Jesus is for Every Season


This is a post from my other blog, Dadvotionals.com, but thought it was good to share on this site as well. Hope you all had a wonderful and memorable Christmas.

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. I love the music, the food, the family gatherings, but most of all I love the reason. Christ come in the flesh, a baby born in a quiet town with shepherds in attendance. A young couple following the advice of angels to make a good start to their new family. The humble manger holding the greatest treasure in all of creation.

Jesus is the reason for the Christmas season, but our love for Jesus should not be seasonal. We cannot afford to be fair weather friends to the Prince of Peace. Jesus is the reason in every season of life. He is the reason we can make it through the harsh seasons and the reason we can celebrate the bountiful ones. His faithfulness never fails and we should make every effort to live likewise.

Christmas is a time to celebrate love and family and giving. Let’s remember to keep giving the gift of our love, faith and obedience to God even after the decorations are stowed away and the tree is gone.

Have a blessed Christmas and face the New Year with hope and peace.

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Thoughts on Christmas: For To Us A Child is Born


For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Isaiah   9:6 (NIV)

I am not very good at shopping ahead of time for Christmas.  Fortunately I have avoided the last minute shopping at the mini-mart for gifts, but it has come too close a few times.  My wife, on the other hand, is the picture of organization and planning ahead.  She starts buying presents for the next Christmas the first week of January.  She has a budget and lists of kid’s names and remembers what everyone likes and dislikes.  Between the two of us, you would definitely want her to get your name in a gift exchange.

There is no doubt that my wife reflects a characteristic about Christmas that we may not always consider: that the perfect gift came at the perfect time and was planned before the creation of the world.  How awesome is it to know that Christ’s birth wasn’t reactionary or a move of desperation?  From the beginning of time, through dozens of generations, thousands of years and the stubbornness of human will, God prepared the world for the coming of His Son.  The fulfillment of prophecy and the promise of salvation spoken of from the Garden and throughout all history – talk about planning ahead.

The amazing truth of this is that God takes the same pains to bring us to the gift He sent in His Son as He took in bring His Son to a humble manger in Bethlehem.  Every day He has prepared gifts that will bring us closer to Him.  Every day He has put in place what we need for that day.  On that first Christmas, God sent His Son to bring love and salvation to a dying world, and He is still sending that gift each day to those who are willing to receive Him.

During this Christmas season remember the God who plans ahead.  Remember that there is wisdom for you from the Wonderful counselor, there is power to overcome the world in our Mighty God, there is hope for a life to come with our Everlasting Father and we have a gracious Lord in the Prince of Peace.

Thoughts on Christmas: A Mother’s Song, A Daughter’s Song


And Mary said:  “My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”

Luke 1:46-55 (NIV)

It must have been an incredible moment, a moment that both women carried with them through the years their sons were growing up and becoming the servants of God they were meant to be.  One a prophet preparing the way for the Messiah; the other a rabbi who bled for the sins of the world. Both of them miracles.

John was the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah, parents well beyond the childbearing age – the Abraham and Sarah of their day.  Zechariah was commanded by God to name his son John, but was made mute because he questioned God’s ability to give them a son.  Jesus was the Son of God and Joseph and Mary – one by spirit, one by law and one by blood.  Mary was blessed for unflinching obedience and acceptance.

When Mary and Elizabeth meet, John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, signifying that he already recognized the one he would prepare the way for in an unprepared world.  Elizabeth is moved by the spirit to prophesy, which in turn moves Mary to sing praise to her God.  It is a holy moment, a sacred moment.  Two holy children destined to change the world and two women chosen to love and care for them joined together by God’s Spirit.

Often the song of Mary is considered a mother’s song, and it is, but it is also a daughter’s song to her heavenly Father.  A song of praise and thanksgiving for all that He had done and all that He would do. A song testifying God’s ability to give her everything she needs to do what she should.  A song for Christmas, when we celebrate the day that God gave us everything we need to do all we should.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas day, it is easy to get frustrated with the un-Christmas-like things around us and around the world.  However, the danger of focusing on the lack of Christ in Christmas in our culture is that we don’t focus enough on the Christ in Christmas.  Think of Mary, a young woman in her circumstances travelling to stay with family, avoiding the shame she might endure.  She carried the light of the world inside her, but knew no one would believe her.  In the midst of all this she sings praise to her God; she remembers what she is about and who she is; a daughter of the King.  Instead of fixating on all that could go wrong, or what was uncomfortable or unpleasant, she recounted what good a gracious God she served.  She was preparing the way for the Messiah.

Maybe that is what we should really be about during the Christmas season – preparing the way.  Like Mary and then John, we should be focused on preparing the way for Jesus to come into moments we share with friends, family, coworkers and even strangers.  Let’s prepare the way in our hearts for Christ to have His way in His time.  Prepare the way, Christmas is coming.

Thoughts on Christmas: Simeon’s Song


Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.” – Luke 2:25-32

Can you imagine holding the Messiah?  Can you wrap your mind around being present when God came in the flesh to save the world?  I asked myself these questions a few years ago when I read this verse.  It is one that gets skipped over sometimes because it is stuck in between the nativity and the ministry of Jesus with the disciples.  It struck me that God had ordained this meeting between His son and His servant to confirm for Joseph and Mary that all they had experienced was real.

It is easy to feel a little jealous of Simeon’s experience, celebrating the arrival of God’s salvation by holding it close to his chest, but I have since decided that we now experience something Simeon did not – the indwelling of Christ through the Holy Spirit.  While Simeon knew who Jesus was and had been waiting for His arrival, he most likely was not living when Christ rose from the tomb.  As believers under the new covenant, we have a fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It really is astounding; that God would dwell in us and make our hearts His home.

In this coming year, in the aftermath of the Christmas season and all the un-Christmas stuff that can come with it, remember that we have received Christ.  We hold Him close to our hearts in faith.  We celebrate His presence in our lives.  We say with Simeon, “my eyes have seen your salvation” and give our praises to God.  This is the meaning and momentum of Christmas; that Christ was sent and received and continues to be sent and received through the Holy Spirit to save the lost and heal the sick and feed the hungry.

Now we become the bearers of the gift, carrying it into the lives of others, presenting them with their “Simeon” moment.  Our words and actions open the doors to present the gift to friends, family, coworkers and strangers, bringing Christ near to those He would save.  Can you imagine holding the Messiah?  Can you wrap your mind around being present when God comes in the flesh to bring salvation to a dying world?  It is our privilege and promise as His children to carry these great gifts every day.  Here is hoping that Christmas does not only mark the end of the year, but gives us the push we need to hit the new year with renewed strength and purpose.

Poetry: The Thorn in My Side


The Thorn in My Side

 

A gentle prick in my holy veneer

Piercing where no eye can see

Ignoring the pain with a candy smile

The thorn in my side is me

 

Pain and grief and shame pour in

Self-mutilation with the sharp point of sin

Sinful desires rise once again

Leading to places I’ve already been

 

The thorn in my side is me

I’m missing the point, but it won’t miss me

The thorn in my side is me

I should get paid, but I’m doing the Devil’s work for free

 

God is patient, God is kind

Hoping He can change my double mind

Take this thorn and set me free

‘Cause the thorn in my side is me

 

Can’t blame mom, can’t blame dad

Don’t see anyone holding a gun to my head

Who can save me from this body of sin?

The son of God, raised from the dead

 

The thorn in my side is me

I’m getting the point, I’m beginning to see

The thorn in my side is me

Christ paid the price for one such as me

 

God is gracious, God forgives

In Him alone salvation lives

Take this thorn and set me free

‘Cause the thorn in my side is me

Acting Out Our Faith: Real Power


Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, “This man is the divine power known as the Great Power.”  They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw. – Acts 8:9-13 (NIV)

There is a great scene in the Avengers movie where Captain America is standing on top of a taxi giving orders to some police officers.  When he is done, one of the officers asks, “Why should we listen to you?”  This pertinent question is followed by Captain America’s clear display of power against otherworldly warriors, after which the officer begins to relay the Captain’s orders.  Power can change people’s mind and earn respect, whether it is out of admiration, fear or gratitude.

Simon had followers because he had displayed power, but it was rooted in a limited source.  Simon could only do so much to impress his fans.  When Philip comes to town, the people are confronted with a different kind of power and are changed by it.  Instead of having to go to Simon whenever they want to see power, they are empowered by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  Instead of being fans of Simon, they became followers of Christ.  This was such a startling show of power that even Simon believed.

That power is still at work in the world today through God’s people if they choose.  It is not a power that we use to rule over others or hold them in sway.  We are empowered to empower others.  We extend to others that same power that inspired the Psalmist to write, “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”  We get to take our place in the long line that leads others from brokenness to wholeness, from sorrow to joy and from apathy to gratitude.

Motivated by love, empowered by God, we are sent forth to change the world.  The problem for me and the rest of fallen humanity is that we have a long history of abusing power or being abused by it.  We have words of warning about how power corrupts, but the reality is that corrupt power corrupts.  God’s power heals, saves, resurrects and sustains.  It does not corrupt.  He does not corrupt.

I want to be that vessel of clay.  I want to hold the power of God so that it can be poured out into the world and the lives of others.  But I must watch out for the Simon in me; the one who wants power for himself and for his own fame and fortune.  I must watch out for the fawning member of the crowd that can lurk in my heart, waiting for the next magic trick to come along and fascinate me.  I want to be like Philip; a man empowered, but not worried about power.

Lord, empower me to extend Your love, grace, healing and hope.  Guard my heart from worldly powers that might draw me away from You.  Amen.

Acting Out Our Faith: We Must Obey God


Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!  The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.  God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.  We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” – Acts 5:29-32 (NIV)

“Obey.”  Talk about a word that has lost its popularity.  Think about how many times you have heard the word used in the last week, or try to remember the last time you heard someone use the term without it being negative.  Somehow our culture came to believe the word was oppressive and limiting.  You don’t hear it very often in wedding vows, even though it is in the Scriptures.  Obedience is for soldiers and pets, but not for us, right?

The truth is that we obey all the time; we just don’t always choose to obey.  Before Adam and Eve fell they had to choose to disobey.  Once sin entered into the mix, humanity has to choose to be obedient to God because our default setting is obedience to sin.  If we are not conscious of this reality, we may find ourselves satisfying the desires of our sinful natures instead of obeying God, and we must obey God.

If we are to be useful tools in His hands, we must obey God.  If we are to be godly husbands and wives and sons and daughters and mothers and fathers, we must obey God.  If we want to change the world, we must obey God so that we can be changed first.

Peter knew the price of disobedience.  He knew the pain and agony of denying the truth.  His testimony here is a warning sign to all of us to be careful that obedience to God doesn’t get derailed by anything else.  If God says, “Love your neighbor,” then we must love our neighbors, no matter how difficult that may be.  Peter knew that any obedience he could offer to God was nothing compared to the obedience of Christ who saved him and called him to be His disciple.  We must obey because God is worthy of our obedience.

Lord, help me to understand and live out a life in obedience to You.  Keep my eyes and ears from being distracted by anything that would draw me away from obeying You and Your word.  Teach me the discipline of obedience. Amen.

Acting Out Our Faith: Speaking About Jesus


Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people!  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a cripple and are asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  He is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone’.  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:8-12 (NIV)

I hate missed opportunities.  They leave pestering questions lurking about the brain and make a mess of your judgement. The ones that hurt the most are opportunities to speak about Jesus that are gagged by fear or propriety.  I need to be braver.  I need to speak about Jesus just as easily as I talk about the weather.  But it is easy to ride under the radar and think of my faith as something covert.

The rationalizations are plentiful and pitiful.  There’s always the got to argument of separation of church and state, or you can always opt for the “I don’t want to offend anyone” approach.  You can argue that you don’t want to be one of those “pushy” Christians or that faith is a private matter.  And you can fall back on the greatly abused and misused quote attributed to St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” These arguments fall to pieces in light of the consistent testimony of Scripture that we are called to speak of Jesus.

Peter is in an overtly antagonistic setting, with little reputation or resources to back him up.  His life and liberty in a political sense are at risk, and yet he speaks boldly before God and man regarding the life, death, resurrection and power of Jesus.  None of the arguments listed above have been given any thought whatsoever.  He is a speaker of truth and that is enough reason to speak and he used plenty of words over the course of his life to preach the gospel.  Granted that his words were often punctuated by the power of Jesus, but he used plenty of words.

I don’t want my children to ever be afraid of speaking about Jesus.  I want their conversations and proclamations about Him to be as free and easy as a greeting to a friend.  So I must overcome my own fear.  I must not care about being thought foolish.  I must not be concerned with reputation.  I must be fearless in speaking about Jesus.

Lord, give me courage to speak about Your son Jesus Christ with clarity and humility.  May I teach my children to share about the life they have with You through the death and ressurrection of Your Son.  Help me speak of Jesus often, openly and purposefully. Amen.

Acting Out Our Faith: A Different Kind of Currency


Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.  When all the people saw him walking and praising God, they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:6-10 (NIV)

I sure am glad that heaven runs on a different currency than the world.  When the world tries to fix a problem it is all about throwing money and resources at it until it is buried.  Issues are resolved by committee and conference.  We have programmed, politicized and popularized helping the needy, but I think we can come to depend on them more than the power of God.

It is comforting to me that poverty in the world’s eyes has nothing to do with the riches of God.  Peter has no silver or gold to give, but what he does have is better by far.  The power to transform lives, to heal and help those in need, cannot be replaced by material things.  It is gracious to give of our resources and we should give with grateful hearts for God’s providence, but we cannot forget to invest the currency God has made available to us through the Holy Spirit.

I don’t want to be rich in this world if it causes me to be a pauper in God’s kingdom.  I want to be wealthy in the things of God and spend that wealth on others.  I hope that the next time I see someone in need I will remember this and invest the currency that only God can supply.

Lord, thank you for Your Holy Spirit supplying me with kingdom currency.  Help me to spend it wisely and fearlessly for Your glory and the benefit of others. Amen.

Acting Out Our Faith: What Shall We Do?


“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off–for all whom the Lord our God will call.” – Acts 2:36-39 (NIV)

I love the response the people had when they heard Peter share the good news of the gospel: “What shall we do?”  They didn’t ask what doctrinal statement they needed to sign, they didn’t look for membership papers to sign and they didn’t ask for training in theological argumentation.  They asked what they need to do in response to the most amazing truth they had ever heard.

So what shall we do?  In response to the gospel, what shall we do each day?  The initial instructions from Peter are repentance and baptism, but I think those things are good for more than getting on the right side of salvation.  They are the door into a life empowered by the Holy Spirit.  So every day we need to make sure we are centered on Christ, living in the power of the resurrection and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  That is what we should do, but is it what we shall do?

It is easy to get stuck on the other side of salvation.  We cross that line from being lost to being found and we forget to keep moving forward.  We forget to ask God, “What shall we do?”  Be a doer.  Keep that question alive in your life with God.  Whenever you here the truth of God’s Scripture ask how it answers the question, “What shall I do?”

Lord, help me to continue moving forward toward You.  Lead me to the answer to the question, “What shall I do?” every day with You.  Make me a doer.  Amen