Monday, December 31, 2012

Do not faint or fear...

  Let not your heart faint, and be not fearful
  at the report heard in the land,
 when a report comes in one year
  and afterward a report in another year,
 and violence is in the land,
  and ruler is against ruler.
(Jeremiah 51:46 ESV)
As we sit at the end of another year, and looking forward to another, unknowing, we are not to faint in despair or fear with terror.  Jeremiah wrote at one of the lowest points in the more and political history of Israel, yet he had hope.  So should we.  Tomorrow is another day, another year, lived before the Lord, who is sovereign.  We have hope, we have life, in Him.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Ultimate Messenger

 Of the angels he says,
  “He makes his angels winds,
  and his ministers a flame of fire.”
  But of the Son he says,
  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
  the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
 therefore God, your God, has anointed you
  with the oil of gladness beyond your companions
(Hebrews 1:7-9 ESV)
God has sent us messages for centuries through His prophets and angels - truths we needed to guide us.  But His greatest Messenger is His Son.  He is also the greatest Message - revealing to us most fully the character and plan of God.  The Babe in the manger is the Christ of eternity and Lord of History.  May we respond to Him appropriately.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bow down for your rights...

 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:9-13 ESV)
As a nation built on "justice for all," we have become consumed with our "rights."  One right we should insist on is becoming a child of God.  But this "right" is not obtained by demanding that we receive it, but by humbly receiving The Light, the Word, Jesus Christ as the Savior we need. We receive the right to be heirs of heaven when we bow before the One who made the world and came to the word, and believe in Him as the one who made us all and indeed owns us all. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

He was there all the time...

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV)
Many of us who are old enough know the song "He was There All the Time," which reminds us that whatever struggles come into our lives, the Lord is always there, even when we are oblivious to it.  That is consistent with the fact that Christ has been there all the time. We did not have to wait for Him to come to earth and then grow up; He has always been.  But there is something of total importance that He has now come into the world - His light shines on our darkness.  His salvation has been revealed.  We have the golden opportunity to receive Him and be received into God's family.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Can you hear the familiar sound???

 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. (Exodus 23:20-21 ESV)
As God promised to Moses and Israel His ongoing presence as He led them toward the promised land, He spoke of His Angel, One whom they should obey, One Who had within Him the very name of God.  Fast forward a few thousand years to a group of people gathered to hear John the Baptist, and as One comes up out of the water, a Voice from heaven says: "This is My beloved Son; hear Him."  And so the writer of Hebrews concludes: "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

He shows up again...

 Now the angel of the LORD had commanded Gad to say to David that David should go up and raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. (1 Chronicles 21:18 ESV)
The Angel of the Lord keeps showing up at critical events in the history of the relationship of God and man - the call to Abraham, the burning bush with Moses, and the call to build the temple.  God wants a relationship with us, so it is so relevant that the Son appears to call for that special relationship at these key historical events, to show us how important they are.  If God cares that much to send His Son, should we not respond enthusiastically to Him?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

All appropriate responses...

 And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:18-20 ESV)
The people wondered; Mary treasured and pondered; the shepherds glorified and praised God.  All are valid responses to Christ coming to us and for us.  Let's take time to do them all today.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Lord will provide...

 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:11-14 ESV)
Throughout the Bible we have this thread of hope of a coming deliverer - that God will provide, in His own special way, the Savior we need.  On some occasions He does so through prophets, on others, through angels, and, at critical moments through the Angel of the Lord.  The promised One Himself is the one to say: "I will provide the salvation you need." How marvelous indeed is the plan of God!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Remembering where we came from...

This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. (Genesis 5:1-2 ESV)
Christmas and the cross make no sense unless we start here: that God created us in His image, for His glory, and chose to bless us with this special privilege of relationship with Him.  As we create Christmas memories this year, let's not forget where we came from - from the one Who made us, loves us, and sent His Son for us.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Hope even in heartbreak...

And Adam knew his wife again, and she bore a son and called his name Seth, for she said, “God has appointed for me another offspring instead of Abel, for Cain killed him.” To Seth also a son was born, and he called his name Enosh. At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD.(Genesis 4:25-26 ESV)
Adam had experienced the crushing curses of caving in to sin. He and Eve had grieved the death of Abel and the exodus of Cain into a culture of darkness.  Hope of the promised seed was apparently lost. Then God gave them Seth, and hope returned. Not only the hope of godly line, but hope because they now called upon the name of the Lord, our true hope, even in the midst of terrible heartbreak.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Defeating Death...

 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV)
The big killer in the Fall was death.  As a result of sin, death put a shadow over all of creation, especially mankind.  Rather than claim to have a bum rap, our response is to admit that we are sinners by nature AND by choice, and would have done the same as Adam.  This is not fatalism, but the first step in realizing that we need the New Adam, Christ, to defeat death for us, to deal with our sin, and give us new life.  I Corinthians 15 is a celebration of that fact.  Rejoice!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Man

For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. I Corinthians 15:21-23
Paul goes to great pains on a few occasions to remind us that Christ became a man.  In order to be our perfect substitute, He came to experience all that we do, including temptation, troubling people and glue stuck to His sandals - in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  This qualified Him to "undo" what Adam had done, what we all have done.  He is our best, only and glorious hope!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Fullness of time...

 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Galatians 4:4-7 ESV).
Some people are never happy.  Okay, most people are never happy.  To be sure, those who longed for the Messiah's coming in the age of B.C. must have wondered why Messiah did not come in THEIR Day.  But in our day, we use the same excuse - "I'll believe it when I see it." In other words, Jesus should have waited to come now, not 2000+ years ago.  But much to our personal shock and amazement, the world does not spin around me and my clock, but the fulness of time, the right time, HIS time.  And He knows best.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Read to the end...

 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.  (Romans 5:12-14 ESV)
The first two verses of this paragraph can get quite depressing - sin and death affect us all, from Adam on.  But keep on reading.  Adam was the type, a picture, of One to come.  The hope has been alive since death entered the world.  Salvation has been on the horizon since sin grabbed our hearts.  He who was to come has come.  His story is not only history, but hope.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Battle

  I will put enmity between you and the woman,
  and between your offspring and her offspring;
 he shall bruise your head,
  and you shall bruise his heel.”
(Genesis 3:15 ESV)
After the Fall the effects were devastating: exile from the garden; stuggle in marriage; thorns in the ground; hostility in the world, and... death.  But even in the curses God points out, we find love and hope.  It's found in The Seed, the offspring - Someone in human history who will come and win the battle we have lost - the battle with sin and Satan.  If those from Adam forward could look forward in hope, can not we, who have the privilege of hindsight, have even greater hope because Christ has come? He has won the victory.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Seeing the hand of God

 But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. (Genesis 50:19-20 ESV)
When their father Jacob had died, Joseph's brothers were afraid that Joseph would no longer be nice to them - that he would finally take revenge on them for how they had treated him as a young man.  But Joseph had moved so far beyond that - he could see God's plan - to keep their line alive - not just for the present, but for the future God had for them.  He knew God had something, Someone in the future, to come through their people. He saw the whole series of events - the joy and the sorrow, as part of the big picture.  We need help seeing that at times, especially in the midst of sorrow. God means it for good.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Lion of Judah...

  “Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
  your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
  your father's sons shall bow down before you.
 Judah is a lion's cub;
  from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
 He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
  and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
  nor the ruler's staff from between his feet,
 until tribute comes to him;
  and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
(Genesis 49:8-10 ESV)
Joseph knew what it was like to have his father's sons bow down before him.  But at great as he had become in the land of Egypt, and had been a blessing by his position to many peoples, he knew that there would be another in the line of his family's seed to come who would have his people and all people bow before him as King.  As great as Joseph had risen among men, there was One to come who would be above all kings and men - the Messiah, the Lion of Judah.

Friday, December 14, 2012

When Repetition is Not Redundant...

 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:11-12 ESV)
On several occasions God repeated His promise of blessing on the Patriarchal family - that they would be a great nation, with great kings, in a great land, with a great future. And especially that they would be blessed to be a blessing to others - that their "seed" would be the one of blessing.  We cannot hear that too much.  And we need to be reminded that we are not blessed because we are so wonderful, but because He is God Almighty and has chosen to bless us.  The privilege of being included in His plan.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

He got it!

 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”(Genesis 22:15-18 ESV)
When Abraham followed God's command to take Isaac, his long-awaited son, out to sacrifice, he demonstrated his full faith and obedience to God.  To God, this was huge, in large part because what Abraham had done was express his understanding of the heart of God - a loving Father willing to give His only Son, and the faith to believe that a good, sovereign God will make it all work out. He has the plan, and His plan is best and will come to pass.  It's all a part of the great big picture.  May we have such faith and know God so well that we do the same.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

It's you and Me...

 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
(Genesis 17:4-8 ESV)
God's promises are very personal.  Here He tells Abraham that they have a covenant. He is making it; He will be Abraham's descendents' God.  So it is with all the people involved in the Incarnation story: He made announcements to Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, and the shepherds and said: you will be the one entrusted to carry My Son; you will be the main man in His earthly life; you will be the one to lead the one to be the forerunner; you will be my witnesses of this great event.  And He will be our God, watching over every detail and event of our story as we are a part of His great story.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Blessed are those who believe...

 And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6 ESV)
Throughout God's story of love for us, He is always seeking two things: for us to believe, and to receive His blessings so we in turn can be a channel of blessing for Him.  Abraham was blessed because he believed; Mary was blessed when she beleived and received God's message through the angel. We too are blessed if we will believe the LORD, and receive His Gift to us.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Blessed to be a blessing...

 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”(Genesis 12:1-3 ESV)
Abram was blessed to be a part of The Story.  So are we.  The story of the sent Savior is one filled with blessing - for those who looked forward to His coming, and those of us who look back.  At times, it seemed impossible for Abra(ha)m to believe; at times we act like it never happened. We forget the blessings we have, in Christ, and we fail to be the blessing He intends us to be, as part of His story.  Let's ask Him who He wants us to bless today.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Out of Egypt

 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”(Matthew 2:13-15 ESV)
Egypt has a history that goes way back with God's people.  For some it was a place of blessing and deliverance; for others it had been a place you wanted to be delivered from.  Moses was the man - the one called to do that deliverance. But he and the other prophets of old saw another son to be called, another who would Himself be delivered from death at a young age, to come and be the Great Deliverer of all times.  God has a plan; it will surely come to pass.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

It's all Him

  Surely he has borne our griefs
  and carried our sorrows;
 yet we esteemed him stricken,
  smitten by God, and afflicted.
 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
  he was crushed for our iniquities;
 upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
  and with his wounds we are healed.
 All we like sheep have gone astray;
  we have turned—every one—to his own way;
 and the LORD has laid on him
  the iniquity of us all.
(Isaiah 53:4-6 ESV)
As he looked forward to the promised Messiah, Isaiah was overcome with one thing: It's all Him.  He did it all, for us.  All our sin on Him. He took the initiative.  HE paid the price. His the focal point of history, because of what He did for you an me.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Cold face

  He was despised and rejected by men;
  a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
 and as one from whom men hide their faces
  he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
(Isaiah 53:3 ESV)
Often we refer to people "giving us the cold shoulder" - ignoring us on purpose.  The treatment of Christ when He came (and as He is revealed to us) is much stronger - We turn our faces and our hearts from Him - the ultimate rejection, a total lack of the respect and reverence and rejoicing He deserves.  The prophets had announced: He is coming, but when He did, everyone turned their faces and hid.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Who believes the prophets???

  Who has believed what he has heard from us?
  And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
  and like a root out of dry ground;
 he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
  and no beauty that we should desire him.
(Isaiah 53:1-2 ESV)
Who can see what God is doing?  For centuries the Lord was showing and telling through His prophets about the One to come.  He has been revealing Himself through His word. And now, as Hebrews tells us, and Isaiah tells us here, He has revealed Himself through the young plant, the Root, the Son.  Since He set aside all the showiness of His glory (Philippians 2) it is not outwardly obvious just to look at Him.  It is in His words, His actions, His authority and compassion, that we find His revelation. Who has believed? 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

When Little is Big

   But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
  who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
 from you shall come forth for me
  one who is to be ruler in Israel,
 whose coming forth is from of old,
  from ancient days.
 Therefore he shall give them up until the time
  when she who is in labor has given birth;
 then the rest of his brothers shall return
  to the people of Israel.
 And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD,
  in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.
 And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great
  to the ends of the earth.
(Micah 5:2-4 ESV)
This prophecy of little Bethlehem by one of the "little" prophets about a little boy to be born is Big.  It is Big for so many reasons.  Where else would we expect, the Messiah, the seed of David to come from?  This baby is from the "Ancient of Days" - the Eternal One.  He is at the same time a helpless infant and Almighty God.  And these "minor" prophets are in no way to be minimalized.  They saw and told us major truths.  Just consider Micah 6:8.  This is BIG. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Passion of the Promised One

  There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
  and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,
  the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
  the Spirit of counsel and might,
  the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.
 He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
  or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
(Isaiah 11:1-3 ESV)
Jesus is so many things.  He has lived up to all the hype of the Old Testament prophecies about Who He would be.  His passion for Truth, Justice and Wisdom pervades everything He is and does. What a contrast to any other person in history. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Prophet... The Prophet

 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—(Deuteronomy 18:15 ESV)
As Moses was giving the people of Israel their marching orders for living in the promised land, he was able to see beyond himself to another Prophet - One they should really listen to, far better than they had listened to him.  Moses saw himself in light of the bigger picture, where someone else is the focus of human history.  If Moses was able to do that from his point in history, how much more we should as we look back at the Christ who came, of whom God the Father testified: "This is my beloved Son; hear Him." 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Coming of the Wonder Worker

  Strengthen the weak hands,
  and make firm the feeble knees.
 Say to those who have an anxious heart,
  “Be strong; fear not!
 Behold, your God
  will come with vengeance,
 with the recompense of God.
  He will come and save you.”
  Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
  and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
 then shall the lame man leap like a deer,
  and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.
 For waters break forth in the wilderness,
  and streams in the desert;
(Isaiah 35:3-6 ESV)
With the coming of the Christ we celebrate the Great Physician, who heals every hurt and heart given to Him.  The Jesus did this in His ministry on earth is obvious; what be comes so obscure to us in day to day living is that He still does so today. May we joyfully meet with Him today.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Murderous opposition...

  Thus says the LORD:
 “A voice is heard in Ramah,
  lamentation and bitter weeping.
 Rachel is weeping for her children;
  she refuses to be comforted for her children,
  because they are no more.”
(Jeremiah 31:15 ESV)
In almost all of the prophesies of the coming Messiah we have a mixed bag: our Deliverer is coming, but He will be opposed.  Whether it is descriptions of the end of His days on earth, with the Passion, or His entry into the world, like here, Satan does not want the Lord's plan to succeed, and will work to stop it at every point, at any cost.  Such evil and opposition still exists in the world today, as does such a low value of life.  Yet, our Redeemer has come, and lives, and is coming again to give life eternal.