Friday, December 31, 2010

December 31 - Revelation 21:2

And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:2
Jesus' final promise of "new" is on the final pages of scripture. In this glorious passage, as he is pointing toward the eternal blessings of a New Jerusalem, Jesus promises, "5 Behold, I am making all things new."
One of my favorite quotes of all time bears the timeless wisdom of C. S. Lewis. He says, "If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. ... Aim at heaven and you will get earth "thrown in." Aim at earth and you will get niether."
That's a good and final suggestions for a New Year's resolution for 2011 -- Aim at heaven. Why? Because if you have an absolute confidence in the promise of heaven, the things of this earth, can never sink you. This coming year will have it's share of worldly trials, "but take heart!" said Jesus, "I have overcome the world."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs to sign up
for archery lessons
(I want to aim better)

Thursday, December 30, 2010

December 30 - Acts 2:13

But others sneered and said,
"They are filled with new wine."
Acts 2:13
The first time that "new" is mentioned in the book of Acts comes on Pentecost day. The Holy Spirit filled -- transformed -- the disciples. And the world sneered.
Here are two simple New Year's resolutions:
  • Pray that you may be filled with the Holy Spirit! How? Turn away from sin (confession). Turn toward God (obedience). Pray for his indwelling. And then don't fight it! Indeed, yield your whole life to the Spirit's movement and direction.
  • Quit caring what the world says. That was part two of the Pentecost power that the disciples discovered. Before the breathe of the Spirit, they were hiding. Jesus had just been killed, they were afraid they might be next, therefore, they hid. But when the Spirit came, they quit worrying about what the world might say or do. The world called them drunk. The world might call us overzealous. Who cares?! What if our New Year's Resolution was to have an audience of One?!
So ... where to start? What's your sticking point in the progression of discovering the Spirit's power?
  1. Sins to be confessed?
  2. Obeying God's commands and promptings?
  3. Actually, literally, asking to be filled?
  4. Yielding your whole life to God's leading -- rather than holding something back and fighting it.
  5. Going all in ... and not caring what the world might say, think, or do?!
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's power-hungry!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

December 29 - John 13:34

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another.
John 13:34
The first time  that "new" is mentioned in the Gospel of John is in terms of a New Commandment:Love One Another!
How many people do you know who think of Christianity as legalistic? Pharisees -- including you and me from time to time -- can easily turn religion into legalism. But Jesus proclaimed something wonderful and new! And it's the overwhelming principal behind all of the laws.
Think of the ten chief commands declared on Sinai. If we love one another, are we going to be stealing from them? bearing false witness against them? abusing or murdering them? No! And only in the most twisted sense would anyone ever pretend that loving one another justifies adultery.
Rather, if we simply and consistently loved, God's law would never be a burden ... just a reminder of the life and blessing which God wants to bestow on each of our lives.
That's pretty basic, right?
So let's put it into action. Who's the person you have most trouble loving? Loving the unlovable might be a powerful New Year's resolution. Why? Because if we can learn to love our public enemy number one, then maybe that will extend to loving others too and transforming US one relationship at a time.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants to be a love machine
(but NOT in terms
of the crass old image from the 70s;
rather, looking more like Mother Theresa
whom even a sex-addicted world
acknowledged as a love machine) 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 28 - Mark 1:27

They were all amazed,
and they kept on asking one another,
"What is this? A new teaching—with authority!
He commands even the unclean spirits,
and they obey him."
Mark 1:27
One of them more frequent words associated with Jesus' ministry was "new," and in the Gospel of Mark, the first "new thing" was his new teachings.
Jesus has so many new and wonderful teachings that even a few non-Christian religions call him a prophet. But ... don't mistake Jesus' main contribution to be adding a little more wisdom to the world. The most important words in this passage are "with authority."
In fact in the verses surrounding Mark 1:27, Jesus wasn't really teaching at all. He was simply saying to the evil spirits, "25 Be silent and come out." As I said, that's not a teaching. It's a command. In other words, what was new about Jesus was not the words ... but the power!
So what's new about this for your new year. Here's an idea for a resolution: Don't look for just the wisdom and teachings from the scripture. Seek to see God and faith more clearly as a source for real power! Try speaking to your doubts and objections, saying, "be silent and come out." And see if you might discover more hope, joy, peace, and power, by embracing truth.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants
to be amazed

Monday, December 27, 2010

December 27 - Matthew 9:17

Neither is new wine put into old wineskins;
otherwise, the skins burst, and the wine is spilled,
and the skins are destroyed;
but new wine is put into fresh wineskins,
and so both are preserved.
Matthew 9:17
When wine is first made, it is grape juice. Then with the passing of time, the grape juice spoils -- ferments is a nicer word for this. And with fermentation comes expansion. And if you put new wine (unexpanded grape juice) into an (old) wineskin that has already been stretched, it has no more capacity to stetch. Thus, the skins will burst. Therefore, new wine is put in new wine skins so that both can expand.
We are about to begin a new year. And the analogy here to life is obvious: If you have anything you really want to work on or change, you must change a lot of old habits that surround the area of life you want to work on.
If you're like me, there are plenty of problem areas that you want fixed, but how many of us aren't quite willing to change the habits that make it a problem. We need a new wineskin -- a new way and a new pattern in life.
Here's a new pattern that might just give you a new strength to meet many of these challenges: Make 2011 - The Year of the Bible. Plugging into God's Word is like plugging into a power outlet. The better we know him, the more power flows through our lives -- including the power to change! Therefore, praying about joining our Bible in a Year group and let God's Word shape each day in a richer way. Details below.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who acted too much like new wine
over Christmas -- I fermented and expanded
and my old wineskins (jeans) don't fit as well
(I guess I need some new habits this year!)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

December 26 - John 13:5

Then he poured water into a basin
and began to wash the disciples' feet
John 13:5
As most of you know, my son Jay is a freshman this year at the United States Naval Academy. It's a very different kind of school. Therefore, my favorite text message from this fall was this:
The bad news is that I have a huge black eye.
The good news is that I got an "A" in boxing.
Today is known in many countries, like England, as "Boxing Day." It has nothing to do with hitting, sports, or black eyes; rather it is a day when, traditionally, the royalty and their servants traded jobs.
Jesus was royalty. When he washed his disciples feet, he reminded us that his whole life was "trading jobs." The king was always and continually a servant.
Today is Boxing Day. Who might you be called to serve this day?
In Christ's Love,
a guy who'd rather get an "A" in serving
than a black-eyed "A" in boxing

Saturday, December 25, 2010

December 25 - Luke 2:12

Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lying in a manger
Luke 2:12
"To swaddle" is "to tie tight, to bind."
Traditionally, only two types of bodies were ever swaddled -- a new born infant and a dead man in grave clothes.
Christmas is a sweet day with the fragrance of a new born babe. But take a moment to contemplate also the trajectory of this young life. From the moment Jesus first drew breath, he was bound for death.
The same is true for you and me. From the moment we first draw breath, we are bound for death. It is inevitable ... except not. Because this babe gave his life, our life never has to end.
Christmas is Easter. Your sins are forgiven. And the joy with which every child greeted this day is the joy you can greet each morning of eternity.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's been swaddled
in blessings this year
(Merry Christmas!)

Friday, December 24, 2010

Advent 27 - Psalm 92:2 - December 24

to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night
Psalm 92:2
I looked today for another first -- the first time love is mentioned in the Psalms. And what I immediately noticed was that "God's love" rarely appears in such an unadorned state. One hundred and twenty times, the Psalmists make sure that we remember that God's heart is filled with "steadfast love."
"Steadfast" means fixed in intensity and unwavering in purpose. Or in other words, God's love is intense, unwavering, and his sole purpose.
"Morning," "night," and "declare it" are the other key words in this passage.
Tonight is Christmas Eve. The angels used this occasion to proclaim God's steadfast love and faithfulness. In whatever contexts you find yourself in tonight, I encourage you to make proclaiming God's love your steadfast endeavor too.
And as Christmas Morn dawn, join again with the chorus of heaven, "Joy to the World, the Lord is come!"
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wishes you
the merriest, holiest
Christmas ever

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Advent 26 - Isaiah 5:1 - December 23

Let me sing for my beloved
my love-song concerning his vineyard:
"My beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill."
Isaiah 5:1
The first time that love is mentioned by the prophets comes to us as a love-song. God has established a kingdom on this violent planet. He calls it his vineyard, and with his love and nurturing, he rightly anticipates a yield of savory fruit. "So why," cries the master gardener, "why did it yield wild grapes?"
I'll bet that just about all of us can confess a few wild oats that were sown and a few wild grapes that have been harvested. Most of the world laughs at sin. But in doing so we mock the cross -- which is the one and only remedy for sin.
Jesus invites us to think of the cross as the solid healthy stem that is called the vine. In John 15:5, Jesus says, "I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit."
What is abiding in Christ? Jesus says, "10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love."
But what happens if we don't abide in Christ? Jesus says, "6 whoever does not abide in me [will be] like a branch [that] withers. [It will be] thrown away." In our house and as parents, we call that a consequence. Isaiah 5 lists other consequences. Indeed, the prophet warns us that wild oats and wild grapes will cause God to "remove [the] hedge" -- his hedge of protection. With a "br[oken] down ... wall" and "no[] ... prun[ing]" and "no rain," future success will be even harder.
Winter is generally the season in which we think about grapes, vines, and gardening the least. And yet winter is the season in which the Christ child comes to us new again. He comes not as a threatening king with pruning shears but as an a humble infant that invites us to hold him in our hearts.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who now has an excuse 
to eat a lot of fruitcake
(if that doesn't remind me 
to bear much fruit
maybe having to shed the pounds
of fruit cake will remind me
all next year)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Advent 25 - Genesis 27:4 - December 22

And make me savoury meat, such as I love,
and bring it to me, that I may eat;
that my soul may bless thee before I die.
Genesis 27:4
I decided to look for the first time the word "love" appeared. I happened to be surfing in the old King James. 
The first time that love appears in the Bible has nothing to do with God loving us ... or us loving God ... or a husband loving a wife ... or person loving their neighbor. It's about Isaac loving meat.
I looked then in the New Revised Standard, and the first time love was mentioned involved Isaac almost becoming meat! God said to Isaac's father Abraham, "22:4 Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love ... and offer him ... as a burnt offering."
What does this have to do with Christmas? On Mount Mariah, God was teaching Abraham -- and every successive generation -- an important lesson. All the other gods and religions demanded human blood and child sacrifice. Our God does not. He provides an alternative. On Mount Mariah, it was a ram. On Mount Calvary, it was The Lamb -- Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. He died so we don't have to.
This Christmas season will surely be filled with all kinds of foods that we "love." Enjoy them. But let them remind you of what is really savoury -- Christ's self-giving love.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who loves Chex Mix
so much at Christmas that
someone once made us a decoration
out of a Chex Mix bag!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Advent 24 - Matthew 5:44 - December 21

But I say to you,
Love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you
Matthew 5:44
Today's devotion is simple: Who's your enemy?
Few of us are in a literal war. But most of us have been offended. We've been belittled, abused, and stabbed in the back? Who's your greatest enemy?
Life's a battle. But Jesus has given to us the one and only way to be at peace: forgiveness.
Now, when a person's an enemy -- and I know, I know, it's always their fault -- forgiveness is very hard. So Jesus gives us a first and powerful step: "Pray for th[em]."
Praying -- one day at a time -- probably won't bring that wall of division down in one fell swoop. Nevertheless -- one prayer at a time -- we're removing bricks. Soon that wall is not so imposing. Soon that divide is not so vast. Soon God's call to love is looking more possible. And soon life is more peaceful.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who knows
that Christmas is better
with fewer walls

Monday, December 20, 2010

Advent 23 - 1 John 3:16 - December 20

We know love by this,
that he laid down his life for us—
and we ought to lay down
our lives for one another.
1 John 3:16
We all know John 3:16, but did you know how the equal power of FIRST JOHN 3:16?
In John 3:16, we are told how much the Father loves -- enough to give his only begotten son. In FIRSTJOHN 3:16, we are reminded how much the Son loves us too -- enough to lay down his life.
FIRST JOHN 3:16, you may recognize, is a rephrasing of Jesus' own words. In John 15:13, our Savior said, "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." Indeed, he said it, then he did it.
Whenever I hear that verse, I can't help but think that one of the young men in our church had that tatooed on his bicep. When? Just before he was deployed to Afghanistan. "No one has greater lovethan this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."
In this week of love (and hopefully homecomings for some of you), please pray for our service men and women -- especially Adam in Afghanistan -- who are away from home this holiday season and in harm's way. "God, keep them safe. And bring a swift end to tyranny and terrorism."
In Christ's Love,
a guy who knows his own son
will someday be deployed

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Advent 22 - ???? - December 19

Today, I'm not starting with the verse. Rather, I want you to guess the verse ...
Here's a few hints ...
  1. It's one of the most powerful Christmas verses of all time -- though it's not generally thought of as a Christmas verse at all.
  2. It talks about the relationship Jesus has with his Father and that his Father has with him.
  3. It talks about the relationship we can have with Jesus and how long the fruits of this relationship will be.
  4. As this final week of Advent dawns -- a week of love -- God's love for us is the centerpiece of this verse.
Have you figured it out yet?
See below ...
For God so loved the world
that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him
shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16
Read this powerful -- but almost all too familiar verse -- in light of these four clues:
  1. Read this as a Christmas verse. Doesn't that transform your view of Christmas. The greatest gift of Christmas -- given generously by God -- is a child, gift-wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. God's generous gift is his very own Son.
  2. Witness the relationship of Holy Son to Heavenly Father -- loving submission to the Father who loves.
  3. Respond to the powerful invitation to relationship with Jesus -- belief is both the key to relationship and the life-line that keeps us from eternal death.
  4. Finally, let God's love be the centerpiece of your faith ... your life ... and your Christmas.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who wants of centerpiece in my heart
instead of on my dining room table

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Advent 21 - 2 Corinthians 1:10 - December 18

He who rescued us
from so deadly a peril
will continue to rescue us;
on him we have set our hope
that he will rescue us again
2 Corinthians 1:10
One of the secrets to happiness is ... thanksgiving.
Instead of constantly bemoaning the frustrations, happiness and joy come through a celebration of life's blessings. In fact, I've seen some happy people make an ongoing list of all the things they're thankful for.
Apparently, hope works the same way.
In our verse for today, Paul has a made a list of all the things that God has rescued him from. For example, in verses 8 and 9, he talks about "the affliction we experienced in Asia." He says, "we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself."
Nevertheless, Paul saw spiritual fruit in the midst of human desperation. "So that we would rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead," Paul says that they were given a "sentence of death." Have you ever been there? From a human standpoint, have things ever seemed utterly hopeless?
Paul's ongoing list of life's desperate trials (and God's gracious rescues) leads him to proclaim to himself -- and to you and me -- that "on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again."
For the sake of joy ... for the sake of hope ... why don't you make a list today?! Think of every way that God has blessed you and rescued you. Thank him for the big things and ask him to give you eyes to see the little things. He's more present and powerful than you might imagine.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who'd rather make this list
and check it twice
than to worry about who's
been naughty or nice

Friday, December 17, 2010

Advent 20 - Romans 5:3-5 - December 17

And not only that,
but we also boast in our sufferings,
knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope, 
and hope does not disappoint us,
because God's love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5
This is our week of hopefulness, and according to St. Paul, what produces hope?
Endurance. And character.
Now, I thought long and hard about this, and I decided not to say, "suffering, endurance, and character." Why? Because I decided I'd rather learn to endure without too much suffering!!!
Endurance, you see, is a long-obedience in the same direction. (I saw that once as the title for a Christian book, but that's what endurance is.)
Think about this:
  • In this world of sin, there will inevitably be pain and betrayal.
  • In this world of death, there will inevitably be illness and grief.
  • In this world of gravity there will necessarily be spills and falls and broken bones and broken hearts. 
When we're praying for hope, we don't need to hope for suffering as the trigger to this linear process. Suffering is simply inevitable.
Nevertheless, when we endure -- obey long and steadfastly in an unwavering direction -- we will have hearts that are steady and a faith that is true -- call this character. We will also have an unwavering hope that does not disappoint us.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who needs a compass
(I want to obey long-term
in a single, holy direction

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Advent 19 - Zechariah 9:12 - December 16

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;
today I declare that I will restore to you double.
Zechariah 9:12
I love the image of being "a prisoner of hope."
I'm captive to the one who captivates me.
In this passage, God admits that life will be hard. We venture out each morning like soldiers into enemy territory. But when I make my home in God, each night I can return to the cozy shelter of God's embrace. I can be held (captive) by the Lord's strong arms.
The Old Testament man of faith, Job, was a soldier -- a soldier, of sorts. Why do I say that? Because his entire life -- like many of our lives -- became an absolute battleground. For a long time Job was disoriented. He trusted. He believe. But he just couldn't seem to find the door of hope. He just couldn't seem to find his way back home and God's warm embrace.
That embrace did come. And as in our verse from Zechariah, God did restore to Job double of what he had once had. But here's an interesting bit of trivia ... only one item did God not double -- his children. His first set of kids literally died in the figurative battle.
So why did God double everything except Job's kids? Why? Because in God's hands, dead is not dead. Indeed, God's hands are our life's true home. It's our temporary home that venture out of each day in order to do battle. It's our eternal home that we final come home to at the end of our days.
But here's the wonder and the gift ... in the present, we can decorate our temporary home with the colors of heaven.  Hope can be the paint that colors the walls of our lives. And God's embrace at the end of each day's battle can be oh, so, very real!
In Christ's Love,
a guy in an orange jumpsuit
(I'm a prisoner of hope ... 
I just didn't know that
hope was orange)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Advent 18 - Hosea 2:15 - December 15

I will return her vineyards to her
and transform the Valley of Trouble
into a door of hope.
Hosea 2:15
I love that image of a door of hope.
And it makes me of those gameshows I watched as a kid. Do you remember contestants having to choose between what was behind door number 1, door number 2, or door number 3?
Behind one of the doors were plane tickets to Bermuda and an all-expense paid vacation. Behind the second door was a year's supply of Rice-r-oni. And behind the third and final door would be something as worthless as a bale of straw.
In life we have a choice. And most people keep choosing between doors 2 and 3. Those are our worldly options. We constantly have to choose between somewhat tasty (Rice-r-oni) and basically meaningless (straw). Think about it, that's all the world really has to offer -- temporary taste or eternal waste.
God holds open another door -- the door of hope.
While we live down here on this earth, hope is what transforms the temporary into eternal, the apathy into purpose, and the waste into hope.
And in the end, faith promises us another door of hope -- an eternal vacation, all expenses paid by Christ on the cross. 
In Christ's Love,
a guy who's already won
an all-expense paid trip
(is it time to start wearing
my Bermuda shorts?)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent 17 - Isaiah 8:17 - December 14

I will wait for the Lord to help us ...
My only hope is in him.
Isaiah 8:17
As a pastor, I've stood in hundreds of hospital rooms. Sometimes in these rooms, our primary hope seems to be in the doctors. Other times, I've been in hospital rooms where the heartbeat is fading, humans/doctors have done all they can, and our only hope is in the Lord.
Have you ever reached a point when your only hope is in the Lord?
Now here comes the challenging part of the verse: "I will wait for the Lord to help us."
Ouch! I don't know about you, but patience isn't my greatest virtue -- especially in times of trial. I want immediate. I want now. I want answers.
But in a strange way, it's actually a gift that we occasionally get to that point of desperation. Why? Because it is only when we are hanging by our last thread that we get to the faith-transforming (or faith-busting) point where our only hope is in the Lord.
Until we get to that point, our faith -- in some ways -- is just theorhetical. It may be wonderful, warm, and friendly, but until we're down to our last thread, we won't know if we will stand or fall.
Now, if we fall, God will pick us back up again. That's grace! But here's a painful Advent Adventure: What if we prayed for the arrival of circumstances that will bring us to our last thread?
Ouch. No ... we don't have to pray for it. In this world of sin and death, those challenges will come. So pray instead that you and God together may use every obstacle to help you put your trust fully in him.
In Christ's Love,
a guy that wants to run
the hundred meter hurdles
(I want to be concious of
God's daily help in managing
the manageable hurdles
so that I'm ready for the high jumps)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Advent 16 - Psalm 42:5 - December 13

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disquieted within me?
Put your hope in God ...
Psalm 42:5
This verse is a personal pep talk.
We've all had those dark days. We've all had disquieting seasons. Sometimes the depression is dark and real and whelming. Most times, however, we simply need a pep talk ... a reminder ... a good dose of truth.
And most times, the reminder that we really need is to take our eyes off the things of this earth and focusing upward, put our hope in God. He is healing in the midst of brokeness. He is blessing in the midst of discouragement. He is power in the midst of trials.
Most times, we just need to pull away the pall that half-truths and frustrations throw around us ... and remember that God provides wisdom to guide us, love to assure us, and hope to comfort us. 
In Christ's Love,
a coach for Hope College
(and I like to give pep talks)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Advent 15 - Jeremiah 29:11 - December 12

"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD.
"They are plans for good and not for disaster,
plans to give you a hope and a future."
Jeremiah 29:11
I do not know how I possibly missed this verse until a few years ago.
Now it is one of my absolute favorites!
Today we begin our third week of Advent -- the candle (and week) of hope.
And today I'll tell you what I tell so many people in counseling: Can't see much hope? God has plans for you. Can see a path forward? God has plans for you. Does some mistake or consequence seem disasterous? God wants to give you "a hope and a future."
Indeed, have you been knocked down lately? Well, here's our Advent Adventure ... I want you to strap on the helmet of a college football running back.  
Now, think about this ... In order for you to run for an almost impossible 300 yards in your next game, you'll have to carry the ball about 40 times. That means you'll probably get knocked down about 40 times.
How many of us say, "I'm not going to try because I don't want to get knocked down again"? No! Life will always knock us down. Sin and death define this world, but Christ has conquered this world. So strap on your football helmet -- and take up the promises from Jeremiah 29:11 -- and charge forward today. 
For a moment, I pray that you'll break through the hole and see a bit of daylight. Those are glorious runs. But that run will come to an end. Tackle! Knocked down. But just pick yourself up, brush yourself off, gather back in the huddle with the quarterback (God) and the rest of your team (your church and anyone faithful who has your back), and charge forward to daylight again.
Indeed, charge forward to victory! To a hope! To God's future!
In Christ's Love,
a guy who always wanted to be
a college football running back
(apparently, I still can)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Advent 14 - Ephesians 2:14 - December 11

For [Christ] is our peace;
in his flesh he has ... 
broken down the dividing wall ...
Ephesians 2:14
Look at all these dots -- ...
In Ephesians 2, all those dots reflect one of the dividing walls which Christ has torn down -- the divisions between Jews and Gentiles.
There are clearly many, many, many more dividing walls in our lives. And Christ is our peace and he wants them down. Listen to the freedom that this little babe of Bethlehem came to bring us ... 
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in him ... we have forgiveness" (Eph 1:7); therefore, the walls of bitterness are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in Jesus there is the resurrection of the dead" (Acts 4:2); therefore, the walls of death are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in him [is] no[] shame" (Rom 9:33); therefore, the walls of bondage are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in him [is] redemption through his blood" (Eph 1:7); therefore, the walls of hopelessness are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in him [is] the word of truth, the gospel of salvation, and [the]mark[] of the promised Holy Spirit" (Eph 1:13); therefore, the walls formed by lies and deceit are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in him all things hold together" (Col 1:17); therefore, the walls of impossibility are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in Christ [is] free[dom] from the law" (Rom 8:2); therefore, the walls of legalism are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in Christ Jesus [is the] guard[ing of] your hearts and minds" (Phil 4:7); therefore, the walls of meaningless are torn down.
  • "Christ is our peace" and "in him [is] light" (John 1:4); therefore, the looming walls that create shadows and darkness are torn down.
  • Indeed, "Christ is our peace" and "in him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5); therefore, even the mountain walls that create a valley of the shadow of death will be torn down!
What's the wall you want down?
Deconstruction may just be your Advent Adventure. And freedom may just be your fruit.
In Christ's Love,
a wrecking ball
(let's get the walls down)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Advent 13 - Jeremiah 6:14 - December 10

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace.
Jeremiah 6:14
Part of my job -- indeed part of my privilege -- is dealing with a lot of "wound[ed] people." Frequently they cry, "there is no peace."
Why is there no peace? Because of sin ... and people. And those two together and we get too many scoundrels. Indeed at the center of Jeremiah 6 is a list of scoundrels and sandals that leave the prophet crying, "11 I am filled with the Lord's fury, and I am tired of holding it in!"
In just the two verses surrounding today's verse, listen to Jeremiah's scandalous list:
  • 13 everyone is greedy for unjust gain; 
  • 13 everyone deals falsely,
  • 15 they act shamefully,
  • 15 they commit abomination,
  • 15 [worse,] they [act shamefully and abominably] are not ashamed 
  • 15 [indeed] they do not know how to blush.
Add one more thing ... At that heart of today's lesson is the scandal of presenting false hope.
When anyone proclaims false gods, false religions, and false philosophies, they are scandalously presentling false hopes. They proclaim that they know a way to find peace, but they're leading others away from the Prince of Peace. And ultimately, this is worse than "careless"; this is blasphemy.
The truth is, there is hope and there is peace. It comes through God the Father and Christ his Son. And it's a healing -- as we talked about yesterday -- of the heart.
Now ... many people that I counsel with say that "there is no peace." Why? Because their hearts are battered and bruised, and peace seems elusive. They're dealing with lies.
There is light. That's the message of Christmas.
There is peace. That's why God sent his son to earth -- the Prince of Peace.
In Christ's Love,
a guy who tries to treat
the wounds of God's people
carefully ... and truthfully