My husband and I were as people in Missouri say,¨dirt poor¨when we first got married. Our honeymoon consisted of going back to the apartment I lived at in Columbia and staying there for 2 nights while my roommates found other places to stay. Then it was off to our new lives in another town and a new job for me. This year marked our 30th Anniversary. When we started talking about what we should do, I told my husband, ¨Let’s go big!¨ So we contemplated what it would take for us to swing a trip to Hawaii. Finally it was in our plans.
That´s where this week begins. For the past six days my husband and I have been living our Hawaiian dreams: walks during the sunrise and sunset on the beach, driving around seeing all the sights, a luau… It has been fun! Yesterday was an excursion on a catamaran around the island watching dolphins, turtles, and even a manta ray swim up next to the boat. But the star of the show was the humpback whales. Every year they migrate from Alaska to Hawaii for their mating season. We have been blessed to be here for the prime time of their activity. They were jumping, splashing their tail fins, and even breaching! It was breathtaking! Our Captain stopped the boat for awhile to allow for time snorkeling. Which was awesome! Just before we embarqued on our return back to the pier the Captain set up a waterproof microphone on an extra long cord and for a brief moment we were able to hear something amazing, the singing of the whales. What more could a Missouri girl ask for in a tour!
What struck me the most about the whales’ song was how it goes on and on yet it is often unheard. We can miss it!
This morning I woke up thinking about the ¨songs¨ we listen to and the most important ¨songs¨we miss. Zephaniah 3:17 says, “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” I have spent much of my life not really hearing the sweet song of Lord as He has sung it over me. Instead I have let the sounds of wind and waves drown it out with noise of fear and anxiety. Or I have missed the Lord’s song as the angry and bitter noises of loud commotion the enemy has echoed near me over and over. I have often missed the Lord’s song. I have chosen to focus on all the noise around me when He has called me away to sit with Him and hear Him sing.
When I woke up this morning I kept seeing the words, ¨choose your song.¨ They ran through my mind over and over and over. Then I remembered the whales’ song. We had to choose to listen to the whales singing yesterday as we sat anchored on the ocean. I have to choose as well. Our minds have been rightly called ¨a battlefield.¨ They are where we listen to the spiritual voices and they are where we decide. For years I have taken the lazy approach to my thought life, thinking I had no control over where my mind took me, or what ¨song¨ I listened to. The fruit of that kind of living was miserable. We must ¨Choose our song.¨ We must choose to listen to the song the Heavenly Father as He sings over us. His song is a song of love, joy, peace, and mercy. He sings it over us all the time! He is patiently waiting for us to listen and to respond to His singing. He longs for us to focus on His song and to reject all the noise the enemy tries to distract us with.
Lately, Ive been tempted to listen to all the distorted noises of the enemy. It’s so easy to find yourself tuning into His lies. It takes no effort to hear him… But my loving Heavenly Father reminded me by a moment miles away from my home, that He wants me to ¨listen intently¨to Him. Keep my focus on His voice. If I don’t I will miss His singing. Just like I could have totally missed the singing of the whales, had I not took the opportunity to stop and hear.
Our God is such a good, good God. May we listen to Him sing His song of love over us each and every hour of each and every day!
Hope seemed lost after the crucifixion. Even though Jesus had plainly told His disciples He would have to suffer and be crucified, but He would rise again, they did not understand. The women who followed Jesus had went to tomb with spices for Jesus’ body, but instead they found two angels there proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection.
On the First Christmas, Angels proclaimed Jesus’s birth. On Resurrection Sunday, the Angels proclaimed Jesus alive forevermore! He was not there among the dead but He is risen just as He said!
The reign of darkness has been broken The King of Kings came to our world. When life seems to be at it’s darkest hour, remember God’s light has come! May it shine in our world as we celebrate Jesus Birth!
Today’s reading is Luke 22. As I read today’s chapter, tears came to my eyes. Jesus said in verse 14 “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer…”
It was no surprise to Him the events that unfolded throughout the rest of this chapter: the betrayal of Judas, the arrest, the denial of Peter, the accusations of the religious leaders. Jesus knew. In fact when they arrested Him, He said, “…this is your hour— when darkness reigns.” (Verse 53) Jesus knew what was coming. This was all part of His plan. Before the first announcement of His conception 33 years prior; before a single angel began a song of worship in the skies over Bethlehem the night He was born; before His first cry as a baby in a small stable as He was held in Mary’s hands: He knew.
He knew He had come to a world that would reject Him and He knew He would suffer and die for us, but He came to us anyway. He came because He “eagerly desired” to eat with us as well. He wanted to make the way for us to come to Him.
He still eagerly desires our communion with Him today. As we celebrate His coming to us, the First Christmas, in the days ahead, may we not forget how much He eagerly desired to be with us. So He came.
I love taking the month of December and focusing on the most blessed event of human history, Jesus’ Birth and reading Luke. All the warmth and tenderness of the moment in the Bethlehem stable has been remembered over and over as we have focused on all the details surrounding His arrival and shortly after. Then there have been each account of all the miracles Jesus performed while here walking the earth, and the truth He spoke in all the parables, as we have been reading a chapter a day.
With each miracle and each word, we have read how He was being closely watched by a group who wanted for Him to go away- to kill Him. Today’s reading includes a parable Jesus told to expose the hearts of those people. The parable of the evil farmers, tenants who wanted nothing to do with the landowner. The landowner tried desperately to receive some fruit from the vineyard He had planted. His tenants beat the servants the landowner had sent to communicate with them. Finally the landowner appealed to them by sending his son, who he loved. These tenants threw the son out of the vineyard and killed him. Jesus finished this parable with the words,”The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” (Verse 17)
With all that Jesus did that was good, kind, and miraculous, He was still rejected. But the very person they rejected, Jesus, was the person that God had sent to save.
We also have a choice when faced with the person Jesus. We can accept Him and His lordship over our lives, or we can reject Him. May we examine our hearts this Christmas season. As we celebrate the tenderness of our God who has come to us as a baby to be with us, Jesus- Emmanuel, may we not reject His desire to become God within us. He longs to do good and to fill our lives with Himself. May our hearts be opened to receive Him!
Tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people. They had a reputation for building their own wealth by cheating the people they were to collect taxes from, and the taxes were given to the oppressive Roman government. To be a tax collector was the equivalent of being a terrible sinner in Jesus time.
Zacchaeus was the “chief tax collector” and he was wealthy. He was also short in stature. One day Jesus was passing by his way. Zacchaeus had heard all the buzz of excitement, and he wanted “to see who Jesus was.” The crowds around him were making it impossible for him to fulfill his hearts desire. So he climbed a sycamore fig tree.
Jesus saw him in that tree and told him to come down. He was going to go to Zacchaeus’ house.
Zacchaeus had a repentant heart. He showed the fruit of his repentance by making good to those he had cheated and giving generously to the poor. Salvation had come to him.
In this account Jesus speaks of His visitation with Zacchaeus with these words of truth for that time and all the generations to come. “…For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Verse 10)
Jesus came to find those burdened down by their sins and guilt. He came to find those far from God, lost and unable to see the way. Jesus came to bring salvation from our sins. Jesus is the same today as He was then. He brings salvation to our lives today.
I have been like Zacchaeus curiously observing Jesus from a distance, hungry to know if all I had heard about Him was true. I have had Jesus stop and call out to me that He was coming to my house, my life, today.
From the time Jesus stepped into our world as a little baby on Christmas to Him calling out to us now. Jesus had came and He has come to seek and save the lost. May we hear His call to us and respond with genuine repentance as Zacchaeus did all those years ago.
Today’s reading is Luke 17. Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem when He encountered ten men with leprosy. These men stood at a distance crying out for Jesus to have mercy on them. So Jesus told them to “Go and show” themselves to the priest. This was the law regarding someone who had been cured of the disease. As they went they were cleansed.
One however came back to Jesus praising God, throwing himself at Jesus feet thanking Him. So many people have an encounter with Jesus. They see His life changing miracles in their lives. Yet the neglect to do one thing, turn to Him and thank Him.
I have been there. I have sat in blessings beyond my ability to number, yet I have neglected at times to thank God or worship Him.
Once again I would venture to say this is nothing new. At the time of Jesus birth there were crowds all around. The town where Jesus was born was so full of people. It was impossible for Joseph and Mary to find room at an inn the night Jesus was born. How many people missed the most important event of human history, Jesus birth? How many failed to worship Him along with the Angel choirs that night?
At Christmas, we see decorations all around that point to Jesus once again: nativity scenes, stars, angels, wisemen, and shepherds. Yet how often do we pass by and fail to thank Jesus for coming? How often do we fail to worship Him?
May our hearts be as the one man who had received a life changing healing from Leprosy all those years ago. May we turn to Jesus, falling at His feet in thanksgiving for the salvation Jesus has brought to us, the freedom, the healing! May we never forget to give thanks for all He has done! May we never miss our opportunity to worship our King!
Jesus drew crowds of people. The Pharisees watched Him closely looking for a reason to accuse Him. They did not like the people’s response to Jesus, and they especially disliked Jesus’ response to the people. They did not want Jesus to “welcome sinners and eat with them.” (Verse 2)
So Jesus told these parables, recorded in this chapter, to give them a glimpse of the loving heart of God: the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the prodigal son. Jesus cared about those lost and in the dangerous grip of Satan. Like the shepherd of the lost sheep, He would go out of His way to bring them back to safety.
Jesus values us so much in our lost condition. Like the woman searching her house diligently for the one lost coin rejoicing when she found it, He pursues us. He rejoices greatly when we are found and safe in relationship with Him.
Our Heavenly Father is much like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal son. The son willfully, with no regard for the broken heart of His father, chose to rebel. He chose to leave the safety and provision of his father’s house. He chose to make bad decision after bad decision, partying and squandering his inheritance. He reaped the consequences of all the wrong he had done living lost, alone, hungry and eating pig slop. Then the thought enters his mind to go back to his dad in hopes of mercy, possibly being accepted back as hired hand. This father, however, welcomed him back as a son. He threw a feast. He rejoiced because his son he thought was dead, was alive.
This is God’s heart towards us! This is the heart behind Christmas! I have been the lost sheep, alone and scared. I have been the lost coin, searched for and pursued by my loving God. I have most definitely been the prodigal son. I have made bad choice after bad choice. Only to find myself far from my Heavenly Father, eating pig slop, the fruit of my choices, trying to survive. But God set into motion, long before all the bad choices I have made, a plan. On Christmas night the plan arrived. He worked through the ages to bring the arrival of Jesus into our world. He went to great lengths to come to us so we could come to Him. He desired to “Welcome sinners and eat with them.” Jesus is still desiring to welcome and to eat with sinners today.
In Revelations 3:20, Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” May we open the door of our hearts and let Him come in! There is no better time to do this than Christmas when we celebrate our God who came to us so we could come to Him!
The setting in today’s chapter is a meal at the house of a prominent Pharisee, a religious leader of Jesus time. Jesus sat and watched as the guest came in looking for seating in prominent places. They wanted recognition and positions of power with the affluent in the room. It is at this point Jesus tells a parable about a “Great Feast, “ a feast much like the kingdom of God.
A man sent out invitations to a great feast he was giving, but everyone he asked had excuses for why they could not come. So the man told his servant to go and invite the “rejects”, “the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” (Verse 21) He also instructs the servant to go “to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in…” (verse 23) The man throwing the feast wanted his house to be full. Our loving Heavenly Father is like this man. The invitation to His Heavenly banquet was sent years ago, on a dark night, in a Bethlehem Stable. Jesus came inviting the ones rejected- the poor in spirit; those crippled by fear and pain; those blinded by sin; those lame, unable to stand in His presence. He calls to the “roads and country lanes” ,the out of the way, lonely places, “Come!” He longs for His house to be full!
For this I am so grateful. I am all of the people Jesus invited- I am the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. I am the one who could not come to the banquet had it not been for Jesus inviting sinners to come!
The first Christmas shows us a glimpse of the God who would go to great lengths to see His house full of guests delighted and fulfilled at His banquet. Our God came to be His invitation, with us- Emmanuel. He prepared the way for us to the banquet by His sacrificially dying on the cross, and victoriously rising from the grave. May we hear the invitation declared to us so many years ago at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom His favor rests.” Luke 2:14. His favor is upon us! His invitation has been sent! May we drop any excuse for not attending His feast and RSVP with Him replying “Yes! I come!”