Sunday, December 27, 2009

Post Christmas: Stewardship

Matthew 6:19-24 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other You cannot serve God and wealth.”

We talk a lot about stuff at Christmas time. The church likes to say stuff is bad, but the church so often has a lot of stuff itself. The issue is not how much stuff you have, but what you do with it. Bonnie and I were talking with a friend on Thursday and we mentioned how it seems the people who are most generous in life are those with the least amount of stuff to give. The more we have, the harder it is to give stuff away. Stories abound of rich people passing by the poor and homeless, and the ones near poverty themselves are the ones who help one another. Jesus and His disciples watched a rich man put a whack of money in the offering plate, and how it counted little because he did it in such a way so everyone would know it was him. His stuff had made him proud. As they watched a poor widow put in a few cents, most of all she had, He commented that God was greatly pleased because she gave sacrificially. Today we still encourage tithing because it provides the facilities and a place from which to minister - this is a real privilege in freedom. We have to make sure, though, that we don’t get to the point where this building owns us, where our bottom line is what drives ministry. So how do you know when stuff is owning you? What are some indications that we are getting off focus of following Jesus with all we got? Let me suggest a few ways we need to check ourselves:

1) You stop praying. When I was in high school I was on the wrestling team for 4 years. One of the principles they taught you was to fake your true intentions. If you wanted to attack the other guy’s legs you first reached and touched him near his head. His attention is drawn to where your hand is, not where your body is beginning to move to. Ephesians 6 says that we are in a wrestling match today. We are wrestling “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” When Satan tries to come against us he is going to reach into our stuff. Sometimes he distracts by letting us have a lot, sometimes by not enough. His purpose has nothing to do with our stuff for he knows it is so temporary, so superficial. It is that slight of hand he is pulling so we look away from what is really happening. And what is happening? In that passage in Ephesians 6 Paul goes on to talk about the armour of God and then these words: “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Prayer is the environment that connects us to the spiritual. Prayer connects us to God and allows the Holy Spirit to work freely. Prayer moves things that don’t otherwise move. Prayer directly battles the forces of darkness. Prayer lets us see into the spiritual realm with eyes that would otherwise be blind. When we are distracted by stuff, then, we stop praying. Sometimes it creeps up on us gradually, sometimes all at once without realizing it, but we don’t seem to have time to spend with our Creator and Savior.

So I ask you not about your stuff, or even what you are doing with it; I ask you about your time spent before the throne. God longs to use you and I, but we need to be talking and listening to Him.

2) You stop watching your words. In the New Year we will be looking at 7 Points of Valour. There is an integrity in following Jesus that we pursue; a congruency between the things we believe and how we live. One of the things that seems to be slipping in those who profess a relationship with Jesus is words. We use careless words, we use careless language. I am shocked at how little respect there is for people and children in public. You go to a mall with little ones and a group of teenagers or twenty-somethings go by having a conversation and invariably it is salted with swear words. I have seen it on blogs by people who profess Jesus as Lord and I wonder what their sense of holiness is. God calls us to be like Jesus in thoughts words and deeds. So often deeds are emphasized, but what we say should agree with our behaviour, and behaviour with our words. Not only purity of language, but gentleness of words. When we get distracted we begin to forget how easily words fly off our tongue and can harm others. We forget how easily our life can turn astray by talking behind people’s backs, by not guarding what comes from within. James likens the tongue to the small rudder that has the ability to turn a large boat around. A person can spend years build a good character and depth of ministry only to throw it all away in a moment of anger and poor choice of words.

There is a discipline in life as followers of Jesus. We seek to be like Jesus in thoughts, words and deeds, as the Holy Spirit works within us. Freedom in Jesus is not licence to do anything or say anything we want. It is the freedom and ability to do the right thing because God is changing us. When a person starts a diet, they begin a discipline. They count calories. They start a regimen of exercise. And they go through the next several days or weeks on schedule. Then along comes something to distract them. Maybe it is a good book, a person, Monday Night football, a cream puff. Their discipline gets broken and one day turns into six, and soon they are back to where they started. When stuff distracts us we begin to lose guard of the little things like our words. But those little things begin to turn our life. How have your words been? Have they been encouraging and God focussed, or complaining and self-centered? Let God use you through your words. Focus on Him and not the stuff around you.

3) Your concern for others “tanks”. The passage we read earlier is found in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. In the course of that talk by Jesus he touched on so many aspects of our life in relation to others. One of the basic premises of Jesus’ teachings is that you cannot be a follower of His and NOT love your neighbour. In parables and practise Jesus said the love of God will change you. From pastors and evangelists, church leadership and scholars you will hear the truth that justice and mercy go hand in hand with our faith. Tony Compolo was a guest on The Hour with George  Stroumboulopoulos and was quite articulate about our mission as followers of Jesus. He said you can’t separate the church from compassionate ministries. They go hand in hand. Jesus said we need to minister to those who are sick and homeless. And so Jesus calls possessions or wealth a “master”. I remember watching AFV on TV and watching as the little kid is dragged along by a huge dog, trailing from the leash. Where the boy thought he would be controlling the dog, reality had it the other way around. If stuff is getting control of you, it will become your master, and the commands to love God and love your neighbour will take second place to what you want.

4) You begin to live by comparison. One of the biggest problems people have in affluent societies is to live by comparison. They begin to think they should have as much or more than the next guy. Affluence becomes the gage of our faith; or at least our sense of entitlement. We fail to acknowledge that those stuck in cycles of poverty look to us with the same envy, that they wonder why they do not have what we have. Life is not about comparison. It is living as a steward - God’s steward. We are responsible to God for how we live our lives. What we deserve is based on God’s grace, not our worthiness. Let go of your concern for what others have, and look to God who has given all you need to accomplish His purpose in you.

We live with the understanding that all we have is a gift from God, and that it still belongs to God for we are His steward. He gives us these things with the expectation that we will use them not for ourselves, but for His glory, His kingdom. We get upset quite easily at exorbitant bonuses paid to people who think their position of leadership is worth so much more than the person who does the actual work. Part of the frustration is not the comparison, but the expectation that those to whom much is given will reciprocate in turn. Look around you today and issues of stewardship are all over the world. There are issues with the stewardship of our financial foundations and economies. There are issues with stewardship of our climate. There are issues with the stewardship of our environment, and the list goes on. We each have a challenge before us as this year draws to a close and a new one begins. What will we do with the stewardship of gifts and talents and resources like time, money and relationships that we have from God? This is our year. 2010 is the year God is calling all of us to put forth our best efforts and focus on what He is calling us to do and be. 2010 is the year God is calling Louise Street Community Church of the Nazarene to cast off the past and any comparisons of other churches. He calls us to consider what and who we have and to use all to His honour and glory.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Prophesies of Christmas - Out of Egypt

Hosea 11:1-5 “When Israel was a youth I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son.  The more they called them, the more they went from them; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them in My arms; but they did not know that I healed them. I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love, and I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws; and I bent down and fed them. They will not return to the land of Egypt; but Assyria--he will be their king because they refused to return to Me.”

Matthew 2:1-15 “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.
They said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him."
After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.
Now when they had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him." So Joseph got up and took the Child and His mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt. He remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON."

Hosea - Hosea is the first of the minor prophets, of which there are 12. They were often collected into one scroll as a unit, comparable to the major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. He was the only one of the 12 from the northern kingdom of Israel, and his prophecy is primarily directed to that country. In Chapter 11 we see a glimpse of God’s love for Israel in a reference to God bringing the nation out of bondage from Egypt. We read that passage earlier, and then the one where Matthew, under the inspiration of the Spirit, applies it to Jesus. Just as Israel, as an infant nation went down into Egypt, so the child Jesus went there. And as Israel was led by God out of Egypt, so also was Jesus. We don’t think Jesus was there long, but we know that they did not return until King Herod died, which was 4 BC. That is why scholars suggest that Jesus was born around 6 BC. There is a spiritual application here found in the fulfillment of this prophecy. I want to go on a slightly different track and suggest we focus on the journey itself. Mary and Josepph, with baby Jesus walking down to Egypt and back, carrying what they could. When Heather was a few weeks old we had to move. It was very hard, and the place we moved to was only temporary so much stayed packed. It was about having to leave a place more than going somewhere else. It was hard, and I imagine it was really hard for Mary and Joseph to make that trek.

Luggage - Whenever you see someone in a movie trying to rush with a suitcase you know it is going to fling open at a most inopportune moment. You hear stories of luggage coming down the ramp all taped up or in a sealed plastic bag because they got mangled in transport. We are off to Toronto for 4 days on the 28th and I hope our luggage stays with us rather than taking a scenic route. I remember dropping my brother off at the airport in Montreal in 2000 - he was headed with his family to Cameroon. He had shipped some stuff ahead, but he had these big tubs with straps wrapped around them, doing his best to make sure everything stayed in one piece on the long trip. On the journey of life we pick up luggage and baggage. Some of it is good, some of it not so good. Our attitudes and outlook are shaped by events and people in our lives, so that when we look at ourselves we are rather complex people. You see me as a simple, handsome pastor; but I am a twin, born last of 5 children, lived in 3 provinces with various experiences in post secondary education and relationships both deep and shallow that have come and gone. I have been on a journey with ups and downs for 46 years; and I have luggage with me. As I try to follow Jesus with all I got, sometimes I have to adjust it. A bag slips off my shoulder and interferes with something else I am doing. Sometimes our luggage is about how we perceive ourselves - our self esteem.  Sometimes it is about emotions we carry with us, like anger or compassion. Sometimes it drives us to be mean, or to be nice. And God calls us out of Egypt. He calls out of normal, complacent life, out of bondage to be on a journey with Him. We need to be cognizant of the luggage we carry with us. Maybe we have arrived, maybe not. Let us take a few moments today to consider some of the people in the Christmas story and the luggage they carried on their journey. Maybe we can relate to some of their luggage and be reminded of how we can lighten our load.

Joseph - In 2003 Bonnie and I moved from Ontario to Alberta. In early June of that year I was having a conversation with a guy I was doing some yard work for. I had been talking to him about my inability to find a job and the sense that maybe we would look out in Alberta where Bonnie’s parents lived. He said he was leaving in 4 days with an open flatbed trailer to pick up an antique car in Vancouver and that he could take some stuff out to Stettler for us. Ben was just over 2 and Heather was 4 months old. By the time we had made the decision we had 3 days to pack and load a trailer; and so we travelled to a distant land. We had little time, but the opportunity was there. Joseph had the burden of a baby and new wife from the get-go. He had to look after a family, when he had been thinking he had time to live a little with his new wife. And then when the baby is young, he is told in a dream to go to Egypt. The Bible says they left that night. They had no time to pack. Up, out the door with what you can grab, and on the road. In a very real sense he had very little luggage; but he had the care of his young family - a big responsibility. What did he do with his luggage? He left it before God, and when God said move, he did. He trusted that God knew his situation and left it all in God’s hands. When God spoke Joseph responded with obedience. This Christmas season, what is God speaking to you about? God already knows what is in your luggage, all the stuff that goes with you. He accepts you and calls you as you are. Don’t delay - follow Him in obedience. He’ll help you with your luggage.

Wise men - The Magi were burdened with stuff… a lot of it. I can’t relate to them. Much of life has been lived from pay check to pay check it seems. For most people, that is life, whether old or young. This economy has shaken things up even more. But the Magi had lots of resources. What did they spend it on? Bonnie is reading a book about the church in the Facebook age. The guy who founded it went from $0 to $3 Billion in 3 years. Can you get your head around it? What would you do?  The Magi didn’t just spend it on themselves, but put it towards pursuing God and ultimately, a new King. They were not in it for what they could get. It wasn’t about “investing” or reserving a place of honour with royalty. They travelled far, found the object of their search, left their gifts and went home. There’s the saying that “wise men still seek Jesus”. They had the baggage of stuff. Stuff is funny. We think we own possessions, but possessions tend to own us. The more we have, the more we have to lose. We hold on to it tighter and tighter. The Magi gave their luggage away. The secret to stuff is to not hang on to it to tightly. I am told when you hold the reins of a horse, you hold them loosely. The same is true with stuff. The Bible says we are just stewards of it anyways. What lasts? What goes into eternity? The only thing is people. Use your stuff then, to help people, to glorify God. In the Muslim community in Waterloo, Ontario, they wanted to build a community center. How did they do that? Half the people sold their homes and went to live with the other half. They gave the money for the church, for their community; and they will stay with the other family until they can get back on their feet financially. They understand that the stuff is just something to be used. Have you ever heard of Evangelicals doing that to build a new church? And how did God use the magi’s stuff? It came right when they had to leave for Egypt. God used it to provide the costs for the long trip and the stay in Egypt. God’s grace works in wondrous ways. Don’t hang onto stuff to hard this season. Enjoy the gifts, but see how God can use them in the New Year.

Mary - Even Mary had luggage? Think about it - raising the Son of God? The Messiah? Talk about walking down a road with a heavy load, a big responsibility! A young mother, probably 14 or so years of age, is told she has the Savior of the world in her arms. A couple days ago the Queen of England surprised travellers when she took a commuter train to the country for a holiday. She had no luggage and a single body guard. A little girl was ready and gave the queen some flowers. How would you be if royalty or deity were suddenly in your care? Some of the luggage we carry is about our self esteem. We think we could never be worthy enough, good enough for the queen let alone God Incarnate. God has reached down at Christmas and raised us up. We don’t have to do anything but respond to God’s unmerited favour, His relentless love. If you are caring that kind of luggage, let it go. It is not worth anything, because it simply is not true. God created you, and though this fallen world tries to mess you and your life up, don’t go down that road. Let the One who created you ignite that spark of wonder at God who does new things. He did a new thing through Mary and Joseph. He wants your life that He paid for in blood because He loves you so much. He wants to refine you so you may be ever more in relationship with Him.

Shepherds - burdened with a message. They had angelic illumination… what do you do with that? A message straight from God’s messengers, just for them! They went and saw what the angel said was true… then what? Back to the same old - same old? Have you ever had an event change your life? I imagine those shepherds were never the same. In their heart was the words that were for all people; Good News for all the people! A Savior has been born! How many years would it take for them to forget those words, that experience of seeing the little baby? How long before the need to tell others the Good News would pass? Each of us has a message about eternity in our hearts. We have had a visitation from God if we are His children and Jesus is the One we follow. When was the last time we shared the message that Jesus saves to someone who has not heard. Jesus gives us opportunities and courage and the words - we need to open our eyes and look for them. We all have a bit of the shepherds in us. Share the Good News that you have been given this season.

Baby Jesus - Luggage? Even Him? Remember where He was before He was born? In the incarnation Jesus took the form of a bondservant, giving up much that was rightly His. He became focused on His mission, so that the wood of the cradle rubs up against the timber of the cross. One of the reasons I believe in free will, that we have a choice, is because I believe Jesus had a choice. The mystery of salvation was that God Himself became the sacrificial Lamb. In the midst of all heaven He turned his back on right and privilege. He carried with Him what could be, maybe even should be, and subjected it to His Father’s will. He prayed, “Not My will but Yours be done.” There is a humility in what He did that He modelled for us.

It is time to let go of the luggage and baggage you have. Follow in the steps of Jesus and pursue Him and His will for your life. What better time than Christmas to renew your life and commitment to Jesus. As we close this service, take the time you need to put Him in His rightful place as Lord of your life.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Prophecies of Christmas - Throne of David

Isaiah 9:1-7 “But there will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish; in earlier times He treated the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali with contempt, but later on He shall make it glorious, by the way of the sea, on the other side of Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore the zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.

Luke 1:31-33 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end."

There is a song by Wes King called Life Is Precious. A line in there stands out for me: “I can’t imagine not being able to see.” I knew a man legally blind that God used in wonderful ways even though his life was spent in darkness and blur. What a precious thing being able to see is. There are blind people all around us, and indeed, once we were blind but now we see.

Verse 2 “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” This verse talks about mystery being unveiled; about coming to understand something which was previously hidden. What is the true nature of salvation? What is God really doing in our midst? For the Jews in 700 BC the answer was coming. Everything will be made plain. The Messiah will bring about the culmination of their hopes and plans. He will fulfill their prophecies that God has been speaking to them. He would usher in a new age… It just wasn’t what they were expecting. They thought He was going to be a King, and free them from the oppression they were in. They thought that all the promises and blessings were about stuff, about this flesh and blood. How short sighted is that? It is so obvious to us today about what God was doing down through history. But what do we think today is about? Do we still think God’s blessing is about stuff? Even today we need the Light of the World to illuminate our understanding. We need Jesus just as much today as the nation Israel did 2700 years ago.

Verses 3-5 “You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; they will be glad in Your presence as with the gladness of harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, and cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire.”
And today I still don’t have all the answers. I know enough to know that God is beyond me. I cannot hope to fully understand His thoughts and ways, even though He has revealed so much of Himself to me, to us. I don’t understand free will, and how it relates to people. There are people who use their choices to control, hurt and even kill others. Others who have no chance. What have I to offer the one who has grown up with an abusive and alcoholic parent? What chance in life do those orphaned by AIDS in Africa where an older brother of 8 years of age has to look after his brothers and sisters because both parents are gone? How do I offer hope to those who are suffering untold horror at the hands of others? The best I can do is talk of the grace of God who went through much of what we have gone through, to the point of dying on a cross. He knows our lives and He can relate; and some day we will be in a place when all the answers will be made clear. While it may not happen in this life, we know there is a day coming when we shall see Jesus face to face, and all will be known. In that day there will no more tears and pain. No more will people take advantage of one another because we will be in God’s presence and we will be all we can be in Jesus. Satan, sin, and death will never again be known. And the light of the glory of God will shine upon us forever. Stand firm in your faith today, and you answer will come in the end.

Verse 6 “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” And we know the story of Jesus. We know He was born to be a King like no other. But what of those names in Isaiah?

Wonderful Counsellor: Ever go to someone for help? Ever been disappointed by someone who thought could help you? My brother Dan was in Thailand at some meetings. His left knee swelled up and was quite painful, so he went to a doctor and they said you have gout. They gave him no help other than a diagnosis and that gout is from eating shellfish and too much red meat. He doesn’t like shell fish and all he had was a Big Mac. So he goes back to Cameroon, where there are no McDonalds, and goes to a doctor there. That doctor says, “You have gout.” Well, he was still in pain, so he goes to a third doctor, and they say, “You have gout. Oh, and all you have to do is take this medication.” Well, after a day and a half on the medication he is finally pain-free. The first 2 professionals gave him no real help, and just told him what he could have found out for himself on the internet. Isn’t it nice when you find someone who can help?
Jesus is our Wonderful Counsellor. Wonderful regularly means supernatural, so we understand the Messiah as a supernatural counsellor. But even if wonderful just meant wonderful, think of the extreme wonderfulness of what He did. At His first coming, Jesus brought words of eternal life. He not only showed us the way to live, He made it possible! In Christ we are free from being slaves to sin. How wonderful is that? A lot better than settling a painful knee problem - although it is wonderful to have our physical needs helped too. When Jesus comes again, He will rule with perfect wisdom and grace. He will gather us all to be with Him. It just doesn’t get better than that.

Mighty God: We are shopping one day and we see this package in the grocery store. It was two bumpy rubber balls and the packaging claimed it will keep your laundry fresh and static free. Just throw them in the dryer and you are good to go. I found they work better if you throw a fabric softener sheet in with them. So instead of just a fabric softener sheet, we have a fabric softener sheet and 2 bumpy rubber balls in the dryer. Have you ever had something that didn’t live up to its claim? The Messiah is our Mighty God - that’s a pretty big item on a resume!
This is a term applied to Yahweh and scholars suggest refers to the Messiah’s ultimate triumph over evil. That happened at Jesus’ resurrection. 1 Corinthians 15 tells us that Jesus conquered Satan, sin and death! You want someone on your side? Look to Jesus who is the Mighty God, and sits at the right hand of the Father.  Revelation reveals that He will accomplish what He wills, and that the “good guys” win. Even today He can heal physically and emotionally and socially and mentally. He is a Mighty God, and He loves you and I.

Eternal Father: There are many bad fathers out there. There are fathers who have abused their spouse and kids. There are fathers who have abandoned their families. There are fathers who have wrecked lives all around them because of addictions and weaknesses. If you are one of those children who had a father like that, seek Jesus. He will always be there. He will always provide. Understand Him in the big picture. You may have had a lousy life, but God was there with you in that lousiness. In the grief He was there. In the celebration He was there. Sometimes He performs the miraculous; sometimes He lets the fallen nature of this world run its course. In the light of eternity, God is doing a wonderful work in you. 2 Corinthians 4 says “16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison”. God is in the business of refining your spiritual nature. You may think He owes you good stuff, but He doesn’t owe you anything. He died while you were selfish and doing your own thing. He died while you ignored Him and His creation so you could pursue your own selfish stuff. He died, so that if you turn to Him, He will grant you life eternal and life anew in the spirit. He is your Eternal Father. He really does have your back.

Prince of Peace:  Bonnie has a character in her new book that sits above a river on the bank, listening to the wind and watching the trees swaying; and he really is beside himself. As he reflects on the nature around him he is transported to a place peace, in spite of the circumstances he finds himself in. He knows that God is Sovereign. At the heart of that Sovereign God is love for His creation, and He longs to give you that peace that passes all understanding. He calls us to rest in Him. I don’t know your troubles, but I do know it is not God that has caused it. Man, in his sin, has really messed things up. The angels told the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth Peace among men…”

There is a day coming when Jesus will return in all His glory. He will not be coming as a baby, but as a King. He will not come to just dwell, but to rule. He will right all the wrongs, and straighten all the crooked. The Bible says to look up, for the day draws nigh. Reflect this season on the Messiah who is coming again. Celebrate His incarnation, but be encouraged, for He will come again to live with Him in a place He has been preparing for over 2,000 years.