Why Must a Savior Be Born?

MangerChrist the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born!

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!

During the Christmas season, we hear the word everywhere. Savior. It’s part of the season’s vernacular, and it hardly causes a blimp on our cultural consciousness.

But try using its counterparts – save and salvation. They often don’t sit quite so easy for many people. What is this thing called salvation all about, and why do we need to be saved anyway? This leads directly to the question that is integral with Christmas – why must a Savior be born?

First Exercise:

To answer this question, let me offer a simple exercise. If you have a pencil and paper handy, please draw a vertical line on the paper. (If you don’t have a pencil and paper, you can draw the line in your imagination.) Then label the very top of the line “perfectly holy, just like God,” and label the very bottom “scum of the earth.” Now place an “X” on the line at the location that best describes you.

Where did you put your “X”? In the context of our question (why must a Savior be born?), it matters little how high or low you placed it. For if we are unable to place our “X” at the very top (perfectly holy, just like God), then we fall short of God’s benchmark of perfect purity and holiness. The Bible calls this sin, it says that all are sinful, and it says that the wages of sin is death – eternal separation from God. As such, we stand in desperate need of a Savior!

Second Exercise:

Now let’s try one more simple exercise. Imagine if God asked you to state your qualifications for admittance into heaven using one sentence. What would your sentence look like? What would you list as your qualifications? Before reading any further, please try to compose your one-sentence qualifications.

Did yours focus on your best attempts at living a good life, your better-than-average lifestyle, or your religious credentials? If so, unless you declared yourself to be “perfectly holy, just like God,” you are depending on the wrong thing! Your best attempts, your good life, your moral lifestyle, and your religious credentials will all fall hopelessly short and are completely powerless to make you right with God!

Conclusion:

You, my friend, stand in desperate need of a Savior!

And this is where Jesus magnificently enters the picture!

The wonderful news of the Bible is that Jesus did for us what we could never do for ourselves. The God who crafted the universe and spoke the galaxies into being took on human flesh and blood and was born into this world. He paid the full penalty for our sins when He died on the cross. Jesus alone is holy and righteous enough to take the hit for us, and because of His passionate, complete love for us, He willingly did so.

We are the reason that Jesus was born into this world, and we are the reason that Jesus gave His life. He shed his blood on the cross for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to experience spiritual death and eternal separation from God. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus’ death alone has the power to save us. It says that only the cross and blood of Christ can make us clean before God.

That is why a Savior must be born.

Our salvation (being saved from both the enslaving power and the eternal consequences of our sin) is a free gift. And it is available for everyone to receive – including you.

This Christmas would be a perfect time to receive the Savior into your life, to accept His free gift of salvation, and to place Him on the throne of your heart. This Christmas would be a perfect time to begin a personal relationship with your Creator – a relationship of love and intimacy, starting right now and lasting throughout all eternity!

Why must a Savior be born? Because you and I need a Savior, and because God, in His perfect love for us, became our Savior.

So this Christmas, as you celebrate the birth of the Savior, don’t miss out on making the Savior your own.

This Christmas, receive the greatest gift of all – the Savior Himself.

Six Ways to Foster an Attitude of Gratitude

thanksgivingSometimes the circumstances of our lives can squeeze out the hope, joy, and thankfulness that once buoyed our hearts and put a smile on our faces.  Sometimes the burdens of life and unanticipated pain in friends and family can overshadow all the gratitude that once prevailed within our spirits.

How can we live with these realities of life and still maintain a thankful heart?  How can we foster an attitude of gratitude?  Here are six simple suggestions to consider:

1.  Record something every day for which you are thankful.  Keep a daily journal, including whatever you might want to document and remember.  At the end of each entry, write the word “Thanksgiving,” and then record something from that day for which you can give thanks.

2.  Send an encouragement card each week.  Develop a habit of sending someone – anyone – a note of encouragement, thanks, and appreciation.  I am sometimes astonished when someone mentions to me an encouragement card that I sent to them five or ten years ago.  They can even recite the very words I wrote to them.  Sometimes the effects of a well-timed word of encouragement can endure for many months or even years.

3.  Say “thank you for . . .” to someone every day.  Make it a practice to say “thank you” frequently, and then specify the thing for which you are thanking them.  Recognize that much of who you are and what you have is a by-product of many people who have lovingly invested in your life.  Become a generous expresser of gratitude throughout your daily life.

4.  Memorize a Scripture verse about thankfulness.  There is an abundance of Scripture inviting us, even commanding us, to give thanks to God.  Hiding God’s Word in your heart can make you a more grateful person.  Here are just a few to consider:

  • Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.  – 1 Thessalonians 5:18
  • Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!  His faithful love endures forever.  – Psalm 136:1
  • Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.  Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.  – Philippians 4:6-7

5.  Every Thanksgiving Day, document reasons for giving thanks.  Take out a blank piece of paper on Thanksgiving and fill the page with things for which you are thankful from the past year.  Keep each one so you can reflect back on them in future years.

6.  Thank God regularly for the basics.  God has done more for us than we can ever imagine.  We have enough material for thanksgiving to last a lifetime – even to last for all eternity.  Remember to thank God regularly for the basics – things such as:

Thank You, Lord, for creating me.

Thank You, Lord, for sustaining me.

Thank You, Lord, for dying for me.

Thank You, Lord, for drawing me to Yourself.

Thank You, Lord, for saving me.

Thank You, Lord, for molding and refining me.

Thank You, Lord, for using me.

Thank You, Lord, for __________________ .

Swimming to Hawaii

Swimming to HawaiiAre you trying to gain acceptance with God on your own?  Are you relying on your best attempts at a good life, your better-than-average lifestyle, or your religious credentials?  If you’re depending on anything other than what Christ has already done for you, maybe you can relate to the swimmers in this story:

Three people stood at the end of a dock along the California coast, determined to swim across the Pacific Ocean to the paradise of the Hawaiian Islands.  The first swimmer had religiously gone to the pool almost every Sunday of his life.  He felt he had made a decent effort at learning how to swim, at least as much as could be expected, and he was probably as good as or better than most.  Surely, he thought, this would get him across the ocean to paradise.  However, as he jumped off the dock and began to swim, he made it only a few miles before he began to sink.

The second swimmer not only went to the pool each Sunday, but also began each day with a mile swim and ended it with another mile swim.  She held countless positions at the swim club, she tirelessly studied the physiology and psychology of swimming, and she selflessly helped others in their pursuit of swimming excellence.  Her dedication to swimming and her hard work earned her the respect of her swimming peers around the world.  As she dove into the water and began her long journey, a boat followed her for more than twenty miles as her powerful and graceful strokes carried her through the mounting waves and mighty currents of the Pacific Ocean.  Finally, however, she too could make it no longer and drowned.

Finally, the third swimmer readied himself for the long swim.  He was undoubtedly the greatest swimmer the world had ever known, sweeping eight gold medals for swimming in each of the past four Olympic Games.  Not only had he broken every record the swimming world had to offer, but he had shattered them, leaving his peers with virtually no hope of ever matching his swimming excellence.  He too dove into the waters and swam off into the horizon as well-wishing onlookers lined the coast as far as the eye could see.  He was truly the best mankind had to offer, and he had no equal in his surpassing greatness.  As nightfall came, he had passed the locations where each of the first two swimmers had drowned, and his strokes were still powerful and effective.  Eventually, however, his greatest efforts also fell short, and he too sank to the bottom of the ocean.

A pilot flying overhead observed that he had swam over 250 miles towards his desired destination before going under, a feat unmatched in human history.  However, the pilot also noted that the champion swimmer’s best efforts got him just over one-tenth of the way to paradise.

The Tightrope Walker and the Wheelbarrow

Niagara FallsA world-renowned tightrope walker arrived at Niagara Falls one day and immediately set up shop.  As he placed his tightrope across the dangerous gap and prepared to make his first crossing, a crowd grew in number and in anticipation.  Suddenly, they heard him call out, “Who believes that I can walk across these falls on this tightrope?”  Most in the crowd were not sure, but a few urged him on, “We do, we do!”  He proceeded to step onto the tightrope and walked across, much like you and I would cross a deserted small-town street.

He then turned to the crowd and asked, “Do you believe that I can cross these falls with a blindfold covering my eyes?”  Several people gasped at the mere thought of such a proposition, but a growing number in the swelling crowd called out, “We believe you can!”  Again, he made his way across the raging falls, this time unable to see where his next step might land.  The ease of his achievement amazed everyone, for they had never seen such a sight.

A short time later, he appeared with a wheelbarrow and the question, “Do you believe that I can make the crossing pushing a wheelbarrow in front of me?”  The surging crowd cheered him on, and again he did not disappoint them; he made the crossing with no difficulty.

Finally, he turned to the crowd and asked, “Do you believe that I can cross these falls pushing the wheelbarrow with somebody in it?”  This time, the throngs of people knew better, and they answered, as with one voice, “We believe!  We believe!”  Then pausing for just a moment, and as if looking at each one of them, he asked, “Who will volunteer to sit in the wheelbarrow?”

The impact of his question slowly settled on each person and, one by one, they turned and walked away.  Most people, it seemed, had come to acknowledge that the tightrope walker could do what he claimed he would do.  But no one was willing to trust him with their life.

The PB&J Song

You’re the PB to my J,

You’re the heart to all I say,

You’re the best part to my day –

You make me complete.

 

You’re the shimmy to my shake,

You’re the healing to my ache,

You’re the icing to my cake –

You make life so sweet.

 

You’re the laces to my shoes,

You’re the headline to my news,

You’re the rhythm to my blues –

You’re my missing part.

 

You’re the bubbles to my bath,

You’re the numbers to my math,

You’re the markers to my path –

Your love fills my heart.

 

You’re the water to my sea,

You’re the honey to my bee,

You’re the missing part to me –

You make my life whole.

 

You’re the sunshine to my sky,

You’re the answer to my why,

You’re the sweetheart to this guy –

Your love floods my soul.

The Father and the Drawbridge

DrawbridgeA young man and his son decided to spend the day together, as they typically did each Saturday.  As they set out early in the morning, they hadn’t yet decided if they would hike through the woods, go to the ball game or try to catch some trout together.  Whatever their decision would be, their greatest delight was simply in being together for the day.

Their first stop was the local train station, where the father was the operator of the nearby drawbridge.  As the father and son jumped out of the car, the son made his way up onto his daddy’s shoulders and they walked along the tracks a few hundred yards to the drawbridge station.  As they walked along, the two laughed and carried on, basking in the joy of one another’s company.  As the son climbed down from his daddy’s shoulders, the father quickly immersed himself in his railroad work so that he could then get on with the real order of business – a day of frolicking and fun with his cherished son.

Suddenly, a train whistle broke through the silence.  Alarmed by the fact that a train was quickly approaching, the father was immediately overcome by two observations – that the drawbridge was not in position for a train to pass and that his son had wandered off and was nowhere to be found.  As he searched for his son, a terrified look engulfed the father’s face – his son was playing in the gears of the drawbridge and would be crushed to death if the bridge was lowered into position for the train to pass.  Realizing that he had no time to remove his son from the gears and that the lives of several hundred train passengers were at stake, the father was overcome with grief at his impending decision.

After a few moments of lonely anguish, the father slowly but deliberately pulled the lever, turning the gears of the drawbridge and lowering it into position for the train to safely pass to the other side.  He then turned his face away so as not to look upon the agonizing death of his beloved son.

However, when he finally did turn to look at the drawbridge, he noticed something about the passengers on the train as it traveled off into the horizon.  They were laughing among themselves and having a grand old time, unaware of the price that had just been paid for their very lives and ungrateful for the father’s sacrifice of his dearly beloved son.  The father slowly and quietly walked away, tears streaming from his eyes and a look of sorrow engulfing every crease in his face.

Edward Kimball

Edward KimballYou’ve probably heard of Billy Graham, and you may have heard of D.L. Moody.  But have you ever heard of Edward Kimball?  Probably not.  But his story is worth knowing, and hopefully it will encourage you when you’re fearful about sharing your faith.

Edward Kimball was a simple, everyday person, just like you and me.  He also happened to be a Sunday school teacher.  One day Edward Kimball decided to visit one of the young men from his Sunday school class where the student worked – in a shoe store.  He wanted to talk with this young student about what Christ had done for him and about his need to receive God’s free gift of salvation.  But as he approached the store, he got cold feet and almost chickened out.  Mustering up just enough courage, he went into the shoe store, explained the gospel message to his young Sunday school student, and then promptly walked out of the store.  This young student was so impressed by Edward Kimball’s courage, conviction, and care that he gave his life to Christ right then and there.  The young student’s name was D.L. Moody.

D.L. Moody went on to preach the gospel to about 100 million people throughout North America and Europe during the late 1800’s.  During a trip to Europe, Moody preached in a little chapel pastored by a young man named F.B. Meyer.  In his sermon, Moody told the story about a Sunday school teacher who personally went to every student in his class and led each of them to Christ.  That message changed Pastor Meyer’s ministry, inspiring him to become an evangelist like Moody.

Meyer eventually came to America, and while speaking in Northfield, Massachusetts, a young man heard Meyer ask the question: “If you are not willing to give up everything for Christ, are you willing to be made willing?”  That remark led J. Wilbur Chapman to respond to the call of God on his life.

During Chapman’s evangelistic work, a young professional baseball player named Billy Sunday served as his assistant for a brief time, helping to organize his evangelistic meetings.

Billy Sunday held an evangelistic campaign in Charlotte in 1924, and a men’s prayer and fellowship group, known as the Charlotte Businessmen’s Club, grew out of those meetings.  This group was later instrumental in inviting an evangelist named Mordecai Ham to Charlotte for some meetings in 1934.

During the Mordecai Ham 1934 Charlotte meetings, a lanky teenage boy attended, with a dose of reluctance and at the gentle persuasion of some loved ones.  He felt as though Ham was speaking directly to him, and during one of the meetings, he decided to surrender his life to Christ.  His name was Billy Graham.  He would go on to proclaim the gospel message face to face to more people than anyone else in history.

Such is the ripple effect of a common and somewhat timid Sunday school teacher named Edward Kimball, who one day decided to share the gospel message with one of his students.  He didn’t let his fears outweigh his desire to share the message of salvation with others.

I can never hope to be like Billy Graham or D.L. Moody.  But just maybe I could be like Edward Kimball.  And maybe you can too!

An Unknown Ripple

RippleLike a pebble tossed into a pond, our daily lives send countless ripples out into the world, some clearly seen by us and others totally unknown.

Jay Davis’ were the second kind.

Jay’s life briefly intersected mine when we were tenth-grade classmates.  As he sought to bring me to Christ, I sensed that I was more than his evangelism project – I was truly his friend and someone he loved.  He met me right where I was, and he gently shared the gospel message with me.  His life and his words possessed an attractive integrity and vulnerability.

Throughout tenth grade, I remained resistant.  But finally that summer, I decided to place my trust in Christ.  To be honest, it was partly to get Jay off my back, but the other part was very genuine.

Shortly after that, Jay and I lost touch with each other for more than thirty years … until just a few years ago.

After calling about 50 other Jay Davises, I finally found him.  “Thank you,” I told Jay, “for changing my life forever!”  He was totally blown away to discover that his life mattered in someone else’s life.

Are there people who have impacted you along your spiritual journey to Christ who may not know and may need some encouragement?

Could there be people in your world for whom you have made a significant impact and have no clue, just like Jay?

There just might be some unknown ripples from your life as well!

Hymn of Good News

O love of God, for us His own –Hymn

Born of His splendor, ne’er to end.

Such wondrous love can ne’er be known,

Tis far too great to comprehend.

Amidst all God-made galaxies,

God calls us His own masterpiece;

Such boundless love shall never cease

Nor can it waver or decrease.

 

O sin of man, such subtlety

            With which our rebel’s heart is shown –

Upon my heart’s throne I crown me;

            I leave God’s path and choose my own.

The sinner God fore’er adores,

            But holy God, our sin abhors.

From God our sin now separates,

            And so eternal death awaits.

 

O cross of Christ, such scand’lous death,

            His blood was shed to purchase me;

When God in flesh took His last breath,

            His death atoned sin’s penalty.

Upon that cross He bore my sin

            When all God’s wrath bore down on Him,

That in exchange I bear God’s best –

            His own resplendent righteousness!

 

O heart of man, in Christ alone

            Place all your trust forevermore,

Come to the cross, make Christ your own –

            Find what you’ve been created for.

You have a Savior to believe,

            A free salvation to receive –

Swing wide the door, accept God’s grace,

            Make your own heart His dwelling place.

 

O life in Christ, such glorious gain,

            Such an inheritance divine;

Because the Lamb of God was slain,

All of God’s promises are mine –

A child of God, forgiven sin,

            Eternal life, God’s power within,

A confidence God’s in control,

            Knowing the One who loves my soul!

Pick Your Passion

Built into the DNA of humanity is a consuming desire to make our lives count.  We long for our brief existence on this earth to somehow matter and make a difference.  Such a quest is hard coded into every human being on the planet.Pick Your Passion

When compared with the unfathomable vastness of the eternal life that we have already begun and that still awaits us, our duration on earth is like a tiny dot on a line that stretches on and on, endlessly.  “My life is no longer than the width of my hand.  An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath” (Psalm 39:5).  “Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.  The wind blows, and we are gone – as though we had never been here” (Psalm 103:15-16).  “How do you know what will happen tomorrow?  For your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14).

Everyone invests their life in something.  Everyone gives their time and energy and passion to one thing or another.  It may be advancing their career, raising their children, growing their financial investments, lowering their golf score, seeking fame and fortune, upgrading their sports car, serving in their church, pursuing pleasure, or advancing their favorite cause.  For most, it may be a blending of various pursuits.  But God gives us the privilege of picking our passion.

Paul made known the one consuming passion of his heart: “But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love” (Acts 20:24).

You will have only one life, so pick your passion carefully and wisely.  C.T. Studd, the British cricketer and missionary, once penned the words:

                Only one life, ’twill soon be past;

                Only what’s done for Christ will last.

What are you spending your life on that will outlast it?  What is the single greatest passion of your life?