Where do you need Jesus?

Do you know who he is, this tiny baby whose birth we celebrate?

Pause, consider and sigh.

He is Emmanuel, God with us. God, who loves. God who sees the oppression we experience. Who heals our fractured hearts. Who breaks the chains of our addictions and takes each of us by the hand and leads us from the prison cell.

Yes, sigh.

Sigh in relief. The burdens you have carried you will not forever carry. The joy you will celebrate is all the sweeter for the sweat you have tasted.

You cannot make this happen.

You cannot force God to see your despair and wrap you in his eternal arms. And yet, he comes. He comes with healing in his wings and we are the wounded ones, the disappointed, the weak – the orphans and outcasts.

Christmas matters because of this, because we need Christ.

And he comes – Emmanuel, he comes.

Where do you need Jesus?

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The pressure of the season

We’re hard-working people. No moss grows under our feet. We go to work, keep our houses and volunteer at church. We give to missions and maybe even raise our hands in worship.

Yup, we’ve got respect, too. They call us first when they need a volunteer or a person to sit on this committee or organize that event. We’re clean, too. No porn in our houses. Our yards are well kept. Our children present well and get good grades. Our bank accounts are solid.

We’re not like those others, the ones who only show up on Sunday morning.

But it’s the Christmas season and all we can think about are choir rehearsals, presents to buy and food to cook. We know this season is about Christ – God come into our world. We know it absolutely, but we can’t find the space to settle into that great truth. So we rail against the commercialization as though Christmas music in the malls is compelling our distraction.

No. A thousand times, no. We are the source of our own distraction.

Ah, is that honesty or condemnation? Let’s try a little self test…

  1. Does my house have to be decorated perfectly?
  2. Do I have to find just the right gift for that relative?
  3. Do I need to make sure my family is satisfied with my efforts?
  4. Do we have to get the meal just right?
  5. Do I really feel like I must attend that gathering?
  6. Shouldn’t I just try harder and get a little more shopping done?
  7. Do I really believe that if I don’t do it, no one else will?

Ah, all the little lies. It’s no wonder we can’t settle into Christ.

Shall we try some truth…

  1. I don’t have to be perfect.
  2. I don’t have to make sure everyone is happy.
  3. I don’t have to hurry up and get one more thing done.
  4. I don’t have to try harder or be better than anyone else.

Now, breathe. Isn’t that refreshing?

Christmas is a gift – not only does Christmas invite us to settle into Christ, but also, to settle into who we are in Him.

What are you doing today?

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He’s coming

He’s coming. He’s coming.

John the Baptist, crazy man crying out a crazy message; he’s coming. Get ready, he’s coming soon.

Christmas changes everything.

Maybe we’ve been celebrating it too long, maybe we’ve forgotten, maybe it’s become too normal. But he’s coming and that changes everything.

It’s hard to see, almost invisible – a baby; irrelevant. Not what we expected. Not what we expect today, but he’s coming. Pay attention.

He will shift the powers of the world. The things we thought were great become irrelevant and the things we thought difficult become passages of intimacy and grace.

We’re full of ourselves – intoxicated with our own strength and affluence, but he’s coming. He turns it all upside down. The poor can experience shalom, the grieving can find comfort, the persecuted are really the graced.

He’s coming.

Don’t miss it. Don’t get so wrapped up in parties and clothes and presents. Enjoy those things, but don’t be deceived.

He’s coming.

Everything we see is fading away; the tinsel and wrapping paper, of course. But other things, too; war, oppression, violence, hatred – it won’t last forever.

He’s coming. Thank God, he’s coming.

Are you paying attention?

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Praying for our enemies

Want a heart stretching challenge? Try taking a Psalm, lets say, Psalm 139 and pray it for some sadistic person whose picture you’ve seen on the news.

Got the picture? Try this…

O LORD, you have searched this horrible person. You know him! You see him where he is. You hear everything he thinks about and see every horrible thing he does. You hear every word he speaks.

Even now, right where he is, You hem him in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon him. He has no idea. He can’t figure that out, but no matter where he goes, he can’t hide from you!

You formed him, even him in his mother’s womb. He doesn’t praise you right now, but he’s still fearfully and wonderfully made. Let his soul know it. Let him know that even when he was being made in secret, you were watching. Your eyes saw his unformed substance. In your book are written all your desires for him.

Your thoughts toward him, toward even that horrible person are precious. Let him know. Reveal your thoughts to him. Show him that you’re with him.

Show him that you can’t stand it when he does evil things. You hate it when he curses you and abuses your children. Show him that you don’t want him to be a horrible person. Search him, O God, and show him his own heart. Lead him into the way of life.

Did you do it? How did that feel?

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Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down

Oh Lord, that you would rend the heavens and come down! That the powers of war, disease, greed and poverty would shatter into a billion enfeebled pieces!

This is our ache and our cry.

We read the news. We watch the film clips and hear the stories; families fleeing their homes, hiding in caves and sleeping half starved in wretched refugee camps. Infected brothers and sisters, mothers, carried to understaffed overcrowded makeshift hospitals. Lust filled warriors seizing girls to satisfy their filthy desires and others, suited, paying money to satisfy those same desires.

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

Christmas doesn’t start with decorated trees and holiday treats.

First, there’s an ache, a hunger, a groan. There’s a plea whispered in a haunted, minor key; O come, O come, Emmanuel.

O come, O come. Rend the heavens and come! Come, Lord, come.

The ache, the groan is uncomfortable. I want to move on quickly to mistletoe and Christmas carols, but the story always begins with an ache.

What are you aching for today? Where do you need God to rend the heavens and come down?

Let today, this first Sunday of Advent, start with a cry.

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Happy Thanksgiving

May God give each of us the grace of a truly thankful heart.

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Keep your eyes on the love

I love managing projects. The thing about project management is that you can work really hard for a fairly short period of time and see the outcomes. If you’ve written a good project plan, you can measure the outcomes in great detail. That’s a wonderful thing.

Outcomes.

We live in a culture that’s all about outcomes. Medical outcomes, outcome based education, outcome based goals and objectives.

We love outcomes!

We love setting goals and then achieving them; 15% profit growth, 12% reduction in complaints.

But in the real world, things are substantially different.

In the real world, we’ve been given two great commandments; love God and love our neighbor. The problem is, neither can be measured. The job of loving God and loving others is never finished.

It’s no wonder we like to talk about giving a tithe. If we can afford it, it has a great sense of accomplishment. Then again, if we can afford it, we should probably consider giving a heck of a lot more.

It’s also fun to work on a schedule. I put my hands on my hips, stand up tall and say, “I taught Sunday school last year.” Look at me, hey! I did it.

But there’s a big difference between giving generously and writing a check for 10% of our income just as there’s a difference between teaching Sunday school and discipling young people.

Love isn’t a task item to be checked off and true ministry is never finished.

We can’t measure love. We can’t put it in a test tube and run it through a mass spectrometer. We can’t weigh it or determine its volume, but we sure do know it when we see it, don’t we?

The real thing is unmistakable.

And ministry’s not a thing we finish, either. Every Church pastor knows that with absolute truth. So does every mother. You do the best you can today and tomorrow you start all over again. It’ll wear you out, if you’re looking for the outcomes. But if you keep your eyes on the love, you’ll always be successful.

Are you measuring outcomes or experiencing love?

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