My heart as His manger!

“She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger.” (Luke 2:7)
She placed her baby in an animal feed trough, in a barn.
Where the animals drooled and slobbered and smelled.
What an unlikely place for God’s chosen messiah.
And yet where else could God find us, but among the animals.
We have fallen from our created glory, we have become like animals.
Actually, this is insulting to animals, for animals are true to their nature.
Animals have no choice, but we do, and yet we go there.
This is amazing, God meets us where we are, to help us.
This lowly birth has been romanticized by our ‘christmas’ celebrations.
Our nativity scenes inspire nostaligia, not shame and humility.
This is where God had to come to find us, among the animals.
As a Jesus follower, I have been graciously humbled to know my sin.
But I have also been graciously blessed to know His love for me.
Today is a day to remember how low He had to go to bring me back!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I know the greed and pride and sinful desire that live in the manger of my own heart. Thank You for graciously moving in anyway.

Messenger of light!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 1:76-80
“To shine on those living in darkness…” (Luke 1:79)
I like these words, they describe how I see my own calling.
To bring hope to those in despair, life to those who are dying.
Everyday I see people living without hope, without peace.
And not just the poor and destitute, even wealthy successful people.
Life without God is life without hope, without peace, without direction.
It really is “meaningless, a chasing of the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)
Zechariah describes John as a prophet, one who points people towards God.
As followers of Jesus, we are also called to point people to God.
And to Jesus, God’s “salvation through the forgiveness of sins” (v.77).
People need to know this, they need someone to point them.
My job is not to condemn or criticize, but to point to Jesus.
By my words and actions, people in the dark need to see light.
Is this what people experience when they meet me, or hear me speak?
Does my presence with others inspire hope, peace, love, joy?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I want to be a messenger for You… for hope, peace, love and joy. May people not feel darker after being with me, and hearing me speak!

Singing in the victory parade!

“He leads out the prisoners with singing!” (Psalm 68:6)
David describes God’s help as a victorious rescue operation.
God rides out with His armies, and comes back with His enemies in tow.
Those enslaved by the enemy are set free, and sing in the victory parade.
Israel represents the underdog, the oppressed and orphaned and needy.
God is on the side of the underdog, and will make things right.
This message continues to be true, and a joyful hope for those who struggle.
Satan is doing his best to mess us up, but he cannot beat God.
Jesus has beaten him, and has ascended to the throne above.
Paul uses this psalm to describes Jesus’ victory (Ephesians 4:7-10).
Having reclaimed creation, Jesus now graces us with His Spirit.
And with the Spirit, we are gifted to live and lead with Him.
The world may see us as weak and inferior, but we know better!
We join with David in delaring, ‘we are more than conquerors in Christ!’
I sense Jesus encouraging me to stay hopeful and joyful in the struggle.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, remind me of this truth – of Your victory over the Enemy and Your Spirit in me – when Satan is messing things up around me.

Reading Job through Jesus!

“As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it.” (Job 4:8)
All scripture is God-breathed, but not every word is God’s word. (2 Timothy 3:16).
The bible includes words from Satan, as well as limited human perspectives.
God speaks through these stories and perspectives, to point us to Jesus.
In this passage, Job’s friend Eliphaz tells Job he gets what he deserved.
Even Paul mentions reaping what we sow (Galatians 6:7)…
I’ve heard Christians use this ‘truth’ as well, but is it God’s truth?
In this case, Eliphaz is wrong; and God does not approve of what he says.
But more than that, in Jesus we discover how we do NOT get what we deserve.
As we read Job, we need to be careful not to take it as gospel truth.
As we will see, God is in charge, not the law of ‘karma’.
I see Jesus as the key or filter for reading the bible (Matthew 5:38-39).
This is why I spend most of my time in the gospels, to soak myself in Jesus.
What might Jesus say to Job, and what could He be saying to us through Job?
Thankfully, because of Jesus, we do NOT reap what we sow (or we’d be in trouble).
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord Jesus, thank You for the deep, deep truth of grace which sets us free from the law of sin and death. Help me to stay centered in Your truth as I read the bible.

What’s the alternative?

“Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)
What strikes me in this passage is how the adversary works.
Satan (meaning ‘adversary’) wants to knock down Job’s faith, hope and love.
In this instance, he uses disaster and suffering to defeat him.
His tactics work on Jobs wife, and she becomes an ally for Satan.
I am not blaming Job’s wife, just noticing how the enemy works.
The same tactics are behind the recent Las Vegas massacre.
Many people are taking the opportunity to curse God.
What other ways does Satan use to undermine my faith, hope or love?
Distraction, disappointment, difficulty with other believers, love of pleasure?
But what is the alternative… curse God and die?
Isn’t this what is happening to many – despairing of life, taking their lives?
Without God, nothing makes sense; at least with God there is hope.
I get the pressure to question, doubt, give in, run away…
But I know who is behind it, and I’d rather take my chances with God, than him.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, in moments of weakness or doubt, I see You on the cross, not giving up. You overcame by faith hope and love, and I choose to do the same!

Refusing the voice of fear!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 1:67-75
“To enable us to serve him without fear.” (Luke 1:74)
Often my greatest enemy is general, subtle fears… or anxiety.
Behind these anxieties is an actual – invisible – enemy.
I do not hear voices, but thoughts go through my head all the time.
The same whispering that messed up Adam and Eve in the garden.
Whispers of doubt, of fear, of desire, of anger, of despair, of violence.
The ‘father of lies’ gets into our heads and messes with us.
He holds us back from serving God, and urges us to serve ourselves.
I see the father of lies involved in all of history – including mass murders.
I’m not blaming the devil, but he is involved in what happens.
Jesus was attacked too, but He refused Satan’s lies (unlike us).
He won back Adam’s throne, and beat sin, death and hell.
His Spirit now whispers to us too, urging us to listen to and follow Him!
With His help, I choose to refuse fear, and serve God with confidence!
With Zechariah, I will cling to this hope and press forward in faith!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, the fears I face are subtle and even silly. Yet they can paralyze me. Whisper louder than my fears, and help me to listen harder for Your voice.

His hand is with me too!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 1:57-66
“For the Lord’s hand was with him.” (Luke 1:66)
As I read this verse, I sense the Lord saying the same to me.
Believe it or not, the Lord’s hand is with me too.
Not for my own gain or advantage, but to fulfill His purpose for me.
Like John, you and I also have a job to do for the Lord.
“One who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.” (Luke 7:28)
I make no claims to greatness, but God wants to use me too.
God has always enjoyed making a big impact through little people.
His hand increases the impact of what their little hands do.
A word of hope, an act of kindness, a listening ear.
John prepared the way for Jesus, but in a sense we do too.
As Jesus followers, our actions open the way for Jesus to work.
In the Lord’s hands, our little words and deeds become significant.
I am encouraged to remember that His hand is with me too.
May this inspire me to use my hands to do good for Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I offer my hands to You again. May Your hand make their impact great!

Awesome God!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 1:46-56
“His mercy extends to those who fear him…” (Luke 1:50)
Only God is able to combine both sovereignty and mercy.
When humans attain positions of power, they tend to neglect mercy.
Or their mercy is condescending, treating the little people as pawns.
But God, Who is awesome in power, is also awesome in mercy.
He does not belittle or shame us; He is mindful of us, to lift us up.
More than that, He actually steps down to our level, to stand with us.
And when we sin, He willingly suffers in order to rescue and restore us.
He does not boss us around as His subjects, but loves us as His children.
Contrast this to how humans wield their power over others.
This is what Mary is bursting with joy over – God’s awesome power and mercy.
I sense the Lord asking me about how I think about God.
Do I respect God’s awesome greatness AND rejoice in His awesome goodness?
Does the awesomeness of God cause me to burst out with joy?
Or are my thoughts about God too small, do I not respect God enough?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are right. I have grown so comfortable with God’s merciful love that I forget His awesome power. Help me to rejoice in both – the awesome greatness and the awesome goodness of God!

Jesus joy through me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Luke 1:39-45
“As your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:44)
Jesus in Mary causes John in Elizabeth to rejoice.
This is a very unique situation, not one that applies to our lives.
At least not directly… since in a sense Jesus is in me.
The Lord has promised to be me with (us) to the very end.
His Spirit in us, with us, can bring joy to others to.
Notice that Mary didn’t have to do anything but show up and say ‘hi’.
It was Jesus in her that impacted Elizabeth and John.
This is the same for me too, and all of us as Jesus followers.
How else did the first Jesus followers have such an impact on the world?
“I no longer live, but Christ lives in me!” (Galatians 2:20)
Jesus is encouraging me to trust His power at work in me when I show up.
When I speak, when I visit, when I pray, when I work – He is at work!
My task is to remain in Him, so that He can work through me (John 15:4)
He’s brought joy to the world for centuries, He will do it through me too!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to rest in Your joy, help me to trust in Your joy, and help me to share Your joy. May others leap for joy because of You in me today!

Make me a blessing!

“So that your ways may be known on earth.”(Psalm 67:2)
This is a prayer for God’s blessing.
But notice WHY the writer wants to be blessed.
SO THAT other people will know God and be blessed.
God originally chose Abraham to bless all nations (Genesis 12:3).
But as time passed, his family forgot about blessing others.
Jesus came for the sake of others, to bless all nations.
But He went further than seeking to be blessed.
He forfeited His own blessing, to bless others.
He emptied Himself, so that others might be filled (Philippians 2:5-11).
Jesus calls us to go beyond seeking blessing.
As a Jesus follower, being a blessing is my life’s calling.
Maybe my prayer should be USE ME (not BLESS ME) to bless others!
We share with David and Jesus a concern for the nations.
But will I, like Jesus, sacrifice my blessings for others?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You are not calling me to seek Your blessing, but to share Your blessing. May I be a blessing today!