THE PROBLEMS OF THE WORLD

In my late teens and early twenties, I hung out with a group of guys my age.  We focused our young minds on solving the problems of the world.  Our solutions seemed reasonable and rational.  Then life changed for us. We became husbands and fathers. The big picture problems of the world took a back seat to the daily problems of domestic life.

The world we live in hasn’t changed.  There are still big problems. In our young idealistic minds, we thought that we could show people a better way and that would fix it.  Don’t we wish that were true!  I now know that the complexities of the world’s problems are way beyond any solution I might come up with.

Who then can solve the world’s problems?  God in his infinite wisdom knows that the problems of our world can be defined by one simple word, sin. Sin generally stated is the self-centered perspective that I’m more important than others.  That’s the root of our problems.  Unfortunately, I can’t even fix this problem in myself let along the whole world.

However God has provided us with the solution.  We are currently celebrating his solution.  He came to us as a baby in a manger to provide for us the opportunity to overcome sin.  Sin is an individual problem, so the offer is to each of the world’s citizens.  The problems in our world still exist because many have chosen to reject God’s solution.

Here in this season of celebrating the answer to our problems in Christ Jesus, please join me in a prayer for the salvation of those around us.  Let’s work on the world’s problems by bring one individual at a time to Jesus for the solution to the root of our problems.

PSALM 32 CONCEALED SIN

All humans have this in common, sin.  If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).  The question then is how do we deal with our sin?  In Psalm 32 David wrestles with sin.  He talks about the anguish of his hidden sin.  The weight of guilt is heavy upon him.  Have you ever experienced the torment of trying to keep a sin concealed?

David writes in Psalm 32:5, Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.  I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord” – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.  Confession is David’s answer.  It is amazingly freeing when we bring a hidden sin into the light and receive God’s forgiveness.  We can trust God.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Concealed sin separates us from God; confessed sin restores us to God.  The universal and eternally most important thing is to be restored to God.  The significance of Christmas is that Jesus came to earth so we might be restored to God.  God has made the way for us.  Don’t miss out!  Confess your sins and receive God’s great gift of forgiveness.

THE HUMBLE MANGER

Christmas time is over, and it’s time to face the new year.  Emotions are stirred as we store the last of our Christmas decorations.  We remember past Christmas celebrations; and amidst the activities of packing our decorations, we reflect on the true meaning of this annual celebration. 

At our house, we have a large globe that contains a manger scene.  It’s still on the coffee table because it has a music box that our three year old granddaughter loves to hear.  Sunday morning, as I sat drinking my coffee and staring into the globe, I had this thought.  If you were looking at this scene, and you didn’t know the story behind it, but someone told you that it was about God coming to earth, which of the persons in the scene would you think represented the presence of God come to earth?

In the scene are three kings, a father and mother, shepherds, and a baby.  I list them in order of social significance, but as we know the last is the correct choice.  The dependent new born baby is God come to earth.   The most humble person in the scene is the one through whom all things were made (See John 1:1-14). 

It struck me that in the manger God demonstrated for us true humility.  He came in the most vulnerable way.  A new born is helpless and dependent on others for everything.  Jesus, God, the new born baby, is total dependent.  Ultimately, the dependence is on God his Father. 

In reality, we also are totally dependent on God our Father.  Our lives would be so much more peaceful if we’d recognized this humble truth.

GRATITUDE

During this time of giving and receiving gifts, we should remember the importance of gratitude.  Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation.  “I feel gratitude in my heart”.  It is a learned way of handling what we receive.  We teach our little ones to say thank you, but gratitude is not our natural bent.  We have to develop and exercise gratitude.

Being grateful is very important.  We read in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Giving thanks is a part of God’s will for us.  Recent studies by psychologists can tell you why this is God’s will.  Here are some of the results they’ve found:

It helps build relationships

Improves physical health

Improves mental health

Enhances empathy and reduces aggression

Improves sleep

Improves self-esteem

Increases mental strength

(Consult the below reference for more details.)

7 Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Gratitude That Will Motivate You To Give Thanks Year-Round,  http://www.Forbes.com, Amy Morin, 11-23-2014

Living our lives as people of gratitude not only fulfills God’s will for us, but as he intended, it affords us a happier, healthier way of living.  So let us be encouraged.  Develop and exercise this all important trait.

Merry Christmas!

THE ADVENT OF CHRIST

Over the next four Sundays we will prepare for the celebration of the advent of Christ.  The word advent means, the arrival of something important.  What could be more important than God’s son coming to us?  During the preparation our hearts become more open, and we enter a season of greater generosity and deeper expressions of love.  We sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come.” This is a season of great joy. 

Part of our advent preparation is the preparing of gifts.  The gifts we give are in remembrance of God’s great gift.  Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  God’s gift reflects the love he has for us.

As we prepare, Let us lay our hearts before him and allow his Spirit to minister to us so that we are ready to receive him with open arms. We need to guard against the current and temporary circumstances of this life that can cause us to miss out on the celebration of our eternal life in Christ Jesus.  Advent is a time of preparing.  We are preparing to celebrate the greatest of all events, the advent of Christ.

CHRISTMAS GREETING

God’s amazing and undeniable love has been displayed for us in Jesus.  He came to us, walked with us, loved us, and gave himself for us.  He is still with us.  We will never again be alone.  This Christmas weekend we celebrate the eternal riches of Emmanuel, God with us.  May God’s love and compassion fill your heart and guide you through the New Year.

Love and blessings to you,

Al Vredenburg

GOD’S SOLUTION

Humans are at war all over the earth.  There is no peace on earth.  They kill each other and rob from each other.  Evil abounds!  The author of Psalm 82 laments the injustice on the earth.  He calls for God to intervene. We often hear cries for God to do something.  Why does he allow all this evil?

On the other hand there many acts of love and caring on the earth.  People sacrifice for the benefit of others.  They give their money and time to the needy.  Some have even given their lives for others.  Kindness and compassion do exist in the midst of daily life.

I recall that in the beginning we were created in the image of God himself.  Therefore, we are like God, beings of love.  I also remember that we chose to rebel against God and bring sin into the world.  Thus we have the by-polar existence of great goodness and great evil.  What can be done?

God in his infinite wisdom chose not to fix the symptoms but the cause.  His solution began with an infant born in a stable.  From this humble beginning, He brought about redemption from sin for all humans.  Yet, as in the beginning, He didn’t take away our right to choose.  He did give us the opportunity to be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem.  We can choose to repent of our sinful life and accept Jesus as our savior or continue in the pursuit of evil. 

 Yes, peace on earth is a possibility, but it is held in the hands of each person who lives on the earth.  We can elect to return to God or remain in our sins.  Evil or good, we get to choose.  God has heard our cries, and He has intervened for us.