Sunday, November 23, 2008

New neighbors

We're moving, The Lovely Joanne and I, to a house. It's been a lovely year here at the apartment, but we have really, really wanted to get into a place we could call our own. So we've finally managed to find a house we could afford, got a mortgage, the whole deal, and are moving.

We won't have the cute little yap-yap dog across the hallway, or the people downstairs who smoke strange-smelling cigarettes at night, or some of the other wonderful amenities one finds in an apartment building. I'll miss them all! But we have a new set of neighbors -- some people we have met and most we haven't had a chance to meet but want to, as soon as we can.

This happened to the Son of God 2,000 years ago. The Message Bible says in John 1:14, "The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood." We see this today as one fulfillment of what was said in Isaiah 7:14, "All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)." God came to live within his creation -- living in a physical world, becoming flesh and blood and bone, but still God -- as Paul tells us in Colossians 1:19, "For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ".

This is an astounding truth, and of all the astounding truths of Christianity, probably the greatest one. That God, who is the maker of everything there is, would decide to limit himself by descending into that creation (a little like crawling inside a tiny soap bubble, to give you a sense of perspective) and then allow himself to suffer and die at the hands of his creation, is just plain beyond me. But the Bible says it's true. Amazing. Impossible to get a grip on. Blows my limited imagination all to smithereens. But true. Wow!

This current Advent season is the time of year we Christians use to stop and try to understand the implications of this ancient prophecy come true. The date of Jesus' birth in the flesh isn't known, although there is some historical evidence that points to December; and the date itself isn't important. Advent is more than Christmas itself, since Advent includes teaching about the Second Coming (parousia, in the Greek) as well as the first. Still, this birth was something very, very special, because when it happened, the angels jumped into physical space to announce it: "Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.' " (Luke 2:13-14) . Now, you don't get that kind of angelic action happening a lot in the Bible, but it's there at special times (see Job 38:7 and Luke 15:10 for examples). So for the angels, the Son of God becoming flesh was a very big deal -- so maybe it should be for us too. It brought the creation back into touch -- literally -- with the Creator, and made the salvation of all humanity possible through his death.

Over the next 33 years or so, Jesus got to know his neighbors really well. He got very close to a select few, and they told their true story to many more who believed, and, well, the rest is history as they say. But with that one bold stroke, he changed it all: by coming into the creation, he brought it back to himself once and for all, and nothing would be the same again. We're God's neighbors now, and in effect, we get to live in his neighborhood, and can get to know him. We can have coffee with him on the front porch. Invite him over for a meal. Ask him questions. Introduce him to the guy next door with the huge dog and the parrot. Let the kids crawl up on his lap. Become his friend. After all, he went the enormous distance between eternity and humanity, first, to become our neighbor. Are you getting to know him?

Monday, November 17, 2008


Everybody in business likes it when a satisfied customer refers someone else to that business and the new people become customers also. Referrals are prized in business because (a) they don't cost a lot like advertising does; and (b) it's an already-satisfied customer giving the recommendation, which makes it a lot more likely the new person will buy.

Sometimes a referral is merely introducing one friend to another friend. "Bob," I might say at a gathering, "this is my friend Al. I've known Al for 20 years, and since he's in town, I wanted the two of you to get acquainted." I do that a lot, since I have friends in many different locations and circumstances. I enjoy seeing them having fun together and making new friendships.

What sort of referrals would you want to receive? A hairdresser, perhaps, or a golf coach? Or a gardener, carpenter or carpet cleaner? Most of us enjoy hearing about someone whose knowledge and skills can be useful to us. And I've enjoyed giving referrals for those I know who have special abilities that will help others.

The best referral of all, though, is one that will change your life forever. Not the diet-and-exercise kind of change, but the spiritual kind. Getting introduced to the Savior of the world is definitely a referral that will change your life! Remember when that happened to you? And has that truly changed your life? I should hope so!

Christianity has been one giant referral network for almost 2,000 years. Jesus told the disciples to 'go, and make disciples of all nations' in Matthew 28:19. Those who went out 'preached the good news about Jesus wherever they went' (Acts 8:4). And everywhere, people believed. Some of them told others, who told others, and then finally someone told you.*

And since Jesus, the Son of God, is not only your Lord, and your Savior, but also your Friend, doesn't it make sense to refer another friend to Him? And since He has changed your life so much, isn't it likely that He will also help your other friends too? It's worth thinking about.

We're winding up to the Advent season, a time that commemorates the first coming of Christ and anticipates His second coming. This could be a time that a friend or family member will either ask you about, or be more open to, the whole question of who this Jesus was and is. Your introduction of one Friend to another could change that person's life forever. How about giving a referral to someone you know?

*If nobody has told you, I'm telling you now -- Jesus, the Son of God, came to this earth in the flesh to bring you back into a full relationship of love with the God who created you. That relationship is something God had planned from the first, and when it got messed up by humans, he was determined not to let that stop him. In fact, he had already known this would happen and planned for it. God's most precious plan, since before he made the whole universe, was for us to become his children (see some of these other blogs for more) and have a close and fun relationship with him, forever and ever. Interested in knowing more? Let me know.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


The Amazing Joanne and I are now owned by a mortgage (well, we've bought a house and get to live in it while we pay off the bank.) So we're working out how to get our stuff moved over to the new place.

Even though we got rid of a lot of stuff when we moved to beautiful Colorado a year ago, the amount of stuff we still have is a little frightening, especially when I think of having to carry all our stuff down three flights of stairs into a truck. So I'm thinking about purging again.

I have a lot of old files, from when I ran a business, and a year ago it wasn't yet time to ditch them. Now it is. There are probably a few clothing items I'll never wear again -- this might be a good time to give them to someone, or to Goodwill, and get it over with.

The Bible talks a lot about possessions and how we use them. The book of Proverbs is full of warnings not to put our trust in money or stuff; for instance, Proverbs 11:28 and 23:5. Jesus talked a lot about money and its use, particularly the need to be generous with it, especially in the gospel of Luke. (I remember a Veggie Tales segment about an enormous store called "Stuff Mart" where Larry kept going to buy more stuff that wouldn't even fit into his house.)

God's word also warns us about excess baggage of other types like old habits, mistaken ideas and sin. We're told in Hebrews 12:1 that we need to "strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." That's a reminder that we're in this for the long haul, and some things in life will only weigh us down.

Every once in awhile it's a good idea to "take an inventory" of our lives -- our habits and thought processes, as well as our physical possessions -- and see what we don't need any more. What about that old resentment, that TV show, even a favorite beverage, or whatever? If it takes our attention away from loving God and loving others, and wastes our time, money or energies with no eternal return, then perhaps it's time to shove it out the door and into the trash. On the other hand, there may be parts of our lives that need to be turned around into vehicles of love and service, rather than used only for ourselves. That's an inventory and analysis that each of us needs to do on ourselves -- I can't do it for you, and you can't decide it for me, but it's a healthy step.

So even though you're not moving, like I am, we're all headed for "a better place, a heavenly homeland," just like the heroes in Hebrews 11:16. Like them, we don't need to be weighed down by extra stuff. Ready to get rid of some of yours? Why not ask God to help you sort out your closet? You'll gain a surprising feeling of lightness and freedom by getting rid of the "stuff" that's been weighing you down.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Tuesday, November 4 is Election Day in the US. Everybody seems to have the best solution to everything, at least until the next person or group comes along with their proposal (see Proverbs 18:17). Then we're being showered with attack ads that sound like the sheriff should have put that nasty person in prison years ago. If I listen to all those ads, I'll hate or fear everyone running for office and have nobody left to vote for.

This is an important election. Most are. But I hope you're not worried about it. A friend of mine wrote today: "Whatever the outcome, it's going to be okay, because the God we worshiped last Sunday is the same God who is still on his throne on Wednesday." God will always be working out his purpose on the earth, and he will always do it through imperfect people who hear his voice imperfectly -- that's how he has chosen to do it. Our task as Christians is to continue to pray for those in authority, and implore God to guide them to do what's best, whether they know it or not.

Some elections have a profound effect on history, and today's may too. But the most important election of all -- the one that changed the most things for the longest time -- is our election, by the grace of God, in Jesus Christ, into the life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It didn't start with us, it started with God. In fact, Jesus Christ was the elected one of God in the first place: "God chose him (Jesus) as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days" (1 Peter 1:20). Peter continues in 2:9 to tell us that we are God's chosen people, reminding us that God was the initiator, and we the recipients of his grace. Paul agrees, and brings in another point, in Ephesians 1:11: "Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance..."

So our 'election' was determined before the world began, and because God chose us 'in Christ', whom he would never reject, then our place with God is secure. We don't have to be concerned about being 'un-elected' because our performance isn't quite up to scratch -- our sins, including all our shortcomings, were wiped away in Christ before we were born. (This doesn't address how we as God's kids should be living -- that's a topic for another day; but just reminds us that it was his idea, and we are secure in Christ because of that.)

What a relief! What joy, that we have been made right with God through his own Son! How much of a burden that takes off our shoulders! And he did it all for us, out of love (John 3:16). How about publishing that as an election result!