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!

Spirit Built

Image by Chad Graham

Image by Chad Graham

Lots of kingdom building took place in Israel under King David.  David looked around him in wonder at all God had done through him.  He lived in a palace of cedar, yet God still only had a tent as His dwelling.  David longed to change that but God had other plans.  Through the prophet Nathan God unveiled His blueprint for His heavenly house which includes you and me and all who believe:

“I declare to you that the Lord will build a house for you:  when your days are over and you go to be with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish your kingdom.  He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.  I will be his father, and he will be my son.  I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor.  I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.”

1 Chronicles 17:10-14

* * * * *

Jesus,

Son of David,

Son of God

is that son of prophet’s

voice.

And we who believe

make up His house

living stone by

living stone

established in Him

forever!

* * * * *

“As you come to him, the living stone…

you also, like living stones, are being built into

a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood

offering spiritual sacrifices

acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

But you are a chosen people,

a royal priesthood,

a holy nation,

a people belonging to God,

that you may declare the praise

of Him who called you

out of darkness

into His wonderful light.”

1 Peter 2:4-5,9

Lord God, like King David we sometimes have plans to do something great for you.  Through your Word you gently remind us that You have Your own plans for us.  Lord, open our hearts and minds to see and do the work you have planned for us.  In our everyday lives help us to be found faithful to you and that you find praise on our lips.  In your great mercy you have called us to be a part of your spiritual house.  Thank you!  May we do our part–to the glory of your holy name.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

December 19 Zephaniah’s Double Feature

Photo by Nathan Ward

Photo by Nathan Ward

Zephaniah 1:1-3:20;  Revelation 10:1-11;  Psalm 138:1-8;  Proverbs 30:11-14

Destruction

“The great day of the Lord is near,

near and hastening fast;

The sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;

the mighty man cries aloud there.

 A day of wrath is that day

a day of distress and anguish

a day of ruin and devastation,

a day of darkness and gloom

a day of clouds and thick darkness

a day of trumpet blast and battle

cry against the fortified cities

and against the lofty battlements.

I will bring distress on mankind

so that they shall walk like the blind,

because they have sinned against the Lord,

their blood shall be poured out like dust,

and their flesh like dung.

Neither their silver nor their gold

shall be able to deliver them

on the day of the wrath of the Lord.

In the fire of his jealousy,

all the earth shall be consumed,

for a full and sudden end

he will make of all the inhabitants

of the earth.”

Zephaniah 1:14-18

Delight

“Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion

shout, O Israel!

Rejoice and exalt with all your heart,

O daughter of Jerusalem!

The Lord has taken away the judgments against you;

he has cleared away your enemies.

The King of Israel, the Lord,

is in your midst,

you shall never again fear evil.

Fear not, O Zion;

let not your hands grow weak.

The Lord your God is in your midst,

a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness;

he will quiet you with his love;

he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Zephaniah 3:14-17

O Lord God, it is hard to read words of judgement and destruction.  Yet such words were and still are meant to turn unbelieving hearts back to you.  You desire that all men be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth–that ‘delight’ is your middle name and that you want to be able to sing joyously over all those who believe in you.   Thank you, Father, for sending your Son, Jesus Christ, to do battle with sin, death and the devil on the Cross–thank you for His victory!  We need fear no more evil-it has no hold on us.  Grant that during this season of Advent we may be bright, bold Truth bearers of your message of hope and salvation through the Babe of Bethlehem.  It’s in His name we pray, Amen.

December 18 Habakkuk’s Hug

Photo by Stacey Lewis

Photo by Stacey Lewis

Habakkuk 1:1-3:19;  Revelation 9:1-21;  Psalm 137:1-9;  Proverbs 30:10

Need a hug?

God’s people sure did.  They were scared.  They knew what was coming as a result of God’s judgement on their sin.  Babylon was knocking on their door.

Yes, they had messed up, but God in His love and compassion sent a “hugger” in their midst to tell them not to lose heart–or hope.

Habakkuk, the Old Testament prophet and one of my favorites, means “embracer”–one who embraces another to give comfort and assurance.

Habakkuk prays:

“Lord, I have heard of your fame:  I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.  Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.”  3:2

Habakkuk professes:

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.  The Sovereign Lord is my strength;  He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”  3:17-19

Habakkuk hugs.

God hugs and wraps His arms around us with His Word of hope and promise.

O Lord, as we wait for your return keep us faithful; keep us strong in You no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, no matter what troubles surround us or dangers we encounter because we still live in a fallen world.  O Lord, we praise your ways that are eternal–your mercy and compassion; your justice and faithfulness; your redeeming love shown to us through your Son, Jesus Christ.  We eagerly await your return!  Come Lord, Jesus!  In your name we pray, Amen.

September 12 Shoot For Peace

Photo by Ben Branum

Photo by Ben Branum

Isaiah 10:1-11:16;  2 Corinthians12:11-21;  Psalm 56:1-13;  Proverbs 23:6-8

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;

from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–

the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,

the Spirit of counsel and of power,

the Spirit of knowledge and

of the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees

with his eyes;

or decide by what he hears

with his ears,

but with righteousness he will

judge the needy,

with justice he will give decisions

for the poor of the earth.

He will strike the earth with the

rod of his mouth;

with the breath of his lips he

will slay the wicked.

Righteousness will be his belt

and faithfulness the sash

around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,

the leopard will lie down with the goat,

the calf and the lion and the yearling together;

and a little child will lead them…

They will neither harm nor destroy

on all my holy mountain,

for the earth will be full of the knowledge

of the Lord

as waters cover the sea.”

Isaiah 11:1-9

~

Isaiah, prophet old

posits a picture

of peace.

A shoot,

a Spirit Branch of wisdom,

counsel and power

who knows God,

who is God

who is to come,

who has come–

His name is Christ the Lord

and will come again in glory

to judge the living and the dead.

Name bearers, we

Christians,

Gift receivers of His Grace

wait for his reign of peace.

All will know him

All will see his glory

All creation will rest in Him.

Come, Lord Jesus, come!

Amen.

September 11 Back To The Future

Image by Jeff Brown

Image by Jeff Brown

Isaiah 8:1-9:21;  2 Corinthians 12:1-10; Psalm 55:1-23;  Proverbs 23:4-5

“Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress.  In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future

he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the

way of the sea, along the Jordan.

The people walking in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those living in the land of the

shadow of death

a light has dawned.

You have enlarged the nation

and increased their joy;

they rejoice before you

as people rejoice at the harvest,

as men rejoice

when dividing the plunder.

For as in in the day of Midian’s defeat

you have shattered

the yoke that burdens them,

the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor.

Every warriors boot used in battle

and every garment rolled in blood

will be destined for burning,

will be fuel for the fire.

~

For unto us a child is born,

unto us a son is given,

and the government will be on

his shoulders.

And he will be called

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government

and peace there will be no end.

He will reign on David’s throne

and over his kingdom,

establishing and upholding it

with justice and righteousness

from that time on and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord Almighty

will accomplish this.”

Isaiah 9:1-7

Image by Lenin Rodriguez

Image by Lenin Rodriguez

Lord God, into a tumultuous world riddled with warring nations fueled by mankind’s greed, pride and lust for power you sent your Son.  Our world seems no less different today than the one into which the prophet Isaiah spoke and the one into which Jesus was born.  Sin and evil abound.  But thanks be to You, O God–our Wonderful Counselor has come!  Our Mighty God has broken the chains of sin and death!  Our Everlasting Father reigns above!  We have met the Prince of Peace!  Days of righteousness and justice are coming!  Lord, may faith increase in our world–that people will look to you for their salvation.  Help us to be your faithful witnesses, for Jesus’ sake, Amen.

April 10 God’s Man, Moses

Image

Image by Jaret Benson

Deuteronomy 34:1-Joshua 2:24;  Luke 13:22-14:6;  Psalm 79:1-13;  Proverbs 12:26

God’s man, Moses

chosen at birth

plucked from the river

raised in splendor

a mere man

who took injustice

into his own hands

made a mess

and had to flee

falling from grace

to tend sheep.

Not forgotten,

God’s man, Moses,

 a future assignment

came from a burning bush

the word of deliverance

‘Go and set my people free.’

Back to Egypt

a mere man

through whom

the power and majesty

of God flowed

to turn the tide of

Israel’s suffering.

God’s man, Moses

led and interceded

for a stiff-necked people

forty desert years,

mouthpiece of the Almighty

he shaped a nation,

according to God’s Word.

Humble and obedient

he met with God face to face

and lived.

Moses, mere man,

dishonored his Lord

before all God’s people.

‘No promised land for you.

You can see it,

but do not touch.

Your job is done,

I’m calling you home.’

 

“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said.  He buried him in Moab…but to this day no one knows where his grave is.  Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak, nor his strength gone.”  Deuteronomy 34:5-7

Lord God, Moses, mere man, was used mightily by you to accomplish your purpose, to deliver a captive people.  Moses foreshadowed the future Savior of the world–you Son who was more than a mere man–who was completely obedient and humble–who turned neither to the left or to the right, but went straight to the Cross.  Jesus saw the Promised Land and entered in.  Through faith, we who believe, though mere men, can also enter into the Land to dwell eternally with you.  Thank you for Moses, true servant.  Thank you for Jesus, the greatest servant of all.  Thank you for your Promised Land!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

“Then we your people,

the sheep of your pasture,

will praise you forever;

from generation to generation

we will recount your praise!”

Psalm 79:13

 

February 6 No Doze

Image

Photo by Jason Sheveland

Exodus 23:14-25:40;  Matthew 24:29-51;  Psalm 30:1-12;  Proverbs 7:24-27

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.  For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.  For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away so will be the coming of the Son of Man…Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”  Matthew 24:36-39,42

Spiritual sleepiness.  What does it look like?

Closing the eyes to the truth of God’s Word?  Letting the culture dictate what “good”, what’s “bad”?  NOT speaking gently and lovingly that God hates sin (and we all sin), but loves the sinner–that’s why He sent His Son Jesus to pay for those sins?  Satisfying the flesh and seeking worldly pleasures, letting worship and fellowship with other believers go by the wayside?  Excusing oneself from giving to God the “first fruits” of our labors?

Jesus knew about spiritual sleepiness.  He saw it in his disciples who couldn’t stay away to pray for him.  He saw the havoc of spiritual eyes that closed in his disciple Judas who betrayed him and later took his own life.  He decried the spiritual sleepiness of the religious leaders whose hearts were hardened as they closed their eyes and refused to see Jesus as the Son of God, as Savior.

Jesus knows when we become spiritually sleepy as well.  That’s why he says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  He promises to help us stay awake–to help carry the load.  His strength is our strength.  He will be our No Doze as we keep our eyes on Him, the “author and perfecter” of our faith.

Lord God, there is much in our world that lulls us into spiritual sleepiness.  Our eyes grow heavy and we are tempted to close them and escape.  Forgive us, O Lord.  Cleanse us from all that weighs us down–our fear of man, our own self-centeredness, the lust of our eyes.  Please help us to be vigilant, to stay spiritually awake.  Thank you that you never sleep nor slumber–that we can depend on you night and day!  In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Rise, my soul to watch and pray; from your sleep awaken;

Be not by the evil day unawares o’ertaken.

Satan’s prey oft are they

Who secure are sleeping

And no watch are keeping.

 

But while watching, also pray to the Lord unceasing.

God alone can make you free,

Strength and faith increasing,

So that still mind and will

Heartfelt praises tender

And true service render.

~Johann Freystein

December 19 Still To Come

Image

Image by Lianne T

Zephaniah 1:1-3:20;  Revelation 10:1-11;  Psalm 138:1-8;  Proverbs 30:11-14

I’ve never had my “fortune” told, but I imagine I would only want to hear of nothing but “good” things to come.  Who wants to look forward to “bad” news?

Same with us when it comes to hearing God’s word.  Our sinful selves want only to hear that God loves, loves, loves no matter what.  And wants peace, peace, peace for all the world.  We don’t want to hear anything negative that would destroy our illusion of goodwill to all.  We really don’t want to admit that we are sinners if the truth be known. (We live good lives, right?)

But God loves us too much to leave us with that simple vision of His relationship with mankind.

As one of the Old Testament prophets speaking God’s word writes:

“The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast, the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;  the mighty man cries aloud there.  I will bring distress on mankind so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord.”  Zephaniah 1: 14, 17

God is coming again to seek those who truly believe in Him, follow Him, and live their lives for Him.  Left on our own we would be joining the “mighty man” crying aloud in distress because on our own we cannot please God.

And God knew that.  At Christmas we are reminded once again of the answer to our dilemma–we see the Christ child born in a manger in Bethlehem (something that the ancient prophets also foretold).  We see a Savior who makes a way for us.  Through faith given to us in the waters of Baptism God sees Jesus in us–the Son whom he loves.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;  he will rejoice over you with gladness;  he will quiet you with his love;  he will exult over you with loud singing!”  Zephaniah 3:16-17

Lord God Heavenly Father, we acknowledge that on our own we can not live a life pleasing to you, that we are indeed sinners. Forgive us.  Through your son, Jesus, we have hope, we have faith, we have life.  We have confidence and peace.  At this special time of year may we boldly proclaim the reason for our joy–the Lord has come!  He’s coming again!  We praise you for your saving grace, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

December 18 Yet Rejoice!

Image

Photo by Nathan Ward

Habakkuk 1:1-3:19;  Revelation 9:1-21;  Psalm 137:1-9;  Proverbs 30:10

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines;

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pens and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; 

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer,

he enables me to go on the heights.”

Habakkuk 3:17-19

 

In the absence of all this world holds dear–

beauty, fame, power, wealth–

yet will I rejoice and be joyful in God my Savior!

 

In the face of disaster, disappointment, and decay

yet will I rejoice and be joyful in God my Savior!

 

Confronted with ridicule, rejection and scorn,

yet will I rejoice and be joyful in God my Savior!

 

Why?

I have His promises!

He will never leave me nor forsake me.  Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5

He is going to prepare a place for me.  John 14:3

He who is in me is greater than he who is in the world.  1 John 4:4

He has overcome the world.  John 16:33

He has given me everlasting life through faith in His Son.  John 3:16

Just dwelling on those words propels me above the fray

and frazzle of this world.

God leads me to higher heights and enables me to stand firm!

Lord, I thank you for Habakkuk’s comforting and encouraging words–to rejoice in You even when there is no cause to rejoice,  when troubles and trials abound.  Thank you for granting us strength through faith.  Even though we may not “have it all” in this lifetime, we rejoice that because of Jesus’ work of salvation on the Cross, we will experience everlasting joy and peace in Heaven with You.  Praise You for You are our all in all!  In Your Name we pray, Amen.