They Didn’t Expect God

They were just going through life’s motions.

A couple thousand years ago a couple was traveling. They were traveling for Christmas break, they just didn’t know it. Well, actually, they were the only ones that did know it. Turns out that this family gathering that they were going to was about to really turn things upside down in the world as we know it. It was a family gathering really it was. web-mary-riding-donkey-travel-pdJoseph was returning to his home town because a law was passed that said everyone had to return to their home town with their families to be registered. To sign up and be counted. It was a census. I’m going to be honest with you, it would have been so much easier on Mary if they had telephones or door to door census takers. I remember when you could get a job as a census man. Anyway, because Joseph was returning to his home, we can understand that any other male members of his family were returning with him as well. Cousins, uncles, grandfathers, great grandfathers; it was a family gathering.

They were not expecting God or looking for God.

As this family gathered though, a couple of them probably knew it was time for the baby. Mary, the pregnant mama, and Joseph, her husband, were the ones that knew this was THE Child of God; the Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one. Everyone else went into the first Christmas and no one was expecting God. Shepherds were out in the field at night doing shepherdy things. There was a convoy of strangers heading to Jerusalem following betshep.jpga star; they were anticipating a new King in a palace. The National government was busy collecting taxes and counting heads of families, trying to get a grasp on who this nation was. The local eateries and lodging establishments were just trying to keep up with demands. They were probably trying to maximize their living spaces, table spaces and menus, in order to take advantage of this opportunity. Demanding a census had the effects of a “Jobs Initiative.” Got all kinds of day laborers working. Most likely had people scrambling to even find good help. None of them were expecting God.

Mary and Joseph’s family – not expecting God

The Shepherds – not expecting God

Inn Keeper – not expecting God

Tax collectors – not expecting God

Travelers – not expecting God

Workers – not expecting God

Everyone – not expecting God

Today is like yesterday

IMG_2390Today I see Christmas trees going up, lawn ornaments going up, lights sparking on roofs and in the trees and bushes of my neighbors. There was Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Internet shopping, Amazon Dropping, UPS delivering, USPS arriving, and FEDEX bring in the haul. Churchy religious people and organizations are ramping up their services, setting out more chairs, printing tickets, Getting the flying angels flying, rounding up the camels and sheep for the Holy City drive through. All things considered, we are in the same place that the world was back then; not expecting God. And please, before you go and take offense and get your acid reflux refluxing, no one is expecting God to break in and take us all home, if they were, they’d be dumping bank accounts, selling off property, giving their things away. You would be out inviting your neighbors into your personal salvation story. Expressing to them the joy of following Jesus, the promise of his second coming, and what all it has mean for you to walk with him.

BEHOLD

But time and time again, the story of God and His desire to save His greatest creation, His best work, His children, is interrupted by the statement “Behold!” This word is usually followed by “and the angel said,” “the Lord said,” “the Angel of the Lord said,” “Do not be afraid.”

God wants your attention this time

BEHOLD. Our Christmas series this year is “BEHOLD.” The moments in history when God did something miraculous, amazing, supernatural; when He loved on his children and they didn’t even see it coming. BEHOLD means, “Look,” “Pay attention,” “Do you see this?” It is God asking for your attention to let you know he is doing something really big. Something in your life.

For Christmas this year, Ask Seek and Knock

This Christmas season I want to encourage you to ask God for a “Behold” moment in your life.

It could very well be that he says, “Behold, I want you to pay for that family’s lunch.” He may say “Behold, I am answering your prayer …” He may crash into your Christmas and let you know that he never left you, never forsook you, and he is still actually arranging things on your behalf. Whatever it is, it will be an opportunity, and it will be in conjunction with his expectation of your obedience, to follow Him; to let Him lead the dance that is your life. Behold moments don’t come while we are ignoring him, leaving him out, or living in sin. These moments come when we get to the end of ourselves and finally let go and give in to His love for us.

Look around and expect God. Seek Him during this season and ask for a “BEHOLD” experience this year.

 

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Stop struggling, stop striving today!

Joseph's Pictures 219Psalm 29:10-11 (NIV)

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord is enthroned as King forever.
11 The Lord gives strength to his people;
    the Lord blesses his people with peace.

 

Today I want to share a moment of serendipity with you, a moment that occurred as I was reading my Bible. I opened up to a passage and as I prepared my heart I saw a passage above that I had marked previously. As I gazed upon my marks and read the words, God poked my heart and said, “Good morning Joe.” So I pass this on that God may also poke your heart and let you know that he is here. Now matter what it is that you are about to face, big or small, he is here. No matter how loud the noise, how dark the night, how evil the valley, he is here. He knows your name. He loves you. He prepared a place for you near him. Like the swallow that builds her nest near the altar, God has a place for you as well. It is in his blessing.

“The Lord sits…”

Notice that with everything that is going on in your world and mine. With all the false media, the lies, the hate, the wars, the hurt, the rejection, and all the meaningless activity of the mass of humanity, God sits. He isn’t running around threatening, shaking his fist. God is not scared or worried. No, God sits. He is relaxed and watching his children. For some he is sad, for some he rejoices but for all he sits and is working for our good. The scripture says he sits enthroned OVER the flood. He is not worried about the turbulent waters that are crashing down and destroying the earth that time he “started over” with Noah. God is not spazzed or even remotely worried about that flood will do anything other than what he will allow. No, in all our worry, and as we try so hard to get God all wound up in our drama, he sits above the threats. Close your eyes and look at how peaceful he sits on the throne. God is at peace always.

“The lord is …”

I cannot make you believe that God is. I know he is. I cannot prove it to you any more than you can prove he isn’t. I entered this world as a self-absorbed narcissist and until I realized that I am the one that is responsible for my sin, I had no hope. When I saw the God sent his son to die for my sins so that I do not own them, so that I do not suffer the consequence of them nor will they keep me from the throne room any longer, when I surrendered to that truth, my life began to change. You see, In my life, “The Lord IS …” Not only is it true that God is, he is enthroned as the King of the universe. I do not have to be able to answer all the “Why’s” and all the “How’s” or anything else, to know that I am created. The cake doesn’t have to thoroughly know the baker to know there is a baker and the cake is not it. God is too grand, to beautiful, too wonder-full for me to comprehend. Any one that says otherwise is a liar and the truth is not in them. I cannot fathom the depths of God other than to try to understand what he has revealed and reveals to human kind. The lord is King over all that he has made, he is alone is judge, not me.

“The Lord gives …”

Of all the “deities” in this world that have been made up, the God of the Bible is hands down the most generously giving and the most loving. The Lord gives. God wants to give. It is his love language. He gives life, he gives a place with him in heaven, he gives forgiveness when we slander and crucify him. He gives when we need help, he gives when we need knowledge, he gives when we need love, he gives when we need a family, he gives, and gives, and gives. We on the other hand take, and take, and take, and take. It’s our humanity. It’s our sin. You cannot out give God, but you do not want to understand how stingy he can be. When God asks for us to give back to him, he is serious. To ignore obedience to the Word is to prove that we esteem God as nothing more than a spiritual vending machine. It only proves the depth of our self-centered depravity; shame on us. Sometimes what God gives is the strength to face giants, kill lions, strike down serpents, overcome disasters and face adversity with grace and hope. That’s more than any other clay figurine on a shelf is going to give you. My God says he will give you the gift of his presence; You will not be alone. The Lord gives.

“The Lord blesses …”

As we consider “The Lord gives,” what ever the Lord gives is a blessing to you and I. We may always know why he allows the pain and struggle, and it certainly was not his initial plan for humanity, but he come-follow-mecan work it out for our good. The blessing of God is gold in the hands of the righteous. The joy of knowing that the favor of the King of the universe rests upon you brings peace. It doesn’t mean there are no problems in your life. It isn’t a reflection of the absence of struggle and hurt, no, it is the knowledge that he is your father, and he is doing what is best for you at every turn of the sun. It I knowing that though you are outside in the playground called earth, he is intimately aware of what you are doing and going through. Not only is he watching you, but he is “standing” right here while you are preoccupied with all that is going on. His blessing is his gift to you. It is for eternity, but you need to take it. You need to receive it and open it. Know this peace that in the face of death, carries you through all the darkness you may face and all the joy you may encounter.

Today, as you go through this day, remember,

“The Lord sits …”

“The Lord is …”

“The Lord gives …”

“The Lord blesses …”

and YOU are the object of all this love today.

 

 

 

Keep running

 

SERIOUSLY? 4:30am?

4:30 am comes really early every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Actually, it comes too early. This week it was raining “like for real” on Wednesday so we got to skip. Why do I get up on MWF that early? To run. I know that on these days my friend Bruce is coming over. I know that I need to beat him to my driveway or he will leave without me and I will have to run alone. It is a choice. Every day that he is coming I have a choice to make. Roll over or get up and start stretching.

running-shoes-02Bruce and I spend about 45 minutes running 3.4 miles on these days. When my alarm goes off I hate Bruce. Not really, but man I wish he could just run those miles by himself and I would get the benefit from them.

It is probably good that my alarm clock was made by Apple and is also my phone. I set my 6S to a “descending harp” to try to not wake my wife. If all of this was not so, I would have destroyed the alarm a long time ago. But since it is not a $20 alarm clock from Walmart, I am very careful. It is bad enough to buy running shoes and insoles for running shoes; I don’t need to buy a new phone because of this running thing.

Why do you do this?

Someone asked me today why I do it. Well, 4:30 is because I want to run with Bruce. Bruce is good for my soul. Bruce is both a metaphor for Barnabas, “the son of encouragement,” and the Holy Spirit. As we run, (not sprint, more than jog) we talk. Bruce is deep and human at the same time. He cares enough to say the truth and he loves enough to lift me up. I hope I do the same for him. As a pastor this is so important to my soul. He allows me to rant and rave and run. He lets me laugh and cry and wonder. He reminds me of truth and pulls me back when my heart is assuming something wrongly.

Just keep running!

As we run we have a 1.1+ miles course around our housing community. It has hills and flats and is really a nice loop. We run it two to three times depending upon the morning. The first loop is the hardest, then it gets a little easier. As we pass my house for the second time there is no going back so it’s three!

my-houseI can see my house from the other side of the community since it’s a bit of a draw down in to the housing development. As I get to a certain spot, I see the lights, four white dots and the front porch light way across the way. Each time I get to that spot, I think, “I’m almost there, I can do this.” As we run, Bruce will say, “We just need to run to that light up there.” Or, “Just to the white mailbox” Or, “We can run to the truck or the white sign what ever you want.” But we keep moving forward. Then we get to the spot where I see my house. It’s actually a little less than half way to the house from there.

I’m reminded of heaven this morning as I was running. I’m 56 years old this year and I am doing this for my health. I don’t always like it. As a matter of fact, I‘m actually an addict. Yes, I am a pillow addict. If I weren’t this would not be so hard. I want to stay on my pillow! I don’t like doing things that are good for me. I would rather take advantage of my body; feed it donuts, sit on the couch, ride my motorcycle, go to dinner. I would rather do anything than suffer the pain of making my body smaller. But I see the lights.

I made a decision in 1977 to surrender my life to Jesus. Not “accept” him, but “surrender” to him. Now, I’m not saying I’m perfect, or “holier than thou,” no, what I am saying is I am part of the family of the King of the Universe and he loves me enough to die for me. Because of that decision on his part, and my decision on my part, I keep running in step with him. And when I do fall, I get back up; I don’t want to end up on the proverbial couch again.

As I am going through this life I look across time and I see the lights of my home: heaven. Those lights say to me, “Keep running you are almost there.” The Holy Spirit whispers in my ear, “Keep running, it is all worth it, just run until tonight.” Then tomorrow he says, “Just run until tonight again.” And because of that, we run together and each day gets me one step closer to home. Each day the running gets easier.

My house is a home

my-living-roomWhen I get home from running with Bruce, I walk into a home. I ran to a house, but I walk into a home. The house is the structure; the home is what my wife has made it. The house draws me; the home welcomes me. Honestly when I think of Jesus preparing a place for me, I don’t think house or mansion like so many do, I think “HOME.” He made me a home; a place to come in and crash, a welcoming place that is safe, and protects me, and is where I belong.

Paul wrote to the Hebrews,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”                    Hebrews 12:1

Keep running friend, just to the lights.