Monday, December 15, 2014

The Holiday Press

"And there appeared to him an angel from heaven strengthening him." Luke 22.43
The Last Night of Jesus by Stefan Kuhn
This morning we read about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane ... in the olive press, in the press of prayer to His Father to remove the cup of sacrifice. Then, Jesus says, "Nevertheless, not my will but yours, be done."

Holidays can be such a press of sacrifice for us. Oh, nothing like Jesus' sacrifice ... of humbling himself and becoming human, born in the messiness of childbirth ... or of humbling himself and giving his life, dying in the messiness of crucifixion. But, the press of the holidays can be a place where we learn ... even a little ... about humbling ourselves in the messiness of life. The press of the holidays can be our opportunity to experience and practice "His divine power [which] has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him - Jesus! - who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature..." 
(2 Peter 1.3-4a)

I don't know about you, but that is astonishing to me ... simply astonishing that I may become a partaker of the divine nature. Me ... in all my brokenness and frailty and failure? Yes, even me. Even you. Because of Jesus himself, His divine power, which has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.

The Father sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Jesus in his press. Jesus sends himself, his divine power to help us in ours. In Him we have faith. And, because of that faith we practice virtue ... like Him. And, that virtue gives us deeper knowledge ... of Him. And, that knowledge enables us to have greater self-control ... like Him. And, self-control grows a steadfastness within us ... like Him. And that steadfastness increases godliness ... like Him. And, godliness nurtures brotherly affection ... in Him. And, brotherly affection blooms into love ... as Jesus loves. The divine nature growing in us ... in Him.

Is this easy? I think not. After all it's in a press that we learn these things. So, during the holiday press, we can choose to grow like a green olive tree ... like those in the garden ... as we look to and ask our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ to send to us divine power to trust in the steadfast love of God and wait upon his name ... to be like Him. When we do this we say with Jesus, "Nevertheless, not my will but yours, be done" in me and through me.

Please do let me know if an angel appears.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

How Christmas Feels

"Ironically, in those times when it least feels like Christmas, it might be most like Christmas. When nothing seems comfortable, or normal, or familiar, we are closer to experiencing the purpose of Christmas than at any other time."
- Dan Schaeffer

This past Sunday a little booklet was tucked into my church bulletin, Finding Peace at Christmas. At the time I didn't think much of it. I already had my Advent devotional routine set and wasn't going to add anything to it. But, yesterday morning this little booklet kept turning up on my desk. I'd move it over to a chair or to the floor and before I knew it it was back on my desk. OK. OK! I'll read it!
And, what a gift!
The first 8 pages were an edited excerpt from Dan Schaeffer's book The Real Spirit of Christmas. He describes how Christmas and the holidays can be a challenge for many of us because they don't hold the "perfect holiday spirit" - the decorated tree and home, the festive dinner, the joyful family gatherings. In fact, many of us face broken family dynamics, serious illnesses of family or friends, homelessness, joblessness, depression, and more. What Rev. Shaeffer suggests is that this is when we feel the Christmas spirit most because this is when we become "keenly aware of how much we needed God to enter our world. We can't make heaven on earth, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we decorate. Sin has affected and infected everything we touch. We needed to be rescued. We needed a Savior."
And, so He came.
God's love for us was so great that Jesus gave up everything to come and rescue us ... to save us. He is the gift of Christmas. And, as we remember that first coming we are assured and confident of His coming again. There ... there it is. The gift of Christmas ... hope in Jesus Christ ... at his coming and his coming again! So, as we feel the Christmas spirit ... in what ever kind of Christmas we find ourselves in ... may we be filled with the wonder of His love and be comforted by His grace.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Season for Kindness

Dear All,
I don't know if you read the blog by Miriam Rockness about Lilias Trotter, but today is such a good one I want to share it with you. It is about kindness and how it changes us and others. With the season of Thanksgiving upon us and Christmas around the corner, this short devotional may change the way we journey through it. Another changing season ... enjoy...

Monday, November 10, 2014

Courage for the Changing Seasons

I just downloaded an upgrade for my Mac. One change that came with it ... I was able to answer a phone call with my iPad! At first, I didn't know what to do. But, I couldn't find my phone so I tapped that little green button that said, "accept". And, voila! I was speaking to my sister. Now, I can text through my computer, make a call from my iPad, and well, as it has been all along, I can do almost anything with my phone. Changing seasons.

These changes only make me aware of other changes happening around us all the time. There are changes in the natural world, the nations of the world, our communities, our churches, our families. There are changes in the seasons, in knowledge and understanding, in laws and governing, in relationships, in treaties, in headlines, in ... fill in the blank. It was Heraclitis that said, "Change is the only constant in life."
So, how will we face these changes?
In the love of God our Father.
And, we will walk into them with courage and faith in His love for us to keep us and guide us and save us from all the unknown of these changes.
In change we have no fear ...
because we know that God our Father is for us.

This song from Bethel Music has become one of my favorites for this changing season that I live in. I hope it will encourage you as well for whatever season you find yourself in. The words of the song follow the video.

I stand before You now
The greatness of Your renown
I have heard of the majesty and wonder of You
King of Heaven in humility I bow

As Your love, in wave after wave
Crashes over me, crashes over me
For You are for us, You are not against us
Champion of Heaven You made a way for all to enter in (to Your love)

I have heard You calling my name
I have heard the song of love that You sing
So I will let you draw me out beyond the shore
Into Your grace

You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave
No fear can hinder now the Love that made a way
You make me brave
You make me brave
You call me out beyond the shore into the waves
You make me brave
You make me brave

No fear can hinder now the promises You’ve made