Saturday, December 31, 2016

Life After Football

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phlippians 3:12-14)

Thoughts: Some goals fade with each new year.  I love college football and whether the games are won or lost- all will be over for eight months in a few days.  For some players, their career in college will be over and they can never go back again.  Paul is giving us an example for straining toward the goals we set for ourselves- not being stuck in the past (forgetting what's behind), but pouring yourself fully into your moment- into your goal to finish well.
     This should tell us something about goal setting.  Paul had his goal in mind. Hebrews likewise says, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith."  Set a good goal- then press on to it.  I am in favor of New Year's resolutions to try to make ourselves better people.  I have often thought of that verse, "And Jess grew in wisdom, stature, in favor with God and in favor with man. (Lk. 2:52).  This example encourages us to grow mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially.  I believe we would do well to set goals accordingly.
     The greatest goal- the most important goal of which we should not lost sight- is to gain heaven in Christ.  On the way to this goal- let us honor God in the way we keep it- glorifying Him and enjoying Him.
     We will always pass little goals- like football seasons, seasons in our lives, times of transitions, work goals and seasons, family goals.  The ultimate individual goal that no one can get for us is to believe and to head toward the goal of heaven.  


Prayer: Lord, keep me from over-emphasizing the small goals so that I lose sight of my ultimate goal.    

Friday, December 30, 2016

A way to look at the past year

1Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
3who forgives all your sins 
and heals all your diseases,
4who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
5who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
7He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
8The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
9He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
10he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
11For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
12as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
13As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; (Psalm 103-1-13)

Thoughts: This Psalm reminds us to reflect on the blessings of God- forget not His benefits.  He forgives us- which is a wonderful benefit to remember at the end of a year.  He redeems us from the pit.  The pit are the pitfalls that we have along the way- that would make us fall.  The Lord gets us out of them- pulling us up- redeeming us back.  Instead God crowns us with love. compassion, and good things so that we feel young and renewed.  He does not treat us as we deserve- but He is gracious.  Let us remember this as we end 2016 and go into a new year. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for your many benefits.  


Thursday, December 29, 2016

God Heals

He said, "If you listen carefully to the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you." (Exodus 15:26)

Thoughts: This is an anniversary of sorts.  Tonight we celebrated my brother's 70th birthday.  It was a grand time with nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews and lots of memories, funny stories, corny jokes, sung music and good times.  I went with my wife of 36 years.  But twelve years ago tonight (10:00 PM) the doctor told me to come to my house to meet with him and to make sure all my children were there.  He told me my wife, Kay, had leukemia and had it bad- worst case (super high white blood count) he has seen.  He told us we should be prepared at best for a battle and at worse to get our affairs in order- it looked like she had about three months to live.  He suggested our daughter who was to be married in June move the wedding to March.
     Now, we are not fortunate, we especially do not consider ourselves lucky.  We never win anything and have had our share of bad things come our way.  But we are blessed- blessed by God so that she could be here 12 years later.  A few months earlier a new medicine came on the market that helped.  One of my church members was already on it (he had the same kind of leukemia- lived with it several years and died a few months after my wife was diagnosed).  The medicine didn't help him much, but by God's grace everything worked for Kay.
      In twelve years we have seen all of our three children graduate from college, two graduate from high school, two get married, and the birth of three grandchildren.  Today is just a mile-marker, but it is a wonderful place to  be.
       At what point do you thank God in this kind of thing? We thank Him each step of the way- each day we have- each event is even more special (though maybe it shouldn't be MORE special).  God heals through immune systems put into our bodies, through the medicines that He put in the world, through giving wisdom and direction to doctors in answer to may prayers for a healing solution.  Twelve years ago there was a 1% chance she would be here today, and if she was it would be in a very sickly state.  My wife looks great, exercises, babysits, drives. She has other problems with her knees and back, but she is able to live a good life.  Life is a gift.  When there is healing in life- it also is a gift.  Not everyone is made well- no one can figure that out.  We do know eventually we all will not be healed in this life.  But Christians believe there is a river of life from which we can drink in the next life.  We can even be healed from death.  God answers prayer- and God gives us life- sustains us in life- and brings us to eternal life.  


Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that you care about our sickness.  You showed that in Jesus (who healed so many).  When healing comes to me, let me always give you glory.  


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Throwing away to Gain Christ

7But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.  (Philippians 3:7,8)

Thoughts: What gains did you have in 2016 that were losses?  Or put it another way, what good thing did you put ahead of Christ in your life?  There are things the world values ahead of Christ.  For the secular minded person almost everything is of more value because you can measure and see other things than Christ.  There was a time when Paul valued stoning Stephen ahead of Christ, and valued arresting Christians ahead of Christ.  To him, Christ should be snuffed out as a bad influence on people.  But then he met Christ.  Immediately he knew that he once was blind but now he saw things differently.  Instead of hurting Christians, he was willing to be hurt or sacrificed for Christ.  Paul lost all things.  He lost his reputation with the Jews.  All the pharisee education was now down the tubes.  All the riches and status he had was given up when he accepted Christ.  He says here he was more than happy to give up everything for Christ.  He would do it again.
     When we put other things ahead of Christ in our priorities, and when we let the mediocre or good take the place of the best- we only hurt ourselves.  Our relationship with Christ is hurt and placed down when other things become more important.  Paul didn't want anything to get in the way of gaining more of Christ.  We should follow Paul's clear and true example.  


Prayer: Lord, help me to throw out the garbage of my life and keep what is meant to last.  


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Treasure what God does

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  (Luke 1:19)

Thoughts: Mary kept these words or these things that were said.   Tradition says that Luke received most of his information about these stories from Mary.  Luke gives us a glimpse into the thoughts of Mary.  She kept them- or treasured them deep down.  But she also pondered them (sumballousa).  That is she went over them- time and again. She chewed or digested them.  She meditated on them.   We should treasure the times God works in our lives, and think about these things too.  In God's providence, He works in our lives, and we should pay attention to what God is doing.  

Prayer:  Lord, let me reflect on what you have done this past year.  

Monday, December 26, 2016

Remembering what counts

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. (Luke 2:20)

Thoughts: What do you do after Christmas?  Pay bills?  Take a breath?  Watch football?  Make returns?  The week between Christmas and New Years is a good time to take stock.  Many people will help you.  You will see articles and media pieces trying to summarize the previous year.  All the stars who died in 2016; all the main headlines; all the major crimes or trials.  Usually what you will not see listed are- 1) All the prayers answered;  2) All the good things learned in Sunday School or church; 3) All the people who were helped by charity- the food given, the utilities paid, the houses for the poor fixed, the orphans or abused/neglected children sheltered, the refugees fed, the clean ups volunteers made of the environment, the animals helped, et al.  4) The friendships made; 5) The verses of scripture read; 6) The people invited into good or to God; 7) Those welcomed into membership or fellowship in churches.  The spiritual side of things will be neglected as if they didn't happen, didn't matter, or don't (not can't but won't) count.
    But the shepherds counted- all the things they had heard and seen.  They recounted them to others.  Mary treasured the things she heard in her heart.  Think back to what God has seen you through in 2016.  Do not just say, "Glad it's over" but thank Him for seeing you through.  If you had a spiritual experience- think about it and chew on it.  Have you become a better disciple of Jesus because you lived in 2016?  Count your blessings and glorify and praise God.

Prayer: Lord, help me to remember you. Help me to see your hand at work in my life and not forget it.  

Sunday, December 25, 2016

God Speaks to Us In Jesus

1In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
(Hebrews 1:1-3)


1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning. 3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcomea it...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. (John 1:1-5,14).  

Thoughts: God is not Silent. God is not Uncaring. Christmas Means God reveals Himself to us, and He cares about our plight, even to the point of sacrifice and deliberate humility in order to sympathize with us.
     In Hebrews the writer says God spoke in the past through prophets, but now God speaks clearly.  The difference is between someone who gives directions or someone who says, follow me and I will show you the way.  I have been in a growing hospital trying to find my way through the Emergency Room.  At the desk were two people.  One person tried to give me directions: "Turn left at the double door, then take the second right, then another left pass the nurses desk, and then the third right."  The other person saw my quizical look and said, "I'll take you there" and led me though.  I was relieved and found my way.  Jesus is not just a preacher or a philosopher.  He came down to show us how to live, to set the path for us.  But He also leads us to heaven if we believe in Him.
      In John Jesus is called "The Word."  "The Word was with God and was God." The original language (Greek) here is logos.  He is the emanation from God that was separate but equal to God the Father and then became human (flesh).  God is as good as His Word.  His word is trustworthy and true.
     While there are a lot of guesses about God, the Word of God is God's effort to tell us about His will and about His person.  God tells us in person about His will and  who He is.  


Prayer: You have spoken in Jesus, Lord.  Help me to listen.  



Friday, December 23, 2016

Nativity

12/24- John 1:10-14 “He came into the world. Though the world was made through Him, the world did not listen to Him…The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only who came from the Father full of grace and truth.” 

Thoughts: The world that Jesus came to rejected him and crucified him.  Yet there were those who believed and carried on his good news.  So John writes, “We have seen his glory- full of grace and truth.”
Jesus desires that we listen to Him and not reject Him.  He asks that we not ignore Him, but love Him.  We owe our existence to Him, and also our salvation to Him.  He is worth paying attention to.  He is worthy of our worship.


Prayer: Lord, keep me from rejecting you.  Though the world shuts its ears to you, open mine continually.  


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Jesus Makes the Father Known

12/23- John 1:1-5, 14-18 “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side has made him known.”

Thoughts: Jesus is the Living Word.  He shows us what God is like if we will listen. We are called to examine his life- to listen to his teachings.  He is the exact representation of the living God (Colossians 1).  As such, He is a treasure.  If you want to know what God is like- look at Jesus.  Listen to Him.


Prayer: Lord, may my heart listen to you.  Help me pay close attention to who you are.  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Mary Listened

12/22- Luke 1:38 “I am the Lord’s servant, Mary answered. May it be to me as you have said.”

Thoughts: Mary’s humble “I am the Lord’s servant” was amazing.  This pregnancy surely cost her a reputation she had preserved all her life.  She teaches us by example to listen even if we do not fully understand.  She was willing to go with God’s flow.  We should too.  


Prayer: Lord, may it be to me as you have said. Give me a listening ear and heart. 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hearing the Parable

12/21- Matthew 13:13-16 [Why parables?] Jesus replied, “though hearing they do not hear or understand…You will be ever hearing but never understanding…the peoples’ hearts have become calloused they hardly hear with their ears… But blessed are your ears because you hear.”

Thoughts: Jesus spoke in parables for many reasons.  The stories are more memorable than just prose.  The Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan- are all great and memorable stories.  As they stick with us they may make more sense with time and become more believable.  If you can believe then you are indeed a blessed person.  If you can listen to Jesus- you are very blessed indeed. 


Prayer: Lord, let me remember your teachings and respond with openness to you.  When I do not understand, help me to have patience to wrestle until your Spirit makes things clear to me.  

Monday, December 19, 2016

Jesus heals as a sign

12/20- Luke 7:22- “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.”

Thoughts: God helps.  The sign that the first advent (coming) really happened was that people were helped in miraculous ways.  Jesus was not just another good man, or even another good philosopher.  He was one who came with power.  John the Baptist was a bit depressed.  He was in prison awaiting his death.  In such a place it was hard to believe the message of hope made any difference.  But Jesus was reminding John that it may not make a difference for him right then- but the good news was indeed good still.  There are times when it is hard for us to see the power of God- or what difference God may make.  There are times when God seems far away even when we did not move.  But Jesus still makes people better.  Looking back on my life, I can see where believing in Him has helped me through many messes and problems.  Look back on your life and treasure the little miracles you have had- the surgeries he saw you through; the provisions you prayed for; the strength you needed.  Give thanks and believe He will do it again.


Prayer: Lord, do not let my tough circumstances keep me from believing in you with all my heart. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

God Comes Healing

12/19- Isaiah 35:4,5 “Your God will come...to save you.  Then the eyes of the blind will be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped…”

Thoughts: This prediction of the first advent of the Christ is that He will help the blind to see and the deaf to hear.  But it was more than that.  Christ’s coming opens up the whole world to us.  The good news is that help has come.  We just need to recognize the help- open our eyes and ears to the mystery of God around us.   Years ago I read of a ten year old child who had surgery on his ears, and was able to hear for the first time.  His world had changed. It became more beautiful, more enriched.  Jesus has come to not leave us in our graves, or leave our lives wandering and lost.  Open your eyes and ears to Him anew today.  Listen to what the Lord wants you to do and go to today.
     Jesus came not to hurt- but to heal.  He heals not only physically, but spiritually.  His sacrifice on the cross is for the healing of the nations and for our own healing. 


Prayer: Lord, than you that you came- and came to help.  Let me appreciate being able to see and hear you, and respond to you graciously.  


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Listening Shepherds

12/18- Luke 2:8-20 “I bring you good news of great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior is born to you; he is Christ the Lord…When the angels left the shepherds said, ‘Let’s go and see… that which the Lord has told us about.” 

Thoughts: The shepherds didn’t mean to listen.  But unlike the busy crowded streets of Bethlehem, they were not distracted.  They could hear the angel voices.  When they heard the angels- they responded.  The went and sought the Christ child.  People who are listening for God’s will are willing to get up and go.  They are willing to respond.   So we too should have our ears open.  One way we open our ears is by making space and time for God in worship.  In worship we sing and pray but we also listen.  We listen not just to the songs of the choir or the words of the preacher- we listen for God.  We listen in order to respond to Him and do His will for us.  



Prayer: Give me a listening ear, Lord.  Give me a willingness to get up and go for you.  

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Wise Listen

12/17- Matthew 2:1-2 “We have seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 

Thoughts: The Magi were listeners.  They looked for a sign to tell them what God wanted them to do and where God wanted them to go.  They travelled hundreds of miles to find the new baby born to be king of the Jews.  They travelled many a mile to worship Jesus.  We do not need a star to point us to Jesus.  Scripture tells us the story in greater detail than any star.  Let us come to worship and seek Him.


Prayer: Lord, let me seek you with my whole heart.  


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Ears to Hear

12/16- Luke 8:8 (12/16- Luke 8:8 (and 7 more times) “Jesus said, ‘He who has an ear, let him hear.’”

Thoughts: Jesus said this phrase many, many times.  He is saying that God has equipped us to hear, but we have to be willing to use that equipment.   The problem is that there are many people who indeed ought to hear.  They are in the place to hear.  They are in the right time to hear.  They have every opportunity to heard but they refuse to listen.  We should ask ourselves- what in my mind or in my life would keep me from listening to Jesus.  Some of us are distracted.  Some of us love other things so much that they crowd out our ability to listen to God.  I know some golfers who are so consumed with golf that they have quit worshiping the Lord.  I know some video gamers who love video games so much that they have quit going to church to play more.  I know some parents who are convinced that their child will win a scholarship to dance or cheerleading, or sports and they teach their children to value such things more than worship.  I also know some parents who make sure their child is in worship no matter where they are or what they do.  If you have an ear to hear- and the opportunity to hear- take it and listen. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for giving me ears to hear.  Help me to use the opportunities you offer me to make a difference in my life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A remnant Listens

12/15-Revelation 3:4-6 “Yet you have a few who have not soiled their clothes…I will never blot out their name from the Book of Life...  He who has an ear, let them hear what the Spirit says to the church.”

Thoughts: The Spirit speaks to the churches, but we have to have an ear to respond.  Here the Spirit is telling those who are a remnant of a once great church to be faithful to God.  Elijah shows us the importance of being a part of the remnant and responding to God.   He remained faithful though the odds were against him and people had become faithless.  Yet from Elijah the faith renewed again. Elijah could have tried to form a new nation and leave the old rebellious one behind.  But his faithfulness made a difference.   The story of both the church at Sardis and Thyatira is similar to the current story of the church in the West.  There is a remnant in the church- who seek to follow the Lord.  They are not called to split the church- but to remain faithful to the Lord right where they are.  If we remain faithful where we are God can use us. 


Prayer: Lord, help me to be patient and faithful right where I am.  Help me to make a difference though I am only one.  Though all the world falls away, let me stay true and in love with you.  


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Good to Wait

12/14- Matthew 25:1-13- The bridegroom was a long time coming and some of them fell asleep…Therefore keep watch for you do not know the day or the hour that He comes.


Thoughts: This is a great story reminding us to wait with expectation- looking and listening for God to come to us.  True listening to God is not just a five minute or even a thirty minute thing.  It is an attitude.  It is always being on the ready to respond.  The great story of the Minute Men of the American Revolution was that they could be ready in a minute if there was danger.  Or firefighters can be eating or sleeping but they are always listening for that call or alarm.  The police may be eating or riding but when someone dials 911- they respond.  The soldiers in an outpost must be at the ready when the signal goes out to go to their post. We must be ready.  A pregnant woman in her last trimester must be ready- bags packed, plans made- for they cannot fully plan the hour.  It is a lifestyle.  For the Christian this means having a willingness to let go of whatever minor thing we are doing to respond to God’s call upon our lives whatever that call involves and wherever that call leads.  Frankly it is an exciting life compared to those who think they will never get this call upon them.  

Prayer: Let me not be asleep at the switch, Lord.  Give me a listening ear- always ready to respond to you.    


Monday, December 12, 2016

Quick to Listen

12/13- James 1:19-27 Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger...  Do not merely listen to the Word- do what it says.


Thoughts: This is an admonition to speak less and listen more.  It is an admonition to be a person of peace instead of anger.  Being able to listen to others and to God allows us to control our anger and to do what is right.  This passage also admonishes us to not just listen with our ears, but to heed what we hear.  Real listening means to make what we hear change our hearts and lives.  We might assume that we are to be slow to speak and especially slow to become angry.  But we are also to be quick to listen.  This means we are to look for opportunities to listen to others and to God.  We must jump at the opportunity to hear from God in worship, and jump at the chance to go out of our way to listen to others.

Prayer: Lord, give me ears to hear and a will to respond to you.  

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A skeptical believer

2/12- Luke 1:19-20- “I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent


Thoughts: Zechariah was a believer who was a skeptic.  He was a priest- a moral man- who did not believe in the power of God (a real weakness).  Here an angel came to him- even the angel Gabriel.  But Zechariah asked, “How can I be sure?”  At some point, we have to believe-- or not.  Zechariah believed in God intellectually, but he was a slow listener to Him.  Zechariah perhaps thought nothing unusual should happen.  He had been around the block- he was an old man.  His belief affected him by his doing good, but He had a problem believing in the power of God to do anything unusual- to answer a prayer- to change things for better. 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to believe in you and to believe you will make a difference. 

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Joseph Listened

12/11- Matthew 1:24- And Joseph, having risen from the sleep, heeded the messenger of the Lord as directed and received his wife.

Thoughts: Joseph was a man of faith.  He wanted to do the right thing.  He had a listening ear.  Unlike Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, he responded to the message of the angel and took Mary as his wife. Thus Jesus had an earthly father who protected him- leading him to Egypt to escape Herod.  Jesus’ earthly father took him to the Temple to keep the Law.  Jesus’ earthly father was the one who made sure he had an education and a skill.  But Joseph sets the best example in that he listened to God.  We too should learn from all those who listened from God to make the Advent story turn out the way it did. 


Prayer:  Lord, give me a listening ear and a willing heart to respond to you.   

Joseph's Dream- Rembrandt

Friday, December 9, 2016

Listen to the call

12/10- Matthew 9:9-12- “Follow me, Jesus said, and Matthew got up and followed him…I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners.”  

Thoughts: The great word to us is a great call to us.  It is a call by the Holy Spirit to drop our nets and follow Him.  It is a call to listen to His voice to walk on the ancient path and the narrow way.  The problem with the righteous is they are content to not listen.  They think they know the way- and need no help- no outside word to guide them.  Sinners are humbled enough to listen and walk in the right way.   Jesus came to show us the way- the right path.  It is the path of grace- the path of listening to an outside Word from God.  Jesus came to call us to Himself.  The call is to drop our distractions and to walk in His way and to serve Him by serving others.  


Prayer: Lord, thank you for your call on our lives.  Help me to have ears to hear it and to follow in your footsteps.  

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Listening and Losing Track of Time

12/9- Nehemiah 8:2-6 “All the people listened attentively to the Law from daybreak until noon…”

Thoughts: Nehemiah describes how grateful the people were to be back in the land after 70 years of exile.  They were excited to re-establish Temple worship, the Sabbath, and the public reading of the Word of God.  They stood up for about five hours straight listening and responding with excitement.  In our day if the sermon goes just a bit longer than usual alarms and coughs start going off.  But when our hearts are right and we have listening ears, we lose track of time. Would that we too could treasure the scriptures with the same kind of enthusiasm. 


Prayer: Living Word, help me to treasure you.  


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Not Listening to the Prophets

12/8- 2 Chronicles 36:15-17 But they mocked God’s messengers despised His words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against His people and there was no remedy.” 

Thoughts: God speaks using means- usually people.  God uses the language, education, writing style, experiences of each prophet to bring forth what the Spirit wants to say to God’s people and the world.  Their words are not static because the Spirit that inspired them and illuminates them is not static but living and active, convicting to the heart and guiding with purpose. 
    But it is possible to not only ignore the Word of God- but to mock it.  This passages records why the people of God were taken into exile.  They mocked God’s messengers and despised his word and scoffed at the prophets.  This triad of rejection is a reminder that they utterly rejected God so God lifted His protection from them.  To reject God and get mad that He somehow rejects us is ridiculous.  There are consequences to rejecting, not listening, and purposefully disobeying God.   This has always been true- you reap what you sow.  In the New Testament it explains this rejection as God giving us over to do what we want to do- and just leaving us to our own devices (Romans 1).   We need God’s help, God’s correction, and God’s Word.   Jesus came as God’s ultimate Word made flesh.  But he was rejected too.  Within a generation, as Jesus predicted, the people were exiled again- for almost 2,000 years- and the sacrifices and worship in the Temple ceased.  When God is gracious enough to give us a Word, we should treasure it and heed it carefully.

Prayer: Lord, instead of rejecting your word, let me accept it and apply it to my life. 12/8- 2 Chronicles 36:15-17 But they mocked God’s messengers despised His words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against His people and there was no remedy.” 
Thoughts: God speaks using means- usually people.  God uses the language, education, writing style, experiences of each prophet to bring forth what the Spirit wants to say to God’s people and the world.  Their words are not static because the Spirit that inspired them and illuminates them is not static but living and active, convicting to the heart and guiding with purpose. 
    But it is possible to not only ignore the Word of God- but to mock it.  This passages records why the people of God were taken into exile.  They mocked God’s messengers and despised his word and scoffed at the prophets.  This triad of rejection is a reminder that they utterly rejected God so God lifted His protection from them.  To reject God and get mad that He somehow rejects us is ridiculous.  There are consequences to rejecting, not listening, and purposefully disobeying God.   This has always been true- you reap what you sow.  In the New Testament it explains this rejection as God giving us over to do what we want to do- and just leaving us to our own devices (Romans 1).   We need God’s help, God’s correction, and God’s Word.   Jesus came as God’s ultimate Word made flesh.  But he was rejected too.  Within a generation, as Jesus predicted, the people were exiled again- for almost 2,000 years- and the sacrifices and worship in the Temple ceased.  When God is gracious enough to give us a Word, we should treasure it and heed it carefully.

Prayer: Lord, instead of rejecting your word, let me accept it and apply it to my life.  

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Humbling to Listen in Advent

12/7- 2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven.

Thoughts: This verse is used much in some circles but it is a great verse for all believers to know.  We want God to hear us.  To do that we must humble ourselves first- for humility allows us to stop talking and start listening.  The second step is to pray- call out to Him for help and grace.  Prayer also can involve listening in that any real communication must look for an answer from the other party.  Seeking His face- means seeking His presence.  This means worship.  If you want God to hear you and you want to hear Him- then worship.  The last step maybe the hardest- turn from wickedness.  The scriptures say in several other places that if we cherish sin in our hearts the Lord will not hear us (Ps. 66:18).  If we love God we want to please Him and listen to His will for us.  This means letting go of the things that irritate or upset Him.  God hears and also speaks.  God communicates but we must humble ourselves, pray and seek Him, and turn away from evil and toward Him.  
Prayer: Lord, often I have failed to turn to you and to seek you with my whole heart.  Help me to come back to you fully. 2/7- 2 Chronicles 7:14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven.
Thoughts: This verse is used much in some circles but it is a great verse for all believers to know.  We want God to hear us.  To do that we must humble ourselves first- for humility allows us to stop talking and start listening.  The second step is to pray- call out to Him for help and grace.  Prayer also can involve listening in that any real communication must look for an answer from the other party.  Seeking His face- means seeking His presence.  This means worship.  If you want God to hear you and you want to hear Him- then worship.  The last step maybe the hardest- turn from wickedness.  The scriptures say in several other places that if we cherish sin in our hearts the Lord will not hear us (Ps. 66:18).  If we love God we want to please Him and listen to His will for us.  This means letting go of the things that irritate or upset Him.  God hears and also speaks.  God communicates but we must humble ourselves, pray and seek Him, and turn away from evil and toward Him.  


Prayer: Lord, often I have failed to turn to you and to seek you with my whole heart.  Help me to come back to you fully.  

Monday, December 5, 2016

Choose to Listen

12/6- Deuteronomy 30:17-19 “But if your heart turns away and you will not listen…choose life so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him.”

Thoughts: Holding fast to God is an important concept.  Perseverance, faithfulness, and loyalty to our God is a part of listening to Him.  Moses is preaching his last sermon (Deuteronomy means “second law”).  He is telling the people you can choose the way of death and not listening, or you can choose the way of life and listening.  He encourages them to choose life- for the sake of their children- their future and their hope.  In a day in which many turn away (as if it is a good thing to do) we are reminded that turning away is choosing the grave over heaven.  This Advent- choose life!   Choose to listen to Him- the eternal one- who gives meaning and purpose to life.  Hold onto Him like a person being rescued by a helicopter in the ocean holds onto the lifeline.  Listen with keen ears- and do not let go. 


Prayer: Lord, give me ears to hear that I may choose life for me, my children and those who come after me. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Listen to the Voice of God

12/5- Jeremiah 10 1-5 Listen to the Message that God is sending your way, House of Israel. Listen most carefully: The idols are like a scarecrow in a cabbage patch—can’t talk!     Dead wood that has to be carried—can’t walk! Don’t be impressed by such stuff.     It’s useless for either good or evil.” Jer. 6:10 “Who will listen? Their ears are closed so they cannot hear.  The word of the Lord is offensive to them; they find no pleasure in it.”

Thoughts: Jeremiah writes in a day (much like our day) in which people were turning away from listening to God.  Read today that 30 million people not only say they don’t go to church- but they do not know if they are Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist- they are just existing in a “none” category.  There is no hope in nothing or Noneism (if I can coin a term).  If we refuse to listen and decide on purpose to go our own way we will sentence ourselves to the shallow, prideful, meaninglessness of apathy.  Those who follow the nothingness of Noneism refuse to listen and think they do not serve any Lord.  But we will all, as Bob Dylan said, “Serve Somebody.”  Christ calls us to love each other.  He calls us to listen to each other but also listen primarily to God and His Word.  Let God give you listening ears to serve Him and not the deadness of selfishness, pride or false gods. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you that you are alive and have spoken.  You act in life.  Give me ears to hear your voice above all others. 



Saturday, December 3, 2016

Do You Hear What I Hear 12-4-16


12/3- Ezekiel 2:5-8- “You must speak…and whether they listen or fail to listen…”
So much of Advent and Christmas is telling in hope that others would listen.  So the prophets foretold the birth in Bethlehem of the line of David.  So the angels sent the good news.  So the shepherds spread the good news. Even the wise men told that a king was born.  More people are listening to see if there is any hope out there today.  Is there any word of hope?  The hope of the world is found in the Savior of the World.  Our job is not to make anyone listen, but to put the word out there so that others can hear if they’d like to hear.  Invite a friend to worship on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day.  Or invite them to join with us caroling on December 11. 

Prayer: Father, let me hear the hope of the Christmas message and respond with hope in my heart. 

"Do You Hear What I Hear"  By Third Day

12/4- Isaiah 28:23 Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. ... Give ear,
and hear my voice; give attention, and hear my speech. ...

Thoughts: Love that Christmas song: “Do You Hear What I Hear?”  One verse goes, “Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy, "Do you hear what I hear? Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
Do you hear what I hear? A song, a song high above the trees With a voice as big as the sea,
With a voice as big as the sea."  There is a song.  In our day most songs are played through ear phones so everyone can hear whatever they’d like to hear.  Such things may keep the peace in the car or the house, but it takes away from communication and love.  There are some songs worthy of being heard by all.  The song of Jesus is one.  We are called to give ear, to listen, pay attention, to heed the song of Jesus.  It is the song of hope, the song of love.  It is the song that says there is a reason to live and love.  Take the ear phones out- the ear plugs out- and listen together. 


Prayer: Lord help me to hear your voice.  Give me grace to pay attention to your Spirit speaking. 


Friday, December 2, 2016

The Wise LIsten

12/2- Proverbs 1:5- “Let the wise listen and they will add to their learning.” 

The person who doesn’t need to read because they know it all already will not add to their learning.  The one who thinks no one has anything to say to them will plateau in their knowledge.  But the wise listen. This applies to Advent- the time before Christmas.  Christmas should be a time of wonder.  It is time to listen to the angels sing; It is time to Hark! (an ancient word for “Listen”).  It is time to be filled with wonder and with awe.  As we listen to God and not just the noise on TV or radio; or the chatter of text messages and the internet- we hear a more meaningful, deeper voice calling us to add to our learning.  Seek to (as Paul says in Phil. 3:10) “Know Him better.” 
     The magi or wise men were listeners or watchers.  They were looking for a king to honor.


Prayer: Lord make me a wise person who listens and learns.  May I know you better this Advent season. 


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Do Not Harden Your Heart

12/1-  Exodus 7:13- “Pharaoh’s heart was hard and he would not listen to them as the Lord had said.”

There is debate about how Pharaoh’s heart was hard.  But this is a warning.  When our hearts are hard to the Lord- or calloused- we do not listen.  Psalm 95:8 says, “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah…”  There are many times in history where the people have decided they do not need to listen to God or His Word any more- but they can make up their own ideas about God.  Such thinking is a hardening of our hearts.  Often sin hardens our hearts.  We do not want to admit we are wrong, or need to change.  We may actually think that we cannot change at all.  Humility causes soft hearts.  A soft, contrite heart the Lord will not despise.  This Advent, humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, and let Him lift you up.  Jesus humbled himself- leaving heaven, dying on the cross.  The Father raised Him up to the highest place that every knee would bow and tongue confess that He is Lord.  But being lifted up means that you are not the one doing all the talking.  You recognize, humbly, the need to listen. 

Prayer: Lord, give me a listening heart.  Keep me from pride and a hardening of my heart to you.  




Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Advent 3- 11-30-16

11/30- Deuteronomy 5:1-7 “Hear O Israel the decrees and Laws I declare in your hearing today.” 
Thoughts: This is the introduction to the Ten Commandments. God is saying, He deserves their attention for He saved them out of slavery.  But out of love He is also giving them some direction for the common good.  Now the secular person would say Moses just looked around at other laws in Egypt and Babylon and made these up.  The skeptic might even say Moses never existed.  The apathetic says there is no truth of God so why would it matter.  But archaeology and the very existence of Jews today points to the beginning.  It had to start somewhere.  It started with being delivered, but it continues by listening to the Law. Jesus said he did not come to break the law but to fulfill it.   To be a Christian means to believe, but that is not all—it is a lifestyle.  To be a disciple means to follow in the way of the Lord- ever listening- ever learning. 


Prayer: Help me to understand that it is a blessing to me to have your Law.  Let me understand and to seek to please you. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Waiting for a Baby

13Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give youc a sign: The virgindwill conceive and give birth to a son, ande will call him Immanuel. 

Thoughts: This week or next week my daughter will have my third grandchild.  The whole pregnancy adventure is amazing.  The body instantly starts changing the minute the egg is fertilized.  In the end bones change, organs move and form.  Sometimes the body gains 50% of its own weight.  But the waiting is also amazing. The anticipation is great.  We know the baby is coming, but don't know exactly when.  In this passage and others it is clear that God is coming to earth.  The name "Immanuel" means "God with us."  We just don't know when He will show up.  Many spend their whole life waiting.  But God comes at the best time.  Patience while waiting is important, but waiting with anticipation is also important.  

Prayer: Lord, thank you for waiting until the time had fully come to come to earth for us.  

















Monday, November 28, 2016

Advent Day 2 Joshua 1:6-9

11/29- Joshua 1:6-9 Be careful to obey…Meditate on this Book of the Law Day and Night… Then you will have success- then you will prosper.

Moses was a great leader.  He led them away from slavery.  When he died, the temptation was to believe that they would have to figure this all out again.  But the Ten Commandments that God gave Moses were not written in clay or mud but on stone.  The great leaders know how to listen.  But the best one to listen to is the One who made us and gives us direction, truth, love, and purpose.  Joshua was told that if he listened and meditated he would succeed. 

Prayer: Lord, give me a heart to hear.  Make me a stronger person as I listen to you.  Keep me from failure and evil as I seek to please and honor you.