Thursday, December 19, 2013


Recently, I was in the car with my mom, and Christmas music was playing on the radio.  The song, “I’ll be Home for Christmas” came on, and my mom said, “I couldn’t listen to this song when your dad was in Vietnam.”  As far as I know, that year he did his tour of duty in Vietnam was the only Christmas my parents have spent apart from one another in nearly a half-century of marriage.  Yet here it is well over forty years later, and when my mom hears that song, it reminds her of one of the saddest times of her life.  For me, it was a needed reminder that while most of us enjoy Christmastime, it’s a tough time of year for many people.  For those folks, some of the songs we love may take on a whole different meaning.  Maybe you can identify with that.  You’ve lost someone recently, or your health is declining, or you’re trying to adjust to a new financial reality, or maybe you don’t even know why you’re sad…you just are.  If this just doesn’t feel like “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” I hope my message this Sunday will be exactly what you need.  But even if you consider yourself relatively happy, this sermon is for you.  One thing I have observed is that for the overwhelming majority of happy people, happiness is extremely fragile. You can easily identify one or at most two things in their lives which, if those things were suddenly missing, their happiness would vanish.  So maybe you’ve just fallen in love, and that’s an amazing feeling.  But someday, that person may be gone, or they may not love you back.  Or maybe you just got hired to your dream job; but what if that job turns out to be a nightmare instead?  CS Lewis said “Never let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”  And unfortunately, almost all the stuff that makes us happy is temporary.  We will lose it eventually.  So Merry Christmas!    
We’ve been talking the past several weeks about “How to Be Good at Life,” as we’ve studied the wisdom of Scripture on how to live a life that is an example to others.  All year, we’ve been talking about representing Christ in a non-Christian culture.  As I tie up both of those threads this Sunday, I can tell you this: Nothing in all the world is as attractive as joy.  Nothing draws people to Christ more reliably, no sermon in the world preaches as powerfully, as an ordinary person who has joy.  And besides that, living with joy is, well, enjoyable.  It is the only way to live.  I have good news for you today: God wants you to have joy.  So this Sunday, we’re going to talk about joy;  The joy the wise men expressed when they found the infant Messiah.  We’ll talk about what it is, and how we can have it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Inner Transformation

How would you change yourself if you had the chance?  You may be aware that there are computer programs that now exist than enable you to custom design a house on your computer monitor.  You can scan in a picture of your house, and then play with it all you want.  See what it would look like if you added on. Try a new color scheme.  Change the landscaping.  Go from a tin roof to shingles, or from wood to siding.  Then when you find a combination you like, just give it to your builder and say, “That’s what I want.”  Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that with our selves?  What would you change?  I daresay most of us would change at least a few things about our appearance.  We would add a few inches of height, put hair back on that head, or shave off a few pounds.  Others would be more practical.  They would focus on inner qualities and skills that last longer and have more impact on our lives.  Some might say, “I want to fill my mind with knowledge of finances and markets, so I can invest my money wisely and make millions.”  Others would order an intelligent witty personality, so that they could always have plenty of friends, and always be the life of the party.  Others might choose the ability to become a scratch golfer, a cello virtuoso, or a scientific genius, so that they could earn a living doing something they love.  It’s a very appealing idea, isn’t it?  Everyone alive has an image of their ideal self; the person they most want to be.
But who does God want you to be?  That is the key question.  According to Proverbs 16:32, a person’s highest goal should be to rule their spirit.  The NIV says, “self-control,” but the actual Hebrew term is “rule your spirit.”  In other words, being able to control your inner self, your emotions, motives, personality, is far greater than any other earthly achievement.  A man or woman whose personality is truly godly is a true hero, far surpassing the military conqueror who wins a battle.  While we all desire beauty, strength and skill, God wants us to seek inner righteousness.  Solomon knew this.  In Proverbs, he often talks about the qualities that must be found in a godly personality.  As I read the book of Proverbs, there are three qualities that keep hitting me right in the face.  I suspect you’ll find that, like me, each of these three are qualities you need a lot more of in your life.  This Sunday, we'll examine these three qualities that we should seek to program into our lives.  The good news is that this kind of transformation IS possible. In fact, it's the full-time occupation of God.