Rejoice

Luke 2: 8 – 11

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock at night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And so the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Good News! The angels brought good news! Well, that is not a news flash today but worth remembering. The enormity of what happened on that day so many years ago is as astounding as ever and the news is just as great.

I try to put myself in the place of these lowly shepherds who were out in the fields tending sheep. They were nobodies, no one of significance. Why didn’t the angel appear to the church leaders so that they could spread the good news? Why appear to a bunch of ragged shepherds that no one would listen to? And how much does this remind you of the Samaritan woman, a person so low on the class scale that the disciples were astonished that Jesus even spoke to her? These questions bring up the question, to whom would the angel of the Lord appear to today? Jesus, let it be us, this humble group of believers.

The voice of the angel, and indeed our blessed Lord, still rings out today, “Don’t be afraid. I bring you good news.” The voice of God gives to our hearts news which is of great joy! When God speaks, it is always good news meant to encourage and strengthen you. This good news is meant for “all the people,” even you. Perhaps this is the reason the angel and an entire angelic host appeared to shepherds, so that each of us today would know that we are not below receiving the gift of the Christ child. If they appeared and spoke to the most lowly, then certainly there is no one beneath his grace this year. And brother, that is good news!

Be blessed for the miracle was born, a child has come and remains today to bring good news into our lives. Worship him and his Father for the great miracles they bring to “all the people”. Bless the Lord, all you, His people. Rejoice and be glad for Christ reigns as Lord and King. Rejoice!

Wisdom Without Fear

Isaiah 41:10

‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

I have coined a new expression that is my guide for this time of extreme confusion over the corona virus. It is “Wisdom without Fear.” We should exercise reasonable caution throughout the flu and cold season anyway, but especially now with the corona virus spreading. However, we should not be in a panic. We are called to meet calamity with faith rather than fear. We must stand in faith and pray against the virus asking our Father to intervene on our behalf.

Our Father expressly says, “Do not Fear, for I am with you.” Let those words ring through your mind day and night. Look at the rest of the verse. Doesn’t it give you great comfort? These are words that will encourage others as well. You could write this verse on small cards and hand them out to people. You could email it to a bunch of folks. You might need to memorize it for when you speak with people.

Inside me, these words reverberate loudly and give my heart courage. They take my focus off the problems and onto Him. Confidence soars when our hearts and minds rest on the goodness of the Father.

What encouragement do you need today? What encouragement can you give? Is there someone with whom you can share the Word of the Day? Even if you are staying in your home, you can share the good news with folks via email and telephone. People are going to be isolated over the next couple of weeks. I can do some writing and you can do some sharing. Let us reach out to everyone we can to give them comfort and encouragement. The virus can spread very quickly, one person by one person. The good news can too if we will take a moment to spread it.

Fruit Club

John 15: 16

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.

I, just like every other minister of the gospel, revel in sharing the Good News. Everyone wants to hear how Jesus’ life and sacrifice will improve the quality of their lives. We are living in an age of self-interest almost to the point of self-absorption. What this means for ministers is that the message people want to hear is how Jesus helps them. The question we have attempted to answer is, “What is in Christianity for me?” Today’s verse functionally turns that question on its head because Jesus made it clear, in this statement, that it isn’t all about me. This is an uncomfortable and harsh reality for some of us but for others of you, this is a higher form of truth and reality and one that you embrace avidly.

Too often we get the cart before the horse but if we spend time with this verse, pondering the fullness of its message, we find rich revelation. Jesus makes clear that the Father will do whatever you ask of Him when you approach Him through Jesus. However, that is the second part of the equation. The first part is that He chose you. We all think we chose Jesus, almost like we graced him with our acceptance of him. We fill our salvation with arrogance as if we were some prize worthy of winning. We weren’t. There is nothing in us that makes us worthy of anything EXCEPT the Father’s love for us. His love for us has clothed us in the worthiness that Jesus won for us. The only thing we did was to accept this garment of blessed grace.

Secondly, Jesus points out that there was a reason for choosing us. Sadly, it isn’t because we are so wonderful, wise and beautiful. We have a purpose and he appointed us for this purpose, that we should bear much fruit. There is also a consequence for not fulfilling our purpose. “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He (the Father) takes away” (John 15: 2).

I want to preach just the part of the verse that says the Father will do everything we ask in Jesus’ name but that would be a miscarriage of my duties to you and to the Father. The truth is what equips you and not just the candy-coated version. When you understand the Father’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice you also appreciate that everything they tell us to do benefits us. Yahweh’s love is pervasive but it is not egotistical nor meant to train you to be a spoiled, arrogant child. He wants to raise you into the vision He has of you as a mature partner in His kingdom.

The natural consequence of bearing good fruit is abundant harvest. People spend many words and thoughts trying to figure out the purpose of life when it has been “hidden” right here in plain sight for thousands of years. Your purpose and mine is to bear good fruit. As we do, the Father multiplies our seeds so that a bountiful crop is always maturing in our back yards. Christianity was never meant to be a “Bless Me” club. It is a service organization. It turns out, though, that the way to the blessings is through service.

I want you blessed and happy. I desire that your basket overflow continually. So, go serve someone else. Think about what others may need or what you could do for them. Start at home and at work. What could you do today for your mother? How about your spouse? Maybe your next door neighbor would love just to have a visit or take your mechanic a glass of tea. Do you have doorman in your building? There are people around you all day who need to see Jesus’ fruit. You are the branches on his vine. Bear much good fruit.

Getting Happy

Psalm 37: 18 – 19

The Lord knows the days of the blameless; and their inheritance will be forever. They will not be ashamed in the time of evil; and in the days of famine they will have abundance.

Hey, let’s get happy today! There is so much blessing in these two little verses that it wants to bust out all over the place.

In this thirty-seventh psalm, David contrasts the wicked and the righteous. The righteous are those who are no more perfect than anyone else but rather their hope is in the Lord as is their trust. They are looking to God while the wicked are contriving and scheming in their own brilliance and in the world system. How brilliant can they be, really, if they eschew the guidance of the Lord. Well, anyway, we get a look at the blessings we can expect to enjoy in this earth but we are also told that the blessing will continue beyond this mortal life.

How exciting is that? The blessing God is pouring out for you is forever! It is only going to get bigger and better as time goes on. The part about the time of evil and the days of famine describe how the blessing works in the earth. There is no evil, no famine in heaven. You have not only a promise, but a statement about what you should expect. We should not shutter as we face evil times. We just lean in on God knowing He has already prepared a haven for us so that we will not be ashamed or forsaken. The wicked will make plans for prosperity and power but their own schemes will be the source of their destruction. Meanwhile, the children of the King will look to their Father and He will be their fortress and their strong right hand. He will provide for them so that they shall not be ashamed. They will not be humiliated by poverty. Instead, they will sing the praises of the Father who shows them grace, love and abundance in all things.

When the world suffers violence or famine, the children look to their Father and actually prosper. In 2008 while many people sang songs of woe, those whose trust was in the Lord took steps forward. Your life is not at the mercy of the world or even its economic systems. The children of God have always prospered in the time of famine when they trusted Him and listened to His counsel. We are just as vulnerable if we listen to the 5:00 news and try to glean wisdom there. If, however, we will turn to the Lord and seek His counsel we shall be safe and secure in all ways.

Let the Lord speak to you today about how He wishes to lead you. Today could well be the day you enter a new level of relationship with the Father. He has big things to show you as He leads you into all goodness and blessing.

Shout

Zephaniah 3: 14 -15

Shout for you, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord has taken away His judgments against you, He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you will fear disaster no more.

Jesus is the Word. He is the gospel. The gospel is the good news of Jesus, the Christ. So, every word in the Bible is a potential source of good news for you, you who are in Jesus. That includes the Old Testament. While you may not typically spend a great deal of time in the book of Zephaniah, it is good to see that God always had good plans for freedom and victory for us.

We have been adopted in the kingdom which was formerly the tribe of Israel. We are members of this family. So, who is the daughter of Zion? The daughter of Jerusalem? Who is Israel? It is you, of course. Some of you know that I frequently line through Israel and write in my own name. This is especially the case when it comes to a promise because every promise God has ever made belongs to me.

I want you to receive today’s passage with the soft tissue of your heart. Here the exultation and the longing for the family. You have good news, you should have a good expectation in all things because the King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst. He is in your breath. Shout in triumph! Rejoice! He, your Father and King, has vanquished your enemies.

However, that is not all. He has put your just judgment behind Him. He has taken it away. People get so hung up on judgment but, let us not. The Word is quite plain about judgment. Jesus bore our judgment so that we can live as God desired, in perfect union with Him. We are made clean by the blood so that no veil of sin separates us from the love of God. We are now positioned where He can pour out His goodness upon us.

Now if that isn’t shouting ground, I clearly don’t know what is. Shout in triumph, the triumph of our Lord Jesus. Glory to his most holy name!

Good News

Mark 16: 15        (NIV)

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.
This passage is from when Jesus commissioned his disciples after his death and resurrection. He told them to go and preach the “good news” to all creation. Sometimes as Christians we forget how Jesus phrased this and we lose sight of our commission. He did not tell us to go into all the world and correct others and criticize their life styles. He did not tell us to go and preach fire and brimstone on them until they repent. He told us to tell them the good news; that he, Jesus, came that they might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10: 10). We are supposed to preach that he came into the world so that all could be saved and can enter into a personal relationship with the Father of all creation. He breached the gap between people and God so that we could be reconciled to Almighty God as our own father. This world needs love. People everywhere suffer from a lack of love. We need to tell them that our Father is love and that he loves them. Don’t preach John 3: 16 and skip the word love. Preach it the loudest.

No Shame

Romans 1: 16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Paul was definitely a good evangelist. He did share the good news everywhere he went. I wonder why lots of us don’t tell the good news any more than we do. I think in a sense we are ashamed. Perhaps we are not ashamed of the gospel per se but we are embarrassed or ashamed of sounding like a Jesus freak. Maybe were are afraid of rejection. Paul certainly wasn’t, though, and life could be pretty dangerous for his exhortation of the gospel.

Paul had a revelation of the power of the gospel. Maybe that is what made him so bold and me so timid. Or do we get so caught up in the busyness of our life that we don’t take a moment to be concerned over anyone else. Looming on my horizon is my next twenty to do items and the three big projects sitting on my desk. What will happen in eternity if I get none of that done? I mean, how important are they really? Are my deadlines arbitrary? Does any of it matter that much? When I think of this in light of the eternity of someone’s soul I feel a bit embarrassed. Is it really too much for me to take five minutes to ask my banker if he knows the saving power of the gospel?

You know, I heard a good story the other day about a woman who took the time to notice someone else and when she did she saw that other person suffering. She offered to pray for the woman who’s countenance was forlorn. You know what? Her bravery afforded her the opportunity to meet someone’s need. But I am too busy. Maybe I walked right by that same woman and never even looked at her.

Lord God, give us all the courage of our convictions. Give us joy bubbling up out of us that begs to be shared. Help us to be like Paul and see not the consequences to ourselves but the significance to others. Help us to share the power of the gospel with those who are in need.