On the Last Day of Christmas (Making Sense of the Season)

If on the first day of Christmas you clearly remembered what the Savior was given to save us from, it would then be ideal if by the last day you had a full heart from trying to count (but being unable) the number of amazing things you’ve been saved to.

Point of origin is one thing; destination is something entirely different.  And often better; much better.

The Antique Road Show has featured some amazing finds over the years – people who came with something handed down, hanging on the wall, or kept under a dusty bed, only to find out is was an unknown treasure.

  • Like the Original “Peanuts” comic strip valued at $450,000 – the owner had worked with the cartoonist to develop a line of “Peanuts” Hallmark greeting cards and Shultz gave her some original strips as a gift.  She had stored them under her bed!
  • Like the Navajo chief’s blanket valued at $500,000 – made sometime before 1865 and one of only 50 that still exist today. The unsuspecting owner said the blanket had been in his family for years.
  • Like the oil painting by Clyfford Still valued at $500,000 – a housewarming present given 50 years previous, worth much more than the recipient could have conceived.
  • Or like the Chinese jade carved bowls valued at a whopping $1.07 million – a collection passed down to the owner from her father who was stationed in China while in the U.S. military in the 1930s and 1940s (I guess some service turns out to be more profitable than others).

Do you know what you have?  Most don’t.  They treat salvation like a cheap life insurance policy tucked away in a draw just in case.

It’s so much more – unbelievably more.

New Testament texts abound that attempt to measure what we have in Christ.  Here’s just a few..

Romans 5:1-11 list such priceless aspects as justification, peace with God, access into the grace in which we now stand, hope of the glory of God, rejoicing in our sufferings, the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and reconciliation.  These are practical and present tense.  Consider just one of these for those of you who are sports fans…

…access into the grace in which we now stand – something so different than what athletes experience.  It’s Super Bowl season presently and some are projected to win and some to lose.  At the end of it all, only one team will stand in glory, and all others will experience turnover, blame and loss of standing.  Salvation offers something very different – permanent standing in grace; continued access to the unmerited favor of God.  Whether you win or lose in life’s contests, you stand permanently in God’s love and care.  You’re a perpetual winner – standing in God’s grace.

1 Peter 1:3-12 lists things that are ahead – what we look forward to: a living hope, an inheritance kept in heaven for you, an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade, shielding by God’s power until all that salvation means is revealed in the last time, the process of faith proving that points toward praise, glory and honor, and it’s all something so wonderful that angels long to be able to understand it (meaning, to whatever extent angels can be jealous… they are – of you!).

Again, consider just one of these, for those of you who are investors…

…an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – now there’s something foreign to our economic times!  How successful have you been at “beating the market”?  If you’ve looked for a safe place to invest your money like many you’ve perhaps come to the conclusion that the way capitalism seems to work most often in your life is with you being the one capitalized on!  Little guys put their hard earned dollars on the same table as the big boys who run billion dollar hedge funds.  And you find out the golden rule of finance – “The one with the most gold makes most of the rules”.  But salvation promises an inheritance the market bulls and bears cannot manipulate, thieves cannot steal, and inflation cannot destroy.  It’s there waiting for you, as glorious the day you first see it with your own eyes as 10,000 years later.

I’ve been going through my parents’ possessions over the last few years, trying to process their estate.  One lesson comes home again and again:  most stuff just isn’t worth much in the long run.  What we work so hard to buy, maintain, and store, simply isn’t worth it.

The good news is that what you’ve been given in Christ through salvation is… now and forever.

-Anthony

On the First Day of Christmas (Making Sense of the Season)

We’ve all been there – holding a Christmas present that someone gave that, frankly, confuses us.  We don’t quite understand what they were thinking or why they spent their money on us the way they did.  It’s awkward.  It’s even more awkward for the one doing the giving.

The entire holiday season is a bit like that – everyone running around as if Pavlov rang his bell and we are obligated (like his dog) by the very forces of nature to engage in spending, debt acquisition, charity, travel, and religious activity, all the while wondering “why?”

We are trying to respond to so many messages at this time of year.  The end result for many is exhaustion and depression.  That’s too bad, because the central message simple and costs you nothing.  Here it is: 

  • Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10-11)

But it begs the question – do you need saving?  Maybe we’ve outgrown it.  I think not.

The Bible tells an old story – the story of us and how from earliest days we’ve needed saving from something ancient, simple and catastrophic.

In Genesis 3:1-19 we find people in a perfect place with very few restrictions; paradise with only two rules.  Well that was two too many. God’s directions were refused and the following consequences immediately ensued: shame, defensive posturing, hiding, fear of God, accusations toward loved ones, and a curse on creation.  The very next chapter it gets worse.

In Genesis 4:4-24 we see that once the seed of sin is planted, the harvest quickly gets out of hand producing murder, lies, cries of injustice, polygamy, unrestrained violence and more.  By Genesis six, matters are so bad starting over is the only workable solution.  This thing called sin wreaked havoc on God’s perfect creation in six short chapters.

And so we learn that man working on the honor system doesn’t work.  Well, what about passing some laws?

God did that.  Exodus and the balance of the Old Testament tell that story – one often misunderstood.  Some see the Ten Commandments as ways to please God and fix people.  But the problem with law is that it’s given after the problem.  Laws aren’t given for a nonexistent crisis.  Laws are passed because there is a problem.  At best, their function is to manage behavior.  And if the behavior simply cannot be changed, or we run out of prison space to hold all the offenders, another path is selected – make what was illegal yesterday legal today.  Viola!  Problem disappears… (unfortunately the behavior and the fruit remain).

God gave the law, according to the New Testament, to lead us to grace; to lead us to understand that the ancient thing inside each of us, named sin, could not be controlled by legal restrictions.  What Jeremiah anticipated is affirmed in Galatians 5:23-25.  The fix has to come inside.  It can’t be legislated and it can’t be mandated.  People can only change from the inside out.

That change happens as people permeated by sin, guilty by the standards of law, come to the cross of Christ and find forgiveness, acceptance, love and a changed heart.  One of my favorite stories of how this works is in Luke 23:26-43.

We’re not doing well managing our own behavior – and we don’t even manage by God’s standard!  I found this recently…

Since the start of 2000, Congress has created at least 452 new crimes. So the total number of Federal crimes as of the end of 2007 exceeds 4,450. Ninety-one of the 452 were contained in new laws that created 279 new crimes, and the remaining were contained in amendments to existing laws.  The total of 452 new crimes breaks down by year as follows: 65 for 2000; 28 for 2001; 82 for 2002; 51 for 2003; 48 for 2004; 13 for 2005; 145 for 2006; 20 for 2007… (and it goes on)

It would appear we do need saving.  So a savior was born to us…. to save us from our sin.  Now that is good news… for all people!  And especially for you and me.

-Anthony