Archive for December, 2014

Wine skins and resolutions

December 31st, 2014 by Maureen

No one puts new wine in old wine skins. The wine will burst the skins and both the wine and the skins are lost. One puts new wine into fresh wine skins. Mark 2:22

The web is full of articles about the pros and cons of making New Year’s resolutions and some alternatives to resolutions as well. Most of us have things in our lives that we want to do differently but fear, laziness, social obligations, cultural mores, self-comforting behaviors, physical addictions, habits entrenched in the neural pathways of our brains are like old wine skins that just won’t accommodate the changes we try to make. When we try to do things differently we might not even feel like our authentic selves. Perhaps this New Year, instead of focusing so much on trying to make the wine go in the skin, we might just get comfortable in the new skin that Christ has wrapped us in by His grace. If we happen to pour in old wine, nothing’s going to explode, but as we embrace who we already are in Him, through Him, and because of Him, the new wine becomes a more natural fit for the new skin.

Happy New Year. Lord, thanks for 2014 and 2015. Let Your will be done in my life on earth as You’ve already accomplished it in heaven.

P.S. This is a longer than normal post and I promise it’s not a trend.

Humbled

December 30th, 2014 by Maureen

…and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8b

It is the unearned, immeasurable, indiscriminate grace of Christ that allows us to experience appropriate humility. This is the kind of humility that knows how to celebrate victory and receive compliments yet readily admits failure and deflects adulation. This is the kind of humility that recognizes the insignificance of our deeds in the vast universe yet acknowledges that the cross of Christ makes each of us big and allows us to participate with Him in matters of eternal consequence. This is the kind of humility that can surrender everything to God’s hands and trusts in His good without reservation.

Lord, help me when I think I am too small to make a difference and when I think I’m so big I know better than You.

O mercy

December 29th, 2014 by Maureen

To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

I do love mercy. I love it when I witness mercy…when somebody lets the mom with the full basket and crying toddler go first in the grocery store…when somebody rolls down the window and gives the homeless guy a dollar…when somebody has every right to retaliate but doesn’t…when someone sees the biggest fail ever and redirects attention elsewhere. Mercy responds to need without judgment – and often without well-meaning advice. Mercy just addresses the immediate circumstance with compassion and grace.

Lord, help me to recognize circumstances that call for mercy and to be merciful.

Mishpat, what’s that?

December 27th, 2014 by Maureen

The Lord has told you what is good and this is what He requires of you: To do justice, to love mercy,  and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

The Hebrew word used for “justice” in the original text is “mishpat.”  It means treating people in a way that reflects the character of God, encompassing His love and righteousness. So what does doing justice mean in 21st century western culture? Is is fairness? Does it mean paying people what they have earned or dividing resources equally? Does it involve fighting for the rights of the needy, oppressed, or  underrepresented? Is justice assessing other people according their behavior and character based on our value systems? Does it mean “eye for an eye” justice or should the redemptive  work of Christ affect how we interpret “mishpat?” There are lots of layers to the idea and different ways to focus on the concept. I liked this guy’s take, but there are many aspects to “doing  justice” as we live our lives with God.

Lord, help me to respond to others with the mishpat of Christ.

Change is the new normal

December 26th, 2014 by Maureen

A child is born to us, a son is given, and the government will rest upon his shoulders…and it’s peace will never end. Is. 9:6a, 7b

Jesus changes everything all the time. The Bethlehem shepherds heard about Jesus, told everybody they saw, then went back to their normal lives? The Magi returned home and never gave the new King another thought? Over the next 33 years did they wonder about Him? Did they think he was dead? The Bible doesn’t tell us their stories or if and how their encounters with the baby King changed their lives. What each of us can speak to is how believing in Him has changed each of ours. There is no ‘going back to normal’ after Christmas. There is only further up and further in.

Lord, keep changing my life.

 

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

December 25th, 2014 by Maureen

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad…Matt 5:13

Christmas is a season for rejoicing…and stressing. At some point during the holiday season, and often on the Big Day itself, everything gets to be too much. Sometimes its good to downsize our expectations of ourselves and our celebrations. The meals, the gifts, the decorations, the plans for gathering are all just containers for the relationships themselves. Each hug, each conversation, each quiet moment staring into the yule log, each toast, each carol, each “thanks, I love it” after unwrapping a gift, and even each tacky piece of yard art can be a little Christmas all by itself. No pressure, just look for all the little Christmases and rejoice in the ones that strike your happy.

Lord, help me to peace out instead of stressing out, Grinching out, or checking out…and most importantly, a big shout out to Jesus….Happy Birthday!

Bearing gifts we traverse afar

December 24th, 2014 by Maureen

Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matt 2:11

In spite of popular nativity scenes, the Magi arrived a while after Jesus was born and just because there were three gifts doesn’t necessarily mean there were only three Magi. Each gift symbolizes Jesus roles. Gold is a gift for kings. The frankincense was used by priests. It also has healing properties. So Jesus also has the role of Priest and Healer. Myrrh was used for embalming the dead. This gift symbolizes His death. And his victory over it. The Magi rejoiced in Jesus and honored Him with gifts that expressed exactly Who He is. I don’t think I can pull that off at the mall.

Lord, let the gifts I give express the love, honor, and joy I feel about their recipients.

Ye who will now bless the poor

December 23rd, 2014 by Maureen

And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Luke3:11

The carol, Good King Wenceslas tells the story of a rich king who has compassion and acts to help a hungry stranger who cannot take care of his own needs. This is the essence of Christ’s ministry. While on earth he healed the sick, fed the poor, and defended the oppressed. He told this disciples to do that too. The Father gave us Christ to became the healing, nourishment, and defense for our souls that we could not supply for ourselves. Rather than retelling some part of the Nativity story, Good King Wenceslas tells the story of how one man responded to the way Christ gives.

Lord, help me to do Christmas the way You do Christmas.

Haste, haste to bring Him laud

December 21st, 2014 by Maureen

“Let’s go to  Bethlehem and see this thing that the Lord has told us about…after seeing him the shepherds told everyone what had happened.” Luke 2 15, 17

Without finishing their shift or  finding a sheep-sitter, those shepherds’ first response to the angelic announcement was to book it to Bethlehem post haste, and then spread the word. The Bible doesn’t tell us that hoards of people showed up at the manger after that, so we might infer that not hearing it directly from angels may have had an effect on the response of the people the shepherds told. The shepherds, however, went back to work “glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard.” Maybe the people they told shouldn’t have been so picky about the source.

Lord, I want to always be open and ready to change priorities and focus on the wonder and glory of You.

 

Ye who sang creation’s story now proclaim Messiah’s birth

December 19th, 2014 by Maureen

Where were you when I laid the foundation of earth…when the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Job 38:1.7

Angels saw the world made and saw it fall. No human can fully relate to the amazement and delight of angels; and having never been human it seems unlikely that angels could fully grasp Jesus’ humanity. No wonder they sang. They were witnessing the beginning of the restoration of the world they had rejoiced at when it began. They were witnessing the God they had always worshiped become part of the very creation they’d watched Him make.

Lord, I come and worship.

God and sinners reconciled

December 18th, 2014 by Maureen

God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  2 Cor. 5:19

That night, standing around the manger, everybody understood that Jesus’ birth signaled hope and change, but nobody knew exactly how it would play out. When we come to faith in Christ the experience of reconciliation usually plays out differently too. Reconciliation isn’t trying to fix what we think is broken in ourselves; reconciliation is letting Him break the chains that bind us to this broken world. Reconciliation isn’t us trying to conform to what we think He wants; reconciliation is us letting Him transform us into how He already sees us.

Lord, thank You for laying aside Your glory so You could raise me and give me second birth.

The dawn of redeeming grace

December 17th, 2014 by Maureen

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. Jn. 1:4

Jesus came. His purpose was redemption. His method was grace. From the moment His coming was announced to Mary and Joseph to the moment He ascended leaving his friends on the mountaintop, Jesus communicated His truth with love and grace. The first words spoken about Him was “fear not.” As messengers of this beautiful redeeming grace this should be the spirit of the messages we communicate to others about God as well.

Lord, let the words I speak about You be words of redeeming grace.

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace

December 16th, 2014 by Maureen

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Is. 9:6

All of us operate under the authority of others. We want to be able to trust and to learn from our parents, teachers, counselors, bosses, mentors, and government leaders. Those who have trust issues with authority usually have been disappointed or betrayed by someone who had power over them. Those who haven’t experienced the love a father tend to gravitate toward those who will fill that role in their lives. God is the authority we can absolutely trust with all our lives.

Father, I trust you to always be my Wonderful, Mighty, Everlasting Prince of Peace.

Disperse the gloomy clouds of night

December 15th, 2014 by Maureen

As Joseph was thinking this over an angel appeared in a dream and saying “don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife….she will bear a son and you will call him Jesus for He will save His people from their sins [that is, prevent them from failing and missing the true end and scope of life, which is God]. Matt. 1:20-21 AMP

It would be nice if angels always showed up in dreams to explain life’s disturbing uncertainties. Fortunately the explanation Joseph got applies to our fears too. Jesus came to rescue us from the fears we can identify and from the ones we can’t. Having Emmanuel – God with us – disperses the gloomy clouds of night and puts death’s dark shadows to flight.

Emmanuel, thank you for coming to conquer death, hell, and the grave…and all my fears.

…still proceeding, guide us to Thy perfect light

December 13th, 2014 by Maureen

And I give thee for a covenant of a people, And a light of nations. To open the eyes of the blind, To bring forth from prison the bound one, From the house of restraint those sitting in darkness. Is 42:6-7 YLT

Just as the light we see coming from a star may in 2014 be millions of years old, the light that God put on earth over two thousand years ago is just now being seen by many of us. When we sit in darkness, held back by whatever restrains us from knowing or seeing, God is still with us and always has been. He has already sent Jesus to open our eyes and bring us out of our personal prisons. His light is still proceeding and eventually will impact everything that is still sitting in darkness.

Lord, help me to keep seeing and following Your star of wonder.

 

Let every heart, prepare Him room

December 12th, 2014 by Maureen

Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that will be opposed  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:33-34

An honest assessment of Jesus disturbs the universe we create for ourselves. He causes honest assessment of ourselves. He challenges our presuppositions, our values, our goals, our desires, and our prejudices. Our hearts are designed to be filled with Him. The more time we spend loving and enjoying Him the more stuff that is junking up our hearts gets pushed aside or edited out to make room for His stuff.

Lord, I want to prepare more room for Your stuff in my heart.

 

Away in a manger

December 10th, 2014 by Maureen

She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger. Luke 2:7

When He was born Jesus, the Bread of life, was laid in an empty feed trough. He came to nourish our starving souls and fill our empty hearts. He came to be broken for us, symbolized by the bread we break at the Communion table. He came to invite us all to a feast that is already laid out for us. Appetizers are currently available.

Be near me, Lord, Jesus, I ask thee to stay, close by me forever…

The weary world rejoices

December 8th, 2014 by Maureen

But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. Gal. 4:4-5

Long lay the world in sin and error pining ’til He appeared and the soul felt its worth. Living under the law makes us feel guilty and unworthy but living under His grace makes us feel loved, treasured, and accepted. The love of the Father for us, expressed through Jesus, communicates what we are worth to Him. He did not even withhold His own Son in order to redeem us for relationship with Him so that we could be restored, forgiven, and adopted.

Father, my world-weary soul rejoices in the Gift You sent that holy night.

 

Let nothing You dismay

December 7th, 2014 by Maureen

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Is. 41:10

There was a lot to dismay Israel in the time leading up to Christ’s birth. The perception was that the Messiah would address the things that caused dismay. In our personal lives, our neighborhoods, our cities, our country, and out world we witness and sometimes personally experience horrors that dismay and confuse us. We may not understand or be able to prevent painful events but we can choose to trust God and allow Him to address the dismay we feel with His comfort and yes, even His joy.

Lord, help me to bring tidings of comfort and joy.

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing

December 5th, 2014 by Maureen

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John 1:1

Way to start at the beginning, John. The Christmas story really does begin before the part about the Manger, or the part about angels visiting Mary and Joseph. It starts before the prophecies of Isaiah or David about Jesus, and even begins before the advent of evil that caused the need for a Redeemer. Jesus always existed in the circle of love that is the Triune God. Wrapping Him in flesh let us hear the Father’s true words to us and experience the Father’s true love for us.

Father, thank You for making Your gracious, loving Word flesh.