Monday, December 31, 2012

Dec 31 - Leviticus 19:31

Do not turn
to mediums or wizards;
do not seek them out,
to be defiled by them:
I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:31

Wow! That’s a good New Year’s resolution, isn’t it! (It’s actually one that I think I can keep. “No wizards this year!”)

I’m frequently surprised by the lectionary. That’s a strange holiday passage, isn’t it? And yet … it’s not really all that strange, after all.

Today we’re at the crossing between two years, the intersection of past and the future. What will the New Year hold for you?

And more important: How do you determine what it might hold? Do you read tea leaves or horoscopes? Do you consult mediums and wizards? Do you trust in governments? Or are you worried about the economy? Are you expecting a child? Or will your kids go off to college this fall? Are you excited or worried about 2013? How do you determine what the future will hold?

This verse gives us one final clue. It says essentially, “Do not put your trusts in mediums or wizards or governments or men … for I am the Lord, your rock and your refuge.” That’s where our trust belongs!

No matter the ups or downs that the coming years may bring, if our trust is in the Lord, we know that all things will eventually work together for good!

In Christ’s Love,
a guy with a “no wizard” and
“no worry” goal for 2013!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dec 29,30 - John 14:26

Jesus said,
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything,
and remind you of all
that I have said to you.”
John 14:26

Knowledge is an accomplishment, right?

We study hard – or at least harder than some. We read. We go to school. We do our homework and seek out good teachers. We get advanced degrees. Knowledge is an accomplishment, right?

Now … some are naturally quicker than others. Some barely have to crack a book; others slave hard for their good grades. But we all know what knowledge is, right? It’s a human accomplishment.

Yes, sometimes it is. And while don’t want to diminish hard work, in the field of faith, hard work is not the answer.

The secret to Spiritual depth is the Spirit himself. He’s pursuing us … and all we have to do is stop, look, and listen. He wants to teach us … and all we have to do is yield to his authority.

He encourages us, teaches us, blesses us … and sometimes intentionally trips us up! If we want to constantly do life our way, it’s loving to occasionally trip us, turn us, and draw us back to God.

Let us not be proud. Faith is not our accomplishment. It’s God’s! Through the Holy Spirit.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who resolves
to be more open to
the Spirit this year

Friday, December 28, 2012

Dec 28 - Proverbs 14:31

Those who oppress the poor
insult their Maker.
Proverbs 14:31

At Thanksgiving, I heard someone say, “How American is it, to devote a day to saying thanks for all that we have … and then rush out that night to buy more at the Black Friday sales.”

I bring that up because in some lectionaries, this verse is often assigned for Christmas Eve. How odd. After all, Christmas is obviously a day dedicated to getting things

… at least that’s what I thought when I was a kid.

The lectionary – and the consistent witness of scripture – tell us otherwise. It is truly more joyful and more important to give.

I hope the Christmas spirit is still echoing in your heart, reminding you to be as generous as Christ was at Christmas.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s looking forward
to a year of deeper purpose

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dec 27 - Isaiah 60:19

The Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory.
Isaiah 60:19

We know what it means that God will be our light, right? The world is spiritually and symbolically dark. God’s love brightens that emotional darkness. God’s grace lightens that crushing load. And God’s word is lamp unto our feet, showing us where to go and safely.

But what does it mean that “God will be your glory”?

When I think of glory – or glorifying – I generally see it as something that is directed at God. His presence is perpetual  magnificent glory; therefore, we glorify him. It’s directed at him, right?

So what does it mean that God will be our glory? Is glory directed at us? Do we have glory? No! The light of heaven certainly doesn’t come from us. It comes from heaven. It comes from Christ. We shine when we have God. He is our source of honor and hope and integrity. It is his glory that shines through us.

And the only question is whether we’ll be a mirror that reflects that light … or a black hole that sucks up all the light and joy.

In Christ’s Love,
a glory seeker
(I find it when I find him)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Dec 26 - Psalm 109:31

He stands at
the right hand of the needy,
to save them from those who
would condemn them to death.
Psalm 109:31

Sometimes the faithful are persecuted. Sometimes the faithful die. So if God is standing by, why do the righteous die?

And why do the innocent suffer? Herod killed children after Christmas. Was God standing by … or for some reason was God standing down?

The answer depends on what “saves” means.

If we’re desperate for an immediate solution in this world – an earthly saving – then this passage is not always true. Faithful people are persecuted. They do die. Regularly. Therefore, God is judged as undependable and scripture is viewed as less than true.

But what if we’re open to an eternal solution? What if God’s saving work is always eternal? And what if God’s purposes are ultimately beyond this world? We will occasionally be surprised by earthly rescues – God’s saving work shows up frequently. But if our hope is in the next world, then we “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul,” as Jesus said in Matthew 10:28.

It’s like C. S. Lewis once said, “Aim at heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in.’ Aim at earth and you will get neither.” Or in other words …

  •      Trust that God’s saving work will be eternal and you’ll find that he throws in his saving hope on earth too.
  •      But if you’ll only accept earthly solutions, you’ll gradually find yourself losing all hope in heaven.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’s flying stand-by
(my spirit soars because I know
that God is always standing by)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Dec 25 - Luke 2:19

But Mary kept all these things,
pondering them in her heart.
Luke 2:19

If you could go back and relive any moment in your life, what would it be?

I’ve heard that the number one moment that many women would like to relive is that first moment when their first child was laid in their arms.

Christmas was Mary’s first, cherished, and eternally ponderable moment.

Christmas for Mary was angelic visitations, after nine months of uncertainty and a strange mix of shame and hope as this unwed mother bore the holy child. Christmas was an uncomfortable journey to Bethlehem on the back of a donkey, it was being turned away from every inn and every comfort and every compassion, and it was the cursed pain of childbirth. It was dirty shepherds barging into the dirty cattle stall. And it was an honorable man by her side. And ultimately, it was a beautiful baby boy.

Yes, Mary surely pondered this night in her heart.

And it was this blessed holy vision that surely sustained her through the ups and downs of life … and through the utter horror of the cross, the brutal execution of her beloved son. We say “blessed is Mary among women.” That indeed is true, but she needed every blessing, hope, and bright memory to carry a tender mother’s heart through the journey God would send her on.

As you encounter trials in life, remember Mary. Remember to hearken back to and ponder the godly blessings to get you through every coming trial. And remember that for all those who love God and live according to his purposes, there’s a resurrection on the other side of the cross, and a bundle of joy on the other side of every birthpang.  

In Christ’s Love,
a father who wonderfully ponder
that first moment with that first child too

Monday, December 24, 2012

Dec 24 - Luke 2:18

… and all who heard it wondered
at what the shepherds told them.
Luke 2:18

I love that phrase: “all who heard it wondered.”

I’d wonder too. Indeed, I’d wonder if my shepherd friends were off their rocker!
  •      An angel? (Yeah, right!)
  •      A multitude of the heavenly host? (What’d you eat for dinner last night? You must have nibbled on a bad mushroom.)
  •      Prophecy? (These angelic-figments-of-your-mushroomed-imagination predicted what? A great king in a lowly manger?)
  •      Messiah? (Israel has been waiting for a thousand years for the Messiah, and you think God finally came and then announced it to you, a lowly shepherd?!)

“Wondered” is the old RSV translation of Luke 2:18.

Other translations tell us that those who heard their testimony were “full of wonder” (BBE translation). I like that! In fact, about half the modern English translations say, “wondered,” and about half say, “full of wonder,” (most commonly rendered, “amazed”).

My best scholarly guess? I think it was both!

I’ll bet half of the people who heard were full of wonder, and I’ll bet that the other half were wondering and skeptical. And more likely … it was probably half-and-half of each person. Within each person who heard the testimony, I wouldn’t be surprised if half of them wondered and half of them thrilled – “could it be true?”

What tips the balance between amazement and skepticism? Two things …

  •      The first is the faith, love, joy, and integrity of the witness. If you have a trustworthy witness who’s amazed, it’s contagious. You’re more likely to be excited too.

  •      The second is the movement of the Holy Spirit. When God chooses to move, closed minds are opened, heaven hearts are lightened, and skeptical walls are broken down. (Which rescues us from guilt and frustration if our human efforts are met with stone-cold results.)

In other words … while the effort is up to us, the results are not up to us! When God wants to break into this darkened world, it will be Christmas all over again in an individual heart.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants to be
part of Christmas everyday

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dec 23 - Luke 2:17 (b)

And when they saw it
they made known the saying
which had been told them
concerning this child …
Luke 2:17

We just got a fruitcake from my brother for Christmas. It’s filled with cherries and nuts and chunks of pineapple. But those aren’t the right fruits for the holiday. Joy is the real fruit of Christmas.

Joy, as we’ve said, comes when God’s kingdom breaks into the world. And God’s kingdom obviously broke into our darkened world majestically at Christmas.

You can have that Christmas joy all year. But you must remember that it doesn’t come from tinsel and packages. As wonderful as the music is, it doesn’t come from choirs and carols either. Since joy comes when the kingdom breaks in, you can experience a heavenly happiness whenever you share the good news like the shepherds did upon that Christmas day.

Here’s what the shepherds teach us about discovering joy …
  •      First, be where you’re supposed to be. The shepherds were where they were supposed to be, in the fields, keeping watch over their sheep. Where are you supposed to be? Doing your earthly job faithfully and well? Being attentive to your family daily? In church each week, active and involved? Standing beside neighbors in need?

  •      Second, obey. The shepherds were told what to do to see God’s presence. So are we. We are told to obey commandments. We are told to model our lives to the pattern of Christ. We are told to love. We are told to forgive. We miss the glory when we do things our way instead of God’s.

  •      Third, we look. After the shepherds obeyed and went, they look for God’s presence. If you don’t expect to see God’s presence, you simply won’t see it. Look. Expectantly.

  •      Fourth, go and tell. One of the reasons that we don’t have more joy is that we don’t share that joy – evangelism. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I only have so much love to go around; therefore, I’m not going to give it away”? The truth about love is that the more we love, the more we have. The same is true with joy through evangelism. The more we share, the more we have.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants more joy
… and sharing Christmas
is a good place to start

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dec 22 - Luke 2:17 (a)

And when they saw it they made known
the saying which had been told them
concerning this child …
Luke 2:17

“Stop! Don’t tell me the ending! I want to go see it myself!”

Have you ever said that?! Have you ever had a friend who watched a movie and was so enthusiastic that they couldn’t stop talking about it? couldn’t stop revealing all the plot points and details?

Your friend’s enthusiasm is evangelism. The joy and wonder is so great that someone can’t contain their words of acclamation.

That was the shepherds as they returned from the stable. They shared their joy. They couldn’t contain it.

Do you share your joy?

In fact, do you call what you have joy? Do you associate your faith with passion? The first step of evangelism is passion, joy, hope, and transformation.

If those words aren’t associated with your faith right now, it’s not because you don’t have faith! (You’re reading this, after all.) You want God. You want more. But for some reason, you’re stuck in some phase of sundown and night.

The shepherds were wandering through dark and distant fields too. But God did not forget them. He came to them there.

Christmas is God’s promise that he comes into our darkened world.

Here are two simple secrets to discovering joy in the midst of earth’s darkness …
  •      Listen to those who’ve seen the light and let their enthusiasm shepherd you to greater joy.
  •      Share with others your joy. Tell them what you have seen and heard. And watch your joy grow as you see seeds of hope begin to blossom in their life.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants to look like
a sheep from the front
(listening eagerly for where to go)
And like a shepherd from behind
(sharing freely about my blessings)

Friday, December 21, 2012


… or not.

Remember … though the Mayan calendar may end, Jesus says, "about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Mt 24:36).

And yet, the Lord also reminds us that “the days are surely coming” (Lk 23:29). Therefore, let us always live by this motto: “Be ready(Lk 12:40).

Indeed, let us “always be ready to make [our] defense to anyone who demands from [us] an accounting for the hope that is in [us]” (1 Pet 3:15).

Dec 21 - Luke 2:16

And they went with haste
and found Mary and Joseph,
and the babe lying in a manger.
Luke 2:16
Fulfillment. What was predicted came true. The shepherds found exactly what had been prophesied – “Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”

Fulfillment is a wonderful and glorious word!

It is also a rare word.

When you think about it, though, God’s judicious use of prophecy and fulfillment makes it even more glorious. He generally saves it for the hinge points of history and not for routine predictions about what we’ll eat for dinner tonight.

Overuse would rob us of faith. Faith is that tender, tenuous trusting of things not seen. But God’s overuse of the exceptions would make us more and more demanding. Rarity, on the other hand, nurtures our sense of wonder. It also develops our patience. It focuses and refocuses us on the most monumental themes of the kingdom … instead of on fleeting, worldly concerns. 

Christmas was the great hinge of history. The cross and resurrection were hinges too. So were the Exodus and Exile. Christ’s coming again is probably the next really big hinge. But that doesn’t mean God isn’t speaking in the meantime!

Smaller – yet still powerful fulfillments – come each time one human heart turns toward the manger and the cross.

Each day we can be part of God plan and fulfillment when we bend our hearts along with Hebrews 8:10 (citing Leviticus 26:12) …

“I will put my laws in their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who wants to fulfill
and be fulfilled

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dec 19 - Luke 2:13-14

And suddenly there was with the angel
a multitude of the heavenly host
praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among men
with whom he is pleased!"
Luke 2:13-14

Don’t you just love search engines like Google? You can find out anything. For example, I just typed in “How many angels at Christmas?”

One of the more reputable sites – – answered boldly. “Luke 2 states … there was ‘a multitude of heavenly hosts.’ There are countless angels (think millions and billions as a start) … [T]he choir was limited only by the space in the sky over the shepherd’s field.”

That’s a guess, of course – the guess of a limited human … but fortunately a faithful human who rightfully views God as awesome and powerful, bigger than the confines of our little imagination.

But I love his image: “limited only by the space in the sky.” God is awesome and powerful, indeed!

But the real question isn’t, “How many?” The real question is, “What did they do?” And the real answer is, “They sang praise!”

That’s really the most important thing any of us can do. Whether you have an angelic voice or not, your highest purpose is live is praise God. It’s not to work a job. It’s not to raise a family. It’s not to enjoy your wife. (Important as all those are.) Rather, as the Westminster Confession famously says in its first line, “the chief end of man is to glorify God.”

The angels modeled that in the Christmas sky. They didn’t show up for a piece of good theatre, a bunch of shepherds hurrying to a cattle stall. No, when they came, they simply worshipped. Indeed, the chief end of angels is to sing, “Glory to God in the highest.”

In Christ’s Love,
a guy still imagining
a horizon that’s unable to hold
the multitude of angels

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Dec 18 - Luke 2:12

And this will be a sign for you:
you will find a babe
wrapped in swaddling cloths
and lying in a manger.
Luke 2:12

Do you remember the story of the Exodus? Israel prayed for help, and God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. Through Moses, God performed ten wonders in a row … and then he parted the Red Sea. (Wow!)

So … after eleven of the greatest wonders in history, how long did it take until the people started complaining? Three generations? No. There decades? No. Three years? No. Three days!

As I like to say, The effect of signs and wonders last three days.

Meaning? We dare not base our faith on signs. They’re temporary.
  •      The parted sea will eventually close.
  •      The ability to walk on water will inevitably fade (see Peter sinking in Mt 14).
  •      The donkey will ultimately quit talking (see the story of Baalam’s ass in Num 22).
  •      Five thousand people will get hungry again.
  •      And every healed person will eventually die.

If we base our faith on temporary manifestations, we’ll inevitably get discouraged. And yet occasionally we’d still like a sign!

For example, if you’re a lowly shepherd and you hear that the Messiah has come, you might like a sign. 
  •      The first sign was the angels. That was how God woke them up to this possibility.
  •      The second sign was the confirmation. It was a prediction, a prophecy. If the first part came true (is there really a baby, a manger, and swaddling cloths?), then they could trust the second part too (the Messiah really has come!).

Yes … the Messiah really has come! The signs confirmed it. But let’s not rely just on temporary signs from hundreds of years ago. And let’s not rely on our transitory feelings that go down and up and down again. Let’s get to know Jesus personally. Let us daily – in and out of the season of Christmas – pray these powerful words from “O Little Town of Bethlehem” …

Cast out our sin
And enter in
Be born in us today.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who has less than
a three day attention span
(so I really better pray for him
to be born in me anew each day)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Dec 17 - Luke 2:11

for to you is born this day
in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2:11

For unto WHOM is born this day a Savior?

  •      Yes, the angels were talking to a specific group of shepherds. We could limit this conversation and limit this joy to them. (But let’s not.)

  •      Yes, the angels were speaking in the land of Israel, and the Jews had waited for generations for the heir to David’s throne. So we could limit the joy to them too. (But, again, let’s not.)

  •      Yes, the angels were singing essentially in the year 0 B.C., and we could limit the joy to history. (Why?!)

Are you tired of limiting joy?! Our world does that all the time.

Jesus was born for male and female, Jew and Gentile, slave and free. He was born for those in the first century, and he was born for those in all upcoming centuries. He was born for Peter, James, and John, and he was born for you and me and our hurting neighbor.

Scripture says he was born for Jews and Gentiles. At the crèche the Jews were represented by the poor shepherds; the Gentiles were represented by the wisemen who traveled from afar. In our modern geopolitical context, Jesus came for the Jews and the Muslims. He’s king of all. His gift is free to all. Whether we accept it or not, his love is for all races, creeds, colors, or national origins.

Are you tired of limiting joy?

Share the good news at your kitchen table, in your neighborhood, across the cubicle wall, and along the bleacher stands. It’s nice to have joy for ourselves. It’s even more glorious to share it with others.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who really does know
that there is no 0 BC.
The calendar went from 1 BC to 1 AD.
I guess it’s like the big bang.
We can’t explain what happened at zero
(unless we admit that Mary, Joseph,
and the angels knows!!!)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Dec 15,16 - Luke 2:10b

And the angel said to them,
"Be not afraid; for behold,
I bring you good news of a great joy
which will come to all the people …”
Luke 2:10

Where do we find joy occurring in the scriptures?

Joy occurs whenever God’s
kingdom breaks into the world!

And what bigger occurrence of God’s kingdom breaking into the world was there than the birth of the newborn baby King.

Of course the angels were singing!!!

Now … that was a one-time occurrence, right? Yes and no. Yes, Jesus was only physically born once. But Christ can be born in people’s hearts each and every day.

You can participate in angelic joy when you witness to others. Watching a depressed friend find the hope of the kingdom is as glorious as Christmas. Helping a child discover a powerful truth about God’s kingdom is majestic.

If you want more joy, be an angel. Start talking about your faith!!!

In Christ’s Love.
A guy who finds joy in talking
(and writing) about God!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Dec 14 - Luke 2:10a

And the angel said
to them, "Be not afraid …”
Luke 2:10a

This fall, we had a friend lose her husband of 50+ years.

This Christmas, she sent a card, and the words on the front were angelic. They quoted this verse. It was an angelic cry to shepherds and widows: “Fear not!”

The words on the inside were equally angelic – though not spoken officially by angels. As my devotion today, let me share them with you. Why? Because as the years progress, most of us grieve the loss of someone at the holidays.

I pray these words encourage you as much as they comforted our dear old friend …

This Christmas, when we gather together,
there will be an empty chair...
there will be hearts full of memories
of those who are no longer with us...
there will be tears of sadness for the loss
and tears of joy for having known
those who've gone to be with the Lord...
But even though they are gone from this earth,
they will live on in those who remember them.
Remember with me those we love this Christmas,
and through our memories,
let's keep them a part of our celebration...
for their spirit is with God,
and God is with us,
so it is true that they are never far away.
Merry Christmas my dear ones... I love you all.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who’ll be silent
and let you read that again

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dec 13 - Luke 2:9

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them,
and the glory of the Lord shone around them,
and they were filled with fear.
Luke 2:9

I love the old Jimmy Stewart movie It’s a Wonderful Life.

A man is discouraged. Scores of people pray for him. Heaven hears his prayers. And Clarence – his guardian angel – is sent to help. According to the movie, George Bailey’s guardian angel is a former clockmaker named Clarence.

That’s what many people believe about heaven and angels. Are you one who’s heard rumors that when good people go to heaven, we’ll “get our wings.”

That’s not Biblical. Angels are a separate “species,” created before the formation of the earth. When humans die, we become – in a sense – more fully human … not angels.

Scripture talks about a new heaven and a new earth. It is physical. And we will receive a new body, not wings. Angels are angels. Humans remain humans. And God is on the throne.

So … angels are a wholly separate and holy wonderful “species.” Their purpose? They live to do God’s will! As this passage reveals, they do at least one other thing – they powerfully reflect God’s glory! Perhaps it’s like a mirror. They get to see God face-to-face; thus, they shine God’s glory into our darkened world.

And the night of the nativity was one of the greatest power surges in history!

Multitudes of the heavenly host appeared to mere shepherds. Indeed, God’s light shone magnificently into our night.

In Christ’s Love,
a guy who doesn’t
want a surge protector
(I want all God’s blessings!)