Monday, November 30, 2009


"Be silent, all people, before the LORD; for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."
(Zechariah 2:13)

We traditionally sing "Silent night, holy night..." on Christmas Eve - in fact, we sing it by candlelight at our church (like many others do, too).  It's always a very calm, quiet & reflective time.  All the rushing around is over.  Now we simply wait for Christmas morning to come.  It's fairly easy to be "silent" on Christmas Eve.

But Zechariah's call to "be silent" isn't directed to one specific night.  Zechariah records a series of visions from God (6 to be exact).  It's at the end of the 2nd vision (God's presence as a "wall of fire" around Jerusalem, and the promise of all nations coming  to worship God together there) that God calls the people to practice silence before God.

Surely he doesn't mean that for us now, though... right?  There's just too much to do!  Too many "boxes" we need to check off our lists.  Too many things this holiday season demands of us, right?  But if God is in our midst (as Zechariah asserts), then maybe we ought to take notice!?!  Can we see signs of "Emmanuel" (God-with-us)?  And when we do, can we stop our busy-ness long enough to be silent... to take in God's majesty & awe?  Maybe then we'd come to experience the true power of Christmas!?!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

What's missing?!

FROM MONDAY, 11/23...

"(Jesus) unrolled the scroll adn found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...'"
(Luke 4:17-18)

It was supposed to be a joyful homecoming.  The kid from Nazareth had returned.  Jesus was back.  He was home... and he was preaching.  Luke records this incident very early in Jesus' ministry career.  He comes to the synagogue for worship... gets up to read scripture... and selects Isaiah 61.  Great passage!  "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

The Hebrew community LOVED this passage from Isaiah.  It marked a future time when God's Chosen One would come and set everything right.  And Jesus quoted it exactly... almost.  You see, he left out one part from Isaiah 61:1-2.  He left out "and the day of vengeance of our God."  Simple oversight?  Perhaps.  Calculated omission?  Probably.  It helps to remember that the Jewish people had centuries of foreign occupation and rule.  They were frequently getting "dumped on" by others.  Surely  God would eventually exact revenge, right?  They looked forward to that vengeance.  But Jesus left it out.

It's interesting that the Eastern translation of Luke 4:22 says, "All spoke ill of him" (rather than the current "all spoke WELL" translation).  How could he intentionally leave out vengeance?  Jesus goes on to highlight God's blessings on two non-Jews (the widow @ Zarephath in Sidon and Namaan the Syrian)... which threw the hometown folks into a rage (v.28) and they turn into an angry mob, trying to throw Jesus off a cliff!

What caused this sudden turn of events?  I bet it goes back to Jesus' omission from Isaiah 61:2!  Everyone loves revenge... to get back at our enemies... to give it to those who've been giving it to us!  Jesus said no to that.  That's not the way.  Instead, he taught, try peace... reconciliation... tolerance... forgiveness... grace.  And that ticked everyone off.

I'm sure if he came to preach that same message today, WE would have a much different reaction, right?  (Right?!) Or would we?

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Here comes the bride..."

"Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready; to her it has been granted to be clothed with fine linen, bright & pure" - for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints."
(Revelation 19:7-8)

THE END OF THE WORLD IS NEAR!  (At least people enjoy speculating about it, don't they?  See the #1 film in the box office this weekend as proof - '2012')  The book of Revelation surely doesn't shy away from dealing with THE END of all things.  And although there are moments of fire-n-brimstone, the actual culmination of it all takes a decidedly different feel - a wedding!

Jesus... the Lamb who was slain for the sins of the world.. returns in gloyr, like a groom awaiting his bride.  The church (or, more specifically, the faithful!) is the bride - in all her radiant splendor - prepared for her wedding day.  We're told she's "clothed with fine linen"... and find out that linen is "the righteous deeds of the saints."

So picture the scene... the bride is standing still... dressed so beautifully... and her face beaming from ear to ear... just glowing!  She's waiting for her groom to come to her... anticipating the union... just moments away from being bound together in love for all time.

As Christians, it's our faith in Christ, not anything we have to "do" to cement our role as the bride.  So no matter what the bride is wearing, there's a deeper joy that radiates through.  It's a bonus that she's dressed in beautiful white linen... for that's the result of a lifetime of righteousness.  Nor perfection... just righteousness.  Again, it didn't earn the engagement... it was a result of that love affair we have with the groom.

Jesus welcomes us into His eternal embrace whether we've spent our entire lives serving him faithfully... or if we accepted his proposal after years and years of hard living.  But what a blessing to have spent as much time as possible doing what was right!  The world will be a happier & more peaceful place when it's surrounded by fine white linen... don't you think?!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Giving God props!

"Daniel answered the king, 'No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or diviners can show to the king the mystery that the king is asking, but there is a God in heaven who has revealed mysteries...'"
(Daniel 2:27-28)

The king had a brilliantly insane idea.  To cut through all of the pretenders, sycophants, and wanna-bees he asked his 'top men' (magicians, enchanters, & sorcerers) to interpret his dream... AFTER they tell him what his dream was ('cuz, shoot... anyone can make up an interpretation if they're heard the dream first, right?!?).  The top men, of course, told the king it was humanly impossible.  Period.  So the king ordered their execution.  Daniel was given the role of chief executioner.  But before he carried out that duty, he prayed that God might reveal to him what the king dreamed.  Sure enough, by the grace of God, Daniel answered the king's request - and he gave God all the credit.

Which got me wondering... how often do I give God the credit for the numerous ways He's blessed me and enabled me to be who I am, with all my gifts & abilities?  Really, it's not about me.  It's God's strength, inspiration, and empowerment.  I don't think I let others know that enough.  Shame on me.  Full props to God!  AMEN.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For the sake of the children...

"Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches!  Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord!  Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street."
(Lamentations 2:19)

The book of Lamentations truly lives up to its name - it's a lament (and kinda depressing!).  Jerusalem has been destroyed by the Babylonians - the nation of Judah (Israel) is in turmoil... it appears that all is lost.  The writer reminds the people of their unfaithfulness as the reason why calamity has struck... and also calls the people to PRAY.  To pray for their children, who are literally starving.

"Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children."  Has there ever been more sage advice for us parents?  We don't have to have our city being overrun by foreign invaders, do we, to be reminded to intercede for our kids?  Our love, indeed, is great, isn't it?  Then why do we fail to lift them up to God on a regular, consistent & intentional basis?  We are called to "pour out our hearts" to God for our kids. 

PRAYER: Forgive me, O God, for the casual way I've prayed for my two children.  Help me to be more consistent & persistent, starting today.  I place them completely into your hands... AMEN.

Monday, November 9, 2009

No Remedy?!?

"The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place; but they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD against his people became so great that there was no remedy."
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

The ends of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles recount the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonian army and the subsequent exile/captivity for the Hebrews.  But this passage in 2 Chronicles 36 gives a very succint explanation of "WHY?!"  It was not an isolated incident.  It was the result of generation upon generation of people who refused to listen to, be led by, and follow the LORD.  And it's not like God was distant and aloof all those years either, telling the people, "You know where to find me if you want me."  No.  God sent messengers and prophets - but they ignored and mocked and despised and scoffed at them.  Until "there was no remedy."  They finally had to face the consequences of centuries of sin.

I wonder if we're guilty of the same today?  Oh, maybe not the same sins as our ancient Hebrew ancestors on the eve of the Babylonian invasion... but might we be guilty of "mocking the messengers of God" (especially if they're from another denomination or have a different "theological persuasion" than us?)... or "despising God's words" (which are available to us in abundance through the bible - if only we'd read/listen)... or "scoffing at his prophets" (our church leaders/visionaries who might be asking us to consider new opportunities God has placed before us)?  The risk we face by following this path is that, over time, we might spur God's wrath to such an extent that there would be NO REMEDY.

And yet... and yet... (here's the Good News, friends!)... there still is hope.  For as followers of Jesus, we believe that no matter how hopeless we may be - no matter how messed up we allow our lives to get - no matter how far away from God we stray... JESUS is our remedy.  He stands in the gap between God and our sinfulness... and brings reconciliation.  That's love.  that's grace.  That's Jesus.

PS>  The David Crowder Band has a song called "Remedy" that would serve as a great "soundtrack' for this reflection today.  Check it out on i-Tunes or Youtube today!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Harps & Bowls

"When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp & golden bowl of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."
(Revelation 5:8)

Puffy white clouds... lots of harps... angels with wings... that's the "Hallmark version" of Heaven.  Sickening sweet & sterile.  And yet, when we get into the last book of the Bible - REVELATION - the picture actually changes a bit.  No clouds are mentioned.  There are 'celestial beings' with harps - but they're the "Twenty-Four Elders" (the number 24 probably coming from the 12 Tribes of Israel + the 12 Apostles of Jesus!).  Their job is to worship Jesus (the Lamb who was slain).  it's not their harps, but that they're holding in their OTHER hands that intrigued me, though.  Golden bowls of incense.  (Could this be a nod of solidarity to our Buddhist brothers and sisters?!?)  The bowls hold, we are told, "the prayers of the saints."  Wow!  How cool is that?!?

What an image - our prayers gathered in golden bowls... held by those closest to the King... standing before the throne of God... with our prayers wafting up to the Throne as incense smoke rises.  Awesome.

And yet, the question that strikes me hardest as I write this... have I been filling the golden bowls?  Sure I know we an pray anytime & anywhere... but do we?  Do I?  Especially as the senior pastor of a church, my responsibility is huge!  I definitely have work to do here.

How about you?