My First Time

Behind ole Doc Jones’ office building it happened for the first time.  I don’t know how old I was, but I was a bicycle-riding kid old enough for my parents to give me permission to go to a movie that night with two friends.

The two brothers, one and two years older than me, introduced me to it. I would not have dreamed of doing this on my own. You know how peer pressure goes and how a kid looks up to those who are older.

I met them at their house. We began our walk to town to see the movie. On the way they suggested we not go to the movie. Instead we hid behind Doc Jones’ office. They produced the contraband which they had smuggled out of their house.

They each took one and handed me one. I smoked my first cigarette. In one fell swoop, I succumbed to peer pressure, my words about going to a movie became a lie, and I indulged in something strictly forbidden in my family.

Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 2 Corinthians 7:1 NLT

The context of this verse is important, read chapter six. There you will find Paul’s warning not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. This could apply to marriage, friendships, or business partners. These partnerships can throw us off track spiritually in a heartbeat!

Then the apostle Paul introduces us to “these promises” in last verses of chapter six.

I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the LORD. Don’t touch filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

Paul references Lev. 26:12, Ezek. 37:27, Isa. 52:11, Ezek. 20:34, and 2 Sam. 7:14.

I would not have smoked that cigarette if my Dad watched.  I would not have given in to peer pressure to break my word about going to a movie if my Dad stood there!

Here’s the promise: God is standing there!  More than that, He is living in us!

No, we don’t live a holy life because the bogeyman will get us if we don’t. We live a holy life because a loving Father made the costly sacrifice to have a special relationship with us and IT WILL BREAK HIS HEART if we don’t.

And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.

Why? So we can be saved? NO! Because we ARE saved! Be sure not to get those backwards. We work because He saved us by grace, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). We work toward holiness because we respect a holy God who LOVES us!

Our Father, thank-you for the promise to live in us and walk among us. Your grace gift of salvation motivates us to live lives pleasing in your presence. Thank-you for Jesus, the Immanuel, for in Him You are WITH US!

Nose Prints on the Window

Everyone pressed toward the window to get a peek. The two dozen people had waited for quite a while. A tangible excitement filled the room.

Grandmothers, Grandfathers, Great-grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and friends gathered for the event in Hot Springs. Then there she was! The first grandchild on both sides of the family and first great-grandchild too!

Our son dressed in scrubs and mask held her up to the window proudly. Eventually he handed her off to the nurse to do those newborn things.

What added to the suspense, our son and daughter-in-law had decided not to tell us her name until after she was born.

We saw our son ask the nurse for something. They left the nursery. He came back in with a plain white piece of paper and held it up to the glass.

Quickly-printed big letters spelled, ‘MOLLY MAE.’ An audible joy filled the hallway knowing her name for the first time.

Even with the advanced medical technology and understanding we have of a developing baby in the womb, the birth of a baby is still an extraordinary event!

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God who does all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5 NLT

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

As you celebrate Christmas this year, remember how amazing this birth is. He is God’s Son conceived in the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” are appropriate.

As amazing as any birth is, the birth of the Son of God is even more amazing!

Bethlehem overflowing with those coming for the Roman census afforded little privacy. Born in a place animals rested. A feed trough served as a baby bed. The birth announcement was a sky full of angels. Just some local blue-collar workers out taking care of some sheep pressed their noses to the window that night.

And the Father did all of this knowing full well His perfect Son would be the perfect sacrifice for a world full of sinners – us!!! Oh, and his name, the name that is above all names, “JESUS!”

Press your noses against glass with a fresh amazement this Christmas!

Our Father, we “Oooh” and “Aaah” at the amazing grace you shared with us at the birth of Jesus. We thank-you and praise you!

 

A New Whiz-bang-whatchamadoodle!

“Look what I got for Christmas!” she exclaimed. “See my new smart phone.  See my new coat.  See my new whiz-bang-whatchamadoddle!”

The new gizmo excited her so she wanted to tell her friends. Or was she bragging because her stuff cost more than their stuff?

Does receiving a gift give us the right to brag? After all, these are gifts. Gifts are given whether you deserve them or not. Right?

Or does the receiving of the gift depend on whether you’ve been “naughty or nice” as the famous song goes. The implication is that if you are nice, then you get gifts, but if you are naughty, you don’t get gifts.

Our Christmas traditions of Santa Claus are fun with our kids and grandkids, but really work just the opposite of the gospel.

The gospel says we’ve all been naughty, no one is nice. We are so naughty we deserve the worst of punishments. We have all disobeyed with a rebellious heart the loving Creator and holy God of the universe!

So the true Christmas meaning is that the Son of God was born to become God’s GIFT of salvation and forgiveness.

We are totally undeserving. There’s nothing we can do to earn this gift. We don’t get it by being nice.

It is a gift in the truest sense of the word. Only by a pure act of God’s grace do we receive this gift of salvation.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  Ephesians 2:8-9 NLT

For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV

Our Father, our appreciation for sending your Son Jesus on that first Christmas cannot be expressed fully by our words. So look into our hearts and see the humble gratitude for the greatest gift of all. We praise you and you alone for providing what we did not deserve and could not provide for ourselves.