Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29th Reflection - God Leads and Guides - by Bill Lynch


Matthew 2:13-23
 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 fulfil 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 - God Leads and Guides
I'm convinced that God leads us and guides us on our way through life. I'm not saying that life will always be sweet and wonderful and the sun will always shine. In fact, in some cases it may seem to be just the opposite. Especially when you consider my sins, my illness, my selfishness, my temper, my mouth, my, my, my... All these things about myself get in the way. But God can work through the my of my life. God can lead me and guide me away from the my... my... my... towards those in need and towards following his Light of Jesus and his will in the Holy Spirit. God uses the flawed people like me and like you. Remember, I'm not alone in this my stuff... you are right there with me... in fact we both are guilty. Guilty enough to need a Savior.

So, I'm convinced that God leads us and guides us on our way through life. God has a way of protecting us and preserving us for his purpose for our lives. But, oh the journey! The journey may lead right through illness, death, running away, sinful actions, hiding and poverty. The journey may lead through such great richness and success that we have such bounty that all we have gets in the way and we ourselves become the problem. Good or bad, blessings or struggles; God leads us and guides us on our way through life.

And on top of it all... God sends angels to help out! Now how cool is that!? Angels that give us subtle messages and angels that make God's wishes for us crystal clear. God sends angels to lead us and guide us in where to go and what to do and how to act. And these angels may not be the white flapping type that flutter through the air as they play their harps. These angels may be a man that comes to church and can't find someone to sit with that I let slip away this past summer in our outdoor service at church. I'm sure there was a message intended for me and for my wife. That man was an angel. Just recently, I was begged by the nurse at the assisted living center while returning my mother-in-law to take a dog that was sleeping in the cold on the chairs outside. A loving, caring dog that obviously someone had to be looking for. And we took this angel and hunted for the owner and finally got the tip and returned this angel of a dog that we nick named Angel to her owner. What a reunion that was! What a joy both in the return and a joy in the few days we were visited by this angel. Or how about the angel I saw in prison a few weeks ago? A father reading a book to his child with joy and love and wishing his child a Merry Christmas. This was an angel of God speaking not to the recorder but to me about the love of a Savior held prisoner and killed for me. Or the angel I visited in the hospital earlier this year. I went to visit to cheer her up and she showed to me a message of God's love and a message of strength in God even in the midst of healing. There she was... an angel of God sending a message. I saw so many angels in the homeless working towards getting a home. Working through all of the issues of life like divorce, drugs, poverty, but working their way out of a bind with a will and dedication that surely must have come from God. Yep! Angels that God sends to us to give us messages of love are all around us... just think about it and you will see.

Matthew 25.31-40
 ‘When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”

As I mentioned before, this world is filled with enough sinful people like myself and you that we need a God that leads and guides us. We need God! That's all there is to it! And it's through the Savior that we will be lead away from our sinfulness towards the Light of love and grace and action in God's Kingdom rather that our own errant action in our own false kingdom that we try to create. So, God leads us and preserves us and saves us for his plan of action. God comes to us and saves us, from the evils of this world and sin and death. God has come to save!

In this passage of Scripture, God leads Mary and Joseph away to save them from the evils of men who believe they have all of the power. God directs the footsteps of Mary and Joseph in the timing of the return and the young life of our Savior in Jesus. God leads and guides us all along the way, even in the midst of a sinful world. God leads and guides.

Yes, as we follow God, we are lead through the waters and the desert of life. We are guided and nurtured and taught of Jesus saving love for all the world. We are taken in our own unique state of being and formed and molded into what God would have us be. I'm convinced that God leads us and guides us on our way through life. So, let's gather together in Christ and fellowship one with another in all of our various states of blessing, struggle, death, crying, illness, prosperity, richness and fullness of life and follow the message of the angel. Let's follow Jesus as one people rich in diversity and rich in the creative powers of the Creator.

I'm convinced that God leads us and guides us on our way through life.

Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, as we mourn for the ills of the world, for the death of babies, for the cruelty of earthly rulers; unite us in your rich blessing of eternal life that we can catch a glimpse of the way in which you would have us go and the decisions which you would have us make. May we always follow your lead as we come and go and move about. May we always seek to love you and one another in this walk through the waters and deserts of this life. Lead us to your eternal home that we may always dwell with you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24th Reflection - Traveling God - by Bill Lynch


Titus 2:11-14
 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.

Reflection - Traveling God
Yes, it's true! Jesus has come! Our Advent wait is complete. Jesus Christ is born! God has come to this world throughout time and space. God has come from heaven whirling past and through the universe. Floating by all the stars and planets and galaxies that we could never imagine. God has past through the beginning and through the end of time and beyond all time to arrive on this small planet that has awaited his coming. Yes God has come not only to our world in flesh and blood and spirit but God has come to you!

Think of that! Think of God coming from a heaven beyond space and time. Think of the vastness of it all. And then pause for a moment and come to the realization that God came to this world, this planet earth. Pause for a moment longer and consider that God has come to you. Yes, you! To save you! You can't really grasp it at all. You can't get the full impact or even come near the impact and the wonder of the love God has for you.

A Light has come on in this world of sin and death. A Light that shines in the glory of a baby in a manger. A baby that has come to this earth through the humanity of Mary and in the obedience of Joseph. A baby that will live and die for you! A baby that will develop in the flesh like you and save you in body and spirit. Think of this gift for you!

Do you believe it? I can't! I can't by myself believe in Jesus or come to him. I just can't do it! It's beyond myself to believe in Jesus by my own effort or strength, no matter how hard I try, I can't believe in this thing that has happened on my own. But... the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in true faith (Luther's Explanation to the Third Article of the Apostles Creed). Only through God can I believe. Only through this great Gospel of love which God has done can I believe. I can't believe on my own. I don't have the mind, the spirit or the imagination to believe what only God could fathom. But I have faith in what God has done. God sent his son, Jesus, as a baby, to save me and you and all people from sin, death and the devil. Jesus left heaven and traveled through the realms of time and space to come to this earth to me and to you right now. In this, I place all of my faith and hope. In Jesus I have faith that brings belief and trust in God.

Yes, read it! Read the Gospel of Love. Hear it this day. Hear it this night in services around the world. God has come! God has come to this world. Advent is here now. God is with us! You will hear the songs of joy and the proclamation of a Savior born to all the world. A Savior that has come not only into this world but into many of the hearts of believers all over this world and into the hearts of those who do not believe. Who can't believe on their own. These people will realize that this is all far beyond any thought a human can have. But God will grant them faith and they will hear God's call, they will receive the gifts and they will be sanctified and kept in true faith. Yes... they will believe! They will believe not because they have made sense of it all and now know the mind of God, but they will believe because they now know of a God that is so far beyond themselves that he loved them so much that he came to them in a form that all people can accept, to bring them to eternal life.

Yes, Advent is over... God has come... but Advent isn't over either... Jesus will come again. We have Jesus this day, this moment, this night, but Jesus will come again. The work is not complete. This world still suffers war, sin, death, tears, mourning, crime, hunger, pain, illness, blindness, and all sorts of ailments that I couldn't begin to list them all. Jesus will come again to this world to judge the living and the dead. It's still Advent. It's still a time of waiting. And we use those gifts we have been given through the Holy Spirit and work in Jesus' Kingdom day after day. We work towards that eternal hope when Jesus comes again. We work to alleviate the ills of this world and to bring peace and joy and live in the hope of what is to come.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Revelation 21:3-5)

You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.”
(Luke 12:40)

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.
(John 1:12-13)

Yes, Christmas is here. The Advent of this season is over. But, the Advent of our wait continues at the same time. The Advent of that great moment when Jesus comes again.

And to think it all began before time and after time and in space and out of space. It all began through the love of our God for the created. It all begins and ends in God. What a love! How do we express our gratitude? Any way we can... yes anyway we can... God loves us and I love God.

"Shepherds why this jubilee?" Come on! Think about it!

Joy to the world! The Savior has come!

Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, you have come. You are flesh. You have come to save us. All of us. Oh how our lives have changed, all because you have come. It's not this world that rules our lives but your love and grace. You have changed us to look towards the heaven. You have changed our attitudes from sin and death to eternal life with you. Yes your coming has changed everything. You have changed us and now we live different lives. We live looking towards that second Advent. That second coming of Christ. We look to you and focus on you. For you alone are God... yes you alone! Thank you Lord for coming to me. And I look with great anticipation, hope and joy for your second Advent... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23rd Reflection - Zeal - by Bill Lynch


Isaiah 9:2-7
The people who walked in darkness
   have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness—
   on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
   you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
   as with joy at the harvest,
   as people exult when dividing plunder.
For the yoke of their burden,
   and the bar across their shoulders,
   the rod of their oppressor,
   you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For all the boots of the tramping warriors
   and all the garments rolled in blood
   shall be burned as fuel for the fire.
For a child has been born for us,
   a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
   and he is named
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His authority shall grow continually,
   and there shall be endless peace
for the throne of David and his kingdom.
   He will establish and uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
   from this time onwards and for evermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Reflection - Zeal
In the darkness and the midst of our sin, Jesus comes. He comes to you and to me as a child. He comes to you and to me as a Savior. God comes to us and pulls us out of the depths of hell to be with him. God comes to us as a child, as a new beginning, as the weak, the poor, the hungry, the blind, the lame, the dying, the prisoner... yes God comes to us in the flesh of a baby to save us from our sinful selves.

And see the results of this salvation. God's coming takes on the burdens of war and death and the blood of all the battles ever fought and God is victorious. Yes, even as a baby, God is victorious over all of the ills of this world and it's easy.

God shines his Light upon you, me and this entire world and changes tears and mourning into shouts and songs of great joy. Yes, we have a Savior! For it is the zeal of the Lord of hosts... Zeal so tremendous that this baby, this God, this Light, would live and die for you, for me and for all the world. Zeal that automatically brings a response of great joy to those who believe and follow this One, this Light, this Savior... Jesus.

Yes, this passage written so long before the birth of Jesus in flesh, comes to a people oppressed and in need. Comes to a people in the midst of invasion and death. This passage comes to a people in darkness and death and proclaims a Savior. A Savior unlike Gideon who ruled in great power and great strategy being lead by God as the Israelites conquered the Promised Land. This passage proclaims a child that will rule and his rule will be wonderful. See the titles given to our Savior.

"Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

This is our God! This is our Savior! This is Jesus!

Doesn't this and this alone cause a response of  loving zeal within your heart?

Prayer
Lord... I love you!... How could I not? I love you and love the Savior you sent. While I was in the darkness of my sin... while I was being occupied by sin, death and the devil... you graciously and wonderfully came into my life and my heart as a Savior... as a child... as flesh and blood... you gave your life for me that I might live! Lord... I love you!... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20th Reflection - The Dream - by Bill Lynch


Matthew 1:18-25
 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 fulfil 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 - The Dream
I had him that night! I had him like I've never had anyone recently. I was in his head and there was no way he was going to get me out of there. He went to bed that night and collapsed. He had a stressful day with some news that totally changed his world, his life and his love. He went to bed totally tired and out of sorts, so I had him in my control that night.. or so I thought...

Oh, sure there were others that I had in the past... I had Jacob so bad he became physical. And then there was Joseph, Abimelech, Laban, Pharaoh, Solomon and I don't know how many old men in the past and present. But this night I had Joseph... well kinda.

Every time I think it's about me, or at least too many times in the past, I figure it's all for my delight when I think I really have the person... I seem to run into an angel. They let me set the stage and then come in and steal the show! I can't stand that!

Joseph was dealing with some shocking news that day. He was engaged to Mary and she came up pregnant with child. Joseph knew it wasn't his! So you figure it out from there. But, this guy really loved Mary and didn't want any harm to come to her... now there is love! So he collapsed in bed having determined that he would let go of Mary in the most quiet way he could the next day or so. That's not easy to do you know! What Mary had done was serious. She was pregnant and engaged. She let herself and her passion go with someone else! In the past she would be stoned! Who knows, maybe the judgment would be close to the same, but it's not going to be pretty this time either. So, Joseph was tired and stressed and I had him in my clutches, until that angel came along and stole the show!

This angel from God swoops in and ruins my whole plot! This angel swoops in and tells Joseph that it's all true what Mary had told him. That she was carrying God's child, conceived through the Holy Spirit. Now, at first I thought this may turn out pretty good. After all, think of where I could take it from here! I could have Joseph tossing and turning the rest of the night, fretting over all the details, but this angel went on to tell Joseph what he was to name this child... Jesus... for he will save his people from their sins.

OK, so how am I going to work with this? That angel! Threw a monkey wrench into all of my plans for the night. Now I had to deal with what was left. I had to make something out of this now. But what?

Now Joseph was a good Jewish man. Joseph knew God's word and spent his time in the Temple in prayer and study. So the angel ties back this whole Jesus thing to something that Joseph would remember reading in the Temple... a prophecy...

‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
   and they shall name him Emmanuel’,

Then, in the face of it all, the angel instructs Joseph to take Mary as his wife! Hello! She is having someone else's baby! It's not yours Joseph! So, now I figured I had something to torment Joseph with the rest of the night even if that angel did come in and steal my thunder for the evening.

But... even though I tried... from that time on... through the rest of the night... Joseph slept like a baby. Joseph's mind was at ease. Joseph's mind was bound and determined to follow God's new and wonderful message the angel had just given to him. Joseph's mind... yes the core of his very spirit was focused on Jesus.

My work was done for the night with Joseph... no chance of anything else. So, I moved on to Bill... he's easy... I can get him to dream anything... I can get him to talk and walk and do all sorts of goofy things. At least I can entertain myself with Bill the rest of the night.

...but that angel and that Joseph... that's a different story! Way different! So, different the world hasn't been the same since! It's true you know... this dream came true! This Jesus... he saved all the people from sin... and in a way that I couldn't ever top in any fabrication I could ever imagine.

Yes, God is with us! Jesus has come to save!

Prayer
Lord, thank you for dreams. Thank you for angels. Thank you for Mary. Thank you for messengers. Thank you for Jesus. Thank you for coming to us and showing yourself, that we may know your love. Thank you Lord... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December 19th Reflection - The Response of Love - by Bill Lynch


Matthew 1:18-25
 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 fulfil 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 - The Response of Love
An engagement at the time of Jesus' birth was different from what we view an engagement today. An engagement then was a binding relationship. Today we are much more lax in our definition of an engagement. But during the time of Joseph and Mary any unfaithfulness during an engagement would be considered adultery.

Many times in the Old Testament we read accounts of the Holy Spirit's action in the birth of a person of God. But the birth is always conceived between and man and a woman. In this passage from Matthew the birth is beyond conception between Mary and Joseph. The birth of Jesus was a direct result of the Holy Spirit rather than an action taken by "man" alone.

This means of procreation sets a very difficult scene for Joseph and for Mary in their engagement. Joseph did not have intercourse with Mary as stated in the passage above. In this time Joseph was titled the husband and now that Mary was with child, a divorce was in order because, remember, an engagement was a binding relationship.

Now Joseph had to decide between a couple of ways to divorce. The punishment for the crime of adultery was to be stoned. Joseph didn't want this to happen. Joseph was a caring and loving person and loved Mary even as she was pregnant with child. So Joseph had to decide between a court action which would risk stoning or written notice in the presence of a couple of witnesses that would break the engagement. Joseph chose the gentler and kinder solution of the written notice out of love.

It seems to me that in this case of love for Mary and child, Joseph truly now falls into line with the family of Jesus. Joseph may not be the biological father, but in his love, I feel he has become a "Child of God" like no other. Joseph chose to step out of himself and take a loving action that would not normally occur. Isn't that the very same thing God was doing by sending Jesus in the first place for all people? God was stepping outside of the realm of what seems the normal course, to become flesh and blood and to live and die for the sins of all people in order to graciously give us eternal life and eternal relationship with God. This is love! And Joseph's loving action becomes, to me, one of the first loving active responses to God's gift of love for all people.

So, the Holy Spirit comes to Joseph in a dream. A dream that encourages Joseph to not even break the engagement. A dream that encourages Joseph to hang tough and continue in the engagement. In fact more than that. A dream that encourages Joseph to take Mary as his wife. This child in Mary was from the Holy Spirit, a direct action of God, not indirect as in the many Old Testament births of so many couples.

This dream includes a name to be given to the child. That name is Jesus. Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Joshua... "the Lord saves". And this Jesus was more than salvation from slavery or the wandering in the wilderness; this Jesus was to be the One to save people from their sins. Salvation and that wonderful full relationship with God that God intended right from the beginning. The beginning when Jesus was there in Light and Word and the will of God. Yes, this loving reaction of Joseph produced in Joseph to his love for Mary would result in the fruition of the greatest loving act of all time between God and God's created people... salvation and eternal life.

Now all of this draws us back into an Old Testament passage mentioned in an earlier reflection from this week. God chooses to save his people. God chooses to be with us. In the promise of a Savior, God would deliver his people from their enemies. In the case of King Ahaz the enemies are not just the powerful ruling armies of the day, but the enemies are our very sinful selfish selves. The enemy was sin, death and the devil. And now, through a virgin, God would deliver ALL people. For now, in this time and in this place, Emmanuel or "God is with us".

God is with his people once again. This time in flesh and blood and spirit. God is with us. God has come to save us. God renews, first hand, the relationship that we all have broken through our sinful actions. God has done it! God has done this for us! God is with us not just in a Temple but with us in our very beings, our very flesh, our very blood, our spirit to become one of us. God is with us in Jesus and has come into this world, our lives and our hearts to save us first hand! What a wonderful action God has taken!

So in the loving response of Joseph to Mary, God moves Joseph from a normal reaction of hatred and the violence of stoning to death Mary, to a loving action of the birth of a child that would enter this world as man and as God to give his life in a loving action to save all people. The Holy Spirit comes to Mary in love. The Holy Spirit comes to Joseph in love. The Holy Spirit comes to all people through the love of Jesus to save all people.

What's your response? How could you not help but to love God and love your neighbor? How else could you act? For now... God is with us... for Jesus has come to save his people from their sins.

Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, you know how to pull us in. Yes, you pull me in close. You draw me away from sin and take me into your love. You birth yourself in me... in my heart... and I respond in love and thanks and praise and honor and glory to you. You are with me... you are my Savior. Take my loving response and turn it out into all the world that all people may know your love... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 18th Reflection - Hi! - by Bill Lynch


Romans 1:1-7

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for the sake of his name, including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

 To all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Reflection - Hi!
First, introduce yourself. Tell those you care about and those who are your neighbor a little bit about yourself. Tell them your name and one or two of your core values. No need to dwell on your occupation alone, but more about what matters the most to you; then introduce yourself.

Paul states his name and that he is a servant of Jesus and called to be an apostle. Paul tells us that he has been set apart. Now that you have introduced yourself, it's time to become passionate about your call. Paul loves to do this. He takes off with passion on a tangent to his introduction towards proclaiming the gospel of Jesus and salvation through grace.

So, introduce yourself and tell about what you really care about and then take off towards the gospel and move the one you are speaking to away from you and towards Jesus. It's not a trick. It's a passion for the gospel. It's a love for the person you are addressing. It's an excitement to share some news that has radically changed your life. It's all about God and what God has done for all of us through Jesus.

How did this Jesus come to be? How did God send him into this world? How has Jesus made an impact on your life? What has changed since you have become a disciple of Jesus? Why did you turn or return to God? How have you seen God's presence this day, in your life, or in any place or time? Why is being a disciple of Jesus important to you? How has Jesus changed your life? --- You could go on and on directing your conversation towards the central figure, Jesus. And you are speaking about things you know about. I'm not talking about memory, I'm speaking of personal experiences that explain Jesus relationship with you.

Something happens here... something happens when the person you are communicating with get to witness some of Jesus in the flesh... your flesh, and some of the Spirit in the passion of your telling of the relationship with Jesus... your spirit. And in no way is this a phony gimmick. This is true love and a response of what God has done for you.

God came to you in flesh and spirit. God come to you and to all people in Jesus. God came full of grace and love rather than death; God came with life. And in the life of Jesus... you too now live. That's a BIG deal! That's what has changed it all! God is no longer hidden in a Holy place behind a curtain; but God is out in the open for all to see. Now that we see God in Jesus we live by the faith of the grace shown and given to us. We live bold lives of passion for a God that comes to us to rescue us and comes into relationship with all people and with each person in the flesh. We become a community in communion with God in flesh and spirit and love and grace.

Hi, I'm (Bill or your name), a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.

Prayer
What a privilege it is, Lord, for you to come to me and to rescue me. As I see your glory and grace, I can't help myself but to follow you, to serve you, to love you. Use me this day in all my greetings to show, tell, demonstrate and live that response only you could cause a person to have that proclaims your flesh and spirit to all the world... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

December 17th Reflection - The Warmth of the Light - by Bill Lynch


Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

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 neighbours;
   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 - The Warmth of the Light
Here is an Psalm perhaps from the exile or perhaps referring to the fall of Samaria. In each case there is a longing for the days when God felt close and near and the people felt secure.

We all pine for security. We all need salvation. As Christians we see the Light of Christ shining brightly in this psalm. We understand our own fall and know of the need of repentance. As Children of God we see Jesus all over this passage that was written before Jesus was born of Mary. As Children of God and Christians we know and look to the hope and the light of Jesus coming again to finalize God's rule over sin, death and evil.

Yes, we look to the return of Jesus when we are turned around once again. Turned around to see the shining face of God. We have seen God in the slavery of sin, we have seen God in the desert places of life, we have seen God in the crossing into the blessings of this life through the waters of baptism, we have seen God in the restoration from sin in the body and blood and the bread and wine of Holy Communion, we have seen God in the presence of the Holy Spirit as we are gifted, called and sent into the world to do God's will. Yes, we have seen God!

God has turned us around how many times in life to see him? God turns his face to ours and shows himself day after day in and through our lives. As Christians and Children of God and disciples of Jesus... God shows himself! That is the light of this Advent. God shows himself to us and we see him! We wait... yet we see. We see each day the presence of God as we wait for Jesus to come again.

Think about it and love this action of God. God shows up because God loves us. God wants me and God wants you to be with him. So... God sent the Light... God sent Jesus for you... for me... for all. All out of his love and desire to be with us. Yes God is with us, turning his face to ours and shining his love onto our face and into our hearts. God is with us! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, I feel the warmth of the love from the Light you shine on me and in me. Send me this day to proclaim the Light to all those you give to me. A Light that shines on the faces of all people... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, December 16, 2013

December 16th Reflection - The Sign - by Bill Lynch


Isaiah 7:10-16
 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.

Reflection - The Sign
Assyria is about to invade Israel and take over. But Israel has a plan. A plan to unite forces with Syria and to unite the neighbor countries to oppose this invasion from Assyria. So Israel appeals to the king of Judah, Ahaz for support.

This passage is a call to faith in God. Judah is under God but the world around seems to be falling to the power of man and the utilities of war. The world around is under the power of man. Will Judah and Ahaz place faith in God or will Ahaz place his faith in the will and power of man? Isaiah offers a sign from God. A sign of faith. A sign from God that stretches as far as possible, from heaven to hell.

Ahaz refuses to entertain even such a great sign from God for faith. So we contrast the power of man with the power of God. Ahaz had made up his mind. Not even a sign from God would change Ahaz's allegiance to the power of man. Ahaz had chosen friendship with the enemy rather that faith in God to save him and the people of Judah from Assyria.

But God has a sign. A sign that far outreaches any comprehension of this time by Ahaz. A sign of a love that surpasses that current time in history to and through all time. A sign of a Savior. A sign of one who comes from the contrast of curds and honey to a deserted land... to death and salvation for all the people. Yes, God gives us a sign even in the midst of sin that is to overtake us and occupy us and remove us from God's presence. God gives a sign to all of Judah at the time, to all of the world, and through time to you and to me.

Isaiah tells of the core reason to place faith in God rather than faith in the power and devices of man. God gives us the reason for faith and provides us with the faith to believe and receive the most precious gift of all space and time. God gives us a Savior and names that Savior Immanuel. God is with us! Have faith! God is with us!

Ahaz... have faith... God is with us... Bill... have faith... God is with us... all people... have faith... God is with us. God is with us through the battles, through the occupation, through the illness, through the hatred and sin and death. God is with us and will save us. Only God can save us. Only God. Not our weapons of war, not our power and strength, but only the love and grace of God through the Savior Jesus can you be saved! God is with us. God is with you.

And God's gift of salvation comes to us through the unexpected gift of faith. Not through the power and unity of the forces of men, but through the quiet love of a child born to humble means in a manager. God is with us! Don't miss it! God is with us! Have faith... believe! God is with us. The choice to believe is yours. Will you act like Ahaz, or see the sign of God. Once again, I say... receive the faith... believe! God is with us!

Prayer
Lord, open my eyes to see. Open my heart to faith. Open my life to trust in you and you alone. For God is with us and God is with me. You sent your Son, Jesus, into this world in such a radical departure from how we would expect a Savior to arrive. But you made it stick! Jesus upon the cross. Jesus in the wooden manger. Jesus working the wood and life of all people to bring new life to all creation. A new and awesome tree of life. You provide the faith and I believe! Send me out into this world of sin and death to witness to the life and salvation that you gave through Jesus. Life that brings eternal life and love to all your people... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, December 13, 2013

December 13th Reflection - I See! - by Bill Lynch


Psalm 146:5-10
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 for ever;
   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 for ever,
   your God, O Zion, for all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Reflection - I See!
O Lord, you are One, you are the Only.
   you come to your people through a chosen nation.
You come as Creator, Redeemer and Spirit.
   you open your Love and salvation to all the people.

As refugees and aliens we walk with You.
   we follow the steps of the Savior.
You have taken the fatherless and loved us as your own,
   you claimed us and call us your children.

Yet, Lord, you have chosen us to do your will,
   to become part of your grand plan and you gift us.
You take us and use us and call us your own,
   hear our song of praise and glory for giving us life.

Praise the Father, the Son and the Spirit!
   Sing glory and honor and praise to the One.
You rescued and used the forgotten and sinful.
   You gave us undeserved eternal life!

Prayer
Lord, I thought that I was lost. I wasn't among the Chosen Nation, I was an orphan, a sinner and condemned. But you have come. You came to give new life to the lost. You came to reside in flesh and blood as my Savior. You come each day with your teaching and message of hope and salvation. You come in Spirit and Love to show the way. As I walk this day with you, lead me, guide me, show me your way that all my words and actions may please you. Show me how to serve the orphan, the widow, the poor, the sick, the lost and the forgotten. Grant me the actions and the words that point to you... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, December 12, 2013

December 12th Reflection - Magnify - by Bill Lynch


Luke 1:46b-55
 And Mary said,
‘My soul magnifies the Lord,
   and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour,
for he has looked with favour on the lowliness of his servant.
   Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One has done great things for me,
   and holy is his name.
His mercy is for those who fear him
   from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
   he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
   and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
   and sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
   in remembrance of his mercy,
according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
   to Abraham and to his descendants for ever.’

Reflection - Magnify
In this passage Mary sings a song. A song that we all could sing. A song that comes from the heart of a woman directed towards the heart of God. Yes, this is a song that I could sing and or a song that you could sing as well.

Yes, God has chosen me and you, his servants, to do God's work in this place and in this time. God has chosen his people and comes to them. Just as Jesus came from heaven to earth, Jesus comes into the hearts of all people. Jesus invades my heart and invades your heart as well.

Jesus' invasion is something of a miracle. God has appeared in you and in me and worked his will into our lives. At this miracle of birth both in flesh and in spirit, we cry out. Perhaps we sing for joy. We write or proclaim with what few words we can form, the glory of God's gracious love towards all people and towards you and me. God came into this world and loved the sinner. God came into this world and into our hearts to love us through Jesus.

What mercy God has shown, to come to us and live with us and walk with us throughout our lives to lead and guide us, to teach us, to save us from sin and death. What mercy and love God has shown to be birthed into our own flesh and blood to save us from hell. What mercy and love God has shown through Jesus to become part of our very being, to commune with our flesh in the bread and the wine and the body and the blood of Jesus.

God has shown us mercy throughout generations. From mother to child to father to brother to sister to grand-parent to grand-child to cousins and even to those we don't call family; God shows mercy to all people throughout all time.

Will you sing a song of praise as Mary did? Will you proclaim the name and glory of God boldly and serve God? How will you respond? In silence, or in song? Or perhaps you will, as Mary has done, place the focus of the lens of your life squarely on Jesus, our Lord, our King, our God, our Savior.

Prayer
Lord, may my life, my words, my voice, my singing, my actions, my silence, my prayer, my heart, my entire being focus on you; that all glory and honor and praise be given to you alone... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December 11th Reflection - God is Coming - by Bill Lynch


Isaiah 35:1-10
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,
   the desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
   and rejoice with joy and singing.
The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it,
   the majesty of Carmel and Sharon.
They shall see the glory of the Lord,
   the majesty of our God.


Strengthen the weak hands,
   and make firm the feeble knees.
Say to those who are of a fearful heart,
   ‘Be strong, do not fear!
Here is your God.
   He will come with vengeance,
with terrible recompense.
   He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
   and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
then the lame shall leap like a deer,
   and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
   and streams in the desert;
the burning sand shall become a pool,
   and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,
   the grass shall become reeds and rushes.

A highway shall be there,
   and it shall be called the Holy Way;
the unclean shall not travel on it,
   but it shall be for God’s people;
   no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
No lion shall be there,
   nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
   but the redeemed shall walk there.
And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
   and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
   they shall obtain joy and gladness,
   and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Reflection - God is Coming!
Yes, it's true! Yes! God is coming our way. God is passing our way. God is coming from heaven to earth. God is coming to all the people. God is coming to you and to me. God is coming in flesh and blood to all of us together and to each of us individually. God is coming in Spirit to all of us together and to each of us individually. What are you going to do?

Just look and see the change. See the desert change and life spring eternal in all directions. God is coming, I say! God is coming! See the flowers spring up! Rest in the shade of the trees that pop up in the desert. God is coming! God is passing your way and my way and the way of all people. God is coming!

Jesus is coming to take us home! Take us home to live in eternal relationship with God. A new age is here. Jesus has come to this world. Jesus rose again and ascended into heaven. But, Jesus is coming again. Right here and right now, Jesus is coming. And Jesus will come again to fulfill the promise of yet another new age. An age where tears and death and mourning and illness will be no more. Jesus is coming! See the change in you and in me. God is coming!

Live in the hope of God's coming, past, present and future. Live in the love of God's coming to you and to me and to all people. What are you going to do? God is coming!

See the brooks flow living water from the desert. See and hear the babbling of the creek. Hear the roar of the oceans as God is coming! We have seen an exodus past and we will be led through that wonderful path of love and life and water and new life to an exodus or maybe an entrance to or from our God who is coming. God is coming!

Rejoice in the coming! Shout it out to all you meet! God is coming to each and to all! Live in the hope and love of God... for God is coming!

Prayer
Lord, prepare our hearts, our minds and our very souls for your coming. Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Sunday, December 08, 2013

December 8th Reflection - The Camel's Hair - by Bill Lynch


Matthew 3:1-12
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 axe 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 - The Camel's Hair
You know, when you live in the wilderness you become like the wilderness. They say you are what you eat you know. But in my case, I think it is you are what you wear. So, here was this guy, living in the wilderness. He came to me and was named John. He came to me with a simple diet of what he could find in the wilderness. They say he ate locust and honey. The honey part was easy to understand. The locust part was up for debate. Sometimes he would drop locust on me and other times it might be seed pods. It really didn't matter. The point of it all was that this John lived in the wilderness and did what you would expect anyone else who lived in the wilderness would do... make do with what he could find, especially for food and clothing. So locust and honey for food and me for clothing.

I mean camel's hair clothes aren't that hard to come by. The camel's hair can be a good source of clothing and shelter. After all the camel is a good working animal and able to survive in the wilderness. So, being camel's hair myself made me feel pretty special and unique. After all I was like John too. I worked hard and lived a hard life and made use of everything I could.

And this guy, John, was special and unique as well. You see, he was different. Yes... he was unique. He wasn't fancy or anything like that, but you knew he had a call and a mission and a purpose given to him by God. Just as I had a mission to give John protection from the elements, and the crumbs of food that fell from his beard, John brought a message of one coming that would bring the entire human race, protection from eternal hell and damnation.

John told the people as they came out into the wilderness to repent of their sin. To forget about how they thought they were so special and place all of the "specialness" in the hand of One that would come after John. One that is the Messiah. One that is God. One that will be the Savior of all people. John, in his simple and honest and straightforward way, spoke from the heart. A heart that was with God and told any and all of the people that came to see him, to repent and get ready for this One who would be coming.

You didn't have to come from a fancy bloodline. You didn't need riches. You didn't need power. You didn't, and really couldn't, have anything but your plain old self to be ready for this One. And the time was now to repent and get ready for the coming of this One, this Messiah, this Savior, this God in flesh. Just like you are... rich, poor, dressed in work clothes and steel toes, or dressed for success, dressed in uniform, dressed in all the glory of whatever you were at that moment in whatever place you happened to be at the moment. Just come into the wilderness as you are and from where you are and repent. For the One is coming! The One that will save all people is coming!

So, there I was, me... myself... camel hair clothing... on this man named John. And I witnessed it all. Some came... some repented... some turned and left... some rejoiced... some were baptized... some just snorted and mocked... but to those who repented... they got ready for this One to come. This One! Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Just as I Am
Lyrics: Charlotte Elliott
Just as I am - without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - though toss'd about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need, in Thee to find,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - Thy love unknown
Has broken every barrier down;
Now to be Thine, yea, Thine alone,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

Just as I am - of that free love
The breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
Here for a season, then above,

-O Lamb of God, I come!

Lord I come... but of the utmost importance... You come!
Come, Lord Jesus Come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, December 05, 2013

December 5th Reflection - Wilderness - by Bill Lynch


Matthew 3:1-12
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 axe 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 - Wilderness
Here we have John in the wilderness. The wilderness of land not useful for much more than grazing. The wilderness which wasn't suited for cultivation of crops but useful for the feeding of animals. John, seems to me to be a plain, down to earth, maybe even a crude man. But John was a man with a message. A message of the coming Messiah. John had a message about the coming Savior of the world. A message to repent, to turn around and go another direction.

John called the people in the wilderness and he called the people out of the comfort of the city into the wilderness to receive a message and a baptism. A baptism of repentance and change. A message that calls each one of us, out of the comfort in which we live, to join John in the wilderness to wait and watch for a Savior.

It almost seems to me that John was called out of the earth. Called out of the common people who wear nothing fancy for clothing and exist on a diet of what is available at the time. Called into the wilderness and away from the gleam of the city. John called out of the earth to announce the coming of one who is beyond this earth. To announce the coming of God from heaven to earth. To prepare the earthy people like me and perhaps you to repent and change.

Something great and wonderful is taking place. We are receiving a Savior. Yes a Savior. Repent, even in this day, repent and prepare to change. For this Savior will make all the difference in you and your life and in the realm of heaven and earth. Something big is happening. Something for all people, the rich, the poor, the free, the prisoner, the sick, the healthy, the powerful and the lowly. Something big is taking place. Yes, even today. Prepare and get ready! Something great and wonderful is taking place.

Prayer
As I hear the baptist speak, I repent and prepare to change... Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

December 4th Reflection - Welcome - by Bill Lynch


Romans 15:4-13
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written,
‘Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles,
   and sing praises to your name’;
and again he says,
‘Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people’;
and again,
‘Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
   and let all the peoples praise him’;
and again Isaiah says,
‘The root of Jesse shall come,
   the one who rises to rule the Gentiles;
in him the Gentiles shall hope.’
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reflection - Welcome
It's always turned around it seems by Jesus. It reminds me of the words of a song that the grandchildren, or as they refer to themselves, the "kids," are practicing in choir. "Inside, outside, upside down, over, under, all the way around; I know God loves you yes he does oh yes."

Here it's turned around in that this passage mentions that Christ has welcomed me? Now, if God sent Jesus in flesh into this world; wouldn't I be the one to welcome him? But, I suppose it's more about welcoming one another to what.

Jesus welcomes you and me into the realm of heavenly glory. Through his coming to us, Jesus saves us from our sentence of eternal damnation and hell and welcomes us into the heavenly realm of glory as we follow him in his way.

Once again it's about what God has done for us. And Jesus exhorts us to respond likewise to one another. To welcome one another to follow Jesus. We are to unite in our oneness in Christ. Jesus is the center, the main theme, the One in whom we live and breathe and exist, the One who welcomes us into heaven through his resurrection.

We too can welcome one another into this heavenly realm of glory because of what Jesus has done. How glad I am to be welcomed by Jesus... and how joyful I am to welcome you too to walk with me as we follow Jesus in a discipleship of unity and love and truth in Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

Prayer
Lord, I can't say it much better than Paul put it above... "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


Tuesday, December 03, 2013

December 3rd Reflection - A Psalm of Praise - by Bill Lynch


Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19
Of Solomon.
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 for ever;
   may his glory fill the whole earth.Amen and Amen.

Reflection - A Psalm of Praise
Lord Jesus you are righteous and just in all your works.
   For you have come from the Father.
You come to this earth in love and truth.
   In your contact with your people you save.
You save and deal with us through powerful peace.
   In your works alone do we come to you.

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
   All creation sings your glorious song.
A song of ages, a song of love, a song of peace.
   Hear the praise and honor for your glory.
We shout the Amen throughout the earth,
   And rejoice in relationship with you.

Prayer
Lord, you rule all. You are righteous and just in all that you do. Yet you have loved each one of us beyond reason. You are all sovereign and almighty. Yet your benevolence and glory are everlasting. Hear now this psalm of praise. Hear now this simple plea. Hear now this cry of joy that all may come to know you. Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen


  

Monday, December 02, 2013

December 2nd Reflection - Transformation - by Bill Lynch


Isaiah 11:1-10
A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse,
   and a branch shall grow out of his roots.
The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him,
   the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
   the spirit of counsel and might,
   the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.

He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
   or decide by what his ears hear;
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
   and decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth,
   and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist,
   and faithfulness the belt around his loins.

The wolf shall live with the lamb,
   the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
   and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
   their young shall lie down together;
   and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
   and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
   on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
   as the waters cover the sea.

 On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.

Reflection - Transformation
This passage reflects a transformation. A transformation for the human race. A transformation from the rule of earthly power, power by the might of the latest invention to defend and destroy the enemy to a power that brings all things together in peace and love.

This passage reflects a change in the type of leadership that we are accustomed to on this earth. It's obviously a power that comes from beyond the realms of current human thinking. This is a transformation about a heaven sent God to this earth.

God will come to this earth. God did come to this earth in the flesh of Jesus and the spirit of the Holy Spirit. This transformation is taking place now, has already begun and is to be fulfilled in the future. Here we witness a passage of transformation from what the earth was intended to be in this first place, to what we have made it back to what God desires for creation. Here we witness a transformation and a vision of heaven.

This passage reflects a transformation of lives and love and unity for all those God calls to be with him in his kingdom. Pause and read the passage once again to yourself. Pause and begin the transformation within yourself through the action of God's presence in this place, in this world, in you, in Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit... pause here and now.

Prayer
Lord, as I pause to reflect and listen to your Word; transform me into what you would have me be. Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29th Reflection - The Thieves - by Bill Lynch


Matthew 24:36-44
The Necessity for Watchfulness

 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Reflection - The Thieves
I overheard it all! I overheard the conversation as I was walking the dogs along the street. It was a cold day, so I was wrapped up like you wouldn't believe. Talk about putting on the layers. I had a sweater under a sweatshirt, under a heavy coat with the hood of the sweatshirt pulled up, the full face mask pulled down and heavy gloves. It was my turn to walk the dogs that my wife and I had agreed to watch for the weekend. So, as I stopped in front of the house on the corner of the street, I could hear a couple of guys in the car talking about the time that I would usually go to work in the morning. I overheard them say something to the effect that if they waited to the moment that I shut the garage door, that they could intercept the garage door opener code and get in through the garage whenever they wanted. But, I didn't know what time they would make the attempt.

The next morning on my way to work, as I left the driveway, I closed the garage door as usual. I thought about that little pick-up truck with those guys in it. Sure enough, to my back and about a half-block away there was the truck parked by the house behind me. I couldn't tell if anyone was in the car or not, but I tried to see the best I could.

When I got to work, I questioned the security guard if someone could really steal the code from a garage door opener like what I had overheard. The guard verified positively that this could happen and does happen all of the time. So, I immediately called home to see if all was OK. It was. I asked Joyce, my wife if she could see a little pick-up truck parked by the neighbors house. Joyce, told me that there wasn't a truck parked anywhere nearby. She even checked out the side windows to see if a truck was on an adjacent street as well, but didn't see any truck.

It seemed certain that something was going on. But if the thieves had plans, I didn't have any idea when the crime would occur. If I did, I would have been ready for them to spoil their plan. The best I could do was to notify the police of all of the information that I knew at the time. The police assured me that they would put out an occasional patrol. They suggested that I change the code on the garage door and make sure that I kept the doors locked at all times, because it would still be difficult for even the police to happen to catch the thieves at just the right time.

If the crime were to take place... at what time? At what time would it occur? That was the question. How do I remain vigilant and ready? How do I prepare for the time that it may occur? It was driving me crazy! It consumed me with worry and fear. It consumed my every waking moment. I couldn't go on living like this.

Life is like this. You don't know what time anything may or may not occur. We like to make plans, but plans are just plans. Plans are made to change and will change. Sometime, someday, something will happen that will change everything in your life. It could be a death, it could be the lottery, it could be an illness, it could be anything. And you really don't know what time that will take place.

And even more, sometime or another for the disciples of Jesus, we know that Jesus will come again. And when he comes, it won't be like the worry of the thieves breaking in, it will be a joy for all believers. We will know at that time that Jesus did come again. Jesus will come again at an unexpected time. Jesus will come to us individually at some time and Jesus will come again to all the world to take us into a full and rich relationship with our God that will never end. Joy and love will abound (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a). All of the worry stops (Philippians 4:6-7). And yes, the tears, the mourning, the crying and the pain will pass away (Revelation 21:3-5). And the fruit of the Spirit will be everywhere (Galatians 5:22-23a).  This old body will change into something new (1 Corinthians 15:53).

Knowing this uncertainty made the uncertainty of the thieves seem like the peanuts of life. I will prepare for the thieves, but more than that I will stay awake for the returning of Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Prayer
Lord, I'm awake and looking, I'm awake and waiting. I'm awake in great anticipation. Joyful anticipation for your coming. Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 28th Reflection - But by the Toilet??? - by Bill Lynch


Matthew 24:36-44
 ‘But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two will be in the field; one will be taken and one will be left. Two women will be grinding meal together; one will be taken and one will be left. Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Reflection - But by the Toilet???
God is great! I mean that... God is great! I love it that there is some mystery involved in the coming of God into our world, our lives and our very selves. I love it that God doesn't reveal every secret. Why do I need to know all of the details anyway? If I truly place all my trust in God, I don't need to be the "Shell Answer Man" and I don't even need to be the "Church Lady." You can Google both of those for yourself for fun.

So why do we love to pretend that we know it all? Why do people think they need to have the answer for everything? Who cares about the specific date and time of Jesus coming? And besides all of that, Jesus comes to me in many ways anyhow. God comes to us in flesh and in spirit. God comes to us and that's plenty for me!

And the fact that God comes to us as individuals and as groups makes for all the joy in life anyway. Just a few weeks ago I was having a Crohn's disease flare. I had become dehydrated and had just taken my night-time medication. I got up to visit my own throne, if you get the drift. On the way around the bed, I felt a little woozy. I just figured I got up from the bed too quickly. By the time I came to the throne, I almost fell into the bathtub. I sat down very quickly on the toilet. The next thing I remember my wife Sue is screaming and yelling at the 911 operator to hurry up and get someone here to our house. When I came to my senses, two paramedics were at my side. I heard one say, "I can't get a pulse." I heard the other say, "I can't get a blood pressure." I heard my mind think, "Well that ain't good!" So as I lay by the throne, I began to say the Lord's Prayer to myself.

Now the last time I remember waking up at the base of a toilet was in Chicago. I was in my early twenties and I know why I was by that toilet... too much to drink! This time I had no idea why I was where I was. But, guess what? I knew that this time, and probably the first time as well, God was with me. I was aware that God was with me in the "crappy" times too. I know it sounds like I'm making fun of it a little, and I am, but I'm serious about knowing God's presence. Even in the mundane things of life, God is with us. And God comes to us when we least expect it. Which brings me back to the passage above.

Today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I give thanks for God's presence in the lives of all people. God is with you and with me in those tough times as well as those bounteous times. And especially on this day we can all pause to give God all thanks. A pause that is intentional and meaningful. A thanks for God coming to us in flesh and spirit. In Jesus and the Holy Spirit... in Creator... in Redeemer... in the wonderful gifts of Bread and Wine... in the waters of Baptism... in the presence in the lives of those we have been blessed with past and present and future. Above it all... especially today... Thanks be to God!

Prayer
Lord, it's true... Now is the time... now is the time to repent. Now is the time to turn and run to you. As I run to you, I notice you running even faster towards me. Forgive me and take me into your place and teach me your will and let me do what you would have me do this day. For you come in such wonderful and amazing ways. Thanks for the responsibilities of love you give to me to share with all you give to me. Come, Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27th Reflection - What Time is It? - by Bill Lynch


Romans 13:11-14

 Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armour of light; let us live honourably as in the day, not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Reflection - What Time is It?
Do you know what time it is? As believers, you sure must. As an unbeliever you sure must suspect what time it is. We don't live in a world that is void of information. In fact we live in a world in which one can get lost in the information. Too much information!

But, you know what time it is. And to those that don't know what time it is, it's up to the rest of us to let them know what time it is. Jesus has come! Jesus has come, he has lived, he has healed, he has served, he has suffered, he has died, he has risen again, he has ascended and he promises to come again. That's what time it is! Face it! Jesus will come again!

To any that don't know this, the message is that simple. But why? Why did Jesus come in the first place? He came for you and for me and for all people. He came because we live in sin. We sin and need a Savior and Jesus came to live and die for our sins so that we could be with God forever.

What a great message! God sent Jesus to us for us. So, now you know what time it is. Live like you know what time it is. Jesus is coming again. Jesus is coming so prepare yourself. If for baptism, change into those baptismal clothes and get ready for that baptism. I don't care what age you may be, you have sinned and need baptism. You need to change into those baptismal clothes and get ready for that "ol man" to be put under the water and for that "new man" to arise from those waters with Christ. You have been graciously given in your baptism union with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You have been freely given the title Child of God. How great is that!

You know what time it is. Jesus is coming. He comes to you each and every day and you recall your baptism. Each and every day, to put sin to death and to give new life. The ol man is put away and the new man springs to life. You wear the new clothes of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, each and every day. You spring into action living the new life that God has given. You answer your call for that day and you get ready for Jesus to come again.

You know what time it is! Jesus is coming to you... today... right now. Jesus is coming again just as he promised. So act like it!

We tend to ignore that Jesus is coming again. We tend to remain in our sleep and fall back to the routine, safe, ways of life. We look to comfort ourselves and stay where it is nice and warm. Is that anyway to live when you know that Jesus is coming? Jesus is coming soon! Wake up and act like it! We don't know how soon, so just be ready for Jesus to come right now! Act like Jesus is here now and has come, because you don't know when he is coming.

That's why, in this passage, Paul exhorts the believers to put away the ol man, the ol life, the ol sins and live the new life we have graciously and freely been given. Put away those sins that we enjoy and live towards Jesus coming. Jesus' coming will so far outdo the pleasure of those ol sins that we will feel foolish for having even participated in those things, like, revelling, drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarrelling and jealousy.

" Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. "

Paul's message lasts throughout all time. A message true for me, that's certain and true for you as well.

You know what time it is. I know what time it is. Tell other's what time it is. Live like we know what time it is and act like we know what time it is. It's the time to show the love of Jesus. A love shown yesterday, today and forever.

Wake up! It's time! Live like you know what time it is!

Prayer
Lord, I know it but don't act like it. Forgive me. I know what time it is. Prepare me and use me and guide me in telling all the world what time it is. Come. Lord Jesus, come... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26th Reflection - The Joy of Duty - by Bill Lynch


Psalm 122

A Song of Ascents. Of David.
I was glad when they said to me,
   ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
Our feet are standing
   within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem—built as a city
   that is bound firmly together.
To it the tribes go up,
   the tribes of the Lord,
as was decreed for Israel,
   to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there the thrones for judgement were set up,
   the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
   ‘May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
   and security within your towers.’
For the sake of my relatives and friends
   I will say, ‘Peace be within you.’
For the sake of the house of the Lord our God,
   I will seek your good.

Reflection - The Joy of Duty
Yes, Lord, I have seen the Savior!
  I am filled with joy.
You granted me the pleasure of your presence.
  I am humble before you.
As I waited in hope and anticipation,
  you fulfilled my every desire.

O, the sight of your sanctuary,
  filled with all your disciples.
Unity of spirit spreads and flourishes,
  the redeemed shout and sing your praise.
You reveal yourself in all glory and honor,
  and all humanity falls on their knees.

We come and pray before you,
  in your presence we plead for salvation.
You show us the way of love and service,
  and we learn of your great sacrifice.
You alone are our Savior and joy,
  you alone are our God!

Prayer
Lord, the duties you give, seem like joy and love. Duties that flow out of your grace. We come in your presence and seek your face. You come to us and show us the way. Gather all your people into one place... a place of love and fellowship and salvation.. today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 25th Reflection - Vision - by Bill Lynch


Isaiah 2:1-5
The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.

In days to come
   the mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
   and shall be raised above the hills;
all the nations shall stream to it.
   Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

O house of Jacob,
   come, let us walk
   in the light of the Lord!

Reflection - Vision
It's a vision, not a dream. We have a vision and a hope of God. A vision of something bold and wonderful. A vision where all will be made new and sin and death and pain will be no more.

It's a vision but not a dream.

In a vision we see what will be, but a dream may never come to fruition. A vision is for work to begin in the here and now. A vision propels us towards something in action. Whereas a dream is just a dream. In the dream there is no call to action towards anything. We only react to the dream in curiosity and for the most part fall back to sleep.

This vision of Isaiah is a call to walk. That is to go into motion. We are to walk with the Lord in his light towards the vision. We are called to action, not to reaction and sleep as in a dream. We are called to become disciples of the Lord and walk towards wonderful vision.

Are you ready to walk? Are you ready to act towards that vision? Let's go!

Prayer
Lord, lead me towards the vision you have placed before all people. A vision where we can all join in the walk with you. We can join you right here and right now. For your vision is our call to act... today... tomorrow... and forever. --- Amen