  What do you do with an “unwanted” gift?
            Joseph of Nazareth came face to face with a similar problem.  He had chosen a young Jewish girl to be his wife.  A formal contract was drafted between families and was considered legally binding.  Many cultures enforce stiff penalties for breaking the contract.  In Jewish tradition, for instance, breaking the contract is considered to be equal to divorce.  The betrothal is often referred to as “erusin,” can only be broken via an official divorce decree. 
            When Mary came to Joseph and said, “I am pregnant,” a huge problem surfaced.  I’m sure Joseph did not want a child out of wedlock, so he was faced with an insurmountable problem.  What would he do?  What could he do?  By Jewish law, if Mary were unfaithful and found to be pregnant with child by a man other than her husband she could be taken and stoned to death.  When the news came Joseph was stunned, but being a righteous man he decided rather than disgracing her he would dispose of the “unwanted gift” by “sending her away secretly.” (Matthew 1:18)  He wanted a “secret” break-up because getting an official divorce decree would set off severe repercussions in the community.  They both would be ostracized or perhaps something even worse. 
            Before Joseph could execute his plan, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). 
            Joseph obeyed the message from the Lord and he and Mary were married.  The “unwanted gift” now became a “wanted gift.”  That which he wanted to cast aside as unworthy turned out to be Jesus, the Savior of the world.  Where would we be today if Joseph had disobeyed the voice of the angel and had Mary disposed of secretly? 
            Aren’t you glad that God saw to it that events turned out the way they did?  We received a Savior, and God was glorified.  I can’t think of any better gift than that. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Has the wall been breached?

"Because of the multitude of his horses, the dust raised by them will cover you; your walls will shake at the noise of the calvary and wagons and chariots when he enters your gates as men enter a city that is breached." (Ezekiel 26:10 NASB)

   Since it's founding by our forefathers who came seeking religious freedom and a batter way of life, American has not experienced a threat from without, until the devastation of the twin towers on 9/11.

   Our nation had erected an impregnable wall supported by its military might that no nations dared to challenge.  Many believe that Almighty God had placed a protective hedge around America.  Now that the impregnable wall has been breached, we wonder has God removed that protective hedge and left us vulnerable?

   Following the aftermath of 9/11, people asked: Where was God?  Why did he allow this to happen?  
Just to refresh your memory consider these facts:
1. The courts abolished prayer and Scripture in the public schools.
2. The ten commandments were no longer allowed in public placed and were removed from walls by government decree.
3. The mention of God or Jesus Christ has become Taboo.
4. Military chaplains are restrained from using the name of Jesus Christ.
5. The sacred is being replaced by the profane.
6. The nation has legalized the killing of the unborn.

   Where is God, you ask?  The answer is:  We drove him out and his protective hedge went with him.

   The warning signs are evident, but no one is paying attention to them.  Is it too late for America?  Is judgment on the horizon?  Only God knows the answer, but I do believe that we need to put into practice the advice of 2 Chronicles 7:14.  Only a national great awakening will get us back on the right track.  

Thought for the day:  God's judgment is swift and sure.

Prayer: Dear Lord, help each one of us to be willing to confess our sins and seek God's mercy and grace.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Perfect Gift

"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?  (Micah 6:8 NASB)

    Jesus was born in a lowly stable (or cave) with nothing but straw for a bed, but as the Christ child he had everything.  The Bible says that he was perfect in every way and owned the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine.  What kind of gift can I get God who has everything?  What could God possible want from us this Christmas?

   Don't you just love it when someone gives you a Christmas wish list?  When you contemplate what to get for someone who seems to have everything -- up pops a list.  Not to be outdone, God has given us a list.  It is found in Micah 6:8.  He desires from us justice, kindness, and humility.  There are two aspects to justice: (1) inward character of right and goodness, (2) outward actions that show it.  Love or kindness involves our willingness to show mercy to others.  Both justice and love are connected and operate together.  See Psalm 89:14; Deuteronomy 10:18, and Zechariah 7:8-10.  Humility involves submission and honor. This is our ultimate purpose in life.

   Are you willing to give God these perfect gifts?  They must be genuine and useful.  God will be looking to see them practiced in your thought life, family life, work life, and friendships.