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Today, one of my readings came from Mark 3:1-6.  This is a familiar passage that illustrates the opposition Jesus faced throughout his ministry.  In this account, we see Jesus being faced with a dilemma of whether or not to heal a man who had a withered hand.  This encounter happened on the Sabbath.

So if he healed the man who needed his touch, then the religious leaders would accuse him of breaking the Sabbath law.  But Jesus knew their understanding of the Sabbath was flawed.  He also knew the man needed his touch.

Today, as I read this passage, the controversy was not what impressed me with this story.  Today, what hit me was obvious.  There was a man with a withered hand and Jesus healed him.  As Jesus surveyed the situation and ran the scenarios of how this could play out in his head, he simply said, “Stretch out your hand.”

In this moment, you are dealing with areas of your life that are withered and need Jesus’ healing touch.

In this moment, Jesus is saying to you, “Stretch out your hand.”

Turn it over to him today.

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Several months ago, I was approached by a young man who said, “My birthday is in January and all I want for my birthday is to preach.” Having been in ministry more than a few months and working with students in the past, my approach to his request was, “Let’s pray about that for a while and let me think about what that would look like.”

I did give it some thought but in all honesty, I assumed it was an excitement he would soon forget and I would never hear from him again. In late October, he brought the subject up again and at that point, I knew he was serious. So we scheduled a time to meet and discuss what he thought he might speak about.

I instructed him to put his sermon together and then get back with me, which he did in December. So when we met, I told him I had decided that the best place for him to start would be with our Wednesday night group.

Last night was the night – and I have to tell you, two facets of the role of the church were clearly visible in our Bible study time. The first facet visible was proclamation. God’s truth was proclaimed by a passionate young man. God used him to deliver a message that all need to hear. He challenged God’s people to be set apart – a message that is always in season.

The second, maybe less obvious, facet of the role of the church made visible last night was a clear picture of discipleship. The church’s mission is to share the message of God’s hope and to make disciples. Last night I sat back and watched our church pour into this young man by giving him a podium and their attention. They saw the value in allowing this young man an opportunity to follow through with what God had moved him to do.

I saw passion and persistence in the young man and I saw love and support and encouragement in the congregation.

A clear picture wouldn’t you say?

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Stay Strong

No doubt you have already begun to feel the strain of trying to keep some of those resolutions you made to start the new year – sleep more, eat less, lose weight.  Life has been happening and it is starting to become easier and easier to let things go.

Kristi and I have plans to exercise more this year.  We both have devices that tell us how many steps we take each day.  I have to tell you, for the first couple of days it wasn’t that hard to hit our target number of steps.  But then we had a cold spell and who wants to walk outside when its 35 degrees and the wind chill is 20.

Sure we could go somewhere to walk inside – and one evening we did – we went grocery shopping (maybe not the best decision).  But over the last two weeks, it has become easier to just give in and say, “I’ll get my steps tomorrow.”

Our spiritual health is very similar.  We may start out with good intentions of spending time with God in the Bible and in prayer, but life happens.  It gets easier and easier to give in to other things and let our time with God slip.

strength-holding-barbell

My prayer today for you and for me, is that God would give us the strength we need to run the race – to stay fit spiritually.  I pray that God would give us the discipline we need to seek him daily – to hunger and thirst for his truth.  I pray that you and I will stay strong and really grow in our faith this next year.

Stay with it!  The relationship is totally worth it!

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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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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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It’s official.  Advent has begun.  The Thanksgiving gatherings are fading into memories.  We turn now our attention to Christmas.  Decorations are coming out of storage.  Trees are going up and lights are being hung.  I truly enjoy this time of year – the anticipation, the excitement!

We also focus on giving more this time of year than any other.  Unfortunately, the deep blessing that comes from being generous is often lost in the pressures of making sure all the bases are covered.  We stress over making sure each family member gets the gifts they want.  We lay in bed at night trying to think through all the lists.  Lists of party guests to invite.  Lists of gifts yet to be purchased.  Lists of people who need to receive a Christmas card.  Lists – endless lists.

At the heart of all this stress is a primal desire of wanting to be generous – to give and make a difference.  But it gets lost in the frantic panic of making sure it all gets done and gets done well.

Our culture has created trends around particular days leading up to the Christmas day event.  Over the years, Black Friday has taken on a life of its own.  As if that was not enough, we now have Cyber Monday and just this morning I received a plethora of emails telling me that “It’s not too late – Cyber Monday continues all week!”

In the midst of the chaos, don’t lose sight of the heart of the matter – the season is about a true, life-forming, world-changing gift.  The most generous gift ever given was laid in a feed trough 2000 years ago.  This gift sparked a movement and it still does.

giving-tuesday

In some ways, this movement is influencing a new trend being formed in our culture.  This new emphasis is striving to bring the idea of pure generosity back to the forefront of our minds.  To combat the materialism that has become associated with this time of year, a new trend is forming – #givingtuesday.  It’s an effort to keep the idea of being generous in our minds as we move through this season.

So this year, as we focus on making sure everything is just right, don’t forget to be generous.  While you take advantage of the extension of Cyber Monday today, consider making one of your favorite charities a recipient of your generosity on this Giving Tuesday.  If you are part of a local body of believers, consider making an additional contribution to your church.  I know our church could make good use of contributions this time of year!

Don’t let the heart of generosity get lost in the heat of the frenzy.  Be generous today – – and every day!

Be a blessing this #givingtuesday!

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Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Several times throughout the Psalms, we find these words.  They serve as a reminder that God’s love will never fail.  God is good and his plan for you is perfect.

Give thanks this day!  Give thanks to God – the one true, good God.  His love lasts – always there, always comforting, always inspiring – always!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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