Thursday, December 18, 2008

Advent: God Comes in Our Compassion

The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)

I have to confess, I've never really thought of that as an "Advent scripture" before. Not till I read the article in the Ann Arbor News the other day. The story, as best as I can remember it, goes like this:

A little girl has a birthday. She sends out invitations so her friends. However, she has a request. She would like them to bring presents that are unwrapped.

The reason: the presents are not for her!!

She plans to give the presents away to a Toys for Tots program in town. She ends up receiving 30+ presents, worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $400+. The reporter asks her what she thought about the presents. She responds, "There were a couple of really good ones I'd like to have kept for myself. But I know others needed it more."

I appreciated the honesty.

And I couldn't help but think this little girl was fulfilling Matthew 25:40, whether she realized it or not. She did it for "one of the least of these" who needed a little thoughtfulness and generosity.

And if it is true that we have done those acts, not only for others, but, ultimately, for Jesus, then isn't it safe to say that he comes to us in those acts of compassion? He arrives as we are being Jesus to others?

And what is Advent? Simply anticipating God's arrival.

May you and I find ways to usher in God's arrival into our lives and the lives of those around us.

Grace & Peace

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Advent: But Are You Ready?

Zechariah asked the angel, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years." The angel answered, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time." (Luke 1:18-20 NIV)

Zechariah, the priest, has been praying, (apparently for a child [see v13]). God's messenger comes to personally deliver the message that they will have a child.

And now the priest does not believe.

This challenges me to be ready for God to answer what I have requested.

Have I asked for God to make me more like Him, only to find the process is painful?

Have I asked God for patience, only to find it requires me to be patient?

Have I asked for God to make me more loving, but chaffed at the thought of having to love and forgive those who have offended me?

Have I testified that I want to be more like Jesus, only to discover being like Jesus can be hard work?

I can really empathize with this poor man. How 'bout you?

Grace & peace

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Advent: Blessing for Children & Grandchildren &...?

And he will go on before the Lord,
in the spirit and power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children
and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous -
to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (Luke 1:17 NIV)

This is the word about John the Baptist, prior to his birth. The angel speaks these words to John's father, Zechariah.

This must have been an amazing experience for Zechariah (who was a priest), for at least three reasons:

1. An angel shows up and gives you a message. Not an everday-sort-of-event, right?
("your prayer has been heard" he says to the elderly priest.)

2. A great future promised for your child.
("he will be a delight and joy to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth". What parent or grandparent wouldn't want to hear that about their offspring? Have you asked God if He would be willing to use your children in this way?)

3. And this one is kind of important...John had not been BORN YET!
Zechariah and his wife were well along in years, similar to Abraham and Sara. They had NO kids. We'll talk more about this one later.

But think about #2 for a minute.

What does God want to say about your child or children? For those of you who are parents or grandparents, you may know the child it is that is on your mind. What great promises and blessed futures does the Heavenly Father have in store for them?

May we take time to ask, seek, and knock on their behalf.

But for those of you who don't have children or grandchildren...

...this may seem to be a devotional that has NOTHING to do with you. Not so fast, my friend.

Zechariah thought the same thing. And God had something else in store.

Maybe it is a niece or nephew. Maybe it is a child at church who needs an adult to really show an interest in them. Maybe it is a neighbor who could use a "prayer warrior" interceding on their behalf.

May you ask, seek, and knock to find out how it is God wants to bless you and who it is God wants to bless through you.

Grace & peace

Monday, December 15, 2008

Advent Questions

We have been talking about anticipating God's arrivals in our lives the last few weeks.
However, anticipatin does not mean a passive waiting, twiddling our thumbs.

Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you will find;
knock and the door will be opened to you.
(Matthew 7:7)

If you could ask God for any 1 thing, what would it be?
(Would it be to change others? Get things for ourself?)

What is it you seek this season?
(What does your answer to these first 2 questions say about you?)

What do you perceive to be behind the door on which you are knocking?
(Spiritual growth and depth? Physical healing? Financial help?)

What is the difference between asking and complaining?

How long might we need to seek in order to find?

May God grant us the perseverance, patience, and passion required to ask, seek and knock, and the discernment to do so wisely.

Grace & peace

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Not Right for Me

ightIt would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. (Acts 6:2 NIV)

The disciples were in the early days after Jesus' death and resurrection. They were sorting through what it meant to carry out the Great Commission. They were gathering a group of people who were becoming the Church. Some of those people were widows who needed food. Confusion and hurt feelings developed over who was receiving what they needed and who wasn't. It was a time of excitement and confusion.

In the midst of the chaos, the disciples made several decisions:

1.) The widows needed to be fed, it was an important job.
2.) The Gospel needed to be preached, it was an important job too.
3.) They couldn't do both important jobs.

I was recently reading someone who said something like this:

It wasn't right for the disciples to neglect preaching in order to feed the widows.
Others could have said the same thing in reverse. "It's not right for us to neglect the widows in order to preach."

Aren't you glad God's Kingdom has a place for both preaching and feeding?

I've spent my time today dealing with worship, scripture, and people who are hurting.

What task are you at today?

Do you think of it as holy?

If you do it "unto the Lord" then it becomes a part of God's work in our world, whether you are nursing, working at a computer, chopping wood, teaching, working on roads, cooking and cleaning, building a building, visiting the sick and needy, or studying for a test.

One task within the Kingdom may not be right for you today. But another one is.

Do what you are doing as best as you can, to the glory of God.

Think about it.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10 Reasons to Come to the Christmas Musical

"The Christmas Shoes"

A Dramatic Musical for Christmas

Saturday, December 13, 2008 at 6PM
(Refreshments to follow the performance)

Chelsea Church of the Nazarene
12126 Jackson Rd.
Dexter, MI 48130


10. This will be a one-time only presentation. You snooze, you lose!

9. There will be refreshments after the performance!

8. A chance to see the Crowders stage!

7. Where else can you hear "Silent Night," "The Grinch," and "Christmas Shoes" in the same evening?

6. It costs less than going to a concert, a play, or a movie
You can bring everyone you know and it won't cost you a dime...(It's FREE!!)

5. It's a non-threatening way to invite your friends and family to hear The Christmas Story.

4. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you won't leave the same

3. Have you ever seen the Pastor REALLY MAD?? You won't want to miss that scene!

2. Cute kids, energetic teens, and talented adults!!


The word became flesh and lived for a while among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

Grace & peace

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What Does God Want from Me?

With what shall I come before the LORD,
and bow myself before God on high?
He has told you, o mortal, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:6,8 NRSV)

What does God want from you?

It is a question the prophet Micah asks.

Does God want ritual? "Shall I come with burnt offerings?"

Does God want extravagant productions of sacrifice? "Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams and ten thousands of rivers of oil?"

Does God want us to suffer? "Shall I give my firstborn?"

No. God wants us to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him.

That's not an easy balance to strike, is it?

Some of us are good at calling for justice. Make it right. Make 'em pay. Wrongs must go away.

Some of us are good at mercy and kindness. You're forgiven. You are loved. No sin is too great to be overcome.

But how many of us can do both justice and mercy?

I am convinced humility is the key.

"Humility is a realistic way relating to self that counters...pride and shame." (Transforming Spirituality by Shults & Sandage)

Humility keeps me from thinking too highly of myself (pride).

But it also keeps me from beating myself up (shame).

Instead, humility is anchored in my relationship to a God, who created me, bought me again, and constantly resources me.

May God help us to strike the right balance as we give Him what He asks of us:



humbly walking with Him

Grace & peace

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Grinch, The Christmas Shoes, and Silent Night

Lead out those who have eyes but are blind
who have ears but are deaf." (Isaiah 43:8)

Does this logic make sense?

- Advent is about waking up to God's arrival
- As Christians, we are to be about what Jesus did
- Jesus went around "doing good" and preaching to open up the eyes of the blind and ears of the deaf
- We are called to do good, help the blind see and the deaf hear God's invitation.

Here's one opportunity to do just that.

On Saturday, December 13 at 6PM,
the Ensemble will be presenting

"Christmas Shoes"

The evening will feature


"The Grinch"

traditional carols

and much, much more!

Plan to come and invite four or five friends! It will be a unique presentation of the Gospel message and include an invitation to God's advent into our lives. We will have invitations at the church on Sunday. Be in prayer now about whose eyes and ears God might use you to help open.

Grace & peace

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

You Only Call When...

I heard the following story from a friend of mine who is a Roman Catholic priest.

"I walked into a hospital room the other day to visit a parishioner. The moment I walked through the door, the guy says, 'Look what your God has done to me!' I responded, 'You're pretty quick to blame Him for bad stuff. When is the last time you thanked Him for the good stuff!?' Then I turned around and walked out of the room!"

Rather sheepishly, my friend, the priest explained that he went back to visit the man later in the day. He apologized to the parishioner. And the parishioner apologized too. Apparently his priest was right!

I thought of that story this morning after reading the following passage from Isaiah:

Yet you have not called upon me, O Jacob,
you have not wearied yourselves for me, O Israel.
You have not brought me sheep for burnt offerings,
nor honored me with your sacrifices. (Isaiah 43:22-23a NIV)

God begins to "grade" the Israelites, and this list includes stuff they were not doing to their own detriment. (Interesting this falls on the heels of the "new thing" God declared in v19.) These verses make it clear that God's work on their behalf is not because they have been so faithful.

But their lack of faithfulness does not cancel out God's absolute faithfulness.

As we think about God's advents into our lives, ask yourself:

- Do I regularly call on God? Not just when I'm in trouble, but when things are going well or simply to speak to Him regularly and intentionally?

- Do I "weary myself" for God? Or do I refuse to lift a finger for His work in the world?

- When is the last time I truly sacrificed my time, or my money, or my ability for His work?

- Will my day, today, honor God in every way? In any way?

May we humble ourselves so God doesn't have to.

May we make corrections in our lives rather than forcing God to.

Grace & peace

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Advent & New Things

I've been thinking about new things recently.

More specifically, God's new things in our lives.

More specifically still, God's new things in my life.

God has used a friend of mine to inspire me to dream about something more. And, not coincidentally, I have found myself in the following passage several times in the last week:

This is what the LORD says -
he who made a way through the sea,
a path through the mighty waters,
who drew out the chariots and horses,
the army and reinforcements together,
and they lay there, never to rise again,
extinguished, snuffed out like a wick;

God gets the attention of the Hebrew people by doing a quick summary of His resume. And He gets ours too as we do a review of places He has worked in our lives.

It's as if He asks, "Remember me? I'm the One who freed you when you were slaves."

Can't you just hear the elderly Jews and those who knew their history, who had been told by mothers, fathers, grandparents, and priests:

"Yeah! We remember. You performed an awe-filled act on our behalf. That Egyptian army never had a chance with all their power and technology against us wandering, defenseless people...because YOU were on our side."

But listen to how quickly He goes onto the next point:

"Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past."

Really? Forget? Don't dwell?

But the good ol' days were so good. Why wouldn't we just sit around and dream of Christmases past and times when we were really close to God? Because...

"See, I am doing a new thing!"

Hmm. Maybe we should give this some thought.

"Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?"

Here is where God has caused me to pay close attention to my own life.

Too many times I have to answer, "No, Lord, I don't perceive or see or hear or sense or smell or taste a new thing from You...but I sure would like to."

I get the feeling God is doing "new things" all the time around you and me.
I get the feeling that I am only aware of the teeniest, tiniest fraction of them.
I get the feeling that there are other things God would let me in on if only I'd pay attention.

A little quiet time for reflection, meditation, and prayer.
A little intentional reading of scripture or Christian writers.
A little planned programming when it comes to my music or what I watch on TV.
A little forethought about the websites or blogs I'll choose to feed on.

Might it be possible that I would be better prepared to perceive His new thing?

Then He begins to describe what this "new thing" is like:

"I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland,
to give drink to my people, my chosen,
the people I formed for myself
that they may proclaim my praise." (Isaiah 43:16-21 NIV)

God makes a way "where there seems to be no way".

God makes streams where there is nothing but dust and dryness.

God makes it possible for thirsty, parched people to gulp down as much cool water as they can take in.

And then He reminds us how special we are to Him. He tells us that we are:

"people I formed for Myself"

Wow....I wish you'd read that last line again.

"people I formed for Myself"

Read it slowly.

Read it quietly,

like a whisper.

Or go to an empty room or your car, all by yourself, and SHOUT IT OUT LOUD:


Do you realize that nothing in the world's version of Christmas can give you this sense of fulfillment, purpose, and joy? Not Black Monday. Not Cyber Monday (or whatever it is called)

Only He can bring you that "new thing" and the joy that comes along with it.

"Joy to the world, the LORD is come. Let earth receive her king!"

He comes again now, in my life...and do a new thing.

Do you perceive it?

What will you do today to get ready to receive His message and work?

Grace & peace

Monday, December 1, 2008

U-Turns, You-Turns, & I-Turns

I drove into our parking lot this morning. There was still snow on the ground from last night. I noticed my vehicle was the second one to make tracks today. The first vehicle hadn't stayed, however. It simply drove into the lot, turned around, and left.

That's not uncommon for us. Because our building is located a short distance from an exit off of I-94, many people use our lot as a turn around.

That may bother some of our congregants, but I haven't heard any. And I kind of like the symbolism.

A place where people can turn their lives around and begin to head in a new direction.

Isn't that one picture of what The Church at its best is meant to be? I think so.

And this is the season for turnarounds. I know many in our culture will look for making changes January 1 with New Year's Resolutions. And that's great.

But on the Christian calendar we are in a time period called Advent. Advent means "a coming or arrival" (Webster's Concise Dictionary).

Advent is the season when we:

1. Remember God in Christ Jesus coming to earth as a little, helpless Baby

2. Anticipate God showing up into our regular, everyday lives

3. Anticipate Christ's return to earth again at the consummation of all things

Long before Jesus was born, the Prophet Isaiah called the people to, "Prepare a pathway for the Lord's coming! Make a straight road for him!" (Isaiah 40:3 NLT)

Isaiah was trying to get people ready for an Advent.

Advent says that while God's arrival into our lives is a gift, there are preparations for us to make.

Advent says that while God is the main character, we have a part to play prior to God's arrival.

One way we play our part is making U-turns.

Or maybe a You-turn.

Of course, it is always easier to see where other people need to turn around, isn't it?

"You can a better parent."

"You should be a more supportive wife."

"You could be a more attentive husband."

"You ought to be a better friend."

But I don't think Advent is about correcting others. Our fixation upon others' faults is what Jesus refers to when he mentions getting the plank out of my own eye before I try to help you get the speck out of yours. Ouch.

No, advent is probably more about I-Turns. (To my knowledge, Apple has not coined the phrase yet. But if they do, would you be my witness that we thought of it first?)

Advent gives me a chance to ask, "What could I do to prepare for God's coming into my life?"


"What might my life look like if God really would show up in a brand new way?"

Think of the choices we have of things we could do to prepare:

- I could read the Christmas story

- I could find music or art that turns my attention to God's activity in the world

- I could seek out ways to help others who are in need

- I could attend a Christmas Eve service with candles or a Children's Pageant

- I could spend a few minutes in silent prayer and meditation

- I could set aside 10 minutes everyday between now and Christmas to anticipate God's arrival into my life and the lives of those I love

I don't want to simply remember Christmases past. I want to anticipate God's coming into our world today and participate in fresh, new things that might be in store for me if I'm simply fully present and open to them.

How 'bout you?

Grace & peace