Advent

In Stillness Waits

worship_advent-wreath3_2015

It is a desire that cannot be skin-deep. It is a longing that soaks through muscle and bone and vein.

This world is broken.

I can’t go into it. Some things have happened here in my call that are just… they hurt. My heart aches. I hurt for my people.

And yes. I hurt for me.

I kiss my kids goodnight. I hug them. I hold them longer than normal. They think I’m being silly.

I’m not.

I’m tired. I’m sick of the pain I see around me. I’m sick of my pain. I’m sick of the bitterness that wants to invade. I’m sick of the hollowness that promises to protect me. Neither bitterness nor hollowness will save me.

God, you promised! You said you’d come. I read the promises! A place where joy and gladness finally catch us, and sorrow flees! A place where we need no longer fear predators of any kind! A place where it’s safe for my children to play with vipers, because they won’t be harmed!

I’m waiting!

…I’m waiting. (more…)

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Is this really worth your time?

Luke 2:1-7       In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

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I’m too busy to be happy at Christmas.

2 Sam 7:8-16

 

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture and from following the flock to be ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men of the earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“ ‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with the rod of men, with floggings inflicted by men. 15 But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.’ ”

How much have you taken on?

  1. What have you accomplished?
  2. What will you accomplish?

 

Christmas is just one week away! What’s left on your to-do list? Have you gotten all the presents? Every card signed and in the mail? Everyone invited? Are the decorations up? Every light lit and every wreath hung? It’s exhausting, isn’t it? All the stuff we’re supposed to do to get ready for a holiday that proclaims, “Peace on earth!” It’s enough to take the joy out of the season. I’m so busy wondering how I’m going to fit people around the table I can’t fit in time for Christmas wonder! It’s Christmas! But I don’t have the time to be happy. I’m too busy! How much have you taken on? What have you already accomplished? What will you accomplish? (more…)

Don’t Get Involved

Friday, about seventy-five women appeared in the church. I ignored them. They set up shop in the basement and started talking about Jesus. I had nothing to do with it. They filled the kitchen with good food. I chose to not partake. These women were a mix of members, prospects, and friends. Many of these women know me as their pastor. I hardly spoke a word to any of them on Friday.

And it was a good thing.

Friday our church held their traditional “Elegant Advent.” It’s an evening where women gather together, share a meal, and speak to one another about the meaning of Christmas. There’s an official program of readings and carols. I understand the women have a lot of fun in it.

And they don’t need me!

The leader did ask me to come and give a brief opening devotion. Two minutes of my time and nothing more. I was thrilled! How awesome it is when Christians speak to others about the love of their Savior. They don’t need me for every little thing! Instead I went home and took care of my children so my wife could participate. The women took care of it.

To be fair, I did look over the program ahead of time. I wasn’t afraid of anything, but if something is being taught in the congregation entrusted to me, it’s my duty to make sure it lines up with Scripture. I’m happy to report: I needed do nothing concerning doctrine.

So, yes. As pastor, it was for the best I not get involved. This may sound weird, but I hope more things like this happen. I hope the congregation takes charge and speaks Jesus to others. They don’t need me for that!

Inconceivable!

Matthew 1:18-25

 

18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

 

Inconceivable!

 

The pirates have kidnapped Buttercup, who’s supposed to marry the prince! As they race along in their fast boat, they see someone has given chase. And he’s catching up! And the Vizzini, the one in charge of the pirates, shouts, “Inconceivable!” Yet, it was happening. When he saw that what he thought was inconceivable was true, Vizzini had to act. (more…)

Why doesn’t Jesus keep his promise?

Is this what you want for Christmas?

Malachi 4:1-6 4   “Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire,” says the Lord Almighty. “Not a root or a branch will be left to them. 2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. 3 Then you will trample down the wicked; they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I do these things,” says the Lord Almighty.

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the decrees and laws I gave him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. 6 He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

 

He’s making a list – checking it twice! Gonna find out who’s naughty and nice. Santa Claus is coming to town! And he’s going to bring presents. And he’s going to give presents to people who deserve it!

But you know what? Jesus is even better than that. He promises to give us everything we ask for! “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.” (John 14:13)

But there’s a problem here. How many people do you know get everything ask for?  How many of you have everything you want? What’s on your list this Christmas season?  Maybe some DVD’s or Blurays? Season tickets? A family meal with the whole family and no fights? How likely are you to actually get the whole list? You’re more likely to get a lame gift than what you’re actually after.

So, how does that work? God promises to give us everything we ask… but he doesn’t actually give it? What gives?

In fact, how many times does God give the opposite of what we ask? How many of you have prayed to have enough to pay the bills? How many of you still have money problems? How many of us want a good, happy family but end up in arguments and fights and broken homes? God tells us to ask him for anything and he’ll give it… but that’s not what happens! (more…)

A Ruined Life

All it took for God to save the world was to ruin one life.

Luke 1:26-38

 

26 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.

(more…)

I’m Worthless.

Isaiah 40:1-11

 

40          Comfort, comfort my people,

says your God.

2     Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and proclaim to her

that her hard service has been completed,

that her sin has been paid for,

that she has received from the Lord’s hand

double for all her sins.

3     A voice of one calling:

“In the desert prepare

the way for the Lord;

make straight in the wilderness

a highway for our God. (more…)

Make it personal.

Luke 1:5-22

 

5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly. 7 But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years.

8 Once when Zechariah’s division was on duty and he was serving as priest before God, 9 he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to go into the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And when the time for the burning of incense came, all the assembled worshipers were praying outside.

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16 Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”

19 The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.”

21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.

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Let the Little Children Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”  He also spoke about having faith like a little child.  Little children need to hear God’s Word just as much as the rest of us.  However sometimes in the course of a service, the message may not be the easiest for them to understand, apply it to their lives, or be able to focus for the whole time.  So I started something new to try and include them.  I started a children’s devotion explaining the Advent candles – what each one means. (more…)