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Archive for December, 2015

Last minute shopping, final decorations, meal planning and cooking – that is most likely what is consuming your thoughts today – these things are fighting to consume mine.  Here we are – three days away from Christmas and if we are not cautious and diligent, the real meaning of the day and the season will be covered over like a last minute package wrapped with colorful paper – and then lost in the pile of other presents.

The gift we remember on Christmas day should not be wrapped up and placed under the tree with the other gifts.  The blessing this season was created to represent should be at the forefront of our minds and hearts – especially this week.

God had sent prophets to instruct, given words to guide and used miracles to remind the world that at the very foundation of existence is a desire on God’s part for a relationship with the creation.  But 2ooo years ago, God made sure we would see how seriously he takes this relationship.  He sent his son to enter into humanity not as some luminous being and not as an extravagant prince but as a common man – fully God and fully man.

Immanuel, God with us, came to demonstrate love.  Jesus not only instructed and guided – he lived out this relationship with God right before our eyes.  He led by an example of submission, humility and love.  And he followed the plan through to the end giving us an example of what real love involves – self-less sacrifice.

That is why we celebrate Christmas.

Jesus came!

Be blessed today!

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The Light Has Come

At this time of year, we often turn to the prophesies of Isaiah as we marvel at the way God has interacted with creation over the generations.  Isaiah foretold the coming of a messiah.  His words brought hope to a struggling people.  Those words were held as a constant reminder that God would redeem.  Isaiah was so sure of what God had given him to say that he often spoke in terms that it had already happened, even though it would be hundreds of years before it came about.

Isaiah 9 is one of those passages we turn to at Christmas.  In fact, I have been preaching this Advent season on the four descriptions Isaiah gave of the coming messiah in verse 6 – Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

This morning as I read back through the passage, another verse stood out to me.  Verse 2 says, The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.”  

Isaiah foretold of God sending a messiah – a savior and that his coming would be like a light shining in the darkness.  The world was in the dark – unaware and oblivious to God and God’s love.  When Jesus came, he brought light.  The light he brought revealed the path to the Father.  The illumination exposed but also offered direction.

We live in a dark world as well but Jesus still offers that same light.  His light exposes our faults but it also gives us direction in living a life that honors the Father and at the same time brings fulfillment to us.

Jesus has come.  We have been walking in darkness but we have seen a great light.  We are living in a land of deep darkness but THE LIGHT has dawned!  Thanks be to God that the light has come.

May your day and this Christmas season be filled with his light!

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This past Sunday we talked in church about how important it is to place our trust in God.  But that trust has to be grounded in the fact that God is trustworthy.  I don’t know about you, but for me, I want to have the assurance that my faith and trust are placed in a God that is big enough to handle what life brings my way.

There are situations and struggles that come our way in life that are bigger than we can handle.  Knowing that our God is able to give us the strength to go over, around or straight through our struggles gives us the peace to truly make it through the day.

Isaiah prophesied that the coming messiah – Jesus – would be called the Wonderful Counselor.  He is that counselor because he understands all that we encounter having experienced it as well and he cares about what happens to us.  He would be called the Mighty God – big enough, strong enough and fully capable to handle any and all struggles we encounter.  Isaiah said he would be called Everlasting Father.  He is the Everlasting Father because he is consistent and timeless – his love is forever and the life he offers us is for real and full of meaning and purpose.

And he would be called the Prince of Peace because he would come – and in fact has come – to redeem the situation of our lives.  He has come to bridge the gap between us and God – a gap we created by choosing to go our own way.  By bringing us back into a solid relationship with God, Jesus offers us peace.

That is the story of Christmas.  God asked his son to give up the glory of heaven to become human and physically experience life on earth then to endure the weight of all sin and suffering so that we could be restored to the life God intended for us.  Christmas is the day we celebrate Jesus’ saying “Yes” to God’s request.

We are here today because he said “Yes.”

Be blessed today!

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If you read the headlines, watch the news or simply leave your home, you know we live in a world filled with anxiety and stress. This stress and worry can take it’s toll on us – physically, emotionally and relationally. If we let it, anxiety can rule our lives. We wrestle with fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of fear. But Jesus came to give us another option.

But understand that peace is not the absence of stress. Jesus’ coming – and our acceptance of him as savior does not remove stress from our lives. In fact, Jesus said, in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Jesus does not offer to take away the struggle but he does gives us hope to be content and at peace even in the midst of the storm that is life. Jesus offers us a life of tranquility and peace even in the midst of all that swirls around us.

You may be sitting there thinking to yourself, “That makes no sense. If I am overwhelmed by anxiety – worrying about all the things that come at me each and every day – then how can Jesus make a difference? If he is not going to remove the causes of the stress then how can there be peace?”

Jesus came to restore a proper relationship with God. He became human to bridge the gap between God and mankind. His life and death brought the possibility of reconciliation to a broken relationship and a broken world. The level of peace in your life is directly correlated to your proximity to God. (You might want to Tweet that #PrinceofPeace) As long as there is distance between you and the Father, there will be no peace. Peace comes in trusting God with your life – in knowing God is in control and regardless of how hopeless things seem to appear, God only wants the best for you and your life. Julian of Norwich said, “Peace reigns where our Lord reigns.”

This kind of peace makes no human sense. The kind of peace that only Jesus – the Prince of Peace can bring. Paul refers to it as the peace that passes all understanding. He says in Philippians 4, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy when he said that the coming Messiah would be called the Prince of Peace.

The Prince of Peace has come and in so doing, he has made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father. He never promised to remove our stress and the things in life that bring anxiety. In fact, he let us know that the life of a believer would not be easy. But he has given us an opportunity to have a relationship with God and through that relationship we realize that this life is temporary. His peace is real for believers because we know that our future is secure. So even in the midst of stress, I can stand in peace knowing that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is my savior. He has endured more than I ever will. He understands whatever it is I am going through and he cares for me. There is peace in knowing that no matter how this battle goes, the war has already been won!

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In the wake of yesterday’s tragedy, thoughts are turned toward the turmoil in our world.  Emotions are flaring on issues of terrorism, gun control, the disintegration of the family and so on.  Society is reeling from overwhelming turmoil and global unrest.

And yet, we find ourselves in the middle of the season of peace.  What a stark contradiction.  We celebrate this season by remembering a baby born over 2000 years ago in a far away land – a baby prophesied to be the Prince of Peace.  On the surface, we may be prone to ask, “So where is the peace?”

But we must remember one important fact – God’s peace is not the absence of struggle but rather security and contentment in the midst of turmoil.  So the peace we celebrate this season is not some mythical dream of a illusive utopia where everyone gets along and all is well with the world.  No, the peace we celebrate is real and found in a relationship with the creator.  Julian of Norwich said, “Peace reigns where the Lord reigns.”

The level of peace you will experience in your life is directly correlated with your proximity to God.  If you desire more peace in your life today, spend this season finding your way back to the Father.

Be blessed today!

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Hurry up and wait.  That is the description of the season in which we find ourselves.  We rush to the store to get in line and wait.  We rush out of the house to begin our day’s journey and we wait at lights and in traffic.  We put up Christmas decorations and wait.

If we are honest, no one enjoys waiting.  But this time of year, whether we realize it or not, we hurry to wait.  Advent has begun.  The season of expectancy and excitement of what is to come.  And inherent in the anticipation is waiting.

We look forward to Christmas day when we celebrate the reality that God became flesh and lived among us.  And in so doing, we strengthen the solidarity we enjoy with generations of believers who date back thousands of years.  We wait with excitement for his return.

So as we rush to put up the tree and make sure the decorations are just right, we do so knowing that we then must wait.  But in the waiting, God works.  When we create space within our schedules, our thoughts and our hearts, God can use that space to shape us.

So we wait . . .

And God continues live among us . . .

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