My Star

At this time of year, we all remember the story of Jesus Christ. We remember how a young girl gave birth to our savior in a manger, surrounded by farm animals. We hear about the shepherds who saw the star, and were told by angels that a king had been born. We consider the Wise Men who followed the star from the east, and it led them to Jesus.

A few years ago, a pastor taught that all people have a star. We weren’t there that night to follow the star in the sky, but God puts people in our lives that act like a star. They are like a bright shining light, which leads us on a path to God. It is through that person’s love, kindness, patience, or diligence that we become receptive to the Holy Spirit. Then through the Holy Spirit we are brought to Jesus and receive salvation.

Ten years ago I was a paper Christian. If you looked on my military dog tags, it said Christian. I attended church services from time to time, but I didn’t really get it. My brain knew the story, but my heart didn’t. The birth of Christ was a pretty nativity set to put out at Christmas. The resurrection was a reason for chocolate bunnies. I was not saved. I didn’t really understand the unconditional love of God, until I saw my star.

Almost eight years ago, my daughter was born. I had carried her in my tummy for nine months. We had gotten to know each other then, but when I finally got to see her, I saw a star. The first time I looked at my daughter’s face, I understood true love. I finally began to understand how much God loved me. I looked at that little nose, touched those tiny fingers, and smelled her soft hair and I suddenly knew. Like a flash of lightning I finally believed in love.

Now I didn’t become a Christian that same day. I didn’t hand the baby off to a relative and pray for my salvation. Nope. For the most part, my life stayed the same. I went about the business of living. However, part of it was different. My focus had shifted from one of self-serving, to one of service. Suddenly, someone else was more important than me. It was in that environment that the Holy Spirit was finally able to work.

Two thousand years ago, three wise men followed a bright shining light in the sky. The star shone on the king of kings, the savior, Jesus Christ. That bright star lead them to God. My star is bright and shiny, but she doesn’t hang in the sky. When I first saw her she lit up my world and she led me to God. In my eyes, she is sparkly and beautiful. What does your star look like?

 Matthew 2:1-2 NLT
Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We have seen his star as it arose, and we have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:11 NLT
They entered the house where the child and his mother, Mary, were, and they fell down before him and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

A Birthday

Nearly eight years ago, my daughter was born.  After a full night of labor I held that beautiful little piece of perfection and marveled.  She was so glorious, and when I looked at that little face, I could finally appreciate how much God loved me.  It was a perfect gift to a lost child. 

On that day, I prayed for my child.  I looked at her face and I prayed everything for her.  I prayed that her heart never be broken.  I prayed that she would never get seriously hurt or sick.  I prayed that she would know only happiness. I prayed that she lived a long life, rich with family and surrounded by many blessings.  I wanted everything for her.
Over 2000 years ago, another woman had a baby.  She didn’t get to have the fine hospital suite that I enjoyed.  She didn’t have cable television, clean sheets, or her food served on nice dishes.  Heck, she didn’t even have pain killers.  This woman had her child in a stable.  There amongst the filth of animals she gave birth to her child.  Not some miraculous god-man descending from Heaven, but a brand-new baby.
After her child was born, she probably held him, just as I held mine.  Her heart filled with love for this small little person in her arms.  It was her perfect little gift from God.  That child was the perfect gift from God for all of us.  When we think of that child we can truly appreciate how much God loves us.  It was her blessing, but it is our blessing too.
Luke 2:7  NLT 
She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the village inn.

 The difference is that her child wasn’t born for an easy life.  The scripture taught that the Messiah would suffer and die.  This tiny baby was born to suffer for us.  The prophet Isaiah wrote that the savior would be whipped and beaten.  This sweet little boy would be betrayed by one friend, abandoned by the others, and executed with criminals. When he was less than a minute old he already had the power to free us from the bondage of our sin, and the promise of our salvation.  When this baby was born he already carried our hope with him as he faced a future of pain and suffering.

Isaiah 53:5 NLT
But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped and we were healed!

Did she know when she looked at her baby and dreamed of his life, what he would have to endure?  Did she look at that tiny, fragile, beautiful baby and understand that he would die before his 35th birthday?  Her son would never be a father or a husband.  He would never fall in love and grow old with someone.  Her baby would grow up and bear the sins for all mankind.  Her baby, so soft and pink, was the perfect sacrifice to save all of mankind. 
This year when you celebrate the Christmas season, take a moment and consider.  Take a break from the shopping, eating, and presents and pause to reflect.  Consider the woman holding her baby, the messiah, the creator of the universe.  Remember the last baby you held, and the courage it must have taken for God to humble himself that way for us.  Imagine the love that God has for all of us that he would make himself so small and vulnerable.  That he would be born into this life just like us, but sacrifice his life so that we could be reunited with him. 

This Christmas, as I sit with my baby, I will remember another mother and her baby.  I will remember the price that child willingly paid for my child.  I will remember that salvation was bought for all of us on the small shoulders of an infant, and that grace was held in the soft hands of a child gripping his momma’s finger.

ME version 2.0

Years ago, AOL was the biggest Internet service provider. We paid for the privilege to login to the Internet and get our email. We all remember the tell tale sound of, “You’ve Got Mail!” It sounded so nice. Then they would improve, and it would be all new features. Each version was better than the last. There was an AOL version 9.0 the last time I checked. So it goes with all different kinds of software. I guess as a geek, I can relate to that idea. Each version comes out better than the last, and they never stop trying to improve even if it is working well.
Before we become Christians we are one version of ourselves. We see the problems and difficulties with our programming and look for a way to fix it. That is when we find Christ. He sees what is good in our current program and what we are designed to do. I know that we say we die and are born again, but there are things in us that God put there on purpose, and those things we keep. So we aren’t exactly born into something new, we are just rebooted as a better version of ourselves. We become ME version 2.0.
In this newer version of us, we start to function at a higher level of programming. We stop running just for the local user on the computer, and become part of a bigger network. We become a part of the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells within us and guides us to use our program design (spiritual gifts) to serve the network (the body of Christ) for God’s glory. We begin to do and see things maturing in our lives that we never thought would be possible. We find that we are capable of being part of God’s miracle in someone’s life.
However nice that story sounds, it doesn’t stop there. Just as AOL kept popping out better versions of its software, so will you continue to grow. As a Christian we are called to practice spiritual disciplines and renew our minds in the Word of God. We continue to be refined and transformed into a better version of ourselves. We start to forget ME version 1.0 ever existed, and strive towards the next level of sanctification in Christ. We never stop growing and changing, and it continues to improve the more we work at it, and the more we submit to the Holy Spirit working in us.
What does this mean today and now, other than being a cool analogy for computer geeks? It means we must guard against complacency.  That we have to watch that we don’t get to comfortable in our current version, that we resist change.  I know that each time AOL wanted me to upgrade a current version, I resisted.  I liked my AOL the way it was and didn’t want to learn a newer version. Then when I did finally get the upgrade I was glad that I did.  I am sure that we can continue to function and serve the body of Christ at our current version of ourselves.  I am sure that we will still be every bit as saved.  However, I also believe that God has greater plans in mind for each of us.  Just imagine what we would be capable of if we upgraded?  How much more could God use us for His glory if we started running ME version 3.0, 4.0 or 5.0? 
Romans 12:2 NIV
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
What version are you running?
                                      Are you ready for an upgrade?