Don’t Miss Jesus for the Manger

Don’t Miss Jesus for the Manger

Dear Friends,
It takes great faith to be obedient to God when you are unsure of yourself. None of us can say with certainty how our obedient actions will be understood and interpreted in days to come. We can want more than anything to be understood, accepted, loved, and welcomed by others. This often gets in the way of being obedient to God. During the seasons of Advent, Christmas,and Epiphany we can find wisdom to understand ourselves in God’s story from his servants in the Scriptures. Advent: means coming. We reflect on the prophecies ofthe Messiah and prepare ourselves for His Coming, not just in the Christmas season but for His Return. Christmas: A celebration of Christ’s birth. The fulfillment of prophecy. What we’ve prepared and waited for has arrived. Incarnation, Emmanuel: God with Us. The Shepherds are the first evangelists of Jesus’ birth. Epiphany: The Magi come and worship,Jesus revealed to all nations as King. People like Mary and Joseph,the unnamed shepherds,and the magi from the east. Over the next few months we are called to prepare ourselves for celebrating Jesus’ birth. Let’s ask for God’s help now.

Heavenly Father,

In me there is darkness,But with you there is light; I am lonely,but you do not leave me; I am feeble in heart, but with you there is help;I am restless, but with you there is peace. In me there is bitterness,but with you there is patience; I do not understand your ways,but you know the way for me. {Dietrich Bonhoeffer,1943) Lord we pray you open our eyes to the seasons before us,that we might be prepared to rightly adore Jesus in celebration and to boldly proclaim Him in the New Year.

In the Name of Jesus we pray,Amen.

With the time that we have I’d like to take a bird’s eye look at the celebration of Christ’s coming,birth, and heralding that lies before us in the coming months. When we celebrate Christmas rightly, it comes with preparation. If Christmas is an annual event in your life you might be tempted to accept it as the crowning of the Consumer Price Index rather than as the fulfillment of prophecy that Christ is here…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Don’t miss Jesus for the Manager

Something to Give

Something to Give

God gives each of us gifts right in that place where we feel weakest and most empty. All of our trials, understood rightly, can be used by God to transform us into people of worship and service. I have a friend who called me just yesterday, and his particular trial is physical, emotional, and spiritual. For many years he has struggled with his particular form of mental illness. He’s a very knowledgeable man, used to studying biblical history and theology. But his daily prayer is for God to simply help him cope with the trauma going on in his brain. He gets migraine headaches that cripple him for hours. He has panic attacks and anxieties that I can hardly understand. He has fitful periods of doubt, hurtful, mean-spirited, angry thoughts about God and bitterness toward people that eat at him.

I have stood beside him as he walked through a near suicidal period, followed by a hospitalization and then release after his decision to stop taking his medications. And as I listen and stand with him now, I realize that for my brother in Christ, every day is a testimony to me of the enduring grace of God. I ask him how…

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Something to Give

Naming Our Illusions

Naming Our Illusions

Dear Friends,

Each person is of extreme value and worth to God. There are no inferior human beings, for we are all His daughters and sons. Our texts today challenge us that there are people who cannot speak up, who cannot protect themselves, who are not protected. The Word of God challenges us to receive the truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for those people whose back is up against the wall. But are we, his people, willing to number ourselves among those who are wall-bruised?

Jesus proclaims freedom to the captives, sight for the blind, freedom for the oppressed, and Jubilee this year. Are we ready for all that? God is close to the broken hearted. The question is, are we close to the broken hearted?

Let’s pray:

Heavenly Father,

We humble ourselves before you and come eager to hear from you. We thank you for freedom, for deliverance, for protection. We know that there are many who are less free, who are still bound, who need a voice, and the deliverance that all your children should enjoy. All that we need comes not from any earthly person or government, rather it comes from you. We pray your Kingdom come, your Will be done here on earth in us.
In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

What is sin?. . .

Click on the link to download and read the rest of this Bible Study: “Naming Our Illusions”

Are These Promises For Me?

Are These Promises For Me?

Dear Friends,

My heart is heavy because of the restlessness, the sad struggle that plays out before me every day. So many people are the victims of rootless poverty that seems endless. As I was preparing this sermon I met a man who said he had just been wandering around for days. He hasn’t slept because he just wants to get back home to Kansas City. He says he just needs enough money for a one way bus ticket. But as I listen it becomes clear that he came to this area homeless looking for work on craigslist and when it didn’t work out, he’s headed back to the same situation. He wants to go back to his fiancé who is giving birth right about now. And he’s just wandering around trying to scrape together whatever money he can get to be back in time for his baby’s birth. That’s his story.

There are so many more stories like this one. No real plan beyond, “Maybe I can find a job” or “I’ll make it somehow.” When I ask, “Who knows you?” I’m told, “Well, my fiancé has a cellphone without any minutes.” The travelers aid society we partner with needs verification. They don’t want to just move people around who don’t have contacts in the destination city. I recommend some other ideas to this man. Ways he can settle for a few weeks in order to rest, eat, find work, and then travel in time. He turns it down and walks out.

I walk over to our front desk and ask a group of men who are crowding the phone operator to have a seat and assure them that their requests will be answered in time. A young man yells out, “I just want a hygiene kit.” I answer him by name and say, “You’ll get it when we call your name.” With that he calls out a curse on the building and on my father by name and walks out. Just because he doesn’t want to wait five minutes. So much impatience and hostility. So much controversy and weariness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As we set a course for our lives based on God’s word, we can learn to fear Him and walk in His ways.

Let’s go to the Lord now in prayer…

Download the rest of this sermon here.