Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Coming of the Worthy Ruler...

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:1-6 ESV) Matthew leaves out many of the details that Luke does of the Nativity. One thing he wants to make very clear is that this baby is the King, the Messiah, the One all had been waiting for. It was something very much in the back of everyone's mind. That's the problem - so many had been looking for a temporal deliverer, and forgetting what we needed was the King to Come and rule in our hearts and lives. Welcome, King Jesus, we need You!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Christmas: Worth waiting for...

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:36-38 ESV) Anna had waited for years for this day. Rather than complain "What took you so long???" she instead gave thanks to God. What is our post-Christmas attitude? Likely it is similar to what it was before Christmas. If we were looking in hopeful anticipation, we will be thankful, knowing that Christ has come. But if we have been wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness, we will continue with our complaining, missing out on God's best. So, what's it gonna be?

Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas: Can I have a witness here???

Luke 2:22-35 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles,and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed and a sword will pierce through your own soul also, so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” As Luke follows up the initial impact of Christ's coming, he shares objective facts about what happened. Rather than march into Jerusalem proclaiming that their baby was "special", Mary and Joseph went about their parental responsibilities as they were expected to. God did the speaking, through his servant. The message was clear: "He is the one we have all been waiting for." May we hear God speak to our hearts, and let Him use us to tell others too.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Suspect identified...

Luke 2:21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. As we read Luke's account, it becomes obvious that what we are doing is reading a report of facts, and the facts are important. His name is Jesus. When we read in conjunction with the other Gospel accounts, our minds race to what Matthew reminds us of: "You will call His name Jesus, for He will deliver His people from their sins." So this event does much to identify Who Jesus is: He is the Messiah Who came to identify with His people, the Jews, to provide salvation and deliverance. At this point, everything has gone according to God's plan. Still today, Jesus is the Name we can call upon and identify as the One who delivers us.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pondering Christmas...

Luke 2:19-20 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. As we sit here early in the morning, waiting for the noise to begin, what better time to do the Mary thing - meditate on what it all means that Christ has come. May we all find time today to do that. And may we also do the opposite - having seen and heard that the Son of God has come, may we praise and glorify God loudly for all to hear. May there be no doubt that His coming has made a difference in me.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas - a time to scoot, see and say...

Luke 2:15-18 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. 
The response of the shepherds was immediate and appropriate.  They did not make excuses like "Who's gonna take care of the sheep?" or, later on "We've got to get right back to the sheep." They took the time to go and see for themselves, then share with others what they had heard and seen.  They carried out their part in God's plan.  That's what He wants for us as well.  He wants us to come to see for ourselves Who Christ is and why He has come, then He wants us to share with others we meet what has happened.  May we be as responsive as the shepherds.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas: High Impact advertising...

Luke 2:13-14  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest,and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” 
Except for the Super Bowl, there is no greater push to get peoples' attention in a brief moment, than at Christmas.  Though the final product is greatly misplaced in its emphasis, the example is found in the first Christmas story.  The MULTITUDE (like at the feeding of the 5000...) - no small choir of angelic voices - were getting the attention of this group with a brief message: The Great God is doing the Greatest thing ever!  He is pleased to announce the sending of His peace.  This is no pushing of a product we do not really need; it is a joyful press release of pending release from sin and death.  Let's sit up and pay attention to advertising of what really matters!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Shepherds Shaken and Shown a Sign

Luke 2:8-12 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 
As we stop the paragraph at verse 7, we are left with a sense of peace and calm, with "Silent Night" playing in the background.  But lest we be lulled to spiritual sleep, this Child came to awaken us - to boldly proclaim with neon lights and loud noises that this this Savior we need.  And just in case we miss the memo, there is a sign - a confirmation - which indeed is what these gospel accounts really are - that we can be certain (Luke 1:1) that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the World we all need. May we be shaken  and certain this Christmas.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simplicity Speaks...

 And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7 ESV)
What is it that makes the "Christmas Story" so "romantic", if you will?  Is it not the simplicity of what is the most important event in human history? God becomes man.  That moment took place with very little fanfare on earth - in obscurity, barely noticed. Without the context leading up to this birth, it would seem like just another birth, only a little less important or impressive.  God speaks plainly and simply to the need of all humanity.  He loved us enough to send His Son to us, born in humble surroundings.  He walked on earth in humble service, with simple speech.  All to accomplish the greatest feat of all time - to conquer sin and death in our stead.  So simple, so profound.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas: Joyful inconveniences...

Luke 2:1-5 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 
When we consider what a struggle this event was for Mary and Joseph - traveling while with child, it would have been very difficult in that time.  But then when we look at the big picture, and the fact that what happens later in this chapter with the manger scene is the most depicted event in human history(in competition only with the Cross), then the inconveniences seem well worth every effort.  So may our time this advent be - the lines, the crowds, the "I'm sorry but we're sold out..." - every little irritation must be kept in light of the big picture - we are building up to the coming of Christ, and I should not let anything take away the joy of that meeting!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Advent: getting on the path of peace...

 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
  for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
 to give knowledge of salvation to his people
  in the forgiveness of their sins,
 because of the tender mercy of our God,
  whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
  to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

(Luke 1:76-79 ESV)
Having done first things first after his months of silence, and focusing on Christ, Zachariah then turns to his newborn son and rejoices in what he is being called to do: to get people back on the path.  His job is to proclaim the mercy and forgiveness of God which is found in Christ, so that, when the Light shines, we will not reject Him, but allow Him to shine on our path, and to follow Him.  He is the way, the path to true peace.  Once on the path, we too need to repeat the same message of hope to others.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Advent: at time to shut up, step back, see and serve

Luke 1:68-75 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies,might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 
Zacharias has just had his tongue loosed after being kept silent while awaiting his son's birth.  You would think the first words out of his mouth would relate to his son.  Instead, this time of silence has given him the ability to step back and see the bigger picture - it's all about the coming of Christ. God is coming for a visit.  He is coming to deliver.  What should our response to God be in light of His coming? to serve Him all our days.  May we shut up, step back and see chat Christ's coming is all about, and then let us go and to serve Him joyfully with a life a holiness that He deserves.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas: A time of wonder... and of throwing names around...

 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.” And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.” And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called. And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. (Luke 1:59-66 ESV)
Luke lays out a number of themes, two of which are wonder and names.  Here the people wonder what the experiences of Zacharias and his family mean for everyone else. Mary is wondering what her son will be like. The shepherds will wonder, as well as all those people who hear their message. Anna and Simeon will wonder.  Maybe we should wonder too?  And then there are the names.  Not only all the names used to describe the Messiah, Jesus Christ, but also John. Do you know what it means? Do we take the time to weigh the importance and meaning of all these names of Christ?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The ripple effect of Christmas...

 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. (Luke 1:57-58 ESV)
Luke does not want us to miss any important details.  Though the focus is to be on Christ, and the inner circle around Him involved Mary and Joseph, there were many others key to the event who were also blessed by His coming.  Such was Elizabeth.  Having been considered beyond the age to have a child, she had lived a life of disappointment, but with the privilege of having a son, and a very special son in God's plan, she was one of many caught up in the ripple effect of Christmas.  So are we. Because Christ has come, the blessings of Christmas have come to us, and to all we share Christ with.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Song for every Christmas...

 And Mary said,
 “My soul magnifies the Lord,
  and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
  For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
  and holy is his name.
 And his mercy is for those who fear him
  from generation to generation.
 He has shown strength with his arm;
  he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
  and exalted those of humble estate;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
  and the rich he has sent away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
  in remembrance of his mercy,
 as he spoke to our fathers,
  to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

(Luke 1:46-55 ESV)
Mary, contemplating her opportunity to carry the Messiah, counts her blessings and gives a song of praise.  Though not necessarily sung by her, I like to think of life as a musical we could sing.  And though no one else will have her exact experience, celebrating Christ's advent is something we all can and should do.  It is "from generation to generation", because we all can experience the blessings of His presence - He is the same merciful, Holy, helping God today that He was to Mary.  So, let us sing His praises; let us magnify the Lord and rejoice!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Christmas - a time of double blessing!

 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:39-45 ESV)
When Mary comes to visit Elizabeth, she and her unborn son, John, are overwhelmed with Joy in the presence of the Messiah.  But she is also filled with joy for Mary; she is excited to see her faith and obedience, and the blessing she is receiving.  The last sentence indeed applies to both of these women - they are getting to see God at work in their lives, and they are joyful for one another.  How about us? Are we joyful for others at this time? Are we filled with joy because we see others growing in their faith and being blessed by God? May we joyful not just because "unto us a Son is born", but also because He has come for others and is making a difference in their lives. It's a joy to behold!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent: Time to Straighten Up!

Mark 1:1-3 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet,“Behold, I send my messenger before your face,who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:‘Prepare the way of the Lord,make his paths straight,’” 
I like Mark's version of the "Christmas Story." He gets right to the point.  Christ is coming; get ready!   As with other places in both Old and New Testaments, there is recognition of a forerunner to help us prepare. But his (John the Baptist') responsibility is to proclaim.  Our responsibility is to prepare, to straighten up and be ready.  Are we actively engaged in getting ready to meet Christ, as He comes to get in our face?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Being more than a Good Boy at Christmas...

Matthew 1:18-25 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,and they shall call his name Immanuel”which means, God with us. 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. 
Joseph is described by Matthew in glowing terms - he is just and thoughtful of his wife to be - he was an honest man you could trust - like good ole Charlie Brown.  But He was much more - He was a man who knew how to listen to God and a man of courage who did the right thing.  He was a man who obeyed God in the details.  God is not looking at "naughty or nice."  He is looking even deeper. Christmas is a time to see how we will respond to God and the challenges He sends our way: will we trust and obey Him? Will we demonstrate a care for others?  Will we live our lives to please Him?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas - what God can do

Luke 1:34-38 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
In our contemporary celebration of Christmas, we have come to expect something miraculous to happen - to receive that coveted possession, to find the love of our lives, to be healed of some chronic disease.  We live in hopeful expectation.  Though the things we hope for are not necessarily the right things, there is a reason for that - an annual, cyclical pattern, because when Christ came the miracle of miracles did happen: a virgin conceived, the power of God came down, the Son of God was born. And He brings with Him the possibility - especially the possibility of a renewed relationship with God that we all need and deeply desire, whether we admit it or not.  Christmas, Advent, the coming of Christ is all about what God can do.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Coming King of Eternity...

Luke 1:26-33 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 
Stories within stories.  That's what we see in Luke.  In the midst of the story about Zacharias and Elizabeth, Luke gives us one of those "Meanwhile, back in Nazareth..." accounts.  God is speaking not only to priests, but to young women, revealing His plan.  The plan is for the King to come - not a king from Israel, but a King TO Israel, and to the world.  He is the King from eternity past, and of His kingdom there will be no end!  That is a big story to wrap our minds around.  May we not skip or skim over the story of the King, THE story of history.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Advent: Time to Turn things around...

 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” And the people were waiting for Zechariah, and they were wondering at his delay in the temple. And when he came out, he was unable to speak to them, and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple. And he kept making signs to them and remained mute. And when his time of service was ended, he went to his home. 
(Luke 1:5-23 ESV)
Christmas is not a short story.  In our fast-food age we try to make it one, but the Incarnation demands full explanation.  In short, this passage is saying: "Its time to turn things around here." Christ was about to come. God was sending ahead his servant to prepare the way.  He will be filled with the Spirit to turn people back toward looking for God at work.  That's what we need today: some turning around, with people (us!) repenting, allowing the Spirit to control, and looking for what God wants to do through us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Coming King of Adoption

 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. (Matthew 1:12-16 ESV)
Having hit the bottom during the exile, one would wonder of there was any hope at all for a coming King for Israel.  But God keeps the hope alive, as Matthew traces the kingly line forward to Joseph, son of another Jacob, who would be the "adoptive" father of Jesus, the Christ.  How appropriate for a Father in heaven Who would offer to adopt all those who trust in His Son.  As always, He will not leave us fatherless(Psalm 68:5). without hope, or without a True King in Whom we can trust.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Coming King of Hope

Matthew 1:7-11 and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 
As Matthew continues with his selective genealogy, he takes us from the summit of King Solomon down the slope though very imperfect kings to "Jechoniah and his brothers," which brought them to rock bottom - the Exile into Babylon.  What could keep these people looking forward with any sense of hope?  The Coming King.  What can keep us looking forward through the ups and downs of life and our own failures?  The Coming King of Hope.  May this Advent restore in us the Hope that only Christ can bring.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Coming King of Faith

 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Amminadab, and Amminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king.
 And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, 
(Matthew 1:1-6 ESV)
Jesus Christ is different. As Matthew points out for us here, His human heritage is important.  He is in the line of the father of faith, Abraham.  But equally important to Matthew and to us is that He is in the line of David.  David was by no means perfect, as is alluded to her by Matthew's note that David had Solomon through Bathsheba.  But like David, Jesus Christ was God's chosen and anointed one - a King. When we are "waiting" for Christmas, it is not just the anticipation of a baby to be born, but the arrival of the King to whom we owe our allegiance and our trust.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Are we ready to be wowed???

 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:14-18 ESV)
During our cultural celebration of Christmas, there will be many things that seek to "wow" us - to catch our eyes and our hearts and make us think "this is a great Christmas!" - The lights, the movies, the gadgets on sale. But there is only One Who truly wows. John tells us to look at Him: the Eternal Word who has come down in as much of Hi,s glory as we can stand; the One above all others, Who humbled Himself to become a man; the One in Whom we have the grace of God revealed which should really take our breath away.  Let nothing us wow us like Him.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Certainty...

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught. (Luke 1:1-4 ESV)
Luke was a thorough investigator and historian.  He knew the importance of facts, even during a highly emotional time like Christmas.  It is so easy for us to just ride the tide of feelings this time of year.  Those emotions are fine, unless they have no factual foundation.   That foundation is the incarnation of Christ - that He has come and carried out God's plan for our salvation.  That is something to "feel good" about for sure - something worth making a be celebration about.  But let's make sure we celebrate with our hearts and heads too-knowing we are celebrating the truth.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Advent: a time of opportunity...

 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 1:10-13 ESV)
As John continues to give us the Big Picture of Christmas, as not just a day, but a full-fledged world-changing event in human history, he now focuses on the "splash" Jesus Christ made upon entry.  He was not well-received - most people viewed Him as an unwanted alien, rather than a long-lost Lord. BUT many saw it as the opportunity of a lifetime, and of eternity. To receive Him gives us everything we could never have otherwise - a new birth, new life, and a restored relationship with the Father.  Besides being an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, and experience the joy of giving to others, may this Advent season be a time of spiritual opportunity that enhances our relationship with our Creator.

Monday, December 2, 2013

True Light

 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world
(John 1:6-9 ESV)
As John helps us see the "bigger picture" of Christmas, he helps us see The Light.  He was there at creation, and has been shining forever - out there. But He was coming.  For many, celebrating Christmas involves many lights - all over the tree, all over the house - everywhere we look.  This may well lead to us missing The Light - the one who made light in the first place.  Instead, this Christmas, let's make sure The Light, Jesus Christ, God the Son, has first place.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Prelude to Advent

 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 people are way ahead in preparing to celebrate Christmas this year.  They began a long time ago, and some, I have heard, have every present bought, wrapped and stowed away.  But Someone began the real preparations for the real story far before that.
If we were to ask "When did the Christmas Story begin?" our minds would immediately flash to appearances of angels and the parts different people played in "the story."  But in these verses John flashes us back farther, to when this world began, and beyond, to the story of the One who made it - The Word, the Son, the Light of the World.  Let's prepare our hearts by first of all looking back to see Him shining as the star of the story.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving - part of what we're destined for

Revelation 7:9-12 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 
The final use of the word "thanksgiving" in the Bible gives us a clue on where we're heading.  We will bow before the Lamb and proclaim, among other things... thanksgiving to our God.  It is right in the middle of these 7 characteristics that pertain to God.  All of the other 6 are things that are an attribute of God, which He choses to share with His people.  The one in the middle is the one that should proceed from us as we respond to Him - Who He is and what He has done.  Let us not leave Thanksgiving behind. Rather, let us continue to practice what we one day will do right - Thankgiving!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thanksgiving changes everything...

1 Timothy 4:1-5 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer. 
Paul warns Timothy, and us, about every form of human religion.  For one from pagan religion, food can be tied into perverted worship; for the legalist it can be something taken in that can defile you.  And for the one who totally ignores God, food is part of a life lived for self.  For one who has a heart of thanksgiving to God, it is received with joy.   Hopefully we all had such a heart yesterday and still today, because our hearts are in tune with God.  Thanksgiving is a heart response to God that changes everything in life.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

What to pray for Thanksgiving

 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:1-6 ESV)
Thanksgiving and prayer, in Paul's mind, are almost always related.  As we celebrate today, may we pray for our leaders and our testimony in this land so the Gospel will flourish.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving: The Right Thing to Do...

II Thessalonians 1: We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers,[a] as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring.
Whereas Paul usually says that he gives thanks to God whenever he is praying and remembers the people he is writing to, here he says "We ought" and that it "is right."  It's just plain the right thing to do.  God is at work, whether we see it all the time or not.  We are blessed, even in times of struggle and suffering.  People are being faithful, just not always in the ways we really want them to be.  God is great; God is Good, and he deserves our thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving ... and yearning... for you...

1 Thessalonians 3:9-10 For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? 
As often is the case with Paul, thanksgiving and prayer go hand in hand.  When he prays, he prays long enough, and intensely enough, to remember with joy those God has placed in his life, and he is thankful.  Yesterday, on my birthday, I had many well-wishes - on Facebook and through cards.  This made me long to share time with people - some across town, some across the country; some whom I saw just the other day, some for whom it has been years.  For each of you, I am thankful, and praying God's blessing on you this Thanksgiving, and during another year of my life.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The honey of thanksgiving...

Colossians 4:2-6 Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. 
Again Paul joins praying and thanksgiving in the same thought - they are inseparable.  When we are thankful believers, and others see it and hear it, they are drawn to watch us and listen to us, and to ask us why. Therefore, we need to be prayerfully prepared to know how to answer them. The honey of thanksgiving attracts them to Christ; we need to be ready to relate our relationship with Christ.  So, like Paul, I ask that you would pray for me to be thankful and ready.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving as evidence of true Christianity...

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. Colossians 2
The Apostle Paul elsewhere refers to a number of qualities as "evidence" of one's true conversion as a follower of Christ.  Here, in the midst of a warning to not be led astray by other false philosophies, traditions and viewpoints.  It's all about Christ - receiving Him as Savior, walking in relationship to Him, establishing our lives upon His, trusting in Him, and then, as if it's the final result having a life that is characterized by thanksgiving. The picture here is that we are not only full to overflowing with thanksgiving, but that it gushes from our lives.  May thanksgiving not only flow out of our lives, as we have received Christ and His continued blessings, but may it "Bounce Out", if you will, so others will see and know that it is "Christ in me."

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Taking the time to get to Thanksgiving.

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant. He is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf and has made known to us your love in the Spirit.  Colossians 1:
Paul had a habit of praying for the believers in whose lives he had invested. Whenever he did, his heart and mind moved into a mode of thanksgiving.  He would think about their faith, love, and hope in Christ, and how God was changing their lives. And often he would think of those saints who were really making a difference.  This all took time, to let his heart and mind go that direction. Thanksgiving is not a quick or automated response.  It requires us taking the time to get there: in prayer and meditation, dwelling on the Grace of God in our lives and the lives of others. It means thinking enough about others to appreciate the blessing God has made them in our lives. Take the time today to get to thanksgiving.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving: Part of the package deal...

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 
Twice in this letter Paul combines prayer and joy with thanksgiving.  We should be thankful that The Lord is near; He hears our prayers and cares about our requests; He gives peace despite our circumstances.  What is there not to be thankful for?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving as Vocabulary Therapy

Ephesians 5: Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Many people need to "clean up their mouths."   Through the course of any given day, we hear all sorts of bad language, extreme sarcasm, proud talking, and just plain crude and rude conversation.  Such should not be the case in the life of a believer.  Of course, God changes us from the inside out, so the lack of thanksgiving, and the presence of such negative speech, is just a symptom of an inner problem, but "correcting" our speech - choosing Thanksgiving over all other forms of speech - can be part of the process of addressing the inner cause.  What is going to come out of your mouth today?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Run-on Thanksgiving...

15 For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love[f] toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1
The Apostle Paul was a master of run-on sentences.  This paragraph is made up of only two sentences.  He seems to have finally had to come up for air to finish the last two lines.  What begins this overflowing of words? His thanksgiving.  Whenever he thought of these believers in prayer, his heart and mind would move to meditating on the Word of God and Spirit of God working in their lives to become more like Christ, Who would then been the focus of His thoughts, and Christ is a endless source of rejoicing and thanksgiving.  Giving thanks is like pulling your thumb out of the dam - it all just gushes out.  Try it. Try just giving God thanks in prayer for someone or something and see the chain reaction it sets off.  Start giving thanks to God for Christ - all He is and all He as done.  It will be more than a mood-changer; it will keep you going. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Thanksgiving of Giving

2 Corinthians 9:10-15 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God upon you. Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! 
Something happens when we get into right relationship with God - We want to Give. That is because He is so gracious and giving. As a result, we become more aware of the needs of others and want to give to that need.  When they ask why, we have an opportunity to share the grace of God in Christ.  They in turn, will have thanksgiving, not only to us, but to God, and we will have thankful hearts that God has been willing and able to use us to be a blessing. There is thanksgiving flowing all over.  Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Thanksgiving Cycle...

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God. II Cor. 4
Paul was a man that poured out his life to spread the Good News of Christ to others.  He believed in Christ exhaustively - without reservation, so He was willing to speak of Him to others.  The result was that more people came to know the grace of God in Christ as he did.  This brought thanksgiving to God, which gave more opportunity to share why the was thankful, which lead to more people coming to faith in Christ, and on the cycle goes.  So let's get the cycle going. Let's give Him thanks!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thanksgiving from the belly of a fish...

When my life was fainting away,
    I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
    into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
    forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
    will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
    Salvation belongs to the Lord!"
Jonah 2
While Jonah was still in the belly of the fish, he was giving thanks to God. Why? Because he had prayed to God and knew that he would be delivered.  We don't have to have already experienced full release from whatever trial we may be in to have a reason to give GOD thanks.   He is the GOD Who saves. He is our only Hope.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Reasons for thanksgiving

Jeremiah 30:18-19 “Thus says the Lord:Behold, I will restore the fortunes of the tents of Jacoband have compassion on his dwellings;the city shall be rebuilt on its mound,and the palace shall stand where it used to be. Out of them shall come songs of thanksgiving,and the voices of those who celebrate.I will multiply them, and they shall not be few;I will make them honored, and they shall not be small. 
Jeremiah was NOT living in fun times, yet he could look beyond the misery of the day to what The Lord can and will do.  He will restore His people out of His compassion; He will rebuild them and give them a cause to rejoice, and He will reproduce them so they will have significance.  It happens when we return to Him.  May He give us causes for rejoicing today!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Go to the One who brings thanksgiving...

Isaiah 51 Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
    you who seek the Lord:
look to the rock from which you were hewn,
    and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
    and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
    that I might bless him and multiply him.
For the Lord comforts Zion;
    he comforts all her waste places
and makes her wilderness like Eden,
    her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the voice of song.

The Psalmist here calls on us to look to the Father of Faith as an example.  He trusted God, even when they were barren and God blessed and comforted him.  If we cannot find a reason for thanks, it says something about our faith or lack thereof.  He is great. He is good. He is our solid Rock.  Go to Him, seek Him, trust Him, and you will find a reason for thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving for outcasts

Psalm 147:7-11 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;make melody to our God on the lyre! He covers the heavens with clouds;he prepares rain for the earth;he makes grass grow on the hills. He gives to the beasts their food,and to the young ravens that cry. His delight is not in the strength of the horse,nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,in those who hope in his steadfast love. 
In the opening stanza of this psalm, the psalmist talks about the outcasts, the brokenhearted, the humble.  These are the ones chosen last during gym class - they have no strength or speed, yet God delights in them, because they fear Him, trust Him, and give Him thanks.  For those of us who find ourselves in this category, we have good reason to thank Him. He provides for us and takes pleasure in us.  As the psalmist goes on, we find God gives us strength and His Word runs speedily through our lives, transforming us. No matter what our lot in life, we have good reason for thanksgiving.  So let's stop making excuses and give Him thanks!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thanking God in the tough times...

Psalm 116:15-19 Precious in the sight of the Lordis the death of his saints. O Lord, I am your servant;I am your servant, the son of your maidservant.You have loosed my bonds. I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the Lord,in your midst, O Jerusalem.Praise the Lord! 
This psalm is a special psalm.  I have preached on it at some special funerals, including those of my parents.  The writer has been involved in some critical, painful, near-death experience, yet he choses to give God thanks. He knows that God is in control, and has demonstrated His grace toward him.  He sees God at work in his life, even and especially in tough times, and gives God thanks. Do we?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thanksgiving for former fools...

17 Some were fools through their sinful ways,
    and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
    and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
    and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
    and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
    for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
    and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!  (Psalm 107)
This psalm begins: "Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!" It then reviews the history of God's people.  Even though we keep messing up, He keeps showing His grace, mercy and love. This is what should elicit our thanksgiving - that despite our consistent and constant failures, God demonstrates His love toward us.  It is not who we are or what we do - it is responding to Him.  In the last verse of the psalm, he leaves us with this to ponder: 43 Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.

Let us consider the steadfast love of the LORD and give Him thanks!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thanksgiving salad... It's good for God's people

Psalm 95: Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.
We are reminded here that as God's people we have double reason to be thankful: first, because God is a great creator; second, because He is a great Deliverer, our Deliverer.  Everything that is, He has made and has willingly shared with us.  Beyond that, He cares for us as a loving shepherd, Who saves us from ourselves and our going astray.  The psalm goes on to call us to correction - for all our failures to be and live thankfully.  We need to have more of this thanksgiving "let us" - thanksgiving and praise, for Who He is and all He has done.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Thanksgiving: Do it for others!

Psalm 69:30-33 I will praise the name of God with a song;I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the Lord more than an oxor a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad;you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the Lord hears the needyand does not despise his own people who are prisoners. 
This is a psalm that begins "Save me, O God," and that in the verse just before these says: "but I am afflicted and in pain."  David is hurting here, big time!  But as He is winding down this prayerful song to God, He says "I will magnify Him with thanksgiving."  And what really lifts him up is the knowledge that his thanksgiving will bring joy and revival to his people.  Our thanksgiving, or lack thereof, is not just about us; it is about God and His people. He is listening and watching, and so are they. What I do and say matters, and it can make a difference in my family, my church, my workplace   and my society.  Let's make a difference. Let's give God the thanks He deserves and lift the hearts of those around us.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Are we using our mouths for thanksgiving?

Psalm 50: 23: “You give your mouth free rein for evil,
    and your tongue frames deceit.
20 You sit and speak against your brother;
    you slander your own mother's son.
21 These things you have done, and I have been silent;
    you thought that I was one like yourself.
But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.

22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God,
    lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver!
23 The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me;
    to one who orders his way rightly
    I will show the salvation of God!”
This last verse is the final one of the Psalm.  It is the bottom line. What we do with our mouths reveals our hearts.  That is what God is looking at. So if out of our mouths come evil and deceit, that is what is inside, and we should expect Him to respond in similar fashion.  If however Thanksgiving is coming out of our mouths, that's because that is what is inside, and that is what He is looking for. Doe He see - and does He HEAR a thankful heart from me? 

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thanksgiving says... "I need you God."

“If I were hungry, I would not tell you,for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bullsor drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble;I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” Psalm 50:12-15
This psalm is written from God's perspective: He as owner and judge of the world does not need us. He owns everything and has all power an authority.  Therefore, He does not need our sacrifices and offerings to feed Him or make Him right with us.  Thanksgiving is about our attitude toward Him.  If we are going to call to Him in the day of trouble, it would be consistent for us to come to Him on a day to day basis with thanksgiving and praise.  We do not just need Him in the day of trouble; we need him EVERY day.  To call on him only in a crisis says: "God, I don't need you most of the time." The truth is, we need Him all of the time, and should be thankful for his consistent, daily blessings.  Have you given Him thanks today???

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Why don't we give thanks more???

Psalm 26:6-7 I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. 
Here is one of those verses that makes me uneasy.  Throughout the Psalm, David is calling out to God for His deliverance, based upon his integrity - he loves worshipping in God's house and does not run with evil men.  Maybe this is why we do not "proclaim thanksgiving aloud" more often - we do not have the integrity David did; we are not free to let loose, lest we look like hypocrites. But rather than refrain from thanksgiving, something we are commanded to do, this should move us to develop our integrity, to sanctify our lives - to give people a reason to believe us when we give thanks to the Lord

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Sought-out Thanksgiving

27 And at the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem they sought the Levites in all their places, to bring them to Jerusalem to celebrate the dedication with gladness, with thanksgivings and with singing, with cymbals, harps, and lyres. 28 And the sons of the singers gathered together from the district surrounding Jerusalem and from the villages of the Netophathites; Nehemiah 12
445 B.C. Want Ad: "Immediate Openings: Levites to return to Jerusalem to lead God's people in Thanksgiving." 
2013 A. D. Want Ad: "Wanted: Believers to arise in the church to lead the way in Thanksgiving - to celebrate with Gladness all that God has done."  We need to be those people, giving thanks to God, rebuilding a sense of trust and security found in Christ, and Christ alone.  Let us give Him thanks!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Thanksgiving: A privileged position...

And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving. Nehemiah 12:8
During the revival of Nehemiah's day, God took time to list many involved, including those who were in charge of the songs of thanksgiving.  It is a place of honor, and it was also one of the marks of that revival. When God's people get right in their relationship with Him, thanksgiving comes out. Is it coming out of us?  Are we experiencing the privilege of thanksgiving?

Monday, November 4, 2013

No Half-hearted Thanksgiving

2 Chronicles 33:16-17 He also restored the altar of the Lord and offered on it sacrifices of peace offerings and of thanksgiving, and he commanded Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. Nevertheless, the people still sacrificed at the high places, but only to the Lord their God. 
During the reign of King Manasseh there was one of several "quasi-revivals."  Some things he did, like restoring sacrifices and offerings, gave the impression that renewal was taking place in the heart of the king and his people.  But rather than putting God first, He was merely a peer among many of the ones to whom the people gave allegiance.  True Thanksgiving is recognizing and demonstrating that God and God alone is the one to whom we are thankful.  It's not just a meal and a prayer - it's a matter of the heart.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Thanksgiving - make it heard!

2 Chronicles 5:11-14 And when the priests came out of the Holy Place for all the priests who were present had consecrated themselves, without regard to their divisions, and all the Levitical singers, Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, their sons and kinsmen, arrayed in fine linen, with cymbals, harps, and lyres, stood east of the altar with 120 priests who were trumpeters; and it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord, and when the song was raised, with trumpets and cymbals and other musical instruments, in praise to the Lord,“For he is good,for his steadfast love endures forever,”the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God. 
I love how God's Word puts this: "it was (their) duty... to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving."  As a kingdom of Priests, it is no less our responsibility to make our thanksgiving heard to the world around us - not in an obnoxious way (I was known as the loudest kid in my mom's children's choir, and it wasn't a good thing...), but in a way that demonstrates the presence of The Lord. People show know how real He is in our lives by the thanksgiving in our lives?  So, let's go out and make it heard!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Thanksgiving: Schedule it in!

1 Chronicles 16:7 Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brothers. 
It would be easy to skip over this verse and go on to the long song of Thanksgiving David had his choir sing. And it is a classic worth reviewing - all the reasons we as God's people have to give thanks.  But I find it important to note that David appointed this - He saw such value in thanksgiving that He made it part of the ongoing program.  If we don't, we'll forget to do it.  And that is the universal forgetfulness of mankind, including, sad to say, believers - we forget to give thanks to Him. Let's stop forgetting; let's schedule it in.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Day 1

Psalm 100:1-5 Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness!Come into his presence with singing! Know that the Lord, he is God!It is he who made us, and we are his;we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving,and his courts with praise!Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the Lord is good;his steadfast love endures forever,and his faithfulness to all generations. 

It's finally over!!! All the buildup to last night to haul in lots of candy, which will be on clearance this morning.  It has already been replaced with the decorations and presents for the next big holiday. But there is a day in between.  Thanksgiving.  We need more thanksgiving.  Let it begin.  Not just for a day, but a month.  Let the thanksgiving begin in my heart, with a song in my heart, because He is God. we are HIS! He is Faithful to us. He loves us forever.  There. We've begun. Let the thanksgiving begin!.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Whatcha gonna pray for today???

Ephesians 6:18-20 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. 
Paul gives us one of those "praying at all times/praying without ceasing" kind of exhortations.  He is wrapping up one of those sections on how to live life - spiritually alert, ready for battle, with our full armor on.  Such a contrast with how we live much of our lives - not alert, unprepared, non-praying.
So the first question is: are you going to be praying today? with perseverance, all kinds of prayers? Then, whatcha gonna pray for?   We need to be praying for ourselves, for one another, and for those who will be presenting the truth of God's Word today.  I'm gonna be praying.  How about you?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Confidence to Come Clean...

 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:19-25 ESV)
Do we have confidence on where we stand with God in Christ?  IF we truly believe in Who He is and what He has done, we will draw near to Him and one another.  We will get close enough for long enough to let the dirt show and have our lives challenged and changed.  How confident are you in Christ?

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

let's start on the inside...

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 
We all want to change the world - especially those of us who hope in Jesus Christ.  The problem is, we often try to do so from the outside in.  Just as change in our own lives happens from the Holy Spirit working within, changing our world begins by changing the "household of God" first.  The world desperately needs His changing touch, not our outward pressing them into a mold.  He has His work cut out for Him with us; but He is more than up to the task.

Monday, August 5, 2013

How close is "not far"?

Mark 12:28-34 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. 
Jesus has a way of leaving you hanging.  When the rich young rule came to him asking how to be saved, Jesus let him answer his way into a corner.  When the Pharisees tried to catch Him in is teaching, He pressed them till they could not answer.  This man seems to sincerely be seeking the kingdom of God, and is on the right track.  But Jesus leaves him "not far" from it.  In a sense He seems to be telling us: "You know the answer; now will you accept it?  The most basic answer is this:   "Love God first."  We struggle to not love me first.  It's the step that makes all the difference in being "not far" and being near the heart of God.

Friday, August 2, 2013

What's a kingdom worth???

 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”
(Matthew 19:24-27 ESV)
Jesus had told His disciples much about the Kingdom of God.  This event is not long after Peter makes his proclamation of belief that Jesus is the Christ.  If that be the case, He is also the King, and we are to be His loyal subjects, undistracted by the pull of so many things around us that beckon our calling.  So, in answer to Peter's question: "What will we have if we follow Christ the King? His kingdom, and all its blessings. 
 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.(Matthew 19:28-29)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Blessed to be in the kingdom of God

Luke 6:20-23 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. 
What really matters?  As Jesus sits down his disciples to talk to them about what is important, the Kingdom of God matters first.  (cf. Mt. 6:33)  We are to seek it, hunger for it, thirst for it, even suffer for it. .  When we do, He promises we will find it, and with it we will find all it has to offer, in this life, and the life to come.  Truly blessed are those who belong to the kingdom of God.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

What about us???

Matthew 19:23-26 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 
The disciples are disturbed.  is this some game of "Seek and Hide", where we are to seek the Kingdom of God, but He makes it hart to find or obtain?   No.  enter God's grace.  It is only by His grace that we are able to find His kingdom.  It is not hidden from view; in fact, His Kingdom was standing before them.  We are the ones who make it difficult; we are the ones who hide from Him.  He keeps His promises.  If we seek Him first... everything else falls in place, and we find ourselves in His kingdom.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Because He's God...

Matthew 6:31-34 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 
There's that little, big word.... "but."  This popular verse, verse 33 is quoted, alluded to, and even sung    over and over again.  It is such a core truth: seek the eternal, the will of God, what is really important, first, and the temporal will fall into place.  That is set in contrast to what we usually do: we worry.  When God rules and reigns in our hearts and lives, when He has His rightful place, we won't worry.