Monday, November 26, 2018

Supernatural Hope

Luke 1:30 has always been puzzling to me.  The words are pretty straightforward.  "But the angel said to her, 'Do not be afraid!  You have found favor with God.'"  But the context in which she hears these words is not peaceful, good or even joyful.  Mary lives in an occupied nation ... she is given disturbing news ... she is afraid.  Yet, the message of the angel Gabriel is clear ... "You have found favor with God."  

When we are tired from preparing the meal at CR, weary from taking food to a grieving family, sweating after working to clear trees brought down by the storm, inundated by calls for assistance, turned-on by friends you have helped (all recent actual conditions of doing work in ministry) ... when you are in a nation where Christians and even the name "Christmas" are by-words for all the wrong things ... when you see hostility, disunity and you get the feeling that evil is winning over good ... the angel still says ... "You have found favor with God."  We look past what we see to a supernatural realm of hope from God because His plan always works!

Are you into a supernatural God?  Do you sift God's activity through your mindset of logic?  Do you miss the awesome settling for the normal?  Or, do you have a supernatural hope that God's actions and plans are really big?

Mary ponders and then accepts the hope the angel gives her.  She sees the normal, the obvious and the situational context of her life ... and then she dreams.  Those dreams make their way into a beautiful song expressing the greatness and supernatural hope of a God who has big plans!  "My soul glorifies the Lord and my heart rejoices in the Lord my savior!" (Luke 1:46).  Mary is through with the normal, mundane and the possible ... she is ready to jump into the impossible, the glorious, and the plans of a mighty God!  Are you?  Randy

Monday, November 19, 2018

Who We Are

In the sometimes bewildering events of each week it is easy to be drawn into the negative.  Fires, violence, wars, rumors of wars, disunity with our elected leadership (I could go on) all draw us into a negative mindset that is dark and defeating.   Isaiah had similar things happening in his world around 700 B.C.  His book of prophesy, telling us what the Lord said, is very specific about one thing ... who we are.

Most of us read Scripture to find a verse of help through our daily journey.  But we often forget that one purpose of the Bible is to give us a clear picture of who we are and our interaction with a holy God.  Here are Isaiah's words from 9:2 ... "The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.
For those who live in a land of deep darkness a light will shine."  These words describe the people of Isaiah's time as they wait to see if Assyria's Tiglath-Pileser will become powerful enough to invade.  And these words describe us as we watch our world and wonder what will come of us.

Here is the wisdom and hope of Isaiah's words.  We do walk in darkness, mostly by choice.  We allow the negative events and nasty politics to occupy our thoughts and conversations.  We submit to the darkness of "affluenza" as we buy into the consumer mentality.  We allow prejudice to cloud our view of others, seeing ourselves as better.  We also live in a land of deep darkness, mostly by geography.  Much that happens in our land is beyond our control.  This is who we are when we allow the negative to lead us.  We raise our noses above the water as we swim through the rivers of circumstance and wonder, "What do we do?"  Glad you asked!

Isaiah reminds us to not be brought down by our choices or our circumstances.  He encourages us to open our eyes and see the great light we have been given by the advent and presence of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  That wonderful choice is before us right now!  And when we see this light we are given a new view of our surroundings.  We are able to see paths that are good.  We can see and follow those paths that move toward God who has revealed them in His Word.  There is an old Petra song that says, "there is a road that leads to life, the few that find it never die."  The song describes the road as a rocky struggle at times, just like the road God has laid out for us.  But His road leads us out of darkness, out of the land of deep darkness and toward the light that illumines, reveals, warms and heals.  For unto those who are His a light has come ... and that light is Jesus ... the way, the truth and the life.  Randy

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Slow, See, Sense

These are three things I have to make myself do.  They are hard for me at times.  They require intentionality.  They require effort.  But they are vital to the spiritual life.

I find it difficult to slow down.  I am either going full steam or I am asleep.  There is very little in between.  Luke 5:16 says "Jesus often withdrew to the wilderness to pray."  I believe this is an example to us.

First, this spiritual practice should happen often.  Most of us would think that Jesus would be "doing ministry" 24/7.  We have trouble thinking of this practice as action-oriented.  But here it is ... Jesus 'often' withdrew and prayed.  I wonder if this time was devoted to just telling God the Father what He wanted?  Or, maybe, Jesus was onto something deeper.  Maybe He spent this time of slowing down to listen to the Father ... see clearly and reflectively what was happening around Him ... sensing His situation.

Second, Jesus withdrew to the wilderness.  Isn't the wilderness a place of lostness?  Isn't a wilderness a place where you are deprived of comfort?  Isn't a wilderness a place we avoid?  Not Jesus.  I wonder if He did this to place Himself intentionally in a state/place of need for God?  I wonder if this wasn't intentional discomfort so that He could see and feel the things that were really important?

Finally, Jesus was in a state and posture of prayer.  Martin Luther said, "To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than than to be alive without breathing."  I believe prayer, for Jesus, was breathing in God the Father ... taking in the refreshment, guidance, goodness, provision and power of God.  In it's most basic sense, prayer is all about us telling God we need Him and love Him.

I hope you will stop, look and listen today.  Stop running ... look to God ... listen to what He says.  Jesus gave us the model ... we should follow our leader.  Randy

Monday, November 5, 2018

Party On!

I don't know if you have ever studied the festivals of the Jewish faith.  I had friends in Florida who gave far too much relevance to them and they were under the impression that Jesus would somehow reinstate the old Jewish system when He was in charge.  While I would never go close to that far, there is a part of the festival mentality that I would love to see us retain/address.  That is the idea of "party."

The Jews never needed much reason to party.  If you read the stories in Scripture you will see a multitude of festivals intertwining the Gospels.  The same is true in the Old Testament.  And we all remember the return of the prodigal son when the father did what was natural in the Jewish culture ... he threw a party!

John Ortburg's book,  The Life You Always Wanted , describes both Spiritual Disciplines and how those disciplines manifest themselves in abundant life for Christians.  Over the past 2 weeks we have talked about starting the journey to spiritual discipline and realizing that our journey may make us look peculiar to everyone else.  This week we will address a spiritual discipline that I have not been very good at celebrating.  That is the discipline of celebration.

In The Message Philippians 4:4-5 says, "Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!" Paul is both right and asking us to do something very healthy to our faith, our attitudes and our lives.  He says to revel in God ... be immersed in Him ... dive into life with Him ... take God in completely!

When I read Paul's words here I think about our plans for the Christmas season.  We will have a tree-lighting party on November 28th ... mark the date and come to the party!  We will have several community music events including special musicians at AUMC and our own Cantata on December 2nd (11am) ... please make plans to come party!  On December the 5th (our last Wednesday night meal and Bible Study for 2018) we will have a Christmas party to celebrate the Salvation brought to each of us by Jesus Christ.  On Christmas Eve (December 24th) we will enjoy both come-and-go Communion and a Candlelight Communion Service.  It will be a beautiful party all about the birth of our Savior!

I hope you will embrace the attitude of celebration and the altitude of joy.  For joy lifts us above our cares and worries and allows us to have perspective about life (James 1:2-3).  Joy gives us strength (Nehemiah 8:10)! And joy brings hope in times when hope is needed and scarce (Romans 15:13).  And joy is a party, holy to our Lord (Isaiah 12:6).  Party on!  Randy