Archive for December 2017

As I See Jesus

Father, as I see Jesus,
I see You.
In Him I see Your beauty and glory,
Your holiness and love.
I see all You are
made fully human.

In Him I also see
who I am becoming.
I see all You have destined me to be.
When I am complete in Him, I will be
Your glorious child,
living in You and
loving You,
joyfully and forever.
I will glow with
Your holiness and
Your goodness.

Father, You are fully
showing Yourself and
sharing Yourself with me in Jesus Christ.
Praise to You!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: See All That Human Can Be
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When the Heavens Open

When God opens the heavens,
He shows us what He is doing.
He shows us our world as He sees it.

When Jesus was born, God opened the heavens.
He sent us a special star to announce that
the magnificent, transcendent God was
now living among us.
The star drew worshipers from
a far-away land and
a different religion.
They were the first sign that the One who had come was
the Light of all the nations and
the King of all Kings.

When Jesus was baptized, God opened the heavens.
As Jesus’ ministry began, His first act was to publicly
take all our sins upon Himself.
The Sinless One lined up with the sinners and
symbolically died beneath Jordan’s waters,
bearing the sins of the whole world.
At this crucial moment.
the Father spoke and
the Spirit appeared.
Together they testified that
this was indeed the pure and perfect Son of God.

When Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration,
God opened the heavens.
As Jesus approached His death,
the Father gave three disciples a fleeting glimpse of
the Christ as He truly was,
in His eternal splendor,
human yet heavenly.
The law and the prophets visibly testified to Him.

On all three occasions, God opened the heavens to show us
unmistakably,
unforgettably
that His own Son had come to us,
the Light of the World.
He had taken on our flesh and blood
to bear away all our sin.
He had come so that every one of us might
share fully and forever in Him. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Epiphany Hymn (REGENT SQUARE)
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The Father’s Children

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER
John 1:10-14; 3:18-21

The Word became flesh and walked among us
in the power, love, and wisdom of the Father.
Yet most who saw the incarnate God
stumbled at Him.
The Son came to the world He had created and
walked among His own people,
yet they refused Him.
His hometown rejected their famous son and
in anger tried to kill Him (Luke 4:18-30).
The most religious people of the day,
the ones who seemed to know God the best and
follow Him the most diligently,
considered the Son a charlatan, a fake, and a devil.
They saw undeniable signs.
They watched as He repeatedly demonstrated
unearthly authority
over demons, disease, and death.
Still they vehemently denied Him.

Most people who see the Light
run from it and cling to the darkness.
Their deeds are evil, and
the Light seems a threat.

But with those who simply turn to Him and trust Him,
the Son shares His own beautiful relationship
with the Father.
He gives them the right to become
children of God.
He shares with them
the life,
the love,
the oneness
He shares with the Father.

Realize who you are.
You are not your occupation or your abilities.
You are not your gender, race, or social status.
You are not your past.
You trusted Christ, and
now you are becoming like Him.
Look to Him.
He is your present and your future.
With Him, you are a beloved child of Almighty God,
your Papa, your Father.
You are His heir and His treasure. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Are Children
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Prepare for Christmas

Father, this Christmas
as I prepare for worship,
prepare me to receive Your Gift.
Prepare me to receive
Your life,
Your love,
Your wisdom,
Your complete well-being,
Your wholeness,
Your harmony,
Your joy,
Your purity,
Your constant enabling.
Prepare me to receive
Yourself in
Your Holy Son, Jesus Christ.

Help me to welcome Him into
all my thoughts and
all my desires,
into the priorities that rule my every decision,
into all my daily habits, and
each of my personal relationships.

A gift is only valuable when it is received.
This Christmas, help me fully receive
Your priceless Gift,
the Living Christ. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Jesus, the Gift of Christmas
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Prepare for Advent: Love

Father, in Jesus Christ You have not only showed us Your love.
You have poured it out on us in Him.

He comes to us fully expressing Your boundless love
in every aspect of our lives.
He comes forgiving,
healing,
teaching,
touching,
talking,
weeping,
smiling,
suffering,
dying, and
rising again.

See what great love the Father lavished on us! (1 John 3:1, NIV)

Father, as we gather together in Your presence on this fourth Sunday of Advent,
help us to realize Your love,
receive Your love,
respond to Your love, and
actively express it to everyone we touch day by day.

As You freely poured out Your love through Your Son,
pour it out through us
on all the world,
through His Spirit within us. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Love Has Come!
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Relationship Lessons

We expect holidays to be perfect as they include time off work, fun, food, and being with people we love. But even during holidays, people are people, and unpleasant things happen. Love is a powerful force, and not always a comfortable one. When it is combined with the ups and downs of emotions, and the unpredictability of people, stressful situations occur.

Nothing is quite as stressful as having a blockage in a relationship with someone very close to our hearts, about whom we care deeply. When an incident disturbs this relationship, we can think of nothing else. But I’ve found that God teaches me a lot through such pain – a lot about myself, about love, and about trusting Him.

So, although I am no counselor or psychologist, let me share a couple of lessons I’ve learned during family holidays.

When conflicts arise, at times I’d swear I am totally blameless, only to see, through time and conversation, that I’ve thought and acted selfishly. It usually comes down to this: when I fail to turn my needs over to God, I am inevitably protective and selfish, although I may be blind to it at the time.

God is always with me, ready to meet even my most personal needs. When I commit those needs to Him, I am freed to be more flexible, loving, and giving in my relationships. I don’t need to demand my way, even when some need is crying within me. When loves calls me to give way to another’s wishes, I can do so in peace, resting my needs with Him.

However, sometimes painful occurrences in relationships truly aren’t my fault. I have been wronged. I am a victim. In trying to deal with the debilitating pain, I long for a restored relationship. I just want the other person to apologize, thus opening the way to restoration. If this one would just realize and admit error, everything could get back to normal.

But I’ve learned that the way to healing is not through receiving an apology, but through giving free forgiveness, even when it is not requested. Forgiveness breaks down the walls, relieving the painful tensions and bringing healing. And we always have the option of extending forgiveness. God gives us this freedom if we ask Him, and no wrong can take it away.

Forgiveness restores the joy, warmth, and rest to our hearts. The ability to extend forgiveness is yet another gift of His love working within us. We just need to turn to Him, admit our need, and trust Him.

His presence works to restore and renew our relationships, no matter what the problem, no matter who is at fault. 

As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. (Colossians 3:12-14, NASB)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Joy of Forgiveness
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Christmas Is a Story of Worship

On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, NIV)

Christmas is a story of worship.
The scriptures say that
the heavens sing of God’s glory,
and the earth tells of
the wonderful things He does.
Jesus said that if God’s people are silent,
the rocks themselves will cry out and
praise Him.

When the shepherds heard that
the Promised One had come,
they ran to Bethlehem and
worshiped the Child.

When the wise men knew that
He was born,
distance could not keep them away.
They came and brought Him
precious gifts—
gifts fit for a king.
They bowed low and
worshiped Him.

How can we do any less?
With all the elaborate celebrating
this time of year,
how much do we truly worship Him?

Christmas is a story of worship.
And this season,
in the privacy of our hearts,
with the wise men,
with the shepherds, and
with all creation,
let us bow and worship Him.
Let us worship
Jesus.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Adoration
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Prepare for Advent: Joy

Joy to the world!
The Lord has come!

Father, on this third Sunday of Advent, we celebrate
good news of great joy (Luke 2:10).
Your Son has come to us, and
we rejoice!
He has poured out on us the oil of gladness. (Isaiah 61:3)
He has shared with us the fullness of His joy,
the joy that He finds in You alone. (John 17:13).

He is mercy and complete forgiveness.
He is sufficiency in every situation.
He is full and unbroken union with You.
He is the same
yesterday,
today, and
forever,
so He brings a joy that
trouble,
sorrow, and
death itself cannot destroy.

But this great joy is only a down-payment on
the joy that is to come.
When we see Jesus for all that He is,
our joy in Him will be full and forever.

O come, Lord Jesus!
We are waiting! 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Lord Has Come!
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Proverbs: Come and Get it!

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD
Proverbs 1:20-33; 8:1-21; 9:1-6

In 2000 my wife and I got the marvelous opportunity to visit Israel and parts of Jordan, Turkey, and Greece with a seminary tour group. Wow! What a fascinating trip! If you ever get the opportunity to go there, take it!

One of my clearest memories is the vendors in that part of the world. They are extremely aggressive, shouting at everyone within ear-shot to come and buy what they’re selling. They are not bashful!

That’s what comes to mind when I read Proverbs 1:20-33. Wisdom is not a refined aristocrat. She is not only for the elite and brilliant. You don’t have to visit a university library or an ivory tower to find it. Wisdom is a street vendor, shouting in the public square and noisy avenues, “Come and get it! How long will you cling to your ignorance and trouble? Listen to me, and you will enjoy all the best of life!”

A similar picture is found in 8:1-21. Wisdom cries out at the top of her lungs, offering her blessings to all who will come and receive instruction.

“You who are simple, gain prudence…
Choose my instruction instead of silver,
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:5, 10-11, NIV)

Then in 9:1-6, wisdom is again personified and offers a generous invitation to all. But now she is a wealthy landowner. She has built a lovely home, has prepared a rich feast with all the best food and drink, and has set the table. With the banquet ready, she now sends her maidens to the highest points of the city to call out for all to hear: “My banquet is ready! Come and enjoy all the best food and drink, free of charge! Leave your hard and foolish way of living, and start down the road of understanding!”

God’s wisdom is not reserved for the brightest and most educated. His understanding is available to all, free for the asking. All you have to do is trust and obey God. That will lead you along the wisest, smoothest, happiest, most satisfying way of life.

God is eager to share His wisdom with anyone who will receive it.

A Multitude of Angels

In both the Old and New Testaments, the words translated “angel” literally mean “messenger”. Many times God sent individual angels to deliver His message to selected persons on earth: to Hagar (Genesis 16:7-12), Abraham (Genesis 22:11-18), Moses (Exodus 3:2), Gideon (Judges 6:11-12), Zechariah (Luke 1:11-20), Mary (Luke 1:26-38), and many more.

On the other hand, visions of heaven speak of multitudes of angels. These multitudes appear in the visions of the prophets Micaiah (1 Kings 22:19) and Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-4) and in John’s visions recorded in Revelation (5:8-14; 7:11-12). These angels are shown serving God through obedience and praise.

But I know of only once when God sent a message to earth, not through an individual angel alone, but through a multitude of angels. This multitude was sent to announce an event that would be the turning point of all history. At that moment they would bring the praise and glory of heaven down to earth.

It was night. The place was the sky over an open field outside a small village on the eastern end of the Mediterranean. Only a handful of shepherds saw and heard this one-time appearance:

Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” (Luke 2:13-14, NASB)

The event they announced had been whispered since the beginning of human history. This event was a Gift, prophesied for centuries by God’s seers. They had spoken in common images of a Child, a Shepherd, a Servant, a Warrior, and a King who would somehow be beyond all titles, all descriptions, and all imaginings. This Gift was a coming, a personal arrival, and on that ordinary, extraordinary night, the arrival was now:

Transcendent God had taken flesh and blood.
Holy God was, now and forever, wholly human.

Heaven itself had come to earth. The One who had sat on the throne was now an infant lying in a feeding trough. But for just a few moments that night, He brought His throne-room choir with Him.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: A Song Was Born at Christmas
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