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.

Preparing for What?

We have just entered into the season of Advent. This marks the beginning of a new Christian church year. Advent is one of my favorite times because we have the opportunity to focus on the actions God took by becoming man, Jesus Christ. We are invited, once again, to deepen our faith and allow the message of the Christmas Story – the birth of Jesus Christ to change our hearts so we can work with God to change the world. Let’s make this season come alive with deeper meaning and joy.

As we begin this journey, we begin with a scripture passage of Jesus talking about the end times and the return of the Son of Man in glory. We will be asked some questions this week that I pray will cause us to really think about who Christ is to us and how His birth turned the world upside down.

You can read the scripture for this week here.

Today, we begin our journey by asking the question,”what are we preparing for?” It may seem a little strange to start the season of Advent with a passage about the end times and the Son of Man returning; but this is an ancient tradition that has helped Christians through the centuries to prepare their hearts and lives to fully celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.

We are preparing our hearts, our lives, our eyes for God’s actions in the world. Think about it, when we talk to God (pray), do we expect God to act? Another way to put it, when we pray for rain, do we pray with an umbrella in our hand or simply wish for it to rain without trusting that it will? God is acting in our world. Jesus said, “let those with eyes see and those with ear hear.” Do we notice all God is doing, even in the midst of turmoil?

We are also preparing for the birth of a Savior. This Savior is different. We do not have a Savior that will make our lives easier; but a Savior that will be with us every step of our life journey. When we need strength and endurance to endure hardships or difficulties in our life, Christ is with us.

We prepare for something new. Births of children are always the reminder of new life. This Advent, I hope we experience the new life God gives us each year, each day. We can trust that, even in the darkest times, Christ is with us in glory. Are we ready to celebrate His birth? Are we ready for His return?

How will we prepare for the birth of Christ in our hearts and lives this year so it’s not something we go through, but rather something we live for.

O come, O come, Emmanuel.

December 24: Merry Christmas!

We have been on this journey to allow the message of the Christmas story to change our hearts. Today I invite us to read the story of Jesus’ birth from the Gospel of Luke to hopefully hear it with fresh ears and a fresh heart.

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In those days Caesar Augustus declared that everyone throughout the empire should be enrolled in the tax lists. This first enrollment occurred when Quirinius governed Syria. Everyone went to their own cities to be enrolled.Since Joseph belonged to David’s house and family line, he went up from the city of Nazareth in Galilee to David’s city, called Bethlehem, in Judea. He went to be enrolled together with Mary, who was promised to him in marriage and who was pregnant. While they were there, the time came for Mary to have her baby. She gave birth to her firstborn child, a son, wrapped him snugly, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the guestroom.

Nearby shepherds were living in the fields, guarding their sheep at night. The Lord’s angel stood before them, the Lord’s glory shone around them, and they were terrified.

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.”

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. When they saw this, they reported what they had been told about this child. Everyone who heard it was amazed at what the shepherds told them. Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. The shepherds returned home, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. Everything happened just as they had been told.

~Luke 2:1-20 CEB

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December 23: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Matthew 28:20 “…..I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”

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These past 24 days, we have been on this journey which I hope has prepared your heart for Christmas in a fresh way this year. We have traveled with Joseph, Mary, the shepherds, the angels, Herod, the magi, and many more.

How does Christmas change you? Jesus Christ’s birth into the world is not just a cutesy story we hear each year. This is an incredible story that really changes everything. God, the creator of the universe, came down and became one of us in the human form of Jesus the Christ.

This birth, like ours leads to death. But there is something NEW that happens. Because Jesus Christ has risen from the grave, he has conquered death. It is great gift for God to walk among us AND it is an incredible gift that he chose to die a human death to conquer sin and death so that we can be in his presence. I heard this said, “Jesus did not die so we could go to heaven. Jesus died so we can get to God.”

That’s the great thing about Christmas. We remember God coming to us. God pursues us and showed he understood firsthand the human experience. We do not have a God who is aloof about what’s going on; we have a God who has walked with us and continues to walk with us today.

Jesus Christ is with us each and everyday! Our challenge is to live so the truth of his presence changes us and makes us stand out.

Lord Jesus, Thank you for your presence among us. Thank you for walking with us. Help us to see you each day. Continue to mold us into the new creations you created us to be. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 22: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Matthew 2:10-12 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy. They entered the house and saw the child with Mary his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route.

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We are now just a few days away from Christmas and celebrating once again the birth of Jesus Christ. In our passage today, we see the wise men (magi), have come to visit the toddler Jesus in his home. Even though this even took place up to two years after Jesus’ birth, there is still something here for us to see and hear during this Advent season.

The magi entered the house, bowed down and gave their gifts. So what is really interesting, to me, is how these verses today end: “they went back to their own country by another route.”

The magi left different. They still went back home, but they left different. After you and I celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ this year, we should leave different and not take the same path back we searched for him on. This means, we do go back into our home, work, school, life; but we are different. We do not have the same patterns, the same “rituals,” the same direction. Our new purpose is that of following Christ and helping people find him. You and I have become the angels (messengers of God) to proclaim to those who feel unworthy that the God in heaven loves and adores them and is longing to be around them.

How will you be different this Christmas season?

Jesus, too often we hear the story of your birth in this world and it does not phase us. We seek for and long to be in your presence. Help us proclaim to others your reality and your love for them, even if we feel too important. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 21: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Matthew 2:7-9 Then Herod secretly called for the magi and found out from them the time when the star had first appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search carefully for the child. When you’ve found him, report to me so that I too may go and honor him.” When they heard the king, they went; and look, the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stood over the place where the child was.

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King Herod obviously has ulterior motives when he calls the magi back to his presence in secret. What he did not know is that God was using this time to fulfill his plan of the magi visiting the baby Jesus. Herod could have easily said they could not pass through; he could even have tried to stop them from going further. But Herod allowed them.

Little did Herod know that God was moving and using the situation and the people. Which brings us to today’s thought. Where can you see God working in your life today? Do you realize that God is working in you and through you? There are people  whom you interact with that God knows you are the right person for the task, even if you do not believe in God.

Our challenge today, and really everyday, is to be open to how God is leading. Many times we will not know or see God working, but he is. He is using ordinary people in ordinary ways to show the extraordinary. God is working through you.

Lord, thank you for choosing to work through us. Help us to see your work and give you glory. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.

December 20: Prepare (Advent 2014 Devotional)

Matthew 2:3-6 When King Herod heard this, he was troubled, and everyone in Jerusalem was troubled with him. He gathered all the chief priests and the legal experts and asked them where the Christ was to be born. They said, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for this is what the prophet wrote: You, Bethlehem, land of Judah, by no means are you least among the rulers of Judah, because from you will come one who governs, who will shepherd my people Israel.”

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We have come to an interesting point in our journey this advent season. Herod trying to figure out where the “King of the Jews” would be born.

At first glance, these verses may not make sense being part of a devotional series preparing our hearts for Christmas; but if we look closely and listen we can see a couple incredible things.

First, this passage shows that Herod was not paying as close attention to his area as he should have. Have you been busy in the business of the Christmas season, that you may have missed something important? We all get caught up in our lives and become so inwardly focused that we can miss what God is doing all around us, especially if it does not directly pertain to us. I believe part of the reason for the Advent season is to remind us to be patient and expectant. This means we look for Christ is all we see, hear and do. We are patient because we take the focus off of ourselves and onto God. We are expectant because we should love to see that God is doing around and in us.

Second, this passage shows that Herod had learned people around him to continue to teach him. Who do you have around you that you can ask questions to so you don’t come up with your own conclusions; but you can learn from each other? Being in community is another part of the Advent season. God comes down to be with his people (community).

As we’re getting closer and closer to Christmas, let’s all pay close attention to what’s going on around us so we don’t miss God’s work in the world and in our lives. Let’s also continue to keep learning from each other.

Holy God, you do incredible works all around us. Thank you for inviting us to observe, yet be part of your working in this world. Help us open our hearts to see and hear from you as we prepare to celebrate, once again, the birth of Jesus the Christ. Come, Lord Jesus! Amen.