Develope a Palate

Develope a Palate
Daily intake of the Word nourishes the Spirit. Jeremiah's Menu is an exercise in recognizing God's Word made flesh in and around me. Eating the Word in a way that supplies the spiritual nutrients needed to grow. The Menu is offered with the hope of inspiring you to taste and see that the Lord is good. Bon Appetite!

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Quote Du Jour

Quote du Jour
Christians may differ on a variety of points, but they have all one spiritual appetite; and if we cannot all feel alike, we can all feed alike on the bread of life sent down from heaven. At the table of fellowship with Jesus we are one bread and one cup. As the loving cup goes round we pledge one another heartily therein. Get nearer to Jesus, and you will find yourself linked more and more in spirit to all who are like yourself, supported by the same heavenly manna. ---Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening

Friday, December 30, 2016

when a gift doesn't feel like a gift... until it's gone...

The gift came... unexpected... unwanted... about a year ago...

The kitten of a stray mamma...
who gave birth... unseen...
under the shrubs...

The crew wreaked havoc in our lives for a time...
after much trauma... of kittens... cats... and us...
one kitten remained...
Omega...



A gift I didn't want...
but unable to traumatize him anymore...
he became an inside cat...
our first one in over twenty years...

Just this week...
as he lay next to me...
I wondered at his soft fur...
green eyes...
loud purr...
and thought about his Creator...

A God who gives gifts...
even in the form of domestic animals...
to care for... enjoy... wonder at...

But now he's gone...

It's been more than 48 hours since he went out...
he has not returned as usual...

Each hour... makes it less likely he will...
and I have to admit...
it makes me sad...

Wondering...
what happened...?
did he suffer...? or still suffering...?

And I wonder at the loss...
and how a gift that didn't feel like a gift...
when suddenly gone...
is seen...
for the gift he was...


"...The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord."
Job 1:21 ESV

Thursday, December 29, 2016

a recommended read... to keep Christmas in your heart...

Christmas...
we put a lot of time and energy into the surface elements...
gifts...
decorating...
parties...
dressing just right...
but what about the heart...?

In the midst of Advent... a book came to my attention...
a small book by Timothy Keller...
I'm still reading it... not quite finished... but Wow...!



Every year after Christmas... I long to somehow keep the wonder of the Infinite and Uncontainable... stooping low... to become an embryo... then a Babe laid in hay... in my heart...

This book by Timothy Keller... may just do it...

Now that the hub-bub has subsided...
the new year dawning...
I recommend this read to you...

Not for next Advent...
but for NOW...
a way to begin the new year...

Before the last of the decorations are stored away...
begin this book for a better understanding of our Savior...
and what Christmas truly means...
and why it's not just a superficial season...
but a life changing event...
for us... for the world...

Keep the wonder in your heart all year...
and perhaps you'll have more heart...
and less surface... next... Christmas...

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David,
as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant,
the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we,
being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear,
in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. ..."
Luke 1:68-74 ESV

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

thirty and 1/2 years...

It's the celebration of our thirty and 1/2 year anniversary...
and he talks about how we fight against the aging process...
until one day... it's just accepted...
and you become OK with fatter... slower... tired-er...

And I wonder at what he says...
because I was there a few years ago...
but not now...

Then he talks about growing old...
facing death... worry... fear...
and I say...  You don't have to... there's another way...

He says... You have so much faith...
I say... It's just the truth...

And the truth in Jesus...
is never dying...
never fearing...
and having access to indestructible joy...

There were times...
when it was a struggle to believe...
but the more I trust...
the more I obey...
the more I rest in Him...
the more I understand the truth...

I know we've only had...
thirty and 1/2 years...
because He intervened...

And partly because of the thirty and 1/2 years...
proof of His promises...
I know all the rest is true too...

Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
2 Corinthians 4:16 NASB95

Amen...
and I thank Him...
for thirty and 1/2 years...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

received gifts...

Riding in the car...
talking to a loved one...
he shared what's been revealed in his heart...

Longing... that's the word that seems to fit best...
I long to help people who are broken... lost... hurting...
but I know I can't... and I'm just paralyzed...
I feel wholly inadequate... useless...

Listening to his heart...
placing my hand on his arm...
I said... That's a gift... a spiritual gift...
the gift of compassion... mercy...

And it reminded me...
when we receive Him in our hearts...
we receive gifts...
but we don't always recognize them...
or know what to do with them...

Spiritual gifts... take time to perceive...
and practice to learn how to use...

My word to the loved one was...
There is nothing you can do...
but you have the power of the One who can do all things... in you...

Like all of us... with spiritual gifts...
we can only use them... at His direction...
and in His power... for them to be a blessing...
to His Kingdom...

Returned gifts... from others...
can reveal... received gifts from Him...

What have others given you...?
does it help you see what you have received...?

The secret to spiritual gifts received...
is to return them to Him...
for His use... His direction... His guidance...
through you...

This can be difficult...
and involves dying to self...
to use His gifts... His way...
surrender... is the word...

He blesses us with gifts... freedoms...
so we can serve Him... through others...

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another,
as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one
who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the 
strength that God supplies --- in order that in everything
God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory
and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV

Ask Him to help you recognize your gifts...
ask Him to teach you how to use them...
tell Him they are His... for His use...
Amen...

Monday, December 26, 2016

returned gifts...

I had some gifts returned yesterday...
though it was a surprise...
it wasn't a bad thing...

One gift returned was my flute...
the one I played in high school...

I'd given it to my nephew several years ago...
when he wanted to pursue the flute...

This semester... he graduated with a masters degree in music...
he owns his own superior flute now... and a piccolo...

Yesterday... in the kitchen he brought them down...
opened them up... and asked me to play...

I had no idea if I could...
and mostly I couldn't...

I also couldn't believe how much I'd forgotten...
fingerings... notes... and how to make a clear sound...

But he patiently coached...
reviewed keys and notes...
and for a bit... we played part of a Christmas carol...


The master's educated musician... encouraged me to take my flute...
the one he learned on... the one I had given him...
to re-learn to play...
a gift returned... with gratitude...

The musician's brother was there too...
who I hadn't seen in over a year...
not since he was married...

He too returned a gift...
one which also surprised...

When they arrived...
I gave them hugs...
expressed how good it was to see them...

Then later... when things were quiet...
he descended on me again...
with a big bear hug...
Sorry... it's just been so long...
he says... as we hug...
and in the background I hear his mom say...
He loves his Aunt Carol...

And I wonder at the hugs and the words...
never knowing... he felt such love for me...

Both returned gifts...
revealed an unknown impact...
I made on those I love...

The gifts I've offered over the years...
may have looked one-sided...
but somewhere along the way...
a shift was made...

Gifts of love... no matter how small...
are never wasted...
and one day...
when you least expect it...
they just might be returned...
in a good way...

...give, and it will be given to you. Good measure,
pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.
For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you."
Luke 6:38 ESV

Have you had any returned gifts lately...?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas... one more word... love...

Love...

The Word wrapped up in the manger...
is the greatest expression of God's love...
for the one's He created...

In this the love of God was made manifest among us,
that God sent his only Son in the world, so that we might live through him.
1 John 4:8 ESV

Even though we rebelled...
and broke everything...
He made the way through Jesus...
for us to return to Him...
and for Him to make all things new...
in and around us...

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,
even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ --
by grace you have been saved...
Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV

I pray you see His love...
know His love...
today and every day...

Have a very blessed Christmas...
Carol...

Saturday, December 24, 2016

1 word till Christmas... worship...

Christmas Eve is dawning...
one day till Christmas...
one more word...
Worship...

Most of the players in the first Advent...
were filled with worship of Him...

Mary...

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy and true is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation. ...
Luke 1:46-50 ESV

Her song of praise goes on...
because of the blessing He's poured out on her...
her soul magnifies Him... 
makes Him large... prominent... lifts Him up...

Worship...

Zechariah... when his tongue was finally loosed...

"Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people
and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David...
that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;
to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant..."
Luke 1:68-69, 71-72 ESV

Zechariah's praise came with prophecy...
he left everyone wondering...

Worship...

The shepherds... after going to see...
returned to the fields... glorifying and praising God...

The wise men... after their long trek star-following...
fell down... and worshiped Him...
with words and gifts...

Worship...

I wonder at Him this morning... looking back on the journey of these 12 words...

At times... I thought... Could there be another word...?
and this morning... I'm seeing so many more words...
thinking... Maybe next year... 30 words till Christmas...?

The greatest wonder... is how each day...
the word He gave... has been woven into my day...
today... no exception...

Worship... as an Advent word...
came to mind somewhere in the middle...
but I knew it would be word 12...

This evening... (hopefully...)
we will gather as a family...
and worship Him...
and remember His coming...
at a candlelight service...

But this morning... in preparation for ministry...
He showed me how I had been limiting Him...

Every month I publish a prayer journal for members of our congregation to pray for our pastor daily over the month...

It follows four steps of prayer...
praise...
confession...
thanksgiving...
intercession...
each day... a different aspect of our pastor's life to pray for...

The praise and intercession are Scripture-based prayer...
the praise topic gives Scripture to back it up and use as a basis for prayerful praise...

In the past... in an effort to formulate preparation...
I constructed a table...
31 areas of the pastor's life to pray for...
31 aspects of God's character to praise...

I rotated verses... but stuck to the same 31 character traits each month...

Well... not too many months ago... my hard drive cracked...
not just crashed... but cracked... physically broke...
all my records lost... or at least jumbled... after a computer tech salvaged what he could...

But I felt God's call to start afresh...
when it came to the Pastoral Prayer Hedge Journal...
so I did...

The pursuit of fresh practice has been going on about two months now...

This morning... on a day when I have more than enough to do...
I felt the tug to make a new table...
organize the praise topics... and their verses...

What I found... after I was through...
to date... instead of 31 attributes to praise...
I've been led to 60...!!!

Now... with an average of 30 days per month...
in two months... He's shown me double of who He is...

He revealed how I had been limiting Him... to myself...
and to those who participate in this ministry...
praying for our pastor...

Yes... He is a God worthy of our worship...
a God to be magnified by all our souls...
not just Mary's...

By coming to earth...
making Himself so small...
vulnerable...
dependent...
He made the Way...
for us to be saved...

How will you worship Him today...?
tomorrow...?
every day...?

Friday, December 23, 2016

2 words till Christmas... give...

Give... an Advent word...
the word given... with just 2 days... till Christmas...

The Christmas tradition of give...
is born out of the Nativity story...

God gave Mary the blessing of bearing His Son...
she gave Him herself for His use...

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord,
let it be to me according to your word."
Luke 1:38 ESV

Joseph gave up his reputation...
to give the Savior a flesh and blood dad...

...Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame,
resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things,
behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream...
Matthew 1:19-20 ESV

The shepherds gave encouragement...
by going to see what the angel revealed...

And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been
told them concerning this child. ... Mary treasured up all these things,
pondering them in her heart.
Luke 2:17, 19 ESV

And the wise men... they gave gifts...

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother,
and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures,
they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:10-11 ESV

Sometimes I think I've created a monster... when it comes to giving Christmas gifts within my immediate family...

In recent years... I've tried to pull back on the material...
focus more on the spiritual...
the true meaning of Christmas...
but giving gifts... has deep roots...

When I was little...
my mom made Christmas BIG...!
presents... presents... presents...
under the tree...
from Santa...
stocking-stuffers...

With both parents raised in the Great Depression...
making sure their children had more...
was important...

Jesus...
even though He should have been the center of attention...
was relegated to the shadows...
in a small hand-carved Nativity scene...

We didn't attend church as a family...
no Christmas Eve service...
no communion...
no Nativity story read from the Bible...

But gifts... they were front and center...
so that's how it went with my kids...
give a BIG Christmas...

Now it feels out of control...

Gifts have started piling...


None of these are from me...
my adult children... now connect Christmas... with giving gifts...
(and... Yes... these should be under the tree...
but it's still not decorated...
and... Yes... I know it's 2 days till Christmas...
and... Yes... it's still messy...!)

The wise men's giving of gifts... was an outpouring of worship... to the newborn King...

they fell down and worshiped him... 
opening their treasures...
they offered him gifts...

John Piper... in his daily readings for Advent... emphasizes this view...
The gifts are intensifiers of desire for Christ himself in much the same way fasting is. When you give a gift to Christ like this, it's a way of saying something like this:
The joy that I pursue is not the hope of getting rich with things from you. I have not come to you for your things but for yourself. And this desire I now intensify and demonstrate by giving up things in the hope of enjoying you more, not the things. By giving to you what you do not need and what I might enjoy, I am saying more earnestly and more authentically, "You are my treasure, not these things."
--- John Piper, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy
The wise men didn't give because He needed...
the wise men gave because they desired Him...

The give of Christmas...
is not about the material...
it's about love...
because the One who started it all...
gave...

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,
but in order that the world might be saved through him. ..."
John 3:16-17 ESV

God wrapped up His Son... Himself...
the Infinite... Uncontainable... Creator...
into a tiny gift... a Babe...
in order to give the world... a Savior...
because He loves us so much...
He couldn't leave us lost...

He desires us to come back... to Him...

He gave... and still gives...
to reveal His great love...

And I suppose that's what's at the heart of all the crazy buying and giving in my family roots... the desire to show love... to bless... to make happy...

But the real question in all this giving...
What are you giving...? to show your desire...? for Him...?
because... really... without Him... we have nothing...

We love... because He first loved us...
and we give... because He gave...

Thursday, December 22, 2016

3 words till Christmas... mystery...

3 days till Christmas... the word... mystery...

But as the word comes... I wonder...
Is this the right word... is there synonym...?
one which better describes what I feel He's saying...?

So... off to Webster's...
mystery... a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand... any of the 15 events (as Nativity, the Crucifixion, or the Assumption) serving as a subject for meditation during the saying of the rosary... something not understood or beyond understanding: enigma...
---Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.
Hmm... it's surely the right word...

You see... I have a mystery or two in my life right now...
they cause me to wonder...

I believe... He's told me some things to come...
dare I say... promised... to move in the lives of loved ones...
but from where they are now... and what I see...
it's a complete mystery... as to how what He's revealed will come about...

Mary surely felt the same way...
How does a virgin get pregnant...?

And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child
to be born will be called holy --- the Son of God. ..."
Luke 1:34-35 ESV

If I were Mary... I think I would've followed up with another question...
OK... sure... but HOW...?

Mystery...

And the greeting Mary received from Elizabeth... when she heard hers...

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry,
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?..."
Luke 1:41-42 ESV

Mary... faced with another mystery...
How in the world...?! did Elizabeth know...?!

Surely Mary could hardly wrap her mind around what happened...
and probably wondered the whole trip...
How will I explain this to Liz...? will she believe...?
will she ask me to leave...?

But she shows up with a timid... Shalom...
and her blessed cousin... bursts forth with wonder...!

Mystery...

After giving birth in a barn...
Mary and Joseph tuck the Babe in a manger...
and unexpected visitors arrive...

When the angels went away from them, the shepherds said to one another,
"Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord made known to us." And they went with haste
and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them
concerning the child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them.
But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Luke 2:15-19 ESV

Can you imagine the surprise on Mary and Joseph's faces... when they realized the shepherds weren't there to bed down sheep... but to see the Babe...?

Another... How in the world...?! moment...

And the message the shepherds brought from the angel...

"... I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord. ..."
Luke 2:10-11 ESV

Mary's baby... the Babe...
was to be good news for ALL people...
the Babe born unto you... plural...
a Savior... to you ALL...

Mary treasured up all these things... pondered them in her heart...
How in the world...? will this tiny Babe born in a barn...
grow up to be Savior of the world...?
He's good news to me... but how will He become good news to ALL...?

Mystery...

That's where I find myself today... pondering...
treasuring what I believe He's revealed...
wondering... How in the world...? will it come about...?

Mystery...

I notice as I write... all these mysteries... revolve around Mary...
and a truth about belief comes to light...

Mystery surrounds God... and in our relationship with Him...
we must accept the mystery... to walk by faith...

What exactly happened on the cross...?
Why did He have to die...?
How do I have a relationship with One I can't see...? hear...? touch...?
When do I know it's Him speaking...?
How does He bring good...? out of evil...?

When we say... Yes... to Him...
and He's born anew in our hearts...
life becomes a mystery worth pondering...

Amen...

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

4 words till Christmas... messy...

Messy... with 4 days till Christmas...
I can relate to this word...




Things half done... is the theme of the day...
and... Christmas... it's just messy...

Beginning with messy relationships...

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together
she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph,
being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.
Matthew 1:18-19 ESV

The joy of an approaching wedding...
to the mess of an unexpected pregnancy...
and a quiet divorce...

When was the last time you heard of a quiet divorce...?

Can you even imagine what this unexpected Babe did to the relationships between Mary and her parents...? neighbors...? friends...?

Messy...

And a birth in a barn... messy...
it's messy enough in a clean hospital delivery room...
but a barn...?!

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths
and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7 ESV

The groan of labor pains...
the lowing of a cow... the braying of an ass...

The breaking of water... the flowing of blood...
the excrement of donkeys... and calves... and goats...

Messy...

But life has been messy since the Fall in the garden...
we try to clean up the mess ourselves...
pursuing perfection... happiness... peace...
in the next best thing... in what the world has to offer...
leaving more messes in our wake...

But like preparations for Christmas...
things often get messier... before they get better...

Jesus's life was messy... because of the Fall...
persecuted because He hung out with those whose lives looked like a mess...
prostitutes...
tax collectors...
lepers...
and the like...

The proper perfect religious leaders didn't get it...
didn't understand the mess...
or embrace their own very messy hearts...

Jesus's life began messy... (just like all of us...)
with the flow of water... and blood...
and it ended the same...
crucified on a cross...
alongside two thieves...

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain
on the cross on the Sabbath... the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken
and that they be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first,
and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus
and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers
pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.
John 19:31-34 ESV

The Jews in preparation of the Sabbath...
wanted nothing messy hanging around...
so they requested the legs of the crucified be broken...

You see... crucifixion is a slow excruciating death... which could take days...

From exhaustion... the executed can no longer lift himself up on his nail-pierced feet... in order to breathe air into his lungs... ultimately... suffocation claims his life... 

To break the legs... was to hurry the death... eliminating the ability to breath...

But Jesus had already finished His time on the cross...
claimed it Himself... and committed His Spirit to His Father...

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture),
"I thirst."... When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, "It is finished,"
and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
John 19:28, 30 ESV

He came down to get messy with us...
so He could make the way for us to clean up...
find the perfect we long for... pursue...

He alone makes the Way...
for us to overcome the messy...

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes
that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he who came by water and blood -- 
Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood.
1 John 5:5-6 ESV

So if you find yourself in the middle of a mess this Christmas...
messy relationships...
messy lives...
messy rooms...
remember... He is right in the middle of the mess with you...
waiting to clean it all up...

Messy... an Advent word...
a word of life...
a word of Christmas...

Praise Him for embracing messy...
so we might get cleaned up...

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

5 words till Christmas... scandalous...

Scandalous... an Advent word... you may not have associated with Christmas... but it's there...

Beginning with Mary...
and the scandal of a pregnant "virgin"...
immaculate conception...
Right...! 
Who was buying that one...

Well... her fiance did...
Joseph went right on and married her...
the scandal being one of two...
the baby was his...
or he was an idiot...!

This little scandal in the community was remembered a long time...
the people of Nazareth even brought it back up when Jesus began his ministry...

...and coming to his hometown [Jesus] taught them in their synagogue,
so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom
and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother
called Mary?..." And they took offense at him.
Matthew 13:54-55, 57 ESV

Scandals are remembered...
whether true or false...
they stick with a person a long time...

Scandalous...

From our twenty-first century hindsight...
we see another scandal...

And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths
and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:7 ESV

No room in the inn...
for a laboring young mother...?

No room in the world...
for the Son of God to be born...?!

Scandalous...

The greatest scandal in the Christmas story... one we often overlook...
was stirred up by the wise men... who came searching for the newborn King...

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him;
and assembling the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them
where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea,
for so it is written in the prophet... Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly
and ascertained from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to
Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have
found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him."
Matthew 2:3-5, 7-8 ESV

Liar...!

After the wise men worshiped...
they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod...

And Joseph was warned too...
Rise... flee to Egypt...
because a scandalous atrocity was about to take place...

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men,
became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem
and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time
that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken
by the prophet Jeremiah: "A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted,
because they were no more."
Matthew 2:16-18 ESV

Not the kind of Christmas story we tell our kids 'round the tree on Christmas Eve... but there it is...

Not to mention the prophetic Word concerning its happening...
a story which stirs doubt in the hearts of Believers...
How could He let this happen...? only save His own Son...?

Scandalous...

But the truth of the matter is...
by saving His own Son...
He made the way to save ALL...!

Jesus came as the Lamb of God...
to take away the sins of the world...
the whole world... not just a select few...

His life ended with a scandalous trial...
conducted by the leaders of His church...
the trial led to a scandalous execution...
authorized by a governor who found no guilt in Him...

Scandalous...

Then He rose from the dead...
another scandal... for those who refuse to believe...
Who stole the body...?! Where is He hidden...?!

Scandalous...

Reading this morning... I found reference to Jesus's genealogy as recorded by Matthew... it echoes the scandals found in Jesus's family tree...
Here, then, you have moral outsiders --- adulterers, adulteresses, incestuous relationships, prostitutes. Indeed we are reminded that even the prominent male ancestors --- Judah and David --- were moral failures. You also have cultural outsiders, racial outsiders, and gender outsiders. The Law of Moses excluded these people from the presence of God, and yet they are all publicly acknowledged as the ancestors of Jesus.
---Timothy Keller, Hidden Christmas
There is no scandal which excludes you from the love and salvation of God in Christ Jesus... no scandal so great you will be excluded from His family... if you believe...

He died a scandalous death... for all our scandals...

The greatest scandal... the only one which excludes us from His salvation...
is the scandal of unbelief... rejection of the Creator... and His Son who came to save...

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God
or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking,
and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Romans 1:20-21 ESV

Scandalous...

Monday, December 19, 2016

6 words till Christmas... shelter...

The word comes today... and I wonder...
Is that a Christmas word...?
shelter...?
shelter... something that covers or affords protection... a position or the state of being covered and protected...
---Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Ed.
 I consider the Christmas story... and find some seeking shelter...

Elizabeth took shelter in her home after becoming pregnant...

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months
she kept herself hidden, saying, "Thus the Lord has done for me
in the days when he looked on me, to take away my reproach
among the people."
Luke 1:24 ESV

Up to this point... Elizabeth had been barren...
she and Zechariah had no children...

To be childless in the Jewish tradition...
was to be cursed by God... 
A house full of children...
proved his favor and blessing...

Elizabeth in her old age sheltered herself at home...
five months she praised God... for taking away her reproach from among the community...
but she didn't go out in public... till proof of a swollen belly revealed God's blessing...

Who would have believed her...?
if she told neighbors... friends... of the coming birth...?!
They would have chided her even more...
so she waited... and took shelter in Him...

Shelter...

Mary... she took shelter under Zechariah's and Elizabeth's roof too...
hurrying to their home after the angel left her...

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry,
"Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!
And why is this granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby
in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there
would be fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." ...
And Mary remained with her about three months and returned home.
Luke 1:41-45, 56 ESV

None would believe the story of Mary...
a virgin overshadowed by God Most High...
to bear a Son...

But here with Elizabeth...
filled with the revelation of the Holy Spirit...
Mary found a place of protection...
to come to grips with what was happening...
to solidify her faith... and resolve...
to let it be... as He had said...

Shelter...

Mary and Joseph couldn't find a room in an inn...
but they did find shelter in a barn... and a manger filled with hay...
and swaddling cloths... to lay baby Jesus in...

Shelter...

I'm feeling the need for a little shelter myself today...
and I realize... the One in the manger...
the One born in a barn...
came to bring us the ultimate shelter...
from the sin of the world...
the storm stirred up by rebellion against His Word...

He is our Shelter from the storm...
the storm of sin and doubt in our lives...
and that brought on by others...

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head
shall be lifted up above the enemies all around me,
and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing and make melody to the Lord.
Psalm 27:4-6 ESV

Shelter...
an Advent word...
I seek today...

Sunday, December 18, 2016

7 words till Christmas... journey...

Another day closer to Christmas...
another word...
journey...

I happened to finish a journey today...
a journey through the Bible in three years...
a Sunday school class...
one I started by faith... well... three years ago...

A journey started with five...
we lost a couple along the way...
so three of us finished together...

At the end of a journey there is joy...
a sense of accomplishment...
(two on The Journey had never read the whole Bible before...)
and of course a sense of sadness...
we often part with fellow travelers at the end of a journey...

And... Yes... there is a journey or two in the Christmas story...

After the visit from Gabriel... Mary journeyed to see her cousin...
whom the angel told her was expecting too...

"... And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has conceived a son,
and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing
will be impossible with God." And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant
of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country,
to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.
And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit...
Luke 1:36-41 ESV

Mary hurried to her relative... cousin... Elizabeth...
who would understand the miracle within...
a barren womb now swollen with six months of life...
would believe... embrace... a virgin womb... blessed with Life...

Mary longed to see her cousin...
seek understanding... and confirmation of what had happened to her...
someone on a similar path...

Journey...

Joseph and Mary... were required to journey to Bethlehem...

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world
should be registered. ... And all went to be registered, each to his own town.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea,
to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house
and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth
to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him
in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
Luke 2:1, 3-7 ESV

Joseph and Mary had no choice about the timing of their journey...
Caesar didn't concern himself with due dates...
or crowded cities... with no place for a laboring mom...

But even this journey...
part of God's plan...

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth from me one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Micah 5:2 ESV

Journey...

The shepherds took a short journey...
from the field to the manger...

The wise men... a long journey...
following a star... from east to west...

But the One who took the greatest journey of all...
was the One who came from heaven's throne room... to a virgin womb...
from a virgin womb... to a manger...
from a manger... to a cross...
from the cross... to a virgin tomb...
from the virgin tomb... back to the throne room of heaven...

Jesus... King of kings...
Lord of lords...
Creator of the universe...
humbled Himself...
and chose a journey of love...

Because He journeyed...
we can too...

By faith we journey to the cross...
spiritually dead...
to be born again...
to eternal life...

By faith we journey through this world...
a spiritual wilderness... not our home...
to make our way... to Him...

At the end of the journey... will be JOY...
and sadly... we may lose some along the way...
but once we arrive... once the journey is complete...
there will be no more sadness...
no more separation... from Him...
or those who love Him...

Journey... a word of Advent...
one well worth taking...

Saturday, December 17, 2016

8 words till Christmas... wait...

With 8 days till Christmas...
the word is wait...

I wait for words to be revealed...
and online orders to arrive...

I'm even waiting for a Christmas tree...
I finally broke down... gave in...
and ordered an artificial tree...

Wait... an Advent word...
a season of waiting the arrival of a certain time...

The Israelites waited centuries... for the Messiah...
beginning with Adam and Eve...

The Lord said to the serpent, "Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring
and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel."
Genesis 3:14-15 ESV

Satan... accuser... deceiver...
tempted Eve and Adam to break the one rule...
and as a result broke the world...
and made the way for death...

In His words to the serpent...
the Lord promised an offspring of Eve...
would come and bruise... crush... his head...
the first mention of a coming Savior... Messiah...
to rid the world of evil...

Wait...

In the days of Isaiah... the waiting continued...

It will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God;
we have waited for him, that he might save us.
This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation."
Isaiah 25:9 ESV

The first Advent... 
a waiting for thousands of years...
with an unknown arrival date... 

Wait...

Even as He came... there was waiting... in His story...

Zechariah... waited for his voice to return...

And the angel answered him, "I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God,
and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold,
you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place,
because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time."
Luke 2:19-20 ESV

Mute... Zechariah could not share his good news...
with his wife...
the waiting congregation...
no one...
he had to wait... for the promised birth of his son... John...

Wait...

There was also one in the temple...
waiting for the Messiah...

And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses,
[Joseph and Mary] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord...
Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man 
was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel,
and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him
by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought
in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law,
he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, "Lord, now you
are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence
of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel."
Luke 2:22, 25-32 ESV

Simeon... by the power of the Holy Spirit...
saw the promised Messiah... Jesus...
he waited patiently... for years...
and now the promise fulfilled...
filled him with joy...

Waiting for Him may be hard...
but it always culminates in JOY...!

When we wait for God to bring about His promises...
there should be no doubt the waiting will be worth it...

We currently wait now... in these last days...
somewhere along the timeline of the second Advent...
His second coming...

Like the first Advent...
the exact date... unknown...
I imagine it will be an unexpected event for most...
but for those who believe...
we should wait... with great expectation...
and preparation...

Just like we wait for Christmas...
planning gifts... dinner... decorations...
putting time and energy... into remembering others...
we need to wait... 
prepare...
for His next coming...

How do you wait each day... for His return...?
with anticipation...? preparation...?
or complacency...? procrastination...?
Does doubt fill your days...?
or increasing expectancy of His return...?

Wait... a word of Christmas...
but also one for today...
in the midst of the anticipation...
of His second arrival...

"...But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night
the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let
his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man
is coming at an hour you do not expect. ..." ---Jesus
Matthew 24:43-44 ESV

Friday, December 16, 2016

9 words till Christmas... joy...

Joy... definitely a Christmas word...
but sometimes... for some... it's hard to find...

Crowds... traffic... awkward social obligations...
gifts to buy... stress to spend... high expectations...
missing loved ones... dealing with broken families...
can steal the joy right out of the season...

And I wonder... Why...?
Why do we let it happen...?
get focused on the wrong things...?
miss the meaning...?

Because... Christmas...
its heart...
its message...
brings great JOY...!

For the angels said to [the shepherds],
"Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
that will be for all the people. ..."
Luke 2:10 ESV

The shepherds experienced its joy firsthand...
the first Christmas... with its unexpected coming...

"Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened,
which the Lord has made known to us." And they went with haste
and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.
And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been
told them concerning the child. And all who heard it wondered
at what the shepherds told them. ... And the shepherds returned,
glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen,
as it had been told them.
Luke 2:15-18, 20 ESV

The shepherds' joy burst forth in praise... and glory to God...!
not only that... they couldn't keep it to themselves...
they told anyone who would listen...
and the ones who heard wondered at what they heard...

The wise men also had a dose of Christmas joy...

When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy.
And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother,
and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures,
they offered him gifts...
Matthew 2:10-11 ESV

Their joy too... expressed with praise and worship...
poured forth with gifts...

The good news of Christmas...
the news of great JOY...!
is for ALL people...

So why don't all receive the Season with joy...?

Perhaps they've missed the point of the good news...

"...For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord. ..."
Luke 2:11 ESV

A Savior has been born...
One who made the Way for all to be saved...
from sin and darkness...
bondage and fear...
dis-ease and death...

He came down... to make the Way... for JOY...

John Piper calls it... indestructible joy...
but for many... Christmas joy seems fragile...
flighty... hard to keep hold of...

But remember... the heart of Christmas is JOY...
great JOY...!
so if it's missing from your heart...
things seems stressed... out of sorts...
or just blue...
follow the way of the shepherds... and those wise ones...
go to Jesus...
see this thing that has happened...
have a face to face...
with your Savior...

"... As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.
If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept
my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have
spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. ..."
John 15:9-11 ESV

If joy is absent... from your holiday activities...
stop... don't do another...
till you've connected with the Reason for the season...

Father God... I am susceptible to allowing the joy of Christmas
to be stolen right out of my heart... set it right...
this great JOY... of good news...
Jesus has come in the flesh...
to save... Amen...

Thursday, December 15, 2016

10 words till Christmas... light...

Christmas lights line houses and streets...
lighting up the darkness...


Candlelight atop tables... altars...
shine on faces... make them bright...


Light... a Christmas word...

And an angel of the Lord appeared to [the shepherds],
and the glory of the Lord shone around them...
Luke 2:9 ESV

God's glory... it shines like the purest light...
His light filled the shepherd's field...
a glory announcing the birth of Light... in a dark world...

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
John 1:4 ESV

The wise men... magi... saw the star...
a light shining in the night skies...

...wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying,
"Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?
For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."
Matthew 2:1-2 ESV

Light... makes the way for you to see where you are going...
the light of the star guided the wise men to Jesus... the King...

Light... it's what Jesus came to bring...
light to a dark world... trapped in sin...
light to find the way out... the way back to Him...
light to bring knowledge... of the glory of God...

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made through him,
yet the world did not know him.
John 1:9-10 ESV

Light came into the world...
but not all have eyes to see...
or hearts to receive...

But for those who do...
we become His lights...
to show others the Way...

Where do you need light in your life today...?
or to whom do you need to be light...?

Light... an Advent word... a word of Christmas...

...the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light,
and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death,
on them a light has dawned."
Matthew 4:16 ESV

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

11 words till Christmas... faith...

With 11 days until Christmas...
by faith... I hear the word faith...
as the next word of Christmas...

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen;
it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

Faith... confidence in what we hope for...
assurance... certainty... about what we do not see...

Faith... it's how I'm approaching these 12 days of Advent writing...
hope in Him... to speak and provide...
assurance... of words to come... ones yet unseen...

Faith... a Christmas word...

Mary... by faith... took the word of Gabriel...
regarding the news of expectancy he shared with her...

And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?"
And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you,
therefore the child to be born will be called holy --- the Son of God. ..."
Luke 1:34-35 ESV

...and Mary gave a faith-full response...

And Mary said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord;
let it be to me according to your word."
Luke 1:38 ESV

I wonder if she felt the Spirit come upon her...?
did she sense the power of the Most High overshadowing...?
the Unseen... doing His work...?

Faith...

Joseph... when faced with a pregnant fiance...
received the dream... by faith...

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way.
When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together
she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph,
being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her
quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord
appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David,
do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived
in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call
his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."
Matthew 1:18-22 ESV

In the Hebrew culture... an engagement was a binding contract...
even though not yet married... the couple considered husband and wife...
legal proceedings had to take place to break an engagement... a divorce required...

Joseph responded to this dream... this message... with faith...

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him:
he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son.
And he called his name Jesus.
Matthew 1:24-25 ESV

There was no evidence... nothing tangible...
to prove to Joseph Mary's pregnancy was divine...
but he had assurance... of what was... unseen...

Faith...

The magi... by faith... followed a star...

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king,
behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who
has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose
and have come to worship him."
Matthew 2:1-2 ESV

These wise men were from the east...
they were not Jews... but Gentiles...
They were scholars in their country...
and in their study of the stars...
they saw a sign of a newborn King...

In these days... there was no news service...
no Twitter... or tweets...
no Facebook... or instant messaging...
no radio... no TV...

The magi... saw... discerned...
packed up gifts... and traveled far...
to worship... the Unseen King...

Faith...

Faith has power to make hopes reality...
convince us of things unseen...

A loved one responded to my question...
It's been the same for two years... why do you think anything will change...?

In the moment... I had no answer... just stunned by his...
but later... in the quiet... the answer rose from my heart...
Hope... that's why I believe things will change...

Hope in the Unseen's work...
Hope in His response to my prayers...
Hope in His promise...

He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all,
how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:32 ESV

Where is your faith instilling hope this Christmas...?
What unseen reality... do you need to nurture with faith...?

Christmas is a season of faith...
accepting... rejoicing over... God made flesh...
a Babe in a manger...
the Hope of the world...
all... by... faith...