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Archive for December, 2012

New Ways for Old Paths

Luke 2:20

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.   (NIV)

Christmas was a memorable tradition filled day when I was a kid.  Our rituals included:

  • Dressing up – including a tie before seeing our gifts from Santa;
  • Standing in the hallway, lined up by age, waiting for Dad to open the door for us to see our gifts from Santa;
  • Opening gifts from Santa first and then having breakfast;
  • Opening other gifts after breakfast was cleaned up and after Mom had the turkey started;
  • Dad passing out gifts one-by-one and as we watched each other open their gifts before he passed out another.

While others have found our rituals a tad formal, I loved them and still miss them.

However, there was always one burdensome tradition.  The last present we received each year was box of stationary.  Writing Thank You notes to everyone who gave us a gift was an absolute must!

Mom would hound us until these notes were written.  I often joke that Mom made us write thank you notes before we could open the gifts.  

As a child this was a tortuous tradition, but it was a practice worth the learning.

My parents taught me the importance of gratitude.  I am grateful they did!  

The gifts they gave us were precious and required the expenditure of hard-earned money.  Dad built his own business and money was not plentiful when I was young.  I still shed tears remembering the Christmases when I received my record player, red bike, and coal fired steam plant.

This is why my favorite verse in Luke’s birth narrative is, “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen!”

Their lives (ours, too) had been changed by the gift of Jesus.  

For this I am thankful and for this I offer Him glory and praise.

Prayer:  Life-giving Lord, your providence and grace has changed my life, our lives.  Accept my humble praise and grateful tears for the birth of your Son, Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.

 

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Go, See, Speak, Wonder (Come, See, Hear, Wonder)

Luke 2:15-19

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”  So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.  But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  (NIV)

 

 

Near the end of Ben Stein’s movie Expelled scientists, who seek to black-list other scientists who contribute any aspect of creation to the world of God, confess to Stein (and I paraphrase) “We don’t know how all of this came to be.  There are questions even we cannot answer!”

 

In today’s world of populist atheism people see, hear, and witness miracles which no one can explain, but they refuse to explore or consider that perhaps what they had seen was the work of God.  

 

I am thankful for the shepherds who at least had the common sense to “go … and see this thing …  the Lord has made known to us.”

 

They went and observed that what had been told them had actually happened.   This was good scientific research … verify facts.

 

They went a step further and reported on what they had heard, seen, and confirmed.  They were responsible in reporting what they had heard, seen, and verified.  Again, bravo to our faithful scientists.

 

Imagine how much their words meant to Mary.  Surely, she had to wonder if she and Joseph in a fit of passion were simply imagining that God had spoken to them about the baby. 

 

It is conceivable that she was beginning to have questions about the veracity of her experience and conversations with Gabriel when she went into labor riding on a donkey and gave birth in a cattle stall.  Would God allow the Savior of the world to be born in these circumstances?

 

The shepherds report became words of comfort and joy for Mary and Joseph.  

 

When others tell me how God has acted in their lives, it lifts my faith.  Their experiences continually reconfirm for me the Truth of God’s Word.  

 

What a Christmas gift – the arrival of the Savior confirmed for all.

 

Prayer:  Lord God, Creator of all that is, my shopping is done, but I must confess there is still a gift I have to give to others – the gift of faith and knowledge of your presence in our world.  Give me the faithful courage to tell others how You have made yourself known to me.  Amen. 

 

 

 

 

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Holy Praise

Luke 2:13-14

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  (NIV)

Did the angels sing their praise to the accompaniment of an organ, piano, harp, flute, bassoon, drums, saxophone, trombone, or guitar – bass, acoustical, or electric?

Does it really matter?

When we are engaged in holy praise – a heart-felt release of thanksgiving and joy offered to God for being who He is – the instruments which may accompany our praise become inconsequential.

The angels glorified God and sang about His blessing of peace.  I doubt it every occurred to them to ask the shepherds how they liked their music.

When we focus on what’s important – God, His redemptive work, the coming of Jesus our Savior, and the blessings of His grace – the unimportant things become less important.

Glory to God!!!  The angels praised Him because He had brought to us our salvation in the birth of Jesus, Immanuel, Christ the Lord.

On earth peace!!!  Finally, sacred peace had come to a human, sinful, and contentious people (Micah 5:4-5a).

To men on whom His favor rests!!!  There is no better news than to know that the favor of God rests upon you and your life.  Knowing that God is for us so nothing can be against us (Romans 8:31) gives us peace even in the midst of turmoil (Psalm 46).

With Good News such as this, offering holy praise should be easy, regardless of the beat, tempo, volume, or the source of sacred accompaniment.

If your offering of holy praise is hampered by the incidental, then you missed the Good News!

Tomorrow night we will sing and sing and sing in worship.  There can never be too much holy praise.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.

Prayer: Heavenly King thank you for sending Jesus to be my salvation, to be my peace.  Help me to offer to you holy praise during this sacred time.  Amen.

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The Good News

Luke 2:9-12

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”   (NIV)

 

 

This is it!

 

These are the words of Christmas!

 

This is the reason for the season!

 

This is the Headline News for everyday!

 

Today 

in the city of David 

a Savior 

has been born to you, he is 

Christ the Lord!

 

Did you read the words, born to you?

 

God sent Jesus because he loves You!

 

When I read this news it gives me goose bumps.  It reminds me of when one of the Digger twins said she loved me in the 7th Grade.  My heart melted.  I love watching middle school kids who are in love.  Their whole lives are changed in an instant, even if just for a few days.

 

That’s the difference between God’s love for you and one of the Digger twins for me.

 

His love is eternal!

 

His love is pure!

 

He will not forsake me for another!

 

He will not abandon me to my foolishness!

 

This is why I love this holy season.

 

I am reminded of His great love for us.

 

News like this makes me wants to sing.  

 

Prayer  Lord God, melt my heart with the news of your love for me.  Amen.

 

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Joe the Shepherd

Luke 2:8

 “There were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.”  (NIV)

 

 

Joe the Plumber was the folk hero of the 2008 Presidential Campaign.  He was a down-to-earth hardworking Ohio plumber who wanted to make-it on his own without a bathtub of new taxes.

 

I liked Joe the Plumber for the simple reason he was a small business owner.  My Dad ran his own business.  He worked hard, took risks, and eventually made a good go at it, but it wasn’t easy.

 

Shepherds did not have an easy job.  The worked long days and nights for little pay.  They were ordinary Joe’s wanting to make a living.  

 

All the people in Luke’s birth narrative are ordinary Joe’s.  God used them do accomplish His work.  Jesus spent most of his time with ordinary Joe’s.

 

Too many Christians act as if God only works through holier-than-thou folk.  God avoids these types.  Jesus did not enjoy hanging out with them.  The church would be better off if it had more ordinary Joe’s and fewer sanctimonious Sam’s.    

 

God works through ordinary Joe’s and Jane’s, down-to-earth types, because it is easier for them to get on their knees.  

 

Every once in a while I will get on my high horse and head off for a grand ride, but at the end of the day, I realize that my ride did nothing to honor God, to serve Him, or to worship Him.  When I am on a ego kick, I dishonor God.

 

God could have sent an angel to the religious elite to tell them His great news of Jesus’ birth, but He didn’t.  God uses people who know how to bend their knees.  

 

I am confidant that the shepherds did not have problems bowing at the manger.  Ordinary Joe’s are always humbled when in the presence of God.

 

Prayer:  Lord God, bend my heart and bend my knees in service and worship to You during this holy season.  Amen.

 

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In God’s Time

 Luke 2:6-7

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  (NIV)

My friend Bill was a planner.  When Hospice told him on Saturday that his wife, Susie, would die soon, he set the date for her funeral for the following Saturday.  He reserved the church, called his friends, and placed an order with the caterer.

Despite his urging that the time had come for her to let go and to enjoy God’s peace, she didn’t, at least for a few days.  On Thursday, while his wife was enjoying a short-term rally he told me to reschedule her funeral for the following week.

Bill forgot that he lived in 3 different time zones – his, the world’s, and God’s.  Most of us do the same.

Luke was a precise author.  He tells us everything we need to know.  In this matter, all we need to know about the birth of Jesus is that Jesus was born when the time came Not when it was best for Mary and Joseph, Herod, the Shepherds, the Wise Men, you, and me.

We often forget that all matters are in God’s hands, under His watch.  We frequently forget about the third time zone in which we live, God’s time.

I am frequently asked, “When will … ?”

I simply respond, “In God’s time!”

Wouldn’t it had been easier for Jesus to have born when Mary was back home in Nazareth or when there was a room available in the inn?

One of the hardest acts of faith is to accept God’s timing, His kairos, as opposed to our chronos.

Is your life schedule overwhelming because you refuse to live in God’s time?  Do you not realize that most of things on your To Do list are not on God’s.

His timing is perfect … There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.

Prayer:  Lord God, keeper of all time, I am desperate for rest and peace.  Please help me to let go, to yield, to submit to your time and your agenda during these holy days.

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God Works through the World’s Hardships

Luke 2:1-5

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

 

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.   He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. (NIV)

 

It was the worst time in my life … 

I was broke … 

I was out of a job … 

I was put into detox by my family … 

I was in a strange country with no friends … 

I was in chemo and …

I was depressed …

I was alone …  

… It was then that God …

 

Mary was 9 months pregnant.  She knew her baby was special.  I am certain she prayed for a safe and easy delivery.  Now this, she and David had to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a dangerous 70 mile journey through the mountains at this critical time in her life. 

 

Mary had to be anxious as she prepared for this journey so close to her due date.  She had to wonder, “Why now Lord?”  It would be an arduous journey fraught with risks and dangers.

 

Frequently, I ask God, “Why now?  Why this?  Why him?  Isn’t there a better way?” when I can only see hardship and hear silence.  Then in the midst of the struggle, after the siege has gone further than I expected, when my rope is about to snap, I finally see the hand of God..

 

While I do not understand the ways of the Lord, I have learned that He is at work during the difficult and pressing times of life.  I have come to expect God to work through the most challenging circumstances and events of my life, even through those I cannot fathom He would permit.

 

A good friend said to me the other day, “We are treading water!”  When he slipped below the water, God through His mysterious grace lifted him up.  As he told me the story tears streamed down his face because he knew God was at work in the difficulties of his life.

 

Prayer:  Lord, during times of anxiety and hardship, draw me close to you.  Let me see your hand at work whether I am traveling through fog or over a raging sea.  Amen.

 

 

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