Nov 25, 2019
Join us as we explore God’s ancient wisdom and apply it to our modern lives. His word is as current and relevant today as it was when he inspired its authors more than two and a half millennia ago. The websites where you can reach us are alittlewalkwithgod.com, richardagee.com, or saf.church.
I hope you will join us every week and be sure to let us know how you enjoy the podcast and let others know about it, too. Thanks for listening.
Thanks for joining me today for "A Little Walk with God." I'm your host Richard Agee.
The focus of the lectionary readings for this week didn't seem to fit the Thanksgiving season very well as we think of it in the United States. We gear up for the big meal with family followed by the football game complete with all the Black Friday advertisements. Then the enormous Christmas season.
Commercialization has taken over what use to be a time of joy and merriment. Now we rush around trying to find the same marvelous gift that is a must-have for every child if a parent wants to be a model parent. Of course, the stores sold out of that must-have present six months ago, but that's not the point. We have to get that perfect present to make Johnny happy. We rush around doing too much. Decorating too much. Expecting too much of our families when they come home. We expect Christmas to meet our perfect 1950's Donna Reed Show expectations. Then we show our disappointment when they don't.
When you stop to think about it, though. Christmas isn't about all that stuff. In fact, Christmas isn't even about Jesus' birth. If that were all that happened, we wouldn't be celebrating. We would recognize a nice man who did some good things, taught a little and died.
But something happened that blew the socks off the disciples and caused them to give their lives for this man. They understood him to be God incarnate. It wasn't because of some magic tricks. There were plenty of sorcerers and magicians in their day that fooled the people with magic tricks.
They didn't willingly give up their lives because Jesus had nice words to say. He didn't. He proclaimed things that got all of them in trouble with the establishment, both religious and government. He said things like, "Eat my flesh and drink my blood." That won't win you any friends at the dinner table.
Those men and women followed Jesus because they believed he rose from the dead. Not just a ghost or a vision they thought they saw. They knew he rose bodily from the tomb. They talked to him. They ate with him. They touched his flesh. They couldn't explain how he appeared behind locked doors, but it was Jesus, their leader, their Rabbi, their Messiah. The one just a few days earlier they had seen beaten to the point of death, forced to carry his cross to Golgotha, hung there to die, stabbed with a spear, laid in a tomb bloodied, beaten and bruised, dead. But now, alive.
So Paul could write to the congregation that met at Colossae and encourage them with these words.
"May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his [Jesus] glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Where does this encouragement come from? The first Easter. The first resurrection. Jesus burst from the tomb, conquering death. He proved his ability to win over the grave and so his ability to forgive sin. He bought our redemption. The old sacrificial system disappeared with his perfect sacrifice. He paid for our sins, so we no longer need to wallow in guilt that comes from disobedience to the God who created us.
Paul goes on to say, " He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
The resurrection empowered Jesus' followers to do extraordinary things because they knew he was only the first of many to come. The promise of the New Covenant said those who believed in him would not die but have everlasting life. A resurrection day gives us assurance of a new life. Jesus rose, and all who believe will be raised with him. Courage comes from that belief.
What can you risk when you know you cannot die? What can you give up when you know life does not end here? What can you do for God when you know nothing can really harm you? With God on board, you truly are invincible.
Death in this life is a transition for those who believe in him. The criminal on the cross beside him found forgiveness and found himself in paradise. The resurrection is real. Thousands upon thousands gave their lives because they knew the truth of the resurrection.
So, what should Thanksgiving and Christmas and our holidays focus on each time we celebrate? Not gifts or food or trying to impress family and friends. But remember the fact of the resurrection. Remembering Jesus changed the world as the first to show the grave can not hold those who live in him. Remembering there is more to this world than what the world wants you to believe. Jesus told those who would listen, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand."
What did he mean? Open your eyes. Look around. See God in the world around you. Help others see God by loving them into his kingdom. John said, "God is love." Jesus said, "They will know you are mine if you love each other." He also said, "You cannot love God whom you cannot see if you cannot love your neighbor who you can see."
Those are sobering thoughts as we already begin the bombardment by the politicians for next year's election here in the United States. The other party is not the enemy. The other country is not the enemy. The other race is not the enemy. God made us all.
Jesus said, "Love your neighbor."
What does that look like? 2000 years ago, a man with the Hebrew name Joshua, translated Jesus in Greek, was nailed to a rough wooden cross and lifted up to have it slammed into the ground. He hung there most of the day. At last, he said, "It is finished." And he died, much faster than anyone expected. When he did, the veil separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple split in two. The earth shook. Darkness fell over the land for three hours, far too long for an eclipse. Love looks like a cross.
Remember that cross as you begin preparations for the holidays this year. Thanksgiving, Advent, Christmas, New Year, all the holidays that jam our calendars over the next few weeks are meaningless without Jesus. Let's stop and give Him thanks for what he has done. He does deserve it, after all.
You can find me at richardagee.com. I also invite you to join us at San Antonio First Church of the Nazarene on West Avenue in San Antonio to hear more Bible-based teaching. You can find out more about my church at SAF.church. Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed it, tell a friend. If you didn't, send me an email and let me know how better to reach out to those around you. Until next week, may God richly bless you as you venture into His story each day.
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION (NIV): Scriptures taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™. Used by permission of Zondervan