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Posts Tagged ‘calling’

called
The book of Jeremiah opens introducing us to its author, the man Jeremiah.  We find that Jeremiah was both a priest and a prophet, and that God’s Word simply “came to him.”  In other words, when Jeremiah was called to speak on God’s behalf to his rebellious and idolatrous people, no human was involved in his instruction.  There was no religious authority giving Jeremiah directions.  Jeremiah was given the words and warnings for God’s people by God’s Spirit alone.  He was God’s chosen authority and his very voice to the people.  God’s Word for the people simply “came to him.”  That is the essence of the prophetic gift.

Prophets are called to warn, rebuke, encourage, and correct God’s people – including erring religious leaders such as priests, pastors, elders, and all professors of religion – both then and now.  Their words come not from human origins, but divine.  The term is “Propheta nascitur – non fit – from Latin means that a man is not educated to become a prophet, but originally formed for the office.  Jeremiah was literally formed in the womb  – not the temple – by God to carry out this call.

Though many today deny the validity and necessity of the prophetic gift today within the modern church, we ought to remind ourselves that there are indeed five offices listed in the New Testament Church in Ephesians chapter 4.  Those offices are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.

Initially, Jeremiah objected to his call to speak to the people on behalf of God.  His refusal sounded much like Moses’ saying, “I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1:6)

Apparently, Jeremiah was young when he was called.  How many young people do you know raising their hand to go correct, warn, and rebuke older men in positions of authority?  When you were “a youth,” how interested would you have been in calling everyone around you including kings, armies, friends, and religious leaders to repent because God’s judgement was coming?  There are religious men who spend their entire lives avoiding ever having to say any words of rebuke.  The fear of man is great, but the fear of God must be greater for all who profess to know him.

God corrects and encourages Jeremiah for the very difficult and painful task his life is about to embark upon.  God basically tells Jeremiah that this is what he was made for.  He’s says, “Hey Jer.  You were born for this.  I created you for this very thing.  So quit your complaining and listen.”  God’s basic response to Jeremiah’s objection was, first of all, no objections allowed.  Then God said, go where I send you, say what I tell you, don’t be afraid, and I’ll be with you.

I think I’m going to carry a card in my pocket from now on with those instructions.  What if we all lived that way in regards to God’s leading?

  1. No objections.
  2. Go wherever I send you.
  3. Say whatever I tell you.
  4.  Do not be afraid.
  5.  I am with you to deliver you.Wow!  How would following that prescription for your walk with the Lord change your life?  When God’s Word(s) are in our mouths, we ought not fear any earthly reprisals.  Suffering is what we signed up for when we decided to follow the Lord.  Let us not forget that when we are cursed by men on account of God, we are blessed by God.

    Next, God asks Jeremiah what he sees.  There is no physical scene in front of him.  God is speaking to Jeremiah and showing him a vision in his mind’s eye.  Again, visions and dreams are given by God to his prophets in order to convey information, direction, wisdom, and insight as to how they are to go about speaking and warning.

    I often ask myself why God can’t just send us mail or something, but I believe a large part of the prophetic gift is the time one gets to spend discerning the mind of God in prayer.  The time we spend with God is where the power and courage to act and speak on his behalf comes from.  Void of that, we become cowards unwilling to oppose those who oppose God’s Word.  If there is one epidemic in the American Church today, it is cowardice.

    The first thing Jeremiah sees is an almond branch.  It was indicative of haste and God’s urgency and seriousness about the message he was about to deliver to the people via Jeremiah.  The next thing he saw was a message of disaster and judgment.

    Can you even imagine what Jeremiah was thinking?  Awe, God.  Come on.  Why do I have to say that?  Are they even going to listen?  Who will hear me?  They’ll hate me.

    Most of us know how it goes for the one known as the “weeping prophet.”  Jeremiah’s initial fear to acquiesce to his call was justifiable and very valid on a human level.  He had a hard row to hoe.  But God’s glory and obedience to his clear call trumps all objections and trials.

    The reason Jeremiah was called to speak hard words to God’s people was two-fold.  God had given a young king, Josiah, to rule at the time Jeremiah was called.  Josiah was just 8 years old when he came to power as king of Judah.  Josiah wanted to do right by God and turn the people away from sin.  God gave the king Jeremiah to aide his reformation and counsel him on how to lead.

    Secondly, and more importantly, the main reason for God’s prophetic message of impending doom was because of the gross apostasy and idolatry of his people.  The Jews had forsaken God by worshiping other Gods and idols.  Sound familiar? God tells Jeremiah he is going to make him “a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land.”

    God is clearly making Jeremiah into an immovable, tenacious witness against the sin of his people.  Notice who Jeremiah is being sent to warn and correct.  The text says Jeremiah is going out against, “the whole land,” “the kings,” “the officials,” “the priests,” and “the people.” So. Um.  Basically everyone!  Jeremiah’s words of warning and rebuke were going out to everyone. Wonder how Jeremiah felt when all the other priests were condemning him for not being in community with them? Or submitting to the religious authorities he was called to rebuke? Or when everyone he knew began to hate him for telling the truth of God?

    God doesn’t bait and switch on Jeremiah, though.  He tells him up front that all these that he is called to go to will fight against him.  God assures him that they will not win, though, that He is with him, and will deliver him.

    So, just for the record, God calls a guy to correct everyone around him with true words, gives him a vision only he can see, tells him to oppose every person he knows from the least to the greatest, promises he will be fought against, and tell him he isn’t allowed to object, has to say everything he’s told, go everywhere God says, and not to worry.  Oh, and remember, this is what you were created in the womb to do.

    Are you seeing how difficult a prophetic call is to accept and to carry out? I am.  I feel like starting a movement. Hashtag love your prophets. Hashtag prophets still exist.  Hashtag save the religious.

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jeremiah

Jeremiah, also known as “the weeping prophet,” and whose name literally means, “Jehovah throws” or “Jehovah establishes, appoints, or sends,” was a man of great sorrow.  Jeremiah personally felt the sorrow of the Lord as he obeyed his God-given call to warn and reprove his brothers and sisters who were blatantly rebelling against God’s directives.  He was truly a prophet like no other, and the scriptures reveal more about Jeremiah’s personal suffering than any other Old Testament prophet.

Jeremiah prophesied during the reigns of the last few kings of Judah from 627 – 586 B.C.  Beginning with Josiah, who sought to partner with Jeremiah and reform the gross idolatry and sin going on in his kingdom, and ending with Zedekiah, Jeremiah’s ministry lasted a long and traumatic 40 years until his warnings materialized and the Jewish nation was taken into Babylonian captivity under King Nebuchadnezzar.

The chief sins of the Jews during Jeremiah’s ministry were gross idolatry, child sacrifice, religious insincerity, dishonesty, adultery, injustice, tyranny, and slander.  Sound familiar?

Jeremiah was both a priest and a prophet.  He was often lonely, having been called to a celibate life as evidence of impending judgement, and having been rejected by all his peers, hearers, and countrymen for his truth-telling.  Jeremiah’s speech was more plain and rough, often lacking the cordial tones of some of the other prophets which doubtless also contributed to his alone-ness.  Matthew Henry notes, “Those that are sent to discover sin ought to lay aside the enticing words of man’s wisdom.  Plain-dealing is best when we are dealing with sinners to bring them to repentance.”  So, while Jeremiah was doing right by God and was the ideal example of a prophet called to rebuke sin, he lived a life of felt and full-out rejection for it.

Jeremiah reproved and Jeremiah suffered.  That was the story of his life.  Nevertheless, Jeremiah was a man of great victory in the eyes of the Lord.  He was amazingly obedient to the most difficult call God ever gave to a man, save Jesus.  Likewise, any who are called to preach and prophesy the words of God to a rebellious people for the duration of their lifetime and do not renege are, too, greatly victorious.  Little wonder why amid God’s first words to Jeremiah were comfort: “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.”  

Jeremiah escaped the judgement initially when Babylon invaded – even being called out by name by the commander of the opposing army and given respite while all his fellow Jews were captured.  Later, though, as legend has it, Jeremiah still died a martyr at the hands of his own people.  His life was a parallel to Christ’s.  Besides Christ, there is truly no one I personally admire more in scripture than Jeremiah the prophet.

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SONY DSC

After contributions were brought for the building of the temple, the first group of people employed were the skilled laborers.  God called three men to lead the craftsmen (Uri, Oholiab, and Bezalel).  Notice what the scripture says about these particular men:

“…See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…for work in every skilled craft.” and “Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whom the Lord has put skill and intelligence to know how to do any work in the construction of the sanctuary shall work in accordance with all that the Lord commanded.” ~Exodus 35:31-32, 36:1

The Lord called these men by name!  He calledthem to lead and do skilled trade work!  Newsflash: The calling of God is not relegated to people being called in the pastorate, foreign missions, or, in this instance, the priesthood or prophetic ministry!  The calling of God extends far beyond the scope of the inside of the cookiecutter church box.  Your calling may indeed require obedience and thinking outside the box!

This man, Uri, was literally called to work skillfully – to be a gold and silver smith, a stone worker, and other skilled craftsmanship by none other than God Almighty.  Called of God to work a trade!  Consider that.  Meditate on it.  Remember it next time someone denies you entrance to their elite “called of God” club on the basis of your profession or your individual gifting simply because those things don’t fit into a small-minded stereotypical church box.

Not only had God called these men to work a trade with great skill and diligence, he called them to teachothers their trade skills.  When you are excellent at something – when you are a master craftsman at your trade – you have wisdom and insight that no one else has about that particular subject.  God calls men who excel at their trade to share their knowledge and help others to learn the ropes.

That is a calling, friends!  It is an honorable, amazing, noble calling.  Just because you can’t preach a sermon does not mean you are not a chosen, fine-tuned, useful instrument in the mighty hand of God.  If God gives you the ability to do something exceptionally well and you are faithful to do it, he often calls you to share the knowledge and gifting with others for the edification and betterment of everyone.

According to chapter 36:1, these men were called to obey God first. Then God gave them everything they needed to complete their jobs.  The materials the people brought for the building of the temple were given to these men.  So these guys worked and the people gave.  Notice, too, that once enough goods were collected, the extra was not taken in.  The leaders told the people to stop bringing it.  That’s leadership with integrity.  The result was that there was more than enough and God’s work got done.  That’s how it’s supposed to work.

The items that comprised the tabernacle were made.  First, the curtains of fine linen, beautifully decorated, to cover the tabernacle, framing and bases for the tabernacle, bars of wood to reinforce the framing, the highly decorated veil, gold pillars, an embroidered  screen for the entrance with pillars, gold overlays, and bronze basins.

Herein the tabernacle began to become a reality.  Let us remember the words of Matthew Henry:  “Skill in secular employment is God’s gift, and it comes from above…Those of eminent gifts, that are capable of directing others, must not think that these will excuse them in idleness.” 

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calf

Picture this: You were born a slave.  You had been told that a deliverer was coming.  Hundreds of years had gone by with no deliverance.  But, in your lifetime, he comes.  He does the signs and wonders of God and rescues you out of bondage and slavery.  He leads you, by the hand of your God’s leading, into the desert wilderness where further instructions are being given.  You’ve already been given many miraculous signs, bread from heaven, water from a rock, a leading cloud and a leading fire to guide you each and every day, and you are awaiting the man who delivered you from slavery.  He’s up on a mountain speaking with God.  You can see the huge cloud that he has been drawn into.  Before he went up, you saw thunder, lightning, and audibly heard the voice of God from heaven.  This is where the Israelites are when Exodus chapter 32 happens.  Take some time and consider their history before reading this chapter.

In Exodus 32, these people of God gather themselves together because they are getting impatient.  They still see the cloud.  They know Moses has left his brother, Aaron, in charge and told them to wait for further instructions.  But they are tired of waiting.  Too many days have passed and they’re restless.  So they get together and go to Aaron and demand that he make them some new gods to lead them.

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” ~Exodus 32:1

They’re like, “Hey boss.  Make some new gods.  The one we got isn’t doing what we want.”

How familiar is that?  Hey, God.  Be a different god.  Be a god that does whatever I want.

There are a lot of “Christians” who treat their religion just like these people did.  It’s not God they want to serve, it’s themselves.  So they twist him and the scriptures into whatever it is they prefer.  Worse still, there are leaders who comply and compromise to their every demand in order to “keep peace” or stay comfortable. Unfortunately, this is what Moses’s brother Aaron did.

Aaron, their surrogate leader in Moses’s absence, did not even blink before acquiescing to their demand.  They say, “Do this!” Aaron says, “No problem.”

Aaron instructs the people who are demanding new gods to remove their gold jewelry and bring it to him.  Where did they get all this gold, though?  Weren’t they slaves?  Oh, that’s right, God had their oppressors give them all the gold in Egypt when he delivered them.  Now, they’re giving it away to make new gods in his place.  How many blessings do we forfeit out of our unfaithful demands and sinful actions?

So Aaron “fashions” a golden calf with a special tool.  He later lies (Exodus 32:24) and says the calf just somehow appeared out of the fire when they put the gold in.  But consider first what the people said after Aaron makes the calf:

And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” ~Exodus 32:5

What?!  These are your gods?!  No, this was melted down gold chiseled out by a man to look like a cow.  This inanimate object never did anything, yet they credit it with leading them out of Egypt – the very thing their REAL God did.  All the while, their surrogate leader is pretending it was for the Lord – in his honor!  What?!

This is complete insanity.  Let me say that again.  THIS IS COMPLETE INSANITY.  This is complete insanity especially considering that God was up there at this very same time with Moses calling Aaron to the very highest honor among his people – the high priest.  It really makes you wonder why on earth God chose Aaron at all.  As God is choosing Aaron to be the very first high priest, Aaron is obeying evil commands from his subordinates, building an idol for them with his own hands, worshiping the idol with them, and pretending the whole charade is in honor of the Lord.  Then, he’s eating, drinking – partying! – and “playing” as if it’s a wonderful, celebratory time.  And, if we look ahead just a few verses, we find him lying about the whole thing.

This is a man who has just forsaken the true God for idols, forsaken his brother, forsaken his charge over the people of God, forsaken the spiritual welfare of the people God had given him responsibility over – his own people to boot – and all for what?

Perhaps he saw how they’d grumbled against Moses when he didn’t go along with their demands.  Maybe he wanted to be popular and well-liked.  Maybe he was afraid of the people.  Whatever his reasons, this man whom God is rising up for even greater honor in leadership is a man of complete compromise at this point in his life.

And maybe God would have it that way to show Aaron the depth of his own sin prior to exalting him to the position of high priest so that he might be sufficiently humbled as preparation beforehand.  I don’t know for sure but what I do know is that God’s ways are not our ways.  I wouldn’t have picked this guy to be the trash collector in the temple, let alone the high priest.  He cowardly gave in to his subordinates’ idolatrous demands.  He participated in their sin to the point of enabling and providing for it.  He pretended to be using the sin he was committing as worship to the Lord.  He celebrated when he should have been mourning.  He forsook God, his own brother, and his people.  He was greatly unfaithful to the position he had already been given by God.  He lied to protect himself from accountability and responsibility when he was caught in the act.  This is not a man I would trust!!! Or choose!  Or submit to as my leader!  No stinking way!!!

But God chose him.  Moses forgave and interceded for him despite his righteous anger over his brother’s sin and failure.  And God had mercy.  He allowed Aaron and his sons to repent and still made them priests.

In my flesh and in my disgust over Aaron’s unfaithfulness I want the moral of the story to be, “Don’t trust crappy leaders,” or “Tie cowards and compromisers up by their underpants and place them in the public square for a few days.”  But that’s not the lesson for me in this passage.  The moral of this story is, “God had mercy.”  God has mercy.  And it’s not just for me and those who haven’t hurt me or other people when we fail.  It’s for everyone who repents – even cowardly, compromising, idolatrous, unfaithful, betraying, deceitful leaders over God’s people.

This is a hard lesson for me because so many of exactly those kind of men have deeply hurt me personally.  But God has mercy.  I forgive them.  Let us love like God when men fail us in every way imaginable.  Amen.

 

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TentMakers+wide+Header

After all of the detailed instructions were given about what was to be made for God’s house, God instructs Moses on who was to make these things.

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand,10 and the finely worked garments,[a] the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, 11 and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” ~Exodus 31:1-11

As In Exodus 28:3, here, in Exodus 31:1-11 God elaborates further upon who he had called to work for him with their hands.  These passages highlight the truth that God calls and equips people to work specific trades for his namesake in the assembly.

Specifically, Bezalel was called to head up this undertaking.  Bezalel was like the foreman over the craftsmen.  He was from the tribe of Judah.  Judah – the apple of God’s eye.  Apparently skilled craftsmen called to work as builders and mechanics were quite valuable and honorable in the kingdom work God was dealing out.  In fact, these men were just as valuable and honorable as the men called to any other type of ministry in the house of God.

We have to get this.  The church has strayed so far away from the truth regarding the great variety of God’s calling and giftings that we have begun to consider tradesmen and craftsmen as unspiritual or important in the building of God’s kingdom.  Even our culture considers those who work with their hands as inferior to those who work white collar intellectual jobs.  These ideas could not be further from the truth that scripture teaches us here in Exodus. Matthew Henry says this:

“Skill in common arts and employments is the gift of God…He teaches the husbandman discretion and the tradesman, too…God dispenses his gifts variously, one gift to one, another to another, and all for the good of the whole body, both of mankind and of the church.  Moses was the fittest of all to govern Israel, but Bezalel was fitter than he to build the tabernacle.  …the genius of some leads them to be serviceable one way, of others another way, and all these worketh that one and the same Spirit.”

Consider carefully this passage next time you are tempted to think tradesmen are not called, not Spirit led, not as important, and not as necessary as the priests and preachers in the building of God’s house and kingdom on earth.  Clearly, God fills certain men with the Spirit IN ORDER TO have, “…the ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood to work in every craft,” and he has given, “…all able men ability, that they may make…” all that he had commanded Moses concerning the building of his house.

Moses was the voice of God for the people.  The tradesmen were the hands of God for the people.  Moses was the fittest of all to govern Israel, but Bezalel was fitter than he to build the tabernacle.  God gives us each other that we all might work together for the building of his great and glorious kingdom.  We need one another.  We need variety and diversity within the body.  Can the foot say to the hand, “I don’t need you” ?  Surely not!  Stop ranking men according to their job titles.  Every job is valuable and infinitely important in the work of the kingdom and every job is Spirit led when the man or woman working it loves and follows the Lord.  AMEN.

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family

In Exodus chapter 18, Moses’ father in-law comes to see him.  He had heard of all that God had done for His people and wanted to speak with Moses first hand.

Apparently, Moses’ family had not been with him during a large portion of his ministry thus far.  His father in-law, Jethro, likely understood, not only the great importance of what God was doing through Moses, but also the great importance of Moses having his wife and children with him in any further endeavors.

Moses’ family coming with him served firstly to encourage and help him.  The very names of his sons, which are made special note of here in the scripture itself, serve to encourage and remind him of who he is.

Gershom, meaning stranger; pilgrim; sojourner, reminded Moses of his lifetime lack of belonging and future citizenship in heaven.  Eliezer, meaning God is my help or God delivered, reminded Moses of where his strength and help really lie.

Our families are called along with us as our primary line of encouragement and support – second only to the encouragement and support of the Holy Spirit – any time God calls us into ministry.

Moses’ family coming with him served secondly to be an example for God’s people on how his chosen ones ought to function in their own family.  Moses, being the chosen leader of the people of God, had a great responsibility to show them how to lead their own families and affairs to the glory of God.  This is the same reason the New Testament makes clear the importance of the leaders in God’s church having their own family in order first, before they may be allowed to lead God’s church.

 Matthew Henry puts it this way, “Moses must have his family with him, that while he ruled the church of God he might set a good example of prudence in family-government, 1 Timothy 3:5.  Moses had now a great deal both of honor and care put upon him, and it was fit that his wife should be with him to share with him in both.”

So, when Jethro came with Moses’ family in tow, the very first thing Moses did was to greet him respectfully and take and interest in their (his own) family’s well being.  As tempting as it must have been, Moses did not run out to Jethro and Zipporah (Moses’ wife) and tell them of all the amazing signs and wonders or run them over with all that God had done right away.  Instead, Moses took care to greet Jethro with the respect he was due and to ask of his welfare first.  Others first.  This is a basic, foundational principle God’s leaders must possess.

Finally, Moses shares his wonder-filled testimony with his own family, who, had previously only heard of it second, third, or tenth hand.  Henry says, “Conversation concerning God’s wondrous works is profitable conversation; it is good, and to the use of edifying, Psalm 105:2.”

Unfortunately, we have many who would disagree with both Moses and Mr. Henry.  They warn us, “Don’t talk too much about the things God has done which cannot be explained.  Do not give him glory for his signs and wonders.  Do not even mention those things that belong to the realm of the spiritual and miraculous.” Many disagree with Moses and Jethro and Mr. Henry because they fear; they doubt; they disbelieve; they envy.  Therefore, they seek to silence anyone who would share the great and mighty works of a God who will not be tamed for mere man’s comfort.

In disbelieving and discounting the works of God, those ones miss both the blessing and the benefit of rejoicing in and knowing well a God who is greater than our greatest imaginations.

As we see evident here in Moses’ own family, the result of speaking the truth about the signs, wonders, and miracles of God first hand is rejoicing and strengthening of faith.  Some might even call this instance conversion for Jethro.  Jethro heard of the good for God’s people and he was genuinely happy for them.  He wasn’t jealous or suspicious or contemptuous or unfavorable concerning God’s providence and people.  He was genuinely happy and rejoiced – even he, a foreigner.

Because the leader and his family made their table-talk of that which glorified God, they found themselves rejoicing rather than murmuring, complaining, or running down their would be friends as the people following behind and all around them were so quick to do. This leader of God’s people kept his own family spiritually healthy even when those who were following behind him could do nothing but grumble, complain, accuse, and fault-find.

Just as in the case of the Jews and the Gentiles, the tragedy for those who actually witnessed the miraculous take place before their very eyes, truly missed it.  Those closest to the wonders closed their eyes in willful blindness, but those standing by and hearing second hand were more zealous and faithful than they despite the many, many great advantages God had given them.

It seems that this entire passage is one with the intent to teach us the great importance of respect and care for good family relations and conversations among God’s people and leading by example in all those things related to such. When God calls leaders, he calls their families.  This is his chosen earthly example for proper daily living.  Therefore, let us live up to our calling as those to whom the world looks for answers.

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christmas

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it this year.  Christmas is just so expensive.  I don’t want the kids to be disappointed.”

My oldest practices her lines for the Christmas play.  I think of them as I wake and read John 12:3.  “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Christmas was expensive.  We can blame materialism for a lot but the truth is that Jesus led the way regarding the giving of lavish gifts.  He left the comfort of his eternal home to come to us on Christmas.  He gave up perfect peace, power, and personal priority  – all of which he possessed eternally.  He gave up those things in order to give the gift of himself to this world.  It was not a trifle or a trinket – this God-man gave what men needed most.  Jesus gave us his love, his truthful teaching, and his forgiveness.  He did this by giving primarily one thing – his time.  Not only that, but he did it in ways that meant extreme personal sacrifice and pain.  Knowing he would be (and was) despised and rejected, he showed up.  He kept showing up, in fact, showing himself true and sharing himself fully only to be accused and attacked by jealous men.

Time.  Teaching.  Transparency.  These are the ways in which Our Savior truly gave.  These are the ways in which he expects us to give.  They often must be given at extreme personal expense.

Consider the woman with the costly perfume.  What she gave was outrageously expensive.  Still, how she gave it was even more costly.  With the most religious and powerful men in her sphere looking down their noses at her, she honors Jesus with all that she has with great humility and without concern over their slander and disapproval. (See Luke 7:36-40.)

The act of giving as a Christian is not merely what we give, it is how we give it that counts even more.  Real love, honest communication, true friendship, openness and transparency within community are some of the things Jesus gave in coming to earth and sharing his time with men.  To say these things are quite expensive is a desperately understated truth.  Still, Jesus gave them knowing that they would create conflict in his life and the lives of those he loved most.  He gave them knowing that he would be despised and rejected unjustly by the very people whom he loved and who should have loved him.

He gave them not out of pride or position.  Jesus gave the most personally painful and self-sacrificing gifts to people on earth because he knew what it was going to take to save them.  He knew that no toy or trinket would do.  No false frivolity – no matter how costly – could compete or compare with the true gifts of his precious time, his truthful teaching, and his willing transparency.

Not everyone wanted Jesus to give these gifts, either.  People were mad.  With the fury of Michal when David danced, people were angry.  Irate, even.  People literally hated Jesus for what he gave.  Why?

Because they themselves were not willing to give those kinds of gifts.  It was a matter of Cain killing Able.  He was showing them up.  They were ridiculously jealous.  They were intensely afraid of him.  Well, not of him, really, just of losing their power, position, and pride because of him.  They had no time, no truth, no transparency in their hearts for Jesus.  They were not the least bit interested in loving enemies, friending inferiors, honestly confessing, or living in a community of accountability.  Just as the innkeepers had no room for his parents upon his arrival, Jesus’ entire life was replete with men and women who simply had no room in their hearts or their real lives for him. After 2000 years, an incidental in Jesus’ being welcome anywhere is still the severe intimidation of the religious folk. 

Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.  Not because we have to purchase outrageously expensive materialistic gifts, but because we are called to give outrageously expensive sacrificial gifts.  We are called to give to one another the very same gifts that our Savior gives to us.

When I woke this morning to pray, the Lord began to teach me these things in His Word and I quickly realized that I simply do not have the resources to continually give these kinds of gifts.  My heart fails me as I consider the single mother my daughter portrays in the play.

 “I don’t know how I’m going to do it this year.  Christmas is just so expensive.  I don’t want the kids to be disappointed.”  

I consider the sacrifices Jesus wants me to make, the extravagant gifts he wants me to give, and the implausible ways he wants me to give them and I repeat her line.  How, Lord?  I don’t know how.  This is expensive.  I don’t want to disappoint you, or them, or anyone.  How can I do what you want me to?

But then I remember my middle daughter’s lines and I am humbled.  I am relieved.  She is Mary.

“God, you have told me that I will carry your child.  I don’t understand this, but I am willing to do your will.  But God, I don’t know what to do.  Joseph is going to be so upset.” 

Lord, I don’t understand this, but I am willing to do your will – even if the people I love most get upset.

Yes, Lord.  Let that be my line, always and ever when you call upon me.  Mary wasn’t asking to be pregnant.  Mary was not expecting to be the mommy of the Savior of the entire world.  Mary was simply living in obedience to God when God chose to give her an extraordinary job.  At the very front of her calling, she knew people would not understand. She didn’t even understand!  She knew people would be upset with her.  But even in all of that, she submitted.  She willingly gave the world exactly what God called her to give and it was unbelievably expensive for her personally.  But consider what Mary’s gift and calling meant for the rest of us.

Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.  Not because we have to purchase outrageously expensive materialistic gifts, but because we are called to give outrageously expensive sacrificial gifts.  We are called to give to one another the very same gifts that our Savior gives to us.

My third daughter will not participate in the play.  She generally does not like to participate in life, period.  She is watching, though.  She will be watching as all the other children perform.  Hopefully, she learns by watching them that participation is necessary if one is going to give the way God calls us to give.  And giving, as a child of God, is not a choice.  It is a requirement.  It is not just what, it is how we give that matters.

So here’s to the kids who taught me my lessons today.  Keep giving, no matter how costly your call to serve Christ may seem to be.  Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.

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