POOR JOSEPH, WHAT A SITUATION

Mary is pregnant with Jesus. She is out of touch with her family, except for Joseph who is trying to care for her. They find a place to stay overnight . . . a stable for animals. I can identify with Joseph trying to care for Mary. My wife just underwent knee replacement surgery and Christmas is approaching. But as Mary was blessed with the Christ child, I am blessed with the Holy Spirit as my helper in caring for my wife. All of us have been through difficult times and, in Christ, we have a Companion to support us in our calling to care for one another.

Christmas is about God’s caring for us in all our needs. That doesn’t mean everything goes the way we want it to go, but it does mean that God in Christ is by our side, caring for both of us… all of us who put our trust in Him. When a loved one is distanced from us by illness or other circumstances we are not alone. God in Christ is by our side to support us with His love and care. Christ has even addressed the worst we could expect, namely death itself. In the newborn Jesus of Christmas we have been given the Christmas gift of life forevermore.

It is always time to learn to trust in God our Savior in this life and for the next. Someone once asked me, “What do you think we will do in heaven?” I answered, “We will be with the Lord!” Heaven is not about what we will do. It is about who we will be with, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The Trinity is and will be our family and we His Children!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, give us the Son to stand by us, and the Spirit to breathe new life eternally into our lungs forevermore. Amen

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Christmas Is About Christ, Not Decorations

As I look down the street and in store windows I see no mention of Jesus birth. I see colorful decorations and lights on houses, but no mention of what Christmas really is all about, namely the birth of God in human flesh as Jesus the Christ. This is no surprise, but it hits me every year that the celebration of Christmas has to do less and less about Jesus’ birth. For some years now we have had a sign over our door that I made myself and it says, “Come Lord Jesus!” It is highlighted by a spot- light from the ground shining upward.

We Christians know that Christmas is about more than “peace on earth” as opposed to war, and to children more than Santa Claus is coming to town. It is about our salvation and eternal life given in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but it all begins in Jesus’ birth. His coming down to earth is the beginning of our salvation and we rejoice in it: “Come Lord Jesus!” Christ’s coming has made our lives worth living and provides the ultimate hope we need, that there is a God who loves us and sent His Son to prove it.

So, we can enjoy the winter snow, the decoration of homes, the gift giving and the love of friends and the love of God in Christ. It is time to celebrate the gifts of God in Christ: forgiveness, new life, purpose in life and the anticipation of heaven someday. Rejoice and be glad. God loves you! Merry Christmas!

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, thank you for life and joy and hope forevermore. Lead me to faithfulness in this life and to fulfillment of life in Heaven. Amen

GETTING READY FOR CHRISTMAS

This year, “Getting Ready For Christmas” is different from any other for us since my wife is about to have surgery for a knee replacement next week. “Getting Ready” for us, means preparing for surgery and for Christmas. Both are sacred events to me since I both love God and my wife and pray for things to go well for her. Christmas is the celebration of God becoming flesh and blood among us in Jesus and that remains with us to the end of time, when we will see Him in Glory. Meanwhile, God cares for us throughout life, both in hardship and in joyful events. You probably share my feelings in your own troubled times and that makes us one, just as does our common faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who suffered on the cross for us and for our salvation.

Getting ready for Christmas is more than buying gifts and decorating the home, but these things are ways of celebrating God’s becoming flesh-and-blood among us in Bethlehem. That’s how we celebrate; with gifts God gives us out of love and invites us to love and give to others. They are gifts of love and care for those in need. The need may be for love and care or for material things to meet the needs of life. In some way giving the gift of care and love for others that we know and even for strangers who need this, is the pattern of Christmas. Jesus conquered death, gave us new life and His resurrection for our salvation. So getting ready for Christmas is still about Jesus birth, death, and resurrection! Rejoice, Christmas is more than we realize.

It is my prayer that God will bless your Christmas preparation and celebration and bless you with life-in-Christ even when this life ends and the new LIFE IN CHRIST materializes. God be with you and bless you.

Prayer: Lord be with us in this Advent of Christmas and help us to focus on you and not merely the fun things we do and share. In Advent, come Lord Jesus!

RELIEF IN STRESS

You have given me relief when I was in distress. Psalm 4: 1

Who hasn’t been in distress at times? God often gives relief, but not always. Sometimes things just go on and on and there is no relief. It may have been an illness of your own or of someone else you care about. It may be a problem in your family in which you find yourself trapped and unable to escape. So what do we do when we are trapped and there is no relief in sight? Do you ignore it or run from it? Or worse, fight it every day?

Taking things to God in prayer is where we start. But when things don’t improve what do you do? Fight it? Run from it? Get angry at it? The writer of Psalm 4 is giving thanks to God for the relief God gives. But what does that relief look like? Is the problem gone? Or is it still there, but you are now able to put the frustration and stress in God’s hands and find relief in accepting God’s will? Jesus did that Himself when he prayed in  Gethsemane: “Father, if you’re willing, remove this cup of suffering from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” Jesus still suffered, but he put himself into his Father’s hands” and found relief and courage to bear the cross that was given him to bear.

Life is full of stress and distress. Some of it comes with aging and things are harder to face and do. Some of it comes in bearing with someone else you love even in his or her suffering. Becoming bitter or angry doesn’t help; it just makes things worse. If we think of our own suffering in life, think of what it meant for Jesus who volunteered to take on the whole world’s suffering of sin to make a better place for us when we are worn out or dying. There is always hope for those who call on God to support them through it all. He stays with us, even as he hung on the cross for us.

Pour out your heart to Him; he will stay with you to comfort you.

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, our hope and our help, stand with us through the hard times and give us faith to trust all things to you. You suffered for us on the cross; help us to suffer with you on our crosses we bear in life. Amen

LIVE PEACEABLY WITH ALL!

If possible, live peaceably with all.  Romans 12: 18

What is peace? Is it the absence of conflict with others? Is conflict with others wrong? How can anyone live without conflict even with oneself, much less be that way with others all the time? The writer of this text is the Apostle Paul, previously named Saul who, before his conversion, persecuted Christians; not exactly a peaceful activity. But now Paul is a man who’s life-in-Christ changed him and he urges all those who claim faith in Christ to live peaceably with others. Paul is not just a peacemaker; he is a preacher who speaks rousing words to people who may or may not want to hear them. Even Jesus suffered because he spoke words people did not want to hear, such as words calling for righteousness and denouncing sinfulness.

Living peacefully with others does not mean avoiding conflict by avoiding speaking the truth that needs to be heard. Even speaking the truth in love doesn’t always result in peace with someone who doesn’t want to hear the truth. Those who reject Jesus as God-in-the-flesh are at odds with God and they naturally fight back against God. How then ought a believer to respond to that? Certainly, getting angry is not helpful as a witness to God’s love for us. We bring a message of peace to sinners like ourselves! Peace counts even when our message is interpreted by someone to be a verbal attack on him or her. Being faced with the reality of our sinful nature is not easy to receive. The love of God through us is part of how God’s love is offered to others.

“If possible, live peaceably with all.” But sometimes it is not possible and the truth is painful to those guilty of sin, who cannot own up to it. But in the end, forgiveness is our best gift from God even when it is painful to the guilty to receive it through their needed confession of sin to themselves and to God.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help us to recognize our sin when it speaks for us, so that we can live in the forgiveness you won for us on the cross when you paid for our sin with your life. Amen

 

 

ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD

We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.

Romans 8: 28

That’s hard to “believe” at times. It’s hard to believe that the things that are hardest for us or the things that hurt us the most can work for our good. I suppose it depends on what we man by the word GOOD. It isn’t that everything bad is good for us, but that God can change the course of things to make them work out for our good. The comfort we need is not that “everything” is made good for us, but that God can turn the bad into good. The cross is the epitome of this. Jesus’ death was painful for Him as he carried the weight of the world’s sin on his shoulders, but it worked wonders for us. It bought us salvation.

So it is in life. If we keep the faith and put our trust in God, all things really do work together for good to those who love God. The bottom line in this is that God stays with us no matter what we go though and he lifts us up out of our hardship, depression or grief to face life again with hope. Our hope is in the Lord just as his crucifixion became our salvation. We may suffer hard things to bear in life, but God is with us through it all and picks us up when we’re down. Ultimately, he lifts us out the grave and into heaven with Him forever. Remember that, and walk with Him through life!

When we’re down we need a fellow believer to walk with us so that there is really a gathering of three: you, a friend, and Jesus. Don’t walk alone! Don’t walk away from God in anger or despair. He’s there beside us to lift us up. Pour out your heart to Him and tell him your troubles. The Lord of the Cross will hear and understand. Jesus will walk with you through life. Take his hand by faith and walk in the confidence that you are not alone. In heaven, with Him, we will join those who also walked with Him in this life.

Prayer:

Lord, I feel alone at times and it hurts! Help me, in faith, to see you with me and lift my life again to live it in joy and peace with you and those around me. Amen

THE TIME HAS COME

The hour has come for you to wake from sleep for salvation is nearer to us now…

Romans 13:11

Church attendance seems to be dwindling in this country. The fewer number of people in the pew seems to increase weekly. More and more options other than Sunday morning worship present themselves. And with it, there seems to be a diminishing time for personal devotions at home during the week. Sundays are not what they used to be a generation or two ago. Competition in conflict with worship at the beginning of the week grows as work schedules demand more of our time and as home chores await us when we do have a little extra time. So, how important is it that we take time to attend church on a Sunday morning? Additionally, how important is it that we read our Bible daily and take time to pray for things facing us that day or that week? Part of the problem may be that we don’t know how to read our Bible if we have one, and the reality may be that we don’t know how to pray for what we need. Let’s see if this helps!

We need the Bible as the Word of God to us in a world continuing to fall away from God, only to end in disaster for those who turn away from or neglect God in their lives. God offers us himself as someone to come to with our problems and someone who offers us peace in our personal lives. Starting the day with personal, private prayer where we call on God for help is our start to recovery of the loss of God in our lives. Talk personally to God and ask for his help in getting through the day without missing out on his love and forgiveness that we need to live in peace and happiness. That doesn’t mean we won’t have problems in life, but it does mean that God will be at our side as healer and companion when we face trouble and our own fears. Look forward to each morning when we can pour out our heart to God and ask for his help and blessing that day. Admit the wrong-doing and wrong-thinking you have lived in this life and ask for his forgiveness, but also his help in finding your way through the day with hope and peace. God is our help in every need. God the Father is our Father who loves us. God in his son Jesus Christ is our Savior who gave his life for us on the cross to pay the price of our sins for us. God the Holy Spirit lives in us, walking the way with us because God loves us! Find the peace, hope and joy in life that you need to live in this world until God calls us to eternal life with Him in heaven forever.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus Christ, reawaken us to life lived by faith in you!