Christmas 2016

I wrote the following as a submission for a published devotional.  My submission wasn’t chosen, but maybe it will bless someone — Christmas, 2016.

It touches every one of us.  It blares across the headlines in the news and plays out across our country and world.  It also comes to every one of us personally.  It may come as sickness.  Or betrayal.  It may come as sadness.  Loneliness.  Pain.  Death.  This. The darkness of sin’s consequences.

And it doesn’t just touch our lives through the pain and destruction wrought by others upon us.  If we are honest we must admit that this sin lives in me and you.  That we create darkness through the consequences of our sins.

“The way of the wicked is like deep darkness.”  (Prov. 4:19.)  “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  (Romans 1:21).  “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.”  (Romans 7:14).  “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  (John 8:34).

Yet, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  (Isaiah 9:2).  This is what we celebrate today.  A great light.

“In the beginning … God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (Gen.1:1).  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”  (John 1:1, 4-5).  “Jesus spoke again … he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”  (John 8:12.)

We celebrate today that the light of life came as a tiny baby.  To our weary, dark land.  We celebrate because the light of life has invited us to follow Him – because He has offered to quench the darkness within our souls with His light.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6).  And so, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  (1 Peter 2: 9).  “You are the light of the world…Let your light shine so that all men may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”  (Matt. 5:14, 16).

And so, friends, let it be light!  In my life.  In yours.  Here on earth.  Joy to the world, the Lord is come!

Good News — Advent

How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns.”  (Isaiah 52:7).  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  An angel of the LORD appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid.  I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. – Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”  (Luke 2:8-11, 12-14).  Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  (Matt. 9:35-38).  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matt. 28:18-20).  “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. – Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved – And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?  And how can they hear if they are not sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”(Romans 10:9, 13, 14b-15).  They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”  (Rev. 6:10).  Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.  When the LORD returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.  Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.  The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.  (Isaiah 52:8-10).  I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True.  – His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns – He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.  The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.  Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.  He will rule them with an iron scepter.  He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. (Rev. 19:11-15).  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  (Rev. 21:4).

My dad says that Biblical prophecy is cyclical.  Many of the prophecies of Messiah foretell both His first coming and his second coming together.  God is outside time and space and in these prophecies He is giving us what He can of what we can understand to hold fast to during difficult times.

I am no Bible scholar (although I’ve been studying the Bible most of my life).  And, I am no theologian (having never formally studies theology).  But the passages above spoke to me, together today.

Having grown up in a non-liturgical church, I never observed “advent” as such.  This year, God is softening my heart to see how, in this time we live today, advent is about waiting for His second coming and making space in my heart for Jesus today so that He can naturally flow from my words and deeds — my life — to witness to those in my life.  Now is the time of harvest, friends.  Before His salvation is fully realized.

In the verses above, who brought good tidings?  Who proclaimed the good news?  In the verse in Romans, what is the good news?  Who has been sent to make disciples?  What is the last thing that broke your heart?  Frustrated you?  Have you offered that heartache/frustration to God?   Fasten the passage from Revelation in your mind, friend.  Use the pain of sin to increase your expectation of Him at His second coming and rejoice in His salvation!

Expectations and Disappointment

 My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.  (Jeremiah 2:13).  Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant.  It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.”  This is what the Sovereign LORD the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”  (Isaiah 30:12-15).  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.  (2 Chronicles 20:12).  
If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water … Whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  (John 4:10, 12).  “For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness, made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. – So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  (2 Cor. 4:6-7, 18).  “[O]ne thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil. 3:13-14).  

While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.  (Mark 14:3).  But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (Phil. 2:17).

What is it you seek to fill your cistern with?  What kinds of things do you tell yourself, “if I could: win this game, achieve that goal, have this relationship, fix this problem, have enough “followers,” influence the right people…?  Friends, even where our “goals” are beautiful, good things, if we seek to fill our cisterns with them, we will be disappointed. Have you sought to satisfy yourself with God’s blessings and gifts rather than God Himself?  Come to the Well.  Be filled.  Be poured out.  In sacrifice, let Him flow through you.