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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IT COULD BE ME?

Lion roaring1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

I want to go HOME

I sit here in my favorite coffee shop looking out at the world and I struggle to even want to be here. When I say “here” I mean, “on the planet,” not here in the coffee shop. The coffee shop feels safe, it feels friendly, it feels comfortable. It is small and for whatever reason I feel protected, like I do in my home. My home is safe, my wife makes it a refuge. When I am here or there the “ugly” is far away. There is no hate allowed here at the coffee shop. Everyone is welcome to come here. They will love you and serve you and make you a coffee that will rock your world.

But I cannot live here in this oasis and last week was terrible in our hemisphere. I don’t think it compares to things going on in other parts of the world: the starvation, wars, kidnapping, mutilations and the bombings and genocide. But that doesn’t make it less real.

I CAN FEEL IT

I feel the evil affecting my soul again and I have to reach deep to shake myself. Then today I woke up to a pastor falling to alcoholism and it just touched me hard. I don’t idolize him. I have been to his church conference and it was good. I don’t care for some of his theologies, (surely the kingdom of God is not about punching people in the throat or shooting them if they enter his home) but hey, I like his preaching and I like that he is sold out to the kingdom work in a large, get off your butt and do it big, sort of way. I love that he appears to spell faith, “RISK.” I appreciate that he gave and gave and gave. I really appreciate that he inspired me at one point in my own ministry. But, my heart hurts for him and I feel afraid, and yes, I know this fear is not from God.

There have been times

This pastor IS still a leader; as pastors we are all leaders. Leaders in a war we can barely see, but we see better than the average church go-er. The battle worn, the mutilated, the broken, the chewed upon, they walk into our offices every day. At times we can jump to it and bind up the weary and the broken hearted, comfort and bless, and at times we have no clue what to do or how to help. Sometimes we watch people switch sides in the battle and at times we watch people walk away wondering, “What could I have done better?” Beating ourselves up believing we failed, or thinking we “could have, should have,” and yet, we aren’t God. And If I can be honest without being needy, at times I have envied those that could throw up their hands and walk away. I would dare say there are times I have longed to be able to do that.

As I think about this man and his ministry to so many, I am aware of Peter warning us all that Satan, a very personal accuser, is a roaring lion, but he is not just running around or laying around making noise, no, he is seeking some to devour, to destroy.

Could that be me?

I cannot help but glance around and wonder when and how he will come after me. For I know my calling is to give him reason. Will he wreck my life today? Can I remain focused through the negativity thrown at our local leadership, the world attacking our local church and the hate being spewed across all the news venues, as well as standing against my own temptations? Will he sneak up when I least suspect it and destroy everything God has allowed me to be a part of? And if he were to succeed, then what of the church (the people), what of those that work here and have their income here? The weight, the fear, it can be incredibly unbearable at times.
This is the fear that haunts me daily as I hear King David saying,

                   “5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
                      sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
                       6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
                      you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
                      7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
                      wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
                                                      Psalm 51

He has given me a hope

What is our hope then? Who can be called his son or his daughter that is born of this world? There is none, no not one, that is righteous enough in and of themselves to enter heaven; to dwell with God. We all stand condemned whether it is in thought or deed; we all were born evil, sinful and lost. We all need a rescuer, a savior and I for one am grateful that God sent one.

I am in need as well

I have not yet preached a sermon, done a deed, planned an outreach, sacrificed, given or paid for something, nor led a person to Christ, or any other thing that would even catch God’s attention, let alone impress him to allow me to enter his presence. My good “things” will never outweigh the dirt on my soul, the selfish intent of my heart nor the greed in my spirit. I need a savior. I need Jesus more than anyone else on this planet.

lion in the grassSo today I look around and tentatively, with great fear, I stare into the tall grass of this world, looking for a telltale sign of a lion. Is that a shadow of something prowling? Is that the swish of grass, dragging down the side of my soul’s predator, as he moves closer for the pounce? Today will I be the focused attention of such a vile spirit? Is it greed, or lust, pride, or idolatry about to break forth from the grass and kill me?

Of the tribe of Judah

My hope is in the Lion next to me: The Lion of the tribe of Judah in whose shadow I run. In whose name I have life. Praise God his love was sacrificial and daily transforming. Praise God almighty that his name is

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.”

Praise God he knows my name, and though the enemy may wound me, he cannot take my life, for I have given it freely to my Lord, it belongs to him. But I still fear the wound the enemy may cause; so I watch.

Cry with me, pray with me

Today my souls cries in pain for this pastor that I love, that does not know me. Today I know, there but for the grace of God go I. Today I do not get haughty or take any joy, for that could just as quickly be me.
Today I am aware that I need your prayers just like this pastor does.