Some Thoughts About My 58th Birthday!

On August 8, 2018 (two days from the writing of this post) I will be 58 years old! Now, that might not be such a big deal to you, but it means the world to me! I always make a big deal of my birthday! Why? Because every birthday reminds me of just how precious the gift of life is! Now, some might wonder, since my birthday is on the 8th, why am I writing this post today? Well, since tomorrow is not promised, I will not take for granted that I will be around two days from hence, and also since I’m having these thoughts now, I will share them now because I might be inspired to share something else (or not) Wednesday!

At the church I serve, I always (in jest) make a big deal of my birthday! I usually tell the membership on the Sunday before the historic day, that I will be available after church to give them written excuses to miss work on my birthday, which is an unofficial national holiday. (I offer to write them an excuse, with no guarantee their employers will accept it nor any offer to compensate for any lost wages; LOL!) Just this past Sunday (yesterday) one of the members said that I should wait until the day of my birthday to collect gifts, to which I replied: “No! I’ll collect any gifts offered or given today, to save people the trouble of trying to locate me on Wednesday!

But, in all seriousness, we should all be excited, not just about birthdays, but about every day! Life is such a wonderful and precious gift! You may be going through a rough patch right now and life might not be treating you very well; but you still have reasons to celebrate life! Why? Because the rough patches in life, whether they are self-inflicted or unjustly caused, are tools that can be used to teach some valuable lessons or weights to help build character and endurance. Whatever life brings your way, the important thing is your response! Life can make you better or bitter; but which, depends on how you respond!

I made up my mind, some years ago, that I would always look for the good in every situation! Many years ago, I read a book entitled: “Happiness Is A Choice.” Every since then, I constantly make a conscious decision to be happy! As I contemplate upon reaching 58 in a couple of days, I am happy because there were some friends I grew up with and some people I went to school with; some younger and some older, who have died, but I’m still here! I realize I am here, not because I was better or more deserving, but rather, only because of God’s grace and providence! Some years ago, when I reached 50, I realized, with all things being equal, I would probably not live another 50 years! I realized that I had already lived longer than I would live! Therefore, I decided then, more so than at any other point prior to that point, that I would no longer allow frivolous pursuits or people to monopolize my time! Life is too short to waste! People who kill or waste time should be arrested and because time is so precious, wasting and/or killing it should be a crime! Sadly, most people madly pursue the paper (money) while neglecting to respect and honor life’s most precious commodity; time!

Now, I realize I’m not the only person who will have a birthday in August 8, in fact, every day is somebody’s birthday! But, I just wanted to share with you my excitement about my birthday to encourage you to celebrate, not only your birthday but every day of your life! Even if you don’t feel like celebrating or you don’t see what’s worth celebrating; life really is good! No matter how bad things appear; just remind yourself they just look that way; usually things are much better than they appear! And even if things really are that bad; look for the silver lining, because; there really is a bright side somewhere!

Have a “good day” today!, As for myself; I am definitely going to have a ‘happy’ birthday; Wednesday! But just in case I don’t make it to Wednesday, that will be alright, because every day is a day worth celebrating!

The Un-Invited Guest of Honor (A Christmas Sermon)

happy-birthday

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”   John 1:11 KJV

“He came to what was his own, yet his own folk did not welcome him.”  John 1:11 James Moffatt Translation

“He came to that which belonged to Him [to His own-His domain, creation, things, world], and they who were His own did not receive Him and did not welcome Him.”        John 1:11 The Amplified Bible

Imagine, if you will, that you have been invited to a party; a birthday party.  All of your friends, loved-ones, acquaintances and some of your enemies are in attendance.  The place is all decorated and adorned with the trimmings for the gala affair.  The gifts are in abundance and everyone seems to be having a good time!  But, wait a minute, something is wrong!  It suddenly occurs to you that everybody is at this party except the birthday person; the guest of honor!  You inquire to the host as to the whereabouts of the honoree, and much to your dismay, you discover that the guest of honor was not even invited to his own birthday celebration!  Furthermore, you discover that not only was he not invited, should he happen to show up, he would not be welcomed!  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?  But, is this not the case with many of our Christmas celebrations today?  It seems as if this world is determined to celebrate a Christ-less Christmas!  Although he is the reason for the season, in many homes he is not welcome.  Many have X-ed him out and replaced the babe in a manger with a fat man in a red suit!  Now, I don’t mean to be a scrooge, but I think we ought to be more mindful of the real reason for this season.

 Some commentators have said that the verse of our text is perhaps one of the saddest in the Bible.  “He came unto his own, and his own received him not!” Let’s take a few minutes now to take a closer look at this text and see what application it has for us today.  First of all, notice that the text says, “He came!” Oh!  What a wonderful statement! He came!  He came! God breaking into the plane of human existence!  He came!  Because we were unable to go to Him; He came to us!  He came! The Word of God manifested in the flesh!  He came! God intervening into human history to give us HIS-Story!  For ages, God had been telling men the way, with the advent of Jesus, He provided a living illustration to show us the Way!  He came!  God’s idea manifested in the flesh; the embodiment of the faith. He came!  Immanuel; “God with us!” Oh, I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that He came.  Because He came, I can have life and have it more abundantly!  Because He came, I can face tomorrow! Because He came, life is worth the living!  Oh!  I’m so glad that He came!

 Yes!  He came!  He came unto His own!  He came unto His own world.  John wrote: “All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made.” It was His own because He was active in creation!  He was there when the statement was made, “Let us make man!” Hebrews says that the world is upheld by the word of His power!  Yes!  He came unto His own world; His own creation, and His own creation did not receive Him!  The Creator was rejected by the creature!

 He came unto His own people!  He was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  In Matthew’s gospel, it is reported that Jesus sent out the disciples with instructions to go not the way of the Gentiles, but rather to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  One day a Syrophenician woman came to Jesus seeking his help, to whom Jesus replied, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He came unto His own people, but overall, He was rejected by them.  Even his own family had doubts about him, John 7: 5 says that even his own brothers did not believe in him.

 But not only was he not welcomed by his own creation and his own people, he was not welcomed by his own religion.  The scriptures that the Pharisees and scribes studied testified of Jesus, yet the religious authorities refused to acknowledge him as the Messiah!  Yes!  He came unto His own!

 He came unto his own and his own received him not!  Yes!  His own rejected the Christ and crucified him upon a Roman cross.  His own refused to acknowledge him as the Messiah!  His own refused to accept him as Lord.  But why?  Why was it that he came unto his own and his own received him not?

 Well, His creation refused to receive him because of the same reason that they were in rebellion against God!  Jesus said that men loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  When John wrote that Jesus was the light and that  the light was shining in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not, there was a dual meaning.  One of the distinctive characteristics of John’s gospel is that it is full of dualism.  By dualism, we refer to those words and concepts within this gospel writing that has more than one meaning.  For instance, in John chapter three, Jesus told Nicodemus that a man must be born “anon.” The Greek word has two meanings which are both equally applicable in this context.  The word means, “again”: Ye must be born again!  But it also means “from above”: Ye must be born from above! Both concepts are equally valid.  In order to see (perceive or understand) the Kingdom, one must experience a second birth and that birth must be of a spiritual nature: from above!  So, when John wrote, what the King James Version interprets as “comprehend,” the Greek word is “katalambano,” which has the dual meaning of “understanding” or “comprehension” and “overcoming.” Hence the darkness did not understand the light neither did the darkness overcome, defeat, or extinguish the light.  The world did not accept or receive Jesus because the world was in darkness!

 His family according to the flesh and the Jews in general did not receive him because he came as a suffering servant and they were expecting a reigning king!  That’s the way it is you know, when you don’t measure up to other folk’s expectation of you, they will reject you!  Jesus came preaching a spiritual gospel, proclaiming deliverance from sin, but what the Jews wanted was a political manifesto declaring their independence from Rome!  Tradition has it that Barrabas was also named Jesus and that he was a political insurrectionist.  Hence the Jews wanted Jesus, the insurrectionist rather than Jesus the Christ. There are many people today who claim to be followers of Jesus.  But the question is, which Jesus?  The Jesus of the Bible; the Son of God or a Jesus of our own making?  Yes, he came unto his own and his own received him not!

 But thank God today!  The rejection was not total!  There were some who welcomed his arrival, And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. And Joseph and his mother marveled at those things which were spoken of him. And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity; And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem. 

 No, the rejection was not total!  The record states, But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Yes!  I’m glad today that the rejection was not total!  For there were those who were willing to receive him as their Lord and Savior! No!  The rejection was not total!  For there are those even today, who realize that without Christ there would be no Christmas!  So, as I leave you alone to decide how you will celebrate this Christmas!  Just remember that it’s not about presents wrapped under a tree, but rather a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger!  It’s not so much about the presents you give to others, but the gift that God has given to you!  As you celebrate Christmas this year, don’t forget about the guest of honor!  You see, if you don’t invite him to the party, then he will not show up!  He’s too intelligent to be a party-crasher!  But if you invite him; he will come!  For I heard him saying, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.  Yes!  If you let him, Jesus will come into your Christmas celebration! Well!  How should we celebrate Christmas?  I submit to you that if you are lost you cannot truly celebrate this season!  You cannot really celebrate a party if you’re not on speaking terms with the guest of honor!  You cannot celebrate a holy season in an unholy manner!  It’s on the verge of blasphemy to celebrate the birthday of Jesus by getting drunk at Christmas parties!  The best way to celebrate this season is by inviting the guest of honor to take his rightful place in your life!  The best way to celebrate is by letting him into your heart and life: 

 Oh!  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!  Let earth receive her King!  Let every heart prepare him room, And Heaven and nature sing!  Oh!  Joy to the earth!  The Savior reigns!  Let men their songs employ!  While fields and floods, rock, hills and plains, Repeat the sounding joy!  Yes!  You ought to go tell it on the mountain!  Over the hills and everywhere!  Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ was born!

 

Every Day Is A “New” Year’s Day!

Happy New YearNew Year’s Day: 2014 is only a couple of days away. But have you ever stopped to consider the fact that, in a sense, every day of the year is a new year’s day? On January 2, my wife and I will celebrate a wedding anniversary! In February, one of my sons will celebrate a birthday!  In March, the church I serve will celebrate my pastoral anniversary and my wife will celebrate a birthday! In August, I will celebrate a birthday! Of all the things an anniversary or a birthday is, it is primarily a day that marks the passing of another year since the event celebrated or remembered occurred and the beginning of another year before it is observed again. Now, since there is not a day of the week in any month of the year when someone somewhere is not celebrating an anniversary of some sort, and anniversaries and birthdays mark the beginnings of a new year, then in a sense, every day of the year a “new” year’s day!

Now, many people make vows and commitments to do better, to be better, and/or to live better on New Year’s Day! In other words, for many people, New Year’s Day is a day to start over again! But, why wait until January 1 of the year to do that? Since every day of the year marks the beginning of some “new” year, why not celebrate New Year every day? Now, I don’t mean celebrating every day with fireworks and parades, but rather, celebrating each day with the understanding that with the dawning of each new day, there is an opportunity to start new! Each new day is an opportunity to reaffirm and renew dedication and commitment and each new day is an opportunity to start over again!

Therefore, why restrict yourself to just one day of celebration for a new year? Every day of the year marks the beginning of a “new” year of some sort! Therefore, every day of the year is a day to celebrate! Now for the sake of my wallet, I am thankful that the celebration of Christmas (buying presents and giving gifts) only comes once a year! But I am grateful, that life has been so arranged that with the arrival of each new day, comes the opportunity to start a “new” year! A new year of sobriety! A new year of marriage! A new year of loving relationships! A new year of business success! A new year of spiritual growth! You name it! Whatever it is you want to accomplish and celebrate in life; every new day presents the opportunity to inaugurate and celebrate a new beginning!

As I said, January 1, 2014 is a just a couple of days away, but I’m not waiting until then! I’m going to celebrate a “new” year today and every day, because every day of the year marks the beginning of a “new” year!