Filled With Expectation

As I read the verses for today, I think of the Johnny Carson show where Ed McMahon announced, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!!!” The expectation of the audience was raised when those words were spoken with excitement. I remember watching the Johnny Carson Show and loving hearing him announced.

I think a similar response happened with the crowd around John the Baptist when he was telling the crowd about the Messiah who is coming.

Click here to read Luke 3:15-18.

John has just finished telling the crowd what a changed heart and changed life (repentance) looks like and many were wondering if he was the Messiah promised or not.

It can be easy to read these verses in a monotone, unenthusiastic tone; but I do not believe this was John’s tone at all. I believe he would have been excited about telling the people of the coming Messiah. He would have been convicting, yet excited about telling the crowd of repentance and baptizing. This excitement must have transferred to the crowd.

The crowd gets rev’d up when something amazing is happening or about to happen. John is telling the people about the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ) and some of how He will live out His life. John proclaimed Christ to all who came and would listen!

How excited are we when we read the story of Jesus’ birth? How does our tone, our inflection, or volume change when we speak about Jesus Christ to others?

The Savior of the world is here. This is exciting news of great joy for all people! Our challenge is to have our attitudes of excitement become contagious so others will see there is something great and amazing about the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Life Lived for Christ

Max Lucado says, “think what you think about.” One of the things I appreciate about this is that is forces us to think about why we do the things that we do. Our life is supposed to show our love of God and love of people. Jesus said in John 13, “everyone will know you are my disciples when you love each other.” Love begins with a thought and permeates every part of our being. So, we should think about our motives and how we live our life.

If you were in this crowd, how would you respond to John the Baptist? Click here to read Luke 3:7-14.

The other gospel accounts have John calling the religious leaders “brood of vipers” or “children of snakes.” But in Luke, something else happens. John is calling the crowd, “you brood of vipers” or in this translation, “you children of snakes.”

I’m not sure about you, but this would catch my attention being called that. The next few words out of his mouth would determine whether or not I would stay to listen.

John Wesley also warned people to “escape the wrath to come.” We have a choice: to live a life focused on angry judgement, or the grace of God. John the Baptist simply says, “produce fruit that shows you have changed your hearts and lives.”

What does this looks like? This is not about “earning” God’s grace or “earning” salvation. This is about allowing Jesus Christ coming into our life to change how we live. John the Baptist gives examples to people how this life looks when we change our hearts and lives (repent).

Christmas is a great time to remember that God came down in human form, Jesus Christ. His real presence in the world changes everything!

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Wilderness & Crooked Paths

Advent is a season we prepare our hearts and lives for the coming of the Christ child and anticipate His return. As we look into the process of preparing our lives, we can see how crooked and off the path we have gotten at times. It seems to be human nature to look after only ourselves. We all have been in the wilderness spiritually/emotionally and have tried to get where we are going by the longest way possible.

John the Baptist does something that I think we all can do. He comes out of the wilderness/desert and lives the life that God, the Creator of the universe, created him to do.

Click here to read this week’s scripture passage.

John has been living in the desert for close to 30 years when God’s word came to him to begin proclaiming the words of Isaiah: “prepare the way of the Lord.”

His mission was to tell the people that God was coming to straighten out the crooked paths. In essence, he was inviting people to live their lives out of the wilderness/desert. We have to ask, “what is your desert?” Do you feel dry spiritually, emotionally, relationally, financially? I believe God is calling each of us to live lives of hope and joy because He provides what we need.

Jesus tells us not to worry; but to trust that God is providing enough for us. After all, if He provides for the lilies of the field, how much more will he provide for us?

Crooked paths. We all have made choices that have hindered our walk with God and people. Our crooked paths may be this way because of the road blocks we have set there or allowed to fall on our path. Prejudice. Our own self desires above others. Pride. Anxiety. And many more.

God doesn’t come into the world to fix the world; but to invade the world. He comes in like a bulldozer clearing out the path so we can follow Him. Jesus Christ is like God’s bulldozer. We trust Him to guide us, to be our light, our bread, our water, our hope. Nothing is the same after a bulldozer passes through. Nothing is the same after we follow Christ.

Instead of a path of destruction, we now have a path to God that is getting cleared.

Are you ready for Christmas and the work that God is doing in our world through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

Proclaiming God’s Forgiviness

We have several topics of conversation during the Christmas holidays. We’ll talk of love, family, weather (good or rough), relationships, parties, gifts, etc. Our conversations are around the goodness of the season. Yet, this is one of the most stressful times of the year.

During this season, it seems we are more likely to be harsh with another person because they say the wrong thing. We see through the media doing anything they can to get the “perfect” gift. We are more likely to give this time of year; but we get frustrated with how many people are asking for donations.

This time of year, we say “Jesus is born” and “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Before Jesus preached his first sermon, John the Baptist was on the scene telling people to repent and receive God’s forgiveness.

Click here to read this week’s scripture passage.

Repent. God’s forgiveness. These are topics of conversation that we really only hear in the church. It is so easy to get caught up in the to-do’s and all the festivities that we can forget to proclaim the forgiveness and grace of God to people. This is the real gift that comes at Christ’s birth.

His life, His death AND His resurrection were all done so we can be reconciled to God. No longer to we have to live in fear. No longer do we have to live separate from God.

The question we all have to answer is “will you accept this gift?” Gifts that are held on to don’t really live out their full potential. It is when we share that the gift brings extra joy. This is how it is with Jesus Christ.

So, instead of simply saying “Merry Christmas,” how about taking time to give someone the gift (out of love for God and them) of Jesus Christ by telling how He changed your life and how their life might be different.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

John the Baptist

John the Baptist is one of my favorite biblical characters because he definitely stands out and people take notice of him. He is memorable, not only of his message, but of his clothing and food choices.

Though the Gospel of Luke does not mention him wearing camel’s hair and eating locusts and wild honey, Matthew and Mark do. This is still the image we can have of John as we read his proclamation to “Prepare the way of the Lord!”

Click here to read this week’s scripture passage.

Mark Twain said, “the two greatest days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” I imagine John felt excitement when his time had come to deliver God’s message to the people the Messiah is coming.

What joy! What exhilaration! He was finally able to go and do what he was born to do! He went out to preach a sermon that no one really wanted to hear; but needed to hear: prepare for the Lord’s Messiah, seek forgiveness and repent. I would imagine the people did not want to hear they have to change their hearts, their lives, their will. I imagine the people only wanted to hear their lives will be better and that God will com in to take care of the “real” problem: the Romans.

What message is it you want to hear at Christmas? The sweet story of a baby being born and the angels and shepherds giving God glory and praise? Or, are we preparing ourselves fully for the complete gift of God through Jesus Christ and realize His life, His death, AND His resurrection are the reason we are reconciled to God.

To fully see the beautiful picture of Christ at Christmas, we have to be different from our culture and see the gruesome death that is coming.

How do you stand out to show the full meaning of Christmas?

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

December 11: Prepare (Advent Devotional 2014)

Luke 1:67-80 John’s father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, “Bless the Lord God of Israel because he has come to help and has delivered his people. He has raised up a mighty savior for us in his servant David’s house, just as he said through the mouths of his holy prophets long ago. He has brought salvation from our enemies and from the power of all those who hate us. He has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and remembered his holy covenant, the solemn pledge he made to our ancestor Abraham. He has granted that we would be rescued from the power of our enemies so that we could serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness in God’s eyes, for as long as we live. You, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way. You will tell his people how to be saved through the forgiveness of their sins. Because of our God’s deep compassion, the dawn from heaven will break upon us, to give light to those who are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide us on the path of peace.” The child grew up, becoming strong in character. He was in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

advent

How do you view your life? Do you like to be the one getting recognized, or are you comfortable being the one behind the scenes for another person? It is important to know roles we play in our lives.

Here, we find Zechariah giving a prophecy about his son. No doubt he is extremely proud of being a father and excited to watch his son grow up. But if we read this prophecy carefully, it is really about the Messiah to come (Jesus Christ) and the role of John to play in the people recognizing and following Christ. So in reality, this prophecy is saying that John is actually going to play a part behind the scenes for the fulfillment of God’s plan with Jesus.

No doubt, this shaped his upbringing and how he was treated. John became the “pointer” to Christ. This is how our lives should be. Everything John did in his ministry, while alive, pointed people to the Messiah. Even to the point of bowing out when it was his time saying, “He must increase and I must decrease.”

Our challenge today is to see is we are the ones trying to be out front, or if we are doing everything we can behind the scenes to let Christ be known.

Thank you God for the opportunity to be lights in this world so people can see you through us. Help us be the brightest lights we can be and remember this season is about Jesus and not gaining material goods. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen