Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Christmas Is Not Your Birthday 02

You Are A Miracle Worker

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 
-Isaiah 7:14

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. 
-Isaiah 53:5-6

Centuries before Jesus’ birth the ancient prophets spoke of the coming of a messiah deliverer who would be called:

“...Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end...” 
-Isaiah 9:6-7

But this Messiah king would also know suffering and rejection, and his mission would clearly prioritize the poor and marginalized. Expectations of what this messiah would be like and look like, however, were quite diverse and even contradictory. Some expected a worldly political revolutionary who would restore the glory days of the Davidic Kingdom, whereas others visualized a messiah who represented the Greek ideal of focusing totally on the afterlife.

Jesus was not what folks expected. When you think about God, adjectives like powerful, majestic, and almighty tend to come to mind. But Jesus did not come to earth with any air of worldly wealth or majestic power. On the contrary, everything about Jesus’ life stood in stark contrast to worldly priorities and values. As a man, he lived in tension with the organized religious system. He resisted the world’s obsession with wealth, pleasure, power, and recognition. He identified with the weak and powerless, the widow and orphan. And he did not condemn the sinner. So what does God look like? Like Jesus!

List some of the adjectives that come to mind when you think about Jesus, his attitude, his relationships, his life and mission. How do these contradict what the culture teaches about success and influence?

Too often we view God like Santa Claus – a genie in a bottle here to fulfill three wishes. We have created this Santa Claus Jesus in our own image, a golden-calf messiah who promises to fulfill all our earthly wants and wishes, an idol of consumption who supports the human quest for meaning and purpose in material things outside of a relationship with God. But at Christmas we should celebrate the birth of the Messiah who was born not only to die sacrificially for us but to show us how to live sacrificially. Christmas is the celebration of a miracle but we’ve edged the miracle worker out of his own birthday celebration. It is time to take it back by planning new traditions that focus on Jesus’ presence, rather than the often forgettable presents we expect to give and receive.

Christmas is about a miracle. Miracles don’t just happen; they are born through labours of pain. The dictionary defines miracle as a visible interruption of the laws of nature, understood by divine intervention and often accompanied by a miracle worker. In other words a miracle is a unique event in the world that God does through people like you and me. That’s right – you are God’s miracle worker! You are God’s means to affect change in your world and God wants to birth a miracle through you. Every miracle of God is conceived in the heart of the believer, grows in conviction and clarity, and is delivered through committed action. And every spirit-filled Christian has the potential for a God movement within them. Are you ready for God to birth a Christmas miracle through you?

(Michael Slaughter)

1. How do you picture God? How do you think this picture affects your Christian walk and your faith in God?
2. Name the ways your image of God has more in common with Santa Claus than with who Jesus is and how he lived?
3. Have you ever witnessed or experienced a miracle? If so what happened? Do you think God could actually work a miracle through your life?
4. For your life to be meaningful you need to give it away to others. What does that look like for you, and how difficult is it? Do you have capacity to give away more?
5. What would it take for you to be more prepared for God to use you for miraculous purposes in the world?
6. What ideas do you have that could be seeds for a mission miracle? How could this group help you make it happen?

CHALLENGE: Pray about it and then write down 1-3 ideas or thoughts that you think might be God-initiated dreams for you to pursue in helping change this world for God's kingdom.

Challenge – Pray about and then write down 1-3 ideas or thoughts that you feel 

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