Room for Jesus

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life make room for Jesus—especially at this time of year.

One of my favorite Christmas cartoons is of two men looking at a humble Mary. She’s pregnant with the Christ child and riding on a donkey being led by Joseph. The caption reads, “Just another couple of homeless people. Try to ignore them.” In a way that sums up how many people view Christ at Christmastime. They go through the Christmas holidays trying to ignore Christ, the very reason for the season. Never realizing that without Christ, there is no Christmas.

The story of Jesus’s birth is not just a story. It really happened. In those days, a decree when out from Caesar that all should be taxed. So everyone went to be taxed to his own city. Joseph and a very pregnant Mary went to Bethlehem. While there Mary gave birth to Jesus “… and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7)

Not much has changed. Today households worldwide celebrate the birth of Christ but there is no room for Christ in their homes, either. No room in their “inns” for Jesus Christ.

Years ago I read a Chicken Soup story called Trouble in the Inn. It was about a Christmas pageant performed by some second graders. Ralph was to be the innkeeper. Ralph had been held back a year or so and was big, awkward, slow-moving, and slow- thinking. Ralph wasn’t thrilled about his assignment. He wanted to be a shepherd but he finally agreed to play the part of the innkeeper. Rehearsal went okay and the much-anticipated night of the performance came.

When Joseph and Mary arrived at the innkeeper’s door, Ralph was reluctant to say his lines but as Joseph kept asking to come in, Ralph rose to the occasion. “Look elsewhere!” he said. “The inn is full! There is no room for you. Begone!”

As Mary and Joseph turned to leave, Ralph’s eyes filled with tears. “Please, don’t go,” he said. Pause. Dead silence. Then Ralph smiled and spoke. “You can have my room!” That was quite possibly the best Christmas pageant those people ever saw.

The abundant life makes room for Jesus at Christmastime. When Jesus knocks, the abundant life says, “Come on in. Glad to see ya! You can have my room. Thank you for bringing salvation to us. Help us celebrate your birth.”

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Jesus Is the Answer

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life follow the biblical instructions that tell us to always be ready to respectfully give an answer to those who ask for the hope that is within us. (1 Peter 3:15 KJV) That answer is Jesus! However, how that answer is given requires some finesse.  

Some preachers use 1 Peter 3:15 as an exhortation to study our Bibles so we’ll know the answers to biblical trivia questions. Others think it means we need to be intentionally leading people to Christ. Both concepts may have some merit.

However, knowing how many cubits were used to build an ark may not really be helpful to others. Also, I’m not sure it’s our job to actually lead people to Christ. Jesus said no one can come to Him unless He draws them to Him. (John 6:44) The abundant life does not feel compelled to force-feed Jesus to others all the time, whether they are interested or not.

Perhaps one intent of this passage is that when others see Christians go through trials they are amazed at how well they handle them, no matter what comes their way. The reason for this is hope. Christian hope has a positive, encouraging energy that others can’t quite understand. This hope is attractive to a hurting world. This hope gives a peace that passes understanding even in the worst situations. (Philippians 4:7) It’s natural that others would be curious and ask where that hope comes from. The answer is simple. It comes from Jesus.

Jesus is the answer to all the problems in this world. When people have questions, Jesus is the answer—and we shouldn’t be afraid to share personal examples in our lives to show this if someone asks. Is someone sick? Jesus is the healer and great physician. Is someone seeking knowledge? Jesus is the great teacher. Is someone weary? Jesus gives us rest and comfort. Is someone worried? Jesus gives us peace. Does someone think nobody cares? Jesus cares and because He cares, so should we. Does someone feel like a loser? The world may think we are losers but Jesus does not. His life in ours makes us winners regardless of circumstances.

Those living the abundant life know they have assured promises through their relationship with Jesus. Others can have this assurance as well. What we experience on earth is only temporary. Trials can’t be compared to what lies ahead or who lives in us. (Romans 8:18) Jesus is the hope that lives in us!

The abundant life knows that if people have questions, Jesus is the answer. 

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Significance

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Today’s world is adept at making us feel insignificant and worthless. Those living the abundant life know it isn’t true. What we do matters!

The Bible is full of examples of one person changing the course of history. Daniel was instrumental in influencing King Nebuchadnezzar. Esther saved her people from destruction by risking her life to go before the king. While it is true most of us won’t be changing the course of governments, global warming, social reform, or much of anything else on a grand scale, we do affect the lives of each and every person we meet. What we do makes a difference!

Rahab the harlot had three handicaps in the eyes of any self-respecting Israelite. She was a Gentile which was considered pagan. She was a woman in a time when women had no rights. She was a prostitute which was the lowest form of a woman. Yet she is listed among the faithful in Hebrews. (Hebrews 11:31)

When the Israelite spies entered her city of Jericho she risked her life to hide them. Not only did she hide them but she sent the soldiers looking for them on a wild goose chase. Then she helped the spies escape. (Joshua 2) The Bible doesn’t really tell us why she did this. Perhaps she had heard the stories of how the Israelite God had delivered his people time and time again. She obviously believed that such a God existed.

In return for her kindness, she asked the spies to spare not only her life, but the lives of her family when they attacked. (Joshua 2:12-13) When Joshua and the Israelites attacked Jericho and the walls came tumbling down, the Israelites attacked and killed everything that breathed in the city—everything except Rahab and her family. (Joshua 6:22-27)

Rahab was only one person, yet because of her actions not only was she spared but her whole family as well. Her family did nothing to deserve deliverance. However, what she did affected their lives greatly. It made the difference between life and death.

Those living the abundant life are well aware that they make a difference in the lives of those around them. Communities will notice if they stand up for what is right. Spouses can come to Christ if they live the gospel. (1 Peter 3:1) Children will learn by their example how to love, be compassionate, and show kindness or how to hate and think only of themselves. The abundant life knows that we are all significant and what we do significantly affects those around us.

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Awe and Wonder

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life still have a sense of awe and wonderment.

Children have a keen sense of awe and wonderment. A colorful flower, a vibrant sunset, a twinkling firefly, a crescent moon—all fill the young eye with sparkle and delight. I used to marvel when my three-year-old granddaughter would gather rocks of all shapes and sizes. To me, they appeared to be nothing more than ugly hunks of gray hues. In her eyes, each one possessed some hidden form of fascination.  

Sometimes when we age, our world can seem smaller. Those vibrant, twinkling colors are still there, but we become so used to seeing them that in our eyes, they look dull and gray.

This can be analogous to the Christian journey. When we first discover Christ we are filled with awe and wonderment. How can it be that one would care for us so much that he would give His life for us, offer us salvation, extend us grace, and give us victory over death through His resurrection? All this Christ did while we were yet sinners. We are amazed at such sacrifice, such benevolence—such love! 

After a while, we can grow accustomed to this. We can drift hither and yon. Instead of praising God for our blessings, we might blame Him for our trials. God has not changed. Christ is still the one who extends His mercy, but sometimes we change. We stop participating in a relationship with God through prayer, meditation, Bible study, and communing with like believers. Our senses become dulled. We lose that awe and wonderment we experienced when we first realized God’s love for us.

Perhaps that’s what happened to the church at Ephesus. (Revelation 2:1-5) They started out strong with an infectious love of God. Yet something must have happened along their Christian journey to dull their senses. Maybe this happened slowly, over time. Perhaps they gradually stopped praying, thinking about God, and studying the scriptures. Or perhaps it all became just a ritualistic routine without much meaning. Whatever the cause, the Bible says they lost the love they first had for God and were encouraged to find it again.

Losing this awe and wonder of God and His creation can affect our lives. For when we view God and His creation through dulled senses, we will not see the glory that surrounds us. The world becomes a dreary place.

Those living the abundant life will ask God to help them remember how they felt when they first knew Him. They will ask to know Him more. They realize that the more they know God, the more they will be able to see what surrounds them through His eyes. Then they can stand in awe and wonder of it all!

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Rest

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life realize that rest is important. It is vital for our physical and spiritual health and well-being. 

From the beginning it was so. God worked for many days and then he rested. (Genesis 2:2) Since God has boundless energy, one has to wonder why He did this. Yes, it’s true that He had completed His work, but perhaps He was also setting an example to let us know that rest is important. God created rest and it is good! Therefore, the Bible if full of scriptures encouraging us to rest because it has many benefits.

Physical rest is therapeutic, healing, and replenishing for our bodies. Old sayings like “The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep” and “a good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book” seem to be rooted in truth.

Spiritual rest can draw us closer to God which will restore and replenish our souls. No wonder we are told to “rest in the Lord…” (Psalm 37:7) God tells us to come to Him when we are weary and He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:28) Our soul can only find true rest in the Lord. (Psalm 62:1)

Unfortunately, people find little time for sleep in this 24/7 world. The results are problems, frustrations, and anger. Poor sleep habits create mistakes and miscalculations. Lack of sleep affects concentration and coordination. Many driving accidents can be linked to driver fatigue. Not only does lack of sleep make people testy and accident-prone, it makes them vulnerable to disease and infection.

Years ago people went to sleep when it got dark. The invention of electricity and the light bulb changed all that. Today video games, television, and computers provide us with lots of late-night options. Grocery stores are open all night long. Telephone service is available all night long. We can literally wake up in a city that never sleeps all over the world.

Sleep doesn’t always come easy. The pressure and stress of life can weigh heavily on one’s mind. That’s when we really need to learn to rest in the Lord. We can lift all our burdens to Him. Let go and let God! He has everything under control. Psalms 4:8 says, “I will lay me down in peace to sleep” for God makes me dwell in safety.

Those living abundant lives realize their need for rest. They pull back a bit so they can replenish. They have also learned to sleep in peace because they know they are safe in God’s hands. He never slumbers or sleeps. (Psalm 121:4) We don’t have to work 24/7 because God does that for us, so we can get some rest.   

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Attitude of Gratitude

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life have an attitude of gratitude. They know that developing the art of appreciation can actually change their lives for the better.  

Many spend time striving for things they think will bring them happiness and miss the joy of the journey. Happiness is not something we postpone until we get the new car, fancy house, flat screen TV, or big promotion. If we aren’t happy before we get them, chances are we won’t be happy after we get them. Happiness comes from being grateful for what we have.

Oprah Winfrey says, “The single greatest thing you can do to change your life today would be to start being grateful for what you have right now.”

Scientific studies actually show there are benefits from being thankful. A University of California long-term study on gratitude found that being grateful promotes good health, contributes to becoming successful, aids better sleep patterns, and just overall makes one more generous and helpful to others.

In researching for his book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Robert Emmons and colleague Michael McCollough conducted studies on gratitude and its impact on lives. Three groups were asked to keep daily diaries. The first group wrote about the experiences they had throughout the day without being instructed to emphasize whether they were good or bad. The second group recorded only unpleasant experiences. The third group kept a gratitude journal. The results showed that the people who wrote down what they were grateful for had higher alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. Plus, they had less depression and stress. 

So the world has come to know what the Bible told us all along: “It is good to give thanks unto the Lord…” (Psalm 92:1) 1 Thessalonians goes so far as to say, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances…” Can we find something to be thankful for even in dire circumstances?  We don’t need to be thankful for a major trial, but we can be thankful that God is always with us. It could even be an opportunity to grow in a deeper relationship with Him. 

Instead of listing all the things we don’t have, try giving thanks for what we do have. Do we have any of the following: a job, food, shelter, clothes, friends, and family? Today, did we behold sunshine, flowers, a smile from someone, a child’s laughter, or find a good parking space? The abundant life will not take these things for granted. The abundant life will give thanks!

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Reinvention

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life believe in the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. However, they go one step further and realize that it can also be a time of reinvention. This ability to reinvent is a key element for those desiring to live an abundant life. To reinvent can mean to adapt, modify, alter, redesign, refocus, adjust, and transform.

Let’s say you work all your life at a company you love. They downsize or reorganize. Suddenly you are out of a job. No one even said, “Thank you for 40 years of faithful service.” You don’t even get the gold watch! Administrations change and the new one—the younger one does not even acknowledge who you are or what you’ve done for the company before they let you go or force you to retire.

Sure, you might want to have a little pity-party, but then you have to decide what to do with the rest of your life. This is a time to think about reinventing yourself which means refreshing or starting over again with a new perspective. Reinventing doesn’t mean doing everything the way you’ve always done it. It may require some change. Your core values remain the same, but updating your outlook and modus operandi might be necessary in an ever-changing world.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever but we live in society that requires us to constantly reinvent the way we do things because it is rapidly changing all the time. Sometimes change is forced upon us which is not necessarily bad. Not all jobs or even ministries are meant to last forever. They are temporary. Life is temporary. That doesn’t mean God is not in control. He just might not be controlling events the way we would like.

Sometimes life can be so burdensome that it’s hard not to get discouraged, but God tells us not to lose heart. Things may not appear to be going well, but when we rely on God we can be renewed inwardly, day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16) Renew means to make new again. God can help us reinvent ourselves so we can be productive Christians representing Him as we move forward to what He has planned.   

The abundant life relies on God to get them through life changes and come out on the other side ready to go on. They’ve developed skills like resilience and self-care. They aren’t afraid to seek counseling and get support. The abundant life knows how to reinvent itself.

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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The Time Is NOW

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life know that the past is to learn from, not to live in. Those living in the past are continually lamenting what might have been. They are stuck in a “would have, should have, could have” syndrome, constantly thinking if only, if only, if only…

Everyone’s life is full of missed opportunities, some unwise decisions, and regret. These things cannot be changed. It is foolish to be held captive by things we can do nothing about. Living in the past immobilizes us. It keeps us from enjoying the present and prevents us from moving into the future. Christian lives should not be held in suspended animation. Paul says to forget what is behind. (Philippians 3:13-14) We need to concentrate on our daily walk with God—today—NOW!

We need to live in the NOW, not in the past. We are NOW freed from sin. (Romans 6:22) There is NOW no condemnation for us because we are in Christ. (Romans 8:1) NOW we are no longer tied to the law, but to Jesus Christ. (Romans 7:6) The old things have passed away and we are NOW a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We are NOW the children of God. (1 John 3:2) In the past we were full of darkness, but NOW we are a light to the world. (Ephesians 5:8)

The Greek word for “now” is “nun,” which means at this time and henceforth into the future. So appreciating what we have NOW carries over into our future. We don’t know what we will be like in the future, but it has to be even better than NOW, because we will be more fully like God. (1 John 3:1-3)

Abundant lives understand what they NOW have in Jesus Christ. The past is past. Those living the abundant life will focus on what God’s plan is for their lives NOW!

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Passing the Buck

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Those living the abundant life do not defend poor choices by passing the buck.

Passing the buck is an expression that has nothing to do with the American dollar. It actually means to shift the responsibility or blame somewhere else. This expression dates back to frontier times in the mid-1800s. In poker games, a piece of buckshot or a knife with a buckhorn handle was passed around to remind players that they were the next dealer.

I was reminded of this phrase when watching the recent Oppenheimer movie which is about designing and dropping the bomb on Japan which ended World War II. This happened when Harry S. Truman was president. Truman kept a plaque with that phrase on his desk in the oval Office. He felt the president had to make certain decisions and take responsibility for them. Oppenheimer may have made the bomb, but Truman made the decision to drop it. The buck stopped with him.  

We live in a society that is very adept at passing the buck! No one wants to accept responsibility for bad choices. If a person smokes and gets cancer, it’s the tobacco industry’s fault. If a person shoots someone, it’s the gun manufacturer’s fault. If a person drives drunk, it’s the bartender’s fault. If a child misbehaves, it’s the music industry’s fault.  Should the tobacco industry, gun manufacturers, bartenders, music industry, and others act more responsibly?  Yes!  Are they to blame for the choices we make?  No!

This “blaming others for our actions” mentality influences almost every aspect of our lives. We want to blame our “lot in life” on our parents, our neighborhood, the times we live in, our lack of good fortune or fate. Yet many born into poverty have risen above it and many with health problems have accomplished much. Oprah Winfrey, Sam Walton, Andrew Carnegie, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Helen Keller are just a few that come to mind. While it’s true that environment and heredity can limit our choices in life, they can’t determine what kind of person we choose to be. Our actions determine that.    

This proclivity to blame others is not new. It’s been going on since the time of Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3, we see that when God asked Adam why he disobeyed by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam blamed Eve. Then Eve blamed the serpent. Adam went so far as to say to God, “It’s the woman, YOU gave me!”  Now it was God’s fault. Everyone wanted to blame somebody else and we’ve been blaming others for what we do ever since.

Those living the abundant life know that blaming others or blaming circumstances never improves a situation.  If anything, it only makes it worse. They don’t try to pass the buck. They know the buck stops with them. 

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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Oops!

The Abundant Life: Riches money can’t buy…

Some may seem successful, but really aren’t living the abundant life if they haven’t learned to take responsibility, not make excuses, and admit mistakes.  

General George Patton was a stubborn, obstinate leader. He was nicknamed “Old Blood and Guts” and many say he was the greatest combat general of World War II. However, he could never admit being wrong about anything.

One story says that Patton accepted an invitation to dine at a press camp in Africa during World War 2. Wine was served in canteen cups. Patton thought it was coffee, so he poured cream into his cup. As he stirred in sugar, Patton was told that his cup contained red wine and not coffee. General Patton could not admit making a mistake, so without hesitation he drank it and replied, “I know. I like my wine this way.”

Everyone makes mistakes. Some are just plain dumb; some are thoughtless; some are complicated; some are really bad decisions. However, one thing is inevitable. We all make mistakes. (Proverbs 24:16) 

It’s hard to admit when we are wrong because we are very concerned about what others might think. We want to make excuses. We want to justify what we’ve done. We want to blame others or even God. Yet the benefits far outweigh our discomfort when we have the courage to admit we’ve made a mistake. For one thing, the wine tastes much better!

It’s always risky to be open and honest about our mistakes because we feel others will think less of us. This might be true to a certain degree, but most will come along side us, want us to succeed, and appreciate the courage it took to say, “I was wrong. I made a mistake.” These words can actually break down barriers and draw us closer to others. 

Proverbs 28:13 says that those who try to hide their mistakes can’t really succeed in that endeavor. Not only do they forfeit peace of mind, they are always in fear someone will find out. That’s a valid fear because someone will inevitably find out. However, if we admit our mistakes and make a commitment to change, we get a second chance.

Those living the abundant life know that making mistakes is not quite as bad as not learning from them because then they are destined to repeat them again and again.

*****

…I have come that they may have life and that they

may have it more abundantly.” ~John 10:10 (KJV)

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