Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Ending Precedes the Beginning

Ah, what is there to talk about this morning but the cold? This is one of those mornings when I dressed up like an arctic explorer just to walk about 12 steps out the back door to feed the cat. I thanked the heater in the garage for doing a good job. I praised God for the furnace and waited for it to warm the house a bit before getting up. It's cold outside! Yet, we are also at the ending of a year. Each year we celebrate the passing of one year and the arrival of the new. I cannot help but think that each of these is much like what happened at the death and resurrection of our Lord.

What seemed to the apostles to be the end, was the beginning of something much better. Jesus told them this, but they could not believe it until the Lord met them again on the other side. The end that seemed so dark, was actually the gateway to a bright and beautiful beginning. Each year, we celebrate the passing darkness of one year and look forward to the start of the new year. Resolutions are made and the journey begins again. Easter celebrations are much the same, and indeed we may see another of those soon. If we wish, we can even begin the countdown to Christmas again. The possibilities of a new year shine as the old one is laid to rest.

One day, Jesus will help us to lay aside this old life, and what a beginning will come from that laying down! In much of the Revelation, a terrible ending is revealed to those who will believe. Then, at the very end of the Bible, we can read of the beginning that follows, and what a great promise for eternity it is!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eye on the Horizon, Face Plant in the Gully

Snow, clouds, pretty much the same as yesterday but colder. Roll out the word eschatology and I'm in. The study of the end times prophecies is one of my things to enjoy often. And the word sounds really impressive too! Too much of this can be a problem though. As my eye settles on the horizon, and my feet start walking there, I can do an ugly face plant in the gully I failed to see in life. Wait, not that my face is ugly, but the violent splat is ugly...oh, too late, I'm doomed to never live that one down.

We may enjoy a good study of the 'last' times. The puzzle is difficult enough that many Christians cannot resist. God gave us plenty to work on with conundrums and clues, flights of metaphor, and some plain - as in it seems perfectly obvious until someone asks some fool question - talk about what is going to happen. Yet, life begins each day right here in the present, and the end times may be far away in the future. Paul, Peter, John, and all the gang from ancient Judea thought the end times right at the door, just as do we this morning. Yet, nearly 2,000 years have passed without that final bang.

Walking with a bedazzled eye toward the horizon brings with it the danger of missing something important today. Sort of like tripping over the curb on a street while staring at the top of a distant mountain. We need to take the time to walk with Jesus in the present between our studying the end times prophecies and watching the signs. People live here in the present, and Jesus wants to save them just as much as the saints of the Great Tribulation.

Have a great today in Christ!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Cat Food & Coffee

Ah, I'm ready to start all that 'new year' stuff, but we are not quite there yet. This year must be finished properly. Each morning, I get up and do two things at about the same time. Feed the cats and put on the coffee. Both of these small tasks take several steps. The skipping of either could cause rebellion in the house. The cats won't do without their coffee, and I cannot stand to start the day without my cat food, or something like that. It is funny to see the cats standing there expecting a caffeine rush only to find out that I make decaf coffee. Little tasks and small responsibilities take up much of our day. Writing up a humorous twist to the chores may help for a bit, but the chores remain. Resist the doing of the dishes and the sink fills up and the kitchen begins to take on an unsavory aroma. Little jobs and little chores seem to be the filling in the barrel of a day.

A year is much the same way, we have all these little things that God has set before us. A person may look to that grand gesture, the big project, or the magnum opus to crown the year. Instead we seem to have this myriad of little tasks to finish the year properly. When Jesus spoke His final words on the cross, "It is finished", did He lay down His life with a great magnum opus of a task? Well, yes, yes He did - and we are greatly rejoicing even today that He paid the penalty for our sin - but He also saw to the things that seemed much smaller. Our Lord stopped on the way to speak to the women of Jerusalem. From the cross, Jesus took the time to see to Mary, His mother, and assign John His place as her son. Jesus made sure all was done properly even to the refusing of the sour wine and gall. He spoke to His Father of forgiveness for those crucifying Him. Every smaller task was fulfilled perfectly before Our Dear Lord gave up His spirit.

On that grand day, whatever my grand day is, I expect that it will begin with cat food and coffee. Small but important tasks to begin the day. Perhaps there are no more grand days left in this life, in which case I will finish with the little tasks. The maintainers of the Lord's kingdom are needed too!

Have a great and wonderful finish to this year in Christ!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Worst? Hardly That!

Bright and cold, the worst combination of conditions came last night when it snowed all day then cleared off late at night. So, we have sun shining over the cold, cold ground. What about that is 'worst'? Many a combination of circumstances and weather can be much worse than what we have now. Indeed things are bad in many ways in the world right now with much suffering and grief. However, we also know that it could be much worse. We can see forces moving in the world as the end times seem right at the door. We can also look out and see much joy, peace, and kindness in the world. True, we may have to look more diligently and without the help of much of our usual media outlets, who, it seems, want to bring us all into a state of constant despair.

Ha, ha, it's warmer outside, technically, but it surely doesn't feel balmy or spring-like. I cleared the truck of snow and looked at the dazzling light for a bit. Of course to let the light of Jesus dazzle our eyes is probably the answer to the darkness of the world. Isaiah said, "​The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined." (9:2) Certainly one glance at the news gives us a view of the land of the shadow of death. Why not look at the light for a while?

Have a great Christmas weekend!

Friday, December 26, 2014

What Did Christmas Bring?

Good morning on this Friday after Christmas. I hope you had a most excellent Christmas this year. What did Christmas bring? While the years since have brought many new traditions that we enjoy today, that first Christmas brought a baby. Once the angelic choirs went home and the shepherds went back to the fields, Joseph still had to make a living for his little family. Mary couldn't avoid the issue of diapers or whatever it is they used for little babies back then. The new parents probably longed for a night's unbroken sleep like new parents do today. The fireworks and wonders of the holy birth were done and the new family faced life in a new town. Plus, there was still that Roman census thing hanging out there. Who knows how long that governmental thing took.

The day after Christmas can be for many a bit of a downer. The excitement and anticipation quickly fades into just another work day, or, if you work in retail, one of the more difficult workdays of the year. The ever increasing joy of Heaven seems so far away on a day when the spirits dip down a bit from the holiday. What we tend to forget is that Christmas was a beginning and not an ending. Jesus had come. The Savior, would grow up to walk the earth! Sometimes, God's beginnings are marked by wonders and emotional fireworks, but then the next day brings what looks like nothing the daily grind. Of course, we shouldn't feel that way!

Imagine Heaven and the great wedding feast of the Lamb. Do you anticipate having a 'next day' where you look at eternity with a feeling of being let down hard? No, that would be ridiculous. The wedding feast is a beginning. Jesus and His bride sealed for eternity. We look forward to ever increasing joy as we spend eternity with our Lord. Christmas too was a beginning, and it is today. We must shake off the sorrows and put on the joys of living in Christ. Have a merry Christmas every day of the year!


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas, Lord!

Yes, it is time to give the Lord our God a hearty "Merry Christmas, Lord!" on His day, or perhaps a "Happy Birthday!" would be more appropriate. Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, we celebrate the birth of Christ, so a birthday greeting does seem to fit the bill. However, this birth was something special. We rightly celebrate Christmas separately from those birthdays close to Christmas. When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he let everyone there know, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) This child had a special birth announcement given to Mary by Gabriel, to Joseph in a dream, to the shepherds abiding in the field, and to some wise men living far away. Yes, Merry Christmas, Lord! We celebrate your birth in this season!

This birth came with a history of prophecy. For hundreds of years a people looked for the coming Messiah. The Savior arrived; stories of miracles spread far and wide. The blind healed, the lame made well, demons routed, and most of all, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Some looked for a king who would live according to their image of how a king should act. Jesus lived according to the will of His Father in Heaven. On Christmas, we celebrate so much given to us in the person of one small child.

May the love of the Christ live in you on this Christmas Eve,


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Day Before The Day Before Christmas

Ah, the great and wonderful story of Christmas, a good way to start a good day. But Christmas can also be a time of great stress and tension. Did I cook enough to feed all the guests? Will he like the present I got him? Will she know who that present is from, or does she even know that I exist? Did I ruin that pie? How come the neighbor's decorations look so much better than mine? Did I remember everyone on my list? Why didn't I make a Christmas list? We can pile on a lot of stress over the holidays. All the questions about eating too much usually come after, but the stress that causes the eating too much may pile up beforehand. The great thing about the Christmas story in the Bible is that none of that stress is present.

Almost all of what we stress over at Christmas time came after, as in many years after the story of God's great gift to us. Decorations, gifts, boughs, tinsel, parties, cooking, lists, shopping, and so on have nothing to do with the original Christmas. We can enjoy all that we have added on to Christmas, but perhaps if it causes too much stress we should let some of it go. Of course, most and perhaps all of the stress is worth it when the celebration arrives. Putting in the effort before can make the celebration that much better. Certainly we are reminded of what Mary and Joseph faced in the 70-mile trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem with Mary far along with her first child. Yet, whatever stress they faced, God went with them, and all was made worth the cost when the Christ child arrived.

Have a merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

A New Star

Ah, Christmas music on a Monday morning, what a great way to start the work week. Okay, your people have this legend. A scrap of a story passed down through centuries. This event is heralded by a new star appearing in the sky. Yes, we must suspend for a bit things like living in a town or city where the profusion of lights blocks our view of the stars for the most part. For this story, somehow believe that we are not too busy and have some idea what the sky overhead looks like at night. A new star appears, and you and some friends decide to go see this thing that has finally arrived. However, you don't exactly know where to go. The star gives a general direction, but that's it. No GPS coordinates, no map with an 'X', just a direction.

The gang arrives in the land of this legend. You have traveled for about 2 years to get here, but where is here and what 'here' are we to find once we have gotten to here from back there? You do what does not come naturally to men, or what must come naturally to women since they complain about the lack of it in men, and ask directions. The question does what men fear and puts the ruling city of this land in an uproar. You hope it is in celebration of the event, but it's hard to tell what with the language barrier and all. See what stopping to ask for directions can do?

Anyway, the wise guys around the throne point to some scripture in the holy books that gives a town name. Great, now other than "over thataway", where in this town do we find this newborn king? Behold, the star returns once we have cleared the city lights, and it doesn't just sit up there in a direction, but goes ahead of us, guiding the beat-up and road-worn cars of the caravan to the town, and then right to the very house where this newborn king is growing up. Mission accomplished!

We recognize in my tale the story of the wise men and their travel in the Bible. As with many things, the Bible is rather understated in the telling of an epic journey and the heavenly guidance received. The Bible doesn't directly say "they left home in faith", but we get it from the few verses we read in the Christmas story. The magi had a direction and a legend, but it was enough to start up a long trip to see this new thing. They didn't know what sort of reception might await them in Judea, or what reaction their question might provoke. Perhaps they expected a king on a throne with scepter and crown, but instead found a toddler running around the house, perhaps chasing chickens or the family cat. A journey of perhaps two years to find a child and his mother in a house in Bethlehem. Seems almost disappointing, doesn't it? Not really though, a new star said there was something special about this child.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

No Going Back

How often have you wanted Jesus to put things back the way they were? In the Christmas season it may mean back to those childhood Christmas celebrations. Much of the year it may mean before something changed greatly in life. In either case, that is not a prayer that God answers. We don't get to go back. In place of that, we are reminded of that other part of the Christmas - the new. Each Christmas brings something new in life. Jesus wants us to remember that He came as something new on that first Christmas, but there is more.

Paul told us in his letters that we are new creations in Christ. He went on to tell us of new imperishable and incorruptible bodies. Jesus showed John the New Jerusalem coming down from Heaven, and then told us, "Behold, I make all things new!" We live for the coming of the new in us and all around us. Jesus would have us to not go back to what we may think of as a better time, but to trust Him to take us to a better time that is to come. Christmas is a time that may bring hurt over what we have lost. However, the promise of Christ is in something new. The greatest gift was the Son of God who came to save the world, and He was something new.

Have a great and wonderful Christmas in our great and wonderful Christ!


Friday, December 19, 2014

The Friday Before Christmas!

Oh ho! Oh ho! It's the Friday before Christmas! School children are unmanageable, but for one day the teachers don't mind. Employees are unmanageable, but the boss growls with just a bit less basso in his voice. If your boss is female and normally growls in a basso profondo, be worried. If Santa growls at you, try to be better next year and use the coal to heat the shop. Christmas time is here! Six days until the great celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior!

To the unbeliever, it would seem that I changed subjects there at the end. Yet, we wonder how they manage to celebrate Christmas without Christ. How does one go about celebrating mas? What is 'mas'? Is it possible to have Mas Day? The anticipation of Christmas Day brings all sorts of warm feelings. How could anyone anticipate 'mas'? Is it mean to mock the unbelievers over the lack of Christ in their Christmas? Maybe, but if even one will ask after the true meaning of Christmas, then like Linus was ready for Charlie Brown's impassioned plea, let us be ready with an answer.

Christ our Lord is the center, the reason, and our hope in Christmas. The child born in Bethlehem began all this celebration. Let us one and all be ready to enjoy it.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

I'll Take Next Thursday Off Work

The title is one of those famous lines I heard in conversation. Next Thursday is of course Christmas. Now, if we are to be called Christian, we had better celebrate the holiday of our Lord's name, right? Ah, the judgmental, rule-loving, pharisee-like part of me wants to come out. Let's just make Christmas a duty. Let's take the fun out of living in a relationship with Christ. Maybe, just maybe, that isn't a part of me anymore. Maybe someone else wants me to believe that my heart didn't grow three sizes that day I came to believe in Christ.

Some of our brothers and sisters in Christ will have to work on Christmas Day. Jesus will not stop loving them on that day or any other day they may have to work. Those who belong to Jesus and love their work may work right up to Christmas Eve and then take only the next day off work. Jesus will not stop loving those brothers and sisters either. I spent one Christmas in Izmir, Turkey; Jesus didn't stop loving me way over there. One brother may spend Christmas this year in Barbados, a sister in Christ may have no one to spend Christmas with at home. Jesus loves them both and will gladly celebrate His birth with each one of us who call Him Lord in whatever circumstance we find ourselves on Christmas Day. Religion and rule keeping didn't save Israel, and they won't work to save us. Someone rightly said, "Jesus Saves", and that is why and how we live in Christ.

Have a Merry Christmas, working or taking the day off, in Christ!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Praise and Glory and Honor

On that first arrival of the Christ child, it seems that the hosts of heaven could not contain themselves. What? Are you nuts? Wait, I'm writing this, should I ask "Am I nuts?" How confusing! Think of how often humans were allowed to see the angels of heaven in the Old Testament. Not that often, and there was a drought of even human prophets walking the land for 400 years or so before the birth of Christ. If we don't know from the multitude of prophecies and other events, we must know it from the multitude of the heavenly host: this event was something special in history. We will meet the heavenly host once more singing praise and glory and honor to Jesus in the Revelation. Greatly do we look forward to that!

The birth of Christ brought out the hosts of heaven to sing God's praises. Was it at God's command, or could they not contain themselves for the joy of praising God's great work? I don't know. What we do know is that the shepherds in the field saw a Christmas spectacular special the likes of which we cannot witness just yet. One day, all who believe will gather with the hosts of heaven to sing the praise and glory and honor of God our Father. John saw a great multitude that no one could number in his vision of the Revelation of Christ. That gives us a great hope for seeing all whom we love here, there with us praising and glorifying God - forever, forever, and ever as the Lord said.

Have a great and wonderful Christmas in Christ!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Immanuel: God With Me

Merry Christmas on this icy-foggy day! This morning we looked at the meaning of obedience as Mary demonstrated in her response to Gabriel. Lovely! That sounded so very official, almost like a real teacher of the Word! We also looked at what Immanuel means to us, and the point made this morning was to personalize this name of Jesus. God with us is the translation, but perhaps we should look to make it mine, as in saying: God with me. Say it often, especially in times of fear or temptation. God with me. Immanuel. If you are in a group it works too: Immanuel, God with us. We may not take that far enough in the spirit it was intended. God with us. The very name of Jesus gives us the assurance our Lord gave just before His ascension. "And lo I am with you always even unto the end of the age." The same meaning: Immanuel - God with us.

Christmas is such a great season for reminding each other of God's love and the many other things we need to recall daily. Faith gets a boost from the knowledge that God is with me. Of course, times of fear always need a faith booster and a presence reminder. Just crossing the icy streets this morning may be one of those times of fear and trembling. Drive gently, and remember Immanuel!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Present at a Blessing

Merry Christmas on this cloudy Saturday morning! A phone call to a big bureaucracy offers little hope in most cases. The individual is often shuttled from department to department; listens to messages without end, and eventually gives up in frustration. Then, there was yesterday, when I was privileged to be present at a blessing. Good news! The problem resolved, the records straightened and the requirements of the faceless minions of the big bureaucracy satisfied. How great it is to be present when a Christian brother or sister receives their good news. We get to share in the rejoicing and in the sending up of thanksgiving to the Lord.

It wasn't always that way, was it? No, I can well remember the years when I would have scoffed or asked something like, "Where is my blessing?" To the unbeliever unfairness in life is always present. Blessings are all deserved, good luck is somehow warranted from all the bad luck of before, and a feeling of entitlement explodes into griping of unfairness when things do not go 'my' way and another is blessed instead. But Jesus removes those things as His cleansing and healing Spirit comes to dwell within the new believer. Oh, not all at once in every case. We may endure the clutches of those old feelings for a while. One day though, we get to look back and see what a great difference God's Spirit has made in us. We can share in the good news that comes to a brother and rejoice with a sister as Christ Jesus blesses them with His mighty love. No feeling of unfairness mars the celebration, there is only gratitude for our great God.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas? Not Yet!

Ah, Friday morning! The day when we get up with a little hope in the heart for the weekend. We also get up this Friday with a little hope for Christmas, but it isn't here yet with not quite two weeks to go. Constantly living in the future is depressing because the good things of the future will always be, well, out in the future. That is not to say that a little hopeful anticipation of the things to come is all bad. God gave us many wonderful prophecies of the future He has in store for us, including the second coming of His Son, called Wonderful in Isaiah. When we came to believe, we gained access to this wonderful future. Yes, it is indeed good for us to think on it once in a while.

For the child anticipating the time of gift giving - that is what they all look forward to is it not? - the day it seems can never arrive soon enough. Yes, it was the gift getting for me too. The gift receiving line was the one I wanted to be in, and I think there is still some of that in me somewhere as an adult. The gift giving line was tougher as a child what with my limited resources and all. Of course, parents find out what limited resources really mean when it comes to gift giving for a group of children. Adults find out too, but not so much as parents I think. So, what about the One with unlimited resources; is He withholding for some divine reason we cannot fathom?

First, why do we tend to think that God is withholding any good thing from us? Is it not more likely that we are not ready? The good things God has promised will come in God's perfect time. While we tend to listen to those whispers of unfair or meanness that the enemy throws our way, God is preparing a place for us. Before Job had been restored twice over to the life he enjoyed, he said, "The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord!" (1:21b) We too must wait patiently for the wonderful promises God has given. In the due time, we will be ready to receive the gifts God has for us. In the meantime, we can be thankful for those great gifts God has already given.

Have a merry Christmas in Christ Jesus!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Guarding the House

Merry Christmas! I know the thought: I hope that I have faith to speak the name of Jesus when confronted with the test. Uh, why are we waiting for the trial by fire, the fearful test of the uncanny, or the attack of the enemy to speak the name of Jesus? We are guarded ceaselessly by the angels of our Lord, but we can participate too. Speak the name of Jesus around your house. Get used to guarding the house now, prevent the attack by watchfulness. Make the preemptive strike that stops the attack of the devil before it begins.

We would think the Christian silly who waits to put on the whole armor of God until the flaming darts of the enemy strike him. Yet, we do the same by thinking that we must wait to use the matchless name of Christ until an attack of the enemy is under way. Praise the name of Jesus often, constantly, with steadfast love and determination. In other words, live in Christ as He lives in you and me. Sing the hymns and songs you know worshipping and praising God all the day and in the night.

As one who has fought the attack of anxiety (aka fear), I have found that to wait for it to get in the first blow is to make the adversary that much more difficult to fight off. And we are called to fight in the army of Christ. The battlefield may be in the mind here in our land more than it ever was, but that doesn't mean that we give up the field to the enemy and his minions. Praise the name of our Lord Jesus in every way possible. Use the authority granted us in Christ to command the enemy away. As Paul reminded us, pray constantly!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Glory of God

The glory of God appeared to the shepherds in the field. No argument there; the Bible says so. But the glory of the Lord also appeared in the manger. What? A baby lay there, probably with soiled swaddling clothes, crying, fretting, and doing those things that babies do. Wait, wouldn't we rather view Jesus as the perfect baby with none of the smells and noises usually associated with infants, maybe paint Him with a little halo over his lovely little head? Well, yes, that has been done, but probably the Son of God, little baby Jesus, did the very things we all did as babies. How could the glory of God produce a stink? Of course, if that is all I can think of in the birth of Christ, then it is easy to see why God chose Joseph instead of me.

The birth of Christ meant salvation; His names even said it. Immanuel, Jesus, names of salvation for the people living in darkness. The shepherds flocking in from the fields didn't come to see just any baby, they came to see Messiah, the long awaited savior. As a young child learning to walk, Jesus probably bumped a little knee or two, but the visitors from the east didn't come to worship what could be found on just any child. They arrived to present gifts to the newborn Son of God, the future king.

A person can always focus on the mundane, if that is all his/her small mind can see. We see the glory of God in the baby Jesus. The mundane, earthly stuff just showed that Jesus was human. The glory of God shining around the shepherds, the miracles of Christ, and our very salvation show that this little baby was indeed something worth coming to see and worship.

Glory to God Most High, and on earth, peace, goodwill toward men!


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Christmastime Abundance

I hope you only got one devotional from me yesterday, but I did end up with four blog postings after all that trouble with Gmail and Blogspot. By the time I arrived at work, everything was back to normal with 'em, other than the overabundance of postings that is. Christmas is a time when we enjoy the abundant praise and worship of our Lord. We also enjoy abundance in His sovereign mercy, provision, and love. We have an easier time giving abundantly and living in the abundance of good feelings all around. Abundance abounds at Christmastime!

How does all this abounding happen though? Christmas is the season of giving, of course. We give because our Lord has given to us. The greatest gift arrived in the package of a manger long ago. We rejoice in that gift even today, and especially on Christmas Day. We celebrate that gift each time we give gifts to others. Gifts are such a part of Christmas that we sing songs about them. We may spend a bunch of money on gifts, but nothing can match God's gift of a Son born in Bethlehem.

Have a merry Christmas!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Saved From, Well, Everything!

Merry Christmas! I hope this gets out today. Gmail is having tremendous troubles this morning. What did Jesus save us from? Sin and its penalty is the main and obvious thing, but did Jesus save us from more than this? The answer is an unequivocal "Yes, He did!" Not all of the things that plague us in this world come from our personal sin. The devil would have you and me to take the blame for everything in our respective lives, but that just ain't the case. Much of what happens in this world happens to us, and not because of us. This does not mean that our sin does not have its consequences.

We do not get off without the result of our sins, but Jesus paid the eternal penalty and brought us back to God. We know that if a Christian robs a bank, he will go to jail. God's judgment was paid by Jesus, but the government and society have a penalty for lawbreaking that will come in this world. We can see that many of our nation's laws come from God's law; do not steal being one of the big ten. Not all actions are sins, and we get the consequence of our actions or lack of action too. Forget to set the alarm and you may be late for work. Some may call that tardiness a sin, but I would call it a mistake. Of course, if every mistake were a sin...we would still be saved in Christ!

There are many things that happen to us, but many more that do not. We are saved from and guarded in more than we know. Praise God for His guardianship! You and I are in the family of Christ.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Face the Day

In Christ, we are never forsaken, never left alone, and as we get older our vitamins begin to taste like horse feed. Yet, some days are still tough to face. We may wonder that we didn't run into one of God's vacation days. Doubts surface that we thought well conquered. We pray with the young father in Mark: I do believe, Lord, help my unbelief! But the feeling of doom persists when it should not. Beaten down and demoralized, we stand just where the devil wants all Christians.

What do we say or do when the Christian walk feels like we are carrying a small elephant? Where can we find help when the full armor of God seems made of tissue paper? We look at our Christian brothers but, alas, they too are falling under the attack of the enemy. Of course, you are answering the questions as they come. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! We must come in prayer to the Lord for our brothers and ourselves when the attack seems likely to beat us all into the dust. Jesus is unconquered and unconquerable. All of God's army may seem likely to fall, but Jesus stands, and in Christ we...all...stand! We are not alone; though we cannot see them, God's heavenly forces fight with us and for us at all times. You and I are stronger than we think, because we count only our strength and fail to account for the unmatchable power of our Lord Jesus.

Like the child who thinks that Christmas will never come at about this time of the year, we too suffer dark days during the darkening days just before winter begins. Jesus has not backed away from us to 'see how we do alone', nor has God taken a pre-Christmas break. We may need more prayer on days like this, but God is ready and waiting to hear from us! Get together with some brothers and sisters in Christ this morning and pray for one another.


Thursday, December 04, 2014

The House Came Down

Yesterday, the house that burned last June fell down into big piles of burned timber and junk. At least, that is what it looked like to me as there was no demolition equipment there when I left for work and none when I returned. Something that took weeks or months to build fell apart in a day. Actually two days when we count the day half of it burned away. I wonder if Mary or Joseph had similar feelings when they took off for Bethlehem that day back when the BC's were running down toward zero. Mary carried the child that would change calendars forever. No, no, she wasn't worried about years on the calendar.

We know from the Bible that Mary and Joseph would not return for some time to the region where they grew up, and even at their return Joseph would be redirected to Nazareth. Did Joseph have a house prepared for the culmination of their engagement? Probably. Before the angel arrived to give the good news, did Mary think that she would raise children and grow old in that same house? It may well be. Did either of them expect to spend some time in Egypt? Probably not. How many homes did Joseph leave behind in former towns? We don't know for sure.

The Bible doesn't give us each and every thought of each day in the life of Joseph and Mary. We see a journey of faith forced upon them by an occupying government far away in Rome. They only just made it to Bethlehem in time for the birth. They set up house and home in Bethlehem, then a dream warned Joseph to flee by night to Egypt. Did they young couple have family in Egypt? Maybe. Did they know anyone there? Probably not. Yet, they had God through His angels directing their steps in dreams. They were, to borrow a phrase from Gabriel, overshadowed by the power of the Most High. I'm glad Joseph and Mary chose to believe.

Have a great Christmas in Christ!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Just a Glimpse

Merry Christmas! Moses held a special position between God and Israel. He didn't always realize the effect God had on his face though.

Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him. (Exodus 34:29-30 NKJV)

Moses was allowed just a glimpse of God's glory. You will recall the story in the preceding chapter where God passed His goodness before Moses while hiding the man in a cleft of the rock until Moses was allowed to see only the train or back side of God's goodness. "You cannot see My face, For no man may see Me, and live." Would we, I wonder, have sufficient fear in our hearts to be obedient to the Lord with just a glimpse of His glory?

Probably not, the Israelites went on to much disobedience and unfaithfulness before God. Fear, it seems, only works briefly to bring us into line, so deep is the bent toward sin within our hearts. God sent His Son instead to begin the healing from a rebirth in the Spirit. Did God's glory show in that baby as he lay in the manger? The shepherds in the field saw the glory of the Lord and trembled. What did the angel of the Lord tell them? "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." (Luke 2:10)

We couldn't face God and live, and fear didn't work to keep us obedient. So, God sent us a son, His Son, to do what even Moses could not. In Christ, we can see God and live. In Christ, we don't flee away in fear, but run to Him like children. In Christ, we are given the Spirit to change our hearts to obedience and love. In Christ, we celebrate Christmas!

Rejoice in the season of His birth!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Days, We Have Another Day?

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and now we seem to have something called Giving Tuesday. Not sure whom we are to give Tuesday to, but there it is. Not that it isn't a good idea, but who has all this time on his hands that he has nothing better to do than come up with titles for days? Do you really need a special day for giving? Every day is a good day to give to those who have little, or when life hands them an overwhelming need, or just to be good and show the love of Jesus. However, if some need a day - I notice that it seems to come after all the big spendy days - to remind them to give, then I'm okay with that too. Wait, today could be soapbox Tuesday wherein we all rant about something bothering us on this day. Let me step on down for the morning.

Jesus had a great many things He could have soap boxed back in His day. Sometimes the Lord did speak out on an issue. Jesus did not avoid the public square most of the time. He did leave it a couple of times when the crowd tried to seize Him and make Him king. A strange circumstance that we hardly understand in these days of representative government. Jesus also left the public square more than once when the crowd bent to pick up stones to kill the long-awaited Messiah. Another odd circumstance for us to ponder in our day. On the other hand is the temple clearing, where Jesus did speak out and act with authority. We have authority in Christ. Let us pray for the wisdom to know when to speak out and act, and when to keep quiet.

Have a merry Christmas in Christ!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Christmas Time is Here!

Yeah! Monday the first of December! We have Christmas time; the season has arrived! The birth of Christ, wise men, Mary and Joseph, Zachariah and Elizabeth, a rejoicing John the Baby Baptist, the angel Gabriel, shepherds in the fields, and all that makes Christmas so special. Christmas is a time of rejoicing in Christ. In the darkest time of the year shine the brightest of lights. Isaiah wrote:

The people who walked in darkness
​​Have seen a great light;
​​Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
​​Upon them a light has shined. (9:2 NKJV)

Isaiah wrote hundreds of years before the coming of the Christ child that a people walking in darkness would see the great light of Christ. David wrote that he would not fear even when walking the land of death's shadow. Isaiah promised more: a light shining in that darkness of death. We live in a world of darkness often shadowed by death. Yet, in the heart of every Christ-one shines the light of Jesus.

Merry Christmas!