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Monthly Archives: November 2015
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Every year during December we see the signs of Christmas around us, wreathes, trees, lights and baubles. Advent encourages us to watch for another kind of sign. A sign from the Lord himself that leads us to the cradle again this year to give our own witness to the birth of Christ. Information is one gift the Bible has given us. It paints a vivid picture of the perfect and glorious outcome of that journey of the pregnant virgin and that carpenter to that first cradle and the finally the Birth of Faith, Jesus.
That’s what I give thanks for but I believe I may have overlooked another reality to be thankful for. It’s the reality of their tough circumstances and simple obedience that ultimately led to another kind of birth, the birth of my faith. This year I want to imagine and give thanks for their long, hard days on dusty roads and the fatigue, discomfort and inconvenience of travel. I want to appreciate the reality of the relief and gratitude they felt sinking into a pile of smelly straw in a barn at the end of their journey. It was not a perfect situation but they would become part of a perfect plan. I want to be grateful for that too. That pregnant virgin and that carpenter have walked through the words of the prophets, through history, into Bethlehem and now into my life this year to become the Lord’s sign for me of the reality that the Birth of Faith can happen in the most unusual places and circumstances.
You’ve heard it before; there is far more to Christmas than decorations and beautifully wrapped gifts. Without a doubt these things add to our celebration of the Christmas season but this year let’s make Advent a bigger story. It’s a story about God’s perfect gift for us. My gift for you these next 26 days is a daily serving of my own “homemade” Christmas bread.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past. Micah 5:2
Bethlehem is a name that makes me think of an overcrowded village and a road-weary couple. Two people forced to make a tough journey at the most inopportune time. Those are not pretty thoughts until you realize the meaning of that small village’s name changes the whole picture. “Bethlehem” means “House of Bread” in both Hebrew and Aramaic. Jesus is the Bread of Life born in the House of Bread. That’s no accident of history, it’s The Perfect Christmas bread.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Matthew 26:26
It was simple thankfulness Jesus felt as he shared that bread with his friends. Then he spoke those words that gave that bread a new meaning. It was a deeper meaning that took some thought on their part. Today we call it Communion. This Christmas those same words may deserve some deeper thought from us as we celebrate Communion. It’s our thoughtful participation that will change that moment from a holiday ritual to the perfect gift for you to offer at the cradle.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35
Jesus says he is THE Bread of Life. He’s not one of many choices like on the supermarket shelf. THE Bread of Life promises he can fill your life…forever…if you will just come and believe.
Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:11
Those words are a familiar part of an old prayer almost everyone has heard. Who would have thought they are not just old ritual words but God’s provision for those who are hungry today; Bread that can be shared. A small, freshly baked loaf of homemade bread and a card that includes your favorite words “from the mouth of God” would be a great gift for a neighbor or a friend this year. In fact it would be The Perfect Christmas Bread.
Jesus answered, “It is written: “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
Wednesday Blog Post a Day Early
Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
I started out reading Romans 12 but when I got to the part about renewing your mind it made me think of the armor of God so I ended up in Ephesians 6 instead.
You’ve got the truth, you’re ready to act, faith is a good shield against evil. Being Armored Up defensively is good but not complete. There’s still one area left unprotected and vulnerable, your head. The “head shot” is how the devil wipes out most Christians, wounding and messing up their thinking.
There’s only one offensive weapon in that list of armor: the sword. It’s no accident the helmet and the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” are mentioned as a set. Together they become the very best protection against the “head shot.” Not only does the helmet complete your protection from the outside but the sword is actively using all the good stuff inside it to protect you too.
Revelation 3:8 I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name.
Quote from Oswald Chambers – My Utmost For His Highest”
“God does not tell you what He is going to do— He reveals to you who He is.”
So does that mean God is showing me through his opening of doors the paths he wants me to take? I had to ponder the Open Door idea a bit. I do think God is always in charge of doors. Only he knows what he’s going to do and how he’s going to show you who he is. I like the image of a “hand-holding” Christ.
In my life this is how it’s worked. Sometimes I’ve gone through an open door and have discovered new strengths and abilities I didn’t know I had. Christ was holding my hand, pulling me along saying “Come on, let’s do it together.” He was there.
There have been other times I’ve gone through an open door expecting the same result only to find disappointment and even failure. The same Christ was holding my hand and saying the same words “Come on, let’s do it together” with a totally different outcome, but… He was there.
Open Doors are not guarantees, they are opportunities. As long as you recognize those two things you can choose that open door with the best possible information you have, and confidence. Then hang on to his hand for dear life. He’ll be there.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end…3:17 “God will bring into judgment both the righteous and the wicked, for there will be a time for every activity, a time to judge every deed.”….
“Eternity in the human heart”…it’s a given…but is it a choice too? I think so. The verse doesn’t say he has set eternity in “some” human hearts. It’s a bridge everyone will have to cross. This is how I imagine that bridge for the one who has chosen to recognize the promise of eternity in their own heart.
Jesus is on that bridge. He’s waiting to wrap his arms around you securely for this process of judgment, a lot like a parent calming an insecure child. This is not a judgement of punishment but of revelation. It’s the absolute reality of the absolute truth of your life…finally. There will be an Instant Replay of every detail of your life seen through Jesus’ eyes. I’m guessing there will be tears but they’ll be cleansing tears that wash away the last bits of humanity to reveal the promised perfection and complete the transition to eternity.
Excerpts from Mark 3 NIV
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts…9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him…21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”…
I’m having a negative reaction to everything I read today. I don’t like reading that Jesus was angry and distressed. I don’t like that he made plans to keep himself away from the people. I don’t like that his own family was ready to haul him away because they thought he was out of his mind. This is a clear indicator that I’m deeply involved in romanticizing the human Jesus and I don’t like that either.
I read a book “Imaginary Jesus” by Matt Mikalatos. It’s not a “Christian” book per se, it’s a novel and underlying the humor of it is a very serious reality. It’s the mistake of seeing Jesus as what we need him to be in any given situation. Here’s part of the description from Amazon: “When Matt Mikalatos realizes that his longtime buddy in the robe and sandals isn’t the real Jesus at all, but an imaginary one, he embarks on a mission to find the real thing.”
I don’t want to miss The Real Jesus because of my need to make him look and act like I think he should…but…I don’t want him to be angry, or distressed either. That’s too raw, too human, and too much a mirror of what my reaction might be. Maybe that’s the point. The Real Jesus will show me my own humanity despite my creative attempts to mold him into an imaginary image. Obviously he’s not finished yet.
gene ther·a·py – noun – 1 the transplantation of normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective ones in order to correct genetic disorders.
From Ethics by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“…The Pharisee is that extremely admirable man who subordinates his entire life to his knowledge of good and evil and is as severe a judge of himself as of his neighbour to the honour of God, whom he humbly thanks for this knowledge. For the Pharisee every moment of life becomes a situation of conflict in which he has to choose between good and evil…”
Bonhoeffer describes the personal life of a Pharisees pretty clearly in that first paragraph. That phrase “knowledge of good and evil” made me think of the Garden of Eden. There was only one tree Adam and Eve were NOT to eat from. It was the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We’ve all got a little a little bit of that same Pharisee DNA in us and that’s a tough sentence to live with.
But God has a plan to get us out of that genetic trap. It’s the very first, and most effective form of Gene Therapy to replace those defective cells. Some call it born again. I call it Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Mark 6:47-52 NIV And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he [Jesus] was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
This Scripture is a different kind of picture of what “belief” looks like for those closest to Jesus. It turns out those most intimately connected to Jesus can suffer bouts of what verse 52 calls “hardened” hearts. I’m pretty sure fatigue, fear, confusion had a lot to do with that. That’s true of us too, but these were his disciples. That’s a surprise isn’t it?
We can fix those physical conditions with more rest and more knowledge. Those are surely needed, but the heart problem needs something more. That fix is being willing to consider Jesus is watching for opportunities to come you. He may choose unusual circumstances to walk into your life or your circumstances and then climb right into the “boat” with you.
“Take heart” no matter how astounding it seems, his words “Surprise, It’s Me” are his comfort and assurance for your heart and your life.
Habakkuk 2 :1 I will stand at my watch and station myself on the ramparts; I will look to see what he will say to me, and what answer I am to give to this complaint. 2 Then the Lord replied: “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it. 3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.
My “station” is the Lazy Boy early in the morning looking for God to speak to me through his Word and sometimes the words of his people who have shared their inspiration in their own writings. One of my favorite quotes is from Oswald Chambers: “patience is not the same as indifference.”
It’s that Lazy Boy that’s made all the difference between patience and indifference for me. If I’m there and I get nothing it’s patience. If I’m not there, it’s indifference. It’s an Inspired Risk to believe God is there with truth for me. It’s an Inspired Risk to believe I do have a “revelation.” It’s an Inspired Risk to find my own words of faith and then run with them. I won’t get it right every time…but there is an appointed time. Patience is an Inspired Risk: “Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come …”