Friday, December 31, 2010

Thanks for the Year

This past year it has been a joy to reflect on daily readings. It's always been a wonderful experience for me to take time each day in prayer and reflection on God's Word. Along with the daily readings, I would like to recommend to you a Bible Reading Plan that I followed this past year. I have followed many reading plans over the years, but by far this one has been one of my favorites.

The plan is The Discipleship Journal Bible Reading Plan. It is from NavPress. I haven't any idea if there is any affiliation with a denomination or not. I have enjoyed the manner of reading through the Bible in this manner. Basically there is a reading from the Old Testament beginning with Genesis --- There is a reading from the Gospels beginning with Matthew --- There is a reading from the letters beginning with Acts --- and finally a reading from Psalms. At the completion of the year you will have read the Bible.

Each month includes 25 readings. This allows for a little breathing room and in your daily readings you can take a few days to research. I enjoyed reading through the Gospels slowly in this manner and spending more time with shorter passages.

I highly recommend the use of a reading plan in whatever manner you choose. The Word of God will open up in your life in many situations and be applicable in more ways than you could have ever imagined possible.

Thanks for any readers out there and I have enjoyed walking with Christ and you this past year.


Bill

December 31st - Reflection


John 8:12-19 (NRSV)

I am the light

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." Then the Pharisees said to him, "You are testifying on your own behalf; your testimony is not valid." Jesus answered, "Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid because I know where I have come from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge by human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is valid; for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your law it is written that the testimony of two witnesses is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf." Then they said to him, "Where is your Father?" Jesus answered, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also."

Reflection
If this were a conversation with anyone else besides Jesus, I think we would have serious issues. The Pharisees want to Jesus to prove that what he claims is true. The Pharisees want Jesus to present someone who will testify on his behalf that Jesus' claim to be the light of the world is correct. The Pharisees don't ask who will testify for Jesus but where is the Father.

Likewise, as an unbeliever looks at the testimony of Jesus or even our testimony of Jesus, there is difficulty in being able to see and understand. Jesus spoke about a mission of which he was familiar. Jesus knew what the Father had sent him to do. We tend to search  for our mission. But the mission is given to us in the Word. We have already been drawn to the Light of Christ and believe. So we at least see the Light and believe that Jesus is the light of the world.

Light is associated with life. With light there is growth and life begins and blossoms. As we see the Light, spiritually we grow and blossom and are re-created new creatures through the saving action of Jesus. Our lives take on new meaning and new direction. Even in the darkness, we cling to the Light and follow the Light out of the darkness. We have faith that the Light will lead us into eternity of truth with God.

As we follow the Light, we learn from the Word, that our mission is to make disciples of Jesus. In making disciples of Jesus we must lead others to this Light. We must show them the Light and permit them to take the Light on their own. In this faithful action of taking the Light, God graciously grants faith to the new believer. A new disciple is born. A new life is beginning. This new life now in the Light can see and understand the testimony of Jesus and see the Father and be gifted by the Spirit.

And now the Light being associated with life, brings forth growth in this new believer. No longer to walk in darkness but to have the Light of life to follow.

This is what the Pharisees needed to see to understand Jesus. They needed that step of faith. They needed to take the light that Jesus offered. They needed the Light to lead them out of their darkness. And then understanding, faith, and growth in Christ, the Light of the world would begin living in and through them.

Take the Light offered. Take it in faith and believe. It will make all the difference. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
God, you have given the Light of the world in Jesus to all. I take this Light and follow in the faith you have graciously given me. I believe and grow as a disciple of Jesus. Send the power of your Holy Spirit into my life that my testimony may always be to the Light of the world. Send me the boldness to proclaim Jesus as my Savior. Send the words that others may be led to the Light and see and believe what I see and believe... Jesus. --- Amen

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30th - Reflection


2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NRSV)
The temporary and the eternal

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.

Reflection
I guess you could say my outer nature is wasting away. It certainly is breaking down. The human body in this fallen world is subject to disease and death and the abuses we put it through. I do have the disease and the wearing down of parts of my body due to age and abuse. This is part of my sinful nature. Did I really take care of this temple God gave me? I think not to the extant God would wish for me to take care of it. In fact I have abused this body.

But there is our inner nature also. Christ has been reviewing this nature day by day. Each day I am visited and God teaches through his Word. I see examples of God's love all around me all throughout the day. There are so many things we can do and say to each other to demonstrate the love of God. And in believing and knowing that Jesus was given for us to save us from our destructiveness, my inner self is certainly being reformed into something new and different.

This gives hope. As the body wastes away, I know that God's love goes beyond the physical nature to my inner self. God is in my gut, God is in my bowels. God is in the center of my being that goes beyond body. God is in me in an eternal sort of way. And for this I say...Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, lift me up and renew me in the deepest sense, the eternal sense. For you alone are my eternal Savior. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29th - Reflection


Luke 19:41-44 (NRSV)
Jesus weeps over Jerusalem

As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, "If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God."

Reflection
God is with us now. God's desire is for us to be saved. God is longing to save us. See the love of God in the baby Jesus. God is in the flesh now and has come to the humble and meek of the world. God in Jesus lived for you and me to bring peace and to make peace.

Did we see it? Did we miss it? Did we run to the Savior and declare our belief? Did we live out our baptism?

Watch out that you don't fall into the trench dug around you. The trench that will contain all of those who chose not to believe in the works of God. God made Jesus obvious to all the world. Pay attention. Repent. Be baptized. Believe!

God is with us! God is with us closely in our hearts and in spirit. God is in flesh through Jesus and Spirit and Father of all. God is with us! Wake up! Come out of the sleep and see!

Recognize the time of your visitation from God!

Prayer
Lord, you are faithful and consistent. Each day you make yourself obvious. You are with me in Spirit and flesh. You bless my life and give me all I need to live. I believe. I look back and repent of the wrong I have done and ask you to lead and guide me in new ways. Teach me to love. Teach me to live compassion. Show me the steps I am to take today. But most of all, thanks for coming to visit! Thanks! --- Amen

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28th - Reflection


Isaiah 49:13-23 (NRSV)
God comforts the suffering

Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
break forth, O mountains, into singing!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

But Zion said, "The Lord has forsaken me,
my Lord has forgotten me."
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
and those who laid you waste go away from you.
Lift up your eyes all around and see;
they all gather, they come to you.
As I live, says the Lord,
you shall put all of them on like an ornament,
and like a bride you shall bind them on.

Surely your waste and your desolate places
and your devastated land
surely now you will be too crowded for your inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children born in the time of your bereavement
will yet say in your hearing:
"The place is too crowded for me;
make room for me to settle."
Then you will say in your heart,
"Who has borne me these?
I was bereaved and barren,
exiled and put away
so who has reared these?
I was left all alone
where then have these come from?"

Thus says the Lord God:
I will soon lift up my hand to the nations,
and raise my signal to the peoples;
and they shall bring your sons in their bosom,
and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
and lick the dust of your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.

Reflection
God has come to us and is with us! God chose to be with us! Rejoice because God became like you and me. All are included in this act. God has come! God has brought salvation to the nations through his promise to Abraham. God has become flesh in a marvelous way. Heaven and earth are united through the virgin birth. God is with us!

Make room for Jesus. Don't let the sins and desires and wants of this world crowd him out. God is with us. Shove something loose and let Jesus into your heart. God is with us! See, at the arrival of Jesus, all who come to him. Announce to all the world what Jesus' presence has meant to you in your life. Announce the hope, the trust, the love, the fellowship and most of all the salvation from sin, death and the devil, that Jesus has brought to you. Announce that God is with us!

But also in all your excitement, look. Look real hard at the palms of Jesus hands. Look, he has inscribed you there. Look closely at the scars. Look into Jesus eyes and see the remnants of the pain he endured. Look at his brow and the scars. Look at Jesus' side and feel the compassion that Jesus had for you. Your name is written in the scar in the palm of his hands. Jesus died for you...you! Jesus' love for you is deep, eternal and universal. God chose to be with us...God is with you! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
God you are with me and your children. Protect us from sin, death and the devil. Lead us together as disciples in following you. Show us the way. Teach us how to love as you love. You are here. You are near. Thanks! --- Amen

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27th - Reflection


John, Apostle and Evangelist
John 21:20-25 (NRSV)

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; he was the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said, "Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?" When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about him?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me!" So the rumor spread in the community that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?"
This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true. But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.

Reflection
There is a question of doubt left behind here. Peter asks Jesus "Lord, what about him?" At first glance I jump to John being "him." But then again "him" could be the author of the book or a scribe, someone different from John. Or could "him" come to mean you or me?  But Jesus does say that it's not about the death as much as it's about Jesus' will that we remain in until Jesus comes again.

So we look to follow the will of Jesus. The will of Jesus remains in truth. And our testimony of Jesus will testify to the truth. Jesus' truth lives on beyond the confines of the written word and into the active word of the Church to be. Jesus truth lives on with the Holy Spirit in the presence and lives of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. This is that Church gathered together under Jesus. The One church. Not some denomination or organization but the One Church that spans space and time and testifies to Jesus. And in this..."I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written."

Jesus our Savior, our Lord, and our Prophetic Guide leads us to the Holy Spirit and gives us a direct endorsement that we will belong to this Church with Jesus at the head and the Spirit spread throughout all space and time with the Father.

"Lord, what about him?" He is amazing! Jesus will be in "him" and Jesus will be in you and me and we are in Jesus.

We have the written Word of the Bible and we have the Word made flesh. Testify! Thanks be to God!

Reflection
Jesus, you became flesh, were born, lived, suffered, died and rose again. You became flesh and dwell with us and in us. You became one of us and live eternally. You bridged the gap between heaven and earth. You gave each one of us a peek at the glory of heaven and eternity. As I proclaim your glory along with so many others, receive all these words as words of praise and thanksgiving. Receive these words as childish curiosity. For I depend on you for everything I need. You are my Lord and Savior. Thanks be to God! --- Amen

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26th - Reflection


First Sunday of Christmas
Matthew 2:13-23 (NRSV)
The slaughter of innocent children

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, "Out of Egypt I have called my son."

When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
"A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more."

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child's life are dead." Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, "He will be called a Nazorean."

Reflection
Egypt seems to be the country to run to and the country to run from. Joseph (Old Testament) didn't run their, we was taken their captive. But while Joseph was in Egypt he became well known and a political power. Through the gifts God granted Joseph; food was set up through Joseph's planning during a famine. So Joseph's brothers run to Egypt. Eventually the family settles in. But the family becomes too big and too influential for the government of the day, and the government of Egypt chooses to make the Israelites slaves. So now the Israelites run from Egypt, under the guidance of Moses, whom God had called to set his people free. Out into the desert they go in wandering. Eventually they come into the promised land and take over most of this territory as their own, led by Joshua.

Now skip forward to Jesus birth. Once again the government worries. So God instructs Joseph (New Testament) to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. Run to Egypt to escape the government. The government is about to kill all the children around Bethlehem looking to kill Jesus. And then, when safe to return, Joseph returns to Nazereth with Mary and Jesus.

Sometimes it seems that when we listen to the call of God we are led all over the place in some random pattern with no meaning. But when you step back from the story you can see a little peek at the plan of God. Even though God was protecting Jesus, many children died. But even of those children that died, Jesus would live and show the world that he was the Messiah to save the world from sin. The children were saved then.

As the Israelites were led into Egypt to save life, they were led out of Egypt and into the wilderness to inhabit the Promised Land which would birth the Savior of the world. Lives are given for lives to be saved. Jesus gave his life in order to save us all. We give our lives to Jesus and not only save ourselves from our own selfish pride and sin but to give ourselves in love as Jesus gave himself in love so that others my be led to be disciples of Jesus.

The cycle of life is a bit different from what we expect. You give life and gain life in abundance. You give yourself and gain so much more. But that gain is not to be confused with a selfish gain of power, prestige, or money. In your giving you are willing to give up power, prestige and money. These qualities are not ultimate. These qualities are only useful in the plan of God. You will be rich on a completely different level of anything we could ever imagine or experience on this earth.
And as we live the call of God, humble and gracious as shepherds, Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, all the common folk like you and I and along with all the animals and angels; we discover a peek of the greatness of this infant Savior before our eyes. The Creator of the universe, the King of Glory, this child beyond time and space, has come first to you and to me, not to the royalty or the religious or the powerful or the business powerhouses. This Savior came directly to the common, the poor, the homeless, the ill, the blind, the lame, the deaf and dumb, the workers of this world, to tell each one of us that we are uniquely loved by God and God has taken on our flesh. Taken on our flesh in an act of love and grace to save us and bring us to eternal glory with Jesus. Think about it! Think about it and turn to Jesus and believe! Turn and show that love to another near you today. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, take the tragedy of this world and turn it on it's head into something blessed. We look to you to save all your people. And as you make the first last and the last first may all in awe and wonder point directly to your love and grace. Lead us to love one another to bring about the peace you desire...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25th - Reflection


Nativity of Our Lord
Luke 2:1-20 (NRSV)
God with us

In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David. He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he favors!"

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.

Reflection
What more can we say. What can we say but thanks be to God! God chose to announce the birth of Jesus, our Lord and Savior, to some of the most despised people of the time. Yet at the same time these very people rejoice in witnessing the heavens opening up in joy and song of our God taking on flesh and becoming one of us.

God is with us. God is one of us. God now knows his creation first hand. And God is by our side and yes even in our side day after day. God is so much closer than you think or could ever imagine. In all the troubles, joys, celebrations, illness, and issues of this life; God is closer than you think. Through Jesus and his teaching, healing, life, suffering, death and resurrection, we are freely given God with us. God is closer than you think. Treasure this thought. Live this thought. Know this thought is always true. God is closer than you think. Thanks be to God! Christ has come! Alleluia!

Prayer
Lord, I give you thanks for taking on flesh. I give you thanks for coming into my heart. I give you thanks for your presence in my life. Lord...I give you thanks! --- Amen

Friday, December 24, 2010

December 24th - Reflection


Luke 1:67-80 (NRSV)
The song of Zechariah

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up a mighty savior for us
in the house of his servant David,

as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors,
and has remembered his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
to grant us that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies,
might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness
before him all our days.
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
by the forgiveness of their sins.
By the tender mercy of our God,
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace."

The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Reflection
A father looks at his son and is so proud. I know  the feeling. You look and wonder. And then when that life comes to fruition and grows, you are proud all over again. Through all the stages of the son's life, the father sees himself and also a new creation. A new creation that is unique and carefully formed by God for a calling in life. A calling that only the son could have. And the father is proud all over again. A father looks at his son and is so proud.

Likewise Zechariah had a clue of what the calling of his son John would be. God has spoken to Zechariah. Zechariah surely was proud of John. Knowing that John would be the prophet of the Most High. John would plant the seeds in the midst of the people that salvation was on the doorstep. That forgiveness of sins was around the corner, from God through Jesus. John would see the tender mercy of God in flesh and the beginning of a new creation that would cast a new light on all people. John would be the one to introduce the path our feet would start in baptism.

Likewise our Father has brought us into this world. Placed us and called us to announce that Jesus has come to the world and personally to you and me. Jesus has set up shop in our hearts that he may work in and through each of us. Jesus set up shop in the hearts of sinners to announce to the world salvation, not through good works, but through what Jesus has already done for us. You and I are additionally called to announce to those God gives to us day by day that a new dawn is available to anyone who chooses to believe and be baptized. A new creation could grow in their hearts also and bring forth new life. Jesus is at the door. Either let him in or take the calling to go out and play. Jesus is ready for you. Have faith...it will be a wondrous joy beyond belief. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, I hear a knock at the door. "Can Billy come out to play?" You bet! I'll be right down. --- Amen

Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23rd - Reflection


Galatians 3:6-14 (NRSV)
The promise of the Spirit

Just as Abraham "believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness," so, you see, those who believe are the descendants of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, declared the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you." For this reason, those who believe are blessed with Abraham who believed.


For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law." Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for "The one who is righteous will live by faith." But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, "Whoever does the works of the law will live by them." Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree" in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Reflection
Wow! Some powerful words here from God. The law condemns us. We have all broken a law or two. We are all, under the law, subject to death. But as we look back in time, God came to Abraham with a promise. And Abraham accepted that promise from God through faith. If you believe God's promise as brought to us through the life, death, suffering and resurrection of Jesus Christ as your Savior; then you are a descendant of Abraham. Abraham believed in what God told him and lived his life in full belief and understanding that all God told him would take, would take place. Abraham lived his life by faith in God.

We go astray when we live our lives trying to show God we have faith through being good or keeping the law. We go astray when we get confused and think that we have to earn our way to God. This will never happen through ourselves. That's the point. We need God! We can't do this on our own. We need that faith in God that only God can save us from our sinful selves. The law has condemned us and shown us this. You have not kept all the commandments no matter how hard you have tried.

But when God flips it around. When we have faith in God. When we trust that Jesus took on our sin, suffered and died on that cross, becoming our sin, being abandoned by God on that cross, dying on that cross. The price for our sin was paid through Christ on that cross. Paid for all of us once. And then a wonderful thing happened. Jesus came to life in the resurrection. After paying the price for our sin, Jesus came to life, to give us everlasting life. We no longer need fear the punishment of our sin because Jesus took on that punishment and brought life from death through his action.

We have no action that can come close to this. God saves us. We cannot save ourselves. So the flip around is this. If we believe in what Christ has done for us, then we live free from the finality of sin. We are free to obey the law. We are free to live under the covenant. We can believe and have faith, hope and the love of God living in us. No longer fearing sin.

Sure, we will continue to sin and the consequences of sin will be a part of our lives. But even in this we turn to God and walk in the light. Walk in the ways of Jesus, humble and repentant of what we have done, but also believing that the power of the action of Christ far outweighs anything we could ever do on our own.

Advent is that time we prepare for this gift from heaven. This gift of Jesus into our world, and into our small hearts. Abraham looked at the vast amount of stars and believed by faith what God had told him about his descendants. We look to the stars and see the light shining in the darkness. We look and see a God so vast, wide and huge that it seems unbelievable that God would send us a Savior that would be the Creator yet the very one to live in our simple, humble, sinful hearts and make us "good." All through faith we believe. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, thanks for looking into my heart and seeing something so special that you, the Creator of the Universe, would care to send Jesus into my very sinful being to take on the punishment I deserve. Thanks for taking me from death to life in you. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

December 22nd - Reflection


Matthew 1:1-17 (NRSV)
Jesus' genealogy

An account of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Aram, and Aram the father of Aminadab, and Aminadab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Boaz by Rahab, and Boaz the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.

And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uriah, and Solomon the father of Rehoboam, and Rehoboam the father of Abijah, and Abijah the father of Asaph, and Asaph the father of Jehoshaphat, and Jehoshaphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzziah, and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezekiah, and Hezekiah the father of Manasseh, and Manasseh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josiah, and Josiah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon.


And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel, and Salathiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah.

So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon, fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the Messiah, fourteen generations.

Reflection
There is a whole lot of living going on here. There are twenty eight generations of living. The book of Matthew traces the descent down to Joseph the husband of Mary. The book of Luke traces the natural descent. But between the two accounts the lists cross. It seems Jesus would be the ancestor of many peoples. With this Joseph, though not the natural father of Jesus, was still the "called" father to honor Mary. The Holy Spirit being the father of Jesus, makes Jesus both fully human yet fully divine.

How God as been woven into the fabric of human history and time is now fulfilled. God is present with us not only in the divine nature but in the form of the created. God sent Jesus not only as the Christ, or the anointed, but also as Jesus, our savior. So in this genealogy we are introduced to the Messiah, our King, and our Savior, our God!

Prayer
What a wonderful awesome act you have taken in Jesus. You sent a friend, a savior, a king, and our only answer, the truth. You sent wisdom, grace, love and joyous action to all you have done. All this wrapped up in one Lord Jesus Christ! Thanks! --- Amen

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

December 21st - Reflection


Genesis 21:1-21 (NRSV)
God saves Hagar and Ishmael

The Lord dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as he had promised. Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Now Sarah said, "God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me." And she said, "Who would ever have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age."

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, "Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac." The matter was very distressing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, "Do not be distressed because of the boy and because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you. As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring." So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beer sheba.


When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said, "Do not let me look on the death of the child." And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her, "What troubles you, Hagar? Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him." Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. She went, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow. He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

Reflection
In a different way than expected God entered the lives of five people here. God saved Sarah from the disgrace of having lived childless. This saving act brought much joy to Sarah and Abraham. But due, to complications in the law code, Ishmael was entitled to an inheritance share that Sarah objected to. However a loop-hole existed that a son by a slave woman could forgo his inheritance in exchange for freedom. So, Sarah forces the issue.

Sometimes, I wonder if our human selfishness interferes with God's plan, but God gracefully works around our sinfulness and uses us anyway. So as this life account continues; God has shown one grace by bringing laughter for Abraham and Sarah.

Then as Hagar and the now teenage son Ishmael are sent out and find themselves unable to support life, God saves once again. Hagar was directed to life-saving water. God has shown grace twice now in this account.

So, as you and I wait on the Advent of Christ into this world and into our hearts; we can rejoice in laughter that as we are called to that life-saving water through the words of John the Baptist crying repentance and baptism, we will rejoice with laughter in the joy that God gives to all people, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Hagar, and Ishmael, you and I, if we only believe and take that life-saving water from God.

The account of a family years past lives on in the Church today. And this account will be brought to one glorious fruition at that second coming of Christ...be it in you heart this day...or be it for all people as Christ returns in glory. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Come, Lord Jesus, come. --- Amen

Monday, December 20, 2010

December 20th - Reflection


Genesis 17:15-22 (NRSV)
God promises Sarah a son

God said to Abraham, "As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her." Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, "Can a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" And Abraham said to God, "O that Ishmael might live in your sight!" God said, "No, but your wife Sarah shall bear you a son, and you shall name him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; I will bless him and make him fruitful and exceedingly numerous; he shall be the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this season next year." And when he had finished talking with him, God went up from Abraham.

Reflection
God brings forth this ironic joy. It's laughable to consider a couple the age of Abraham and Sarai having children at their age. It's unbelievable that it would even be considered. I wonder if God tilted his head back and gave a good belly laugh at this miracle he was about to work? I wonder at the amazement of Sarah when she realized she was carrying a child. When Sarah and Abraham did the deed, did anyone get hurt? Did they get stuck in that position for a while? Was God laughing at the time?

But then again there was this virgin thousands of years later who would become pregnant. With divorce and a stoning on line, I wonder if God laughed when she became pregnant? These were serious charges and this was very dangerous for Mary. But Mary was safe in the arms of God. I wonder if God laughed when Jesus was born in a feed trough in a stall?

But at some point it seems to get very serious for you and me. Jesus came into our world to save us from sin, death, the devil and ourselves. Jesus came to give us everlasting life. It wasn't an easy or funny task. But, I still wonder if Jesus had a good laugh when he stepped and stood by that tomb on the resurrection? Was it fun to watch people react to his risen body? Does Jesus laugh when someone today comes to him and is saved and believes in Jesus? Does Jesus laugh when we come together as intimate friends?

God certainly brings forth some ironic joy! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, I give you thanks for a good laugh. Let's laugh at what you have done in my life and tell a few stories! --- Amen

Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 19th - Reflection


Fourth Sunday of Advent
Matthew 1:18-25 (NRSV)
Our God near at hand

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
"Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,"
which means, "God is with us." When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.

Reflection
Up to this time in Biblical history, there were many accounts of God working through couples to introduce those God would use in his plan of salvation. John and Elizabeth had John the Baptist. Abraham and Sarah, Boaz and Ruth, Isaac and Rebekah, Adam and Eve, the list is really quite long. God was working his will through couples. Through pro-creation in the natural sense. God was a little distant in the action, yet still involved.

But in this sense, with Mary, God comes to humans in an intimate way. So intimate that God would be directly involved in the birth of Jesus. The child conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit. In previous couples mentioned above the child conceived or children conceived as may be the case, were only human. But in the case of Jesus, he would be both fully human and fully divine.

With this, God became directly involved with the human race. God in some sense came out of the temple, that we humans were attempting to confine him to, and came into us. Jesus changed the world. Jesus was and is God with us. Not in our defined and appropriate sense of the ark of the covenant, the law, or even in the temple, but Jesus is with us, in us, walking beside us and all around us. God chose to make himself human in order to save us from what we would never be able to save ourselves from; sin, death and the devil.

What an awesome, wonderful, loving move God made in being human with us. What a true gift from above. Nothing else in this world could ever match the gift God gave to us in Jesus. And we could never do enough to return the favor. All God seeks from us is that we believe and place all of our hope and joy in his saving action of Jesus.

God is with us! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, as I reflect on the actions you have taken for all your people, and for me, I give you thanks that you became human through Jesus. You are my joy and salvation...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

December 18th - Reflection


Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19 (NRSV)
Show the light of your countenance

Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
you who lead Joseph like a flock!

You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth
before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh.
Stir up your might,
and come to save us!

Restore us, O God;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

O Lord God of hosts,
how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?
You have fed them with the bread of tears,
and given them tears to drink in full measure.
You make us the scorn of our neighbors;
our enemies laugh among themselves.

Restore us, O God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved. ...

But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand,
the one whom you made strong for yourself.
Then we will never turn back from you;
give us life, and we will call on your name.

Restore us, O Lord God of hosts;
let your face shine, that we may be saved.

Reflection
We need the Light of God to shine for and in and through us. We come from the darkness of sin, death, pain, illness, and suffering and need the Light of God to shine. And for this Light we wait this Advent season. We wait for that great Light to shine in the darkness. We wait and pray for that salvation only the Light can provide. We depend on the Light that shines so brightly that night years ago.

And as the Light shines, we see and believe. We hear the Word made flesh and listen to the teaching. We see the Light of Christ in this world of our darkness and gather together in awe of what God has done. We stare into that bright face of Jesus that we may be saved.

Prayer
Lord stir me up. Stir up my very soul that I may see the light of your face and believe. --- Amen

Friday, December 17, 2010

December 17th - Reflection


Galatians 4:1-7 (NRSV)
God's Son, sent in the fullness of time

My point is this: heirs, as long as they are minors, are no better than slaves, though they are the owners of all the property; but they remain under guardians and trustees until the date set by the father. So with us; while we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!" So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God.

Reflection
God is so amazing! Here I can see a Father with his children. As the children grow, generally it is a given that at a certain time in their lives the parents will declare those children mature adults. Sure, they will always be "the kids" but they will also be adults inheriting all you, as parents, have prepared for them in this world. This is just the way it has been for years. Some variations in age and inheritance. Some variations in what is given to the children, but this is a life tradition.

So God has prepared all along, as our Father, our salvation. God was waiting for "the fullness of time" - that moment that was precisely correct for all humanity to receive Jesus. As if he were filling a cup of water drop by drop; day by day; when the cup was precisely full, or the day was exactly correct, our heavenly Father sent his Son into the world for our salvation.

Born of a woman. So now the gift was truly divine and truly human, both at once. Born under the same law that all of us exist under. Jesus, divine and human, permits our heavenly Father to adopt all the children, not just the Chosen but all of us. And now we too can cry out to our heavenly Father --- Daddy! Daddy!

God is so amazing! A plan for our adoption and our salvation before we were even born! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, you are awesome. You loved me and saved me before I was conceived. You loved me and redeemed me ahead of time. Talk about a gift! And all I need do is believe and accept the gift. Thank you Lord! I could never repay you for what you have done, but I'm sure glad to be your child! I wanna love you and others just like you have shown and taught me to love...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, December 16, 2010

December 16th - Reflection


Galatians 3:23-29 (NRSV)
Children of God by Christ's coming

Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Reflection
The people were bound by the law under the old covenant. God was keeping the Chosen People safe under the law. He was also binding the rest of us by the law through the Chosen People. Under the old covenant we were in waiting for something new. We were learning that even the Chosen People could not keep the old covenant, let alone those outside the law. Waiting for someone to free us from ourselves. Waiting for someone to redeem our sinfulness. A world broken by failure to uphold the law of the old covenant. Waiting...waiting...waiting.

Then, just at the right time, the Father sent the Son into this world. The waiting was over. Jesus was sent to fulfill the old and begin a new covenant. Jesus came into this world and kept the old covenant laws. Jesus cane to be that One human who could abide by the laws and live. And live he did! Through his life, suffering, death and resurrection; Jesus lives.

Jesus lives as the one man perfect in God yet truly human as we are. Jesus lives after defeating sin, death and the devil. And in Jesus a new covenant is born and grows. A covenant that does not separate the church but unites all of the catholic church under One Jesus Christ. We become one yet are many in gift and deed and call. We are one in faith in Jesus gracious salvation. We are no longer bound by the old covenant law, but free by the new covenant love of Christ.

Filled with faith through and in Jesus Christ we are baptized and grow as a new creation; free to live out the love of Christ. Free to give away life, knowing that in the giving of our own life to another, abundant life is received through the Father. As we live belonging to Christ we clearly see the value of the old covenant and the law. The law is no longer a threat to us but a lovely gift of guidance for us to follow. The old and the new covenants gloriously meld together into One body, One faith, One Church. We are in Christ and Christ in the Father and all are one.

Wait,,,wait...wait...there is so much more to come! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Come Lord Jesus...come --- Amen

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December 15th - Reflection


Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34 (NRSV)
Jesus heals

When Jesus entered Peter's house, he saw his mother in law lying in bed with a fever; he touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were possessed with demons; and he cast out the spirits with a word, and cured all who were sick. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah, "He took our infirmities and bore our diseases." ...

When he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demoniacs coming out of the tombs met him. They were so fierce that no one could pass that way. Suddenly they shouted, "What have you to do with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Now a large herd of swine was feeding at some distance from them. The demons begged him, "If you cast us out, send us into the herd of swine." And he said to them, "Go!" So they came out and entered the swine; and suddenly, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the water. The swineherds ran off, and on going into the town, they told the whole story about what had happened to the demoniacs. Then the whole town came out to meet Jesus; and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their neighborhood.

Reflection
Since swine were involved, I presume that Jesus was dealing with Gentiles. Gentiles like you and me. Two people suffering from the torment of demons. Demons taking over their lives and controlling them. We all deal with demons of some sort. We all are tempted to sin in one or many of various ways. Demons that swoop in and take over our lives. Demons of a fallen world where there is sickness, death, evil, selfishness, and errant power. It's easy to exclude yourself from this passage, but when you think about it, we all battle demons.

Jesus comes to us. As Jesus came to these two people, Jesus comes to us. This Advent season, we see Jesus coming in so many ways. We prepare for Jesus coming through the words of John the Baptist and repent and are baptized. We prepare for Jesus coming reflecting on the pregnancies of Elizabeth and Mary. We know that Jesus is coming to us in a personal way in the midst of our troubles through the messages of angels to Mary and Joseph. Jesus comes to us while we are in the filth of our sin and our own dirty little world. Jesus comes to us and confronts the demons we deal with daily.

And in Jesus coming to us intimately, he demonstrates the power of God to cast sin into the raging chaos of the sea. Jesus, through his ministry, suffering, death and resurrection, comes to us and defeats the demons of sin in our stead. Jesus comes to us away from the crowds and deals with you and me personally and intimately. Jesus is your Savior! Jesus comes! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Jesus, I can't save myself. These demons are taking over. Come, Lord Jesus, come! Come and cast out these demons. Give me the life you want me to live. I believe in you and place all of my trust and hope in your action. I am yours. Will you be my Savior? --- Amen

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14th - Reflection


Ezekiel 47:1-12 (NRSV)
The wilderness will flower

Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar. Then he brought me out by way of the north gate, and led me around on the outside to the outer gate that faces toward the east; and the water was coming out on the south side.

Going on eastward with a cord in his hand, the man measured one thousand cubits, and then led me through the water; and it was ankle deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was knee deep. Again he measured one thousand, and led me through the water; and it was up to the waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross, for the water had risen; it was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be crossed. He said to me, "Mortal, have you seen this?"


Then he led me back along the bank of the river. As I came back, I saw on the bank of the river a great many trees on the one side and on the other. He said to me, "This water flows toward the eastern region and goes down into the Arabah; and when it enters the sea, the sea of stagnant waters, the water will become fresh. Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes. People will stand fishing beside the sea from En gedi to En eglaim; it will be a place for the spreading of nets; its fish will be of a great many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt. On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing."

Reflection
We are so richly blessed! As the waters begin small, flowing east from the Temple of God; we are blessed with the waters increase. God, the source of this living waters, permits his healing water to flow from the Temple, east into the sunrise. Flowing from a trickle to a deep river. God's water flowing through the desert of our lives and the desert of this earth giving up fruits along the way. Even as the water flows into the Dead Sea, the life springs forth.

As Jesus enters our lives in the mere trickle of baptism, we begin to become fruitful. Fruit, not of our own doing, but fruit fed and nourished with the life giving waters of God, Father, Son, Spirit. Fruit that through Jesus' life, death and resurrection, springs to life even in the Dead Sea of our existence.

Here is the Word both literal and true to our lives today.  Here is the Word come to life in me and in you. Here is the Word alive yesterday, today and tomorrow. Here is the Word alive forever in the ever flowing, ever life giving waters of God. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, let your life-giving water wash over me. Let your water produce fruit in me. Let Jesus come. Come Lord Jesus come. --- Amen

Monday, December 13, 2010

December 13th - Reflection


Isaiah 29:17-24 (NRSV)
The infirm will be healed

Shall not Lebanon in a very little while
become a fruitful field,
and the fruitful field be regarded as a forest?
On that day the deaf shall hear
the words of a scroll,
and out of their gloom and darkness
the eyes of the blind shall see.
The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,
and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel.
For the tyrant shall be no more,
and the scoffer shall cease to be;
all those alert to do evil shall be cut off
those who cause a person to lose a lawsuit,
who set a trap for the arbiter in the gate,
and without grounds deny justice to the one in the right.

Therefore thus says the Lord, who redeemed Abraham, concerning the house of Jacob:
No longer shall Jacob be ashamed,
no longer shall his face grow pale.
For when he sees his children,

the work of my hands, in his midst,
they will sanctify my name;
they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob,
and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.
And those who err in spirit will come to understanding,
and those who grumble will accept instruction.

Reflection
Those disabilities we have now will be made good with God. God takes what we fail to change to good and makes all things good. Where we couldn't grow; God will bring growth. Where we couldn't heal; God will heal. Characteristics absent in some will now be present. God brings about a great reversal.

And so in this Advent season, as we wait for the coming of Jesus, our lives too take on a great reversal. We wait, yet we find in the waiting the already sure arrival of Jesus into our lives and our hearts. We yearn for Jesus' coming again and find that he has already come to us. We wait for Jesus' birth and find that in the waiting Jesus has been born in us. God brings about the great reversal. In our hurry of the season, notice the eyes of Jesus in all those you see, in the crowds, the hospitals, the nurses, the police, the clergy, the service workers, in friends and in family. Look out and see the eyes of Jesus. You will see the great reversal at work, showing you who and how to love as your neighbor.

Prayer
Lord, as I look into the eyes of your Word this day, may your Word look out through my eyes that all those I meet this day may get a glimpse of you. Come into the hearts of your people this day. --- Amen

Sunday, December 12, 2010

December 12th - Reflection


Third Sunday of Advent
Matthew 11:2-11 (NRSV)
The forerunner of Christ


When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus answered them, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me."

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written,
'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.'

Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

Reflection
John is a prophet, yet more than and Old Testament prophet. John not only was announcing the coming of the Messiah, he was the messenger of the Messiah preparing his way. So John wasn't just telling about someone to come in some distant future, John was announcing the immediate arrival of the Messiah.

So as John remains in prison, I can imagine him wanting to know...Is Jesus the Messiah? You see, John knew what the message was to be, but really wasn't sure of who the Messiah was to be. So John sends some disciples to find out.

I wonder if John, knowing that Jesus was doing wondrous works, expected Jesus to release him from prison? But John, wouldn't expect the Messiah to bring an easy life, I don't think. After all, he was used to living it rough. He spoke out against those who lived the warm, fluffy, easy life. So maybe prison is what John expected. Maybe John expected a revolution of sorts, but Jesus didn't seem to be heading in this direction either. So I can understand John's questions and curiosity.

John was a prophet of the old covenant. A prophet that spanned the gap between the old covenant and the coming new covenant. So Jesus declares John to be the greatest yet the least. Things were about to change, from old covenant to new covenant in the life of Jesus.

This Advent, things are about to change for you and me also. As we search the Word and reflect on the issues and happenings of those days long ago, Jesus applies these same concepts to our days today and to our lives and to our hearts. We hear the announcement of a coming Messiah. Fulfilled in you and me today and yet to be fulfilled in God's ultimate glory. Prepare yourself...repent...be baptized...He's coming! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, as we shout out into this cold sinful world, may our words be your Word and may the people heed the coming of the Messiah. --- Amen

Saturday, December 11, 2010

December 11th - Reflection


Psalm 146:5-10 (NRSV)
God lifts up those bowed down

Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord their God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed;
who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the strangers;
he upholds the orphan and the widow,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Reflection
Who you gonna call? Likewise, who you gonna trust? All of our trust, hope, and faith is with God. Kingdoms come and go, governments come and go, church leaders come and go, companies come and go. All things earthly and material come and go. It's like a cycle that goes round and round. But this psalm, speaks to me about a God that is steady and trustworthy.

I can trust that God, the creator, the redeemer, the life of the universe, always cares about me. God cares about his creation. God who has been forever will reign forever. God's presence throughout all time and space.

God with us, to take care of the widow, the orphan, the stranger, the prisoner, and yes the sinner like me. I know I'm a sinner. I need God's love and care and place all my trust in him. And as God fills me with faith; my hope grows, my trust is sure, and I become what God would have me be. God has a huge job ahead for me. But knowing that God will reign forever...I'm in it for the long haul. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, I'm here for you. Keep working on me. --- Amen

Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10th - Reflection


2 Peter 3:11-18 (NRSV)
Prepare for the Lord's coming

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire? But, in accordance with his promise, we wait for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Reflection
We are at the door to eternity. Waiting for that door to open and Jesus return. What more could we do? Knowing that our entrance through this door depends on nothing that we have done but all that Jesus did. All we did was believe. All we did was accept the gracious gift of salvation. What more could we do?

Being at the door to eternity, we respond in joy and thanksgiving. We dig deep into the Word. We seek the Spirit's wisdom and understanding. We look to Jesus for guidance in using, here and now, the spiritual gifts we have been given. We seek in a ravenous fashion all understanding that God would fill us with. And we go quickly with the Spirit to serve and love our neighbor with passion and compassion. And we reach out to all those we meet to articulate our passion for making disciples for Jesus.

We are at the door to eternity. Our message is sure. The need is great. Our response is needed.

At the door to eternity we wait in trust and hope.

At the door to eternity we respond, quickly, passionately and lovingly to the world, this side of that door.

Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, as we wait on this side of that "Door to Eternity" ---we wait in hope---we wait in joy---we wait in fervent work of love for you and your people-- on this side of that door we are both waiting and busy in your love. --- Amen

Thursday, December 09, 2010

December 9th - Reflection


2 Peter 3:1-10 (NRSV)
The promise of the Lord's coming

This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you; in them I am trying to arouse your sincere intention by reminding you that you should remember the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets, and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken through your apostles. First of all you must understand this, that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and indulging their own lusts and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since our ancestors died, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation!" They deliberately ignore this fact, that by the word of God heavens existed long ago and an earth was formed out of water and by means of water, through which the world of that time was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the present heavens and earth have been reserved for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the godless.

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Reflection
God is merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. God loves his children, but he won't wait forever. God is outside of time in one sense. So to depend on time in another sense, at least for us, is a false hope. We must repent and turn to God in our own time. Repent and turn to God now rather than later. Don't listen to the scoffers or the false prophets, the time to run to God is now. The day of the Lord will come like a thief.

God is merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love. Turn to God. Why wait?

Prayer
Lord, I turn to you in my sin and ask your forgiveness. Fill me with hope and grace that I may serve you in your Kingdom...today...tomorrow...and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

December 8th - Reflection


Matthew 12:33 37 (NRSV)
A good tree bears good fruit

"Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure. I tell you, on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."

Reflection
If you just pretty up the fruit with wax and coloring and outside decorations, the tree still won't produce good fruit. To make good fruit, you first must start with the tree. Start with good nutrients and water and care for the tree and good fruit will follow.

And this with our own lives also. If you pray and go to church in order to only look good, you have it all backwards. God starts from the inside out. God works on the inside first so that what is produced comes out. Pray in your room and walk with the Word in the Bible and psalms and devotion. Walk with a friend and serve those nearest to you. Then gather at the assembly and unite with Christ in his Church in praise and honor. Honor the gifts of the Spirit with passion and serve God with those Children of God he chooses to place you with. Then...

Let your light shine that others may see your good works and glorify their Father in Heaven. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, work on me from the inside out that I may be fruitful and multiply the glorious praise and honor you deserve. --- Amen

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

December 7th - Reflection


Isaiah 41:14-20 (NRSV)
God will not forget the poor of Israel

Do not fear, you worm Jacob,
you insect Israel!
I will help you, says the Lord;
your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
Now, I will make of you a threshing sledge,
sharp, new, and having teeth;
you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
and you shall make the hills like chaff.
You shall winnow them and the wind shall carry them away,
and the tempest shall scatter them.
Then you shall rejoice in the Lord;
in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.

When the poor and needy seek water,
and there is none,
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
so that all may see and know,
all may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Reflection
I read in the newspaper the other day of a man who came into the homeless shelter to get out of the cold. He was in his 50's and made a statement to such that he was a throw away of society. He didn't understand why he was still alive.

But these are the very angels of God. There are the ones that God understands and came for in this world.

Here is a precious life to God. A life he created and sustains. A life that comes out of exile to return to God. A life to return body and soul. And here is a life we are to love and serve as children of God. A life that we pick up and shelter and become friends with that explore the Word made flesh together. Here is a life for you and I to serve and love. Here in this life is the face of God.

A mission to find God from both directions and all from the inside out. Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, as we wait your coming, let us look around and see your face in need and serve you daily. --- Amen

Monday, December 06, 2010

December 6th - Reflection


Isaiah 24:1 16a (NRSV)
Judgment is coming, but glorify God

Now the Lord is about to lay waste the earth and make it desolate,
and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants.
And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
as with the slave, so with his master;
as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
as with the lender, so with the borrower;
as with the creditor, so with the debtor.
The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled;
for the Lord has spoken this word.

The earth dries up and withers,
the world languishes and withers;
the heavens languish together with the earth.
The earth lies polluted
under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
Therefore a curse devours the earth,
and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,

and few people are left.
The wine dries up,
the vine languishes,
all the merry hearted sigh.
The mirth of the timbrels is stilled,
the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
the mirth of the lyre is stilled.
No longer do they drink wine with singing;
strong drink is bitter to those who drink it.
The city of chaos is broken down,
every house is shut up so that no one can enter.
There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
all joy has reached its eventide;
the gladness of the earth is banished.
Desolation is left in the city,
the gates are battered into ruins.
For thus it shall be on the earth
and among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is ended.

They lift up their voices, they sing for joy;
they shout from the west over the majesty of the Lord.
Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord;
in the coastlands of the sea glorify the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.
From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise,
of glory to the Righteous One.

Reflection
Isaiah's position viewing Jerusalem and beyond now moves to the entire world. As we continue to fall into the trappings of sin, and continue to refuse to repent and turn back toward God, the world systems are turned on their head. Everything begins to be the opposite of life and growth and turns towards sin and death. It's going to get worse before it gets better. If we don't turn around and repent, we will be lost.

You have a choice about God. You can turn and go the other way. But this will be the results of that turning and running from God. There is a price to pay. But, God continues and always has given that opportunity to turn around.

God sent Jesus to this earth because his love was so deep and great, that when he saw that we were lost, God needed to intervene to help us. So Jesus came as God and became one of us. God yet man, so that he would give his life to provide a way for all people to turn to God and have hope and salvation. And for those who repent and turn to God; songs of praise and joy will the earth, in the glory of what God has done through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. You have been saved! See it, hear it, understand it as much as you can and believe it!

Once again, for those who believe the world is turned upside down. The decay of sin and death has a new beginning in Christ. We have new life in God. And as we live on this world where sin still exists, God has provided the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. We live in the hope of a new creation. We are created new each day as we turn in repentance to our Father. We are renewed through the water of our baptism in the love of Christ and love for one another.

So repent...turn around...and shout the Good News throughout the earth. There is hope. Believe in what God has already done and worship and glorify him through Jesus Christ!

Prayer
Come, Lord Jesus, come, to this world that is in need of renewal and repentance. As we turn and repent of our sin, fill us with the hope and joy only you can give. Hear our shouts of praise, honor and love this day for all you have done. --- Amen

Sunday, December 05, 2010

December 5th - Reflection


Second Sunday of Advent
Matthew 3:1-12 (NRSV)
Prepare the way of the Lord

In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
"The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
'Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.' "


Now John wore clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."


Reflection
So here we have John the Baptist. He seems a little like Moses bringing the Israelites to the edge of the promised land. Likewise, John, calls the people of that day and this day to come out of self. Come out of our selfish ways and repent at the edge of the promised land. Repent and be baptized. Come out and become a special remnant of people that are preparing for the coming of Jesus. Isn't that what the Advent season is all about?

We take time to pause and repent. We take time to prepare for the coming of Jesus. These days we have perverted this season into something of a way to uphold the economy with excess spending. We do this all in the name of gift giving. We have perverted the message of repent and prepare into one of spend and get ready.

Repentance is a change of attitude to yourself and to God. We come out of ourselves, our heart and soul and wait on that inward work of God. We repent  and feel the life giving waters of baptism renewing us and our lives as we wait upon Jesus coming. Come just as you are, perhaps in camel's hair eating locusts and honey, or perhaps in work clothes, or perhaps in a business suit, or perhaps in jeans; come as you are, and repent. Repent and wait for the sure coming of Jesus.

You see, Jesus will come. Jesus will come to you and dwell in you. Through your repentance and baptism, the Holy Spirit will guide you and use you to fulfill the purpose God has prepared for you in the Kingdom of Heaven. Sometimes we have to wait and prepare. Sometimes we need to stop all the nonsense of our false Advent.  Stop, repent, prepare and wait. Jesus will come! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, as I wait, as I prepare, as I repent, as I relive my baptism daily...I know...without a doubt...that you will come...you will come to me and change my selfish attitude to an attitude that loves and has the compassion that you wish for me to have. Come Lord Jesus...Come! --- Amen

Saturday, December 04, 2010

December 4th - Reflection


Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19 (NRSV)
The righteous shall flourish

Give the king your justice, O God,
and your righteousness to a king's son.
May he judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor.

May he live while the sun endures,
and as long as the moon, throughout all generations.
May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass,
like showers that water the earth.
In his days may righteousness flourish
and peace abound, until the moon is no more. ...

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name forever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.
Amen and Amen.

Reflection
As I think about Christ the King and this psalm; I can't help but ponder the everlasting nature of God. I think about how God has existed even longer than the sun and moon. I ponder how God has blessed the lives of generations with the waters of living life. And I pause to think about the life of Jesus and his love for the poor and oppressed.

Jesus came into this world poor. He came in as a poor king. He lived in this world knowing of his Father's love for his people and living out that love for all God's children. Jesus gave his very life for all. Jesus became the King Eternal.

This psalm grants a vision through King David to the eternal nature of Christ the King. A vision of the Redeemer of the poor, oppressed, the ill and the fallen, bring healing to all creation. A vision of our Savior and his glory that fills all the earth.

As I think about Christ the King and this psalm; I can't help but ponder the everlasting nature of God.

Prayer
Lord, you are everlasting. You bless all generations and cause us to see your glory and power. Fill your children's hearts with that same love and compassion that Jesus exhibits and move us to love one another...today...tomorrow and forever. --- Amen