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Archive for December, 2016

What gift will you bring?

When the magi arrived at the manger, they were not empty handed.  They came bearing gifts.  For them, they could not imagine traveling for many miles over the course of weeks only to appear before the King with nothing.  They may not have been Jewish, but they understood the significance of this occurrence.  They would be standing before royalty.  They would encounter fulfilled prophecy.  This would be a once in eternity opportunity.

So they appeared before Jesus offering gifts of great value.  They brought items that were hard to come by – and most likely – items Mary and Joseph had never held.  They wanted to offer Jesus extravagance – articles fitting for a King.

gift-at-mangerThis Christmas, what gift will you bring to the manger?  What can you possibly offer to the Savior of the world?  Is there anything of value you can give?

The wonder of Christmas does not emanate from  being able to give gifts to impress Jesus.  The wonder of Christmas is that what matters most to him is that we offer ourselves – with no strings or expectations of return.

What gift will you bring?

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This week, much of our nation is dealing with unbearably cold temperatures.  Even here in south Texas along the coast it is cold – 33 degrees this morning.  That is not all that common in this part of the world.  In fact, last week I was sitting across the table from a gentleman and we were talking about the warm climate we enjoy in this part of the state.

He told me he had moved here many years ago from the midwest.  He still has friends in that part of the country and he was talking to one of his childhood friends who made the comment, “I guess you guys don’t even have winter down there.”  The gentleman’s reply was, “Of course we do, last year I think we had winter on a Thursday!”

There is something to be said for being able to sit on the patio in shorts and flip flops 2337around a fire in the chimnea at Christmas.  But I also have to say, having a cold snap is refreshing as well.  My perspective changes a bit when I can literally see the breath escaping from my mouth.  It reminds me how precious the act of breathing is even though we take it for granted daily.  When it is cold outside, I am reminded of the fragility of our lives.

We are not invincible.  There are some things we cannot control nor defend ourselves from.  We can never be strong enough, good enough or smart enough to overcome our own selfish nature.  That is why we need a savior.

Thanks be to the Father for knowing that about us and taking action.

This time of year we should be especially mindful of what God has done.  We celebrate his in-breaking into humanity with hope and light.

Celebrate his in-breaking this week!

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Christmas presents under the treeAnticipation is a funny thing.  I remember as a child, as Christmas drew closer, I would rush into our living room as soon as I got home from school to see if there were any new packages under our tree.  My brother and I would pull all the packages out and separate them so we could get an accurate count.  It’s not like there were so many that they couldn’t be counted but we both wanted to know if even one more had been added.

The anticipation would heighten to a frenzy on Christmas Eve.  It made it hard to sleep – tossing and turning wondering what the next morning would hold.  My parents did a wonderful job of making our Christmases special around our house.  They knew how to keep the anticipation going.

As we draw ever closer to Christmas Day this year, we anticipate.  Yes, Jesus was born 2000 years ago, but we still sense that same anticipation that those experienced who were waiting for a messiah before Jesus was born.  We wait patiently for the day we celebrate his birth.  And, we wait patiently for the day of his promised return.

Anticipation breeds excitement.

As we wait, allow yourself to get excited about Jesus’ birth.  As we long for his return, live daily into the joy of knowing his love and his faithfulness.

Be blessed today!

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God With Us

I thought I would share a bit of what I shared yesterday morning about the Word becoming flesh and living with us.

John 1:14 – The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word became flesh – that Word that was with God and was God from the very beginning. That Word that spoke all things into being; who was involved in the creation of all things; that Word who sits outside of time stepped into the middle of time – – and moved in down the street. He made his dwelling among us!

John tells us that when Jesus – the Word – became flesh, we could see him and not only him but the glory of the Father, the one true God. Jesus proclaimed in John 14:9 that “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

god-with-usIn Matthew 1 we find that one of the names of Jesus is Immanuel – which means God with us. GOD WITH US!

GOD – the ultimate being

WITH – right here right now

US – you and me.

Have you seen him today?

You may be thinking, “define what you mean by seeing him.” Have you seen evidence of his presence? Have you experienced his closeness?

These God with us moments still happen today. John tells us that when the Word became flesh, not only did everyone get to see him, they got to see God’s grace and truth as well. We can experience this grace and truth everyday – still.

Have you seen him? Have you experienced him?  The fact is that God is always with us – we simply fail to notice most of the time.

Many of us have experienced and seen his movement in different ways. Often we experience him – see him – in nature: a beautiful sunrise or sunset, or in the majesty of standing on the sand and looking at the expanse of his creation in the ocean.

Sometimes we experience and see him with different life events – the birth of a child or the passing of a parent – or in the simple touch of holding the hand of that special someone in our lives.

In those God with us moments, we sense that the Word has truly become flesh and we experience his grace and truth.

That’s one of the reasons we celebrate and set this time aside each year – TO PAUSE – to pay attention – and to truly live in these God with us moments.

When we devote our undivided attention to seeing the Word become flesh in our lives, we are changed. We gain strength, encouragement and hope; all of which come when we surrender to the Word become flesh – the Son of God – Immanuel – God with us – Jesus!

Take time to notice him today!

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When I got to the office this morning, I had my day lined out.  My To Do list is longer today than on most days – but my attitude was one of “let’s get this done!”

But – – right out of the shoot, my printer quit.  A couple of items on my list required printing.  Wprinter-frustrationell, that took me down a 30 minute sidetrack to get it going again.  And in the midst of feeling some wrinkles developing on my brow, I received an email that caused some frustration and I had to turn some attention to it.

When I finally got back to my list, I realized there were three more things to put on it.

This season is a wonderful season, but if we lose focus, it can become a time of busyness and stress.  In fact, if we are not careful, we begin to look forward to some “normalcy” that we fantasize will somehow be ours to enjoy after the holidays have come and gone.

In the midst of this turmoil this morning, I remembered that I had not given much thought to one of my Advent readings for the day.  As I turned again to Isaiah 40, I was reminded that people many, many years ago were looking for relief from stress and struggle.  And out of their cries for God’s intervention, a prophecy of promise arose.  Isaiah 40 says:

25 “To whom will you compare me?
    Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
    Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
    and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
    not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
    Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord;
    my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.

So today, whatever you face, remember, God is bigger.

Don’t rush through this Christmas season.  Instead, live into each day knowing God has a plan.  He gives strength to the weary and his grace is sufficient.

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Sent With a Message

Yesterday, I preached about the journey the angels made to inform key people in the Christmas event of the things that were soon to take place.  They left unfathomable glory to enter inexpressible depravity.  They were sent from the very presence of God to a people who had turned from God.

angel-with-trumpetThis would not have been a great assignment for an angel except for one thing – the message they were sent to deliver.  Gabriel and others were tasked with making their way to earth to let people know the very son of the one, true God was to be born – the savior of the world was on his way!

This message would deliver hope – hope of salvation, hope of a path to a restored relationship with God – HOPE.  This message would change the world.

This message of God’s in-breaking into humanity to bring hope still changes the world today.  The difference for us today is that we are the ones being sent to share the message.

Share the true message of Christmas this season!

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Bethlehem Christmas. Star in night sky above Mary and JosephWe began an Advent emphasis this past Sunday we are calling The Journey To the Manger. As we approach the celebration of the Christmas Day event, we are taking a look each week at different people who made their own journeys to that stable. The shepherds, the wise men and even Mary and Joseph all made the trek to Bethlehem because of the same event – the birth of the King. All came from different directions and circumstances but their journeys all ended the same – in worship of Jesus.

Today, we share that same story. Each of us is on a journey. But I pray that the path you are on leads to the manger and concludes with worship.

I pray peace for your journey this day!

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