God Among Us
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Over the centuries, many have struggled with their understanding as to why God would come here by such humble means to redeem us. This little story that I heard long ago, still preaches today to help many understand God’s Incarnation Christmas story.
Once upon a Christmas Eve, a man sat in reflective silence before the fireplace, pondering the meaning of Christmas. "There is no point to a God who became man, he mused. "Why would an all-powerful God want to share even one of His precious moments with the likes of man? And even if He did, why would He choose to be born in a smelly stable? No way! The whole thing is absurd! I'm sure that if God wanted to come down to earth, He would have chosen some other way." Then suddenly, the man was roused from his reverie by a strange sound outside. He went to the window and saw a small gaggle of geese frantically honking and aimlessly flopping about in the snow. They seemed so dazed and confused. Apparently, they had landed, in total exhaustion, from a flight formation on its way from the Arctic Islands to the warmer climate of the Gulf of Mexico. Moved to compassion, the man tried to "shoo" the poor geese into his warm barn, but the more he tried to "guide them," the more they panicked. "If they only realized I'm only trying to help them and do what's best for them," he thought to himself. "How can I make them understand my concern for their well-being?" Then, this thought came to him: "If I could become an ordinary goose and communicate with them in their own language, they would know what I am trying to do." At that moment, he realized why God came to this earth in Christ Jesus and a tear came to his eye. Suddenly, the Christmas story no longer seemed absurd. Suddenly, he was able to picture that ordinary-looking Infant, lying in the manger in Bethlehem. He then fully knew the answer to his disbelief of the Christmas story. Our Creator God had to become one of us, to show us and tell us, in human terms how much He loves us!
The Night Before Christmas 2020 Version
T'was the night before Christmas, and all through the town,
All the people wore masks, that covered their frown.
The frown had begun way back in the spring
When a global pandemic changed everything.
They called it “corona”, but unlike the beer,
It didn’t bring good times, it didn’t bring cheer.
Airplanes were grounded, travel was banned.
Borders were closed across air, sea, and land.
As the world entered lockdown to flatten the curve,
The economy halted, and folks lost their nerve.
From March to July, we rode the First Wave,
All the people stayed home, and they tried to behave.
Then when summer emerged, the lockdown was lifted,
But without being cautious, many folks drifted.
Now it’s December and cases are spiking,
Wave Two has arrived, much to our disliking.
It’s true that this year has had sadness a-plenty,
We’ll never forget the year Twenty-Twenty.
And just ‘round the corner - the holiday season,
But should we be merry? Is there even one reason?
I’ll garnish the house and trim up the tree,
But who will then see it? No one but me!
So I say a quick prayer, as the “snow" gently falls
And the Lord gently whispers: “Go deck the halls!”
Christmas isn’t canceled and neither is hope.
Remember the Savior and hold on to hope!
His birth is the reason, we’re all filled with joys
Not just gathering families, and sharing some toys
His presents to us, from heaven above
Is His presence inside us, that shows us His love
So, I gather the ribbon, the garland, and bows,
As I play those old hymns, my happiness grows.
I turn to my neighbors and friends that I know
And instead of “bah humbug” or “ho-ho-ho-ho”
I offer a prayer for blessing and peace
And ask my great God that our faith would increase
So that we would all change in this upcoming year
And live lives of faith and not lives of fear.
Light in the Darkness
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).” Today marks the 2020 Winter Solstice, the day with the least hours of light this year, but for many this year has felt especially dark for months. The good news is, after today we begin to gradually increase the amount of light each day, till the Summer Solstice in June. Much like increased darkness in our days, months of despair can rob us of our confidence and sense of orientation. Like darkness, despair, which is often perceived as an opposing force, is rather the absence of hope in our lives, just as darkness is actually the absence of light. We must learn to accept despair for what it actually is, the absence of hope. It’s from that place of truth that we can begin to find our way out. The average human eye can detect the light of a candle from more than a mile away, and the darker it is the more sensitive to light our eyes become. Imagine being in a pitch-black room and lighting a candle. Such a simple almost insignificant thing can instantly transform the darkness. Likewise, hope can transform despair! It doesn’t require a great measure of hope to counterbalance what often seems overwhelming in our lives. Just as the light of a single candle can transform the darkness of a dark room, so too, just a mustard seed of hope transforms the darkness and despair in our lives.
Dear friends, we must become intentional about developing an abiding sense of hope in our lives during our days of darkness. There are many sources of hope in one’s life, such as faith, community, friends, and family, even the hope an opportunity of a new year, just to name a few. And It doesn’t have to be a grand or dramatic plan, just a dream, or a simple glimmer of hope will often suffice. Just an intentional thought, that the darkness is only temporary will often let a glimmer of light in. Friends, never underestimate the impact of the light of Christ, which dwells in the life of each of you as believers. During these dark days of fear and social separation, just a simple phone call or card can provide the light of hope that overcomes the darkness in the heart of those you reach out to. Never underestimate the power of a glimmer of hope or the enlightening impact of the light of Christ that resides in you, so “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matt. 5-16).”
Grace and peace always,
God’s Regenerating Grace
“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 126:5-6 ESV
Increasing anxieties, sorrow and grief define many of the people that I minister to daily as a front-line spiritual caregiver. Months of isolation, the loss of jobs, the loss of loved ones and growing financial insecurities have escalated depression and grief all around us. God’s ability to restore the soul amid the anxieties and grief of these trying days, can be overwhelming for even faithful believers after so many months. Psalm 126 shines as a song of hope for anyone held hostage by a list of emotional hardships which seem to increase with each passing day. This psalm of hope encourages those who walk with weighted steps, to wait expectantly on God’s regenerating grace. The psalmist reveals a special promise for all believers who shed tears in trying times. He says that our mounting sorrows will not endure forever, that God’s grace will sustain us and restore us once more and that our joy will one day be made complete.
Before our seeds of sorrow can become sheaves of joy, time must pass! Just as a farmer sows seeds in the spring and must wait to harvest crops in the fall, we too must toss our mustard seeds of faith into the tear-stained soil beneath our feet and trust God to do what is necessary to bring about sheaves of joy. At times, all of us will water those small seeds of hope with our own tears. Trusting in God we must endure our sorrows as the roots of faith are slowly nourished, one day at a time. We must rest on the Rock of Ages and trust that our hope is not dependent upon us, but anchored in the One who is making our desert like a garden. It’s only in the fullness of time by God’s regenerating grace, when it seems as if nothing is really happening, that sprouts of new life begin to emerge and we know that our weeping which provided the watering, was not in vain. Friends, trust in the Lord, “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!”
Grace and peace always,
Sanctified for Service!
Saint Paul provides some timely Advent Season advice for us in his first letter to the Thessalonians. “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Thes. 5:21-23).”
As human beings, we come into this world “bent away” from the Lord. In our broken human nature, our natural inclination is to please and serve ourselves, which is the opposite of a God-honoring lifestyle. Once we become believers our Heavenly Father starts to gradually bend our will and fallen ways back towards His Holiness. We must however cooperate and yield to the process, or we will be little use to His kingdom.
The Lord wants to fully eradicate every thought pattern and activity promoting dependency on anything other than Him. This means that relying on oneself for security, salvation, or physical and emotional comfort are outside God’s will. Actions that advance a person at the expense of others are also ungodly.
In those areas where we resist bending toward the Lord, He may choose to break us by allowing pain into our life. As a result, we are driven to Him in surrender. To break a person may sound harsh, but God does this work in love. He sees beyond the hurt to the outcome and we become more mature and faithful servants, having walked through the trial (Rom. 8:28). The truth is, our loving Father takes each hard step with us, offering guidance, grace, and peace. Seeing the blessings God has brought about through my own hardships and trials, I can honestly thank Him now for every period of brokenness I’ve experienced.
The fact is, we all have areas of self-focus that need to be bent or broken by God’s loving hand. Once we honestly look inward to discover wrong habits and thought patterns, our heavenly Father will bring them to our minds. Once we surrender to His sanctifying work in our lives, we can become wise useful servants.
Grace and peace always,
Faith Over Fear!
“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand (NASB).” As the number of COVID-19 cases rise and the pandemic of fear grows, I recommend revisiting Isaiah 41:10 as a source of encouragement and hope amid increasing fear and anxiety. Whenever we or others need a go-to verse in turbulent times, this is a great one to turn to. Here Isaiah reveals our only trustworthy source for hope and peace.
In this verse, the Lord promises strength, help, and protection. He also makes two commands: “Do not fear” and “Do not anxiously look about you.” Among the enemy's subtle and successful tactics is the art of distraction. Satan knows that continued fear can choke even a seasoned believer’s faith. He works hard to make fear and uncertainty our sole focus. Once our attention has been diverted from God, natural human tendencies tend to take over. In the absence of prayer and worship, anxiety and doubt grow unobstructed.
It can be challenging to stay focused on the Lord after months of trying circumstances. The flesh prefers to seek security by thinking through all possible angles. Our tendency is to weigh what we think could happen against what “the experts” say will happen and then evaluate possible ways of preventing our worst fears from coming true. Instead of becoming more confident, we begin to realize how powerless we really are. Thankfully, we serve a mighty God who says, “Surely I will uphold you” we can count on Him! By choosing to only focus on what could or might happen, we are actually choosing to fill our minds with anxiety and doubt. These emotions do not belong in a believers life. Instead, make a conscious decision to trust the promises God has made to us. The Lord has provided promises like the one found in this passage today throughout scripture to keep us steady in our faith. Only faith in our God will overcome our fears!
Grace and peace always,
Give Thanks and Rejoice!
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to the Most High (Psalm 92:1). Have you ever wondered why God says it’s good to give thanks? Quite simply because, giving God thanks readjusts our focus. When we praise and thank the Lord, the pressures and demands of daily life don’t feel as heavy. Instead of having our minds distracted by the cares of this world, God and His goodness become the center of our focus. Just as important, we gain awareness of our dependence upon Him and become more appreciative of His care and provision in all things.
The truth is, gratitude releases our anxiety. We rarely feel grateful when we’re burdened with troubles and worries, but that’s the time when we most need to offer God our most heartfelt gratitude. There’s an amazing physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual change that occurs when we begin voicing praise. Burdens are lifted, the internal churning stops, and we come away rejoicing in the Lord. Thanksgiving, simply reinforces our faith! Recalling our blessings and the many ways God has expressed His goodness toward us, reminds us of His faithfulness. Recalling how He has worked in our, past strengthens us to trust Him for the future. The next time you are overwhelmed by social separation and you’re feeling down or burdened, remember all the good that comes from thanking the Lord and lift your voice in gratefulness for what was done for us on the cross. Give thanks always and rejoice in the Lord!
A THANKSGIVING PRAYER
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love. We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side. We thank you for setting us at tasks that demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments that satisfy and delight us. We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone. Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he conquered death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom. Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know Christ and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
2019 ACNA Book of Common Prayer
Grace and peace always,
Testing our Faith!
With all that’s going on around us today, how would you characterize your faith? Is it strong one day, weak the next? The book of James provides some practical advice for those whose faith fluctuates in difficult situations. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:2-8).”
Friend’s, when we begin doubting God and His Word, we’re driven and tossed about like the surf of the sea. James says a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways and should not expect to receive from the Lord. To be double-minded is to go back and forth in our thinking. We may begin with strong confidence in the Lord, but as time goes by and the difficult circumstances grind on, we may begin to start doubting that the Lord will do what He promises.
Keep in mind, doubting and questioning are not necessarily the same thing. To question, is to seek to gain further information in order to better understand what God has said. Doubting, on the other hand, involves believing what we think, what we see, what we hear or feel rather than what we know God has promised in His Holy Word. It is natural for us to question when we’re suddenly blindsided or overwhelmed by a distressing turn of events. God understands all of our human struggles and He wants us to come to Him with our pain and confusion. The truth is, He often has to sift our thinking by reminding us of His promises, of His truth or His past faithfulness through previous challenges.
Dear friends, even though we may not understand all that God is doing in our world and in lives today, we can rely on what He’s revealed: The testing of our faith produces endurance and spiritual maturity, and it supplies something we lack. When we know this, we can trust the Lord to accomplish His good and perfect will through our current situation and rejoice in knowing He will see us through it. Trust the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Grace and peace always,
Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength!
Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV). This encouraging passage promises something very radical. It says, when we wait on the Lord we will be renewed! Wait (from the dictionary’s perspective) means to “remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something ‘expected’ happens.” When circumstances are outside of our control, we are instructed to wait on the Lord with the expectation that His Spirit is at work within us, we must also wait wisely. When we wait wisely, the Lord renews us with His strength and promises we shall “mount up with wings as eagles.”
Many people today might find themselves overwhelmed, tired and weary. Many are currently burdened by mounting challenges and problems. Many, feel like they have run out of energy and strength. Fear not! God can revitalize you and grant you renewed energy and strength today through His Spirit. God can give you His power and ability. Are you Interested? If so – plugin and wait wisely! Today, spend time with the Lord. Wait on His presence. Listen to His voice. Read His Word and worship Him in Spirit and truth. God alone renews our soul. When we identify with Him through Jesus and trust in His capacities alone for this journey through life, it is then that His strength is made perfect in our weakness, it is then that the wind of God’s Spirit lifts us up on eagles’ wings and carries us through life's challenges in the power of His Spirit.
Friends, it’s only when we are wise enough to admit our weakness and incapacities that we are enabled by God to draw from the bottomless well of His everlasting supply and drink deeply from the living waters of His super-abundant power and provision. It is then that our spiritual batteries are fully regenerated and renewed by His limitless power that enables us to finish the race in His strength in such a way as to win the prize, for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. While we are waiting, God is working, wait wisely!
Grace and peace always,
Victory in Jesus!
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20) When Saint Paul closed Romans in Chapter 16, he spoke prophetically to the believers in Rome and every Christian who lives today. He boldly proclaimed, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” What powerful imagery lives within this verse. Paul refers to God as peace (shalom, prosperity, wholeness, completeness). Another translation says, “The God who gives peace...” Dear brothers and sisters, our peace is insured and Satan will be crushed, pressed, squeezed and destroyed and we will stand victorious over him.
We can all find encouragement in this verse today. Jesus’ blood on the cross settled the battle for power between God and Satan, light and darkness, good and evil. On the cross, Jesus’ blood anointed and empowered every believer to defeat Satan. The enemy has been, and will always be defeated. It’s time for every Christian to grasp the meaning of this truth and walk it out in faith. We are victors, conquerors, and winners, not losers. The biggest lie Satan can tell you is that he has power over you. He cannot make you do anything. He can talk and roar. He can try to intimidate you with an endless string of “What If” lies. Remember friends, you have the power within you to resist and defeat him. You must learn to say, case closed! Satan you lose! You lost when: (1) God threw you out of heaven into the depths of hell (2) when Jesus died and shed His blood for us on the cross (3) when Jesus was resurrected (4) when Jesus kicked open the gates of hell and ascended to the right hand of God to reign and rule as our King!
Friends, regardless of the outcome of this week’s election or the events which may occupy the headlines in the days ahead, Jesus will still be OUR reigning and ruling King! So, give God praise and thanksgiving today for giving you power, dominion and authority over Satan. Thank Him that it is written “nothing can harm you” (Luke 10:19) so do not walk in fear anymore. Find comfort in God’s promises to US, His children and “May the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord…and may the Blessing of God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you always.
Grace and peace always,