Thursday, December 31, 2015

1/1/16 whose on First?

But seek first the kingdom of God, and all these other things will be added to you as well.

Thoughts:  there are many things we may resolve to seek this new year.  But Christ says that there are many other things we can seek, but only one will have eternal benefits.  Beauty, intelligence and education, athletic or physical health only last so long and will eventually fade.   But our soul lasts. If we nourish our soul by seeking God, we will have peace.  
We seek Him fist by making time for Him.  Make worship and devotional time a priority in 2016.  Serve Him by serving others and having fellowship with His people.

Prayer: make it easy for me to seek you, and find you, Lord.
Luke 3:14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” 

Thoughts: The Gentile/Roman thinking shows here, and this is the kind of thinking that is resurrected today.  At the end of the year, are we content?  Materialism- living for pay or money or things or houses or cars does not bring peace.  Nor does a combination of materialism plus faith.  Jesus said we cannot serve God and money.  This is a core teaching, and is why the rich man went away sad who kept the law from his birth (he lacked the ability to be content because he could not let stuff go).  It is why Jesus said it is "hard for the rich to enter e kingdom of heaven."  Learning this does not start when you get rich.  It begins not with a time but with the Spirit prompting you to seek peace over things.  
      John doesn't say don't get pay-but be content and do not extort or be greedy.  We fight greediness by seeking God and seeking ways to be generous.  If we have two coats, share with someone who has none.  In times of disaster (like the floods in South Carolina) I have seen this.  At Christmas I see it too.  But generosity and peace are things we should have throughout the year.

Prayer: Lord, help me to be content with the abundance you give me.  Help me to have a peaceful heart; eyes to see how to help others; strength to give up stuff and even dreams in order to help others. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fruit in keeping with Repentance

7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. (Matthew 3:7-9)

Thoughts: What is the "fruit in keeping with repentance" John is talking about here?  It is one thing to say we repent it is another to actually do it.  It is one thing to say we listen to God, and it is another to really obey Him and His Word.  We naturally look for ways to excuse our own behavior.  John did not want the blatant hypocrites coming to join him in worship.  We all sin.  But some repent of the sin, and some keep on sinning but saying they are doing right.   Repentance is not just saying we are sorry.  But it is changing behavior.  This is done, not in our own strength, but by God's grace. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to repent with sincerity of heart and a changed way of life. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

12/29 The Message of Repentace

1In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ ”a
4John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.(Matthew 3). 

Thoughts: At the end of a year, it is good to celebrate the good things and confess and repent from the bad things.  Repentance and humility are true precursors to receiving the gospel.  So John the Baptist got people ready for Jesus.  In some ways, a good way to get ready for the new year is not just to make resolutions and goals, but to think about what we did right and what we did wrong- and all that is mixed in the middle (what we can do better).
     Making straight paths in the desert (wilderness) is hard to do.  We want to go around the hills/dunes.  We want to bypass the things that are hard to do.  But the fastest, safest, and best roads aren't the curvy mountain ones, but the straight ones.  So, John quotes Isaiah 40:3 about the coming of the Messiah by saying that we should make sure we can get to God the fastest way possible. So John is kind of saying, "Quit making up excuses for the obstacles between you and God- but level those obstacles."  Bulldoze down the things that you have justified.  Quit rationalizing your evil and get yourself right with God.  Quit holding on and loving your sin.  If you want to get close to God- and if you really want His blessing- then get rid of the things that He cannot accept in your life.
      For John that meant getting rid of injustice and replacing it with truth and grace.  We'll read more about the practical side of this tomorrow.  

Prayer: lord open my heart by my willingness to turn from my ways to you.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Holding forth light

6There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. (John 1:6)

Thoughts: John the Baptist is a great example for us.  He never claimed glory or honor.  He always gave the honor and glory to God.  Out job is to say, as John the Baptist did, "He must increase and I must decrease."  We are to point to the light. All the lights on the Christmas trees coming down now- (liturgically they should be up til 1/6 but practical Americans take them down before 1/1) point to Jesus the light of the world.  We are to reflect His light.
     One of the dangers of our time is to say there is no light.  If we all remain in the dark then no one is differentiated from one another.  But this is nonsensical.  Should we seek to be in the dark together in order to not offend someone who chooses darkness over light?  There are people who sin- and sin on purpose.  Should we never say that they do wrong, in order to not offend them?  To help someone who does wrong, we should point out their weakness and offer them a hand out if possible.  John the Baptist was fearless and did not care what happened to him nor that he would get any kind of award.  He pointed to the light.  Doubtless this offended the Romans and Herodians.  He lost his head really because he pointed out it was wrong for Herod to marry his brother's wife- stealing her from him.  In our day, the milk-toast religious folks refuse to say anyone does wrong.  In the name of tolerance the light is growing dim.  Witnessing to the light means taking a stand for what is right and pointing out things like sexual immorality- including adultery and fornication- however prominent and sung about as "right" is indeed "wrong."  When light shines, those who are used to the dark squint and their eyes are made uncomfortable.  But to never turn on the light means losing our vision.  Today you can go to some cave in North Carolina and Tennessee that have blind fish in them because the fish have never seen the light and lose their sight.  Hold forth the light- even if some complain that it makes them feel bad!  

Prayer: Lord, May your light shine in me and through me.  Keep me from shrinking back or dimming your light in order to make people feel comfortable. 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

12-27-15 Going Back to the Everyday

The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them. (NLT Lk. 2:20)

Thoughts: The shepherds had left their flocks when they heard the voices of the angels- to go and find the Messiah.  Eventually they would have to go back.  After Christmas it is hard to go back to the mundane.   To go from angels to the Messiah to just keeping sheep would be difficult.  Yet, God wants us to be as faithful in the little everyday things as we are in the extraordinary mountain top experiences.   God sometimes inspires us on the mountaintop but then tells us to go back to the work He calls us to do.  This work too is important.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be faithful in the little every day things of life.  

Friday, December 25, 2015

12-26-15- After Christmas Day

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

Thoughts: These events were treasures that a mother would keep concerning her child.  They were treasures to her- not of gold, frankincense or myrrh, but spiritual and mental treasures.  She would not forget them.  Often mothers remember more than their own children about the awards they receive.
But Mary, again, sets us an example.  When God acts in unusual ways- we should treasure these things and not sluff them off as unimportant.  She pondered these things- not simply in her head, but in her heart. They were deep and important to her.  Our faith is not just an intellectual exercise, or a heart throbbing experience.  Mary used her heart and head.  Doubtless, she did not fully understand these things- but she remembered them.
    Today we can more easily make a journal entry (they didn't have ink and paper much less ipads or computers).  We can take videos or photos with our telephones that are with us all the time.  We make Christmas memories- but we need to treasure them.
     We also need to treasure these special events that happened that first Christmas as they affect us all.

Prayer: Help me walk by faith and not just be sight.  Help me to rely on your wisdom.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

12/25/15- Jesus- The Main Character of Christmas

12/25- Christmas Day- John 1:1,14- Jesus
1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Thoughts: God’s love was in the beginning.  God’s love came down to earth.  God’s love was clearly seen in the person of Jesus and millions testify to this today.  From generation to generation it has been testified that God has come.  Let us not forget that God cares enough to speak a word- and to speak The Word.  Even in the midst of the problems and difficulties and terrors of life- God still speaks.  Jesus is a visible sign of God’s love.  So in the midst of the difficulties of this day- the grief, the sorrow, the relative rubbing elbows and opinions against relative, let us remember that the God of love has come.  Let us show His love despite the difficulties to those around us. 

Prayer: Lord, your coming inspires me to love and to care even in difficult times.  May my witness be enhanced with all that is going on around me. 

Activity: this week- while school is out- go where you wouldn’t normally go.  Jesus left heaven to come to earth for us.  The incarnation means God became flesh for us.

Song: Away in a manger no crib for a bed,  the little Lord Jesus laid down His sweet head.  The stars in the sky look down where he lay- the little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

12/24/15- Learning from Mary

12/24- Christmas Eve- Luke 1:46-56, 2:7- Mary
46And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name. 50His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 51He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 52He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. 53He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. 54He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.” 56Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.  7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Thoughts: The mystery of Christmas Eve in many ways would not happen without Mary.  Her consent and faith are amazing.  Yet she knew her willingness to do God’s will would mean her being lifted up.  Who has not heard of Mary the mother of Jesus today?  Mary amazed everyone with her joy, faith and hope at the news that she was pregnant out of wedlock.  No matter what anyone else said, Mary believed the angel.  She risked her marriage, her reputation, her wealth and hope in order to have this child. It did not make sense but it was the most reasonable and greatest thing she could do.  Mary went into exile into Egypt later to keep Jesus safe from the terrorism of Herod the King who wanted to kill all the babies of Bethlehem.  No doubt she “pondered in her heart” the things that pointed to the kingship of Jesus because otherwise the kings would rise up and try to kill him.  Jesus was not rich. But Jesus helped care for Mary after Joseph died and until the day of his death.  Mary had a special place in Jesus’ heart.  We should also respect and honor (but not worship) Mary.  Her example of humility, hope, and hanging-on are great examples to us in a day of problems. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be faithful to you in the midst of the problems of life.  Let me believe that you will lift us up when we are faithful to you – in this life or the next. 

Song: Gentle Mary laid her child lowly in a manger.   There he lay the undefiled, to the world a stranger;  such a babe in such a place, can he be the Savior? Ask the saved of all the race who have found his favor!

Activity: Come and see.  The shepherds left their fields to worship Him.  We are called this Christmas Eve to leave and worship Him too.  Go to worship to honor Him. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

12/23/15- The Soldiers and the Birth of Christ

12/23- The Soldiers- Matthew 2:16
16When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. 17Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
18“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Thoughts: “Just following orders.”  There are times when orders need to be followed.  But we are also called to use our heads even when people over us command us.*    The Soldiers of Herod followed some tough orders.  They beheaded John the Baptist.  They killed Herod’s wife at his bidding and his son.  There are times when we “must obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19).  The soldiers here were told to not only miss Christmas but try and destroy it by killing every baby under two in Bethlehem.  The power of human government was going against the heavenly King.  Law and order, hopefully will go together.  But when you have a power-hungry ruler who cares not for religion, the Law of God needs to be heard.  It is also true that public opinion and culture are not our main concern.  We do not keep our morality or faith by fiat from a king or an opinion poll of the people.  

Prayer: Lord, give me the grace and strength to follow you even when others tell me I shouldn’t- or even tell me to actively oppose you and your people.

Song: The First Nowell the angels did say was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay.  In fields where they lay a keeping their sheep on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.  Nowell, Nowell, Nowell, Nowell born is the king of Israel.  

[*Adults: .   In the Vietnam War Lieutenant William Calley was found guilty of killing 22 Vietnamese civilians though he claims he was following orders (from Capt. Medina) and giving orders to his men.  Calley had ordered his men to wipe out a whole village of civilians that he believed were collaborating with the enemy.  Not only were these “orders” against the Rules of Engagement, they were against the Geneva Convention and common sense.  Such orders turn good soldiers into terrorists, which helped solidify opposition to Vietnam.] 

Monday, December 21, 2015

12/22/15- Wise Men Come

12/22- Matthew 2:1,2, 9-12 Wise Men
1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magia from the east came to Jerusalem 2and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”… 9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Thoughts: It is amazing that these “wise men” believed so much in their work that they were willing to travel hundreds of miles on foot, camel, and horse in order to visit the king of another country.  They did not believe this was an ordinary king. 
      There were several prophecies in the Old Testament involving this incident.  From Numbers 24:17- “
I see him, but not now;  I behold him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel…” Isaiah 60:6 speaks of rulers from the east bringing gifts to the king of Judah- gifts of gold and frankincense.  Isaiah 60:3 speaks of rulers “coming to the brightness of your light.”  In Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar called these astrologers/astronomers “wise men.”  Psalm 72:10-15 and Isaiah 60:5 speak of Gentile or eastern rulers bringing gold to the king of the Jews.  It is not beyond the realm of possibility that these “wise men” studied the books of the Jews brought to Babylon/Persia in the exile and made popular by government authorities like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Queen Esther and Mordecai.   
     Jesus is called “The bright and morning star” (Rev. 22:16).  In astronomy the morning star is Venus.  There were seven planetary conjunctions between 3-2 B.C.  The brightest would have been the conjunction of Jupiter and Venus in August 3 B.C. In the morning, Venus always appears in the east. Orthodox Christians think this was a supernatural event and do not worry about the astronomy.
     Regardless, the wise men were convinced that they had seen a sign that a prince of Judah had been born and had come to pay him honor.  This was an act of faith that amazed and disturbed Herod and all Jerusalem with him.  When we act on our faith- really act on it- and do not simply walk by sight (having to figure everything out ahead of time), then it makes a huge difference in the world.   Faith is a confidence that inspires action.  When our actions are inspired by our faith it can be a very beautiful, encouraging, inspiring thing- that shocks the world.  Come seek and worship the One who is born.
Prayer: Lord, help me to walk by faith, live by faith, be inspired by faith in you.  May my actions match the faith I know I should have. 

Activity: Make sure you take time to worship Jesus as a priority. 

Song: We Three Kings of Orient are- Bearing Gifts we traverse afar.  Field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star.  O star of wonder, star of light; star with royal beauty bright.  Westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

12/21/15- The Longest Night- and the People of Bethlehem

12/21- The People of Bethlehem- Luke 2
6While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,7and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them… 17When they [the shepherds] had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

Thoughts: The people of Bethlehem were not expectant.  In the busy-ness of the crowd because of the census (and everyone wanting to claim they were related to David by ancestry), the crowds did not welcome a pregnant woman, but kicked her out to a shed- an animal stall.  Later when the shepherds spread the news, the people were amazed.  There is a little evidence the people acted on their amazement for Joseph and Mary traditionally stayed in Bethlehem. The wise men visited in Bethlehem when Jesus was under two but probably not right after he was born.  We are a very busy people.  In our busy-ness between going to games for the kids or grandkids; events; work; entertainment and sports- let us decide ahead of time to not miss the most important use of our time during this season. 
Tonight is the longest night of the year (the winter equinox).  Psychologists tell us that with the extra darkness and shorter days comes a bit of extra depression and sadness.  The Bible says that "the people who walked in darkness and gloom have seen a great light... for unto us a child is born... and He shall be called wonderful counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."  Even if people are cold, skeptical, or unexpectant, God is still at work in unexpected ways (like through a little baby in a small town in a manger).  

Prayer: Lord, give me an expectant heart and the heart to be amazed at what you do. We remember on this long night those who face extra sadness this time of year.  

Activity: What if someone came to your house at the last minute?  Would you welcome them?  Tonight, do as the Moravians do and set an extra place at your table for Jesus.  Next time you bless your food say, “Come Lord Jesus be our guest and may this food to us be blest.”

Song: [Angels We Have Heard on High]: Come to Bethlehem and see!  Him whose birth the angels sing.  Come adore on bended knee Christ the Lord of heaven and earth.  Gloria!  In Excelsis Deo!

Bethlehem at Christmas

Saturday, December 19, 2015

12/20/15 Christ Rejected

12/20- Fourth Sunday- People in General John 3:18,19
19This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.

Thoughts: These verses confirm what we read yesterday in John 1:11- that we rejected Jesus. We reject Jesus when we do evil.  We put ourselves in a position where we are blind to the goodness and light when we love darkness and wrong. We put ourselves in a position where we are blind to the goodness and light when we love darkness and wrong.  When we rebel against God, we become the ones who do evil.  We become the terrorists to God and His followers.  We put ourselves against God and fight against His ways when we reject Him and go our own way. Contrarily, when we do good and wait patiently for God (like Simeon) we put ourselves in a position to receive and recognize Him.  Get used to the light in order to see more light.
Prayer: Help me to walk in the light and not in the darkness O Lord.  Help me to draw and point others to you.

Activity: Pray for the people who love darkness today.  Pray for the people in gangs.  Pray for the people who choose to do what the Bible says is wrong.  Pray for those you know who do not believe or oractice their belief.  Pray that you will be a light to them.  Before you go to bed, stop and look at the moon and stars and thank God for His light that has found you. 

Song: Good Christian friends rejoice with heart and soul and voice!  Give ye heed to what we say:
Jesus Christ is born today; ox and ass before him bow and he is in the manger now; Christ is born today!  Christ is born today!  (Glory to God 132). Contrarily, when we do good and wait patiently for God (like Simeon) we put ourselves in a position to receive and recognize Him.  It is the grace of God that enables us to leave the darkness and come back to the light.  Get used to the light in order to see more light.

Prayer: Help me to walk in the light and not in the darkness O Lord.  Help me to draw and point others to you.

Activity: Pray for the people who love darkness today.  Pray for the people in gangs.  Pray for the people who choose to do what the Bible says is wrong.  Pray for those you know who do not believe or oractice their belief.  Pray that you will be a light to them.  Before you go to bed, stop and look at the moon and stars and thank God for His light that has found you. 

Song: Good Christian friends rejoice with heart and soul and voice!  Give ye heed to what we say:  Jesus Christ is born today; ox and ass before him bow and he is in the manger now; Christ is born today!  Christ is born today!  (Glory to God 132). 

Friday, December 18, 2015

12/19/15- The Characters of Christmas- His Own People

12/19- His Own People- John 1:11,
10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 

Thoughts: This is truly a sad verse.  The Maker goes unrecognized.  The One who should get all the credit gets ignored.  He knocked on the door, but we left him out in the cold.  The great Lord is treated worse than a neighbor, worse than a stranger, worse than an enemy.  In many ways hospitality is a theme throughout Christmas.  The Innkeeper and people should have been more hospitable to Mary. The song, “Sweet Little Jesus Boy- we didn’t know who you wuz” reminds us that we need to open our eyes to God and welcome Him in.  The terrorist does not know the Prince of Peace or the One who sought to turn the other cheek.  Jesus did not seek to bring peace to the world through fear or through might, but through humility, grace, and love.
Prayer: Lord, when you knock on the door of my heart, give me grace to welcome you in. 

Activity: Think of people you know who may be rejected by others or bullied in various ways.  Say a prayer for them- and make the effort to send them a Christmas card- looking up their address.

Song: Angels we have heard on high; sweetly singing o’er the plains.  And the mountains in reply. Echoing their joyous strains.  Gloria in excelsis deo!  Gloria in excelsis deo!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

12/18/15 Scribes and Pharisees Missed Christmas

12/18- The Scribes and Pharisees- Mt. 2:3-6
3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:|
6“ ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’ 

Thoughts: The criticism of the people of Jerusalem- their apathy and not seeking after the Messiah could also be used to describe the people who knew better- the chief priests and teachers of the law.  They knew how to read the prophecies- that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.  Maybe they were too scared of the fiercely jealous Herod to go seeking after the Messiah.  Most likely their skepticism mixed with apathy and fear- enticed them to just stay home in their warm beds.  Let us not seek our comfort and miss out on the most important and life-changing presence of God in worship.

Prayer: Lord, give me a desire to worship you that would motivate me to love you more than my comfort.

Activity: Pray for your teachers today- the people who teach you or members of your family by name. Make a short prayer list.

Song: People look east the time is near; of the crowning of the year.
Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table.
People look east and sing today- love the guest is on the way.  

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

12/17/15- The People of Jerusalem in Advent

12/17- The People of Jerusalem Mt. 2:3
3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 

Thoughts: The people of Jerusalem reacted to the news.  They were “disturbed” or “troubled” (KJV).  It bothered them that perhaps another king was born.  The status quo was disrupted, and they also doubtless knew Herod wouldn’t let anyone get in his way.  But there is no indication that these “troubled” people bothered to check it out.  It was about 22 miles from Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  The three kings could travel over 600 miles to find a foreign king to them, but there is no record that one person traveled 22 miles to see if their own king was born.   Let it not be said of us that we would not travel a few miles in a warm car to go to a safe warm sanctuary to visit our king.  Later the people of Jerusalem were disturbed again and cried out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  Perhaps if they had responded to Christ earlier (at his birth and in his ministry) they would not have had such a hard time at his end.  The people ended up turning into types of terrorist trying to crucify the innocent. 

Prayer: Lord, keep me from not caring about you.  Help me not to be bothered by your existence but to crave and desire your presence in my life. 

Song: Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright;  Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild.  Sleep in heavenly peace! Sleep in heavenly peace!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

12/16/15 Herod

3When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

7Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

9After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Thoughts:  Herod was supposed to be the mediator between Rome and the Jewish people, but he was always nervous about losing his throne.  Herod banished one wife, killed another, and ordered a son killed to keep his throne.  His son ordered John the Baptist beheaded upon a vow he made to his dancing daughter.  To the Herods life was cheap and power was precious.  While he rebuilt the Jewish Temple into one of the (brief) wonders of the world, he also built pagan temples too.  He professed the Jewish faith but did not live it nor did he value it.  So Herod the Great tried to kill the infant Jesus.  Perhaps the worst kind of terrorism is the killing babies.  Herod was less concerned for God as he was that he keep his throne.  In Revelation 12 Herod (and the Romans- the government) is depicted as a red dragon trying to kill the child Jesus and the mother.  We should ask ourselves , do we only want God to help us establish our kingdom, or do we live and give for His kingdom?

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to live for you and not for my own pride. 

Activity: Think of a politician you do not agree with and you think is doing bad things.  Pray for them. If you can send them a card telling them telling them you are praying for them. 

Herod's fortress near and viewable from Bethlehem

Monday, December 14, 2015

12-15-15 The Waiting Simeon

12/15- The Waiting Simeon Luke 2:25-35
25Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required,28Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismissd your servant in peace. 30For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” 33The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

Thoughts: Jesus later said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”  Perhaps Simeon’s righteousness, devoutness, and patience put him in a position to see God while he was alive.  In our day, we are not called to panic, to grumble, to give into temptation, but to wait on the Lord.  In our day we want instant things- instant communication (text, phone, emails), instant answers (look it up on Google).  Simeon is an example of godly waiting and patience in God.  Instant trust, instant hope, instant patience does not exist. Simeon also knew how to expand the horizons.  His concern was not just for Jewish independence.  He was concerned for reaching the whole world- the Gentiles included.  This means this older wise man foreknew that the Romans would be conquered not by the sword but by the Good News of God.  The Hope of the world is not found in politics, weapons, or money- but in the eternal hope of God.

Prayer: Lord, may I put my patient hope in you no matter what the world faces.  Help me seek purity and patience over worldliness and hurry.   

ctivity: Who do you know in your family or friends who has a pure heart?  Send them a note by text, email, social media or a card. 

Song: Come thou long expected Jesus, born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us; let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation, hope of all the earth thou aArt;
Dear desire of every nation, joy of every longing heart. 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

12/14/15- Waiting Anna

12/14 Luke 2:36-40- Waiting Anna
36There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.e She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

Thoughts: Why did Anna live in the Temple?  Anna wanted to be close to worship and close to the Lord.  She was known for her godliness and waiting on the Lord.  She recognized the special person of Jesus by the Holy Spirit.  Anna lived a sheltered life- away from the terrorism of the Romans and the zealots. There are many who are really  not physically affected by terrorism and they have the opportunity to see God in peace and waiting.
Sometimes in times of disaster we have to wait.  We may wait on FEMA, wait on help, wait on the waters to recede.  But much of life is recognizing we need to be able to wait until the right moment from God.  So we wait on a baby to come.  So we wait on a wedding; or a test result to come back.  Anna knew about waiting and she mastered in patience.  Let us learn this as well. 

Prayer: Lord, in my peaceful moments, help me to see you the Prince of Peace and recognize your presence.

Activity: How can you help someone have patience?  Telling them to have patience doesn’t work.  Perhaps we can show them.  If you can, visit an elderly person- maybe at the Lowman Home or Presbyterian Home and just let them know you care.

Song: Jesus, Jesus, O what a wonderful child!  Jesus, Jesus, so holy meek and mild.  New life, new hope, the child will bring.  Listen to the angels sing!  Glory, Glory Glory to the newborn king!” (Glory to God #126)

Anna- Rembrandt