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  • sonnyholmes

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What a sober moment to realize you're not on the same team any more. Something or someone moved and the arrangement isn't the same strategic one you thought. Whether the sandlot, stadium, caucus room, church, dinner table, or neighborhood, few let-downs weigh as heavily as when you realize there's been a shift. The group or ideal or activity with which you've been aligned, to which you've given so much of your life isn't what it was. So, what do we do when we realize we're not on the same team anymore?

Your world-view will define it, if you want to get right down to it. If you're a secularist, that is, an adherent to the ever-shifting cultural layout, or even a nominal (Google that one if you want to know what it means), you'll just go find another team. Hey, it's a changing world and we just need to possess the most current model---spouse, circle of friends, smart phone, brand, vehicle, or maybe even church. We might even go with the flow here and line up with another political party if their current bullet-list isn't resonating with pop culture. In this world the answer about no longer being on the same team is an easy one: just change teams.

There's some in-between wiggle room in the world-view thing these days too. There are dozens of hybrids with arrows and pointers to help us decide what to do when the team lines get a little blurred. There are biblical humanists, secular biblicists, evolutonary creationists, freedom of choice lifers, and fifty plus shades of action to re-align my personal commitments when they seem out of sync. It's a DIY world and we've become adept at navigating it.

My biblical worldview lines up my affiliations. So, let's deal with the obvious. First, church isn't a team. It's a body and the parts are placed where they are by God. So, if I'm out of kilter with my church, my first question must be "when did I move?". Then I must get back where I was, where He placed me. Second, marriage isn't a team either. It's a covenant. I don't just walk away. My spouse and I review the covenant, discover what makes it work, where the weak points are, and then renew it till we're both where we're supposed to be. I mean, get real. We're seriously lowering the bar if we reduce HIs church and marriage to the dynamics of team-work.

Every other affiliation in my life---friendships, politics, work, family life, social commitments, civic involvements, music, where I spend my money, the places I go---all reflect adherence to the biblical standard, my worldview. If my politics don't line up with Scripture, I am in political, and spiritual, error. And, right on down the line, into every sub-set of my personal life. If and when I discover that I'm out of sync with the strategic partnerships He has arranged in my life, then my first move is to discover if I've moved. If not, then my job is to engage that affiliation with all my might to move it to where it was when I signed on.

I'm blown away by 1 Corinthians 12:18. I may be too literal here, but there it is, my biblical world-view showing again. Paul wrote, "But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose" (1 Corinthians 12:18, ESV). Yes, he could have been writing about the physical body at creation, God's placement of each part exactly where it needed to be so that the body could function. Or, he could have been writing about me being a part of the spiritual body, and being planted in life at this time and this place to influence everything around me. I'll opt for the latter.

Christian. Don't just change teams every minute. Tough it out, endure, engage, and influence. God put you right there right now for a reason.


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  • sonnyholmes

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Jospeh's resume is meager. When we think about him being the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus, our default setting is that he was a just, that is, righteous man. Much has been supposed about what this actually means, the measure of righteousness in that day. Our Western eyes would see a man made of the right stuff and for that reason, performing his duties in an exemplary fashion. We might include his personal piety, how he handled the delicate maneuvers of an arranged marriage, his work ethic, where he figured in community life, participation in the synagogue, and any number of personal attributes. Doing the right thing by young, pregnant Mary was certainly a notable asset in Scripture. He determined to handle the whole thing quietly. News flash! He wasn't self-righteous. He had a heart!

So, God sent an angel to speak to him about the plan, God's plan. I've often wondered why God chose such an unlikely candidate to be our Lord's earthly model. Of course, even a moment looking back over the history of Israel would have made such a question out of order. God had always chosen the foolish things and people of the of the world to make His plan happen. But, there is a unique thread that links so many of them, the unheralded people He selected to be the agents of HIs program. Surely there's something about Joseph that made him the choice.

Lineage? Yes, of course, Joseph was in the line, though a distant branch in the family tree. It did appear that he owned or had access to a donkey, one of the prophetic requirements. And, there were other links to the Old Testament expectation of the Messiah. They all fit Joseph. Every one. But, there's something else. You see, Joseph did everything the angel asked of him. His personal righteousness was a heart issue. Joseph had an obedient heart.

We probably would too if an unmistakeable angel appeared to us, even in a dream, and gave us instructions about a complicated family matter. Matthew wrote it clearly, "When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus" (Matthew 1:24-25). This sweet, righteous man, obeyed.

It is a mark of those entrusted with His plans. They weren't names, fortunes, traditions, or pillars of the church. They were obedient. Noah (Gen.6:22), Abraham (Gen. 12:4), Moses (Ex. 40:10),

Aaron (Ex. 7:6), Joshua (Josh. 11:14), David (2 Sam. 5:25), Elijah (1 Kings 17:5), and dozens of others did what the Lord commanded them to do. He entrusted the workings of HIs plan to people He knew would obey Him in them.

So, Joseph's righteousness wasn't about himself, his positon in history, the fortune and fame of being the man selected as the earthly father of Jesus, but of simply obeying Him.

Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey---whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Let's hear it for Joseph! And, learn from him the precious rifghteousness of obedience!

#thetimes #mission #pastoralministry

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  • sonnyholmes

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Needing some nice Christmas artwork I Googled "Christmas", touchd the "image" button and in a matter of seconds received row after row of colorful, high-resolution Christmas pictures, 403 of them to be exact. There were trees, lights, children, presents, candles, city-scapes, ribbon, reindeer, snow, parades, businesses, stockings, wreathes, ornaments, and food. There were only three nativity scenes. One of them is pictured here. Maybe I shouldn't be shocked that even the holiday that bears his name is light on images that portray him.

So, OK, we challenge a secular culture with it's images and ideals of the Christmas season. We've done the "Keep Christ in Christmas thing", bought the t-shirts and bumber stickers, and lobbied educational, government, and civic entities to permit creches and manger scenes displayed in public places. The PC police play little words games to keep December generic and insure that little children aren't swayed toward a particular creed or value system. Many of us miss the joys of the season in our moaning and groaning about the forces of darkness and how they've stolen Christmas from us. Want some whine with the holiday cheese ball?

God sent one solitary manger to change the world, just as the song suggests. Yes, over two milennia we've gathered some precious symbols and images, hymns, statements, creeds, covenants, writings, and all manner of historical data to preserve and perpetuate the faith that grew out of that stable. Such a profound truth undergirds the simple representation of the nativity scene. God became human. He occupied human flesh and was born in a crude, humble place. So, we treasure the manger because it communicates His great love and care for us.

One solitary manger changed everything. But, it's not the prime representation of Christ to this dark world, a manger scene at Christmas. You see, there's another profound miracle. It is Christ in me. The Lord of all creation, for whom all things were made, the one who holds all things together, the one who is preeminent over all things decided to live in something more crude than a stable. He decided to live in you and me. We are to light and season this world. One solitary manger was enough to declare his birth and life in me. He decided to change the world using us.

One solitary manger was enough for those children in the Middle East to profess Christ and then face beheading because they would not renounce him. One solitary manger was sufficient for the addicted individual to have his life turned around through faith in him. One solitary manger sent the Magi back to their world changed. Every day the fruit of that manger 2,000 years ago touches some special need out there in this dismal world. If that solitary manger actually means anything it's prime pronouncement will be the way the truth of it changed me.

So, this Christmas I'm going to put him on display every way I can---my "Jesus is the Reason" button, my manger tie, the Christmas lapel pin, star sox, five symbols hat (he came, he died, he was buried, he rose, and he's coming again), and my ugly Christmas sweater. I'll live with the fact that there are few nativity scenes out in public these days. And, do everything to insure that there aren't fewer Christians on display out there in it. One solitary manger brought him into this world. His mind and life in us day by day is the reminder than most effectively keeps him fresh in it.

The world is watching. Let's live it this Christmas. And, let the Christ who lives in each of us be what they see.

Merry Christmas.


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