Wednesday, December 30, 2015

At the end of the Year - a Reminder of our Faithful God

Here we are...December 30th and we're close to the end of 2015. As we get to the end, I ran across this reading from Charles Spurgeon that a friend – Doug Bond - had posted on facebook.

 What I realize is that Spurgeon says so well what I want to remember about God's faithfulness both at the end of the year, as well as in the years to come.  

The verse he shares from comes from 1 Samuel 7:12 
12  Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us."
It's not long, and even though it's in older English, you'll get the point...and when he says "hitherto", he's saying, "To this point in time".

The Title of His Message:  "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us." - 1 Samuel 7:12

The word "hitherto" seems like a hand pointing in the direction of the past. Twenty years or seventy, and yet, "hitherto the Lord hath helped!" Through poverty, through wealth, through sickness, through health, at home, abroad, on the land, on the sea, in honour, in dishonour, in perplexity, in joy, in trial, in triumph, in prayer, in temptation, "hitherto hath the Lord helped us!"
We delight to look down a long avenue of trees. It is delightful to gaze from end to end of the long vista, a sort of verdant temple, with its branching pillars and its arches of leaves; even so look down the long aisles of your years, at the green boughs of mercy overhead, and the strong pillars of lovingkindness and faithfulness which bear up your joys. Are there no birds in yonder branches singing? Surely there must be many, and they all sing of mercy received "hitherto."
But the word also points forward. For when a man gets up to a certain mark and writes "hitherto," he is not yet at the end, there is still a distance to be traversed. More trials, more joys; more temptations, more triumphs; more prayers, more answers; more toils, more strength; more fights, more victories; and then come sickness, old age, disease, death. Is it over now? No! there is more yet-awakening in Jesus' likeness, thrones, harps, songs, psalms, white raiment, the face of Jesus, the society of saints, the glory of God, the fulness of eternity, the infinity of bliss. O be of good courage, believer, and with grateful confidence raise thy "Ebenezer," (my note: an Ebenezer was a reference to a stone of help), for—
He who hath helped thee hitherto
Will help thee all thy journey through.
When read in heaven's light how glorious and marvellous a prospect will thy "hitherto" unfold to thy grateful eye!

Peace to you my friends, and let's live with a sense of God's Faithfulness to our lives

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday, Christmas Eve

As I write this, Christmas Eve has begun.  But, like so many people around the world the beginning is actually on the evening of the day.  Tonight we will gather at Dave & Linda Hughes’ Farm and in simplicity we’ll sing hymns and carols of Christmas.  

We'll tell the story all over again in scripture and song.  It never tires me to hear it anew. 
When Zechariah and Elizabeth birthed John, who was to be the forerunner of Jesus - 30 years down the road - Zechariah's tongue was loosened and he spoke for the first time in almost a year about what God was showing him in the birth of his son.

Luke 1:68-69 (NIV) 
68 "Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David


The horn was a symbol of God's calling the people.  The shofar was a ram's horn and was used to call them to seasons of worship and celebration.  John was going to be that horn that called the nation to God doing something in their midst.  Later in that same prophecy, he said:

Luke 1:76-79 (NRSV) 
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us,
79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."


I love the words of this:
  • knowledge of salvation..
  • forgiveness of sins...
  • tender mercy of God...
  • light to those sitting in darkness...
  • the dawn from on high breaks upon us...
  • to guide to the way of peace...
Christmas Eve all around the world is celebrated for all of these reasons.  A savior is born, sent to us by the Father who sought a way for us back to him.  All over the world there is this sense of joy, mystery, peace that settles over Christ's communities as we acknowledge the simplicity and beauty of what God has done.

There is a legend in Northern Canada that at midnight on Christmas Eve, the spirit of peace hovers over everything - the cattle, wild animals, all fall to their knees in worship.  Stories like that are a part of a bigger picture - the need to say something is happening that none of us can believe on our own. 

William Shakespeare wrote about Christmas Eve and this peace:
"Some say that whenever that season comes
Wherein our Savior's birth is celebrated
The bird of dawn sings all night long;
They say that no spirit can walk abroad;
No planet strikes,
No fairy takes,
No(thing) has power to charm,
So hallowed and gracious is this time."

Zechariah speaks words that echo that same spirit of Christmas eve:
"The dawn from on high will break upon us..."


In a few hours I will gather with my family of faith at New Life and we'll sing the songs, read the scripture and once again say "thank you God for this wonder-full gift".

I hope your celebration will also be full of wonder.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday, the fourth week of Advent: The Promise of Christmas

It's just two days until Christmas, and in our house, little ones are getting excited about what is soon to come.  For me, this morning I thought about the Promise of Christmas.

The story of Christmas is a story of the BEGINNING of the fulfilling of God's promise. 

Luke 2:1-14 (NIV) 
2:1 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.
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.
10 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.
11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.
12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." 


The Vision of Christmas in our minds must not be limited to a December date once a year...it is the promise fulfillment of "good news of great joy that is for all people...A Savior is born, he is Christ the Lord."

The coming of Jesus is the beginning of the fulfillment of Hope for a world ruined in the Fall by Sin’s entrance into the world. We don't even know how different it is supposed to be. We don't have any idea of how different life would have been if only Adam had not disbelieved.

BUT, The Promise of Christmas is of New Life - our lives.  

What if we determined to live with His Hope, Love, Grace in our lives every day?

> let's welcome the coming of Jesus into our life, our marriage, our relationships, our jobs, neighbors, resources, finances, entertainment, everthing.

> let's allow Jesus to do what he came to do, to transform us into the creatures that reflect the glory and image of God in beauty and truth.

> let's live in grace, in mercy, in peace, in forgiveness, in hope and refuse to partake of the fruits of bitterness and complaint and cynicism all around us.

> let's allow Jesus to enter in and heal all that needs to be restored, and keep persisting in that as long as we have life on the earth.

> let's hear the words personally: "Today...To YOU...a Savior...is born".

Jesus is God's Christmas gift to US, the beginning and the end of all that God dreams for us to become.

Peace


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Tuesday, the 4th Week of Advent: "On Deadlines and Advent"

It's Tuesday of the fourth week of Advent...And I'm thinking of "Deadlines",

We're all waiting for Christmas in just three days...but before we get there, we face Deadlines...crunch time..."this stuff has to be done before Christmas"...I am there too.

Isn't that what always happens when we get close to some days off?
I thought about that on my walk this morning and it hit me...

Galatians 4:4
4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

It hit me...God has deadlines too.

Just think about it...the time from Adam to Jesus was several thousand years,

John 1:1-2
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

During this time, the nation had the promise of the first Advent...the Messiah was promised and "in time" He would come.

The nation of Israel waited, and waited, and waited to see the Messiah come, and when he did come..they didn't recognize it.

John 1:10-11
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.

THEN...at the Deadline...God said, "NOW"... The TIME was NOW...and it was in that "fullness of time" that God sent his Son.

The First Advent was a mysterious, but marvelous event...and so will be the Second Advent. Because God has also promised that the Time will come when Jesus will return again - the Second Advent.

So it hit me: If Israel waited and waited, but then didn't recognize his first coming, I had to ask myself if we I was living in such a way today that I could recognize his coming again?

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13
12 ...may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Deadlines, we live with them; but we remember that the ultimate Deadline is in God’s hand…it’s up to us to be ready when he is.


That's what hit me on my walk today...

Peace!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Monday, the Fourth Week of Advent - Living With Hope

It’s the final week of advent.  
On this Monday, I am thinking of some friends in our fellowship who have lost a loved one – a grandmother – just these few days before Christmas.

When I was 14, just 2 weeks before Christmas, I walked into my house after delivering the morning papers in my small town.  Standing in the kitchen was my mother, and she was crying.  She looked at me and said, “Grandma died this morning”.  I wept.

That Christmas presents were opened and some of them were from Grandma who had knitted and sewn presents for her family all Fall long.  It was a Christmas I’ve never forgotten.  Years later I can picture the solemnness of receiving gifts as they were passed out.  Tears flowed instead of grin to grin smiles and exclamations.

I read this story this morning about the poet Robert Wadsworth Longfellow.  In 1863, as the American Civil War was dragging on, Longfellow’s son joined the army against his father’s wishes and was critically injured. On Christmas Day that year, as church bells announced the arrival of another Christmas, Longfellow picked up his pen and began to write, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”

The poem begins pleasantly, lyrically, but then takes a dark turn. “Accursed” cannons “thundered,” mocking the message of peace. By the fifth and sixth verses, Longfellow’s desolation is nearly complete. “It was as if an earthquake rent the hearth-stones of a continent,” he wrote. The poet nearly gave up: “And in despair I bowed my head; ‘There is no peace on earth,’ I said.”

But then, from the depths of that bleak Christmas day, Longfellow heard the irrepressible sound of hope. And he wrote this seventh stanza.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep! The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good-will to men!”

The war raged on and so did memories of his personal tragedies, but it could not stop Christmas. The Messiah is born! He promises, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5).


My friends, we celebrate family and life on most Christmas days, but occasionally we have to remind ourselves of the hope of the Gospel – that all things will be made NEW because the one who came at Christmas, will come again and all things will be made NEW. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday, the 3rd week of Advent: Christmas Chaos

It's Friday, the third week of Advent...and I wonder about Christmas Chaos.

We have a house full of Grandchildren...four of them to be exact.  It's just 7 days until Christmas, and our quiet, serene, rural, pastoral existence has become filled with lego boxes, farm implement toys, railroad tracks, books, and general mayhem...and I'm enjoying every minute.

I awoke to the sounds of children playing

Remember the story and the hymn? 

Luke 2:6-7 
6  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 

Jesus is born...a baby...and what do babies do?  YEP...they cry, they wet, they sleep and eat...and then they do it again, and again, and again.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the bright sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.
Well, maybe not!  

The story of Christmas does not fill in all of the human aspects of Jesus' birth.  But, I'd like to think that God has no problem navigating the Chaos of Christmas.

Here's my prayer for all you Moms and Dads out there who are trying to figure out a way to focus on Jesus this Christmas...find a space, take your kids in your arms with a great big hug, and tell them that they bring JOY to you, and that you're greatful to be able to celebrate Christmas with them...Chaos and all.

By the way, HAPPY BIRTHDAY... Leo, Raewyn and Theo... three of my sweet grandchildren all born 6 years ago today.


Peace

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thursday, the 3rd Week of Advent: Some Musings on THAT day

It's Thursday, the third week of Advent and as I read this morning, I found myself thinking of the difference between the world as we see it, or as it is presented to us each day, and the world that God is at work in.

Remember the story as Luke's Gospel unfolds it?

Luke 2:1-7
1  In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.
2  This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
3  And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
4  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David,
5  to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
6  And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth.
7  And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

The world around us is loud, boisterous, full of bombastic powerful people: Some are Politicians, some are stars, some are athletes.  It is always on the edge of drama…
·         Armies at war
·         Disease
·         Disasters
We are surrounded and reminded every day that things are terrible and only going to get worse unless we, or somebody powerful, a leader, comes and does something about it.
I can imagine on THAT day...THAT day that Mary, Joseph had to resort to a manger stall because the inn was full...THAT day where Bethlehem was filled with visitors who had come back because of Caesar's Tax/Census decree...THAT day the conversations were filled with lots of talk about the powerful, the rich, the important, the noticed...

BUT

On THAT day - as in every day that has ever been - a baby was born. Babies being born are usually certainly loud, but humble. The miracle of birth has made me cry several times.

Jesus came without fanfare
Not in a Palace
Not in acclaim
Not to the rich and powerful

But to a young woman, her faithful husband, AND

The World of the rich, powerful, famous...knew nothing about it.

That seems to be God's way - to take the humble, the not-so-loud, the serving and willing heart people and quietly, but certainly, keep building His Kingdom.

Would love to have you be part of that.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Wednesday, the 3rd week of Advent: Waiting In Faith

It's Wednesday in the third week of Advent.  This morning I'm thinking about what it means to wait with faith.

Christmas is just a little over a week away.  At our house, the decorations are finished, cookies have begun being baked, presents are wrapped and music is in the air...We're waiting.

As I write this my daughter, son-in-law, and their four kids (their two sets of twins) are on a plane flying over the Atlantic headed for Chicago. 

We'll head down to get them...stand in the line and look with anticipation for them to walk through the door. 

Anticipation, waiting...they are all part of what Advent is all about.
We wait in hope
We wait in faith
We wait with expectancy...

Titus 2:11-13
11  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men...13  while we wait for the blessed hope--the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

A few years ago I was at the airport waiting for my daughter and her family come through those doors.  A Mom with a little boy and very young daughter came up to the rope line and stood alongside of me also looking for someone to come through.  The little boy stood right at the edge and kept saying out loud: 

"Dad, Where are you Dad?"

His Mom, at first, reassured him to be patient, he's coming.  But this little boy was anticipating, hoping, expecting, and it was sure faith that allowed him to keep saying..."Dad, were waiting Dad...."

Over and over he kept saying it, and then, all of a sudden the doors opened, and the little boy yelled, "DAAAAAADDD"...and without  regard to security ducked under the ropes and ran to his Dad's waiting arms.

Jesus said, "unless we become as little children..."


Advent reminds us that we wait with expectancy, hope, and full assurance of faith.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tuesday, Week 3 of Advent: His Name is John

It's Tuesday, Day 17 in the third week of Advent.

Advent celebrates the birth of our Savior...but before Jesus is born in the manger, the Gospel of Luke reminds us that God sent someone first to prepare the way.  The Gospel of Luke opens with the story of Zechariah in the temple, the angel Gabriel's announcement to him that Elizabeth and He would have a child - a boy - and they would name him John. 

WHY did God first put John in place?

Luke 1:17
17  and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

But Zechariah has doubts...and the angel says, "you will be silent (mute) and stay that way until the time comes..."

AND THEN the time came...

Luke 1:57-66
57  Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son.
58  And her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59  And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child. And they would have called him Zechariah after his father,
60  but his mother answered, “No; he shall be called John.”
61  And they said to her, “None of your relatives is called by this name.”
62  And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he wanted him to be called.
63  And he asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all wondered.
64  And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God.
65  And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea,
66  and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him.

His Name is John - His name means "The Lord is Gracious".

John does not appear again until he is in the wilderness saying "Prepare the way of the Lord."  He was a messenger to prepare for Jesus' coming.

Prepare...
Do we hear that?
We are all preparing...presents, cookies, decorations, programs...but are we preparing for the coming of the Lord.

This is the Advent for us.  Desperation, anxiety, one-more-thing to do, is temporary...but in Advent, 

Christ is coming, and that is forever.


Peace

Monday, December 14, 2015

Monday, 3rd Week of Advent: "Fear Not"

It's Monday, the third week of Advent.
In my reading this morning I could not help but notice a familiar set of words coming from the angel of the Lord to various individuals:

Luke 1:13
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

Luke 1:30
30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.

Matthew 1:20
20 But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

Luke 2:8-11
8  And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear.
10  And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
11  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Fears...our Fears...We all have them, and have to learn to live with them.
Advent reminds us that we all have fears.
We have to decide what to do with those fears. Do we live in a way in which they dominate our thoughts leaving us anxious, or angry? Or do we look at them and in each instance realize I cannot control this, but I can trust God in it.

My friends, what we cannot control, we should not want to.

You and I cannot control the world around us; but we can control the world within us.

I pray it so often: "Lord, I trust You"

Peace

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sunday, the 3rd Week of Advent: Mary, What Did You Hear?

I awoke this morning to thunderstorms.  It isn't snowing outside, and the ground is green...but this is Wisconsin and it's suppose to be cold and white with snow!
Sometimes life feels like it's upside down...sort of a "what's going on here?" time.

I thought about that this morning as I read the passage in Luke of the angel Gabriel's visit to Mary.

Luke 1:26-38
26  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth,
27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary.
28  And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
29  But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be.
30  And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
31  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.
32  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,
33  and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34  And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35  And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
36  And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.
37  For nothing will be impossible with God.”
38  And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.


There is so much in these few sentences that I wondered "Mary, what did you hear?"  
We've all had these times where things come at us at such a fast clip that we walk away and start to think..."what did he/she say?"  

Mary:
You're favored...
God is with you...
You have found favor with God (ok, so that's twice he said that)
Conceive???
A Son???
Jesus
A Son of the Most High
The Lord is giving him the throne of his great Israel King, King David???
Forever
A Kingdom!

What?, How? When?  the thoughts come flooding with the words echoing in her mind.

Mary, did you know?

That's impossible!!!  NO, it's not...just look at Elizabeth's pregnancy...everyone said that was impossible...
You're right...Nothing is impossible with God....

For all of us, be blessed, be at peace...Our God comes and reassures us that indeed, he is at work in our lives and around us...be open, be aware, be ready, and like Mary...say,

YES!  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thursday, 2nd Week of Advent - Trust and Fear

It's the REAL Thursday of week 2 in Advent 
(I don't know how many of you politely ignored my saying yesterday was Thursday).

Something to think about today... Luke 1:11-13
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.

Later in the passage: Luke 1:18-20
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."

An Old saying crops up here: WHEN TRUST IS LOST, FEAR MOVES IN.

We all face it - and on most days. We struggle with trust, and fear moves in. Zechariah faced it. The Angel Gabriel is giving him good news and he stands awaiting Zechariah's response. When he speaks, he speaks in fear...trust is gone, fear moved in.

Gabriel seems indignant - "What? What is the matter with you Zechariah?"

The answer my friends is not the absence of fear...that is probably impossible. The answer is turning away from the fear that surfaces and simply say, "Lord, I Trust You."


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Wednesday, the 2nd Week of Advent: Parents of Promise

Let's think about what it means to be a Parent of Promise...  

Read this passage and imagine what is happening as you read.
Luke 1:5-13
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.

I don't know how you feel about it, but I am passionate about being a Husband, a Father, and a Papa as much as anything else in life. I love many things....teaching scripture, reading, football, fishing, wines and good food, and love sharing them all with friends; but nothing can grab my heart and turn me towards prayer than being in one or more of those roles above.

A Parent is one thing...a Parent of Promise is another. Zechariah served God and prayed...He prayed for the people...He prayed the prayers of Israel's priests...But He prayed for His wife and He to have a child. Then one day, while serving God in the temple, the angel Gabriel comes to him....and here's the thing:

In a moment of time He hears the words - You are to be a Parent of Promise.

Our children are from God...that may be hard for some of you to believe at this moment of time, but it's true.

Zechariah and Elizabeth lived like we should - waiting, anticipating, hoping for their prayers to be answered. The angel comes to tell Him - "Zechariah, You are not insignificant...and God has been hearing your prayers...and I've come to tell you that all of life has prepared you to become this Parent of Promise..."

He's telling him what each of us need to hear: "You Can Do It".

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Advent, Week 2, Tuesday, "Gifts"

It's the second week of Advent. I have been doing some shopping...with four kids, three who are married, and 8 grandchildren...you can understand why.
Don't get me wrong, we love giving gifts. It's one of the great joys in life to see people receive something that's personal and desired by them.
It's made me think of two things for you to ponder this day:
First of all, in a brief, but pointed way the Apostle Paul describes what Jesus means to us:
2 Corinthians 9:15
15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
GIfts...we give them because the people we give to mean something to us. At least, I hope they do.
2 Corinthians 9:7
7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Secondly, Do not give out of compulsion for that is not a gift but a duty.
I go back to the best Christmas movie of all: "It's a Wonderful Life" and the sign on George Bailey's Wall:

Monday, December 7, 2015

Advent Monday, week 2: It's good to Remember

The second week of Advent:
It's Monday morning...it's December 7...Pearl Harbor Day.
Time moves on and away from history.  I wasn't alive then, and probably every person reading this was not alive.  It was our parents or grandparents who lived through it and remembered what was happening in their lives that day.
Yet we all have memories of those kinds of days:
I remember the day John F Kennedy was assassinated.
I remember the morning of 9/11.
While these were tragic, other dates I remember were not:
I remember June 12, 1971 - the day Linda and I got married.
I remember each of my children's births, and remember three of my kid's weddings.

It's good to remember...Psalm 143:5
5  I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.

"If you take an experience and attach to it a strong emotion, you'll never forget it.".

Deuteronomy 32:3-7
3  I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God!
4  He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he...
7  Remember the days of old; consider the generations long past. Ask your father and he will tell you, your elders, and they will explain to you.

Here's the point...REMEMBER...some things have not been so good; but a lot of things have been great.  We remember so that we can learn the lessons of history, and rejoice in the things God has done, and grow in our hope for the future.

Psalm 77:11
11  I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.

It is good to Remember all that has happened in our lives, and to us...and go back to worship the Lord for where and what he has brought us through.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Week 1 Advent Saturday, "What If?"

Hi my friends,  I hope your first week of Advent was good.  I have some catching up to do and I want to share what I've written each day during the Advent season so that we might have time to reflect, ponder, and anticipate the joy of Christ's birth.

Today I wrote about "What If?"

Happy Saturday to all of you.  It's the end of the first week of Advent.  Here's a scripture to ponder, a thought to meditate on:

Isaiah 60:1-2
1  Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you.
2  For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you.

I am asking the simplest of questions: "What if?"
What if the darkness around us witnessed in addictions, refugees fleeing war, radical terrorism fueled by demonic hate, gun violence, and sex-slave trafficking - things I read this morning in the news I get - evil that is pervasive and relentless...
What if God's purpose in our lives was to put us "in" the darkness so that the Lord would rise upon us and his glory seen?

Jesus said, John 17:14-18
14  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
15  I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.
16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
17  Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
18  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.

What if we took this evil we see and prayed...and sanctified our lives in the truth of God's word...and then went out to be the light in the darkness?
Just thinking, What if?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Living For Christ in Our Culture Today, #1

This next week I embark on a risky endeavor.  I'm going to do a series of messages on what it means to live for Christ in our culture - or what in the world does it mean to be a Christian and live for Christ in the midst of this world?

With all sorts of cultural issues to address, I do not pretend to be an expert on any.  I am a Christian first and foremost, and my allegiance is, and hopefully will always be, to be faithful to God, his word, and the work of Jesus Christ in the Kingdom of God.

I don't pretend to know what all of those things mean.  With racial strife, questions on same-sex marriage, terrorism worries, privacy concerns, and the technological malaise that exists...I would be naive to say, "Oh, I have an answer for this..."

What I do want to do is address some of the issues here - especially as it relates to what I'm teaching on.  I know that not all will agree with me - it has never happened before so I don't believe it will happen again.  What I do hope to do is "reprove, correct, with all long suffering and patience"... to challenge my mind, soul, spirit, along with your's, to "love the Lord your God with all your MIND..." (as well as heart, soul, strength).

My fear is that we have succumbed to the cultural world of post-modernism that tells us that our concepts gained from Scripture are unreliable, out of date, and no longer relevant to our modern world.  I've heard that before.

This week I'm going to dive into one of our more current cultural divides:  Same-Sex Marriage.

I wanted to post for your reading something that I read 6 years ago, and signed on to.  I still believe it to be relevant, as a Christian believer, today.  It is called "The Manhattan Declaration" and comes from a wide ranging group of Christian leaders from Orthodox, Catholic, and Evangelical groups.  It was released in October 2009, and I signed it in early 2010.

The Manhattan declaration is summarized as follows:
Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non-believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

When I signed this document the waves of activism concerning same sex marriage were only beginning to be heard.  It has changed tremendously over the last five years and now our Supreme Court justices are soon to rule on States laws that either grant or prohibit recognition of Same-Sex marriages.

What is it therefore that we, 21st century Christians and citizens, supposed to do?  believe? hold on to? reject? work for?

I would encourage you to read the entire Manhattan Declaration, but especially the second section on Marriage... it's worth thinking about.  You can read the entire document at:

http://www.manhattandeclaration.org/man_dec_resources/Manhattan_Declaration_full_text.pdf

Let me know what you think.

Peace

Monday, June 15, 2015

Heaven: He Makes All Things New

Revelation 21:5
5  And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”

It's almost summer here in Wisconsin - that is on the calendar.  It has felt like Summer for a couple of weeks or more.  I was walking with Linda and remarked how just 8 weeks ago we were longing for warm weather.  The fight between Winter and Summer is called Spring here, but it is just that - a fight.  One day its warm, the next cold.  One day is dry, the next wet.  I had one day where I turned on the furnace in the morning for a couple of minutes just to warm up the house, only to turn on the air conditioner at night just to get rid of the warm humidity.  That's Wisconsin.

What if Winter leading to Summer through this thing called Spring was not a natural way for us to see something Jesus was teaching us?  The Winter is long, dark, cold.  Spring comes in to usher in light, hope, warmth...good news arrives.  One day I'm looking at snow on the ground and then all of a sudden it's green - flowers emerge, trees blossom, and "look, I am making everything new."

I walk - almost every day - and often use it as a prayer/meditation time.  I "muse" as this blog is entitled.  The very typical part of my walk is to say a personalized version of the Lord's Prayer.  I find Jesus' prayer to be concise, and yet complete.  You remember the second line:  "Let your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Ask the typical Christian what they think of in relation to the Kingdom of God and they will often not have the slightest idea of how to explain it.  So also, Heaven itself.  A Kingdom is a very real thing - a defined place where someone leads, or rules; and there are laws, or ways in which things are to be done.  In Jesus' prayer for us, the plea is for the Kingdom of God to come to earth, for his will to be done on the earth...sounds great to me.  But is it future tense only?  Why can't it be NOW too?
His Kingdom will is/can be done on earth as it is in heaven...isn't that what Jesus taught us to pray.

SO, that then gets us to the place of wondering about what Heaven is like anyway.  I know people who think Heaven is like a long church service - after all, isn't there worship going on in Heaven all of the time?  And for many, we sigh, and think how we're not very spiritual because we can't say, "Oh, I'm really looking forward to an unending worship service..."

BUT here's the key:  What heaven looks like is something we're given a picture of in Jesus' earthly ministry.

Luke 4:18-19
18  “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,
19  and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.


Matthew 4:23-24
23  Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.
24  News about him spread as far as Syria, and people soon began bringing to him all who were sick. And whatever their sickness or disease, or if they were demon-possessed or epileptic or paralyzed—he healed them all.
 


Heaven is the place where the captives walk free...
The blind go out and get a book to read...
The oppressed live without fear of tyrants...
Sickness...disease...demons...epilepsy...the paralyzed... None of that is there...

"Look, I make all things new."  You notice the words.  He doesn't say "I am making all new things."  No, he's taking the Winter of our cold, dark world and make all the things that existed then, new!  Life is restored, and creation that he called "good" in Genesis 1 is once again completely good.

"Look, I make all things new." means we don't get new glasses, we get new eyes!  When Jesus walked the earth he healed and restored, he didn't hand out crutches.

"Look, I make all things new..."  That's You and Me too....I can't wait to see that.

Peace