Return

“Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”  Joel 2:13

If you’ve been “away” from the Lord, too busy to listen to His Word, preoccupied with your own doubts and fears, take heart.  God’s promise remains true.  He’s like the Father of the Prodigal son who runs to meet his undeserving son and lavishes his love and acceptance upon him.  God’s shows His lavishness and great faithfulness to you on a wooden cross where His only Son was hung to die.  Advent is the prequel to Christmas when we take time to realize that we celebrate Christmas because we cannot save ourselves from God’s anger.  He who hates sin and cannot bear it really DID bear it all on the cross.  Jesus’ cross bearing was for our sake.   He was raised for our sake!  And He lives and reigns at the Father’s right hand.  One day all who confess Jesus as their Lord will also be where He is–to live eternally. 

If you have never peeked inside a Bible–open one up and read from the book of John written by one who knew Jesus very well.  You’ll see what the Advent ‘reveal’ is all about.  God bless you!

Advent Preparation

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

Nathan Ward candle

Photo by Nathan Ward

Advent.  A time to reflect on our need for a Savior.  Do we need saving?  Indeed!  Johann Gerhard, a Lutheran theologian, wrote a collection of Meditations on Divine Mercy.   His writings are helping me this Advent season to dwell on God’s mercy towards all mankind which culminated in the birth, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Pray with me Gerhard’s  prayer– “Thanksgiving for Conversion”

“O gracious God, I give thanks to You that You converted my hardened heart, which did not know how to repent, and that You removed my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26).  I had the power to fall into sin and guilt.  I did not have the power to rise to repentance.  By my own power, I was able to go astray.  I was able to return to the right path ONLY by Your power.  Just as one who is born crippled cannot be restored with natural remedies but only by divine power, so my soul was born spiritually curved toward sin and earthly things.  No human power could correct it.  Only Your grace was able to restore my soul so it loved You and desired Your heavenly blessings.  I had the power to deform myself by various sins.  You alone were able to reform me.  Just as an Ethiopian cannot change his skin or the leopard his spots (Jeremiah 13:23), so I was not able to do good because I was fully devoted to doing evil.

“You, my God, converted me, and I am converted (Jeremiah 31:18)  After I was converted by You, I repented.  After I came to understand, I struck my breast (Jeremiah 31:19).  I was dead in sin, and You made me alive.  I was able to contribute as much to my conversion as a dead person is able to contribute to his resurrection (John 6:44;  John 11:43).  If You had not drawn me, I would never have come to You.  If you had not awakened me, I would never have watched for You.  If you had not enlightened me, I would never have seen You.  Sins were sweeter to me than honey and honeycomb.  That they are now pungent and bitter, I owe to You, the one who gave me my spiritual taste.  Virtuous works were more bitter to me than gall and aloe.  That they are now pleasing and delightful, I owe only to You, the one who changed my corrupt fleshly judgment by the Spirit.  I went astray as a sheep that was lost (Isaiah 53:6);  I turned to the way of iniquity.  But You, Good Shepherd, sought me and led me back to the flock of the saints.

“Only recently have I recognized You, the true light, because there were great, dark clouds before my vain eyes that prevented me from seeing the light of truth.  Recently, I have recognized You, the true light, because I was blind and loved blindness and walked through the darkness of sin toward the darkness of hell.  But You, my illuminator, sought the one who was not seeking You.  You called the one who was not calling to You.  You converted the one who was not converted to You.  With a voice full of power, You said, “Let there be light in the inner parts of this heart,” and there was light.  I saw Your light and recognized my blindness.  For this immeasurable kindness, I will praise Your name forever.   AMEN.

from Meditations on Divine Mercy:  A Classic Treasury of Devotional Prayers by Johann Gerhard.  Translated by Matthew C. Harrison.  CPH  pp. 75-76.

 

The Big Reveal

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.  And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”

(which means, God with us).

 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”    Matthew 1:18-25

 

Truth is revealed by God alone

Can’t take the virgin’s word

She’s too young.

An angel comes instead

“Joseph, Son of David

You’re going to be a Dad

Of miracle begun

Your wife will bear

A son.

 

Holy Spirit seed

Is growing

Is holy

Is now

‘God With Us.’

 

Don’t be afraid.

You’ve done nothing wrong.

Innocent is she.

Please take her home.

Guard and love her

And

‘Trust in the Lord

With all your heart

And lean not on your own

Understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge Him

And He will make your paths straight.’

 

And be sure to name your little one

Jesus

For He will save his people from

Their sins.”

 

Truth is revealed by God alone.

A babe receives

Through water and the Word

The saving name of Jesus

In Triune unity.

‘God With Us’

Immanuel

Now resides within her breast,

Her genesis of faith begun.

 

All glory be to God the Father

All glory be to God the Son

All glory be to God the Spirit

Named us as sons and daughters

To live with Him as One.

 

Truth revealed by God alone

To Joseph

To you

To me.

God is with us.

~LJ

Lord God Heavenly Father,  thank you for revealing Your Son Jesus Christ first through the angel who spoke to Joseph and then to us through our Baptism.   Thank you for giving us the eyes of faith to see what miracle of life has taken place through simple water and Your Holy Word.  Just as the big reveal changed Joseph and Mary’s lives forever, so too our lives are forever changed and we are awed.   We take our place in the lineup of sons and daughters of the King of King and Lord of Lords.   Forgive us when fail to live as Your sons and daughters.   Grant us your peace.   In the name of Jesus, Immanuel, God With Us, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

December 11 Walking Clothes

Photo by Kevin Carden

Photo by Kevin Carden

Amos 4:1-6:14;  Revelation 2:18-3:6;  Psalm 130:1-8;  Proverbs 29:21-22

“I know your works.  You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.  Remember, then, what you received and heard.  Keep it, and repent.  If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and your will not know what hour I will come against you.

***

“Yet you still have a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.  The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.  I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.”

Revelation 3:1-5

Jesus gave a wake up call to the Christians in Sardis.  Their reputation was solid, but it was a charade and Jesus saw right through it.

Wow.  That means He can see right through me too. When I think I’m walking the walk, and talking the talk Jesus says, “Wake up!

I’ve been doing some sleeping lately; my motivation for writing a Christian blog on a daily basis teeters on a “have to” thing rather than a missional “I want to serve Him in this way, this day” thing.

That’s why Jesus’ words in this letter to the Sardis Christians speak hope to me:  Repent!  He sees.  He forgives.  He gives me His set of walking clothes–His righteousness won for me on the Cross are mine to wear, because I believe in Him and what He is able to do through me!

Thank you Lord God, for your letters to me and to all Christians as found in the book of Revelation.  Thank you for caring enough about our spiritual welfare that you write us strong warnings and give us your encouragement to “hang on.” Thank you for the assurance that our names are written in the book of life as we continue to put our faith and trust in You and You alone.  In this season of Advent, may we remember your letters to us and to give you thanks and praise.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.