GOD AMONG US

As we join together in celebrating God coming to be among us, I wanted to offer something I wrote back in 2014. We remember that Christmas is celebrating God’s plan for victory over sin and death. I hope your Christmas is full of joy and peace. Merry Christmas!

 

The recent flood of movies based on ancient mythology depicts gods with the more base human characteristics of violence, greed, covetousness and murder. The hero god battles the dark side and wins in the end. What a great story line! The same basic story line found in the popular super hero movies. I love them. I’ve been to many. We all love to see good win over evil. There seems to be a feeling of vindication when the hero wins. I like feeling vindicated.  But, (you knew a but was coming) what if the evil that needs to be defeated is inherent in us? You know those base human characteristics. How’s a super hero or a god going to overcome that?

Now think how the actual event of God walking among us differs from the good vs. evil stories we all love. Jesus came as a helpless baby. He walked unassumingly on the earth as one of us. Who knew that he was an all-powerful being through whom the earth was created? He never whipped out his sword and killed the bad guys. Actually, the bad guys killed him. But, (Yes, we know this but.) He rose from the dead. Now there’s a great story line, and it’s a true story. Don’t you love those stories based on real events. It seems to give the story a lot more impact.

Yes, a great story, but how was the victory won? He didn’t kill all of us who have inherent evil. We’re grateful for that. What he did do was:

Romans 8:3b God….. (sent) his own son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man…

By surrendering himself (all-powerful being-God) to death, which appeared to his enemy like defeat, his death condemned sin in sinful man. The victory came in his death and was displayed for all to see by his resurrection. This is a powerful real life story that has impacted us for thousands of years. Wow, God really did come to earth and walk among us. It was very different than our favorite stories. The ways of the real God are not our ways:

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

GOD’S GIFT FOR YOU

John 3:16-17, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not parish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Christmas is a celebration of God’s love for his creation. His love is so deep that he gave his Son as a gift to us. With his advent, the Son brought to us eternal life.

John 3:18, Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.

If you don’t believe then you’re condemned. However, the gift still remains before you. Reach out and take hold of Jesus, and you will have eternal life.

There’s a great fog of lies to hide this great and eternal gift from you. Just reach out in faith, and the fog will begin to clear. Jesus will be there to draw you to him.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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.

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.