December 17: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Luke 2:15-16 When the angels returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go right now to Bethlehem and see what’s happened. Let’s confirm what the Lord has revealed to us.” They went quickly and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger.

advent

On this journey to Bethlehem, we have just encountered the angels (as the shepherds did). Here’s something to think about, “how do you respond after hearing from God?”

I believe the tendency could be to try to stay right there and internalize it so we could make sense of it. This way when we do tell our friends and those we encounter, we’ll be able to fully explain what we saw and what we heard and we’ll have researched the event and words enough to be able to explain it so our hearers would understand.

What I find interesting is that the text does not say how long the shepherds waited before hey went; but they did go “quickly.” I believe this should be our reaction and response too. God does not ask us to have everything figured out before we step out in faith; he just wants us to step out in faith, trusting him.

Another point this brings up is what to do after we hear from God. Our community (family, friends, trusted acquaintances, etc) is there to be a sounding board so we can have people to confirm/affirm/or maybe even give a new twist on what we heard. We should find ways to confirm what God has spoken. How that looks for you maybe different than me. I personally talk with trusted people to discuss what I felt God say, then we work together to continue listening for God, as we are moving in the direction sensed.

So when you hear from God our challenge is to keep the excitement and move “quickly,” bringing people along with us (the shepherds went as a community) to do the work God calls us to, or even what God calls us to see.

God, you speak to us. Help us hear with excitement what you say and move quickly to where you call us. Also, Lord, guide us to the people you want us to share this calling with. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

Paradigm Shift

I know many people have heard this story:

This man goes to his pastor one day and says, “Pastor, I’m at the end of my rope. I have lost everything!” The pastor listens as the man breaks down and tells the story of what happened and how he suffered financially. After awhile the pastor looks at the man and says, “I’m sorry you have lost your salvation.” “No,” said the man, “I haven’t lost my salvation.” “Oh,” the pastor says, “well, I’m sorry you have lost your hope in Christ.” The man said he hadn’t lost that either. The pastor goes on to say how sorry he is to hear the man lost his faith, God, the Spirit within him, his health, etc. The man hadn’t lost any of that. The pastor concludes and says, “Well, it seems to me you really haven’t lost anything.”

Isn’t this just like us though. When something does not work out the way we had intended or planned for it to work out, we begin to speak and think negatively. I am not saying here that positive thinking is the answer and will fix our “problems.” What I am saying here is there is another way to look at problems; firstly, by calling them “challenges.” This way we can begin looking for a solution to the “challenge,” rather than just complaining about the “problem.”

“Where are all the people? Why don’t we have more people here?”

We all have heard questions like this in any organization or group we are part of. The intent of the question is really asking and showing, or at least I hope it is, a genuine concern for the ones that are absent. But, what we do not realize is that we actually demean or devalue the people who are there. It’s almost as if a person might be saying, “You’re not good enough without the others here.”

Now, I know (or I hope) this is not what is meant; but this is how it can sound. If we take the time to look at who is there and see the giftedness they can bring, imagine the work that can be done. Instead of taking valuable time complaining and trying to think of what “other people” should be doing to bring in more people, we could simply look at who is there, thank God for each person and bless each person, then allow them to do what they know needs to be done.

This would require a drastic paradigm shift. We live in a culture that says higher numbers (money, people, projects completed, taller buildings, large stadiums, etc) are the answer and show success. I propose that we take some of the examples that come from the Bible and see what is really able to be accomplished with a “small” group of people:

  • Gideon (in the book of Judges) led an army of 300 Israelites (after an angel from God told him to) and defeated a larger Philistine army
  • David’s smaller group of soldiers was able to defeat larger armies than King Saul’s army was able to
  • We cannot forget the 12 apostles that went out into the world and turned the world upside down spreading the message of Christianity to everyone.
  • There are other examples in the Scriptures as well

The point is that we have much more going for us than we have going against us. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Just because the size of the group, bank account, task list, etc. is not where we would like it to be, doesn’t mean it has less value or is immobile.

I challenge each one of us (especially me) to look at what we do have and focus on that. This way we are not coveting or being jealous over another person, group, organization and we free ourselves to allow God to work through us (large number or small number) and see the great impact God, through us, will have in this world.

Last Saturday, I was able to preach a message called “Lasting Legacy.” We explored a few ideas from John Wesley’s life and final days to help us understand how his legacy is still revered the world over and how we can leave a legacy behind that outlives us and our family. I invite you to check it out.

May God continue to richly bless you in order to make an impact in this world for the Kingdom of God. We have all we need because we have the very presence of God with us and in us.

Real Strength

One of the traits I have observed people attempting to show is being a “strong man” or “strong woman.” I believe it is important to be a strong person; however, it also seems that people may have somewhat of a wrong idea about what it means to be strong. These are some qualities that may provide some idea that show true strength (emotional, mental, social, etc). I invite you to study this list and see if something should be taken off or added.

A “strong man” or “strong woman” should:

  • be compassionate toward others
  • be able to listen
  • realize there are things we can learn from anyone
  • be able to learn from other people
  • not think anyone is beneath them
  • be the most loving person (without allowing others to “run over them”)

These are just some of the qualities and traits of strong people. What else would you add?

Why?

There is a simple question most children will ask and it consists of three letters–“Why?”. They are curious and are simply seeking out answers so they can try to learn what’s going on or the reason behind a particular question or statement,  etc.

As I have grown older, “why” has become a favorite question for me to ask simply because I enjoy learning the “behind the scenes” instead of what’s shown. Seeking answers to this simple, three worded,  question has helped me understand people and situations with a clearer view than just taking it at face value.

This question also teaches me and reminds me I do not know it all and that I still have much to learn. This excites me that I get to learn something new all of the time!

How often do you ask “why?” and listen to the answer? This simple question also helps us keep a childlike attitude when it comes to viewing the world and seeing people as they are. Not just their skin color or what they have; but as someone we can learn from and see how much value they have.

Worship…Take Time to Worship this Weekend

Psalm 122:1 says “I rejoiced with those who said to me, ‘Let’s go to the Lord’s house.'”

How is it to you to go to a place of worship? The only thing that matters is that when we go to worship, we pause what we’re doing and allow the Holy Spirit of God to fill us once again. We all have busy schedules and an almost never ending to-do list, but we can also be excited to be around with other imperfect people so together we can worship the One who created each of us.

The joy of worshipping as a community comes from support and realizing we all have struggles in life but we can still be there for each other. Sharing the love of Jesus Christ with those around us in a worship service helps us to visibly see God moving in and through us to work with God and fill other hearts with peace and joy.

Where ever you might be this weekend, I hope and pray you find a place to worship and praise God (whatever that looks like for you), so that we can be filled together and go out together to bring the Kingdom of God closer to those who need it most (the outside world….and us!).

If you do not have a place of worship, you are invited to get a group of friends together and worship with us online Saturday night from 6:00pm-6:30pm central standard time. The message is “Seeking & Knowing God’s Presence” and we’ll look at and explore Exodus chapter 33.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZnpdwYGbVY (may have to copy and paste link)

We do not worship for ourselves, but to give honor and glory to God, our Creator.
Psalm 115:1 “Not to us, Lord, not to us–no, but to your own name give glory because of your loyal love and faithfulness!”

May the peace and love of God fill your heart and strengthen you today and forever more. Amen.

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