Sunday, December 24, 2017

Immanuel, God With Us!

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Isaiah 7:14

Christmas Blessings! God is with us! Immanuel.

God has always wanted to dwell among His people.
·        In the Garden of Eden He walked with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day.
·        In the Desert of Sinai, He instructed Moses to build the tabernacle as a home for His presence.
·        King Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem and God’s presence filled it until its destruction.
·        Years later, God became human and was born an infant child. God was physically with us, Immanuel.
·        And God still lives among His people. God puts His Spirit within each one of us who believes. God is with us, Immanuel.

God’s Holy Spirit is in every believer. Immanuel, God with us still. (tweet this)

#SeedsofScripture #Immanuel #GodWithUs

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Come, Long Awaited King

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone,
By thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to thy glorious thone.
-Charles Wesley

In my newfound joy in the richness of hymns, I examined this hymn’s particular words.

This baby was born with purpose. The cross was in view. He was born to die.
We celebrate His birth because without it we are doomed.

Let’s examine some of the ideas in Charles Wesley’s words:

·        The child-King was born to deliver His people, to set them free. Who are His people? All the nations hope in Him. We are His people.

·        This infant-King was born to reign in us, not over us. Jesus was born so that He could send His Spirit to live (and reign) within each one of us. It was the plan from before the moment of His conception.

·        Only through the Holy Spirit do we have the desire to be ruled. We’re naturally self-centered and independent. But His eternal spirit gives all of us the desire to obey His rule alone which, when we do it well, brings His gracious kingdom to earth. Wow!

·        Finally, only through Jesus’ perfect life and sacrifice, His all sufficient merit, can we approach God’s glorious thone.

Read the hymn again slowly. What new insights do you see? Am I the only one just getting this?

Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, born to bring us into God’s Kingdom. (tweet this)

#SeedsofScripture #HeSaves #hymns

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Ready or Not, Here He Comes!

Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen
Revelation 1:5-8 (NIV)

They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.
Zechariah 12:10

Ready or not, here He comes!

The baby was born when people were awaiting a Messiah, but busy with their lives.

Most didn’t realize who Jesus was. Mary and Joseph had an idea, but not fully. The shepherds knew it was big news, but couldn’t possibly comprehended its magnitude. The foreign Magi recognized the fulfillment of scripture unlike many Jews. The disciples came to know the Messiah as He taught and healed, but even they doubted as He hung on the cross.

Those who pierced Jesus didn’t recognize Him, but one day they will. “Every eye will see Him…and all the nations will mourn” as for a firstborn child. They will realize their mistake and be overcome with deep remorse.

Why mourn? Don’t we celebrate Jesus’ coming?

Absolutely! Just as there was great celebration after Jesus’ resurrection and the church grew quickly with the Good News, those who know Jesus as Lord will celebrate His second coming. But those who don’t will be caught by surprise, busy with their lives, not expecting the reality of what Jesus foretold.

Jesus is coming! Are you ready? Will you recognize him?

As you prepare your heart for Jesus’ birth, also prepare for His return. (tweet this)

#SeedsofScripture #heiscoming #everykneewillbow

Personal Update:  My first semester at seminary is in the books and I loved every minute. I'm in exactly the right place for this season of my life. I learned a lot academically and grew just as much spiritually. I gained humility, obedience and trust. God is good, even when He asks us to do hard things.

I return to class in January when Greek continues and I shift from the Old Testament to the New.

For those of you who are local, I will be teaching about the Old Testament Wednesday eve, Jan 31st from 7-8:30pm in the church parlor. I will share some big picture insights I learned this semester - the same teaching I did in Nov, just in the evening.

Have a blessed Christmas everyone!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Discovering Value and Restoring Power

God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (NIV)

I’m not a car enthusiast, but I appreciate this story.

Imagine the most powerful, beautiful car ever built. You choose the make and model, but imagine that car dented and rusted, parts broken, pieces missing and buried among other junkyard cars. Got the picture?

Clearly this car was misused. It was taken off road instead of on the Autobahn. Maybe the owner lost interest, let one mishap lead to another and the car deteriorated. Whatever the cause, it’s been forgotten.

But James, an automobile collector, searches junkyards for these gems, relishing ‘the hunt’. James looks through the debris and discovers value, celebrating because he knows what this car was built to do and is a master at restoring these broken beauties.

So James pays the junkyard manager an astronomical price – what the car would be worth brand new – which shocks, but pleases the manager. James takes the car home and sets out to transform it which takes time and patience. He starts with the interior, because if the engine isn’t working the car’s appearance doesn’t matter. And slowly but surely the car resembles its intended form.

By now you’ve guessed that the pile of dented, broken cars is us. We’ve gotten off track and made some mistakes. But God knows why He created us. He sees through the debris and calls us worthy. He sacrificed His Son for the opportunity to transform us into well functioning, beautiful human beings.

God sees your worth and can restore your life to its intended beauty. (tweet this)

Pass this on to someone who feels weary and unworthy. Only God can gives hope for restoration.

#SeedsofScripture #HEtransforms #HErestores

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Another Dose of Humility

The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged.
Psalm 69:32 (NLT)

I’ve swallowed another dose of humility.

It’s no secret - I dislike the music at traditional worship services. I respect those who do and appreciate that everyone meets God in their own way. I worship God through praise music.

Or so I thought.

The devotional required of my spiritual formation class has led me into very meaningful times with God. And surprisingly, the weekly hymns are touching my soul. In the first few readings I reword ‘thee’, ‘thine’ and other poetic styling I stumble over, but after a few days it grows on me.

For example, this week’s hymn reinforces that living for God is counter intuitive. We are most free when we are God’s captives. Huh? We are weak, powerless and stressed when we try to handle life’s emergencies on our own. But when we’re ‘imprisoned’ in God’s arms we gain His strength (and wisdom). Our lives are only fully ‘unfurled’ when God breathes life into us. When we stop fighting against Him and lean on His ‘bosom’ instead, we can reach the pinnacle of life.

The humble will see God at work and be glad (Ps 69:32). (tweet this)

Paraphrased from Make Me a Captive, Lord by George Matheson:

Make me a captive, Lord,
And then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
And I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
When by myself I stand;
Imprison me within thine arms,
And strong shall be my hand.

My heart is weak and poor
Until it master find;
It has no spring of action sure,
It varies with the wind.
It cannot freely move
Till thou hast wrought its chain;
Enslave it with thy matchless love,
And deathless it shall reign.
My power is faint and low
Till I have learned to serve;
It wants the needed fire to glow,
It wants the breeze to nerve;
It cannot drive the world,
Until itself be driven;
Its flag can only be unfurled
When thou shalt breathe from heaven.

My will is not my own
‘Til thou hast made it thine;
If it would reach a monarch’s throne,
It must its crown resign;
It only stands unbent,
Amid the clashing strife,
When on thy bosom it has leant
And found in thee its life. Amen

The humble will see their God at work and be glad. Let all who seek God’s help be encouraged. (Ps 69:32). (tweet this)

Has God surprised you by sending you a message in an unexpected way?

#SeedsofScripture #humility #hymn

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Do We Mean What We Say?

Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you. Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.
Psalm 86:2,8,10-12

I’m making an effort to mean what I say.

Don’t worry. When I speak with you I’m truthful, but I’m not always honest with God. When I read prayers in a devotional or bulletin, it’s easy to read the words and not think about what they say. In fact, my mind easily drifts to notice the piece on lint on my pants. 

That’s not praying. That’s reading. Maybe.

Today’s prayer in my devotional book reads “Almighty God, in whom I find life, health, and strength, and through whose mercy I am clothed and fed, grant unto me a thankful and faithful heart.

The italicized piece jumped out at me. Truly, only through God’s mercy am I clothed or fed, have shelter or money or life. Everything I have is His and He could remove it from me in an instant if He chose to. Remember Job? That prayer is easy to read without an ounce of the deep gratitude God deserves.

Lord, may my prayers and worship to be sincere. (tweet this)

Please reread today’s scripture with a sincere heart.

Does it express your true feelings?
Are there phrases you can’t speak honestly?
Ask God to speak to your heart.

#SeedsofScripture #prayer #sincere

Monday, October 9, 2017

Pleasantly Surprised by Prayerful Poetry

Surprise! I am enjoying poetry as prayer.

Poetry is usually too flowery for me, but this poem is practical and straightforward. Except for the ‘thee and thou’ language, it expresses my heart. I invite you to read the following poem slowly as though it were your personal prayer to God:

Oh Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
Be thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend:
I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide.

O let me feel thee near me! The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle, the tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me, around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw thou nearer, and shield my soul from sin.

O let me hear thee speaking, in accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion, the murmurs of self-will;
O speak to reassure me, to hasten or control;
O speak, and make me listen, thou guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, thou hast promised to all who follow thee
That where thou art in glory there shall thy servant be;
And, Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end;
O give me grace to follow, my Master and my Friend. Amen.
-John E. Bode

Do you recognize the hymn?

Slowly reading the words without accompanying music helps me express my deep desire to serve God well. (Unlike me, you can probably sing and pray at the same time.) I beg for His presence to provide strength to face temptation. I need a clear encouraging and correcting voice in order to stay on His path. I need His grace.

Reading a hymn as a personal prayer helps me express my heart to God. (tweet this)

Does reading or singing feel more personal for you?

#SeedsofScripture #hymns #prayer